Evolutions

7 Apr

Since I returned to Europe, I cannot count the amount of times I have heard people saying: “I really have to figure things out. They can’t go on the way they have been. I need to think about how I want my life to be, and change some things.”

Everyone seems to be in an era of transition – one in which I also find myself, and that’s made it quite difficult to write about. I’m not entirely sure where to begin…

I came back and found people in Europe changing their consciousness, their lifestyle and diets, and how they perceive the future. “Nothing is going to be the same,” they say. “Life as we have known it is of the past. The future is going to have a different structure.

Sounded like typical eye-rolling hippie-talk until I started hearing it from all the unexpected places: serious, conformist, banker-type people. Whether they were saying it about their love lives, their jobs or their consciousness: they were all saying the same thing at the same time. I wish I had demanded a penny for every time I heard it. Europe’s in a stage of change.

(I placed this picture here to make the amount of text less daunting)

As for me: I’ve been on the road a lot. Actually, I’ve been on the road all month! Five days after returning to Germany, I found myself walking off with a backpack again. I took circus classes near Stuttgart, spent a week visiting friends and writing in cafés in London, and gave a reading of my book The Double Closet in Berlin.

Exciting as it all sounds, it’s actually more exciting when it’s happening to someone else. When it happened to me, I felt a bit mad, like I had caught some kind of unshakeable Backpacker Bug… The Jack Kerouac Virus, the “On the Road” Disease. Does it rub off, do you think? Do we infect each other on the road, with our easygoing smiles and fantastic tales of the Great Beyond; and when we come home, do we wonder what to do with an apartment full of stuff and decide: “What the hell, I’m going to sell everything and not stop backpacking!”

the backpack taking the tube in Berlin

I haven’t sold everything (yet). There’s a flea market at the Universum Center Project in Ulm on Saturday the 14th April, and I’m considering taking some things there… The Universum Center Project, by the way, is a very exciting artistic intervention at the Universum Center building (by the Ehinger Tor), that was organised by creative & energetic friends. It has ongoing events all month, including discussions, films, concerts and Mark’s giant robot. For more info, here’s the website: http://universum-center.de

Südwest Presse report on the Universum Center Project (in German)

To the writer, my week in London was inspiring because I exchanged experiences, fears and dreams with young artists and actors who are slowly but surely making their way. We agreed that, at the end of the day, your worst enemy is you. Getting over your fear and sending your manuscripts out. Getting over your shyness and talking about your work. (It took me a whole week to get my book Overripe Fruits out of my handbag and pass it around. It was looked over with great interest and praised, but when they discovered I had been carrying it around for a week, I was given a talking to: “This is the problem, introverted artists need to learn to speak!”)

By the end of the week the conversations with the young artists / actors had motivated me. They made me think: “If they can do it, so can I.”

just to prove I was in England

Visiting the place where potatoes were first planted in England: in beautiful Kenilworth! As a Peruvian, this is the kind of thing that makes me excited

One of the young actors invited me to visit him on the set of a BBC series he’s acting in. Coming from the good ol’ media design background, I don’t know what excited me more: seeing their film equipment, the fancy film cameras and giant ARRI lights, walking through the amazing 1950s set designs, or getting star-struck over the actors.

Here’s a fun anecdote: on the tour, we bumped into a rather well-known actor. I turned and saw him, and gave him a big hug and a sloppy kiss on the cheek, crooning: “Oh hi, so good to see you!” The minute I said it I realised my mistake: this poor man had no idea who I was, we had never met before, and here was this strange girl hugging and kissing him… It wasn’t until later that I understood why I had behaved as though I was greeting an old friend: I’ve seen this man in so many films that he seemed very familiar, and in the moment I saw him, my brain recognised his face, and sent the impulse: familiar face = he must be a friend = give him a big hug. There’s the latina impulse for you…

a corner of the film set

typewriter, of course, with prop 1950s cigarette

And of course, on set, all I did was mumble:

“So you’re visiting? Are you actress?”

“No, I’m a writer.”

“Oh! How exciting! What’s your book about?”

“Oh, um, well… It’s about… It’s magic realism. Fantasy. But no elves. Like in the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Are you familiar with his work? His books are brilliant, you should give them a read…”

And then I go on a rant about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and no one ever finds out about QayqaI’ve decided that what I need is a quick way to explain my novel. Because if I start telling the story: “Well it’s about a young man with knots growing out of his head and one day he joins a travelling circus of people who can really fly and then he falls over the horizon and finds a potato in his pocket and the earth has a consciousness and is watching him-” people either get confused or start staring absent-mindedly at something far away. I need a one-liner that captures their interest and gets them to ask questions. Something like: “It’s about a young man trying to find himself”. We can all work with that. But we know I’m awful when it comes to advertising my work. Hell, it’s why I started this BLOG.

Last week, I read my other novel, The Double Closet, at the Lesbenberatung in Berlin.

Reading “The Double Closet” in Berlin

Before I go on, I must first explain a few things: The Double Closet treats the theme of violence in relationships. In 20 short chapters it depicts the anatomy of mental and physical abuse in a relationship – but in each chapter, the narrative voice changes. In some chapters it is the victim speaking; in others, it is the perpetrator. As a writer, I found this to be a very challenging but honest depiction of violence in a relationship: how it first enters, how it grows, and how both sides become accustomed to it. As a writer, it was exciting to have a changing first-person narrator, because this smudges the black-or-white. We hear the perpetrator speaking as honestly as the victim, and sometimes, we can’t tell them apart. It shows that it’s not as simple as we all think. Domestic violence is a very complex, intricate thing in which you cannot say: “you’re stupid for not leaving” or “that would never happen to me”. It changes everything – and what actually happens behind closed doors is what I wanted to show in The Double Closet.

That’s all as a writer. As a woman, I find this topic to be of utmost importance because I experienced violence in a past relationship and writing The Double Closet was my way of learning to understand how this happened to me; of overcoming it and letting it go. I am a proud bisexual; The Double Closet tells the story of violence in a homosexual relationship. (This also adds to the narrative confusion: it’s harder to tell victim and perpetrator apart when the voices speaking are both of the same gender.) But it just as equally suits heterosexual relationships: the fabric of violence remains the same.

Because I’m secretly an activist in my writing, I realised that The Double Closet has the potential to make the issues behind domestic violence visible, understandable, less foreign – and help victims to speak about their experiences. I decided I want the book to go to the organisations dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse. To help others speak out about it, to realise that what they’re going through isn’t that foreign; that they’re not the only ones.

The publisher Klemm & Oelschläger expressed interest in publishing the book, but because it’s such a controversial subject, they said a third-sponsoring-party would be needed to cover the “risk factor”. So I spent a fair amount of time telling organisations about the book. I received overwhelmingly positive feedback from places such as Terre des Femmes, Frauen Helfen Frauen, Weißer Ring and the German Ministry for Families, Women and Adolescents. All expressed great interest in the book once published – but unfortunately, their sponsoring guidelines forbid them to give financial support to a project from which someone else will make a profit. So everyone wants the book but no one can finance it.

And that, boys and girls, is the loophole I fell into.

But I made great contacts; organisations dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse now know of my book; Terre des Femmes wants to publish a book review in their international newsletter (hurray!) and the Lesbenberatung Berlin summoned me to Berlin for a reading.

It was a good reading, if poorly visited – but if there’s one thing I learnt it’s to never be ungrateful about the number of people sitting in the audience. This is the mantra: each performance is a learning experience; a true artist will perform even for one person.

The reading also helped me with a dilemma I’d been having: I’ve written two books, Qayqa and The Double Closet, and I am currently working on the third, Munay. The first two need to be sent out to a publisher – and the billion dollar question is: which one first?

I believe in The Double Closet‘s ability to help people, but while reading it, ever-critical, I discovered things I’m not impressed with and need to go back and edit. There is still room for growth. I think Qayqa is ready. She’s a wild little robber’s daughter; I love watching her bewitch and I love the conversations that follow.

Some time last week in Ulm, Mark spontaneously got me talking about the writing process of Qayqa and Munay. Coincidentally, he also had a camera in his hand and filmed the conversation. You’ll see that it’s not that I don’t like talking about my work; there’s nothing I love more when I realise there’s genuine interest. In the videos, I give an all-round summary of both novels; speak about what inspires me, my relationship to the characters; and what I have learnt from being a writer. I hope you enjoy the mental fruit…

 

Thank you!

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5 Responses to “Evolutions”

  1. Marta April 7, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    Ritti I honestly can’t wait to read Qayqa!! It sounds exactly like the type of stories I ADORE reading!! Good luck with all your other projects too, I’m always amazed at the amount of things you are always doing!! Big hug!!

  2. Marta April 7, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    Oh Gosh and Munay too!! Lol!! Sorry, posted the previous comment before watching the second video!! 🙂
    Honestly Ritti, CAN’T WAIT TO READ THEM!!

  3. Gerhard April 7, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    Dear Ritti, thank you and Mark so much for the mental fruits of Qayqa and Munay. It`s an excellent way to understand you and your novels. I realize that you are so close connected with your characters. It fascinates me and proves the brilliant minds of yours where you connect your fantasy, your dreams, the magic, nature and your real experiences in life to wonderful novels that you share with us. The videos are giving lots of inspiration and reflection but I guess I will need some time to digest it. I will going to watch it more than once…By the way, the locations you choose for pictures or videos are a selection of great places (Cusco, Machu Pichu, in front of Ulmer Münster). Quite contrary and all beautiful.
    Thanks for this blog. It has given so far and will give a lot to the readers (like me) that want to understand and follow you. Keep on publishing. Gerhard

  4. friedrich glorian April 7, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    great, woderful, ritti…

  5. pl April 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    cooles titelbild

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