It began many years back, when I was was helping a ten-year-old with ideas for a story. In a nutshell, her ideas fed mine, and set me thinking of my own story for children. This would of course be an illustrated story, done by yours truly. After writing many drafts, I decided on creating the first illustration; something that might work for the cover. Apart from the grandfather, who features in the story, the drawing above features all the other main characters in The Lost Civilisation. From top left, clockwise; the parrot Herakles, Penelope, Achilles the dog, Helen of Troy, the cat, and Archimedes, the goldfish, all named after figures in Greek mythology.
The heading is a double entendre, I believe, although I didn’t realise the link until later. After viewing the sketches from last week’s art class, there was no way I was going to advertise them, and with my novel now back on track, I thought a post about its progress might be more inspiring than looking at the worst drawings I have done in some time. The old learning curve at work again! However, I am pleased to be making progress on the novel, coming on the heels of readers’ praise for my recent short story collection.
Well, I had wanted to write all about my trip to the Hundertwasser Art centre I visited recently, but something caught my eye in my local bookstore. My book on the shelves already, which was sooner than I expected it to be! So, people, another blog about my jolly book. Or rather the bits and pieces which go into publicly announcing it on New Zealand media which is on-going. Reviews can take ages to come out, so I was told today, and I won’t always know when that will appear in the media. Do I need to have someone who will read the daily papers and check whether one story which was selected for an on-line source has occurred? It would be terrible to miss the very opportunities that might make me even a little bit famous.
Honestly, I have been so busy, filling out Q & A requests from media, taking calls from my publicist and mulling over all of this during the night when I’m supposed to be asleep! Tomorrow I am going to be pre-recorded for a national radio arts show, and have been checking through the salient points that I am most likely to be asked. I am actually not as anxious as I may sound, and think that the twenty minute interview will go well. I have listened to Lynn Freeman’s interviews many times on her Standing Room Only show, and she does have a nice approach, and comes across as well informed. Not being live, makes it easier, so I guess if there too many mumblings and um’s on my part, they can be edited.
Time for a lie-down.
Although Pocket Money & Other Stories won’t be released until June, at least the marketing is getting underway. It has been rather strange, sitting back, and letting the publicist take over the reins. With the last book, in 2020, I did all the marketing and promotional work, and over the past few weeks I’ve basically been fluffing around. But this week, I decided I must secure a venue for the June launch. One place had been mucking me about, and so, I visited a couple of others, which were unsuitable, and then? I found a very convenient venue, just down the road from my apartment. And now, I need to put the invitations and posters together, and get them ‘out there’.
I did start a sketch for this blog, but it seemed some weird force was against me completing it. I knew that sketching two people, as opposed to one for a portrait was difficult (as I have completed several like this in the past), but I was keen to sketch this image of my granddaughters together. And, guess what? I have one looking fine, my proportions spot on, but the younger girl? I just couldn’t get her right. But, I haven’t given up on that project, yet.
I’m really happy to report that my book is now at the printers; I have managed a couple of days doing absolutely nothing except walking and being a slothful version of myself. Oh yes, there was the slightly stressful ‘having my photo taken’ exercise for publicity purposes. I had an idea of how I’d like the scene to be, but do not like having my picture taken. Thanks to my photographer daughter, who knows just what to say to relax the shoulders and get that grim mouth show a slight smile, worked her magic. I really do like the end result. Thank you Lara.
Elizabeth and I met at High School, and have been friends ever since, and I am very pleased to be telling you about her recipe book Capers, not just because she is an exceptional cook, but because this recipe book is different from the usual. It is a kind of memoir, with each recipe marking a particular time, and meals shared with family and friends, in settings that span the globe.
She writes so well. For example, when describing the ‘casually impressive starter’, Bruschetta, Red Peppers and Cannellini Beans, as ‘Minimal, like a Paul Klee painting, with clean flavours and interesting textures’. We follow Elizabeth as she takes us to Jerusalem, and we walk down Salah al-Din Street to Damascus Gate where the village women gather with their wares and we breath in the fresh scents of mint, basil, tomatoes, cardamom… Yum.
That’s just the first recipe. With a story on one page and the recipe nearby, I turned the pages, enjoying the stories and the recipes created from my friend’s memories. In one, she observes her mother gorgeously dressed for a special party, holding aloft a tray of Choux savouries, her skirt, a field of poppies swirling. I’ve never made Choux savouries, but now I shall – using Elizabeth’s recipe, of course.
The reasons I haven’t been posting are not because I was away on another sojourn enjoying the sights, quite the opposite. I wrote a post some weeks back (Sept) about the time it takes in this writing lark to hear back from people. In that post I wrote that I had sent off a pitch to an agent regarding my short story collection. I waited the 6 – 7weeks indicated when I should have heard back. Seven weeks turned into twelve and I decided to chase this up. No response. Last week (16 weeks from original submission), I wrote a longer message. A reply, saying: “Oh, so sorry, your work must have been sent to So and So’s scam folder and been deleted, for all the work from that month has been seen to, and your file is nowhere to be found.” And then the bit that said – “sorry about this, you can resend if you wish, but we understand if you want to send it elsewhere.”
When others discovered I wrote, I was asked many questions beginning with W. When? Why? What? and Why? again. The last why was because I had always been known as an artist, and friends couldn’t understand the shift. I don’t think any of them would have understood that it had started as a game. I was teaching English in Japan, spending a lot of free time on my own and reading a lot of fiction. One evening, I wondered if I was capable of dreaming up a plot for a novel. Well, that was twenty years ago, and the answer is ‘yes’. I have been writing fiction ever since and absolutely love it! But some days, I don’t wonder why I started, but why I continue, as it all takes so long.
Recently I struggled to finish a newly published book of short stories, which surprised me, as it had received reasonable reviews. The storylines were okay, but weren’t dynamic, and the characters didn’t draw me in. I just didn’t like all twenty of the stories, apart from one.
I was bewailing my dislike of this book to a writing friend, who told me I’d love Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories, and lent it to me.