Fall In Love Outside Your Culture, Don’t Read The News With Apathy

22 Jan


Photo 07-01-2015 12 08 42

Where we were


As the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were happening, we were on a layover in Amsterdam. We had just gone into the city center, checked out the prostitutes and marveled at Amsterdam’s open communication about drug possession, and were back in the airport when I started reading the news.

Where were you?

Like many of you, I followed the news breathlessly, checking my news apps day and night. Probably like many of you, I had many discussions about extremists, the Islam religion, the Christian Crusades, and freedom of speech. Like a few of you, I drew angry comparisons between the media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the lack of interest on the Boko Haram massacres in northern Nigeria. Read The Guardian’s article “Why Did the World Ignore Boko Haram’s Baga Attacks” here.

"I am Charlie. Don't forget the victims of Boko Haram"

“I am Charlie. Don’t forget the victims of Boko Haram”.

Following all the arguments, opinions, publications and blogs online, I want to say that as a writer, of course I believe in freedom of speech; but especially as a writer, I believe that it is a unique muscle which must be exercised with caution.

As a circus-fitness instructor, I can give you a million warm-up-your-muscles-carefully metaphors, the point of which being: I am happy that the muscle of freedom of speech has (so far) been exercised with such caution and such lack of prejudice in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

I don’t like the idea of Charlie Hebdo making fun of the Prophet Muhammed and I understand Muslim outrage at this. Of course it should never lead to murder. There is a fine line between freedom of speech and inciting anger. Could Fascist caricaturists say they were using their right of freedom of expression when they depicted Jews in anti-Semetic ways?

Or Hergé's portrayal of Africans in "Tintin in Congo" - a great discussion of censorship, literary change, race theory, etc

Or Hergé’s portrayal of Africans in “Tintin in Congo” – a great discussion of censorship, literary change, race theory, etc

(My boyfriend has great arguments against mine. As a law student, he has had so many vivacious discussions with me with opposing opinions, which are really helping us sharpen our arguments & beliefs. For this, I am endlessly grateful to him.)

I believe there is a fine line between FREEDOM OF SPEECH and RESPECT. I would not poke fun at the Prophet simply because I respect the Islam belief that he should not be depicted nor made fun of. That’s okay by me. Yet this line is so fine and so fragile, I am sure we will have many more discussions about it.


Does it?


In the aftermath of the massacres and the great holding up of pens, I tweeted:

I understand that many people hearing about the massacres in don’t feel affected because they don’t know anyone. Well: you know me.

This message highlights a belief that I think about often and don’t yet have a suggestion of solving for.

Most of us will read the news with empathy, but admittedly with distance. After our layover in Amsterdam, we were greeted at Aberdeen Dyce Airport by a bulletin that read: “COMING FROM WEST AFRICA? There is a new epidemic called ebola…” and the information continued. We sarcastically remarked: “Oh, new, is it?” Ebola has been around for years, but now that it is reaching Europe, it is suddenly a topic of conversation.

But this cannot be critised. At the end of the day, most people won’t be concerned by the massacres in Nigeria or the Ebola in Liberia, because there is an international opinion of Africa as a poor, devastated continent on its knees, where terrible things such as AIDS and Ebola simply happen.


I want to confess: When the war in Syria was at its peak and the death tolls were raging through the news, I didn’t read it for very long.


Because Syria does not affect me. And why?

Because I don’t know any Syrians.

If I hadn’t grown up in Nigeria, my perception of the country would most likely be a wild place where terrible things like this happen – and nothing more. The following is from the excellent film Hotel Rwanda, a drama based on a true story during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Joaquin Phoenix is a camera man filming the genocide for the news.

A few months ago, a young man called Peter Kassig (or, after his conversion to Islam, Abdul-Rahman Kassig) was captured during his humanitarian work in Syria and beheaded by ISIS. When I opened Facebook the morning after, it was filled with a good friend’s outrage, pain, anger and sorrow. She had known Peter. They had met in her home town Beirut, he had stayed at her house and she had even met his father. She posted pictures of him chilling on her sofa, mid-laugh, enjoying a cigarette. She raged about ISIS, about the state of the world, about how gentle and kind he had been. I read all her posts and I cried with her.

This really brought the ISIS beheadings home to me. I spent hours on the internet researching Peter’s humanitarian work, ISIS and the ISIS victims.

How do we connect this world? How do we raise a generation that doesn’t watch the news with complete apathy? – Or, god forbid, doesn’t watch the news at all.

It is the people we know.

I read the news the way I do because I have friends in the U.S Army & Air Force; in Lebanon and Israel; in Germany (thinking of PEDIGA rallies in Dresden & Leipzig); in Vienna; in Nigeria; in Peru, etc etc etc. When an earthquake happens, a massacre, a riot – I have people I contact on Facebook to see if they are alright.


That affects how I read the news.

My only idea so far is to urge everyone reading this to adopt a godchild; one living in Egypt, Liberia, Nigeria, Syria, Lebanon, Peru, Belgium, New Caledonia – perhaps in the country that affects & interests you the least – and then we’ll see how people read the news.


We CANNOT afford to separate ourselves from the terrible or joyful events happening in the world. We cannot afford ignorance or separation. I am happy we live in this internet-era of great digital connectivity. People argue that it is making us lose touch with one another – and yes, I’ve sat in cafés where no one speaks because everyone is on their phone – but the internet is connecting us, and the more we travel, the more we care about countries, people and fates.

I would urge everyone to travel to countries that don’t interest them, to make a connection and then see how their interest in the news changes.

Before we became a couple, my boyfriend knew very little of Peru and nothing of Nigeria. Now he is becoming an expert on indigenous civil rights and Ken Saro-Wiwa… and I am reading Václav Havel and Jiří Weil.

Travel, make friends, fall in love outside of your culture, adopt a godchild. Don’t read the news with apathy.

At the John Lennon Wall in Prague, Jan 2015

At the John Lennon Wall in Prague, Jan 2015

The Shocking Experiences of University Students with Britain’s Health Service

13 Jan

If you’re planning on moving to the UK, this is something you need to read. And if you don’t like reading, I made you a video:

This morning I was awakened by my friend’s pleas for help: her bladder infection had worsened overnight and, becoming too painful to ignore, she needed help getting to the Foresterhill Emergency Care Center in Aberdeen. As students, we cannot casually afford hiring taxis, so we met on King Street and undertook the long walk to Foresterhill. For the kind readers unaware of this distance, on a good day, this walk takes 40 mins. Walking with a lady with a painful infection, it will take up to 1 hour.

Photo 13-01-2015 14 34 01

When we finally reached the double doors of the emergency room, we were exhausted from walking and my friend was in worse pain. We quickly told the receptionist the problem and were almost settling to sit down and wait, when she replied: “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept bladder infections. That’s a problem for your GP.”

For the non-UK residents reading this: a GP is a General Practitioner, your local doctor. When you move to the UK, you can only register with the GP center in your living area and you will be provided with free service by the NHS (National Health Service).

Now the receptionist was turning us away because, as we understood it, we were arriving at the emergency room at an hour when all GPs are open. Therefore, why should the hospital accept us when doctors are open?

To say we were shocked would be an understatement. I repeated our request to the receptionist, adding: “But we are here now. We just walked for an hour to get here and my friend is in terrible pain.” The receptionist bounced off to ask a doctor on his opinion, and when she turned, she confirmed our disbelief: we would not be attended by a doctor in this emergency room because GPs are open.

At this point, the receptionist broke into a broad sunny smile and joyfully said to us : “Have a nice day!”


You could argue that now that we’ve learnt a further rule of the NHS, we won’t bother making the 1-hour walk across the city to the hospital if it is daytime. The issue at hand is not the appalling fact that in United Kingdom, treatment can be refused to you in a hospital; the issue at hand is that the NHS functions according to several rules that foreigners moving to the UK are simply not prepared for.


Firstly:  It’s Not That Easy To See Your GP 

After being turned away by the ER, we discussed doing as the receptionist had suggested and seeing my friend’s GP. The issue is that GPs don’t accept walk-ins. A GP will only see you if you have an appointment. Requesting an appointment can put you on a 1-2 week waiting list.

In the case of an emergency, you can request to speak to a doctor and leave your phone number. The doctor will then call you, ask about your symptoms and prescribe medication over the phone without ever seeing you in person. I am not exaggerating. I went through this process in September 2014. In fact, the doctor requested that I provide a urine sample in a case I could pick up at the pharmacy, (and I quote) “pop it in the mail and it will go straight to the microbiologists”.

British mailbox 928



Secondly:  An Emergency Does Not Mean the Ambulance Will Pick You Up

Last year, my former flatmate fell down the stairs at the university. She immediately called the emergency and requested an ambulance. She was denied one because (and I quote) she was conscious. As long as she was conscious and not bleeding heavily, the ambulance would not pick her up. Demanding how she should then get to the emergency room, the NHS replied: “Call a taxi.”

Without any alternatives, my flatmate called a taxi only to be told (and this is unfortunately quite common in Aberdeen) that all taxis were busy until 6pm. Almost crying with frustration, she finally got in touch with a friend with a car who drove her to the hospital.



Is this the message the United Kingdom, and Scotland, wish to portray to international and European students? By offering free higher education with an open scheme, Aberdeen is an attraction choice – but what if the medical service cannot take care of these students? For at the moment, the message we university students are receiving, is that we may receive excellent higher education, but there is no guarantee of efficient health service; no guarantee of being examined by a doctor; we may be prescribed medication over the phone; and/or be turned away by hospital emergency rooms.

I did not move to the UK in order to critise it. I enjoy living in Scotland greatly: the University of Aberdeen teaches at a high level, I have a great job here and an international array of friends. Of course as a foreigner I must learn the rules of the public sector – but speaking for many other students I must say: We fear becoming seriously ill in the UK for we don’t believe the NHS will provide an efficient service.

I therefore request that when the university tells its newly-enrolled students to register with a local GP, they also explain all the hoops the students will have to jump through in order to actually receive health care. Don’t let us find out these hoops on our own, when our health is in critical condition.

These Are the NHS Rules I Know: 

  1. Don’t bother going to see your doctor when you have a problem. Call the GP on the phone and request to speak to a doctor.
  2. Don’t bother going to the hospital during GP opening hours. The hospital will refuse to let a doctor see you.
  3. Forget ambulances. Make friends with someone who has a car. No one else will help you.
  4. When you’re healthy, make an appointment to see your GP and only then will you be able to speak to them about the health issues worrying you. The receptionist at the GP couldn’t understand why I wanted an appointment when I was perfectly healthy, so I told her: “I prefer making an appointment when I’m healthy than being turned away when I’m sick.”


And Finally, I would like to add a personal remark to the receptionist who attended us this morning. You may work as part of a medical health system that we haven’t fully understood; one which thinks it justified to turn away patients in pain; one which doesn’t consider the pain and frustration of having to return home on foot, walking for one hour, after a futile mission to a health institution you trusted would help you. But at least have the decency and basic human compassion to not smile in our faces as you slam shut the reception window, wishing us “a good day” when you know that you have just denied a person in pain her right to see a doctor and are sending her on a painful walk home.

If you’re going to work in a hospital, at least have that much basic human compassion.

Thank you for reading this. 

With Love, for Jenny. 


8 Dec


I used to absolutely despise Christmas. That was something I was very well known for among my friends. Everyone knew to not wish me a merry Christmas, get me any presents or expect any from me, and, when I was working for SWR Television, my boss knew it was me on the phone, telling her: “If you have work during Christmas, call me. I’ll be on duty for you for all the days.”

I was generally in an awful mood those days. When a friend introduced me to this song, I felt understood.

That was simply my mood. I just wasn’t a Christmas fan.

A week or so ago, I posted the following picture on my Instagram account:


We’re going from Lisa Hannigan’s solo straight to that. A friend commented: “You used to hate Christmas, now look at you!” And I have to confess that this post is very much a response to this singular comment, because since she wrote it, it’s been bugging me. So, girl, this one is for you!

This is also a post about why we choose to celebrate certain events. It’s not necessarily about what Christmas means us personally, but about why we celebrate at allTo my friend’s comment on Instagram, I replied that I was taking every opportunity life gave me to celebrate LIFE.

And yet the question didn’t seem fully answered, because her comment continued to resonate in my mind.

I think, ultimately, what happened is the United Kingdom. I’m going to go about this analysis as an anthropologist would, because my question is essentially as socio-cultural one.


Point 1

Being a university student, I am strongly exposed to the world of social media. I know in Germany most of my friends don’t use Twitter, few have Instagram and some are still resisting Facebook. To the UK, that sounds a bit Middle Ages! All our circus society news is shared on our Facebook page, such as impromptu trainings or hilarious/beautiful pictures from our last sessions. I communicate with all my university friends on Facebook (because I’m in the Middle Ages and still don’t have a cell phone); I hashtag vicariously and hey! I blog.

Living half my life on the internet, one of my guilty pleasures is googling memes. Memes can be as smart, stupid or delightful as you desire, and in the midst of all the memes, I found one that is just my sense of humour, touching upon my touchiest topic.




People don’t know this, but I am terribly attracted to grumpiness. Again an SWR Television anecdote: a colleague called me to inform me that I would, unfortunately, be working with a certain camera man who I shall only call P. I asked her, “Why ‘unfortunately’?” She replied: “Because you’re such a ball of sunshine and he’s more on the grumpy side.”

I hide very well just how grumpy I am, because I’m usually sitting behind a book somewhere chanting Pacha Mama, Pacha Mama.

Hell, I loved working with Patrick. YES I SAID IT. Much like Garfield, he acted like he had bathed in dark matter, wore dark clouds as rings under his eyes, and when working with him, I knew to always bring him coffee. I adored him; he was sharp-witted, straight-edged, said what he thought and didn’t suck-up to the journalists. I respected him greatly for it. Here is a very old photo of us with a fellow camera man, at the firm’s Christmas (ironic) party. And yes, my sweater had the fattest stripes.


But back to Grumpy Cat.



In a world where Grumpy Cat exists, I think I can deal with Christmas just a little bit more.



Point 2

After spending the majority of 2012 in Perú, a country where every second week a new national holiday is celebrated, I moved to Scotland. Scotland is cold. During the winter, the sun begins to set around 3pm. And in the midst of all this darkness, I became exposed to a fine British tradition. Tacky Christmas jumpers.

Photo 08-12-2014 00 59 25

And these really aren’t the tackiest. I will try to hunt some tacky ones down and photograph them for you.

The best part is that it’s mostly men who wear these, so we have grown men prancing about our uni campus sporting the most appalling jumpers, so cringe-worthy, that they are nothing short of brilliant. When one of our circus members showed up to our Christmas dinner without wearing something festive, we dressed him up in this:

Photo 08-12-2014 01 05 10

When you rock Santa’s belly, he HO HO HO’s endlessly. We did it non-stop.

Considering this new level of self deprecating humour on behalf of the Brits, you really can’t hate Christmas because you will burt into laughter just walking aroun campus. And if that isn’t enough, there’s always the ostentatious-creative side to it.

Photo 08-12-2014 00 06 40


This is what she means: Photo 08-12-2014 01 12 56

Yes, you can get them on Ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/bhp/christmas-nail-stickers

Celebrating in Germany was never as mad as this. We were always quite calm, with hot chocolate.

This, on the other hand, is what a Christmas tree looks like in Peru:


So perhaps I genetically sign up to the mode of living that is 50% more lavish, more ostentatious and, well, more mad.

But how to celebrate in Scotland? My friends at Studio 202 suggested I fill my Christmas tree up with X-Men figurines, aerialists and pole dancers. A friend of mine decorated her entire flat, including the bathroom, with Christmas decorations to the point that we diagnosed her with OCD, Obsessive Christmas Disorder. And just when we thought we had seen it all…



These are people who are having so much fun with Christmas – and by that I don’t mean Christmas-carolling about how peaceful the world is (here’s a link to BBC News), or how silent (lend an ear to Ferguson, or to the entire country of Syria), or how much they’re going to let it go, let it go, the snow never bothered me anyway – because that’s what I enjoyed about Lisa Hannigan’s version in the first place: it wasn’t hypocritical. It was explaining how people actually feel during Christmas, and the shocking truth that not everyone is jolly on Christmas. A lot of people are alone, don’t want to / can’t see their families and avoid public spaces because they can’t stand the Christmas jingles anymore; many people suffer from depressions, suffer silently, and pray these days will be over soon and the world will go back to normal. We really need to think about these people more.

No – these are people making fun with Christmas. Just as they ignore the nay-sayers who state Halloween is merely a commercial byproduct of the United States, and get all dressed up nonetheless, they’re celebrating life. They are making fun with what they’re given, and I want to be a part of that fun.

I must conclude that I, the project subject, have started enjoying Christmas due to the influence of what “celebrating Christmas” means in the British socio-cultural environment.

And I can’t wait to see what Grumpy Cat does on Easter.


The ChristmaSassy Idea 

So I’d like to end this post with a small idea. Wherever you are, however you’re spending Christmas, JOIN ME and post up your very own ChristmaSassy Memes. You can go mad on Photoshop/Gimp (a free, OpenSource version), or you can download a meme-creating app onto your phone like MakeAMeme+

You can make as many or as few as you like. Send them to me via Twitter/Instagram @rittisoncco, or rittisoncco@gmail.com. If we get a decent collection, I’ll post them up on my next post! You can always google for inspiration; you’ll see they can be whatever you want.


Another way to Make Fun With Xmas: here’s a silly Christmas Drinking Game I heard about. Put a Christmas hat on your tv. Every time someone wears it, take a shot.


And yes, I’m aware that all this is very First World Problems. That just happens to be where I am at the moment. So wherever you are, whatever you want to say – say it & send it to me. I look forward to it very very much.

Now, I really should get back to studying for my exams.

Aerials at Crathes Enchanted Castle

26 Nov


University started back up with a bang. 3 months ago, I was in Peru with plenty of time to blog, structure Qayqa and social-medialise.  Since my return to Aberdeen, however, I’ve been living a demanding, well-structured life full of exercise and aerials. I teach 4 times a week.


Mondays, 7-9 pm:  Acrobatics at the University of Aberdeen

Tuesdays, 7-9 pm:  Flexibility class for working professionals at Studio 202

Thursdays, 6-9 pm:  Aerial Silks & Trapeze for students at Studio 202

Fridays, 7-9 pm:  Aerial Silks & Trapeze for working professionals at Studio 202


I’ve had a few people tell me they stumbled over this blog when they were looking up aerial classes in Aberdeen, and either accidentally bump into me at Studio 202 and make the connection later; or write me and join my classes. So if you’re out there, eager to start aerials or have a good stretch, this is my routine. Come to my classes!

Last week, however, all my classes went on hold because the Circus Society had been booked by Crathes Enchanted Castle to perform for 5 days – and I had been booked with them, on my aerial silks for the very first time in Scotland.

4 performances a night… for 5 days… In November.

I agreed to this in July, when I couldn’t imagine what “cold” felt like. By October, I was terrified. I woke up the morning of the performance at 6am, genuinely scared. I went to an Outdoor Adventure Clothing store and paid a ridiculously high price for thermal underwear.

I’ll philosophise about the Role of the Cold in my life in a bit, but first I would like to show you some pictures of the event. Here are a few I took, but I also strongly encourage you to visit the website of the event’s official photographer, Martin Parker, here. He has some stunning photographs of the castle and its grounds all magically lit up, like this:

Crathes Castle. Photograph by Martin Parker

Crathes Castle. Photograph by Martin Parker

Crathes Castle Grounds. Photograph by Martin Parker.

Crathes Castle Grounds. Photograph by Martin Parker.

Meanwhile, here are a few I took of our team on the first night. Missing only is a picture of Sandra, but you’ll find her in Martin Parker’s collection.

Big Man Barnaby

Big Man Barny

Hannah firebreathing while Emma hoola-hooped

Hannah firebreathing while Emma hoola-hooped

Emma's Mysterious Frolicking Creature, anything from Gollum to... a goat

Emma’s Mysterious Frolicking Creature, anything from Gollum to… a goat

the view to my office

where I danced

My area had Talking Trees, who discussed one another’s growth spurts, the fashion of the audience, and spiderwebs. This was the first time I didn’t have music for my performance, but the conversation of trees instead. It was a challenge. I spent the first 2 days fighting for music, but by the end of the 2nd day, friends assured me that not having music added a somewhat mystical value to my performance. I remembered that a lot of circus performances have begun to take place in total silence, and I accepted the challenge.

did get feedback that it would have been even more surreal had the trees stopped talking entirely while I performed. Personally, I have to agree. Total silence would have been nice. But towards the end of 5 days, I barely even heard them anymore.

I’ll let YOU decide, dear ayllu, and tell me what you think. Here is a video of my performance amongst slight raindrops, courtesy of My Special Man:

There’s a brilliant anecdote to this video.

This evening was was the very first time my man saw me perform live on the silks, so afterwards, I ran to hug him and hear all about it. I was so eager to hear his thoughts. “Did I scare you, in the end?” I asked excitedly, “When I dropped suddenly, did I scare you?”

“Oh, I knew you were always in control,” he bluffed.

“Seriously?” I was so annoyed with myself. “I didn’t scare you?”

“Well, the truth is…” he slowly began to admit, “I kinda missed the drop…”

“What? Why? What were you doing?”

You see, in the seconds before my final drop, my proud boyfriend had turned his back in order to take a selfie with his aerial girlfriend. . .

. . .When suddenly, the crowd shouted in surprise, and he turned, wondering: What? What did I miss??? 

The Selfie

The Selfie

This performance was not only my very first aerial performance in Scotland… It is also my goodbye to my red silks. Over the last 5 years, we’ve worked so well together: in short films, hanging from a 10 meter crane, teaching my very first students in Aberdeen how to fly… They are well over their retirement age and have certainly lost a lot of elasticity. Silks are usually used for 2-3 years; mine are over 5 years old. It is time to say goodbye to my darlings.

I think this was a more than worthy farewell.

During the performance, knowing that this will be the last time we work together, I became aware of how much I trust them. How I reach for them without looking, because I know they are where my hands expect them to be. Before every performance, I touch them gently, look up at their securing point and whisper Please take care of me. We’ll do this together. And they’ve never let me fall.

This is the most beautiful, heart-stopping view to me.

Photo 20-11-2014 00 44 06

Here are a few more images from the nights at Crathes Enchanted Castle:

Photo 21-11-2014 23 15 56

my favourite by Elsie Liontou


And favourites by Martin Parker:

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

Now I wasn’t too delighted at performing in the cold. If anything, most aspects of my life in Scotland revolve around The Art Of Not Feeling Cold. I arrived in Scotland complete with a UV light therapy gadget. My man has nicknamed me “the Firefighter” because of my winter fashion.

Other girls and me

The cold usually makes me very bad-tempered, unhappy and generally super bitchy.

Photo 21-11-2014 13 31 13

And if you’re wondering where I’m getting all these pictures from, check out this great page: 27 Things Girls Who Are Always Cold Know To Be True. Story of my life.

So I find it interesting that the one time I perform on the aerial silks in Scotland, it’s in the dead of winter. Barefoot. Or that the one time I decide to go to university, it’s in the north of Scotland. Etc etc ad infinitum.

You have to admit that Life really is throwing almost a lot of the things at me which I happen to despise the most. And yet, I’m enjoying my time in Scotland so much.

Life, in its Infinite Wisdom, is throwing the things at me that will challenge me the most. And thanks to that, I am learning.

Learning how to stay warm for 5 days and not get sick afterwards.

Finally buying thermal underwear so I don’t freeze.

Finding the strength within me to suck it up and perform barefoot.

Maybe living in a country that has four seasons (my main complaint) isn’t so bad for the value of the lessons I’m learning. Because after the 3rd night of performing, when it was windy and freezing, I heard myself say on the 4th night: “8 degrees? Wow, it’s warm!”

This is how we change.

Or maybe Life just has a sadistic sense of humour and loves picking on me. I prefer to believe the former!

Yes We Can!

We Can Do It!

Dear ayllu, in 2 weeks, we university students have our winter exams. After this, we’re away on our Christmas break and I will be able to blog more and tell you all about Qayqa. I skyped with Mark today, who is in Cologne, also performing, and we quickly discussed the last bits and pieces. I’ll keep you informed on the process.

Finally, I would like to leave you with a short clip I shot just for you, for this blog. I’ll explain: for 5 long nights, opera music was put in an endless 5-hour-long loop to accompany the hoola hoop fire performances. Pleasant as it was, it didn’t take very long to exhaust everyone’s eardrums. I once did the entire walk through the Enchanted Forest, looking at the lit-up trees, hearing the bizarre and spooky sound effects, and I commented to the sound technician: “If you took LSD then walked through that forest, it would the trip of your life!”

He joked back: “Then maybe on the last night we should have a rave!”

On the last night, after the audience had left, the gates had closed and everyone was taking down their stuff, he put on delicious trance beats that fit remarkably well to the projections on the castle. I just had to film it.

So here it is, from me to you, sending you love from Scotland.

What Other Artists Are Doing

5 Sep
urban pole at the International Potato Center

urban pole at the International Potato Center

Dear ayllu,

In a few days, I’ll be flying back to Scotland and from what I’ve heard from my friends, the welcoming parties for the new students are already starting in full swing. The day after I land, I will be running to registration offices… attending the Freshers’ Fair, where our Circus Society will be telling the newbies what we’re all about… spending the afternoon at Give-It-a-Go, in which we’ll perform and give sporadic trapeze & silks workshops on the university lawn… and see all my friends again after a 3 month summer break.

I’ve had such a great time blogging more often. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too! As always, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to blog once I’m back in Scotland, but I’m optimistic (as usual) that since I now know what university’s about, I’ll be able to balance it better.

Today is my last day at the International Potato Center. I’m just finishing up my work. The two videos I worked on have been shown at several conferences and the feedback was very good, especially for the project trailer. The minute it’s up on the CIP website / YouTube page, I’ll publish the link. It will best explain the project I’ve been a part of this past month.

with my supervisor Veronique and my fellow crazy intern Kathleen

with my supervisor Veronique and my fellow crazy intern Kathleen

So before I leave the country, I wanted to leave you with some videos of artists who have been influencing me, and who I have cast a firm and fascinated eye on. If you follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, then you’ll already know most of this, but I did want to dedicate a blog to what other artists are doing.

Firstly, with love from Scotland, the man who was supposed to follow his father’s footsteps and take over the local fish and chips shop:


Who knows where the audio track in the middle of the song is from? Here’s a clue:


Secondly, a short report introducing a fantastic new band and Grammy nominee, with love from Lima, Peru:

Visit their Official Website to know how you can get their music!


This is a fascinating film, based on a true story, that I cannot wait to see. It might be in your local indie cinema at the moment, so please rush to see it if you can.

I spent this week reading the following memoir and, because I am superstitious, I’m raced to finish it before my flight. It’s the true story of Juliane Koepke, who, when she was 17, became the sole survivor of a plane crash en route to the jungle city Pucalpa. She fought her way through the Amazon rainforest for 11 days with fractured bones, eventually finding her way out and discovering that everyone else, including her mother, had perished in the accident. Approximately 50 years later, she published her memoirs.

Juliane Koepke

Juliane Koepke

As “chance” will have it, her book has just been translated into Spanish and in a few days times, Juliane Koepke will be arriving and signing this book in Lima. I, unfortunately, will have left by then, so I urge everyone who will be here to go to the event, meet her, and get a copy of her book. It is very very good.

Here is the official invitation:


If you happen to not be in Peru, you can console yourself with an excellent documentary about Juliane’s survival by German director Werner Herzog, entitled Wings Of Hope. As “chance” would have it, he was desperately trying to get on that fated flight as well, as he was in the middle of finding Aguirre in the Peruvian Amazon. The flight, however, was overbooked, and he and his film team couldn’t get on.

Scoot up, I’m trying to watch this too:

Well, my friends, I have to get some work done before the day is through. I hope you enjoyed this first round of What Other Artists Are Doing. I’ll keep you informed on good art I discover along the way. Until then, I leave you with something I have been doing… with you… MY BLURB.

Thank you to everyone who gave me such excellent feedback; who wasn’t annoyed at me for bugging them about it. This is it. Unless I change something else.

You’re a fool if you think we work the fields! The fields work us!”

This foreboding riddle could have led Damian to be more careful with the Earth, but not much makes sense when you have knots growing out of your head. The young traveller works at a circus of flying people. He learns how to help others with magical plants, but neglects opening his own knots.

When Damian thoroughly loses what is left of his balance, he falls over the horizon. He wakes up to find himself in a desolate desert where the Earth sees him as a seed that refuses to grow. Only by striking a friendship with a charming but cheeky potato and learning to look the Earth in the eye, can Damian hope to open his knots and return to his side of the horizon.

Rooted in Peruvian mythology, Qayqa is a novel about the living energy of the universe, a fairytale about finding yourself.

Got thoughts on it? Let me know what you think!

Love, Ritti

Flying Over the Andes

28 Aug

Every manual for writers encourages us to write as much and as often as possible. The idea is to become familiar with your word flow, your inner thesaurus, and to become masters at describing the most mundane of elements in everyday life. When you can successfully describe the poetry in the mundane; when you can linguistically re-create scenarios everyone knows from daily life – then you are exercising your writing muscle. It’s an exercise I love doing, and that I don’t do enough.

This is what I wrote in my diary as we flew from Lima to Cusco. This is the view that inspired me.

These are quick thoughts from which more descriptions and metaphors can be born – completely work-in-progress!!!

Photo 21-08-2014 16 19 49

I can see the beginning of the Andes. The sirus clouds that cover the city of Lima reach only to their knees, like white wave lapping brown ruffles. They become minor, unimportant. It thrills me Such brown desolation, sharp cuts. No one lives here. On the horizon I see white peaks rise, white towers coming closer. How awed we all must feel when flying over Peru!

Photo 21-08-2014 16 24 23

Oh but the white is a crown for the brown mountains that made is so high. An act of distinction. A mutation of height.

And now the clouds that inhabit the space over these mountains begin to manifest. Thicker, they hang over the brown ruffles with a view to their lower cousins, the one who blanket Lima and lap at the knees of the brown ruffles. Solitary bodies, these thicker clouds cast large solitary shadows over the brown plateaus. How they must smile fondly at the Lima blankets, covering a world they neither see nor care about.

Photo 21-08-2014 16 29 36

The horizon becomes more jagged, interesting. The ruffles have now calmed into a plateau; the height has been conquered. These mountains now cover the world; their high plateau is no white base of the world, the point of origin from whence all life begins. And indeed, between the valleys, in every benign ridge, sparkles of rooftops appear. Brown tin, as though its inhabitants were camouflaging from fearsome sky predators.

Tired of plateaus, the mountains now rise again, resume their wild jagged nature. Their shapes are obviously restless, the existence as plateaus has obviously bored them. They rise to meet the clouds which now become tangled in them. They want another crown, another mark of distinction. Plateaus and valleys only served to become populated. No, they want to be wild again.

Photo 21-08-2014 16 51 05

And where they sink, they fall into the sirus clouds again, and it looks like that is where the world ends: the cliff over which mountains fall. They disappear into the grey-blue smog, over which thick solitary clouds hang as though patrolling, seeking the mountains that had fallen in.

Photo 21-08-2014 16 43 33

At the edge of the sunken world stand the mountains looking black. White tufts of clouds hang onto their sides like children afraid to venture. The horizon is empty again. There is a valley here where mountains do not belong, cannot exist. We leave it, turn to look at the rest of the world.

The mountains have matured. They are no longer light brown ruffles in the world but dark brown, almost black, serious creatures. They have reached new heights, have broken the hymen of clouds and are now peaked in white. Almost deadly, they stand adjoined in fraternity. They have survived the sunken world into which mountains fall, they have matured, and looking over the peaks of lower mountains, they see one another.

Photo 21-08-2014 16 52 49

I am so close to them, I can almost touch them. I don’t. Something must remain holy.

Photo 21-08-2014 16 53 56 (1)

The valleys widen now. What mountains the Incas crossed to found Cusco! How easily we fly over them today.

We are descending. I have written for almost an hour and a half. We are descending to the landing strip I know so well because I used to live close to it. I watched planes arrive and leave all the time and was happy I was only watching. Now I am landing myself and in a few days, I will take off again and return to descend into the blanket over Lima.

Photo 21-08-2014 16 31 22

that’s not wine; it’s chicha

About My Book:

For reasons I understand, Mark is now inspired to paint more for Qayqa. I think it’s the fact that the pressure is off his shoulders. Now that he’s illustrated what we agreed, he feels more relaxed and can start creating again. Ironic, no? He sent me a few illustrations today, like this one I didn’t understand myself at first – and I wrote the damn book! Mark knows my images better than I do.


I’ve been struggling with the damn blurb for almost a week now. I decided to break all expectations and rules and go with what I like. I published my work-in-progress blurb on my Tumblr and asked for feedback. You can also give me feedback here! Tell me, does this sound like something you want to take home with you?

“You’re a fool if you think we work the fields. The fields work us!”

This foreboding riddle could have led Damian to be more careful with the earth, but not much makes sense when you have knots growing out of your head. As a young man on the road he finds work at a circus of flying people, learns about medicinal plants from the Obeah cook Ti, but continues not understanding his knots.

When Damian completely loses his balance and falls over the horizon, he lands in a desolate world where the Earth sees him as a seed that refuses to grow. Only by striking up a friendship with a charming but cheeky potato, battling the demons living within the Earth and digesting a storm of ghosts, can Damian hope to open his knots and return to his side of the horizon.

Rooted in Peruvian mythology, Qayqa is a novel about the living energy of the universe, a fairytale about finding yourself.

Until we meet again, I hope you enjoyed the thought-jumbles from the plane.

always on a plane

always on a plane

Love, Ritti

Now Someone Has To Write the Blurb (and I Don’t Want That Someone To Be Me)

19 Aug

As I type this, I am listening to a fantastic soundtrack recently shared by a friend. She told me she is listening to this while she translates Qayqa into Spanish. I’ve added it so you can listen to it while you read!


Dear ayllu,

As you might have seen in my excited tweets, the basic formatting of Mark’s illustrations into my novel Qayqa is DONE. Is all the page numbering… the dedication… the “other books by the author”… as well as a very proud page that says THIS BOOK IS A CROWDFUNDING PROJECT. TO THE FOLLOWING I GIVE MY ENDLESS THANKS… And then your names.

I didn’t have all the names in my head so I went back to my StartNext page and went through every single supporter, re-read your comments and re-saw how much you supported my book project. Oh you guys… It was an incredible feeling writing all your names into the opening pages of Qayqa, seeing how much you BELIEVED in my baby. Thank you, again and again and again.

I spent the rest of the evening remembering the crowdfunding time. That was one of the most exhausting periods of my life. I don’t know how much I let it on at the time, but I felt like I was running from one exhausting, disheartening event to the next. I had no energy, no self-belief, and no more fucking desire to go through with it. I just wanted it all to end – and I felt so horribly ungrateful for thinking that because I had so many people writing me, believing in me and giving me such good advice – which only served to exhaust me more.

If I didn’t let it on that the time, it was because I thought I would seem ungrateful. So I’m admitting it now.

Photo 19-08-2014 15 09 39

my face today feels so clear and happy in comparison to the exhausting time I’m describing

I had a lot of help at the time. A pixie showed up to support me endlessly and regardless that we’ve since gone our separate ways, I will always be grateful to her for this. I also hired a Power Ranger to kick my ass into working. (Essentially she is my PR lady but we needed a nickname for her because power rangers like to hide their identities.) She did a great ass-kicking when I most wanted to give up. For this above all things, I recommend artists build a PR team when they’re about to publish.

At the time, I thought I would never want to do a crowdfunding project again. I can’t express how utterly exhausted I was. Every day was a battle and I couldn’t even blog a proper THANK YOU.

Now – I would do it again. I’ve learnt a lot and one of the things I most learnt was to keep at it with my GUT. People will have a lot of well-meaning advice, and mostly they’ll be right – but it has to be done according to what *I* feel is right. So now, if I do a crowdfunding project again, I will prepare myself for it as though I were going into battle.


Since Qayqa is now formatted, I turned her into a PDF and sent her to Mark. He is the visual artist, so he’ll give Qayqa an eye-over and we’ll get on Skype in a few days and discuss what he thinks of my layout.

Formatting his illustrations into my book were all about adding narrative dimensions. Sometimes other ways of looking at the world I’m describing… Or times added emotions. They’re not illustrations; they are dimensions Mark adds to my world.

I don’t know if you know what I mean?

small part 2Ochoa isn’t really running in that part of the book. In fact, this bit takes place under the earth and he is represented by one of his potato roots. This image, to me, just represents Ochoa’s playful, joyful nature. When Damian touches him and says: “There you are, my brother”, this image represents how Damian’s words must have made Ochoa feel.

At least that’s how I see it. I’m very curious to hear what you’ll say when you’re holding the book in your hands.

Which, by the way, is looking like this at the moment…! (It might still change.)

my book's skin

my book’s skin

What do you think?

As you can see, I’m hiding from the blurb! I’m reading all the do-it-yourself websites like this one, which make me feel like I’m doing self-therapy!!

The blurb and the author’s biography are scaring me the most. I don’t know what the hell to say! I might just write some nonsense that feels right to me, because it won’t be nonsense, it’ll be the thing I can most represent instead of the conventional author nonsense. A bit like Neil Gaiman’s: “One day I’ll get a real job. Until then, I’ll keep making up stories.” That feels more real and right than “Ritti Soncco was born in…” I think that’s the thing that gets me the most about blurbs or biographies: writing in 3rd person. Like we all don’t know exactly who is writing this!!

writers blockIn the meantime, I’ve reactivated a lot of tweeting and posting about Qayqa and I must confess I’m amazed at all the responses and interest I’m getting! Having time in Lima is really helping, as I thought / hoped it would. Lima is, after all, the place I wrote The Backpacker Poem and started its around-the world-project. Some places are best for extroverting (like Cusco); others are best for introverting (Lima). Know your geography!

I feel filled with energy now: to prepare Qayqa properly, slowly… to make Facebook pages… to tweet… all that jazz. Thinking about the crowdfunding time, I remember thinking I wasn’t cut out for the artist life because I couldn’t deal with it then. I sincerely thought I would never have energy again.

It took time – but it’s filling me up again.

I want to leave you with two brilliant videos I think you simply have to see. Two weeks ago, my pole fitness friends from Studio 202 (where I teach aerials and learn pole) participated in the Mister & Miss Pole Scotland 2014 competition – and they took 1st and 2nd place!!!

I simply need to share these stunning & touching videos with you. These are kind, sweethearted and generous people I train with often, who always took the time to teach me, to chat, to hang out. They taught me to do this:

handsprings // pole fitness

handsprings // pole fitness

I am proud to call them my friends, and so endlessly proud of their success!!!

Taking 2nd place for Mister Pole Scotland 2014: James Denholm!!!


And winning 1st Place for Mister Pole Scotland 2014:  Theo Robertson!!!


Now… To tackle that blurb…



The Making Of Of Qayqa

11 Aug

photo 2

Work at the institute is going well. I finished a rough cut of the final material and ran into the weekend feeling I had accomplished something. But the city of Lima is driving me nuts and with Peru being so large, it’s hard to get very far with only a weekend to escape. So I complain to friends who raise their eyebrows and snigger: “Ritti, that’s the life we’ve been having for years. It’s what life is like if you’ve got a normal job.”

I did not know that.

The most normal job I’ve had is working at regional television with spontaneous working hours… And cafes / bars. I’ve never done a 9-5. Currently I’m doing a 7:30-4:30 job. In Peru’s winter. What the hell was I thinking.


The Making Of… Of… Qayqa

Last week I requested on Twitter for people to send me questions about Qayqa and my life / work as a writer. The reason for this is that I’m currently preparing a Qayqa Making Of book: a side-project which is designed to keep me sane (and motivated) while I walk Qayqa through the last steps of her birth. I got some excellent questions from a friend and stayed up way past my working-hours-bedtime having fun answering them. I found them to be so insightful and delicious. Here are 3 that made me snigger with delight:

We know that your life at the circus inspired elements of Qayqa, such as the Flying People, but how did your work on Qayqa have an influence on your work as an aerial artist?

Are there elements of Qayqa that you wrote knowing they would give away a lot of yourself, and if so, how did you manage to trust your readers and your audience enough to open up to them like this?

Many people are looking forward to learn more about The Flying People, do you feel like the great interest of people on THEIR story is somehow betraying Damian’s journey and HIS story?

Insightful, ey?

Some people will be receiving the Making Of book as their reward for supporting the crowd funding project. I’m going to print a limited edition and sell the rest during my book tour. So grab ’em while they’re out!

Chatting with a friend in Lima, I mentioned that I couldn’t think of a good title for the book. “I can’t really call it: the making of of Qayqa, can I?” He stared at me and immediately gave me the best idea. It’s brilliant because it’s to short, explanatory… and references X Men. I love X Men. This is how much I love X Men:

at Universal Studios in 2008

at Universal Studios in 2008

at the "Days of Future Past" premiere in Aberdeen

at the “Days of Future Past” premiere in 2013

I’ll be calling the making of book QAYQA: ORIGINS.

Get it?


My friend was amazed that I hadn’t thought of it myself.

I’ve sent Mark some questions for the book as well. I’m hoping it will give you an insight into the thought processes, the stories, the coincidences that all came together to make my first novel. And perhaps a sneak-peak into Munay, the sequel.

I spent the weekend finding my ideal café where I could write and go over Mark’s illustrations.

by Mark Klawikowski

by Mark Klawikowski

I also wrote for Munay. I realised (again) that she is much more done than I had thought. I’m connecting her dots and it’s so much fun to re-read all the old sections I wrote, knowing where I was in my life at that time, and where I was traveling too.

While I was seeping through, I discovered a passage that I’m not so sure will stay in Munay any more. I wrote it in Cusco two years ago, after a lovers quarrel, and now I realise it’s out of place in Munay. I may change my mind, but until then, what to do with it?

Put it in the blog, I thought.



“How Women Argue” by Ritti Soncco 

Allow me to generalise without apology: the trouble is that women are not as accustomed to sidestepping, not as accustomed to waiting with the patience of cavaliers. We do not harbour as little judgment as men who seem born with the knowledge that we must accept what is given and never demand more because “woman are fundamentally different, my son”. Instead, we are creatures of passion whose cries of strength and cries of insecurity sound identical. Who want “everything is fine” to mean “stay here and talk to me because nothing is alright”.

And so we fall into the dilemma of being a woman. A dilemma we ourselves do not approve of. We do not want to stand in a corner overcrowded with clichés. We despise the confrontation of man versus woman; the one which ends with the evolutionary argument that we are fundamentally different. What rubbish. We prefer the school of thought “everything is only as complicated as you make it”. We insist that we are not complicated.

And so we find ourselves increasingly demanding a sphere of our own. Why should the ionosphere be as unarguable as this and have all the fun? Where is our world where the rules of gravity and air agree that we are in the right? One sphere to call our own, into which the world can enter and understand what we meant when we said _______________; understand why we needed that hug to last longer or those extra words of praise. Understand that we weren’t being needy, we weren’t feeding a cliché; we will not be branded and used as an example of Venus.

Breathe the air of our sphere and you’ll know how a woman feels. Fly around in our wind and you’ll understand why we fall so hard in love, why it makes us feel insecure, perfect, insufficient, and divine. I tell you if we could have a sphere of our own we would never be cornered with clichés again. We’d be an aerial fact, something to be measured. Rational minds would agree on the degrees of feminine passion, the knots of feminine insecurity and the average speed of feminine stability.

Was my anger in our last fight a moderate gale or a deep depression? I meant it to scatter the clouds but I fear it called forth a storm instead. In my passion, as analysed by the Beaufort Scale and therefore measured by observed conditions on land or sea (you choose), we are now flying over the India of my love and experiencing a moderate tropical storm. According to the anemometers this is the average wind speed for a monsoon. You know what to do.

A sphere for our emotional weather, where women can remain as understandable and elusive as the clouds of every other sphere.


If you have any questions you would like me to include in QAYQA: ORIGINS (snigger), write me! I’m here for ya.

“Your Children Are Not Your Children”

5 Aug


Books, my ayllu, are fascinating creatures. How many of us know the phenomenon of buying a book only to not be able to read it? It’s as though it just won’t open itself up to us. And years later, having perhaps learnt new things and changed, suddenly, the book we had forgotten all about will suddenly attract us from the bookshelf, and we devour it within days.

This quite importantly happened to me when I bought The Prophet by Khalil Gibran in Lebanon. I was there visiting friends, who, as part of my short tour of Lebanon, took me to see his house. I was 16 and had no concept of Gibran. I bought the book because I loved his house and his paintings, and I felt buying the book was something I should do whilst in Lebanon. Yet that book kept me no company during my wait at Beirut Airport. I was bored to tears with it; I simply couldn’t access it. Then, when I was 20, it suddenly shone on the bookshelf. I took it down and inhaled it. I recommend it to everyone. I try to live by it. Seriously, if you don’t have it, get it right now. Your bookshelf – your life – needs it:

Click here if you’re in the UK.

Click here if you’re in Germany.


So in a way, it should barely have surprised me that Qayqa is doing what she’s doing. And I can only thank you all for being so amazingly understanding. I was in Germany for 3 days and I want to say THANK YOU to the people I bumped into who were so supportive about Qayqa‘s book tour being postponed.

The greatest thing I was told was:

Don’t worry about anything. You just organise the tour and whenever it happens, I’ll be there. You don’t even have to tell me when & where: that’s MY part.

It’s amazing you should feel that way!!!

Qayqa, perhaps, is like a wine that matures with time. Or perhaps she’s just a little bitch. Sometimes I feel like I’m dragging a heavy horse up the Andes, and I don’t understand why I feel that way. I think of Emily Dickinson who, after a few publication rejections, stuffed her poems into her cupboard. (They weren’t discovered and subsequently celebrated until after her death.) Am I doing the same thing?

Or is a book-pregnancy just a big big birth to give?

Is Qayqa also biding her time to open up to me?

Equally, as most of you will know, I have been working on the sequel, Munay, for over two years now. I have had the skeleton of the story in my mind since her initial conception, but it was connecting the dots that proved the hardest. I know where the main character, Anahata, has to go, but I don’t know how to get her there. And no amount of living my life, reading books or speaking about it to people was helping.

Yesterday I finished reading –

by Stephan Talty

(a fun historical read; I recommend it)

– and suddenly it all made sense. I needed to make Anahata crawl through the earth and now I finally know how to get her down there. As always, it’s a question of wind. So thank you, Stephan Talty, for including 17th century philosophies on the origins of earthquakes in your excellent book. I now know how to connect the final dots in Munay and perhaps even finish her. After waiting 2 years, my own book opened up to me.

I am the mother of two. Qayqa, who I am trying to wobble into the world, and Munay, who is expanding in my belly. I have flushes of excitement with Munay – and I am terribly afraid and nervous with Qayqa. That’s just how it is to give birth, I suppose.



Centro Internacional de la Papa

Centro Internacional de la Papa

So I am in Peru now, working on an anthropological-film internship. I have been hired by the International Potato Center in Lima-Peru, who is working, among others, in collaboration with the HoPe Foundation and Chirapaq Ñan on a project they have loving called the Las Papitas de mi Comunidad (the Little Potatoes in my Community). Together with several NGOs in the Andes, they have collected a vast array of film material about potatoes. Yes!

The material includes myths, rituals, songs about potatoes, as well as potato diseases, cooking methods and Andean agricultural farming methods. I have been given all this material and am now spending my hours at the institute going through it all to familiarise myself with it. My job will be to edit it into a series of trailers for a DVD. Teachers in the Andes will then be given this DVD / USB to reinforce their teaching in Andean communities.

at the office

at the office

I will, of course, show you the trailer once it’s done so that you can observe what I’ve been up to. In the mean time here are some pictures around my working space.

potato art around the institute

potato art around the institute

expansion routes

potato expansion routes

different types of potatoes

different types of potatoes

So far it’s incredible to be here. The working atmosphere is relaxed, so friendly, and everyone has been kind and welcoming. The institute emphasises the importance of sports, so there is a volleyball and a football court, as well as a gym with table tennis and zoomba possibilities. During my coffee break, I walk around the greenhouses, press my nose against the panes and ask the scientists inside to tell me about their plant experiments.

I am using the fact that I’m on holiday to read as much as possible. Today marks my first week of being in Lima. Once my routine has set and I’ve kicked my jetlag, I will continue sorting Qayqa out.

I’m still living 3 lives: the writer, the anthropology student, the aerialist. That’s just how it’s going to be from now on, because I could not imagine giving any of those lives up.

If books come to readers at the right time in their lives – when you need them the most, when you are ready for them – perhaps that means they didn’t leave the writer until it was the right time either. Perhaps.




“In the Long & Grand Narrative of Your Life”

15 Jul

I have not been happy about the post I have to write, so I went did a very human thing: I pulled the covers over my head and ignored the world for a bit. I know it’s a shit thing to do when YOU are out there, possibly waiting, possible wondering what’s going on, and I hope you will understand that I crawled into a little hole for a bit.

Dearest ayllu, we have to postphone the book tour. This is the story about WHY.

After posting my book tour video, so many of you got in touch and invited me over. There was beautiful, exciting enthusiasm in the air. Mark was painting his hand off to complete the last suggestions on the cover. Everything was going very well.

Then I drew up a basic plan for my tour and realised how mad it was.

photo 1

But hey, it always was. I figured I could sleep on night trains and, dizzy as the tour may make me, at the end of the day: who cares? I’ll sleep on the plane. I’ll rest when I’m dead.

Everything was coming together, so I called my Book Printing Company Of Choice (where I also had Overripe Fruits printed) to ensure that everything would go according to plan. And this is where I met my iceberg.

The lady on the phone told me that the Printing Company had received an extraordinary amount of commissions that month that they could not guarantee meeting their own printing deadlines. “You’ll be lucky to have your books in 15 days,” she said, “but if I were you, I’d count on 20 days.”

This, of course, would not leave me with enough time to do the entire book tour as I wanted. I went back to my drawing board and desperately started moving cities around. And I started doing this:


And I hated it.

My vow has always been that if you want me to come, I will do everything humanly possible to come. How can I justify leaving someone out?! How can I look someone in the face and say: “No, I’m not coming to see you”?! I don’t care how tiny the village is; how obscure or difficult to get to. If you want me to come, I’ll be there.

In art, a living room performance is never worth less than a stage performance. At least not on my f*ing planet.

So then, Ritti, what the hell are you going to do. Well, I took to the bed for a few days and pretended not to feel the iceberg. In fact, a while back a circus friend shared this fantastic image with me, which I think is incredibly fitting for this and all art-related situations:

(and a friend just commented: "I don't think the sub-surface part is big enough")

(and a friend just commented: “I don’t think the sub-surface part is big enough”)

I felt humiliation, anger, shame, embarrassment. How could I face any of you now? Even though this an be counted as a force majeur, I felt as though it were an account of my personal failure. I was failing to get my own book tour organised on time. I was losing credibility. I was so ashamed.

I cautiously tweeted something to the world, letting them know I had hit a rock. And, in the ways in which social media likes to play Jesus, a writer friend replied:

It’ll happen eventually, and by the time it does it will be better! Don’t worry about that. In the long run and the grand narrative of your life, this means nothing.

We wrote back & forth, me spilling all my woes, and he continued to comfort me and minimalise my extreme worries and fears.

photo 2

In an ironic turn of emotions, I asked myself: “Dare I hope this?”

So I shook the covers off and began consulting with some friends. I received a few suggestions (“do one half of the tour now and the other half later”, “do the tour without the books and take pre-orders”, “go only to big cities”, etc) and thought them through carefully, and the best alternative I could find was to POSTPHONE THE BOOK TOUR.

Again: How can I justify restricting myself to certain cities and not going to see as many of you as possible?! Or how can I justify that some of you get Qayqa now while others have to wait? Pre-orders just aren’t ideal. In the words of the great Hunter S Thompson:

If there’s something worth doing, it’s worth doing it right.

So I am back at my desk, planning. I have more time to shift illustrations around the digital Qayqa  platform. Generally speaking, I have more time. I can’t say I’m upset about that. I was starting to feel incredibly rushed, and this is, after all, my first novel. I want to do this right.

I want to thank everyone who was enthusiastic & messaging me about the tour; who was inviting friends & buying chips & organising everything. I know who you are and I’m looking right at you saying THANK YOU. I apologise for any inconvenience. I will come to read for you, this is a vow. Thank you for supporting me and for continuing to believe in me. You have always been my ayllu.

To my critics out there: If you think you can do it better, do it. I’ll be happy to learn from you.

And suddenly I’m starting to feel a lot stronger. I just listened to Björk’s Cover Me a few times. From where I placed it, it was about hiding. From now, towards the end of this post, I’m focussing on this sentence: “I’m going to prove the impossible really exists.”

By the way…

"Qayqa" by Ritti Soncco. Cover by Mark Klawikowski

“Qayqa” by Ritti Soncco. Cover by Mark Klawikowski

So I was thinking of doing the tour in December . December is good because that’s when I have university holidays and you might want to get Qayqa as a Christmas present. It’s bad because it is far far away (how can I justify telling y’all to wait another 5 months?) and (as has been pointed out to me) will be busy enough as is. Running around, getting your Christmas shopping done; so many extra-curricular events to attend to…

I thought about September. It’s sooner; you’re all back from your holidays but still looking for reasons to dream; still wanting to relax, close your eyes and listen to me read instead of going to the office…

What do you think???

If we decide on September, I need to have a good & careful think about how I’m going to do it because my university starts up then. I will try to bend things so I don’t miss (many) classes.

Let’s be in touch.