The Journey

Jenny Alexander:

Here’s a beautiful, thoughtful post on keeping a diary/journal, which I think you will enjoy.

Originally posted on VitalWrite:

Anne Frank

I have kept a diary from the age of about eight. I used to start each day with: Dear Kizzy, and write as if to a friend. Sadly most of my teenage diaries were destroyed because my older self didn’t like that previous expression of angst. And even later diaries were destroyed, but those ones in a ceremonial fire – I realised how much bitterness and anger from my divorce they contained, and wanted to let that go.

Five years ago I started referring to my diary as a journal, I don’t know if that word is a little more serious, or if I just needed a change of term for a change in the style of entry. In the past re-reading diaries was painful because the pages were filled with all the bad things that happened so this made my life seem incredibly unbalanced, although it wasn’t at all…

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Making art from a dream, by Susan Levin

Yesterday, I reviewed Susan Levin’s book, ‘Art from Dreams’ and I’m delighted to welcome  her into the House of Dreams to talk about the dream behind her artwork, ‘Home.’

HomeI am writing about the piece titled “Home” and the accompanying dream.

Dream: I am on a boat in the Detroit River headed for summer camp. I talk to someone about Detroit—how the city is out of money. We dock briefly along the city’s shore. I go for a walk, barefoot, through the muddy streets. I see little children in slum housing. I walk up the steps to the bank. I clean my feet with water so they will be less muddy.

Dream interpretation: I have to get down with uncovered feet to get close to the truth of my difficult childhood, growing up in a dysfunctional family in Detroit. The city of Detroit is bankrupt—it’s losing its libido for me. I walk barefoot, slogging through the mud of my past. With my uncovered feet, I get close to the truth. The slum of my childhood. Boats are a womb-like container that carry us on our life’s voyage. We all need a sense of security to help us navigate.

Being sent away to summer camp, where I don’t want to go, adds to my sense of being an outcast. By cleaning my feet as I go up to the bank, I am relinquishing my feeling of impoverishment. Something in me has money in the bank. I am coming to a part of myself that is substantial. I have my own resources—my own currency in the bank. I am approaching the SELF, going upstairs to a higher level of understanding.

Cleaning the feet has religious overtones, a rite of purification. I was destined to be barefoot in the mud, living in a slum, when I instead deserve to be in a bank with clean feet and access to money. My inner resources, which were never acknowledged or nurtured, are now accessible.

Have you ever been moved to create a visual image by memories, thoughts and feelings that have been stirred  up in a dream?

Book Review: ‘Art from Dreams’ by Susan Levin

Today, it’s my pleasure to review this new book by Susan Levin, ‘Art from Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage and Poetry.’

As a seasoned traveller in the inner world myself, I love reading about other people’s dream adventures, and one of my all-time favourite books is CG Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, for that  reason.

There isn’t very much to read in Susan Levin’s book,  just a one-page introduction and ten short poems, but I really like the way the brevity of the text brings the focus strongly back to the images and makes the book, in itself, a dreamlike experience. Levin lets the pictures tell their own stories, and give an impression of the  journey overall.

The first half of the book is called ‘My Jungian Dreams.’ Here the poems expand on the images, exploring the artist’s thoughts about consciousness and experience in an open, direct way.

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In the second half of the book, ‘Nocturnes,’ there are no poems, just a set of striking images with intriguing titles such as ‘Message from horse and snake’ and ‘Ship of souls.’

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The mixed media and collage approach feels to me an exactly appropriate way of conveying the quality of a dream, this bringing together of disparate objects into a unified experience of colour, tone and feeling.

The night after I read Art from Dreams I had a very visual dream which reminded me of one of Susan’s collages. At the bottom of the picture, me with a glass of sparkling wine; above that my Writing in the House of Dreams book launch cake, and flying above that in the clear blue sky, a young woman on a brightly-coloured hang-glider.

The book is beautifully produced and bound, a lovely object which readers will return to, and take inspiration.

Tomorrow, Susan will talk about the process of one of the artworks in the book here in the House of Dreams. Don’t miss it!

 

Organising a book launch – your 10 point check-list

It’s a common misconception that if your book secures a deal with a major publisher they will organise a lavish book launch and all you’ll have to do is show up in a new frock and graciously accept the toast. This can happen, but only for the chosen few books that get the lion’s share of the marketing spend. The majority of traditionally published authors have to organise their own book launches, although publishers are often happy to make some kind of contribution. If you’re self-published, of course,  you’re on your own.

A book launch is a major undertaking and to be honest I haven’t bothered with it for every book but, when I have, I’ve always felt glad I made the effort. After all, a book is a major personal achievement and one that’s worth celebrating. If you’re organising a book launch, here’s what needs to be on your check-list:

  1. Notify your publisher if you have one and ask if they would be willing to help by, for example, providing promotional bookmarks and cards, designing the invitations or contributing towards the cost. Don’t think this is cheeky. You and your publisher are a team, and they’ll be delighted to know you’re making an effort to help promote your new book.
  2. Plan your guest list and send out invitations well in advance.
  3. Choose a venue that is appropriate to the kind of event – small and intimate, big and showy or possibly themed to the book, such as a historic building if it’s a historical novel or a railway station if it’s about travel or a cake shop if one of your themes is food. Be creative!
  4. Set a time and date. Most launches tend to be early evening, say 6-8, during the week, so that people can come by after work and you don’t have to provide a meal.
  5. Think about the catering. As well as sparkling wine for the toast, what other drinks are you going to provide? If a lot of people are likely to be coming by car, remember to lay on plenty of soft drinks too. Can the venue provide a cash bar, to top up your offer?For food, you could get a caterer to lay on a variety of canapés or provide something simple like cheese and olives yourself. Most launches these days seem to involve a fancy themed cake, but that’s still optional. Remember you’ll need someone to serve the drinks and nibbles.
  6. Think about setting out the room. Don’t have too many chairs – just one or two for those who can’t stand for long periods, or else people will not circulate. You’ll want flowers and possibly some kind of display, with posters of the book cover, you doing events or whatever. You could have a colour scheme, such as pink and sparkly for a children’s fairy book, which could extend to the food and drinks as well as the tables and displays.
  7. Arrange for a local bookseller or friend to handle sales of your book on the night (a bookseller will normally charge 30% of your takings)
  8. Arrange for at least one person to take some photos and possibly video your speech/readings (Liz Kessler took mine, including the ones in this blog post – thank-you, Liz!)
  9. Decide whether you’re going to do a talk and/or readings and practice in advance. Check there’s an elevated spot such as a step to stand on, or take a footstool for yourself so that everyone can see you.
  10. Ask someone to propose the toast – this could be your agent or publisher, a fellow author or someone else who has some connection to the book.
Remember to take your signing pen!
Remember to take your signing pen!

The way you tackle these points will depend upon your goal in having a book launch. For example, if you’re having it to get publicity and make lots of sales, your guest list will include local media, any movers and shakers you know and as many people as you can bring in, via leafletting and social media. If you take this approach, ask people to let you know if they intend to come along, so that you’ll have some idea how many you’re catering for.

But publicity and sales are not the only reasons for having a launch.  There may be times when something more personal could feel more appropriate. For example, my book launch for Writing in the House of Dreams last week came from a deep desire to thank my family and friends for all the support they’ve given me over the years with this child-of-my-heart book.

Me and Liz
Liz Kessler and me

I didn’t invite any press and I chose the little cafe at the open-air theatre in my village for the venue. Those of my children who could get time off work and my ex husband travelled from Orkney, London and Brighton to celebrate with me; my friend Liz Kessler came up from St Ives, my friend-and-editor Helen Greathead came from Plymouth.

Family came to celebrate with me
Family came to celebrate with me

Among my local friends, there were Cornish Crones, Gospel singers, counsellors and some of the people who have been on my dreaming and writing workshops, all of whom, in some way or another, have been present for me during the often-difficult writing of this book.

I did a speech! I don’t normally do that, but Writing in the House of Dreams isn’t my normal kind of book. I wanted to explain what writing it had meant to me, and express my gratitude for the help and encouragement I had received. The book was available to buy, but I would not have been upset if nobody had bought it – actually, I might have been relieved. It’s a personal book and a bit out there, and although I’m happy for strangers to read it I was worried what people who know me might think.

Launching it felt like a kind of coming out, and it has been liberating. Before the launch, I had three weeks of technology meltdown, with both my computers and my mobile phone all giving up the ghost, so I couldn’t  do the publicity I had planned.

Sometimes the outer world expresses what’s going on inside, and I think maybe I had to announce the arrival of my book-baby and show it off to my family and friends before I could feel really ready to take it out into the world.

Have you ever organised a book launch? Is there anything I’ve missed from my check-list? Is there anything you might do differently next time?

Two kinds of writer – which kind are you?

I’ve met and chatted with scores of authors and been to dozens of writing conferences and residentials in the course of my career and it strikes me that there are two kinds of writers.

Some writers start from the dreaming, intuitive mind, which creates spaces and populates them with an easy natural flow, and they don’t try to take control of the idea until it’s virtually fully formed in their imagination.

This can be a long process – it sets its own pace, and the author’s task is to watch and wait, and be willing to explore all the paths that open up, and see where they might lead.

This way of writing is rooted in a long period of gestation, when nothing appears to be happening and nothing seems to be achieved, but once the writing stage is reached it tends to come quickly and relatively easily.

Other writers work in a more methodical way, starting with a basic idea and building it up one block at a time. For this kind of writer, fixed work-times and word-counts can be a useful tool, keeping them focused on the task from beginning to end, and the writing progresses at a steady pace.

Either way works, depending upon the writer’s personality. You can find out more about your own natural style by doing the Myers Briggs Personality Types Indicator test.

Culturally, we value the practical, rational approach and mistrust the intuitive, which can mean that the more intuitive type of writer may undervalue the patient pondering stage which is part of their own process.

I write for those writers, to honour and celebrate their way of writing, where that long period of daydreaming, rambling, chatting, reading is as much a practical part of the work as sitting at the computer, producing words.

Which kind of writer are you? Is your process a slow daydreaming and a rapid writing, or a steady progress from start to finish?

 

 

Finding my place: poetry and migration

Jenny Alexander:

Cracking post here from my daughter, Rosie, where she talks about using creative writing as a way of connecting to place. I hope she’ll share the whole presentation soon.

Originally posted on Adviser on the Edge:

Something you may not know about me is that as well as being a careers adviser and studying for a PhD, I am also a poet. Over the last six months or so I have been thinking about creative writing, and exploring potential connections with narrative and biographical approaches to careers and migration. This thinking culminated in a paper that I presented last week at the Creative Orkney conference.

Finding my place
Title slide from my presentation at the conference

In this paper I examined my own use of creative writing during my geographical migration from Cornwall to Orkney. I started by discussing the terminology of ‘place’ and identifying how place is ‘space invested with meaning’ (Cresswell, 2004). I then discussed how creative writing is an excellent tool for generating meaning, and therefore may be used to develop an attachment to a new place. In addition because creative writing requires us to be…

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On becoming a fully-fledged hybrid author

It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’ve finally arrived - it’s publication day! In this, the last of the five dreams I’ve shared here about my self-publishing journey, I’m looking at the road ahead.

I’ve done a talk about being an author, including the difficulties of getting stocked in bookshops and making enough sales. Not that I’m complaining – I do have enough. As I chat outside with the organisers, they’re waiting for the next author – and it’s a really famous one.

Here she comes in her little yellow car. She’s a friend and I’m delighted to see her, delighted to see the eager anticipation in her young fans’ faces.

As she walks towards us, I notice the little creature I’ve found and been looking after has caught the attention of a crow-like bird. The creature is small and furry, some kind of hybrid, strange and very sweet. And feisty! He isn’t afraid of the crow, although it’s much bigger than him.

I shoo the crow-like bird away and pick up the creature – he isn’t hurt or even shaken. It’s happened before – cats have chased him as well as birds, foxes too – but I think they’re more curious about him, than wanting to eat him.

It’s odd how he’s come into my cave, but I’m glad, because he’s a lovely little thing and I like looking after him. 

It’s been stressful, it’s been full-on, it’s been emotional. I won’t lie. Learning how to self-publish has taken up most of my energies these last six months, one way and another.

If you’ve read my last four posts, you’ll see that having embarked upon it, I soon learnt to love it though. I even came to choose it for the book I’m working on now, When a Writer Isn’t Writing.

I got swept up in the buzz of being free to make my own choices and decisions, and push forward in my own time and at my own pace. I felt like William Blake, inventing his very own printing system to publish his own books, but without even having to be a genius or inventor.

I felt like the child I once was, never happier than when I was writing projects and making them into books, doing all my own binding and illustrations.

In my dream, it felt odd the way this funny little creature had come into my cave. As a technophobe, I would never have had a strong enough desire to learn how to self-publish if I hadn’t had a book I cared so much about that didn’t have anywhere else to go.

I protected my little fledgling hybrid from every attack – crows, cats, foxes; other people’s judgements and my own self-doubts.

But what I also learnt, in the course of self-publishing, was how much traditional publishers do that we authors tend to take for granted.

I discovered how much I still wanted that to be part of my writing career. Looking forward to 2015, I’m delighted to have a book coming out in February with A and C Black, as well my self-published writing book.

This funny, furry little creature was the beginning of my new career as a hybrid author, and I’ve blogged about it in a post called Why I’m a Happy Hybrid for An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, where I lay out my pros and cons of self-publishing vs being traditionally published.

So now it just remains for me to ask you to raise your glasses please to Writing in the House of Dreams. If you buy it and enjoy it, please review it, but if you think it stinks, please don’t!

 

Creative dreaming, creative writing

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