Monday, March 31, 2008

Words and pictures, voices and silence

So, finally, here are a few details about my recent gallivanting around the world. Well, England first. A wonderful time with my great writing friend Vanessa, who, the minute I arrived at her place an hour outside London informed me we were going back to London the next day to check out the venue for her immminent book launch. We had a great day, a private tour of the Foundling Museum, tea in a posh London hotel, drinks with another writer, B, and then back home to peaceful Sussex. Sadly, the photos of it all were on my mobile phone, which was stolen several days later, so you'll have to imagine it for yourselves.

Back to London, and I had a great time at Jewish Book Week with Jacqueline, listening to Shalom Auslander being interviewed by A L Kennedy. His book is Foreskin's Lament, a memoir of how his life was totally screwed up by a bizarre version of Orthodox Judaism in the town in the US where he grew up.

He was astonishingly candid, it was a disturbing event, but fascinating, perhaps in the same way that passing drivers are fascinated by a car crash. On a more positive note, I had a quick chat with A L Kennedy about The Short Review and, fingers crossed, will be interviewing her when her next collection comes out later this year!

Then it was off to Ireland to stay with my Dad and my stepmother, Carole. The usual glorious Irish weather - rainy, windy, very green everywhere.

See what I mean about the weather? I wasn't there to sunbathe, anyhow. A lovely afternoon was spent with Dad at the ridiculously expensive Inchydoney Lodge & Spa hotel, sitting in the lounge in front of a roaring fire, doing the Times crossword, and looking out over stormy seas.

Then to Bristol, a night with another great writing friend, Louise. She brought me along as guest to her writing group, which was lovely, a very warm and welcoming bunch of people. I gave them a little talk about The Short Review and about my book, how it came about etc...And then, as is tradition, we all went to the pub. The next day, Louise and I headed down to Exeter for the launch of the second issue of Riptide magazine. Coffee first with the editors, Ginny and Sally, writers and poets themselves, and Luke Kennard, Salt poet and author of wonderfully wack short stories. The launch was held in Exeter library, complete with a live band.

Sally and Ginny introduce the evening.

Me, reading from North Cold

Eight of us read the beginnings of our stories. I read from North Cold. This was my first proper reading, and it was pretty nerve-wracking (ask poor Louise, who had to keep me calm beforehand). I am going to have to get used to it, though. All the stories read that evening were excellent, very different, highly imaginative, and beautifully read by the authors. I was extremely impressed. If you want a great read, buy a copy of Issue 2 - it's really more of a short story anthology than a lit mag.

Back to London, and the highlight of the end of my trip was the launch of Vanessa's short story collection, Words from A Glass Bubble. The Foundling Museum was packed with friends, family and many of us from the Fiction Workhouse, and Vanessa, who is very proficient at reading her stories, read the title story, in three parts, throughout the evening.

Vanessa reading

I had a wonderful time, taking notes re my own launch (which won't be anything like this, the Foundling Museum is an exceptional place), mingling with writers, some of whom I knew only online.

Elaine, Susannah, Mel and Elizabeth

The next day, I flew to Italy, and romantically met up with James by the baggage carousels in Rome Airport. We headed off to Tuscany for a peaceful week free from cellphones and Internet, an hour's walk from the nearest town, in the gorgeous guest accomodation at La Mandria run by Paul and Renee, who couldn't have been more welcoming. And The Little Herbert, too.

Here are some pictures. Imagine: complete silence, just the rushing of the river in the valley below, and the odd birdsong. Heavenly.

The Little Herbert, who kept us company

(Yes, I did some work!)

What was the most wonderful aspect was that without telephone, Internet, email, I discovered that the stories just started flowing. I could hear my own voice again - and my characters' voices - because nothing was drowning them out. I could walk round with stories in my head, sit and think about them, give them the time and space to develop. I ended one story that had been a little problematic, began another story, started adapting a short story into a play. It was a very productive week. For an eco-perspective, James has blogged about our week on Green Prophet here.

Now that we are home and back into the normal chaos of everyday life, I am trying to preserve some of that inner quiet. For the time being, I have withdrawn from all the online writing groups I was a member of. I love the sense of community they provide, and that wonderful solidarity, the mutual commiseration over rejection and celebration of story acceptance etc... Sharing work is a vital part of being a writer, for me. But the first step must be the writing. And I wasn't writing. Writing has to come before all else - otherwise how am I a writer? So, for the moment, I am focussing on myself and my writing, knowing that when my book comes out in June, that will all probably be put to one side. For the next few months, though, I just want to listen to my characters and see where they take me.


Women Rule Writer said...

A lovely account of your trip, T. Great to see photos too.
Yes, you must write above all else. I admire your retreat. Stay there for as long as you can!

Sarah Hilary said...

Great to catch up with your news, Tania. I'm so pleased you were able to find a place where the voices (and the writing) came back to you. Right now, I am despairing of finding sufficient quiet time to do justice to what I want to write (and hear), but the voices are as loud as ever and I'm scribbling notes every day, twice a day, to make sure nothing gets away from me. Good luck with the writing - I'm envious of your time alone with it!

Tania Hershman/The Short Review said...

WRW - I am trying to stay in that place as long as I can, but it's not easy. I find every day that memory of the peacefulness fades a little more.

Sarah - I wish you much quiet time, but the main things is that the voices are loud and you're hearing them. Gosh, that makes us sound crazy, doesn't it?
Well, this is a type of insanity, writing, isn't it?

Kerry said...

Ah Tania it sounds like you had a wonderful and nourishing time on your travels! I'm sure you are brimming with words after all the experiences so it's wonderful you take the time to let them out :)