July 21, 2014
It’s been awhile since I posted here. I have been writing- the intended outcome is a book, but I can’t quite get the words, ‘I’m writing a book’, out of my mouth at the moment. It sounds too pretentious and it scares me a bit.
Considering how many times I’ve started and stopped work on this project in the past decade or so.
I will finish the manuscript this time, because I promised a friend I would. But whether it will be anything worth sharing at the end, I don’t know. Anyway, it is keeping me occupied, a recent task being going through every one of the almost 400 posts on this blog, printing the relevant ones out and categorising them. More on all that another time.
Anyway, back to the topic of this post which is a book review.
Anyone who has been reading my posts over the past 7 years will know my anti-marketing stance when it comes to art, so surprise surprise, I am about to sing the praises of a book that could be seen as a book on promoting your art, but which is SO not an art marketing book.
I was cruising Amazon and this title was on the recommendations for me. I immediately liked the format and cover and took a ‘look inside’. I was sold from page one. This was an author who understood my reluctance to make self promotion the ultimate goal for my life on Earth, and who has written a kind, heart-filled guide on how to not hoard your creativity, how to not give up, how to keep your integrity while getting your work out there, how to not turn into ‘human spam’ (loved that), and have a great and fulfilling time doing it.
This book is so lovely in every aspect. It has a smooth cover, silky to the touch, the small square format appeals, it simply exudes friendliness and encouragement. There are loads of keri smith style handwritten pages and illustrations by the author, Austin Kleon (who wrote ‘How to steal like an artist’ which I didn’t read because I already know how and am already an artist).
Almost all the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine. These people aren’t schmoozing at cocktail parties, they’re too busy for that. (paraphrased):They are working in their studios, getting good at what they do, and sharing their process.
‘By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience that they can then leverage when they need it- for fellowship, feedback or patronage. (personally, I’ve never had any luck with the last one, SZ).
I wanted to create a kind of beginner’s manual for this way of operating, so here’s what I came up with, a book for people who hate the very idea of self promotion. An alternative, if you will to self promotion…Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your resume because he already reads your blog. Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted on line… Imagine turning a side project or hobby into your profession because you had a following that could support you.
Or imagine something simpler and just as satisfying: spending the majority of your time, energy,and attention practising a craft, learning a trade, or running a business, while also allowing for the possibility that your work might attract a group of people who share your interest….
This little book is full of original, funny, insightful, wise advice that can help anyone gather the courage and get organised to share their work more. And who knows where that could lead! Whether you are a writer, crafter, artist, or hobbyist in anything at all, give yourself a present and go buy it.( And, no, I’m not being paid to say this!)
May 7, 2014
Recently I’ve read a book which took me on a beautifully written journey, which seemed destined to end in healing and redemption. I was particularly interested in this book because it promised to take its place among the ‘new’ literature we so desperately need now- one that provides an alternative vision of the world -one full of hope, where we are part of nature, where we are connected to one another, and our lives do have purpose and meaning.
The story: 3 unrelated people form their own relationship with a strip of green, a little park in an English town which borders on a neighbourhood in decline. Each person is, in a particular way, lost. A Polish man and a lonely boy find each other. They form a tentative friendship, and one starts to hope that the child will eventually find some stability outside of his home and the total neglect of his mother. The 3rd character is an elderly widow living on the edge of this park. She occasionally does some guerilla gardening there.
Each of these characters is on a journey to some kind of reconciliation or hope, and the nature in the park is a catalyst for the healing they start to find.
Then, a crisis in the last pages sees the man and the boy who have formed a totally innocent friendship, wrenched apart by a police raid. The man’s beloved dog, with whom the boy was also bonding, is dragged away by the neck and will probably be put down because she has Pit Bull blood. We leave him holding a duffel bag, waiting for a bus to take him away from the tender beginnings of home and community he had patiently started to build up. The old woman we last see alone in the hospital hooked up to wires and infusions. And the boy is torn out of his familiar territory and sent to another part of the country to his father, whom we have been told is a violent man.
Every author has the freedom to choose how to end their story, granted. But I question the integrity of such an ending. ‘Shit happens’, yes, I am bombarded by this detritus of the ‘old story’ every minute through the media. But that is not what I am looking for when I reach for a book. Artists, writers, story tellers, have the chance to create a new story- one of hope. One which illuminates ways to connect, to find meaning in life, rise above circumstances, to treasure the small things, to bond with places and people, to thrive rather than just survive. I believe we have a responsibility to the material we put out there. Barry Lopez, words this beautifully:
If I were asked what I want to accomplish as a writer, I would say it is to contribute to a literature of hope…I want to help create a body of stories in which men and women can discover trustworthy patterns.
Every story is an act of trust between a writer and a reader; each story in the end is social. Whatever a writer sets down can help or harm the community of which he or she is a part.
Each of the little green shoots of healing were ground out at the end of this book, like so many cigarette stubs. I trustingly embarked on a journey with the writer and her characters and felt betrayed by what happened to them at the end. This kind of writing feeds the ‘old’ story of a hostile universe, a meaningless world without grace or miracles or healing.
Not that every story must have a happy ending, but when you deliberately annihilate hope, there has to be a good reason for it. As I see it, these decisions did not serve the story or any purpose at all. It is simply trendy to have a dark ending. It is a device.
And therefore meaningless.
The book is ‘Clay’ by Melissa Harrison. If you don’t mind the ending, I”d still recommend it for the gorgeous writing.
January 19, 2013
Sonia, whose blog I’ve been following for awhile now, has recently self-published a truly beautiful hybrid cookbook. It is a great mix of reminiscences as well as new discoveries of her family’s heritage on the island of Cyprus.
Androula’s kitchen, Cyprus on a plate, contains a wonderful variety of personal anecdotes and practical information about current and lost ways of life on Cyprus. Sonia also follows up her passion for the island’s traditional skills such as pottery, weaving and basket making, letting us see current examples of the crafts through beautiful photos accompanied by informative explanations. You really get a taste of daily life on the island, and we haven’t even got to the recipes yet.
The second half of the book is given over to ‘Food glorius food”. What makes it unique is the personal element- nearly all of the traditional recipes were either made in Sonia’s cousin Androula’s kitchen, or given by relatives and friends in the village. Where the recipes are more general, various friend-cooks give handy tips and snippets of history and anecdote to accompany the bread, soup or pudding being made.
I love to read cookbooks, and this one is my favourite kind to have- you get all kinds of background stories that put the dish in a context and add so much more to its enjoyment.
In Sonia’s own words….
‘…this book is a record of my journey in search of some of the island’s local traditions and crafts, which have been integral to the Cypriot way of life for centuries. It is a tale of the people I met, the food we made and enjoyed in Androula’s kitchen, and some of the Cypriot’s best loved recipes, which I collected along the way. The ancient history of Cyprus is well documented; I wanted to find out about the mundane life of yesterday and its place in modern Cyprus’.
This book is brimming with spices, landscapes, stories, characters, seasonings, sweets, art, and handwork, but most of all a lot of heart and soul. It is a real gift, and it makes an ideal one as well.
No I’m not getting a cut, this is an unsolicited endorsement of a fellow writer’s worthwhile and beautiful creative product.