In The Middle of Blogging, I Became Sentimental

6 Dec


I recently developed “Weekends”. I’m off tomorrow to Berlin for the weekend, where I am meeting up with backpacker friends. Yes: people I met on the road in Perú and Nicaragua, who coincidentally either just flew into Berlin… or live in Berlin. We’re meeting up this weekend to have an “off the road” reunion, and I am terribly excited.

I never used to have Weekends so this is a big deal for me. If you’re an independent artist, then Weekends is a luxury you can’t normally afford. I give circus lessons, I edit film material, I respond to emails, I pay my taxes, and somehow, that’s a week. Didn’t I want to finish Munay? When will that happen?

As you know, last week, Mark and I began our collaboration on illustrating my first novel Qayqa. I asked him how he felt about keeping a vlog on our work progress, and he immediately agreed. We set up a small studio in his living room and have been filming our brainstorming, conversations, laughter and disagreements. I want to give you a full insight into the way we’re creating the illustrations, and how we work together.


Unfortunately, while we were setting up the impromptu film studio, something rather unfortunate happened. The light bulb in his living room as some kind of connection problem and it won’t turn on. In fact, it has never worked. So Mark installed a lamp with a motion detector. I don’t know why he decided the lamp needed a motion detector. He says it’s practical.

I think it’s silly, because we do our work sitting down and barely moving, and this lamp kept turning itself off. Waving at it wouldn’t turn it back on. You had to get up and hop across the living room for anything to happen.

Thinking that this would ruin our vlog, I spotted a theater spotlight in the corner and plugged it in.

I didn’t notice that Mark’s vacuum cleaner was lying on top of the theater spotlight.

No… I didn’t notice.


Mark complained that whenever I come over, I always set something on fire. Or I’m always involved. When we first saw each other after my return from Perú, he offered me a cup of tea. After placing the pot on the stove, we talked for an hour and he forgot the pot on the stove. The water boiled until it had evaporated, and all that was left to boil was the pot itself. By the time Mark remembered the pot… the handle of the lid had melted clean off.

Has anyone got a spare vacuum cleaner hose?

Eventually, we got around to working.


The way we worked was that Mark would ask basic questions about the world Qayqa is set in. Simple things like “do they have electricity” or “where are the flying people from”. Some questions I could easily answer, thanks to the fact that I am currently working on Munay, the sequel. In writing Munay, I am diving deeper into the world and thinking about more things that I only scratched the surface of in Qayqa. I am able to answer Mark’s questions to greater length and depth –

– or sometimes not at all. Quite often, I found myself stuttering: “Oh, I never thought about that…” That happened when Mark asked me if Damian, the main character, arrives at the circus carrying a bag.

I guess he should carry a bag. He’s running away with the circus, after all. But I realised that I don’t want him to carry a bag. The reason why… is on the vlog.


Mark and I have never worked in this constellation before. In the past 3 years, we have been co-scriptwriters and co-directors. Four years ago, he created the illustrations to my collection of short stories Overripe Fruits, but he did that independently and surprised me every day with a new “plant person”.

After The Tailorettes of Ulm, I was exhausted, and couldn’t imagine ever collaborating with anyone ever again. Mark was bursting at the seams with ideas and energy, but all his energy only made me want to lie down on the carpet and be spoon-fed for a year. I thought I’d never make a film again. I thought I’d never have the energy for another art project again.

So I ran away to Perú for a total of 7 months this year. I needed a break. I needed to fill my head up with something other than art. I needed to see what was left of my artistic side after almost a year without art.

So I backpacked for 7 months from Perú to Nicaragua… And I made the Backpacker Poem, with video collaborations from Canada to Guatemala. When I returned, I found I had more energy. I had plans for illustrations, for self-publication, and for a book tour in spring 2013.

Whatever troubles Mark and I have been through in the past, sitting down with him on a sofa to draw feels very much like going back to the roots. Drawing is where we began. When I met him 5 years ago, he was primarily a painter and sculptor. It wasn’t until we collaborated that he became a serious filmmaker. And now, after trials and tribulations, we’re going back to our artistic roots: I’m a writer, you’re a painter. Let’s work.

And we’re having fun.



We’ve only just begun and we have a very long road ahead of us. Mark hopes to get the majority of the illustrations done by February. He has a lot of upcoming performances with his Kasperltheater, and we’re being strict about Weekends.

We don’t work on Weekends.

It’s a luxury I feel guilty having.

Can artists afford to not work? Can we afford to dash off and spend our money on Weekends, women and booze? Now I’m giving this new and radical philosophy a chance. And it’s reminding me that I’m more than “just” an artist. I’m a “fun person”, too. I come back on Mondays feeling more excited to do my work… but I come back and face a mountain of work that just didn’t get smaller while I was gone.

Thinking of this mountain, I sat down today and edited the FIRST VLOG of the “Illustrations for Qayqa” Documentary! And now, I’ll present it. I hope you enjoy it! This is the first time either one of us is keeping a vlog to document our creative process, so if there’s something that YOU as a viewer would like to see / know, that I didn’t show, then TELL ME. If you have any questions to this vlog, just write them and I promise to answer them next time.

If you have problems with it, watch it on Vimeo here.

I realised that working on illustrations for your book is an excellent way to deduce if your character is sufficiently developed. It’s not until you can answer questions like “does he smoke” and “does he carry a bag” that you truly know your character. So, Creative Writing Club in Eindhoven, perhaps you need to start drawing your characters…? I think it’s an interesting tool for character development!

If you want to look at the final sketch in greater detail, here it is again:

the first sketch of Damian, by Mark Klawikowski

the first sketch of Damian, by Mark Klawikowski

Mark created Damian exactly the way I imagined him to be. This is, ofcourse, simply a preliminary sketch done on Monday. By Wednesday, the first illustration for Qayqa was complete, and in it, Damian has already developed more dimensions and intensity.

I never had a shadow of a doubt that Mark knew exactly what I wanted – that Mark shared my vision. You’ll see, in the upcoming vlogs, my uncontrollable glee and excitement, as our work takes shape and more illustrations are born.

So much, dear ayllu, has happened this year, and I’ve been thinking of two things:

  1. Give a public reading as soon as possible. Mark and I are discussing the possibilities of my giving a reading combined with a small exhibition of the illustrations thus far. This would provide us both with the opportunity to talk to you directly about the work we’re doing, and not just via the blog.
  2. Last month, I asked a journalist friend of mine if he’d be interested in doing a small “Access All Areas” interview with me. I feel that the last few years have flown by and I would welcome the opportunity to sit down quietly with a cup of tea and calmly collect my thoughts and memories on all the work I / we have done. As a way to close the chapter, tie up all loose ends, and look toward the future with a clear head. I had the idea that perhaps YOU might have a question or two that you’d like to pose… So if you think this “Access All Areas” interview is something you might enjoy, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

One of the many things I want to talk about is my collaborations with Mark Klawikowski. For a while now, he’s been toying with the idea of publishing a book about his work, with illustrations, comics, and photographs of his sculptures. He asked me if I would write a short introduction, something concise about how I perceive his work. I said I’d be delighted to, and have been jotting down ideas ever since.

Over the years, our collaborations have been exciting, with infinite possibilities, and exhausting. When we separated at the beginning of the year, it was unclear if we would continue working together … for about one minute.

Concerning Qayqa: technically, we could take all the time in the world to illustrate Qayqa. I spoke to him about this recently and said: “If this collaboration is too intense and difficult, we can always take a month or two off, until things ease up and we feel better about working together.” He thought about it and replied: “No. Working together is too much fun. Let’s do this now.”

It was an amazing response.

a screenshot from next week's vlog

a screenshot from next week’s vlog

I want to finish this post here, but… Whenever I write a blog, I feel like there is so much more that I want to say to you. Like this:

Last weekend, I hitchhiked towards Cologne and everyone who took me, spoke to me about love. They said: “You’re a hitchhiker and I’ll never see you again, so I can tell you all these secrets.” It was beautiful getting to know the other people I share this planet with, and for one hour, to sit in their cars and hear their stories. They told me about their families, their sheep farms, their lovers and their worries. They asked me my opinion. I told them about my life. When they dropped me off at the next gas station, we exchanged email addresses and agreed to stay in touch.

my backpack & I at Schloss Montabaur

my backpack & I at Schloss Montabaur

Tonight, I was invited to the annual Christmas feast with my ex-collegues from the SWR Television and Radio. I became very nostalgic and told them all my memories of working with them; memories which made them giggle. I went home thinking: the people I just had dinner with represent one of the greatest eras of my life. I enjoyed working with SWR very much and I am so happy that I can not only look back fondly, but that I can still stroll into the broadcasting studio anytime, sit in the editing rooms and chat with the technicians and journalists about their day.

Here is a picture from tonight with my old boss, Andrea Osswald:

Ritti Soncco & Andrea Osswald from Film- und Fernsehproduktion Osswald

Ritti Soncco & Andrea Osswald from Film- und Fernsehproduktion Osswald

What I’m trying to say is that I am grateful. For Mark, whose belongings I set on fire, and who still wants to work with me. For the strangers who agreed to take a skinny girl with a large backpack into their car and granted me a rare insight into their lives. For my old colleagues who welcome me, tease me and gossip with me like they always did.

For all the new people who have come into my life, and the special wonderful people who I’ll see this weekend.

For the people who read my blog.

One day, I’ll write a depressed blog post. One day I’ll publish a dark “Things I’m Afraid To Tell You” post. But not tonight. Tonight, I’m going to publish this and then pack my backpack for Berlin.

Good night.

Thank you for being out there and for reading me again & again & again.

me tonight


4 Responses to “In The Middle of Blogging, I Became Sentimental”

  1. Najeeb December 7, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    Till Berlin…

  2. Gerhard December 15, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Hi Ritti,
    if you`re going to make the “Access all areas” interview, I would enjoy it to come up with one or two questions. Just let me know.


    • rittisoncco December 15, 2012 at 11:23 am #

      Excellent, thank you! I will definitely let you know.

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