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Myth and Memory

Namita Gokhale, Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu in conversation with Paul McVeigh at JLF Belfast 2019 at the Lyric Theatre

Myth, memory and culture were the ingredients for a lively panel discussion between writers Namita Gokhale, Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu, facilitated by novelist and playwright, Paul McVeigh at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival in Belfast.Myth and Memory

One of the JLF founders and co-directors, Gokhale has written 19 books and has worked a lot “on myth and the constant reinterpretation of myth in current India.”

Naidu, also born and raised in India, has been “very influenced by myths and mythologies” and said they’d helped her to write about history in her fiction. However, for East Belfast author, Carson, her interest in mythology was more about “making up my own myths – contemporary myths.”

Indeed, growing up, Carson was surrounded by stories from the King James Bible rather than Celtic myths, which she said made her feel a bit more disconnected from traditional mythology than her fellow panellists. She added that her reworking of myths was subsequently coloured by this particular storytelling language from her childhood.

Asked by McVeigh why she created modern myths and what they allowed her to do, Carson said her magical realism style allowed her to address topical issues in a more indirect way.

Jan

Jan Carson

“For me, Northern Ireland is a prime candidate for that,” she said. “It amazes me that we don’t have more writers here working in that field.”

She added that in a society where people have “become numbed to the status quo,” surrealist writing was a way to “stop people in their tracks” and help them take stock of things.

During the discussion, Gokhale described how India was steeped in mythology and said there were two epic myths – the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇ – which were originally told in oral form before being written. She herself has retold the Mahābhārata in Mahābhārata, The Book of Shiva.

“It’s a very vital and living topic in India,” she said. “Myths dominate and control every aspect of life [there]… There are many different levels of gods and goddesses in India – and a lot of goddesses who are goddesses in their own right.”

Naidu, meanwhile, who performs epic literature as well as being a writer, said Indians tended to “think in a kind of poetry.” She added that, living as she does now in England, she carried Indian mythology with her as a way of viewing the world.

lyric ceiling“For me, the myths are a memory for how I understand the Western world,” she said. “I won’t give up that way of thinking.”

Each of the writers shared some of their work with the audience, with extracts read by Carson and Gokhale and a special oral storytelling performance from Naidu.

Reflecting on the differences between oral storytelling and writing, she said: “The oral tradition is action-driven. When you’re writing, you’re in isolation – it’s more immersive.”

Going on to discuss memory, Carson, who also works with people who have dementia, said she’d learned that memory was something that wasn’t fixed. “As you grow and gain life experience, it changes your perspective of the past,” she said. “The memory [of things] begins to change.”

Collectively asked by McVeigh if holding onto memory too much could also prevent cultures from growing, Naidu said people could indeed get very fixed into the past. However, she added that, “collated memory can be a transformative thing.”

With Gokhale previously explaining how Hindu icon Radha is “the subject of every Bollywood film,” the event finished rather fittingly with an impromptu rendition of a Bollywood song from another festival participant.

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Whittling away …

Women Aloud NI Community Day

Women writers everywhere – and lots of bookish talk. 🙂

WAagm

WANI board members

That was basically the premise for a recent meet-up of Women Aloud NI, as we had our very first Community Day at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast last weekend, kindly supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

It’s always good to take the online, offline, and, while we run regular writerly events and the like, we’ve never had a day of our own like this to chat about the organisation and our plans for the future.

Suffice it to say that we had a lot to talk about but ultimately, it was just rather cheering to see so many women writers from Northern Ireland gather together to see how we can support one another going forward. Watch this space, I think…

NN2

With regards my own writerly news, I’ve been quiet on the blogging front these past few weeks because I’ve been very busy finishing off NN2 (Novel Number 2). Yes, the notebooks are finally full of their scribbles, the computer has been fired up for typing and those words are being edited as we speak. Things are coming on well with the sequel to Magical Masquerade so hopefully all will continue as such!

Kelly_me_MACI did find a bit of time over Easter, however, for coffee and a catch-up with my friend and fellow author, Kelly Creighton (also a WANI board member), to chat about our books and bookish plans…  I also discovered Kelly is a rather talented artist – not just a fantastic writer, then! (See the portrait she whisked up for me below.)

As this is a follow-up to book one, I will be publishing it independently again as I did with the first, so when I’ve worked out my dates for this I’ll let you know… I’ve certainly found that this second book has taken less time to write and I think that’s for various reasons.

First of all, this time I actually knew I was writing a book! With MM I started off with a short story and then just kept going – and going and going and going – and ended up with a monster of a book that was probably actually three novels, in terms of length. Not so this time. I’m continuing my story and know better now how much notebook space I have to fill and, while I’ve written enough to tell the story and wouldn’t penalise it just to keep things short, experience means I’m writing more succinctly from the outset, so it’s already more on track in terms of word count and so on.

I’ve also given myself deadlines for this manuscript where I didn’t for the first, and I understand the publishing process and how long that takes, so am bearing all that in mind. My audience is predominantly young (although adults – you really can read my books as well! If you’ve read HP then you’re already in my target audience 🙂 ), so I’m keen not to delay the sequel for too long.

Reading notesportrait

Writing aside, I’ve also been flying through some great fiction this month as well, and will record a video for my BookTube channel about those soon. I plan to give each book a star rating and to choose the best book of the month from what I’ve read as one which I’d recommend you pick up (if you haven’t already read it that is). I’ve discovered so many good books through YouTube so I’d like to help other readers uncover a few new gems too.

Anyway, it really has been a good reading month in April and I’m hoping the rest of my TBR pile will deliver the same greatness. More as I have it. 🙂

 

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WomenXborders

Last week was crammed full of bookish events and the like so, while I didn’t have time to blog at the weekend, I didn’t want to miss a week, as there’s lots to catch up on!

International Women’s Day 2017derry crowd

Rewinding back to Wednesday, which was International Women’s Day, I joined a group of my fellow women writers to mark the occasion with an evening of readings in Derry. Organised by Women Aloud NI 2017 and The Literary Ladies, there was a great turnout for this and we heard samples of all kinds of great work, including extracts from novels and poetry readings. I also gave my first public reading from Magical Masquerade (outside of the Kilross PS visit), which I think went down well!

Waterstone picWaterstones Coleraine poetry prize

Thursday saw me hotfoot it to Waterstones in Coleraine for the official photographs of the 12 prize-winning poets in their Women Aloud NI 2017 poetry competition, and I caught up with a few poets I hadn’t seen in a while, as well as meeting some new ones!

We also received gifts of three poetry books each, which was quite unexpected and a lovely surprise, as well as the one year’s free subscription to Carcanet Press’s PN review magazine.

Northern Woman magazine interviewNORTHERN WOMAN

In between all of this, Northern Woman magazine came out and this month, it includes a feature on me and Magical Masquerade, so that was great to see!

Local media support for the book has been wonderful so far, which is all very much appreciated!

International Women’s Day Readathon in Dublin

train crowdThe week’s main event however, took place on Saturday, when 50 of the Women Aloud NI crew travelled en masse to Dublin to take part in a whole host of events with women writers from the ROI. With the tireless Jane Talbot (author of The Faeire Thorn and Other Stories) at the helm, this was a day packed full of literary goodness.

Poet Anne McMaster organised the first part of the journey, which included a very well choreographed readathon on the Enterprise train from Belfast to Dublin (with breaks at the three scheduled stops along the way). Translink NI had very kindly reserved us seats in G carriage, so we were all seated together and almost everyone had volunteered to read some of their work in three-minute slots, so there was a great range of material shared.IWC

Once we arrived in Dublin, we then made our way to the Irish Writers’ Centre at Parnell Square – our hosts for the rest of the day. With everything running like a well-oiled machine, introductions were made, formalities (and health and safety stuff!) were completed and at 11.15am, as planned, the main readathon began…

… and continued without pause until 3.15pm.

Once the first writer read their three-minute’s worth of work, the next one followed and so on, until all 80 or so female writers had had their time at the podium and introduced their talents to a whole new audience. There was everything from poetry and crime writing, to romance stories, memoir, fantasy and yes, children’s fiction… It was a great example of the diversity of talent across Northern Ireland and the ROI. Writers were also invited to donate one of their books to the IWC library, so I believe we’ve now filled a good part of a shelf!SP panel (I will have to return with my own book when it’s published!)

In between all of this, myself and the other writers who were taking part in the three panel discussions, darted in and out to discuss everything from writing communities, to self-publishing and how to juggle a busy work/home life with a writing career.

I was on the self-publishing panel with Jo Zebedee, Angeline King and chair, Catherine Ryan Howard (who, yes, wrote the book on self-publishing which has helped me greatly with MM!). I really enjoyed chatting about my SP experiences to date and finding out more about Jo and Angeline’s experiences in this. We also had a few good questions at the end from audience members as well.parnell sq

The day didn’t end there however, as once the readathon and the panels were over, we had a mass reading to do in Parnell Square itself. So, we exited the IWC en masse and assembled ourselves on the steps in the square, just in front of a rather impressive statue of the Children of Lir. After a test run, we then filled the public space with the sound of more than 80 female voices – a wonderful demonstration of solidarity for women writers if ever I saw one.

Jane Talbot conducted us in this of course – first the playwrights began to read, followed by poets, literary fiction writers, children’s writers, crime writers and so on – the volume rising as each batch of writers joined in and read their work. RTE very kindly came down to cover the event, along with various other photographers, which was great. It was certainly a very moving and inspiring thing to be part of.mass reading

The official part of our Women Aloud NI Dublin day out officially ended there … but much more chat and storytelling was had at Connolly Station and en route to Belfast in the Enterprise. That, however, is possibly a tale for another day …

Magical Masquerade news!dfw-cs-mm-cover-3d-nologo

Meanwhile, as if that wasn’t enough excitement to be coping with in the week, I was finally able to upload Magical Masquerade to CreateSpace on Sunday and today … I got the go-ahead to order my proofs! So, they’ll be winging their way towards me soon and I hope to have them in my hands in a couple of weeks.

For that, I really cannot wait, but wait I must…

More as I have it. 🙂

 

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