• Home
  • Posts Tagged'inspiration'
  • Page 10

Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Imagination in the Flesh

This past year has been insanely busy for me, and it’s not likely to let up much until the middle of next year. This is not a complaint. At the moment I have more to write than I have time for, and the deadlines that are already tight, I push and pare down to make even tighter so I can write even more. A friend of mine would have called this situation a golden monkey wrench. It’s an amazing place to be, but also quite terrifying. By the end of the year I will have written four full-length novels and a novella, and all of what I’ve written, I’m very proud of. What’s already published is doing well. All in all it’s been a banner year and, possibly, the hardest year of my life.

I live in my head most of the time, like most fiction writers do, and the writing schedule has kept me in my head more this year than ever before. Coming off the successful launch of Riding the Ether and Grace Marshall’s successful launch of An Executive Decision, and with the demand for the second novel in the Executive Decisions Trilogy ASAP, I’ve had to rethink my situation and find a way back into my body.

That probably sounds insane for someone who writes erotic romance, but I would bet I’m not the only one who has to fight the huge disconnect between the mental and the physical. Fiction doesn’t demand physicality. Whole worlds can be created and peopled without a writer ever leaving the comfort of her writing space. The place of the imagination is outrageously fertile and none of us will ever live long enough to explore it to its full depth. In essence, we can go there and never leave.

I’ve started going to the gym twice a week, even working with a personal trainer from time to time to force the issue. A big part of the reason for that is just to maintain my health. But it’s also to help prepare for the Wainwright Memorial walk, which will be the most challenging walk we’ve ever done. We planned to do it last May, but writing happened far more intensely than I had anticipated, so we postponed it for a year.

Every time I head off to the gym, my mind rebels with an endless list of reasons why I should stay home and work. There are deadlines, there are mountains of PR, there are readings, talks. How the hell can I waste my time sweating it out at the gym? But I go, and I sweat and I push myself for an hour. And strangely, the world changes.

I walked home along the canal a few days ago after a particularly hard work out (I think my personal trainer might be a bit of a sadistJ) The water of the canal was like glass. Only the wake of two mallards sliced through the mirror image of a clear sky with a double V that seemed to go on forever behind them. I was struck by how brilliant everything was, how clear everything seemed all of a sudden. I was struck by how much more physical, how much more real the world around me felt.

That day I managed seven thousand words on the novel, seven thousand good words. That day I thought a lot about that boundless place of imagination that stretches out in all directions inside every writer. I realise the less time I spend in my body, the more I confine myself to the tourist routes in my imagination. The less time I spend in my body, the less I’m able to head off track into the wild places, into the deep places where story take shapes and textures and tones I couldn’t have imagined if I hadn’t spent that time in the flesh, as it were. This is not something I didn’t know. This is something that’s always been central to my work and who I am, and yet, it’s amazingly easy to forget, to neglect, to overlook.

That same weekend we worked in the allotment, clearing weeds, digging, making things ready for spring planting. The smell of damp earth, the bronze and gold of the trees against the exhibitionist blue of the sky, the stoop and bend and press and shove of my body kept me in the moment, kept me in the flesh, kept me present from one breath to the next.

It isn’t always sex, thought it can be at times. It’s just being there, at home, in the flesh. It’s just knowing, even if I don’t understand why, that there is a connection between the blood and bone and flesh of me, between the way the physical me moves and breathes and interacts with the rest of what’s concrete, and with the vast realm of the imagination spread before me always new, always wild, always inviting. And never completely safe. The wildest places, the most dangerous places are off the beaten path of the imagination, and at least for me, those areas, those untouched, primordial areas are most accessable when I’m most in my body.

 

Mud Mountains and Jurassic Treasures

It’s a mountain of mud, Black Ven, constantly flowing and collapsing and being washed into the sea. It’s the largest mud slide in Europe. On one end, at a place called Church Cliffs, Mary Anning found her famous ichthyosaur fossil in 1811. It’s impossible to stand on the beach looking up at its towering black mass and not be a little bit weak-kneed.

Black Ven far left

The cool thing about Black Ven is that it’s not JUST a mountain of mud. Black Ven is a mountain of prehistoric mud, a mountain of mud filled with fossils. Raymond and I walk along the beach with the other fossil hunters beneath this intimidating wall of mud hoping we’ll get lucky and find something positively Jurassic.

Bright yellow signs warn fossil hunters to keep off the unstable mud cliffs, and even from a safe distance, occasionally we can feel the mud shifting beneath the sand and rock. Just a reminder that this is a landscape in flux.

We’re on holiday in Lyme Regis. We have our official goggles to protect our eyes from flying rock fragments, and we have our official hammers and chisels to create said flying fragments in search of the surprise in the middle. I keep my focus on the litter and debris under my feet, not just looking for fossilised treasure, but also to keep from falling on my butt.

Raymond’s beautiful Crinoid

The best find of the day is an exquisitely detailed crinoid Raymond finds while standing a little bit closer to the threatening mud mountain that I’m particularly comfortable with. But then after he finds it, I’m willing to risk a closer walk. A bloke from Brazil is there with his wife. He

The day’s treasures

points us to a right smorgasbord of belemnites closer. It’s like picking up small bits of pointed rock bullets, and the more we pick up, the more we want to pick up – even while we’re wondering what we’re going to do with a pocketful of belemnite bits.

A lot of the bigger rocks, the boulders too big to stick in our pockets and bring home are covered in trace fossils of

Ammonite in a boulder. Not Titanitus giganteus, but still very impressive.

ammonites. We take snapshots to remember how amazing they are, and we stand for a long time admiring their beauty and their size. While we eat our sandwiches looking out to the changeable sea, Raymond reads to me from the fossil book that some ammonites got to be two meters across. I’m stunned. He reads the name from the book –Titanites giganteus, which we both agree is a good name. Most died out before the Cretaceous, he adds.

As the tide begins to come in, we work our way back toward Lyme Regis and end up in the Pilot Boat Pub for a pint and some chips – our reward for the successes of the day. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, and we’re told the worse the weather the more fossils wash out of Black Ven.

Now back home in our cottage, as we look over our stash and sip coffee, we talk about

Ammonite in boulder

what a perfect day it’s been, eagerly looking at other fossil hunters’ treasures and sharing our own, sifting through the rock that’s been washed from Black Ven by the sea and the rains, and experiencing the rush of finding bits of the ancient past before they wash out to sea and are lost forever. It was a good day. It’s supposed to rain tonight. Who knows what treasures will wash free from the prehistoric mud? Someday the whole mountain will wash into the sea, along with all of its secrets of the past. But as for today, we took home a few of those fabulously ancient secrets tucked away in the pockets of our walking trousers.

Some experiences have nothing to do with writing, and everything to do with widening and deepening my inner world so that I have something to write about. Finding Jurassic treasures that Black Ven has given up to the sea is one of those experiences.

 

Getting My Hands Dirty

The mini greenhouse all clean with new covers. Seedlings in the first one.

I drive myself crazy writing sometimes. I’m tunnel-visioned, and I don’t always know when to call a halt. I’ve kept my head down for the first three months of this year. I’ve written hard, and long, and lots — plus the PR. But there comes a time when a girl just has to get her hands dirty before she can write another word. This is that time!

My husband and I spent a good chunk of our day working in our veg patch – well our future veg patch. At the moment there are only a few over-wintering cauliflower and broccoli plants remaining, and a strawberry patch sorely in need of cleaning. At the moment the whole of 2012’s veg garden can be contained in two large draining trays and part of one mini greenhouse, all zipped in for extra warmth. But in a few months, my-oh-my, you won’t recognize the place. We’ll have sweet corn higher than our heads, tomato plants ladened with a dozen different varieties from all over the tomato growing world; we’ll have tee-pees of climbing beans and peas, vines of yellow and green courgettes and multiple varieties of brassicas. That’s not even counting the soft fruit and the dwarf root stock apple trees. I know, I know! Now I’m just bragging!

We’ve got trays of seeds planted and sitting on water bottles in the kitchen (our low tech, unorthodox

Newly planted seeds all toasty on their water bottles.

system to speed up germination.) What has already germinated has had a week or two to grow on in the house and was transplanted today into our mini greenhouses, which are now soaped, scrubbed and sporting new plastic covers. My husband has potted eight large pots of seed potatoes (with our limited space, we grow spuds in pots), and the dreaming and scheming of what will go where is well under way.

As we scrubbed and planted and labelled seed trays, the resident blackbird made short work of any worms that were uncovered as we cleaned the patio and did a bit of weeding in the main bed. He and the Mrs are feeding chicks, so he came and went, each time filling his beak full to overflowing. When he wasn’t hunting and gathering, he was perched in the ash trees above our garden singing loudly just in case any other blackbird should doubt this this nice piece of real estate, where he gets fed currents and meal worms on demand, belongs to him. I hope my timing is good. I hope that by the time the chicks fledge I’ll have large courgette leaves and tee-pees ladened in runner beans for them to scurry about underneath and hide.

Ready to go to the greenhouses

The whole back garden is alive. There are three starling nests in the eaves and a nuthatch coming and going on a regular basis, as well as tits and doves and wood pigeons, who brazenly nip at the leaves of the cauliflower plants whenever they feel like it.

My husband has convinced the people who run the canteen at his office to save him their coffee grounds. All winter long, several times a week he came home bearing a large yellow plastic bucket full of coffee grounds, which he spreads over the garden. We joked about the worms being hyped up on caffeine. And I still smile to think about my husband, the very dapper business man, walking to and from his office several times a week carrying a large yellow bucket.

Tonight I feel better. Tonight I feel more like my writerly self again. What is it about

I'm anticipating

getting my hands in the earth that is so healing? Perhaps it’s a different kind of creativity, a kind in which I’m really only a facilitator. I can make sure the conditions are right. But what it takes for a paper thin, nearly weightless, not much bigger than the head of a pin, tomato seed to grow into a chest-high plant ladened with heavy, meaty, luscious fruit, well that’s something else altogether, and something that astounds me and amazes me every single time it happens. A new season is just beginning. The process is just getting started, and I’m like a kid at Christmas time, just waiting for it all to unfold again.

 

Artist Fuschia Ayling talks Sexuality and Creativity

Fuschia and me at the BTR launch

I’m sure you’ve already seen the pictures of the paintings and heard me rave about the fabulous artists who each volunteered to illustrate a different excerpt of my novel, Body Temperature and Rising, for my launch party a couple of weeks ago. As I’ve gotten to know these very talented young artists and seen a bit more of their work, I knew I had to have them on my site and give my readers the chance to get to know them a little better and have a look at a few images of their wonderful work.

Fuschia’s stunning scene depicting voyeuristic bliss on the fells from BTR

The very talented Fuschia Ayling is my guest today. Fuscia chose the opening scene of Body Temperature and Rising to paint, and on her blog, teased us all with sneak peeks of the work in progress. I’ve been following her blog ever since just to see what she gets up to. Welcome Fuschia! It’s a pleasure to have you on A Hopeful Romantic.

KD: Fuschia, have you always known you’ve wanted to be artists? What inspired the choice?

Fuschia:I have always been driven creatively, ever since I was a very small child – I suppose I was always happiest when I was up to my elbows in paint, mud or playdough. When I was small my father owned a gallery and studio in St. Ives, and his success and talent as an artist – along with my immersion in the Cornish art scene – meant that I was given all the encouragement I needed to continue exploring my interest. As I grew up I continued to enjoy expressing myself visually, but I

‘My Not So Secret Garden’

viewed it more as therapy – there were always things which I couldn’t explain to others, things that I could only really exorcise in my journals. I studied Art and Design at college and then took an extra couple of years to really develop my work and distance myself still further from what seems to be a very Cornish expectation – that as an artist one should paint landscapes and seascapes to order. I am thankful that being an artist is a viable career option – I can basically devote my life to healing what is, unfortunately, a slightly damaged brain.

KD: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

“Bang Bang” is to do with sexual experience and confusion, the way all the things that we experience leave traces, tangled and in some ways unable to be separated. It is also to do with my feelings for my own body, my femininity, my role as a woman – as explored through the use of embroidery.

Fuschia: I am 20 years old, currently studying at Kingston University for a BA in Fine Art. My work is always confessional, often sexual and sometimes a little shocking. My work deals with my own personal experiences and opinions, and in that way it is like an ever growing and expanding diary of my life. I often deal with issues that, although still current, are perhaps best described as scars from childhood. I have been called a feminist artist, although this isn’t a label I particularly identify with, I think my work deals with what could be deemed “Feminine Issues” merely because I am by gender a woman. I enjoy writing, drawing, sewing and painting – I like to mix and match materials and processes.

KD: Why did you choose to make sexuality the central theme in your artwork?

Fuschia:I suppose sexuality is a central theme in my work because it is a central theme in life – sex

‘Open Wide’

is, after all, the reason why we are all here. I am very interested by human nature, especially when it comes to sex, and I think that this interest fuels part of my obsession. Like many people I have issues with my own sexuality, I find that exploring these unspoken things in my work comes naturally to me. I have produced a lot of work in the past about being a rape victim, and I probably will continue to do so in the future, it is something which I kept secret and shamefully hidden for so long that having the freedom to express it, to work through it and to, hopefully, help other people in similar positions to myself is hugely healing to me. I think also that in my work I wanted to make a distinction between sex and rape, because rape is not sex but it is violence and sex is something beautiful – no matter how hard you’re fucking it is always consensual. Sex is wonderful – I want to celebrate that.

KD: Where to you get your inspiration?

Fuschia:I am inspired predominantly by my own history, but also materially – by patterns, colours, chance events. I am really interested in

surface decoration, the little details which make up the skin of an object. I also have a fascination with craft – embroidery, needlework, knitting, upholstery, beading – things which were traditionally a woman’s work, I enjoy bringing a new vitality to them when they are placed in an altogether different context – For me, a cross stitch of a pretty house is impressive, but a cross stitch of a vagina is sheer brilliance.

‘My Cunt is a Crime Scene’

KD: What’s the hardest thing about being an artist?

Fuschia: I think that, for me, the hardest thing about being an artist is also one of the best things – Being self led. On the one hand the freedom is wonderful, the ability to just get up one day and say “Today I shall make a wall-hanging entirely out of cotton wool…” – that is a fabulous feeling when you have total monopoly over your practice. On the other hand, however, is awful days of total creative block, despondency, failure… It is about having the ability to be your own critic, but also to know when to stop beating yourself up over your short-comings.

KD: Who inspires you, as an artist?

Fuschia: In the art world my greatest influence has to be Tracey Emin, I discovered her work aged 14 and have been in love ever since. I admire her ability to let the viewer in but still keep hold of the reigns. For me she is somebody who is very real, very human and also very good at what she does. I also admire Sarah Lucas, Elke Krystufek, Nan Goldin, Annette Messager, Ana Mendieta and Francesco Clemente among others. I have also been inspired greatly by the work of author Mervyn Peake. I would also like to take this oportunity to say a big thank you to Sarah Berry for her ongoing support!

KD: What are you working on now?

Fuschia: I am currently working on a project which is far more feminine in appearance, I have become really interested in floral prints and patterns. I have just completed part of this – a large square painting titled “My Not So Secret Garden”, which was inspired by my unease with the common pornographic pose which involves spreading ones pussy lips with ones fingers, I was interested in the dual meaning of the gesture – whether it was an invitation, a sign of vulnerability in exposing our softness – or whether it could be an aggressive gesture, a blatant display of sexuality as something threatening. By combining the image with soft floral shapes and pastel colours I am trying to play with the connotations the familiar pose has…It is work in progress!

KD: What are you working on now?

Fuschia: I am very excited at the moment about our (The Vagina Atelier) nomination for the Erotic Award’s Erotic Artist of the Year, and the possibilities for making new contacts. I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings…

Fuschia’s blog: http:/www.fuschiaayling.blogspot.com

Thank you, Fuschia for giving us a chance to get to know you a little better and to sample a little bit of you stunning art. It’s been a real pleasure you to have you! I wish you all the best in your creative pursuits.

 

A Very Long Walk for a Very Good Cause

Nick and Lucy stopping for lunch in East Texas

When Raymond was in the States in January, he sent me a link from the Monroe Louisiana paper about a couple who were walking across the US for charity. Being a walker, I was outrageously impressed, and knowing the lack of public footpaths and right aways for walkers, I knew that Nick and Lucy Russell were going to be facing some serious challenges. This lovely couple is sort of dear to my heart because not only are they taking on an amazing challenge for a great cause, but they’re from the UK! Well, I just had to email them. To my surprise and delight, they agreed to let their feet rest a bit while I interviewed them. And they even sent lots of cool piccies! Please welcome Nick and Lucy Russell, from somewhere in the deserts of West Texas.

Our starting point on the beach at Tybee Island

KD: Of all the things you might have done to raise money for charity, what inspired you to walk across the USA? Why this walk? Why this charity?

N&L: We disagree as to whose idea it was in the first place to walk across America. One of us originally suggested trying to walk across Russia (we only ever seem to take our holidays in Russia, for some odd reason), this was quickly dismissed as being far too difficult! So, America seemed a much shorter option in the end (ah for the benefit of hindsight).

KD:Could you give us a basic description of your route, from where to where? Why this

Pecan trees in the morning in Georgia

particular route? How long do you think it will take you?

N&L: We started out at Tybee Island (just east of Savannah, Georgia) and will (hopefully!) finish in San Diego, California. We chose a Southern route mainly because it allows us to avoid the colder weather further north and mountain ranges (it’s also a slightly shorter route, which is always welcome). It also takes us through parts of the country which we wouldn’t have otherwise visited. It should take us 6 months to complete…injuries and bad weather permitting!

KD: Tell us a bit about Nick and Lucy. Who are they now and who were they in their previous life (Before the walk began)?

Road sign for Hiway 80, which we followed the first 1000 miles

N&L: Neither of us were particularly keen walkers at all! We might go for a short walk round London on the weekend or whilst on holiday, but nothing more than that – so this represents a big change from our regular routine. We grew up in rural Lincolnshire, but both lived and worked in London for a few years before starting the walk (and are planning to return to do so again once done walking); Lucy for a charity and Nick as a civil servant. It was perhaps a case of finding something as different as possible from sitting behind a desk all day that prompted us to start walking.

KD: After months of walking, you must have your routine down by now. Could you tell us a bit about a day in the walking life of Lucy and Nick?

N&L:We generally start walking between 7.30 and 8.00am, when it starts to get light. An average day is usually 20 to 25 miles in all, although these distances are getting longer now the further west we head. We try and walk for about three to four hours in the morning before having our first rest; we find that if we stop beforehand, we’ll then need to stop every hour or so throughout the day. Talking to

A quieter road away from the main highway

each other really helps pass the time, as does listening to music; quieter days definitely drag much more than the ones which we can talk. We try and stock up on as many calories as we can whilst walking, so we survive on a pretty unhealthy diet of trail mix, protein bars and chocolate whilst walking. We then walk either to the nearest motel or, as has been the case more recently, until sunset and pitch our tent – then it’s time to collapse! Our routine has changed slightly over the past few days, we recently got a trailer to push our food, water and bags. This has taken a lot of weight off of our backs, which we’ve definitely enjoyed.

KD: What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve had to face in your walk so far?

N&L: Probably the boredom. When all you do each and every day is just walk, it can be difficult to get enthusiastic about doing it all over again the next day. That’s why we try and keep our minds a little occupied and not solely focused on walking.

KD: What has surprised you the most in your walk?

Our bridge across the mississippi and into louisiana

N&L: I think it’s how little parts of America are set up to facilitate walking. In many of the towns or cities we’ve been through, pavements are either missing, lead to nowhere, or in a state of disrepair. It’s a much more car focused country than we’re used to. This leads to us looking a little out of place at times when we try walking along roads which clearly weren’t designed for pedestrians!

KD: What have you enjoyed the most so far?

N&L: Probably the little things…like when it’s really hot and a car pulls over and hands you a cold drink, or a comfy bed and nice meal at the end of a long day (especially pecan pie, something we’ve really enjoyed). We’ve also had some really spectacular sunrises and sunsets along the way, which are always nice ways to begin or end the day.

KD: Do you feel this walk has significantly changed you as people? If so, in what way?

N&L: I think we’re still the same people as we were when we began; we’ve perhaps grown a little crazier, and have a greater appreciation of chairs and remaining sedentary, but we haven’t had any epiphanies as of yet! Given all the hospitality we’ve received along the way, it does make us think that we too should become nicer to strangers once we return – as people have been to us.

KD: How did you train for walking all the way across the US?

N&L:We both started walking into work, instead of taking the tube or bus. Lucy walked there and

Dallas, the biggest city on our route

back each day (around 8 miles), Nick’s walk in was around 5 miles. We also started doing some weekend walks around London, generally up to 20 miles in length (these were pretty tough going, too!). Finally, we went to the Peak District for a week, partially for a bit of a summer holiday, but also to get some more practice in. We definitely didn’t enjoy the hills!

KD: What have been your outstanding impressions of the America you are seeing as walkers and its people? What has been their response to a couple of Brits walking across the US?

N&L: We’ve been more taken aback by people’s support than anything else. We’ve been stopped on a near daily basis for people to offer us lifts (which we politely turn down, of course), food, water, kind words and even a place to stay for the evening. We’ve found that people are much more open here than in England, and much more willing to stop and offer help. When we get into what we’re doing, people think we’re a little crazy (and they wouldn’t be wrong), but always offer support. Our accents also make us stand out, especially compared to the Southern and Texan accents around us.

KD: Tell us a bit about the charity you are raising funds for and are there any ways we who aren’t walking can support you and keep track of your progress.

Setting up camp in the desert of West Texas

N&L: The charity we’re raising money for is close to our own hearts…as we set it up! It’s called The Pamir Trust and works in the remote Pamir region of Tajikistan (just north of Afghanistan), to support small scale community led development projects. We’re working with individual villages to identify what small projects we can support that will make a big difference to the village. We will then fund the project and let the village take it from there – after all, they know best! We wanted to set up the charity after visiting Tajikistan a couple of years ago and being humbled by the generosity of the people there, despite it being a very poor and remote corner of the world. There are more details on both the charity and the walk on our website, including where we are at the moment, www.walkamerica.co.uk. People can also follow us on Facebook
www.facebook.com/walkusa, Twitter @walkusa or donate through our fundraising page https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/walkamerica.

KD: Thanks for being my guests, Lucy and Nick. Wishing you a safe and interesting onward journey and much success with your fundraising efforts. You two are truly amazing!

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

Site created and maintained by Writer Marketing Services | Sitemap
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial