A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierly

I did see the movie, called Lion, based on Saroo’s biography when it was released in the cinema. I thought the film was very well made and the story is almost hard to believe. Sometimes when I see a movie I’m very fascinated by, I know that I want to read the book. This was one of those movies. Saroo’s story fascinated me enough that I wanted a deeper experience of it. 

A Long Way Home isn’t likely to win prizes for incredible use of language but if you ignore that, the story is well told and really examines the thoughts and emotions as Saroo remembers it. Saroo takes us through his life from what he remembers of the day he got lost – a memory he has all his life tried to recollect so that he won’t forget any details – up until the book was published, more or less. The unlikely events that shaped his life are of that kind that it would have been difficult to make them up as a fictional story and get away with it. Sometimes life is just so much more fascinating than what our imagination can conjure up.

One can have opinions about inter-country and intercultural adoption but here is a story from someone who has lived through it and who ended up with two families. It strikes me as unusual, respectful, but also a massive responsibility, that the 5-year old Saroo was asked to make a decision if he wanted a new family when his birth family couldn’t be found. The great respect Saroo’s mothers have for each other is also so thought provoking, even how Saroo accepts that he has become Australian and is quite lost in India when he first visits. It’s inspiring how he somehow manages to accept all the twists and turns his unusual life has taken and has embraced it. 

If you like life stories then you shouldn’t miss this book. It’s tragic, hopeful and full of determination that anything is possible. It’s also full of faith in our own abilities – to survive, to overcome obstacles, to trust our instincts – the kind of faith we could all do with a little more of.

 

 

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The Uneventful Life of a Writer

I was going to update you on the coming launch of GFMA’s anthology that I’ve both contributed to and have co-edited. However, the publishing of the book is still in the balance and I don’t have a confirmed date for the launch party. What else do I update you about: thoughts on books I’ve read. I can’t really call it reviews since it isn’t by any agreed standards. I could give you a flash-fiction to amuse you.

The life of a write can be very uneventful. I have discussed in earlier updates how writing is a lonely business and many writers chose writing for that reason. It means that most weeks are a combination of reading lots of books – although if you have dyslexia like me, you don’t read very fast – you attend your writing group(s), you read even more to research your story and your ideas, you play around with poetry and shorter pieces to keep your creativity going and you write. Endless hours by yourself at home, in cafes and pubs – if you’re desperate for more writing time, on your phone on the train, the underground and the bus. There isn’t that much to write home about, so to speak.

This weekend I researched for my new story by reading a non-fiction book about Vincent van Gogh. I edited a short piece on the theme Birthdays for one of my writing groups. I tried to get the first third of my poetry-novella in perfect condition to prepare it for submissions to agents and small publishers. I have read as much as I could find time for. This is the life of a writer. Like all jobs there are the grueling hours of just doing what you know has to be done to go from developing your ideas to a finished piece – whether finished for submission, for self-publication or performances. No one became a champion tennis player (Wimbledon is plaguing us at the moment) without endless hours on a tennis court, learning and perfecting their game. If you want to be a writer then those hours in front of your computer, or with pen and paper if you prefer, have to be done.

Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have watched Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Although I can never argue against my favourite actor Matthew MacFadyen playing Mr. Darcy, the older version of Pride and Prejudice is still my favourite.

Despite being such a huge Jane Austen fan, I think this is only the second time I have read the book. I love the book. Persuasion is still my favourite but Pride and Prejudice is an amazing piece of work and the copy I bought in a second hand book store is perfection (apart from a few editing mishaps). I love the size of it, the quality of the paper, the font and layout. It’s going to be my role model book for my own publishing henceforth.

The thing that struck me as I read Pride and Prejudice this time is how over-romantic the film and the TV-series are. There Darcy is made out to be some dreamy perfect man – the ideal heart-throb, but in the book he isn’t. He is an ideal match for Elizabeth just as much as she complements him but there is no question that they are both human beings with their own set of faults. If there is anything dreamy about Mr. Darcy in Austen’s version, it’s that he is willing to change his ways and improve his manners, so to speak, to be able to winn the woman he loves. Now, that is very dreamy!

I have always argued that the strength of Jane Austen is not the romantic intricacies of her characters but how well she captured the society she lived in, and in doing so can sometimes feel more relevant than a lot of current writers. Reading Pride and Prejudice again has only confirmed this point of view.

Needless to say, if you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, you should.

 

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Poetry Open Mic Nights

I am not very fond of doing public readings but this month I have returned to it at two different events that I have previously attended.

The first was in the beginning of June. Talking Rhythm is a monthly poetry and music event hosted by friend and fellow poet Bernadette. It’s either held in Greenwich or in Deptford. This month was the first time at the new venue in Deptford – Deptford Does Art. It is a lovely, light and green space that worked so well for poetry and acoustic music. I read two poems, both from my Instagram account, where, if you don’t already know, I publish a poem every other Sunday.

The second reading was with Global Fusion Music and Art. They too hold a monthly poetry, spoken word and music night, which takes place in Woolwich. The pub where it’s held doesn’t work as well for poetry nights but it was nice to be back after having had a break, not just from reading, but also attending. I read an abbreviated version of a short-story that is meant to be included in a short-story collection on the theme of the yearly seasons. In theory this short-story collection is resting before I do the editing needed for its completion. However the theme for the poetry night was summer and I didn’t have that much on the theme to pull up my sleeve.

Where, when, or even if, next public reading will be, time will tell.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark

Wow! This was an interesting book. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I’m still undecided whether I really like it or not, but it was absolutely worth the read.

One of the two things I really liked about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, was the idea of Miss Brodie. She is such a fascinating character and so hard to grasp properly, which I believe is very intentional. You can’t quite figure out her motivations but it’s at the same time very intriguing. I found the Brodie girls, individually, not that interesting, but they are obviously necessary for the plot to work.

The other thing I really liked, was the way the story was told. At first I found the foreshadowing and the non-linear story-telling a bit challenging, but the further I got into the read, the more this way of telling the story made sense and added to the mystery of events and of the illusive character of Miss Brodie.

Now I need to see if I can get my hands of the TV-films with Geraldine McEwan and the one with Maggie Smith. I can see both of them really bringing Miss Brodie to life and, in my mind, both of them are acting royalty.

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An Accidental Man – Iris Murdoch

For the first time in many, many years, I decided that I wouldn’t finish reading a book that I had started. This is indeed very rare, as I make a point of finishing books, just in case the experience is like reading 100 Years of Loneliness by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which didn’t really make it worth my time until the very last chapter. I also didn’t expect that one of the books I decided I wouldn’t finish would be Iris Murdoch’s. I’ve been wanting to read her since reading a memoir by her husband John Bayley, a book I really liked.

So why didn’t I finish An Accidental Man? Well, more than half way through the book, I realized that I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters. It’s populated by a few people, all interconnected, but I wasn’t curious about any of them. There wasn’t one among them where I thought: I wonder how things are going to play out for that person? It was easy to get into the habit of reading the story. It had a slow flow that made it a very comfortable read. I have nothing to object to regarding characterization, descriptions of the world they inhabit or the language. If there was anything obviously wrong, it was probably that I didn’t find anything remarkable about it. It was like listening to elevator music.

When I realized that I didn’t care to find out what happened, I also remembered that there are so many books out there that I’m waiting to get my hands on and read. Why spend more time on a book where I clearly had lost interest?

I’m not sure whether I’ll give Murdoch another go. For now I’m moving on to something else.

 

An Accidental Man

Trouble in Fairy Wood World Premier

My little play Trouble in Fairy Wood has grown up and has had its world premier. I had a lovely email from the teacher in Texas, who recently got in touch via Drama Notebook to say that he was using my play in his teaching. The students had a one off performance of the play in their dining hall and I have been told that it all went well.

I find it strangely exciting that my story has made its way around the world to Texas, USA to be performed by and to 6th grade students. I also feel very grateful to Drama Notebook for encouraging me to submit Trouble and for it to be added to their growing archive of plays and drama exercises for education purposes. It feels like a worthy project to be part of.

I hope this is the first of many emails popping up from teachers around the world. After all, I submitted Trouble for it to be used and not just collect dust in my drawer, so to speak (not that anyone puts their manuscripts in chest of drawers any longer).

Please check out my page dedicated to Trouble in Fairy Wood where you can also find a link to Drama Notebook.

Drama NotebookDrama Notebook