A lot of writers talk about the gathering stage of writing. This stage can involve reading around the literature which relates to your novel, reading books by writers you admire and books on a similar genre and theme.
The gathering stage is also the time for research.
I've recently been researching the little ships which left Hayling Island for Dunkirk, for my novel, HIDDEN, coming out next year. This photo shows me on the bridge of Count Dracula, moored at a boatyard on Hayling, which went to Dunkirk, May 31st 1940. She rescued over 700 men.
The gathering stage of writing for me also involves a lot of thinking, perhaps not even taking notes, just thinking and thinking myself into my characters and situation until I come to the point where I am ready to write.
But recently it has occurred to me that there is a stage before the Gathering. That is the Hunter stage. History is a great passion of mine and I think that I would have been most at home at the end of the Ice-Age in the great days of the nomadic Hunter-Gatherers, who followed the herds of edible animals along the the edge of the Ice Sheet. Once they had tamed horses and could ride above the landscape their sense of freedom and engagement with their environment was probably the greatest in human history. It was also a time when I believe women would have had more freedom than later on when people settled in one place and were more easily controlled.
This is a close-up of the old flint beds in the chalk seams on Hayling. There were thriving Iron Age communities on the Island and a very important salt industry which eventually attracted the attention of the Romans.
If I had lived at that time I would have been a healer, studying the plants for medical properties. My mother was a nurse in the Navy in the Second World War and she taught me a lot about managing illness.
I think I would also have been an artist, painting my stories on animal skins and carving beads for jewellery.
And yes, all this is very fanciful, but then isn't that exactly the characteristic a writer needs? Here I am, living in 2010, in an equally rich and challenging environment and my calling is to be a writer of fiction and poetry.As I have been writing since childhood, my antennae are always up. I am always hunting through my world, for stories and words, landscapes and images and once I have settled on a new project - poem, short story, novel - only then does the gathering stage begin.
How do you hunt and gather? Share your ideas with us.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Saturday, 3 July 2010
Writers making the world legible
Once the book is written, what chance of translation into English? Only 3% of the 150,000 or so books published in Britain each year are literary translations.
English PEN's remit since its foundation in 1921 has been to "give a voice to the voiceless." This year The Writers' in Translation programme is celebrating its fifth year of supporting authors, especially raising the profile of authors at risk.
Eli's first language is Judeo-Arabic and he only "technically" wrote his novels in Hebrew. He heard the book in Arabic in his head, in the voices of his mother and father arguing in Arabic and so in his novels, "I wrote down what they said."
I have published a more extensive interview with Eli Amir which you can read here.
Atiq told us, "Language remains a mystery." His choice of language has a huge impact on the rhythm of his work. For this new novel he chose French over Persian for just that reason.
Eli was asked in Germany, "How did you feel hearing you book read in German?"
He smiled and said, "In my left ear was German, in my right ear was Arabic, my father's voice and I followed in my Hebrew version of the book from right to left."
Ultimately Eli wrote his book so that his children will know where he came from and also so that they would understand their grandparents background. "I wanted to recreate the city of my childhood which I loved so much and to keep it with me so I can hang it at night like I hang the book," he said.
Writers in Translation is a powerful force for good in the world.
A vibrant border-crossing revelation of contemporary international literature...what writing is all about.
What a wonderful and indispensable project this is.
How can there be peace without us knowing each other?
Eli Amir speaking in Cairo.
Listen to a radio interview with Eli Amir.
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