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My Book Tour

9 Jun
photo 2

trees on the way up the Bennachie

Dearest ayllu,

Summer is here and my first year of university in Aberdeen is over. It is warm and beautiful in Scotland, in 12 days I will turn 30 years old, and this is the “joie de vivre” music I am listening to as I write this. So if you want the full experience, turn it up and continue to read!

 

University has been beautiful to me but I really felt the end of it: the first morning that exams were over, I wore flamboyant clothes, make-up and earrings, caught myself in the mirror and thought: The artist is back. 

Some of my friends had a different way of celebrating.

swimming in the North Sea!

swimming in the North Sea!

By now, most of my friends have left Scotland and gone back to their countries. Of my  five flatmates, only Chinchin and I are left, so whenever we bump into each other in the corridor, we celebrate it.

Shortly before the majority of my Acrobats & Aerialists left for the summer, they surprised me with a THANK YOU bottle of champagne and card for founding our beautiful group, and a pre-birthday surprise!

photo 3

photo

People have been asking how I feel about turning 30, and my standard reply has been, “I think it’s a great idea.” I really couldn’t be more pleased. 30 sounds like an exciting but calm age; I feel less like (to use Doris Lessing’s words) “an awkwardly put-together parcel” and more like ME – that enigma I have been trying to figure out. Reaching 30, I feel as thought I finally understand the coat I am wearing. Like I know its moth-eaten holes, which buttons are wobbly, why it sometimes seems of cigarettes and booze, and how snug it feels when I wrap it over myself and head out into the sun.

photo 3

climbing Bennachie on Saturday

 

THE COVER OF “QAYQA”

As I prepare to travel down to Germany, I am of course preparing my NOVEL Qayqa for publication. Mark and I have been abusing Skype and Dropbox as we try to meet our deadlines. Last week I received an email with a beautiful attachment: the almost-finished cover. This was followed by 3 emails: “Well? Give me feedback! Hello? I need your feedback! Are you there? Tell me what you think!” So we skyped, chatted about this & that, and I almost cried because of the details he thought to include.

Photo 02-06-2014 12 57 38

yes, I document *everything*

Can you spot them? Can you see how well he knows me?

the cover for my first novel QAYQA by Mark Klawikowski

the cover for my first novel QAYQA by Mark Klawikowski

Now it’s not done yet: Damian is missing some hair… as you may have noticed! It’s only the main part of the bloody book… Hah. I wrote a book about hair. Typical.

What surprised the hell out of me is that it looks very much like the African childrens’ books I used to read when I was small in Nigeria. It has the same organic, magical, colourful feel. How amazing is it to have someone else paint a cover for a book I wrote that looks just like the books that inspired me as a child to write this very book in the first place.

The one thing we couldn’t quite decide on is: should the title QAYQA be left against a white background – or should it be surrounded by tree leaves? What do YOU think? Please write me!! I need your advice:  rittisoncco@gmail.com or @rittisoncco (tweet, tweet) or facebook.com/rittisoncco or COMMENT at the end of the post!

book hangover

 

 

HOW TO ORAGNISE a BOOK TOUR

This. Is. It. We are finally doing this, querido ayllu!! And here is the idea I have:

We are a community. We are making Qayqa‘s publication possible through crowdfunding. I would not be here without you. If I were a musician, I’d love to sell you my cassettes out of the back of my car. But I’m not a musician. So my plan is this.

I will come to you.

Wherever you are. You can book me.

I will read for you.

All you have to do for this to happen, is this:

  1. Write me before the 21st June (if you include a small Happy Birthday! it’ll make me smile)
  2. Tell me where you are / want me to come to. I will come to your living room, local pub, favourite café, community center, etc.
  3. Tell me when would be best for you – give me a few possible dates so that we can make this work. I am available for you all of July.
  4. Tell all your friends. Organise a little party in your living room, your pub / café / community center. Get everyone to come round, have a few drinks, some snacks, and we will begin. I can perform for up to 2 hours and a half.
  5. Got any friends in the press? Let them know! Tell your community this is happening. If you need any information from me (photos, short description of Qayqa, short biography, poster, etc) let me know. The sooner the better.

If you can offer me a sofa to crash, hurray! I’d love to stay with you and spend more time chatting. If not, don’t worry.

As soon as your dates start coming in, I’ll begin planning the tour, so please don’t hesitate. If you are interested, LET ME KNOW and I’ll put you on the list. Just let me know ASAP that you want me to come to you and I’ll bend myself to make it.

You can reach me: 

  • in the comments below
  • facebook.com/rittisoncco
  • twitter:  @rittisoncco
  • email:  rittisoncco@gmail.com

As soon as I’m done planning, I’ll publish the tour dates on my blog. I’ll bring copies of Qayqa and if you were a supporter, you’ll be getting a big kiss from me as well as your support stuff!

Any questions?

photo 1

I’ll be in my hut

 

We’ll have us a damn good book tour!

We’ll open bottles of wine, laugh loudly and love literature, sing, dance, and hug Qayqa.

She’s finally coming out!

photo 4

All my Love to you, ayllu. I’ll post this now, bug the shit out of everyone on Facebook, and wait for your emails / messages.

As the Scots would say: I cannae wait!!! 

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In Which I Doubt Occasionally

20 May
obviously paying close attention in class

obviously paying close attention in class

University life is quickly coming to an end for the summer, which means I will be more active on my blog in the next few months. Hurray! University has been great to me and just earlier, walking through the quiet campus, I felt very happy to be a part of this place. I think it was definitely the right decision to come here.

But I am not without my doubts. Truth be told – especially when I hear about how amazingly well my friend Ben is doing. He moved to Berlin a year ago to do an internship with a StartUp and has been doing amazingly for himself since then. He sends me all his updates and I am overwhelmed and proudly happy for him – with a human tinge of envy. If you want to know what Ben’s been up, check out this great interview he gave for Die Zeit, which really explains it best: http://www.zeit.de/studium/uni-leben/2014-04/selbststudium-education-hacking

I know it’s normal to ask myself if, maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t be using this time better: What if I were focussing on my writing instead of being at university? What if I were giving readings night after night instead?

photo 4

 

Where would I be instead? Could I achieve more?

These are very normal doubts and I am filled with them occasionally – but they are never strong enough for me to consider packing my bags. I love everything my university life has to offer, from the studying to the carefree enjoyment of life (which, if we’re calling a duck a duck, is terribly relaxing after constantly worrying how to pay the rent… suffer the antagonism of being the black sheep in the family who just won’t get a normal job… wonder how to get more gigs… and how I’m going to buy food).

My greatest joy in Aberdeen is the Aerials & Acrobatics group I founded.

silks hanging

A few weeks ago, I invited my friend Philipp (who I met at the EJC in France last summer) to give an acrobatics workshop to my acrobats. As chance would have it, the hall we had (thought we had) booked wasn’t open to us on the weekend, which forced us to look around Aberdeen for a quick alternative.

We got lucky. Philipp had spotted something on his way in to Aberdeen – something I had seen, and forgotten.

studio 202

A studio promising trapeze and aerial hoops… I gave the owner, Sandi, a call, and asked if we could super spontaneously host our workshop at her studio. She asked when. I said: “In an hour?”

Sandi said yes.

There’s photographic evidence of this moment:

us

 

Thanks to this happy blessing-in-disguise, we had a home for our acrobatics workshop and, as it would turn out, we would have a new place to train every week. This is perfect because the hall where we sometimes train aerials isn’t always available to us – whereas Sandi has made Studio 202 always available to us.

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Sandi on the far right, recognisable thanks to her blue hair

Thanks to Philipp from Codarts Circus School in Rotterdam for coming and giving us such excellent teaching!

photo 2

 

photo 3

Seeing as acrobatics and aerials has become such a big part of the society, we recently had a meeting concerning the name of the society we are operating under: Juggling & Slacklining Society. We voted to change it. I was voted into the committee as Aerials & Acrobatics president. Yesterday, we met on King’s Lawn at the university and had an official photo shoot for our new society.

The CIRCUS ARTS & FIRE SKILLS society!

photograph by Jamie Hughes

photograph by Jamie Hughes

This photograph will go into the Freshers’ Manual for next year so we can advertise our society to all new students. I think we look like a very fun society!

The people in this society have become my family. I now also have a regular job teaching acrobatics to adults in Studio 202. Things are really coming together.

With all the colours in my life in Aberdeen, I still look wistfully across the water at the Other Life I could be living – but I’ve lived it, haven’t I? Now it’s time for this.

a studious writer

(but like everyone else, I need occasional reminding)

So summer is coming and I’m back on Skype a lot with Mark. I post the occasional picture of our digital conversations, which must be completely fascinating (ah, the sarcasm) but I have no other way of letting you know that we’re hard at work!

this is the one I mean

this is the one I mean

Mark is magical. I don’t know if I have said that enough: we have had our share of ups and downs concerning the ILLUSTRATIONS. Then, last week, he sent me a DROPBOX LINK. “Here it is. Have fun.”

dropbox

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

I might have gone crazy that day. All the illustrations were in there. ALL! (Except the cover.)

I can’t publish any spoilers but I do want to share one or two illustrations with you, because you have been so wonderfully patient and supportive all these years. This share is just for my beautiful ayllu – and you know who you are. Here are a few, not-photoshopped.

I once knew a group of flying men and women, and although they were born with their gifts, they worked very hard to perfect it and be graceful in the air. I met them at a time when my head was in a muddle and I walked around looking like a baba, all my thoughts in confused knots on top of my head. After making love to one of the flying women, I agreed to travel with their caravans for a while and see if I could do something about my knots…

IMG_7664

by Mark Klawikowski for “Qayqa” by Ritti Soncco

by Mark Klawikowski for "Qayqa" by Ritti Soncco

by Mark Klawikowski for “Qayqa” by Ritti Soncco

by Mark Klawikowski for "Qayqa" by Ritti Soncco

by Mark Klawikowski for “Qayqa” by Ritti Soncco

I called him to congratulate him – and we ended up discussing the cover for an hour. This is what it’s not going to be, but a rough idea of what it will look like. If you’ll remember, this was the sketch I gave Mark:

photo 3

And this is what Mark transformed it into:

rough sketch by Mark Klawikowski

rough sketch by Mark Klawikowski

 

It won’t be this one because he’s messing around with what kind of water colours / ink to use. Why did we spend one hour talking about it? We discussed if Damian should stand still (as he does in my sketch) or if he should be walking (as in Mark’s). We agreed immediately that he should be walking. We discussed the edges of the words, which I want to be natural, organic and full of rough edges. I wouldn’t want them to be clean & clear. Mark said you couldn’t see it, but he had already started giving them rough edges. We discussed if you could see the desert behind Damian, and if not, how to hint at it. We discussed what Damian is carrying in his hand.

You know, details.

Well, my dearest ayllu, I must be off. This week, I’ll be studying for my exams next week and, during my breaks, I’ll do the last digital editing on the illustrations and begin to lay them into the book.

The final stages are upon us… Soon, I’ll blog about the BOOK TOUR.

So please stay tuned.

And thank you for your continuous support, dearest ayllu. This dialogue has been my continuous support to continue fighting for my work to be published – and to fight off my snide little doubts. Some of my occasional Skype chats with Ben have been about our doubts, and yet we continue fighting. As long as we support each other, there’s no need to give up, is there?

Congratulations, once again, dear Ben, for everything you are doing. For not giving up, for believing in your voice, and – above all – for staying so humble. You’re doing a damn fucking amazing thing, and you can really give yourself more pats on the back! There’s a part of me that really believes that everything you touch becomes gold.

 

Love, Ritti

When Progress Happens Quietly, It Must Be Wearing Socks

13 Feb

Exams are over and life at Aberdeen University is returning to normal. If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that the island of Great Britain is being battered on all sides by strong winds and floods. Up here in Scotland, it’s not necessarily cold. It’s just very wet.

photo 5

Wet students are a miserable sight. But to be honest, I am very happy exams are over. Those two revision weeks bored me to tears. Finally we can all get back to living our lives again! I was going mad in my room.

At the moment, I am fighting on two battlefields: one is the Battle of the Illustrations; the second is the Battle of the Silks.

The Battle of the Silks

This battle began in November 2013, between the Juggling Society and the University of Aberdeen. I teach acrobatics within the Juggling Society (because it’s the closest to a circus society, and because these people are fine people and are my friends), and we have been hunting for a way to hang up my silks. The president of the society has been an amazing help. We tackled the administrative offices of the uni, all of whom say NAY! to our quest to hang up my silks; and then we rang the doorbells of about 6 different schools (and a kindergarten) around the city of Aberdeen, asking what the politics are to rent their gym halls.

Last Friday, I got Sick Of It All. It was a surprisingly sunny day, slightly warm, so with the help of my amazing friends, I hung up my silks at Seaton Park and had my first silk session in 5 months. 

2014-02-07 15.14.20

2014-02-07 15.10.29

by Lucho

finally I wasn’t hiding my face

Now it seems as though I may finally have found a hall to hang them up in! The trouble is that most gym halls in Aberdeen aren’t built “the usual” way, with beams hanging openly in the ceiling for aerialists to hang up their silks. Most halls are built for gymnastics, basketball or badminton. Silks are a rather unique thing with such strict requirements, so I’m not surprised it’s been hard to find a suitable place. But that it’s been so hard…

Now, with a hall in sight, I have to do all the necessary paperwork and navigate around British bureaucracy. These are new waters for me, so please keep your fingers crossed for us. If this works out, we will found Aberdeen’s first aerial group, and I will be able to transform my acrobatics group into an aerial and acrobatics society!

 

The Battle of the Illustrations

The past three weeks have found me whispering into my computer’s microphone while my flatmates sleep, discussing illustrations with Mark over Skype.

photo 2

Over the last few months, Mark has had a bit of an artist’s block when it came to certain illustrations that correspond to Damian’s time in the desert. He’s been working madly on all the other ones, and has sent me many 90% completed illustrations, which are looking STUNNING.

He also held up a couple of new illustrations over Skype, and we were able to discuss in realtime what kind of frame it needs, how to continue certain parts, what the novel says about this particular section. Here’s a picture of Mark showing me a new illustration of Damian:

photo 3

Damian is looking quite different here. I’m quite glad that it’s a bit blurry, because this is one of the last illustrations of the book, and it shows his physical and emotional transformation towards the “end” of his journey.

I was in despair about how slowly the illustrations were coming along over the past months. I receive many emails asking me when Qayqa will come out, and along with your feedback to the excerpt recently, I know it’s her time. Mark and I had many conversations about why he’s stuck, how I could help him, how he could help himself. Part of the reason why he is stuck has to do with the very vague and slippery notion of the desert Damian falls into. How do you depict emptiness? How do you illustrate a divine deity, an earth goddess? – without being all hippie ethereal.

I know how hard it is for me to get over writer’s block. How do you help an artist get over illustrating block?

Mark has many illustrations of Damian and Pacha Mama, and we were both unsatisfied with them. When we were in Peru in 2009, touring with our film Children of Roots, Mark created several fascinating illustrations that so wonderfully tapped into Peruvian art and culture. I was amazed that a man who never studied Peruvian art could mimic it so well. We agreed that one of them would make it into Qayqa. This one: 

pre-production illustration by Mark Klawikowski

pre-production illustration by Mark Klawikowski

He tapped into the Peruvian mythical world so well here, but with Qayqa, there are stricter guidelines, not to mention that Pacha Mama is such an enigma to paint.

For a few months, I have been toying with an idea, and one night when I couldn’t sleep, I sent off the message I had been writing in my head for months. I wrote an artist friend.

He is someone I volunteered with at Helping Hands in Cusco two years ago. Let’s just call him “Ryan”. I called him to discuss the possibility of him illustrating the desert scenes in Qayqa. Ryan’s work is … surreal – but I’m not entirely sure what other genres or categories to use to describe his work. You decide:

"Foxes" by Ryan and Amy, painted at Helping Hands Cusco

“Foxes” by Ryan and Amy, painted at Helping Hands Cusco

"Love from Peru" screen print by Ryan

“Love from Peru” screen print by Ryan

When I spoke to Ryan on the phone and explained briefly what Qayqa – particularly the desert scenes – is about, he became very excited. Having spent several months traveling Latin America with his girlfriend, he understands not only the concept, but also the love and lifestyle behind “Pacha Mama”.

My main worry is that having two artists illustrate one book might not have a homogenous outcome. But I promised to be honest to you, and I want you to participate in this journey of my self-publication – with all possible pitfalls. So you know now that this is something we are considering.

I just sent a long email to Ryan with a short description of Qayqa for him to hold on to, and several of Mark’s completed illustrations, so that he can see the direction Mark has taken so far. I also sent Ryan excerpts from Qayqa, from the chapters of Damian in the desert so that he can send me 3 sketches as suggestions of how he would approach this job.

When I spoke to Mark about the possibility of Ryan boarding Qayqa, he was very optimistic – and relieved. The main argument for two artists working on one book is that the world in the desert is completely distinct to the world of the caravans, of the flying people. It is almost an alternate universe, so perhaps an alternate approach could work. It really all depends on how Ryan approaches what Mark has done so far. Either way, it will be incredibly interesting to see!

At the moment, Mark is finishing his two final illustrations. Then we’ll move on to discuss the cover of Qayqa. He is also working on little sidekick illustrations which will appear either within the text or framing it at the end of the page. Here is one I love:

x Wald

by Mark Klawikowski

I would love if we could bring Ryan onboard, but this is a question of two styles finding a common ground. It could either enrich Qayqa‘s desert world – or not. But if it doesn’t work, at least I left no stone unturned.

I suppose these are the experiments we have to dare to take. We have to find solutions for artists’ blocks – and who knows if a collaboration is a good solution?

I’ll let you know what happens.

This is the quiet progress Qayqa is making. A lot of whispering over Skype.

my celebratory countdown to my 30th birthday in June

my celebratory countdown to my 30th birthday in June

Thank you to everyone who sent me feedback to my excerpt from Qayqa! I was surprised at how diverse it was; I honestly thought it would be more unanimous. But thank you so much for speaking up, for critiquing, for being honest. I sincerely appreciate it.

The main thing you taught me is this: I have to continue listening to my gut. It helps so much to ask you, and I learnt that several gut decisions I made in the past were good – because you said so in your feedback. You also helped me make some valuable decisions concerning the future of the excerpt, and when you read the book, you will see some differences and you will know it is thanks to you. I will post another excerpt soon. I wanted to tonight, but I think this post is long enough as is.

I am very happy to working so closely with you on this. How many artists can say that? I honestly love that Qayqa is growing up so close to you, that you are influencing her. I’d like to see how far I can take this. Until then, thank you for being out there.

I wish you all a beautiful & happy Valentines’ Day on Friday. A grateful hug to you from Scotland. 

Love, Ritti

Resolutions

19 Jan
Thank you to Sean Mckenna for this stunning photograph of New Years over the Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Thank you to Sean Mc Kenna for this stunning photograph of New Years over the Plaza de Armas, Cusco

HAPPY NEW YEARS AYLLU! 

Last night as I was out and about for the first time in Aberdeen – back in Scotland ! – a friend asked me about Qayqa. He had asked if he could read the manuscript, and over an odd-looking pisco sour, we chatted about my novel. The main things we spoke of weren’t about the content of the book; he said: “People are waiting. Get her out.”

I will be back in Germany for Easter, and publication should move into its final stages by then. I just got off the phone with Mark, discussing the illustrations. Our collaboration deserves a blog entry of its own, so suffice it to say that it’s not always easy.

4 months into university life and it’s official: I have begun to miss my artist life “back home” (definition of “home”: not the geography; the era). I had a lot of time in Perú; enough time to start reading books again, to consider poetry again, to fill up the pages of my diary (in which I have been doing an appalling lack of writing). For the first time in months I slipped back into the artistic mindframe of How would I respond, as an artist, to this? Would it be a poem, a short film, a short story, a blog entry?

My first New Year’s Resolution is to find a way to balance ART with university LIFE. Of course uni has a ruling priority, but I NEED to have more art in the future than I did in the 1st semester.

More! Art.

New Years' mask

my New Years’ mask for pure joy in 2014

In my last post, I proposed publishing extracts from Qayqa for your critical consideration. Thank you so much for your positive & excited feedback! I am very excited to have you, my ayllu, as my literary critics, so … LET THE GAMES BEGIN.

from me to you

from me to you

THE FIRST EXTRACT of QAYQA 

The following extract was pulled out of the 2nd chapter and has never been read publicly before. Although I am terribly nervous to publish this one first, I think it’s exemplary because it’s a part of Qayqa that I consider wobbly, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Is it wobbly? Boring? Weird?

Here are my QUESTIONS TO YOU:

1.  You’ll notice that it slips between first-person and third-person narrator. This remains true throughout all of Qayqa; in fact, sometimes it will slip to Ochoa the potato as the narrator, and then back to Damian. Do you find this confusing?

2.  There’s a short monologue in which I, as the writer, speak. Is this weird or bizarre-but-okay? I needed it at the time to continue the writing flow, but I don’t know if it is still necessary.

3.  I’ve never almost died of thirst. I have no idea how to portray thirst. So I read Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, because he almost died of thirst in the Sahara, and he does an excellent job of portraying thirst. Any comments on my portrayal? I find it very Walter Moers (for you German-literarture-lovers).

4.  Anything else? (Oh, and there won’t be little * in the book. That was just to make sure the blog layout keeps the paragraph spaces.)

ENJOY . . .

desert

The emptiness around him could hardly be understood by one with a head so full of knots. Emptiness and silence chased each other in circles around Damian, innocently creating an ever increasing space of nothing. The horizon of the desert faded into a fog, giving Damian the thought: “If falling over the first edge lands you in a desert as empty as this one, then to go over another edge would be to disappear entirely.” That was when he decided to never again walk so close to the horizon.

After the bizarre twist of silhouettes he had languidly mouthed words to, after having ridden inside the coils of a worm, Damian accepted his new situation in the desert as the most natural turn of events. It was as though the magical tea had numbed his perception of reality, and his right to demand it. It was also quite pleasant to be alone after that ordeal. Or perhaps it was that his knots itched in the sun, combined with the sudden heat, that left Damian with greater problems than to protest the desert around him. His thirst was bigger than reality.

*

Ritti Soncco. I’m stuck.

I’m stuck in the desert with you, Damian, and I hate it as much as you do. Cluttered abundance, rootless thoughts I find the ends to immediately – an infertile head. I want to lead you out, because as long as you are there, so am I. We are tied together with ropes of distraction and rivers at a standstill. I admit: I cornered myself. You are my creation and we both ended up with knots. I have mine in my writing, and you, I put them on your head for all to see but only for you to carry. Like you, I want a familiar face, the flowing of the world again. But we’re both trapped in the desert and I am doing all I can to get us out.

I drove myself mad in a bookshop today, but just a minute ago, I got up and ran. Try it, Damian! It’s liberation. You can’t expect the words to flow if you stopped moving as well.

*

Women. A flash of light. Women in my head. More light. Women who wanted me to spend the night with them. My eyes were fully open now. It had seemed so important at the time. If only all that lust could quench my thirst now. Dragging my feet never felt so good before. All this cracked earth. Sand you could dig your fingers into. Sweet earth I used to plough with Ti. Sweet seeds sleeping inside, gently opening their shells in a yawn, stretching their baby tendrils out, whispering a blind movement in the warm earth. Not stenching heat that rises to slap your senses. Not like here. How I wish I were a seedling. How I wish I were at the beginning. Not a grown man in a desert, its rising and sinking heatwaves. How I wish Ti were here to tell me what it all means, to take me as a seedling with her in her hand and describe what my colour means, what my qualities are, what I can be used for. I know nothing about myself that can help me now. I am as dry as this desert.

Water. Water. Water. Water. Water.

I run in my little cage.

Dripping thoughts of water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water. Water.

Hours passed without any sign of shade. I walked the cracks of the desert. Blind eyes with nothing to look at but the heat. My knots itched. I hated my mane. It had trembled so nicely in the wind, but without any wind, it was a coat of fur.

Something spotted in the desert. I couldn’t move any faster. It wasn’t moving either. I dragged my feet. Tried not to think about things that quenched my thirst – like water – like women. The sun seems to be balancing on my shoulders. Beads of sweat onto my back, collect at my spine, sway there like impatience.

I inched towards the dark figure in the desert. It was a stained purple. Pale from the sun. Washed by the heat. It lay isolated before me. I stared down at it in disbelief. Miles of sand rushed from the horizon towards me, paused under my feet, and then ran on. It all made me quite dizzy. And this sofa in front of me wasn’t helping one bit.

I squatted before it, placing one hand on it. Cheap material. I couldn’t decide if I cared that I had found a sofa. It didn’t seem important. Just a sofa. I dragged myself onto it. Collapsed into a cave of sleep. My head buzzed on. It lapped the words water water water water water water water water water water water water water water water water water against one another in a tide of thirst.

*

Pacha Mama peered up at her sleeping gift and sent a shudder of clouds sprawling in all directions. She sighed a cool breeze at how frail humans can be and lowered her eyes into the sand again. She was quite curious as to why she had been sent this one of all ones. So far, each one had made for an interesting blossom, but this seedling showed no sign of hatching. It just wandered about in an endless stupor. She knew seeds that slept through winter before they began their growth, but she was old, and she liked a snappy beat in her songs every now and then. 

Photo on 2014-01-19 at 17.53

guess what I’m trying to say

As usual:  comments, facebook (Ritti Soncco), twitter (@rittisoncco) or email me your thoughts:  rittisoncco@gmail.com

 

A Crowdfunding SUCCESS!!!

4 Jul

Updated on 4th July, 16:20 pm

It’s 00:24 o’clock and I’m feeling quite bedazzled. Let me tell you what’s going on: I’m setting my alarm for 5:20 am, because at 6 am I have to get into a beautifully ricketty bus with two gorgeous circus artistes to drive to a school where we’ve been giving a circus workshop all week. My part in all this isn’t circus-teaching; it’s film-teaching: I am teaching 8th graders to make a documentary about the circus workshop, beginning from the first classes to the full-on performance for the school & parents on Friday afternoon. If you want to read more, it was in the Schwäbische Zeitung today: http://alturl.com/fa698

Apart from that, I am also participating in the first Dance Festival in Ulm: ULM MOVES! I will perform tomorrow (Thursday), Friday and Saturday as part of the “Parcours”, wherein dancers, actors and performers make static buildings come to light. Marion Glöggler, for example, will do a “vertical dance” in which she suspends herself from the walls of the Deutschhaus car park.

Marion Glöggler of the Vertical Dance Compagnie

Marion Glöggler of the Vertical Dance Compagnie

I am at the Kulturfahrschule (at the Ehinger Tor), performing on my red aerial silks, suspended from a red crane… Here is an image from today’s rehersal:

photograph courtesy of Sabrina of the Kulturfahrschule Ulm

photograph courtesy of Sabrina Fischäß

If you want to see it, here are the dates:

Thursday, 4th July:  approx. 6 pm

Friday, 5th July:  approx. 6 pm

Saturday, 6th July:  approx. 4 pm

I say approximately because my performance is part of a tour / parcours through the city, so when I perform really depends on when my audience arrives. I’ll be told some 5 minutes beforehand, which should give me enough time to climb the silks and get into position.

But none of this has anything to do with the title of this post! I just wanted to show you what I’m up to, give you a bit of an insight as to why I haven’t been blogging lately: BECAUSE MY HEAD IS in the air… in school… on the StartNext Website!

Which brings me to the POINT.

THE POINT!

It is now 00:43 o’clock.

It just happened. 5 minutes ago we were beneath the goal. Now. RIGHT NOW, I clicked “refresh” and everything suddenly moved slower…

screenshot 00:45 o'clock on http://www.startnext.de/qayqa

screenshot 00:45 o’clock on http://www.startnext.de/qayqa

We did it. We actually actually DID IT. 

About an hour ago, Pixie called me from the States. All she said when I picked up was: “Congratulations!” We hadn’t reached the goal yet, but we were €50 away.

I couldn’t believe this. I replied: “I feel like I should do something crazy as a thank you for all these amazing people! Like maybe jump out of a window naked.” She laughed and said: “You totally should!”

Dearest most wonderful, most beloved ayllu of my heart. I owe you more than words can express. I owe you more than a ridiculous blog post 4 hours away from getting up again.

You have baffled me, bewildered me, AMAZED me. You supported me, you believed in Qayqa, and now, my dearest people of the world: Qayqa you will get…

I want to take this moment to express my absolute sense of … UTTER PANIC. If you’ve been watching Qayqa on StartNext, you’ll know that we were slowly trickling, and when people asked me if I thought we could make it, I replied honestly: “I really have NO IDEA. It could work. It could not. No clue.”

Then a sudden overnight leap of €800. It put us back in the game! And that was the moment when my panic struck.

Shit. People will actually read Qayqa. To the end. What if it’s rubbish? What if no one likes it? Is it too late to back out now?  Maybe I should go back quickly and do some serious last-minute-full-of-panic editing. Delete everything. New ending. Damn damn damn. Why do I always do such silly, ridiculous things? I never learn.

So, no lies: you are actually going to get Qayqa and that makes me feel a terrified – and excited!

I want to post properly about my crowdfunding experience, but the main thing I need to say right now is that I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough (and I probably wasn’t). There were amazing people out there who sent me long emails / messages, suggesting brilliant new tactics to get more supporters. I couldn’t follow up on all the ideas, and I often felt like I really wasn’t doing enough. For example, I never got around to making a Qayqa facebook page. Such sacrilege!

And yet. Crowdfunding: A SUCCESS!!!

I made you a video just now. It’s just me being nonstop grateful in my pajamas:

A few days ago, after the €800 struck overnight and I first realised we could actually make it, I was pulling a heavy suitcase along a train platform and my head began singing a song. This song, my darling ayllu, my beautiful supporters, IS FOR YOU. For everyone who believed; for everyone who supported; for those who wrote saying they couldn’t pledge but believed & wished me luck; for everyone who spread the word (like love), who hit the forums, who believed.

THANK YOU for helping a dream come true. This song – along with all my gratitude – is for you. Y’all made Qayqa feel pretty damn mthrfcukn special. 

1:21 o’clock. GOODNIGHT AYLLU.

You people kicked some serious Crowdfunding BUTT. I also decided something:  In the last pages of the book Qayqa, I will publish an excerpt from her sequel Munay, in English, so that you get a feeling for what is coming next…! Like?

1st Crowdfunding Party, or: The Pixie Who Reminded Me To Laugh

4 Jun
 My dearest ayllu,

Last Friday, 24th May, I held my 1st Crowdfunding Party. All were invited to hear my reading of Qayqa and watch the premiere of my Crowdfunding Video. I am delighted to begin this blog post with these beautiful pictures… and many beautiful videos!

all photographs of the Crowdfunding Party courtesy of Ben Paul

all photographs of the Crowdfunding Party courtesy of Ben Paul

Premiere being over, I would love to begin this blog post with the Crowdfunding Video, filmed to promote my upcoming novel Qayqa

When I was writing the concept for my crowdfunding video, I began looking for something to make it a bit unique, give it an eye-catcher. I also knew I would be editing it myself, therefore looked for something to challenge me. I considered the things I find especially interesting in filmmaking.

Simple answer:  split-screens!

Now there are several ideas behind the concept of the Two Rittis:

  • There are two Rittis: there is the bubbly, happy, easily excitable one, who will dance around while she tells you about her book. Then there is the quiet, sombre, observant Ritti, who, after giving a reading is more of a listener. She’s the one the audience come to, to talk about their impressions of & thought on the reading. She’ll listen quietly, actually shyly, take it all backstage with her and have a Long Hard Think. She’s a bit cheeky, but it’s all in her head
  • Being a very typical Gemini. Btw, Mark is also Gemini, and when we worked together, we used to sure: “We can easily do all this work. After all, there are four of us.”
  • Being an only child and always wishing for a sibling
  • There’s a painting I adore by my favourite painter, and this is a little hommage to it, and the things it stands for:
"The Two Fridas" by Frida Kahlo

“The Two Fridas” by Frida Kahlo

Ofcourse the scenes of me on the black silks allude to what inspired the “flying people” of Qayqa: when I joined Circus Serrando, befriending aerialists and discovering a second home at the circus.

I want to thank Fabiano “the Fab Fab” Nitsch for filming this beautiful video with me; for his patience & kindness & red wine. The amazing thing about Fabiano is, no matter what you say to him, his reply will be: “We’ll get that done! No problem!”

It was a beautiful night at the Fort Unterer Kuhberg. We presented our video to the premiere crowd of the 24th May, right after I read Qayqa for the first time in a very long time… And this is what my reading looked like:

The place was beautifully decorated, lit up with candles. The guests mingled to Ray LaMontagne, looked at Mark’s beautiful illustrations, and at 9 pm, all moved to the main room, where I read a few poems and then read several sections from my upcoming novel Qayqa.

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Thanks to the incredibly fabulous Fabiano Nitsch (therefore known on my blog as “the Fab Fab”), I can present you a beautiful short film from that night! The Fab spent the entire night crawling among the audience with 3 different cameras, filming everything he could, and then spent the following days editing this beautiful short video. 

the Fab Fab at work

the Fab Fab at work

For those of you who couldn’t come in person… and for those who asked for a video (hello Hannah!), this is for you…

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As I said, I read a few poems…

… Such as The Backpacker Poem. Of this, there is also a video, thanks to Fabiano:

Looking back, it was a beautiful night – but at the time, I was nervous. I hadn’t really slept. Pixie and I ran around all day organising last minute things, and I don’t know how prepared I really was. Personally, I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my performance.

I received very helpful feedback from friends, and have spent the last week thinking about what I should do differently. Change within myself, not the setting. The setting was beautiful; the decorations made it homey, romantic and dreamy. I loved it so much. There were blankets for cuddling, and there was an abundance of red wine, beer and pisco sour, which the audience enjoyed in elegant quantities.

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Gerhard brought THE BIGGEST HUNK OF CHEESE in the world. It was bigger than my torso! Does anyone have a picture of it??? It was AMAZING. And it was a parmesan that I, being lactose-intolerant, could actually eat. Thank you Gerhard!

And yet I felt I wasn’t entirely focussed. There was a personal development that caught me off-balance, and as a performing artist knows: the show must go on! But I think I had a hard time really letting myself fall into my own words – and when that happens, I feel as though I were cheating my audience. Ofcourse, after reading Qayqa for the 100th time, you don’t feel the same excitement as at the first time, and what you might never guess is that while I read, I am actually very observant of my audience – and I have a thousand thoughts running through my head. All of this disabled me from really feeling what I read, and that isn’t a nice feeling when you’re performing…

 Thankfully, the feedback from my audience was that all had a great time, enjoyed the reading – even enjoying my singing – and are now looking forward to supporting my crowdfunding project. THANK YOU!

it's a good face

it’s a good face

So there are some things I want to do differently for the 2nd Crowdfunding Reading on the 6th June. There was great feedback for the singing: I sang Somos, the Chavela Vargas way. This time, I want to have a greater variety of songs, each placed in a certain chapter. I have a little list…

Before I began reading, I told some stories about how Qayqa developed. This time, I’d like to get more into that. This time, I’ll say you’re welcome to ask questions. This time, Mark wants to give a little tour through his exhibition of illustrations.

Planning what I’d do differently is making me very excited for the 2nd Crowdfunding Party on the 2nd June! So if you’re reading this, and you came to the 1st, might I encourage you to come to the 2nd too? Each reading is a further stage of blossoming. Re-come, re-join, and re-party with us! There will be pisco sour, brought especially by my mother from Perú (she arrives tomorrow!).

your invitation to the 2nd Crowdfunding Reading!

your invitation to the 2nd Crowdfunding Reading!

After the Crowdfunding Party, I fell into an exhausted little hole. I spent the entire weekend in bed, barely moving a muscle. Pixie and I waved at each other from our beds, we watched films and spoke in mumbles. Then on Sunday, I somehow managed to sleep until 4 pm, I missed my shift at the Café Naschkatze, and subsequently got fired.

Damnit…!

A side of me was intensely shocked; I have never ever missed work like that before. I was ashamed that I had let my co-workers down, so I called everyone to apologise; apologised to the boss, and, in the end, left the café on very good terms. Sorry, people, no more cappuccini from me!

On the other hand, this is a – feeling cheeky as I say this – somewhat welcome step. I had announced at the café that I’d be leaving end of June, because (here it comes) I am giving up my apartment in the end of June. I’ll be travelling all of July & August. And why?

I announced it on Facebook last week:

this is why

this is why! 

The cat’s out of the bag!

That’s why I flew to Aberdeen in May: I was visiting the University of Aberdeen, where I have been accepted to the Masters course of Anthropology with Hispanic Studies. … !

Aberdeen beach

Aberdeen beach

Yes, I already applied, but I didn’t want to announce it until a) the university accepted me; b) I visited it to see if I liked it. And like it I did! Shortly beforehand, I got searched the university’s societies to see if there was a circus society, in touch with the Juggling Society, stayed on their sofa, got drunk with them, danced with them, and in the middle of the night, got out my computer and accepted the university’s offer!

impression of Aberdeen University

impression of Aberdeen University

As of September 2013, I will be a student, and I am terribly excited about it. The decision to go to university has nothing to do with “giving up” my life as an artist. I could never do that. I was born to do this, and although it is certainly challenging sometimes, it is what I love.

The decision to go to university came out of the desire to learn more. I have been passionately reading essays and biographies on anthropology and ethnobotany for a few years now. Their influence can certainly be felt in my writing. By going to university, I am filling up my glass again, for I am deeply thirsty for more knowledge. I am also hoping to acquire additional means of financial income, and, ofcourse, added freedom to travel, investigate, learn and write down. Going to university is a step I need to take as a woman, and as a writer. While studying anthropology, I hope to specialise in Latin American and Caribbean studies, so that I may travel there more often – dive deeper into their magic realism, and swim to shore with more ideas for more books.

courtesy of Chris Marshall

courtesy of Chris Marshall

What will happen to the blog?

It will continue, ofcourse! I’m not going to stop writing. In the future, I will continue to dedicate my blog to my artistic endeavors, perhaps occasionally mentioning which part of my studies are influencing my writing. We’ll see what happens. But this I promise you, ayllu: as long as I continue breathing, I will continue writing.

Seeing as my book planning has been pushed back a few months, it also looks like I’ll be book-touring in spring / summer 2014. So don’t worry, my dearest ayllu: our adventure together is far from over… This I promise you.

Therefore losing the job at the café, while sad, and giving me some financial instability this month, is … well … actually alright. So thank you Naschkatze for all the wonderful mornings and afternoons! It was beautiful while it lasted. I’ll come again – as a guest. 

After I lost my job, I realised I could now concentrate fully on Qayqa! So I hit the StartNext website to promote it, because you need 25 fans for the project to be official. Over the space of 3 hours I bugged everyone on Facebook and we quickly made over 25 fans!

O how I celebrated.

Seeing as my best lamp is still at the Crowdfunding Party, we moved the celebration to the bathroom. You can just about see my shower in the background.

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I had to stand on the toilet to do this, and yes, I was really shouting and celebrating. I was in an exceptional mood. While I was shouting, my lovely Pixie started quietly filming me – and this is the video that she made:

Now, I’m just waiting for the final verifications on the StartNext website, so that we can officially begin supporting Qayqa. This is where you’ll find her: http://www.startnext.de/qayqa

Hopefully the page will be up and running by tomorrow. I’ve sent off an email asking for the final verification, because, truth be told, you have to give these StartNext people a lot of things, including scanned copies of your passport, and then they need a few days to verify that you really are who you say you are. That’s why all this has taken a bit of time to get online… But hopefully, hopefully… tomorrow…

Now, HERE IS WHERE I NEED YOUR HELP: 

For my upcoming book-tour, I want to come to YOU. I want to come to the cities YOU tell me to. If you know a good café, a friendly pub, a lovely library … or if you’d like to open up your living room & invite all of your friends: WRITE ME.

I have a team. I’ve never had this before, so these times are truly amazing. I actually have a PR Woman! She wants to remain anonymous (but she won’t manage for long) so for my love of nicknames I have called my PR lady: POWER RANGER. This is her Facebook page.

So if you know of a lovely place where you think I should perform Qayqa… Or you think I should read in your living room…

Please write:   pr.rittisoncco@gmail.com

Power Ranger might just be at the 2nd Crowdfunding Party on the 6th June… So if you can make it, tell all your friends to make it too, and join us! You saw the pictures! I promise you it will be beautiful. You can ask all your questions, we’ll drink pisco sour together, and I will sing in tune, I promise.

And now, for one last Other Something…

a mysterious occurrence in the kitchen

a mysterious occurrence in the kitchen, caused by a pixie

Shortly before my first Crowdfunding Party on the 24th May, a young backpacker lady called Richelle moved in with me, into my 1-bedroom apartment. I nicknamed her “Pixie”, because ever since I first met her in Cusco, Perú, she had a pixie nature.

There’s a lot I can say about pixie natures, but there’s one important thing I really want to say. Her stay with me was MEDICINE.

If you want to know what I mean, THIS is MEDICINE:

  • Spend a winter alone, bordering on depression, not getting any work done and wondering what the whole point of it is. Along comes a pixie, and I’m laughing all day
  • Not eating very well, because you’re (see above). Along comes a pixie, who not only insists on cooking, but also cooks only the healthiest of things for you, and suddenly eating is a celebration again
  • Demanding silence, only to realise that I had 5 months of silence and laughing with her is that much better
  • Discovering a lot of things about yourself; things you can only discover when someone close to you holds up a mirror

my favourite picture

She was an amazing help for my Crowdfunding Party. Not only did she cut all of the flyers (because I can’t cut a straight line to save my life. I’m amazed they let me out of kindergarten)… she also helped set up the entire party… stayed up working with me until 4 am… Drank too much coffee and threatened me with a sock… Helped me think my organising through, and then helped me organise…

Above all: she made me laugh.

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There’s a problem when you make a living doing something you love. Maybe this is something other freelancers will nod at; maybe this is just me: You forget to laugh.

You get so caught up in all the organising, all the structure, all the pulling of all strings – that when someone asks me a simple question while I’m mid-thought, I give a curt & unpleasant response. Richelle, however, reminded me to laugh. Those of you who met her at the Crowdfunding Party will know she’s a hilarious young lady. Just by being how she is, she reminded me to stop worrying; stop biting too hard onto problems; to step back and think about her questions, answer things calmly, instead of being annoyed at being disturbed mid-thought again.

Do this – and you’ll laugh a lot more.

Because – seriously – WHY are we doing this, if we’re not having fun doing it??? Why all the work, all the phone calls, all the press-contacting, all the people-emailing, all the Making of Lists – IF WE’RE NOT HAVING A LAUGH???

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After a long grey winter of staring at the wall, Richelle made me laugh & enjoy my work again. She came into my life, turned all the paintings in my apartment upside down, fattened me up … and now she’s saying her farewells. Is the road calling? She came at the right time. Wherever she goes, I’m sure she’ll arrive there at the right time too. I hope she’ll be back. She was an epic companion, and a friend when I most needed one.

So much happening, dear ayllu. I hope to see you at the 2nd Crowdfunding Party on the 6th June! Come meet us all in person (Ritti, Mark, the Fab Fab, Pixie, Power Ranger), celebrate with us, and let me whisk you away when I read…

and again

and again

I want to leave you with this beautiful song, sent to me by the Pixie while she was in Malaysia. I got it at a time when life was still pretty hard, and I must have listened to it 10 times over. Now I want to pass it on.

Thank you, ayllu, for cheering me up – for supporting Qayqa – for listening. Have a wonderful night. See you on the 6th June.

Love, Ritti

Let’s Have a Crowdfunding Party!

18 May
your invitation

your invitation

this is an updated version of the post. What’s new are more photographs of more sunrises. 

Dear ayllu, you are invited!

With the crowdfunding video inches away from being done, the illustrations almost done, and the German version of Qayqa in its final stages … it’s time to start reading and performing.

I decided to start giving a series of Crowdfunding Parties when a reader posted that she would love a reading-party as a reward for supporting the book. I loved the idea because in my mind, that hails back to the Beats in San Francisco, reading their poetry to one another in smoky rooms, getting drunk & getting high, celebrating all the pains and joys life will give you, through literature.

Also, a crowdfunding party is a fun way to get some attention on Qayqa and her upcoming crowdfunding project.

So I made the above flyer and am now handing it out everywhere & to everyone.

You’ll notice that there are two dates on it. This is because of the Pentecost holiday. I have a problem with Pentecost. It always gets in the way of my plans. I always forget it, plan events, and then everyone is away on holiday. So I made a SECOND crowdfunding party after the holidays, so that everyone who is away can come.

This is the back of the flyer:

Party back

What I’m planning for the party is this:  I’ll be reading from 2-3 different chapters of Qayqa, to give you a better overview of how diverse her narrative is. I’ll talk about the concept of crowdfunding, because I know that it is still a relatively new & abstract concept to many people. We’ll premiere my crowdfunding video. Mark will exhibit the illustrations, which is what I am most excited about. We might show one or two other films we directed / acted in / produced… It’ll be like walking into our art portfolio.

This evening will also mark the beginning of Qayqa‘s crowdfunding project. After the performance, I’ll go to the next wifi hotspot and submit Qayqa to the crowdfunding world. And you’ll be there at the start.

After this evening, I AM GOING TO NEED YOUR HELP. Tell your friends. Tell your families. Tell your neighbors. Tell your lovers. Tell everyone. Get them to look at the project online and get them to support!

On the 6th June, I’ll host the second party to get attention back on Qayqa. I’ll read again. We’ll exhibit again. We’ll have fun.

I have a dream for these reading parties. I want lots of pillows on the floor, people relaxing on them, passing wine bottles around, closing their eyes, relaxing & listening. I dream of something like the Beats had in the 60s.

Let me whisk you off to a different world… Let me sing for you, read for you. All you have to do is come round, lean back, and pass a wine bottle around.

I’ll try to bring some food too.

To invite your friends, family, lovers and children, here is the Facebook Page.

Here is a bit of Qayqa

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You might have noticed the “new” NEXT PERFORMANCES section on the right side of the blog. I’m finally filling it up, including a performance in September, for Ulm’s Kulturnacht 2013. I’m so excited to be a part of that again! So please watch that column a lot in the upcoming weeks, because it will be filling up quite a lot!

One exciting upcoming performance is my circus apprenticeship graduation. After a year and a half of attending the Jojo Circus School, learning different circus disciplines, our graduation constitues of performing two nights in a circus tent at the Rappenhof!  I’ll be performing on the silks and figuration (I posted a video of figuration here), but we’ll also have excellent juggling, trapeze, clowns, and much much more!

As I was a media designer for picture & sound in a previous life, I was commissioned by my class to create our flyers. This is the front:

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And back:

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I wrote this last time, but if you’re interested in coming to this event, I’m happy to repeat the details:

Tickets cost € 10 for adults;  € 5 for children

Overnight Opportunity: You can choose to spend the night in a 2-bedroom (adults: € 15 / children: € 12) OR in the Big Top Tent (adults: € 5 / children: € 4) OR in a circus caravan with shower & electricity (adults: € 8 / children: € 4).

Food:  Breakfast is € 5, lunch is € 8, dinner is € 6. On Saturday, there will be a buffet for € 12, where you’ll wine & dine with us and party afterwards but! the buffet doesn’t open until approx. 10:30 pm, so bring a snack. Breakfast on Sunday is € 5.

DVD:  You can order a DVD of our performance for € 10.

If you know already that you want to come, then SEND ME AN EMAIL (rittisoncco@gmail.com) and I’ll book your room / caravan / tent space for you. Be sure to tell me in your email if you want food, the DVD, and how many tickets I should reserve for you.

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On another matter entirely:  I have recently become the happy host of a pixie!

Pixie Richelle

Pixie Richelle

In previous posts, I occasionally mentioned a pixie. Well, her name is Richelle and I met her while I was volunteering at Helping Hands Cusco, Perú. She contributed amazingly to the Backpacker Poem and Iquitos was the last place I saw her. Since then, she travelled around the States, made wine in Australia and couchsurfed in Malaysia. Last week, she landed in Germany just in time for our circus performance of Miro & Mira and she’s been here ever since.

No one knows when she’s leaving.

I told her can stay as long as she likes.

We’re sharing my one-bedroom apartment. And it’s working.

"Life is so heavy... I just need to... lie down... for a little bit..."

“Life is so heavy… I just need to… lie down… for a little bit…”

It took a while to synchronise though. Between her jetlag and general madness, when I was falling asleep, she was waking up:

4 am

4 am

When she was falling asleep, I was hyper and bouncing off the walls. This hyperactivity was the reason I was able to take several pictures of several sunrises:

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my angel's trumpet, who watched the sun rise with me

my angel’s trumpet, who watched the sun rise with me

Pixie is an incredible cook. She’s incredibly brilliant company. She is being supportive of my work, kicking me to make lists of the Things I Need To Do, making me tea while I blog, and generally helping me figure my work out. She has cheeky, crazy conversations with herself.

I’ll go as far as to say that she is the best thing that could have happened to me right now. After an astonishingly grey winter, she’s bringing life back into my apartment, reviving the spirit of living slowly, and making me eat healthy again. I’ve said this to her a few times, but I want to say it here again: Thanks for coming here, pixie. I love having you here.

If she becomes a musician, I maintain this should be the album cover

If she becomes a musician, this should be the album cover

having a delicious evening wine by the Danube

having a delicious evening wine by the Danube

Pixie with the Fab Fab

Pixie with the Fab Fab

You’ll meet her at the crowdfunding party. She doesn’t speak German but her smile will charm your pants off.

It’s great to have such a colourful character accompanying my life. Who knows how long she’ll hang around Europe, but if she’s here by the time I blog next, you’ll hear all about our adventures.

AND ONE LAST THING.  This is my first blog post from my new computer. I can’t believe this. A few weeks ago, I tweeted that my sweet little backpack netbook is dying and if anyone knows of any second hand Macbooks flying around.

As of yesterday, I am the incredibly proud, baffled, breathtaken owner of a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Macbook Air. 

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The story of this Macbook Air is so epic, I’m only telling it in person. Thank you Gerhard, for being the best & most baffling reader a writer could hope for. My promise to you: I will use this elegant new computer to write more & more often, dedicate it completely to the arts, so that you can rest assured knowing that it is always in good use.

Thank You.

Thank You SO Much.

P.S.: I have thought about this for a while, and in my mind, the theory has confirmed itself repeatedly: it is our audiences who teach us that we are artists. By attending, applauding and appreciating, you teach us the worth of our work. You show us that the dream that led us to go against everything stable, everything economically viable, everything our parents warned us against, was actually worthwhile. You teach me to write more, to believe that what I say is worth thinking about, and to keep at it. No matter how restless I get. No matter how lonely I get. No matter how frustrating, hungry, furious, desperate I get. The audience teaches the artists that they are artists.

I really believe that.

Now I have to go, because Pixie has made soup and it smells delicious…

A Look Inside My Knotty Head

15 Mar

Lately I have been feeling exhausted, and I know some of you out there have been too. I know we’re not alone. A lot of people seem to have a lot to cope with these days. It’s stopping us from working, from feeling happy. Is it the winter? The grey, the cold?

Well I just discovered something about myself, people. Here’s how it happened.

As you know, I’m going to try financing my upcoming novel Qayqa with Crowdfunding. More on that in a bit. I figured that a good way to get more attention to the project would be to make flyers, which I can hand out to people I meet, people who ask me about my work, and leave in odd cafés and on every train I take. Yesterday, I took some pictures of my face for the flyer and then sat down to start working on the flyer.

here's one of them

here’s one of them

And immediately stopped. I suddenly felt so exhausted. I couldn’t work anymore.

And it hit me. I’m not exhausted. I’m bloody terrified.

This is my biggest dream and I am terrified of failing. Even though I don’t really have a firm concept of what would actually constitute as “failing”.

I remember reading on Neil Gaiman’s tumblr a response he wrote to a young writer: “Writing was easier when no one was reading. But with the years, you don’t become less and less afraid. You just have to put it away and keep writing.”

remember this?

remember this?

I’ve been writing a lot of poetry lately. I normally don’t write (this much) poetry. So naturally, I wondered why I was doing it. Then I caught myself thinking about publishing a slim book with poetry… instead of Qayqa.

Hah! Did you spot it? There’s the sneaky sneaky doubt!

It stops you from working. Suddenly you prefer watching a film, because that’s less complicated and less frightening. (Just so you know, Beowulf is rubbish unless you’re high)

To take the pressure off, I needed to trick myself. I needed to have fun. You know what has always been fun?

Collages.

collage for my flyer

collage for my flyer

I’ve never made a collage of myself before. It was a lot of fun having Ray sing for me all afternoon as I twiddled away, and I like the resulting self-portrait. It’s simple, Qayqa is in pieces, and that little bag on the left symbolises my travelling habits.

In the first version, there were mariachis.

test2

My self-publishing process is quite gruelling because I am constantly facing my insecurities: Is this really going to work? Is this really worth it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just watch The Big Bang Theory? Why not just give it all up and spend the summer relaxing on a beach somewhere, instead of exhausting yourself with a book tour?

Luckily the illustrations have been coming along really REALLY REALLY well. Mark is doing an intensely amazing job. A few illustrations are almost complete. He still has one hell of a Hercules’ task ahead of him, but what he’s accomplished so far really shows that he deserves intense support, immortality and at least a unicorn.

Some snippets:

by Mark Klawikowski

by Mark Klawikowski

Work – in – progress!

Damian listening to the sounds at night, by Mark Klawikowski

Damian listening to the sounds at night, by Mark Klawikowski

Parallel to this, I’m working on preparing a CROWDFUNDING project for Qayqa. I’m going to shoot a video that explains who I am and how great Qayqa will be, and I’ve been considering what the rewards could be.

A month back I asked you to send me your ideas. THANK YOU!! I collected each and every one you sent. You seem to want the same things! Great! Your ideas were a GREAT HELP. I am doing my best to structure a rewards system that interests you, and have been getting great advice from my business-savvy friends. Thanks to Rose, Najeeb and Ben!

I want to take this moment to thank Gerhard for an amazing email he sent a while back, that moved me deeply. I was displaying some insecurity as to if I should finance Qayqa via crowdfunding, which he picked up on, and he said:

I would like to encourage you in crowdfunding your project. Not just because of financing reasons but to include the future audience into the process of making your dream come true. I remember when you climbed so many times a hill (or was it a mountain) near Cusco together with Kwinten to raise money for Helping Hands Cusco. It was a fantastic idea and both of you were unbelievable. That time you wrote “we want to support these children…. We believe they deserve this opportunity”. I believe you deserve this opportunity to express your Peruvian heritage in a book, in YOUR book Qayqa.

Thank you so much Gerhard.

While working on the rewards system, and while struggling with my doubts and writing all this procrastinatory emotional poetry, I had an idea.

ergo, the lightbulb

ergo, the lightbulb

I am going to make a PRODUCTION SCRAPBOOK of the process of publishing Qayqa, and give it away as one of the rewards. It will be constructed as an open letter to you and to myself, and will be a lovely side-project to motivate me to keep going, whenever the doubts overcome me and I want to curl up in bed.

It will include…

  • the poetry I am writing while Qayqa is being born
  • unpublished photographs of the various stages of the illustrations being created
  • behind-the-scenes photographs of producing Qayqa
  • quotes and photographs that motivated, inspired or helped, which are really precious, beautiful and cheeky
  • handwritten notes that explain the photographs, poetry & how the quotes helped me
  • some more stuff

The PRODUCTION SCRAPBOOK will be a LIMITED EDITION so watch out for it!

Ayllu, I’m not sure yet what my requested amount will be, because I’m still calculating book costs, travel expenses, promotion expenses, and trying to figure out what else I might need money for.

A part of the money we raise will go to Mark. It will never be the amount he deserves for the work & passion & talent he is putting into the illustrations – but I really hope to give him as much as we can, because he signed up to do all this work FOR FREE.

One thing I know for sure, ayllu: I am going to need to your help very, very much. Once the crowdfunding video is up, I need you to tell all your friends about it. I need you to pass the link on to everyone you know. If you send me your address, I’ll send you some crowdfunding flyers to pass around. I need your help. I can’t do this without you.

Discovering that my exhaustion isn’t tribute to the winter but to my fear, well – it helped. Now I know who is really keeping me down. I can work with that.

We need a crowdfunding party soon, don’t you think?

 

 

The History of Qayqa

9 Feb

It’s Saturday afternoon. I’m having a cup of black tea, munching on some chocolate, and going over the corrections suggested by my lector in the German version of my novel Qayqa. And I’m thinking, if I ever have this, I’ll feel I made it. Unless it’s actually my house, and not just my writing room:

Neil Gaiman's writing gazebo

a writing gazebo like Neil Gaiman has… and a wolf

Lovely, silly, distracting fantasies.

I’m preparing Qayqa for publication, and that means the world to me.

In the light of the upcoming BIRTH, I want to talk a bit about Qayqa, who she is, what she does – and who Munay is. I know there’s been some confusion.

 

How Qayqa Began

I began writing Qayqa four years ago (o boy). At the time, I was in the middle of my media designer apprenticeship at SWR, living in my first apartment and had no sense my Peruvian identity or heritage. All I knew was that I wanted to write about a man walking over a woman’s body, peeking into her scars and wounds, and through this, discovering just how much of an adventure it is to love a woman. I wanted him to learn to feel grateful for her.

Some feminism going on there.

But the story wasn’t working. I tried it as a poem, a short story, a film script, even a play. I almost had it as a play, but I was writing on my typewriter back then, and one day, I lost the pages. Bummer.

Then the lines came: “I once knew a group of flying men and women…” I began writing. I thought I was writing a short story. Then Damian fell over the horizon and began wandering over a woman’s body, peeking into her scars and wounds… and that was when I realised what I was writing.

 

During Qayqa

I excitedly called my father to tell him I was writing a book. I said I didn’t have a title yet. He said: “You should give it a Peruvian name, something in Quechua, perhaps an Inca philosophy.”

I snorted: “And how am I going to find that?” To date, I have found two books in all of Peru that teach Quechua, and one of them was written by a friend. “It’s not like I can just google: secret shamanic Inca words!” My father laughed, said, “Try it!” and hung up.

So I googled secret shamanic Inca words. It actually worked.

I found an glossary of shamanic vocabulary, and slowly read through it all. I finally came to Q – qayqa: “a state of bewitchment or illness, a psychic or energetic knot of energy, which can be released through healing, ritual or initiation work”. It was perfect! It even said “KNOTS” in the definition!

How terribly exciting. I began referring to this glossary for ideas while I wrote.

Shortly afterwards, we received word that a friend of the family, estimated Peruvian scientist & explorer, and the man who gave me my name, Carlos Ochoa, had passed away.

left to right: Dr Carlos Ochoa, Dr José Luis Rueda. CIP Archive

left to right: Dr Carlos Ochoa, Dr José Luis Rueda. CIP Archive

I ran with the obituary to Mark (who, in those days, wasn’t my art partner – just a guy I was dating), read it out loud to him, and told him all my memories of Carlos Ochoa. While I was ranting, Mark painted a picture of a potato slowly transforming into a child. I snapped my fingers: “That’s it! I’m going to create a homage to Carlos Ochoa by making him a character in my book. I’ll name a small potato after him, one that can do exactly what you painted: transform into a little person, and back into a potato.”

That painting still hangs in Mark’s apartment. It is one of our most prized joint possessions.

When I returned to see Mark the next morning, he had wild eyes and crazy hair. He had been up all night, digesting Carlos Ochoa’s incredible life story, and doing this:

the very first potato Ochoa created by Mark Klawikowski

the very first potato Ochoa created by Mark Klawikowski

 

first steps

first steps

me examining the puppet for the first time

me back then, examining the puppet for the first time

Over the next few weeks, Mark and I decided to make our first film together. By that time, we had collaborated on my first book, a collection of short stories entitled Overripe Fruits: illustrations by Mark.

from "Overripe Fruits"

from “Overripe Fruits”

With Ochoa the Potato as the main character, I wrote & we directed Children of Roots.

me filming Ochoa at the theater in der westentasche, watching Thomas Dentler and Nancy Calero perform from one of their plays

me filming Ochoa at the theater in der westentasche, watching Thomas Dentler and Nancy Calero perform from one of their plays

We took Children of Roots to Peru: Peruvian actress Nancy Calero organised a film tour through northern Peru, where we showed our film at schools, to artists and to youth organisations. We told everyone about Dr Carlos Ochoa.

Ochoa and I standing in the Peruvian desert

Ochoa and I standing in the Peruvian desert

It was while I was there that I really began to identify as a Peruvian – for the first time in my life. Keeping Qayqa in mind, I bought as many books as I could find on Peruvian shamanism, Quechua glossaries, Quechua dictionaries…

Children of Roots was the first puppet-documentary we made, and Ochoa was the first film puppet Mark ever created. Ochoa took us on the wildest ride of our lives: thanks to him, we’ve been giving Children of Roots workshops for the past 4 years; Mark went on to create more film puppets, which starred in The Tailorettes of Ulm; we founded a film company entitled (also a homage) GoldenPotato; and even won a prize for our puppets.

All of this, everything we have today, is thanks to Dr Carlos Ochoa, and the potato Ochoa. Who would have thought that a little potato could take you on such a wild adventure.

Over the years, Mark kept telling our audiences that the potato Ochoa is originally from my book Qayqa. But it confused everyone, and after a while, we stopped telling people.

But now, finally, after four years out & about, Ochoa is going back into Qayqa – back to where it all began. And after four years of waiting, Qayqa will finally be published.

352px-Sapta_Chakra,_1899

 

Preparing Qayqa for Publication

The plan was always for Mark to illustrate Qayqa. Even while I was writing her, Mark was already sketching my ideas. It was always a clear deal. Even though we are today going separate ways, it would be preposterous for him to not illustrate Qayqa.

In preparing Qayqa for publication, I am doing several things at once:

  • a few months ago, I translated Qayqa into German and sent her off to a friend / lector for corrections. She’s now coming back with suggestions and corrections, and I’m going through it all. After I’m done, she’ll go off to another friend / lector for a second proof-reading.
  • I’m reading up on ways to finance & publicize Qayqa‘s publication. I’m looking into CrowdFunding, and I’ll talk about that more in a little bit.
  • writing lists of which sections I believe should be illustrated and meeting up with Mark to talk about them. We agreed on 6 illustrations per chapter.
  • thinking about Qayqa‘s book tour. As you know, I have always wanted to incorporate music (and singing) into the readings. I just received a happy “Yes!” from a pianist, who has agreed to stop by some readings and play his own compositions. That’s all in planning, and once we know more, I’ll tell you. I’m just so happy about his spontaneous “Yes!”
Pacha Mama

Pacha Mama

 

Illustrating Qayqa

Over the last few weeks, I took my list of possible illustrations to Mark and we worked through them. Last Tuesday, we completed all the illustrations for Chapter 2. (There are 4 chapters, but the last chapter is probably just 10 pages, so might just have 2-3 illustrations)

It was a very bizarre meeting. I was coming down with a cold, and all I really needed to do was sleep. But I put Qayqa first and trekked over to Mark’s. This is what made the meeting bizarre: I read out my first idea to him and fell asleep. He sketched quietly, then shook me awake to show me. I made a few suggestions, went back to sleep, and he modified the picture. He woke me. I explained the next idea to him and went back to sleep. He sketched… shook me awake… I explained the next idea.

But we did it. We finished Chapter 2!

Now, my lovely ayllu, I’m going to show you what we did. Here it is. A few sketches of Qayqa, JUST FOR YOU:

Mama Ti's caravan, not yet complete

Mama Ti’s caravan, not yet complete

Damian trying to balance on the horizon

Damian trying to balance on the horizon

This is the last illustration from Chapter 1.

Chapter 2:

 

Damian falling into a scar of the earth, slowly transforming into an animal as he falls

Damian falling into a scar of the earth, slowly transforming into an animal as he falls

Very Alice in Wonderland…

 

Ochoa the potato explaining the world to Damian

Ochoa the potato explaining the world to Damian

My favourite:

Damian would make a terrible plant: his knots falling all over the place & not reaching out to the sun (as they should). Meanwhile, Ochoa the potato grows stronger and more beautiful, while Damian sits in angry frustration

Damian would make a terrible plant: his knots falling all over the place & not reaching out to the sun (as they should). Meanwhile, Ochoa the potato grows stronger and more beautiful, while Damian sits in angry frustration

What happens now:

I recorded myself reading all of Chapter 1. Mark will now go over the illustrations from this chapter with ink. Once he’s done with that, we’ll select one (we already have one in mind) to be a flyer (perhaps even poster), so that I can start publicizing the book.

My job is to read myself reading the relevant bits of Chapter 2. While he listens to my recording, Mark will draw the sketches out in big, start with ink, and surely add more detail; some of these are, after all, still a bit rough. How could they not be, when the writer was falling asleep while describing them?

 

After Qayqa Came Munay

Three years ago, I gave Qayqa to a friend for translation. He came back with surprised eyes: “Yes, I liked it a lot, but… I thought those flying people were a bigger part of the book. I kept waiting for them to come back!”

SPOILER ALERT:

The flying people only really feature in Chapter 1. 2/3 of the book is about Damian stumbling through the desert with a potato. Sorry.

I was a bit depressed back then because I had finished Qayqa. I was missing the world. I began with what I thought would be a short story: one that is just about the flying people, because (let’s face it) they’re pretty fascinating. They still have so much room for development & storytelling.

At some point I realised I was writing a book. I gave her the playful name Munay and kept wanting to change it. Munay stuck. It’s Quechua and means “the power of love and the power of will, combined”. In 2012, I backpacked with her through Peru and wrote a lot. She’s not done and she’s already more pages than Qayqa.

Munay is the sequel. She’s about a young woman named Anahata. One day, the caravans pass through her village and she meets Ti. She decides to leave her village and travel with the caravans. One day, she discovers that she, too, can fly. Thus begins her transformation… And a lot of other things happen. Until she leaves the caravans and runs into the jungle.

For Munay, I wanted to write solely about the flying people: how they fly, how this changes them, what they’re like. And I wanted to create a character who knows everything about the sky and the earth. For that, I had to make Anahata fall out of the sky and dig into the earth. And then, more stuff happens.

a mysterious picture that is actually information for writing Munay

a mysterious picture that is actually information for writing Munay

While illustrating with Mark, he occasionally says: “Oh, this one will go in Munay…” So there you have it.

 

CROWDFUNDING:  I NEED YOUR HELP!

I’m looking into ways to finance the printing, publishing and publicizing of Qayqa. An exciting option I’m looking into is Crowdfunding. Have you heard of it?

Here’s a video with a quick overview:

This is how Amanda Palmer raised ONE MILLION DOLLARS for her tour & album book:

This is my idea:

I need to raise money to be able to send Qayqa off to the printer. My first calculation had me at 200 books = € 1270.- At the moment, I’m thinking I might print off 100 first (LIMITED) editions. Then there is the cost of flyers… posters… and the book tour.

I’m thinking about doing this over Crowdfunding. That means that if you decide to donate, depending on HOW MUCH you donate, you get something SPECIAL and UNIQUE in return. For example, if you donate, say, € 100, I could make you a thank you video. If you donate € 150, we’ll have dinner together and answer all your questions. If you donate € 250, I could name a character after you. Just ideas.

The more support your pledge, the greater your reward. And one day, you say: “This book came into existence because I helped it.”

Other ideas I had for SPECIAL & UNIQUE packages include:  a never-before published short story… one of my limited edition collages… one of Mark’s Qayqa illustrations (I have to talk to him about this first)… or your pre-ordered SIGNED copy of Qayqa.

The idea is that WE are making ART TOGETHER. I want to do this as close to you as possible.

screamer

All of this would happen over an official website, like StartNext. If I say I need €2000 to publish and tour with Qayqa, and in the set amount of days, we DON’T raise that much money: then everyone gets their money back. If we DO, great!!

If you don’t think this could work, then CHECK THIS OUT. Or THIS.

Do you like the idea of Crowdfunding? Could you picture yourself supporting the cause of publishing a unique book that without your help will never be published???

And if your answer is YES, then tell me this: What would you like to get in return for your donation???

I want to collect ideas for Thank You Packages.

Send me your thoughts & ideas to rittisoncco@gmail.com, to my twitter (@rittisoncco), facebook/rittisoncco, or here in the CommentLand. I’ll collect them, and in the next post: we’ll discuss.

me, right now

me, right now

It’s not afternoon anymore. It’s night.

Back to Illustrating Qayqa

30 Jan

This is an updated version: I promised to publish a video of myself reading Qayqa (in German) on my Tumblr, and I did. The link is below.

Welcome back, as the work on my novel Qayqa resumes!!!

In this post, you’ll read:

  • some talk about my plans for self-publishing
  • how much I love your feedback / why I call you “ayllu”
  • answering your questions about the character Ti
  • a VIDEO: an exclusive peek into Mark’s sketch book. You’ll see the sketches for the first illustrations, we’ll talk about our ideas, our deadline, and Mark will say something about sheep.

ON SELF-PUBLISHING

If you’ve been following my Tumblr, you’ll know that I’ve been reading up on SELF PUBLISHING, EBOOKS and PUBLICISING my novel, Qayqa. I’m chasing all the exciting information in a brilliant fat red bible entitled The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2013. If you’re a writer / artist hoping to get it done, I highly recommend you get this book. New editions are at € 20 – € 25 at Amazon, and it’s absolutely worth every penny.

It was, after all, the 2010 edition that included an essay by author Neil Gaiman, in which he suggested writers have blogs. His words haunted me for a few days until I finally caved in, signed up at WordPress, and… two years later, HERE YOU ARE WITH ME. Thank you Neil, you were right!

the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, and my breakfast

the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, and my breakfast

I think, from now on, all the upcoming posts on my blog will be dedicated to getting Qayqa ready for publication. Unless something crazy happens. I’m really hoping it doesn’t. I’m hoping life leaves me alone for a bit, because I really have to concentrate right now…

SOON I’ll be talking on my blog about THE UPCOMING BOOK TOUR. I’ll also be talking about crowdfunding, kickstarters and Unbound. I’ll be talking to YOU about how you can help Qayqa become a reality… and what you will get in return. Soon.

I promise to take you all-access behind-the-scenes on this. I might be publishing lists of Things To Do, such as contact the press & get them interested in Qayqa, print off flyers for Qayqa, and all the other WhatNot. I’m walking around town making mental lists in my head – and I intend to include YOU in the exciting process of self-publishing my first novel.

tumblr_mh2sthEHSP1rdfiq0o1_500

my two new reads

WHY YOU ARE MY “AYLLU”

So while I read up on self-publishing and scourge the internet for information, I’m still juggling being a circus teacher, finishing Munay, and replying to all your lovely, lovely emails.

I adore every single letter of feedback. And I’m happy that you see how important you are to me. Thank you to a reader for this lovely note:

You make it seem like every single one of your readers is important. Not just your muse, your symbolic unicorn, but every single one of your readers.

You are important. I want to bring back the Quechua term AYLLU. You may remember it means spiritual family. I once began referring to you, my blog readers, as my ayllu, and it’s a term I intend to keep using. It’s perfect for what we’re doing here.

Plus, I love the thought of getting you guys familiar with Quechua words. I do this in my writing as well: there’s a fair bit of Quechua in Qayqa and Munay. It’s my contribution towards keeping my ancestral language alive – and, anthropologically-speaking, more exciting than making up a language, I think!

ABOUT THE CHARACTER “TI”

A few weeks ago, I published an extract from Munay, in which Ti speaks to Damian (yes, it was Damian…!) about Anahata’s insomnia. To this, I received very interesting feedback from an ayllu:

You wrote a very fascinating character. Ti is extremely attractive to me, I always loved old wise women in stories and I learned that though most often they seem cruel and evil at some points, they are of incredible wisdom and also knowing very well what they’re doing, they’re just misunderstood very often.

So THANK YOU for creating such a character. I am looking forward to learn more about her so much!

When I was writing Ti, I had those very wise old women in mind. I wanted to mimic the many wise & independent women I have met in my life – many who have intimidated me. Ti is based on several strong-willed strong-hearted women, women who speak without taboos; who get tattoos when they’re 50; who say: “oh Ritti, don’t worry, everyone makes mistakes” – or just look at me and say: “You stupid, stupid girl…”

They’re not easy to deal with, these strong women, especially when they love to cackle at the foolishness of your youth. Even when I was feeling so darned smart, they were quick to point out my mistake. Not because they wanted to crow over me, but because they saw my silliness, and when it’s constructive criticism, why mince your words?

I love these women. They’re tough stuff, raw cactus – wise in a desert of foolishness.

I wanted Ti to be the kind of woman who might scare me a little, but to whom I would always go to for advice, because I know that she knows.

A few weeks later, I received another email from the same ayllu. She sent this picture, asking if this is what Ti looks like:

maybe ti

I love the question, so I wanted to reply in a special way.

I decided to give you extracts from both Qayqa and Munay, wherein Ti is described. I hope this helps you make up your mind on her character, perhaps her looks, what she smells like. Hold on to your vision of her, even if Mark & I illustrate her differently. It will be interesting to know how you see her, in comparison to how I see her, even when we have the same texts.

From Munay:

This woman intrigued me. I wanted to touch her raspy ash skin and understand what made it different to mine. I wanted to sit under her hair and smell the amlika tree. Looking back, I don’t think I ever really perceived her as a woman, but more as a force of nature. She was inconspicuously small, beriddled and deeply rooted in The Way Things Are. That comforted me, because among such people things rarely go wrong. With her warm skin like a shea tree and the smacking lips of a mother, I felt safe.

From Qayqa:

I had too much mead one night so, feeling cocky and boisterous, I asked Anka to let me try juggling three fire balls. It was a disaster and I almost burnt all my knots. Ti ran out of a caravan and whacked my head with a towel, yelling, “You don’t get rid of them knots that easy now, Damian! You don’t burn a problem to ash, you solve it!”

(…)

The fire’s reaction to me left me no peace. I mulled it over for days and finally reached a conclusion: fire doesn’t want to be feared, it wants to be played with. When I told Ti this, she replied, “Ah, that’s the nature of life, boy.”

From Munay: 

The brightly lit caravans flooded me from all sides, making it impossible to look at her. No matter which caravan I shielded my eyes against, there was always another light blinding me. Although she never moved, she seemed to know very well that exactly where she was standing was the only place where I couldn’t see her.

This was the first of her many paradoxes that I would come to know. She was the only person I ever knew who could be obscured by light.

That just made me chuckle, because in these extracts you can really see the difference between the narrators: Damian narrates Qayqa and Anahata narrates Munay. Ti plays, more or less, the same role to both Damian and Anahata – yet they have very distinct relationships. And even in such short extracts, you can already tell what kind of people Damian and Anahata are.

It fascinates me that Ti is becoming a character of such interest. She was never meant to be more than a recurring “antagonist”, but with main characters such as the egocentric Damian and the elusive Anahata, it’s really no surprise that Ti is so popular. Is it her wisdom, while Damian, Anahata & all of us are still learning? Do we need a mama like Ti in our lives?

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Mark Klawikowski illustrating Qayqa

Mark Klawikowski illustrating Qayqa

Mark and I took an illustrating break over the Christmas holidays, and now we’re back, working at full blast. Two weeks ago, he broke some crazy news to me: he’s leaving Germany in March to walk with nomadic sheep around Turkey.

I’m not joking.

He’s signed up with a group of artists, so aptly called Ulmer Gestalten, to join their exciting venture travelling with nomadic sheep farmers in Turkey. It sounds absolutely brilliant, and Mark is already inventing puppets to ride the sheep.

This venture also gives us a DEADLINE. All the illustrations for Qayqa must be done before he leaves. So we’re working at full blast.

I’m going through Qayqa and making lists of scenes I would like illustrated, how they could be formatted, and what little details should be included. He’s sketching like crazy. Whenever I go over to his, I carry heavy books about plants, ethnobotany and Peruvian shamanism. I’ll be recording myself reading Qayqa so that he can listen to each chapter while he works on the illustrations. That will give him a feeling for the book, and perhaps even inspire new details.

Just to give you FULL ACCESS: I have published the video of me reading the opening pages of Qayqa (in German!) onto my Tumblr. It’s on now!

Today, we worked very hard. And we made another VIDEO for you! In this video, you’ll get an EXCLUSIVE peek into Mark’s sketch book. We’ll show you what we’ve been working on, and, in the end, we’ll discuss which illustrations will be kicked out… Very sad.

This video is such a fun little teaser, because it hints at all the weird, weird things that are going to happen…! Hallucinating in the forest?? Oh, absolutely.

That’s it from me tonight, ayllu! In the upcoming posts, I’ll talk a bit about the MATHEMATICS of self-publishing, and I’ll tell you all about my ideas for THE QAYQA BOOK TOUR. Exciting times are coming, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other as the months pass by.

As always, feedback away. If you liked it, tell a friend. If you hated it, bore a friend with it.  Take care out there, ayllu. I will see you soon!!