No sadly not my own book release but just as much cause for celebration. Last Thursday was the official book launch of my friend Robert J Fanshawe’s book The Cellist’s Friend at Global Fusion Music and Arts’ open mic night in Woolwich.
Robert decided on self-publishing. I had a very small part to play in the process when I acted as adviser and general bouncing board while Robert was going through the different stages of preparing the book for publishing. Author House is supposedly one of the biggest self-publishing companies out there, with the usual offer of preparing different parts for you or you can choose to do it yourself.
After the usual open mic readings and music performances, Robert introduced the book and read two sections from it. It is very different to hear the author himself read the text as he intended it, in comparison to reading a book for yourself, especially since Robert happens to be an excellent reader and actor. It adds a layer to the story that you wouldn’t otherwise get. I won’t say too much about the story now. A review, or my thoughts about the book, will come soon.
What I will say, is that no matter how small a venue, perhaps even just your closest friends, you should celebrate your book release. Whether self-published, via independent or major publishers, or even vanity publishing – there is a massive amount of work behind and a published book is a great achievement.
Recently I went to see Tunnel Vision: Array at Beech Street near the Barbican Centre. As part of the Barbican’s Open Fest, the tunnel was closed off for this light show – a collaborative venture where 59 Productions created digital projections to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s music Karawane as recorded by BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
We walked into the closed off section of the Beech Street tunnel. The popular event was sold out but the large tunnel still let people have space enough to move around. Along the wall are the projectors but there is nothing to indicate the display of light, colours and patterns that will soon play over our heads on the ceiling and walls.
There are lines and checker patterns that move and change colours. Lines chasing each other, criss-crossing over the ceiling. Bright red sequins or chain-mail that shift into the appearance of sun light through leaves. Green mesh and the pattern of African cloth fill out vision. A single line of light snakes over the ceiling like a living thing. Later changing into lightning that flashes at intervals. Flowers appear in the tight lines. They circle and vanishes. Smoke flutters over the ceiling and rain drops splash on the surface of water that doesn’t exist.
The modern classical music is complicated. It rises and falls. Obviously written with the full potential of an orchestra and chorus in mind, to show off their range. The light patterns are amazing, running over the ceiling, changing, shifting, playing games with the music. It’s easy to get mesmerized.
59 Productions are not new to this game, having done the video design for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, for War Horse theatre production and for David Bowie is exhibition, to name a few. Array is the latest of installations within Culture Mile, which lets public spaces be seen in unusual, new ways.
The light show is amazing. It’s hard to imagine that we are still standing in what is normally a busy road in central London. The music is fantastic as well, on an intellectual level. I must confess that I tire of it after a while. There is another problem as well. The music is so complicated that at time the light show doesn’t seem to keep up. There are moments when so much is happening musically that the colours and light fail to highlight anything in particular. At other times the light show is perfectly timed with what’s happening in the music and the ceiling becomes a fluid screen of impressions that beautifully follow the music in atmosphere, colour change and patterns.
We walk out into the grey day. It’s snowing again but in our minds the vibrant colours still lingers.
I have no big news to tell you this week, instead I’ve had a normal week in my life of full-time lighting designer and part-time writer.
Saturdays are my main day writing. One of my writers groups meet every other weekend for a write-in but most Saturdays I’ll go to the pub or to a coffee place to write, edit and whatever else I need to do that’s writing related. I find it easier to write at the pub/cafe but I dream of having a proper writing corner in my home where I can lose track of time for few hours.
This weekend I submitted a new article for the mental health magazine Equilibrium that I have been writing for before. I also started re-writing a short film script, converting it into a short-story or possibly a novella. I had an idea of telling this story about a couple, not from their point of view, but from the point of view of those they come in contact with. I have continued researching for my next more substantial story which may or may not be a film. It’s leaning towards becoming a novel. It’s been going back and forth since I had the idea for the story.
I seem to have picked my next editing piece as well. I’m going back to a story I started years ago and that is told through a series of poems. I’m really keen to try to find a proper publisher for it and over the weekend I was reading it through from beginning to end to get familiar with the story again.
During the week it’s harder to get any proper writing done. I always read a lot while getting to and from work and to write short pieces and poetry can be squeezed in while waiting for dance classes or writers groups. Until Saturday’s big block of writing comes around again.
Those of you who have visited my About page might have noticed that I am a supporter of the local charity Global Fusion Music and Arts. At the moment they hold, among so many other things, open mic evenings once a month. Yesterday’s opens mic had Bards Without Borders as the special guest.
Bards Without Borders are a group of poets and writers who all have the experience of being refugees or immigrants. Currently, they are performing a set in respons to the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It was really special to experience this group of poets. There was much to take in; their experiences of fleeing their home countries, their amazing poems and what kind of influence Shakespeare has had within their native cultures.
The most enjoyable part was to hear them read favourite passages from Shakespeare’s complete works in their native languages. It really brought out the beauty of Shakespeare’s words. Even if I cannot understand Swahili or Spanish or any of the other languages, there is a beauty in the rhythm, the word flow and the articulation of the text that makes it wonderful to listen to even when you don’t understand.
The next Global Fusion open mic night will be the 29 of July. Anyone near or far from Greenwich, London is welcome to come by. The special guest will be Cheng Yu, a Chinese Pipa player.
If you wish to find out more about Bards Without Borders you can find them on Facebook.
I’ve been trying to curb my frenetic writing to get some order to what I do. The result has been that I’ve finished translating and doing a first edit of my children’s theatre play. I’m not sure I’m happy with the result but it’s now been sent for an initial assessment. The first hurdle toward the play being produced has been cleared.
While I prepared for the edit, I started reading So You Want to Be a Playwright? by Tim Fountain. It’s been really helpful and I can recommend reading it if you are planning to or are writing a play. Without overloading with details and writing exercises, it goes through Fountains own process from starting to write until finished production. There are lots of handy advice and you can absolutely have it next to you as you work through different stages of the play.
So now I try to get back to my short-story. I still debate whether I will go straight for self-publishing or whether I should try all the literary magasines and online writer’s sites to see if anyone is interested. I find the process of sending out your material to be very time consuming, not that self-publishing is not, but at least I’m in control of what’s happening. Maybe any of my fellow writers have another view on this?
I had a comment to my recent post about my current writing frenzy. The question was how much of yourself you reveal when writing about past experiences? It referred to the poetry story I am writing that follow a recent relationship from beginning to end.
My personal view when writing something that is mostly autobiographical is to be brutally honest. The whole point, for me, of a biography as opposed to fiction, is to give a subjective view of events and therefore you should not hide how you perceived things or the way that you remember them. I wrote 95% of the poetry for this story as it happened, as I was trying to deal with the relationship. As such, the raw material is what I felt at that given point in time.
The question that follows is naturally, once you have vented your feelings and created this piece of work, do you share it? I have mixed feeling about that. At one hand, I genuinely think there is a story there worthy of being told. It is also a story not often told as films and songs etcetera tend to focus on how the couple fall in love. Books are slightly better at covering the whole spectra of relationships.
On the other hand, if you are brutally honest in your biographical writing, you are exposing yourself to other people’s opinions, prejudices and criticism of you and your past actions. Not only are you exposing yourself, but other people – in this case my ex. You can to some extent protect others by never naming them but as the creator you cannot protect yourself. Do you want that random strangers know that much about your feelings and perceptions?
I believe you must be able to answer that question before you make a decision to publish. The alternative being to write a fictional story with the same themes but moving away from real persons and events.