Reading the World, Mind Shifts and Connection

Friday 13th is nothing to be superstitious about: on the contrary, it was the day when I had the pleasure of meeting in person one of the people I most admire and follow regularly via blog and Twitter: Ann Morgan of ‘A Year of Reading the World’. If you are not familiar with Ann’s accomplishment, here she is describing it in her own words:

In 2012, the world came to London for the Olympics and I went out to meet it. I read my way around all the globe’s 196 independent countries – plus one extra territory chosen by blog visitors – sampling one book from every nation.

readingworldFurthermore, she did this only via English translations, as an experiment in just how much literature in translation is available to English speakers. Her reviews are all available on her blog above, but she has also just published a book called Reading the World in the UK and The World Between Two Covers in the US. The book discusses the background of this wonderful project: choosing the countries, authors and books featured, a wider debate about translation and moving outside your comfort zone in reading.

DarrenRussellBBC
Photo credit: Darren Russell, BBC website.

Ann had been invited to Geneva to give a TEDx talk about her book and her reading challenge as part of a series of talks on Mind Shifts, so I could not resist the chance to meet up with her. We talked about the challenges of literary translations, about cultural differences in writing styles and subject matters and about our own career paths and works in progress. I probably rambled on too much about myself – but it was such a delight to meet with a fellow book lover.

worldbetweencoversProof once again how, for all its shortcomings and potentials for abuse, there are some wonderful ways in which the Internet connects like-minded people.

And a reminder that our only hope of building bridges to other people and other cultures is by reading what some of their best minds and most talented writers have written. We may not agree, we may not like all that we see and read, but we start to understand their context. And thus, ultimately, broaden our own narrow little world.

As Mark Twain is supposed to have said (fact checkers have established that this quote cannot be attributed to him, but it’s still a great quote):

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

About Inspiration and Awards

Who or what inspires you as a writer? What fuels your passion and your life?  What makes you forget about time, eating, an aching back or even your friends and your children’s supper?  Not that I would recommend the last of these.  And I have only done it very occasionally.  Hardly worth pointing out, really.  Even if afore-mentioned children and friends do remind me of it on a regular basis.

So here are some of my favourite sources of inspiration in random order (ah, but is ‘off the top of my head’ really random?):

1) mountains and seascapes, preferably both together, as in the picture above

2) Shakespeare, especially ‘The Tempest’

3) the music of Brazil, almost any kind of jazz, plus David Bowie and a few other heroes

4) reciting or hearing poetry, the rhythm and roll of the images flooding your ears

5) when reading, finding the perfect phrase, the thought-stretching twist, the heartbreaking confession or the remarkable plot which makes me think:’yes, this is it, this is what life is all about’ and turn slightly green with envy that I could never write anything like that myself

6) the beauty of small creatures and shy buds, everyday things that are the last to be noticed and the first to be forgotten

7) the kindness of strangers, given without forethought or afterthought: things that make me believe once more in the generosity of the human spirit

All this is leading up to the Versatile Blogger Award that Polly Robinson has so kindly insisted I should have.  Thank you, Polly, you are one of the most encouraging people I have had the pleasure of meeting on the Internet.  I can always count on her to read my poems and make some comments.  I don’t know when she does it all, write her own poetry, organise events in her local area in Worcester, United Kingdom, setting up writers’ groups and open mic evenings… she is just amazing!

The rules for this award are typical of many others: share 7 things about yourself (my sources of inspiration, above), thank the person who nominated you and nominate 15 bloggers whom you recommend unreservedly.  I know that to some of them these awards (because they receive so many of them) can be a pain, so there is no obligation.  Unless they wish to leave a small comment below sharing perhaps not seven, but at least one thing that inspires them.  That would be wonderful!

I would so love to hear that from you all, and not just the people I am nominating below.  I am trying to nominate some that I haven’t mentioned before, so they are all fairly recent discoveries to me, although some of them are very well known.

Poetic magic

The Thread Is Red

Marousia

The Wheel and the Star

KD DeFehr

Jeannie Leflar

Stars Rain Sun Moon

Anything but prosaic

Andy’s Words and Pictures

Eric Alagan

Lisa Ahn

Write What You Know

Thought-provoking skullduggery

Crime Fiction Lover – and I loved them even before I started reviewing books for them!

It’s a Crime

Nicci French

Jeff Goins

A picture says more than a thousand words

From the Right Bank

An Afternoon With…

Shedworking

How Deserving Am I of Awards?

That perennial shrew and busybody, Old Mother Busyness, has prevented me from graciously accepting and passing on two awards I have received this glorious month of May.  But it’s not just her, it’s also that nasty old hag called Shame.  Just how deserving am I anyway of these awards? When there are so many other brilliant writers out there?

Today, however, I will kick those two old witches to one side, and mention both awards in one post.  Hopefully that will not cause gross offence to the Great Owlish Order of the Great Lords of E-Wisdom, or whoever is currently ruling the Internet.

So, first of all, thank you to Ami Fidele, who has been waiting so patiently for me to respond to his Inspiring Blog award nomination.  I have mentioned him before and I will mention him again: he is philosophical, lyrical, a true romantic and he writes beautiful poetry.  Oh, and did I say he is a lovely online friend, too?

The second award , One Lovely Blog, comes from a more recent acquaintance, Ash N. Finn.  But such is the marriage of true minds over the blogosphere that I already feel we understand each other very well.  Thank you, Ash, and if you appreciate really clever and surprising flash fiction, you will love her blog.  I was also simultaneously nominated by Honoré Dupuis for this same award, so big thanks to him too, he is such a supportive and active presence on blogs and Twitter, it’s been a pleasure knowing and reading him.

The requirements are quite similar, thanking your ‘nominator’, sharing those dreaded seven personal revelations, the only difference being the number of bloggers you then link to.  I will err on the side of plenty, and I will start with the Inspiring Blog Awards, because these are all bloggers I love and look forward to reading.  My only complaint is that some of them do not post frequently enough for my taste.  Please, guys, let me hear from you soon!

A Literal Girl – American in Oxford, blogs about books, meeting of the minds on the Internet, writing, music and anxiety

Iliterate Poet – poetry and art with a pinch of humour

Rivenrod – completely, delightfully mad and brilliant at art, poetry and microfictions

Writing for Ghosts – teacher, writer, musician and parent, he does it all

Creative Flux – or rather Terre Britton, who curates this wonderful site, full of resources and inspiration for writers

Hyakunin Isshu – translation and commentary of some of the most beautiful classic Japanese poems

Irretrievably Broken – beautiful writing about a grim subject, divorce

Mullings of a Mindtramp – searingly honest poetry

The Linnet – get drunk in the lush imagery of these poems

The Thread is Red – creative adventures and one of the most attractive sites ever

Rebuilding Holly –  naturally gifted writer trying to break out of the corporate stranglehold

Poet Janstie – he’s waited all his life to write – and how well he does it!

Mind’s Sky – I’ve nominated her before – can I help it, if she is so good? Really thoughtful, gorgeous poetry

Mocha Beanie Mummy – combines photography, storytelling and coffee – a winning combination

Connie Assad – fellow Cowbirder, amazing personal stories

And seven more for the One Lovely Blog Award, who do post regularly, but whom I read with undiminished enthusiasm:

RC Gale – he makes me laugh, he makes me cry, he makes me think

Project White Space – a newish discovery for me, she remotivates me with her energy

Writing on Board – sailor, sculptor, writer, adventurer

Coffee and Spellcheck – subsists on coffee, imagination and her love of words

Madame Guillotine – not that she needs my awards – very popular, fun and informed about history

Keat’s Babe – she is so multitalented and diverse!

Writeitdownith – inspiring writer but also great connector and encourager of people

There are so many more I would love to mention, or mention again.  But that’s given you enough to be getting on with. And it also serves as a reminder that I need to update my blogroll.

So now, for those of you who haven’t yet wandered off to check out these lovely bloggers … why haven’t you?  That’s the best thing about awards, to connect with others and discover new minds and souls.  But if you are waiting with bated breath for those stunning personal revelations, here they are, my favourite seven words in the English language (at least, at this moment in time):

1) belligerent

2) serendipity (mine and everyone else’s, but who said I had to be original?)

3) rivulets

4) surfeit

5) exaltation

6) imagination

7) jitterbug (by the way, did you know that the term was originally used to describe alcoholics?)

Uh-oh, it’s just occured to me: I do like long, pretentious sounding words, don’t I?  Maybe I should develop a loving relationship with the word ‘purge’!