Write.Eat.Repeat

It may look like I’m on a beautiful beach in Zakinthos, but I was actually in Karachi in 1947 as I wrote book two!

I took my Macbook on holiday with me, hoping I might pick it up occasionally and have a delve into the backstreets of Karachi, the Sind Club and Phyllis’s life back in India/Pakistan. It took me by surprise to find myself sloping off to the bedroom’s private balcony to hammer out a few thousand words each morning. It became routine to stare at the amazing Porto Roma Bay that surrounded me, it’s various craft coming and going, as I pictured my ancestor’s lives at the time of Partition.

Lunch was always a welcome break in the blistering heat; a chance to refuel on Yianna’s Greek salad and Sangria at Nikos Beach Bar.

After a swim in the clear waters beneath Deep Blue Villas, I’d spend an hour or so on the beach reading through the morning’s writing. I thought it might be a bit of a burden to write whilst away, but it was one of the highlights!

So if you happen to visit the beach bar anytime soon, look out for one of my bookmarks on the counter…couldn’t resist a bit of cheeky guerrilla marketing.

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What’s the story? Well…

 

Iain Robertson is used to tough jobs – after retiring from the Parachute Regiment, he took on jobs guarding George Harrison, Gary Moore and Johnny Rotten. But keeping Oasis on the rails after debut album Definitely Maybe ignited their rise toward global superstardom would be the toughest gig of them all. Iain was side-by-side with Oasis as their road manager and minder, twenty-four hours a day, eight days a week, as they took on the world and won. No one was closer to the maelstrom. His story is the defining chronicle of life on tour with Oasis.

I caught up with the very likeable Iain, and asked him about his writing……

What form does your writing take? I had a moment of epiphany in the Hamburg apartment of one of our most celebrated Indie- rock-stars.

I had travelled over for something of a holiday, and whilst there was working through the paradigm for my book ‘What’s the story?’ A tour diary of the Britpop giants ‘Oasis’: told from my perspective as their road manager, and head of security.

‘Ignore the rules, enjoy the journey’ he told me.

‘As long as one person gets it, it can be considered a success: even if that one person is you’.

That advice resonated, and whenever I put pen to paper, I’m just looking for an authenticity.

I trust that if I can find something redemptive in the result. Others will.

These days I write mainly for the remembering of this or that, although I am working on a second book, which explores the remarkable dynamic of volunteer fire-fighters. Shifting, as they do, from builder to emergency responder; cutting someone’s teenager out of a car-wreck, to builder again: In the same morning or afternoon.

How often do you write? Not as often as I should.

How does writing make you feel? Mostly, it feels like work. Very occasionally the words find themselves, but in the main it is an unforgiving thing discipline: I have yet to try my hand at fiction, and liberating the extraordinary, in a set of ordinary circumstances/things/events is always hard. The story is not a story, unless it has something of the remarkable within. Sifting for that remarkable, and doing justice to it, when found, well: It takes a keen minds-eye. It often feels beyond me. However, when one finds that remarkable, and captures it, even if only for the benefit of an audience of one: it is rather wonderful.

When and where do you write? I steal moments. I write anywhere. Longhand.

What do you write about? To date, it has always been autobiographical. So: Music. Poetry. Guns and cars and accidents. Fire.

What’s the best thing about writing? Getting a thank you letter, postmarked Australia, from someone who saw a similar truth.

Oasis: What’s the story by Iain Robertson is available in paperback priced £7.99. Follow the link to purchase your very own copy:

https://johnblakebooks.com/oasis-what-039-s-the-story-pb.html

http://www.facebook.com/johnblakebooks

twitter.com/jblakebooks

 

 

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Forty thousand words and counting….

Book two is now well under way. I had got stuck for a while with the enormous amount of information I wanted to add, after researching the partition of India in 1947. It was a period of utter catastrophe with disastrous consequences that still resonate almost 70 years later. My family were lucky to be Anglo-Indians during this turbulent time, but still struggled in a country sliced in two by the British. At one point young Maureen (my mother) was stranded in Nainital (India) whilst Phyllis (my grandmother) was in the newly created Pakistan.

To help break down my notes, I’ve cut them all up into sentences and stuck them on the window in front of my Mac. Each time I include a piece into the book, I take it from the window and bin it. Along with the family photo album, mums sketch of the villa they rented and my chapter cards (colour coded for each location) the book is steaming along! Forty thousand words and counting …..

 

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An interview with award-winning writer Siddhartha Gigoo

Here’s a great interview I did with the rather lovely and very modest Siddhartha Gigoo.

His books include ‘Fall and Other Poems’, ‘Reflections’, ‘The Garden of Solitude’ and ‘A Fistful of Earth and Other Stories’, which was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2015. In 2015, he won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Asia) for his short story ‘The Umbrella Man’. Siddhartha has also directed two short films, ‘The Last Day’ and ‘Goodbye, Mayfly’, which were selected for several international film festivals. ‘Goodbye, Mayfly’ won the best film award (fiction) at the Bangalore International Short Film Festival in 2015.

 

siddartha

 

What form does your writing take?

I started writing poems when I was ten. Writers Workshop, Calcutta published two of my poetry collections, ‘Fall and Other Poems’, and ‘Reflections’ in 1995 and 1996. I was in college those days. Later, when I realized my poetry was bad and that I’d failed, I jumped ship. I started a humorous column ‘Looking Glass’ for an English daily. My first novel ‘The Garden of Solitude’ was published in 2011. A short story collection ‘A Fistful of Earth and Other Stories’ came out in 2016. I co-edited an anthology of memoirs called ‘A Long Dream of Home (The Persecution, Exodus and Exile of Kashmiri Pandits).’

How often do you write?

There’re days and nights I write. There’re days I just delete. There’re days I rewrite and rewrite. However, there’re days I just don’t look at anything. But real writing happens when one’s doing nothing and staring at the ceiling. Or stars, for that matter!

How does writing make you feel?

Hollow. Inadequate. Incomplete. However, there’re moments I let my writing fool me. I fall for the spell, the charm. I marvel. The moments are short-lived. Yet, there’s a false sense of creative satisfaction. The act of creation is akin to robbery.

Where\when do you write?

My room. But I send myself text messages when I’m travelling. These text messages are nothing but stray thoughts. I write during nights. Nights are quiet. The devil doesn’t visit you during the day.

What do you write about?

I wish I had a clue. Let my readers decide after they read my books.

What’s the best thing about writing?

It opens a door to another realm. But there’re conditions. The door opens only when you begin to create a new world, and give birth to new people. You are thrown into an abyss. Then you strive for order. For harmony. For music. Then you realize you got to learn how to play the violin on your own. Even while the very world you create is in disarray.

 

I am a dabbler, a scribbler. I’ve been scribbling for the past three decades. But good writing has eluded me so far.

Here are some links to Siddartha’s work…I lOVE the umbrella man!

http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/the-umbrella-man-by-siddhartha-gigoo/

https://www.amazon.com/GARDEN-SOLITUDE-Siddhartha-Gigoo-ebook/dp/B015P6B2KU

https://www.amazon.com/Fistful-Earth-Other-Stories/dp/8129135094/

https://www.amazon.com/Long-Dream-Home-Persecution-Kashmiri/dp/9385936697/

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Great feature in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

Another bit of great news for Dance with Fireflies…. A whole page in the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. It’s the July issue, on sale now, if you fancy a read. They’re also giving me a years subscription to the magazine… Pretty chuffed with that.

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Annette Shaw – a true inspiration!

 

I finally met writer/journalist Annette Shaw at the World Book Night event I spoke at in Devon a few weeks back. She’s given my novel a tremendous boost, by making it Book of the Month in Devon Life last year.

I asked Annette about her writing and this is what she had to say…..

Devon life

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Annette Shaw

What form does your writing take? It varies tremendously from book reviews to features to specific PR projects. Have pen will write!

How often do you write? Pretty much everyday because writing is my business.

How does writing make you feel? Depends what it is – for a client or a publication.   As a job there’s always a strong element of satisfaction and I love doing the research. If it’s a complex, yet concise, feature of say, 1500 words, it’s a bit like weaving a tapestry.  For example, I had a commissioned piece recently whereby the editor wanted specific content in the introduction, it had to be spread across a geographical area in terms of case histories, cover several aspects of health care and I had to source the photographs. I love watching it come together as my fingers move across the keyboard!  Then there’s the polishing. Over and over. Is there a better way of saying something? Is my word count on track? Is it interesting enough? Are all my quotes accurate? Sort of literary sewing topped off with elbow grease until it shines. That’s the practical/intellectual side.

Emotionally it means the world. As my life took unexpected twists and turns writing kept me motivated and was a reason to get up in the morning and do something interesting. For reasons which will become clear, I was housebound for the best part of 17 years. I had to use the time wisely or go bonkers. Reading and writing helped restore my self-esteem and rebuild self-worth as well as give me an income. With the benefit of 20:20 hindsight I can see books and words have always been a great part of my life. I feel at home.  When my fellow school friends got weekend jobs in stores like Etam I approached the local library. My Saturday mornings were spent reading to children, stamping and stacking books.

Where/when do you write? My spare bedroom doubles as an office. Quite often I work at weekends and have Sunday on say, Tuesday – one of the more alluring sides of self-employment.

What do you write about? Gosh. It’s been incredibly diverse. So far, in the first five months of 2016, the list includes dementia, ageing, mental health, books, leisure, profiles of people and literary festivals. Over the years I’ve written NHS Annual Reports including one for the Royal Free Hospital, helped edit books and ghost wrote one that was serialised in the national press.

What’s the best thing about writing? Creativity. That’s central to it. Also, it’s terrific when a piece helps someone or makes them think, particularly with emotional intelligence work.

How long have you been writing for? A long time now! In the summer of 1987, age 30, I was at a crossroads – big stuff.   I was trying to figure out how to stop taking repeat, long-term prescription tranquillisers and have a family.   I’d read a lot of books by Norman Vincent Peale – his words had a profound effect on me. Each night I asked my mind to tell me what to do next.   One morning I woke up and momentarily it was as if I’d seen a neon sign. START BUSINESS BECOME WRITER.  Crikey. I was a tax manager and writing wasn’t exactly something that had surfaced in the family gene pool in any generation.  But the pull of that moment was so powerful  I did exactly that.

In 1988 I set up at home as a tax consultant. Then I did little PR pieces for the girls in a business network that I launched and sent those into the local paper.   In 1993, between my own health nose-diving and filling in tax returns,   I got work on Practice Manager – a magazine that goes to every NHS practice. By 1994 I was writing for the national press and secured membership of the Guild of Health Writers.   When the phone rang I never knew whether I’d be talking to an Inspector of Taxes or an editor.

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Annette Shaw and Terry Waite

As a freelancer I’ve contributed to The Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Times as well as most of the women’s magazines. As a writer it’s been a privilege to interview to some amazing people from Anita Roddick to Terry Waite. Not bad for someone who still has mental health fall-out from tranquilisers. So, whilst many opportunities have sadly been lost forever – the family never happened, you could say the resultant agoraphobia opened doors that could have remained firmly closed. And that’s the magic of creativity.

 

 

 

 

 

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Some of my favourite things… 8 to be precise!

 

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Inspired by an article in one of the colour supplements at the weekend, I thought I’d photograph my favourite 8 objects. They are some of the possessions I have that are my treasures for lots of different reasons. My only rule was, I had to include my favourite novel (to make it relevant to my blog!).

So, starting top left we have Arundhati Roy’s, God of Small Things…one of the best books I have ever read. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you give it a go! Next to that is my blue Delft Bols gin Amsterdam merchants house, bought last year on a memorable trip to holland. Just below the pretty house is my delicate sea urchin, found on the golden sands of Armona. Then we have an Alfa Romeo Spider… I loved that car:) then top right is one of my many travel journals, this one is when I went to India in 1994.. Bombay,Goa, Mysore, Ooty, Trichu, Cochin, Goa, Bombay…. Home.

Bottom right is ‘squirrel’, he’s actually a ring tailed Lima but Alfie (my son) couldn’t say that when he was little. Next to lovely squirrel is my collection of 3 silver bangles that mum bought me for my trip to the Kumaon Literary Festival last year… They gave me great strength as I stood on stage and spoke to the audience about Dance with Fireflies. Lastly is one of a collection of photo albums of precious family holidays.

I would love to see your 8 favourite things (including your most treasured novel). Email me at: janehowis@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured on my blog… Looking forward to hearing from you!

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