I once hailed from Dorset, near Devon in the UK. Perhaps that is why these poems resonate, especially Two Many Dresses, the first.
Source: David Bowie And Thoughts On Life
A Writer’s Diary of the Week…
So, firstly, I had a very good lunch (avocado salad, fish pie, pudding and far too much bubbly Prosecco) with a lovely book club made up of expatriate women living here, in Rome. They hailed from Iceland, Switzerland, Holland, South Africa, the UK, Egypt and Australia. They read the book in their December holidays, some while skiing, others on the beaches of the South, one in her car, hiding from the family duties of Christmas.
All enjoyed it, luckily, and I experienced a very hazy, surreal, out-of-body experience of eight women all talking at once about the characters in the book as though they lived and breathed. An argument over who was the most evil; a discussion as to whether a character killed herself or was murdered – it is true – I left it open, though in fact, that was no deliberate act of subterfuge. I realized, I knew what happened and that was all that mattered when I was writing it. I was humbled, blushing when they asked,
“So, Annika, do you have any questions for your readers?”
In my fog of egocentricity and gatecrasher’s nerves, it never occurred to me that they might want to be interviewed as to their opinion. I rummaged through my prosecco-addled brain, searching for a decent question. Nothing.
“Well, not really,” I blurted.
Oh, the arrogance of the debut author. I apologize; put it down to naivete.
This week, I managed to join a very useful facebook page called Book Connectors, recommended to me by Pam Reader, a prolific book blogger. Authors ask good questions and can post information about upcoming events, bloggers post reviews, and the community seems to be a friendly and helpful one, especially for British writers.
I joined an online literary critique forum. I was not expecting much to be honest, as it is free and very basic in terms of the web design (an uninspiring grey with white font), and format (‘cheap as chips’). In the absence of my fantastic Editor-on-Tap (she is fighting a valiant battle with cancer), it turned out to be surprisingly useful. ‘Credits’ are earned by critiquing other writers, which you can then ‘spend’ by uploading your own offerings. I uploaded the prologue and half the first chapter of my new novel (draft 2, at least, with much fiddling and rewording).
Then I waited, biting my nails.
The ‘critters’, as they call themselves, did not hold back:
“I don’t like starting critiques on the negative, but there’s no way to avoid this: your opening sentence is tell—tell that is flat, written in passive voice, and unimaginative.”
Oh dear. I laughed out loud, he was right. He was getting even too – I recognized his ‘name’ – I’d ‘critted’ a chapter of his book the day before, asking him to work harder on characterization. I don’t think that writers should make it their religion not to use passive to be verbs, sometimes you need to… but… I conceded the point. I got praise for my pretty use of language. Within an afternoon, I spring-cleaned the upload, replacing passive she/he had/ was into fresh, immediate dialogue. Much improved, I look forward to the critter’s responses to the next two uploads. I expect a serious dressing down, though I tried hard this time . As the author, it is hard to catch mistakes – hence the need for great editing.
Lastly, I received a review from Writerful Books, an Australian publishing house based in Melbourne. It can be found here: Writerful Books Review
I loved that the reviewer was honest enough to open the review with:
“This was a surprisingly good read.”
I don’t know what initially put him off – the pinkish lettering of the title font, perhaps? The little Tajik woman in the corner of the cover? I grinned, imagining his sighs as he opened it and settled down to read. Did he start the book in trepidation, thinking himself sentenced to review a new sub-genre of Central-Asian Chick Lit?
It was a lovely review, take a look! 🙂
All in all, a very good start to Writing in 2016.
It was the best way to start 2016. Yesterday I firmed up a date for a new event to launch my debut ‘The Disobedient Wife’ (Cinnamon Press UK) in Geneva, Switzerland. The book signing will take place at Payot Rive Gauche Bookstore, on Rue de la Confédération 7, 1204 GENÈVE, at 18:00 on 3rd March 2016. I will offer myself for conversation and meet up at this informal book signing event. I am hoping that my friends each bring along their friends and that we form a friendly, pop-up crowd, united by our interest in books, reading, writing, Central Asia and expatriate life.
Why Geneva? I chose Geneva because ‘The Disobedient Wife’ is a book that appeals to readers who want to learn about new places and it will suit an international kind of reader. It is a book that discusses the Expatriate Trailing Spouse Condition – the unique experience of trailing another person this way and that way across the globe, first for love and later for lack of reasons not to.
Yes, I know I will get into trouble for this, for admitting that we trail. But we do trail. In my case, I trail because my husband always had the better job, he is older than I, with the better salary; for us, it was a no-brainer.
We trailing spouses follow and support and take out our tools to carve out a temporary niche in our new existence. We bounce from place to place and we learn to cope with culture shock, opening ourselves up to new experiences. We learn the street chat of umpteen languages and become genius map readers, mastering google earth. Unlike our spouses/ partners with their work, we have no ready-made ‘family’ and so we become brilliant at making friends on the hop. We abandon our shyness and approach anyone speaking our language or with children the same age, if we are parents. A shared coffee after drop off at school can lead to life-long friendship. I once approached someone simply because she was wearing hiking boots… I love to hike. Others fall by the wayside almost as we board the plane out, never to be seen again. The established communities hate us for that; our perceived coldness, our ability to cut ties, face forward. “The constant goodbyes killed me in the end. I stick to permanent residents now,” a Kenyan told me.
We have no comfortable office to go to each morning with a beaming, kind secretary and so we find our own places to gather: the coffee shops, community centres, school meetings, baby groups, book clubs and sport grounds of our new posting. We have no organizational relatives waiting to back us up, a Motherly boss or a brotherly colleague, no comfort of the familiar face from a workshop five years before, now seated in the office next door. We must search anew for work in every country we land in, hustling for consultancies, teaching jobs or volunteering. I do not mind this. It stretches us and keep us mentally limber, even as we despair over the disjointedness of our CVs, the career opportunities gone, the lost pension plans and PhD places. I have had to abandon my development projects, my art studio, a kindergarten business and significant career paths as a civil servant, a UN worker, an anthropologist; transforming myself as I move. I am Mistress of the Fresh Start.
As the years pass, even our countries of origin change or dwarf to insignificance. Too much happens to us as nomads and we find that cannot relate when we return, our eyes are too wide, our minds too open. We no longer truly ‘fit’. Our only home, then, is in the arms of our spouse, an insecure ‘putting-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket’ kind of existence if you aren’t lucky enough to keep your marriage alive…
Geneva has a huge community of non-Swiss internationals and many of them live with husbands and wives who have experienced this daily condition for years on end. I am hoping that many of them will come, seek me out. That they will read the book and find comfort in it, in the Expatriate character’s renewal. In her finally creating herself to be the person she wants to be after years of confusion.
An interesting blog post on ethnic identity in Burundi… the unfinished business of Hutu-Tutsi relationships.
By Rita Siohban
Can we be honest about the ghosts of our past?
The recent political turmoil rocking our country lately seems to have brought up old ethnic commentary not seen since the end of the war. Granted, we’re at a much better place than we ever were in terms of ethnic relations but some touchy subjects have old wounds resurface and maybe bring in vague awareness that a bit of healing is still needed.
Reading through the inter-web comments over the last few weeks, I’m not so sure we’re as “moved on” as we’d like to think we are.
Have we really addressed the reasons why there was so much hatred to begin with? Or is it better to just let old dogs lie and continue on as the new generation is less burdened by our painful past?
How did ethnicity shape any of us, if it ever did?
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