As promised, here's a closer look at the wonderful St Patrick's day parade I saw in Dublin last weekend. This is a mix of video clips and photos, taken from the window of my hotel room in Parnell Square.
Wow, my first ever St Patrick's Day in Ireland! Dublin, to be exact. The sky stopped crying just at the right time, long enough for the traditional parade to take place without the risk of everything getting smudged. I had a wonderful view of the floats and performers, thanks to the fact that they passed just beneath the window of my hotel room in Parnell Square. Here's a taste of some of the sights, while I work on a little video presentation for later:
But St Patrick's Day was special for another reason: I was invited to have dinner with the poet and blogger Barbara Smith. My very first blogmeetle, which came with a delicious vegetarian meal (I am such a pain when it comes to my meatlessness)! It was a real delight to meet Barbara and some of her family. She was exactly how I imagined she would be: warm, funny and generous in spirit. What a treat it all was, and Barbara and her husband even showed me around some of their beautiful countryside. March 17, 2008, will stay in my memory for a very long time.
I got a fair amount of writing done while I was in Dublin: the skeleton for a short story, a poem and about five pages towards my novel. My new fountain pen was such a pleasure to use, as I soaked up all the energy and charm that my father's city has to offer. I read quite a bit as well.
There was also a great exhibition on the life of W.B.Yeats at the National Library, with fascinating copies of his drafts and notes on numerous poems. I always find it interesting to see how great poets edit their own work, to see the before and after. It was also a treat to hear Seamus Heaney and Sinead O'Connor read out some of Yeats' poems.
Just down the road, at Trinity College, I finally got a chance to see the Book of Kells. Whenever I'd gone to see these old treasures in the past I'd always been put off by the long queues; this time, though, on a Tuesday, there was virtually no one around. What a strange silence and feeling of deep awe to at last see these books up close!
There was some good news and bad news on my return to Lyon. The computer has been fixed and no personal data has been lost. Whew! I thought I'd lost about 15 unsaved pages of my novel. But no, they're all there. Apparently the power hub overheated.
I've also discovered there's a new little chocolate shop just opened in the street beneath our building. Mmmmmm. Handmade. Delicious-looking. I will probably give in to the daily, excruciating temptations. I mean, I've got to support local business, right?
The bad news is that we have no internet or television connection. We don't know why and they say they're on to it. It's been two days. I'm writing this post in an internet café and I won't even begin to tell you how difficult it's been to post this with the photos. So, in the meantime, sorry if I am tardy in my blog visits and my answering of emails and messages.
I was so wrapped up in my computer hassles that I forgot to mark the second anniversary of this blog. (The computer is fixed now, by the way, but I'm in Dublin at the moment and so won't have her hooked up at home until I get back next week. I'm still not sure how much data I've lost, but my fingers, toes and eyes are all crossed!)
Anyway, blogiversary! Yayyyyyyy! Yippppppeee! The anniversary is hard to pin down to an exact date because this blog got off to a "toes-in-first" start. It really took off in the first week of March, 2006, when I decided that I would invest the time and try to keep it going. If you're here reading this today, then it hasn't been a wasted effort. Like they say: without you, the reader, this blog really would be nothing. Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it. I've also loved reading all the other blogs I've discovered over the past two years and I look forward to a whole lot more of the same. Really, you are all wonderful sparks that fire a larger engine.
Now, why would I have a photo of a pen and writing books to accompany a post about my blog anniversary? Let me explain.
It's funny, but my blogging habits have evolved over the past two years. I started out posting daily, or at least every other day, but quickly realised I couldn't keep that up (there's this awful thing called "daily life" that gets in the way) and readers miss posts if they don't have the time to digest them. I now try to do about two posts a week related to my love of writing and reading, which seems to be just about manageable.
However, I also really want to have more time to do the creative writing that I talk so much about, some of which I feature here from time to time. I've had to really think about ways to guarantee that I have time for writing fiction and poetry in this age of distraction ... and that's where the pen and books come in. I decided to go out and buy a lovely fountain pen, so I can do a lot more writing away from the computer. I need to ensure that I'm not constantly tempted by all the amazing sites that dance and sing behind my computer screen. As well as a forest of superb blogs, there are deep valleys of unique information and entertainment.
A fountain pen? It couldn't just be any pen. I had to buy something that would be a pleasure to use, where the letters would almost appear by magic on the page, effortlessly, with strong, sure strokes. I've never been a fountain pen user, but my partner recently bought one and I was sold after a few tries. Now I have the tools, I just have to get on with it. I have to make sure that I switch off the computer and go and write in different places: lying on the couch, in cafes, in parks, places where inspiration is dripping. The new regime has begun here in Dublin!
Speaking of writing, the latest instalment in Grace's story over at The Shameless Lions Writing Circle is up. Bonnie has done a brilliant job at preparing the stage for the final scene. The story is about to be wrapped up after an exciting, epic journey. Do go and check it out if you haven't already done so. It's amazing how something like this was possible, with so many different writers and styles blending together. I've seen these kinds of projects fall apart after just a few contributions, and I was thrilled to see this one go from strength to strength. The next project at the circle is in the pipeline.
Someone also asked me in a mail about the Shameless Graffito series, and when the next one will go up. Wow, I'm thrilled it's eagerly awaited. There's been a slight break because of the fire inside the computer, and I'm really hoping the photos that were waiting in the wings haven't gone up in smoke. I will aim to have the next one up late next week, when I'm back from Dublin.
This plant, given to us a few years back by some Swiss friends, has really grown into a bit of a talking point. It sits on the coffee table in the lounge, so people can't help but notice the woman who's forever reaching towards the light. In case you're wondering - or sniggering - we definitely did nothing to make the plant grow like this! She will soon have to have an appropriate name, so any ideas would be very welcome. At the moment she's known here as "The Woman Who's Branching Out". She will probably also have to have a poem at some point. I'm going to work on it.
I'm very pleased to see that Lyon's International Forum On The Novel is taking place again this year, from May 26 to June 1. The theme is: "The novel - what an invention!" Last year's forum was the inaugural event and it attracted some big names. Here are some of the anglophone authors showing up this year:
Annie Proulx, Joseph O’Connor (Ireland), Nelly Arcan (Canada), Karen Connelly (Canada), Dennis Cooper (USA), Kirsty Gunn (New Zealand), Jonathan Lethem (USA), Daniel Mendelsohn (USA), David Peace (UK), Suhayl Saadi (UK), Adam Thirlwell (UK) and Alissa York (Canada). There are in fact some 80 writers attending.
However, I really hope the format this time round allows for a bit more discussion and improvisation on the part of the authors. There was a tendency for things to get a bit dry last year: the writers read out prepared pieces on the given theme (sometimes very academic and inaccessible) and then there was only time for the odd question from a panel of two or three "experts". I prefer more time for raw questions and answers, and more of a chance for the audience to interact with the authors. This is France, though, and they do seem to like these events to be very orderly and controlled. We'll see.
Oh, and there's some wonderful news about an amazing book I've just finished reading.
The Vintner's Luck, a novel about a 19th century French winegrower who has an affair with an angel, is being made into a film. This was a superb book, with writing that made me shiver, and it'll be brilliant to see it portrayed on the big screen. The author is the New Zealander Elizabeth Knox, who received widespread acclaim for this book. I found it to be a little pearl of a novel, which is very hard to fit into any category or genre. It takes a little bit of time to get into the story, but once you surrender to the strange universe and poetic prose, the experience is unique and memorable.
The cast for the film looks interesting: the Belgian actor Jeremie Renier and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel will play the winegrower and the angel, while the New Zealand Oscar-nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (star of the film Whale Rider) will play the winegrower's wife. American actress Vera Farmiga will play another important role. Filming has already started in a vineyard in Auckland, New Zealand, and it's reported there will also be scenes shot in France and Belgium. I can't wait to see what the director, Nicky Caro, does with this.
A few things have kept me away from writing and reading recently, and I am so eager to get back to normal!
First of all, my computer blew up! I smelt something burning when I was downloading some video footage and I didn't figure out what was going on until it was too late. Bang! I'm praying that no important data has been lost; my last big "saving spree" was a few weeks back. This is a timely reminder to those of you who have not saved copies of your precious words or photos. Do it now! Computers, no matter how new, can go on the blink at any moment! We bought ours in 2006! (I'm writing this on the "courtesy" laptop they make available while repairs are carried out. Thank goodness we paid extra to extend the warranty!)
The other anti-writing/reading event was the flu. It hit me between the eyes and forced me to take a week off work. The last time I remember being confined to bed was about 10 years ago. A dry, annoying cough is still hanging around, but I'm trying to make it feel unwelcome. I'm now enjoying a great blend of plants and essential oils after an overdose of horrible chemicals!
The good news, though, is that my visa has come through for our two-week trip to India in April (I won't even begin to tell you about the administrative nightmare this entailed!). What should I read to get in the mood? What literary sights/activities should I seek out in New Delhi and Nagpur? Do share your thoughts if you've been there.
The other good news, in terms of trying to nail down more time for creative writing, is that I've finally managed to reduce the hours at work by about 10 percent, which will give me two weeks off every two months. Yes! It was crazy not to do this earlier. I will earn 10 percent less, but I will be happier. I will also have fewer nasty nightshifts to do! Now there's no excuse for not making lots of writing progress in 2008!
Oh, by the way, if you ever spill oodles of candle wax over a shiny black piano (how stupid could I be? I will blame the flu) then just remember that a credit card is your answer. No, I used it to scrape, silly ... not to buy another piano! I was beside myself, thinking I'd burnt and scarred my lovely, until good old Google gave me the reassuring advice I needed. All is well. She is still managing to reach the tricky high notes and look dazzling at the same time!