Wow – my friend Ruth Paris joined a blog tour, which is the ritual of charting and connecting-up undiscovered blog-islands in the virtual sea. I was so impressed she took on this challenge I’ve so far avoided, my hand reached for the baton before I knew it. Besides, Ruth’s posts about her ‘middle-of-the-roundabout allotment project’ on her Huerto site are a pleasure to share. Here some photos from Sept 2011. Her recipe page alone is worth a visit … and certainly the virtual islands of the friends she introduces. And it’s true, she does pick out the teeny little stones and whispers encouragement to the weakest seedling. Look at her ‘about’ page and you find she also wears another hat.
The theme of gardens has irresistible appeal. I like the thought Ruth shares, inspired by our joint friend Shazadi – since we can’t change the world we can at least cultivate our gardens – which applies to earth-tilling plots as well as the metaphorical kind. In that sense, here are my responses to the 4 deceptively simple questions this tour asks of its participants.
1 – What am I working on?
I’m editing my second novel, a sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors,’ completed two years back. Last year I was contracted by a small, devoted publisher and am looking forward to having my first novel released in a few months. English not being my first language (more about this here) – allows me the perception of a stranger in the strange land of my psyche, not unlike the protagonist in R. Heinlein’s book. In a way we’re all exiles owning a planet somewhere – be it an inner world.
2 – How does my work differ from others of this genre?
I puzzle over the term – genre. It may apply to career writers, which I’m not. Writing is my moving on from photography, another tool to symbolically express what drives me. Set in an imaginary world, my characters outward their inner conflict, the archetypal tragic/comic exodus I feel entitled to elaborate on. If genre it must be, my novels could be called mythic poetic adventures, gripping magical quests.
3 – Why do I write what I do?
I may fool myself, but I can’t help thinking that re-creating or co-creating history can make us whole. I’m fascinated by how our fragile identity is formed through early mirroring, how people and environments define us. How we oblige like sleepwalkers and build a myth on these early templates, and inevitably mirror others. And yet, small shifts in awareness can change our perception from deep within. Each of us brings along something unique we’re yearning to recognise. Without the recall of that signature we feel a lack. Having been intensely involved with many groups and sub-cultures throughout my life I now tend the seeds I gathered and cultivate my soul garden. using the magic of words that string together and create music, sculpt feelings and even lift the invisible.
4 – How does my writing process work?
It didn’t, until the pressure became so great I decided a few years ago to reduce my professional work and commit time to writing. When a character takes shape and is called on a journey, I trust the narrative will unfold in my imagination. With consistent attention there eventually emerges the emotional coherence of a short story, or a chapter, and another. For me, this process, though enjoyable, happens in semi-darkness. I can’t force the outcome.
Editing is fun, and sometimes torture, which is when I crave diversions – watch birds, make coffee, fix things, blitz-clean the house, sort finances, prune hedges, cut grass … and relieve my pangs of guilt for neglecting friend by stepping out from my solitude. I may go harvesting in public spaces – that is, observing how people move, which I find endlessly fascinating. On really bad days doubt intervenes and I sulk over the ‘who-do-you-think-you-are’ syndrome,’ until I accept I’m no Shakespeare.
In the end it is always being with friends and reading that refreshes my conviction in writing. On many levels engaging with people and their stories helped me understand my private myth, and more.
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A few entries on gardens from my archive https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/tag/garden/
The task of choosing further runners for this tour from a tapestry of amazingly creative people gave me a headache. To stem the flood, I’ll cheat the rules and introduce only 2 writers to weave the thread onward and hopefully reveal more secret islands.
The book that wrote my life … Philippa says of – INVOLUTION – an Odyssey Reconciling Science and God – an epic poem, and a spiritual revelation. It’s been called a tour de force. In nine cantos the work travels through pre-human involution, the enfolding of consciousness in matter, early man’s emergence on the Serengeti … through the recorded civilizations of Greece, Rome, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance towards Enlightenment and finally Modernisms’ success of science – of which the latter, ironically, obscures the internal story – the story of direct intuition, nous, experience.
I totally grok this.
And I’m looking forward to meeting Philippa this weekend. She’ll join a gathering of my friends and share what sparked her life-long project. I imagine she’s good company, holding memories of gripping stories, including her childhood in South Africa, which she’s beginning to share on her blog, ‘Careless Talk,’ accessed here.
Diane is a prolific writer of short stories and novellas. She hardly pauses, and generously shares the developing instalments of her work on her website. I’m totally addicted to her posts. Increasingly, she publishes e-books through Kindle and now also in print-versions.
Her characters are usually teetering on the edge of change before they slip into a life-changing crisis. The protagonists are often so hilarious you want to shout – get your act together. Then there’s a cliff-hanger and you’ve to wait a day or two for the next instalment. Stories range from light-hearted, uplifting, to mysterious and dark and they all have surprising twists. As I said, I’m addicted. A recent published tale is:
‘The Man who lost his Manbag and Found Himself‘ Here’s a modern day odyssey, and a simple recipe for losing your identity.
Both authors presented here, like so many I came to know during these last years, fought their own publishing battles. I hugely admire and have great respect for their skill and perseverance. There was never a time I did not find selling myself daunting. Even during days of professional success I relied on others to shout out the existence of my ware. I need someone to hold my hand.
Some of my friends are slow in developing their island on the internet, yet offer compassionate mentor-ship I can’t emulate. Notably Evlynn Sharp We worked on various projects together, and I feel deep gratitude for her support.
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And here more cheating – I’d like to introduce the islands of two young people engaged in the buzz of life, with scarce time for leisurely blog-tours. They’re brilliant at what they do. They make me proud, my son, Yeshen and his wife Natasha Tonkin, a director of animated films.
I wrote about them recently https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/weddings-still-happen/
14 responses to “… surprise – blog tour interlude …”
Nice – and thank you so much for the over generous words. I will have to get myself organised now won’t I and do my piece.
🙂 Mad race to get the links to work. I think I managed ok now.
Ashen claims to know little about ‘compassionate mentorship’? Don’t believe a word of it, what is this whole post but that? Having spent a great deal of time visiting what corners were made available of Ruth’s allotment, I think you should visit before the crowds discover it. Lovely summer gazpacho.
🙂 BTW sorted the links.
I LOVE your answers to these, Ashen, always so thought provoking and original. 😀 xx
Thanks, Sophie ☼
Reblogged this on …in no particular order….
A lovely post, Ashen – and so interesting to learn about your background, too.
Thanks Jane. You mean the first link, re: English not being my first language … the lakes, ponds, rivers … the Alps?
Yes Ashen – your writing flows well and shows your love for the country of your youth
Great read. We have similar perception of the world around us. Thanks for sharing.
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Just updated the links to my son and his wife’s website, as they seemed to have been hijacked.