Tag Archives: writer

Aerials at Crathes Enchanted Castle

26 Nov


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Crathes Castle. Photograph by Martin Parker

Crathes Castle. Photograph by Martin Parker

Crathes Castle Grounds. Photograph by Martin Parker.

Crathes Castle Grounds. Photograph by Martin Parker.

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

Big Man Barnaby

Big Man Barny

Hannah firebreathing while Emma hoola-hooped

Hannah firebreathing while Emma hoola-hooped

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

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

the view to my office

where I danced

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

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

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

There’s a brilliant anecdote to this video.

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

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

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

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

“What? Why? What were you doing?”

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

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

The Selfie

The Selfie

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

I think this was a more than worthy farewell.

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

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

Photo 20-11-2014 00 44 06

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

Photo 21-11-2014 23 15 56

my favourite by Elsie Liontou


And favourites by Martin Parker:

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

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

Other girls and me

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

Photo 21-11-2014 13 31 13

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

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

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

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

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

Finally buying thermal underwear so I don’t freeze.

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

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

This is how we change.

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

Yes We Can!

We Can Do It!

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

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

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

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

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


Book Tour // Buchtournee

12 Jun

Today we made you a video about how you can “Book the Book” tour. It’s in German because I’ll be starting my book tour in all German-speaking countries. Keep scrolling for some photos & a random video!

Now that you’ve seen it, join in the BOOK MY BOOK tour and book me via:

  • rittisoncco@gmail.com
  • facebook.com/rittisoncco
  • twitter  @ritti soncco

So how all this happened was, yesterday I was rambling to my good friend, Jamie the Pict, about making a video for y’all. He immediately offered to film it for me because he’s a Very Kind Man who loves doing Weird Things. Hence I say good friend!

on our way!

on our way!

He knows Aberdeen like his own “westentasche” (haha inside joke) so when I said I wanted to be in a tree, he suggested filming at Hazelhead Park. Like most things in Scotland, Hazelhead Park is partly a golf course, but this summer, it’ll host the Highland Games for Aberdeenshire, wherein ole Scottish things are done, such as throwing cabers and looking like badly-hidden euphemisms which would prove Freud right.

Anyway, we drove around the park until I screamed: “THERE’S OUR TREE!”


We tried different angles, Jamie fought with my iPod’s focus, and we grr’d when golf cars or horse trunks rumbled by… But we got our shot!

And here are some photos of how we fell in love with this beautiful tree.

Jamie's filming position

Jamie’s filming position

film pose

film pose


And some video nonsense.

There, dear ayllu, now you know how to BOOK MY BOOK. Remember I’m open to all your suggestions. I’ll read by your favourite river. If you play a musical instrument, maybe we can do a literary-musical fusion? I’ll read at midnight, at noon. Make it exciting, let your imagination go wild. I’m up for all sorts of epic nonsense.

So BOOK MY BOOK and tell all yer friends Qayqa is coming!

Thank you so much. Have an orchid.


Phalaenopsis Orchid

(This comes from a link a good friend sent me of plants looking like creatures. You’ll love it, so click here, then BOOK MY BOOK tour!)

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:



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.

photo 4

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.


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.”



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…


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

The Traveling Writer

12 Sep

Where was I? Where were you?? 

This is where I was:

1st Lap in white, 2nd Lap in light pink, 3rd Lap in magenta

1st Lap in white, 2nd Lap in light pink, 3rd Lap in magenta

Firstly, I was in Toulouse for the European Juggling Convention. Then I drove with a friend from Toulouse (over La Rochelle) to Brighton, to attend the Aerial Dance Festival there. I spent a few quiet days and not-so-quiet-nights in London with my best friend, then I flew to Carcassonne and travelled around with botanists I met at the EJC, ending up in Montpellier and catching a flight from there to Frankfurt-Hahn.

Before hitting the road I didn’t know how much I would be able to blog so I thought it best to advise everyone to follow my Tumblr account (rittisoncco.tumblr.com) If you want more pictures from my summer, feel free to check them out there!

Oooo it’s strange to be blogging after such a long pause. I feel a bit awkward. Sorry if my writing is bizarre: I need to get back into the flow!

My summer was truly beautiful, and I did it by planning absolutely nothing. I wanted the wind to take me. Following a beautiful invitation, the wind took me back to the south of France for ocean waves, melons, rivers and lakes and frommage de chevre. 

In Brighton we trained to a beautiful song. In Montpellier I jotted down a memory. If you like, listen to the song and then give my anecdote your eyes. It’s work-in-progress – or perhaps it’s as far as it will ever go. It’s an anecdote I wrote to remember, and the home for memories are diaries, short stories, and you.

Two Travelers Find Themselves In a City

photo 1Two travelers climbed out of the entanglements of the woods and found themselves among the soft French murmurs of the ocean city Montpellier. His hair fell in masses that mimicked the leaves in autumn and smelt of bonfires over which he had cooked dinners and boiled coffee. Her scalp was covered in sand, le sable, and her hair clumped into what would, with time, become dreadlocks formed by swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and in lakes.

photo 2

Their eyes still searched, accustomed by now to deciphering transparent jellyfish from choppy green water; deciphering which roads led to less people; which rocks could be climbed over and which would cut her left foot.

In this state, they found themselves abruptly in the center of Montpellier. They were trying to camouflage by wearing clothes of finer material, but their skin smelt of midnight washes, naked under the waning moon, and they knew they were tourists – not to this city, but to all cities. The only intimacy she felt necessary, she had come to find in the space between her face and her hair. They had peed in vineyards, on mountains, in showers. They had swum naked; they had argued in towns where no one knew their names.

Now they sat in a restaurant and ordered food.

the food that came looked something like this

the food that came

She crossed her legs beneath the glass table with finesse but she was thinking: I hope this city doesn’t grow much larger for it will come between us. I’m pretending, she knew. The woods they had lived in had demanded they expel everything but their core, and it had taken a while for her head to leave. She didn’t want her core to return to the entanglement of the woods, wrapped and hidden by leaves.

He looked as little as ease as she, but his movements were perfect: how he selected the wine, how he held the glass as he tasted his choice. She began a table conversation, but hesitantly.

As they ate, the conversation turned to judgement: how they were perceived on occasions. Feeling the city between them, she told her story in more direct, more revealing manner. She said things she normally would not have; not so quickly: I know they think I’m beautiful and I’ve been judged as having things made easier for me because of that. His smile grew as she gave him intimacy with her anecdote, and he set the wine glass down to hear her.

And they thought: Let’s get the hell away from this restaurant and back into the van.

photo 4

Let’s cook on its small gas stove that goes out if we leave the doors open. In the kitchen that sways whenever a car whizzes past. Let’s eat on stone slabs and scratch our skin from the latex of figs. I saw who she was when she learnt how to climb. I saw who he was when he swam in the ocean. 

I was seen in the woods. Take me back there, I want to be seen again. 

photo 3

Yes, I loved being away from civilization. I thought of you often and wondered if you were checking my blog, wondering where the hell I was. Traveling was beautiful, but it’s good to be back and blogging

I’ve been thinking about the future of the blog since I first toyed with the idea of going to uni. I came to the following conclusion: This has always been a blog about my writing, and as my writing will continue as long as I breathe, this blog will continue being about my writing.


There’s quite a bit to say, but I should mention that the upcoming Kulturnacht on Saturday, 14th September, will be my “last” performance in Germany this year – since I am moving to Scotland in 9 days…

There was a MISTAKE in the official PROGRAM BROCHURE: I START AT 8pm. I’ll probably be reading until 11 pm / midnight, depending on the audience / feedback. I will do my utmost to limit myself to 20 minutes, but I’m feeling quite liberal about the night. I’m taking the guitar, I’ll experiment a bit with poetry, Qayqa, and stuff, and if you show me that you want a performance to go on for longer: I will.

Friedrich Glorian will not be performing with me, as he has engagements elsewhere. I am, ofcourse, very sad to not be collaborating with him on Saturday (I was especially looking forward to our rehearsals!!! I had the impression that they would be great fun) but when he spoke to me about his other engagement, I understood and support his decision 100%. You have to go where your art takes you.

I’m really just letting the Kulturnacht 2013 surprise me. I have a few ideas, and ofcourse I’m slightly nervous (it’ll get stronger as Saturday approaches), but all in all, I just want to focus on feeling comfortable.

On the road and since I’ve returned, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of artist – and wondering if I really have what it takes. I took this year 2012 / 2013 to focus on my writing, and I found that I wasn’t necessarily more productive than if I hadn’t taken a year off to write. I usually wrote the most when I had to leave the following morning, because the pressure of departure was on me.

The winter was hard. I asked myself often if I really have what it takes to be an artist, a productive creator. I see other artists around me who have been doing this for years, and I admire their enthusiasm and energy so much. It’s such a rollercoaster ride; how the HELL do other people do it?!

I met up with very good friends of mine: filmmakers. They made this film:

It premiered at the Berlinale and was a great success. Since then, the filmmaking company they founded, Kunststoff, has been thriving. They can live comfortably off their work, and we spent a very interesting evening comparing our lives as freelancers, artists, creators.

And I heard my words coming out of their mouths: “It’s a rollercoaster ride. If it weren’t so damn emotional, it’d be alright, but we’re not machines… Sometimes everything is so overwhelming and there no one who can help you with your problem because you’re doing something new, something no one has ever done before, so there’s no one to tell you how to do things. You have to find the solution yourself. It’s beautiful – but it’s exhausting – but it’s beautiful.”

A few days later in Ulm, I went to the Roxy to see the band Okta Logue in concert. Mark and I had stumbled over them accidentally in Darmstadt, and now they finally made it to Ulm… Back in Darmstadt we saw them give an interview and present their music video, which was…

They were in Ulm to present their new album Tales Of Transit City which was stunning, really really stunning. With the first strum of the guitar, the audience of Ulm closed their eyes and swayed. I went to the bar for another beer and from the distance, I could feel Okta Logue cast their spell over the crowd. I walked back into the cloud and felt bewitched. It was a beautiful, beautiful concert, and if you ever have the opportunity to see them live, please don’t miss it.

Here is another song I quite like:

After a magical concert, I fell into a long and interesting discussion with the guitarist and drummer about the nature of being an artist. They mentioned not being too pleased with the gig because they were tired, etc, and we discussed the automatisms we fall into while we perform.

“I know that during this particular sentence, I usually do this hand gesture, so I do it. Even when I don’t feel it, I do it,” I said.

The guitarist nodded quickly: “I know this is usually my pose, so I take it, but I don’t feel it. I start thinking too much, and that’s when I make mistakes. Then it’s oh no, one mistake, and the insecurities pour in so I make a second mistake. Then it’s 2:0 mistakes against me. It’s an internal battle no one else sees while I am onstage.”

photo 2

I recounted: “I gave a reading once that I wasn’t pleased with and yet the audience gave me great feedback that night. But I was somehow saddened that I had missed out on a beautiful experience that they had all shared with one another. I was there, yes, but I had missed the feeling the night had for them.” They nodded understandingly.

“That’s how it is,” we agreed. “It’s a damn emotional rollercoaster ride.”

photo 3

Okta Logue is in the middle of a tour throughout Germany and in October they’ll hit the States for 3 weeks. I told them (and I’ll keep saying it) that I wish them every success because they truly deserve it. Their music is divine. Please visit their page here: http://oktalogue.com/wordpress/  and go to their concerts and buy their vinyls and t-shirts. Talk to them afterwards if you can. It’s rare to find people you can fall immediately have deep, meaningful conversations with; but you can with them.

So my insecurities questioning “am I real artist?” are the echo we all share. I’ve written all my life, and I love performing. But for how long will the doubts echo? Will we ever be sure of ourselves as artists? – or is the point of confidence also the point of arrogance?

I know I need the freedom to travel and to write as I see fit. There are many people with many very good ideas about how I should continue my career, and they would all be right, except that I have other plans… Just as Basti said about being a filmmaker: you hit a problem and no one can solve it for you because no one’s ever been here before. It’s the same with every other choice in the artist life: no one has ever been here before, so I will do things my way. I know I’ll doubt and fight and love, but as long as my words reach you, I think I am doing alright. 

Find the way you need to live.

I leave you with an interesting conversation I had yesterday with Manfred Eichhorn, owner of the Eichhorn Buchladen where I’ll be reading at the Kulturnacht. Before I hit the road, I gave him the Qayqa manuscript for critique, and over a cup of jasmine tea, he gave me excellent feedback with direction.

And he said:

“You and your novel are inseparable. When you read it, there’s magic. But what happens when you’re not around to read it? Can your words stand on their own? In order to do so, they still need some work.

I also have doubts about your character: why is he a man? He doesn’t always sound or act like a man. If you are so inseparable from your book, why not make the main character a woman? You, perhaps? That will help your reader dive quicker in the world you are creating. Damian is very feminine, and that’s sometimes a problem because I didn’t always believe him.

Either you change Damian into a woman… Or keep the third-person narrative structure and stop speaking from his perspective.”

I have been asking myself ever since: why do I love that Damian is a man? Given the choices Manfred Eichhorn proposed, I would immediately choose to stay true to the third-person narrative and (sad as I find it) eliminate all first-person recounts. Because I love Damian is a man. I cannot turn him into a woman.

But: why not?

Why not…?

See you at the Kulturnacht… Or on the blog.

last night, experimenting different tunes for my poetry

last night, experimenting different tunes for my poetry

I will blog again before Scotland.

Anecdotes from the Road

14 Aug

no where now here

Dear ayllu,

For 3 weeks now, I have been on the road. Firstly, I spent 1 week at the JOJO circus school in Gschwend, attending the juggling module: the one module I missed because I was backpacking through Latin America last year, and without this module, my circus apprenticeship degree would have been slightly incomplete and therefore crooked.

It was a great module; it was interesting & lovely to meet the people taking the foundation year after my class; and it was heartbreakingly beautiful to be back at the JOJO school, to attend the rituals, to hug goodbye, to spend days in circus isolation.

Then I met up with my friend Marina, an aerialist, and we drove for 11 hours to Toulouse, France. Here we spent 1 week at the European Juggling Convention, the world’s largest circus convention which takes place in a different part of Europe each year. Last year it was in Poland, next year it will be in Ireland.

the Galactica Playground, where all the jugglers, poi swingers and hoola hoops artists played

the Galactica Playground, where all the jugglers, poi swingers and hoola hoops artists played

kite runner

kite runner

man balancing a contact ball while he rides from the campsite to the main festival grounds

man balancing a contact ball while he rides from the campsite to the main festival grounds

main juggling site

main juggling site

There was acrobatics, aerials, juggling juggling juggling, and a lot of drinking & dancing. I met incredible circus artists who travel the world performing; who just began training at circus schools; who were kind, lovely, and crazy.

I saw beautiful people with long dreadlocks, with feathers. Muscular, wild-looking, living in their vans, living from day to day. Everyone spoke French, English and Spanish. There were 5 shows on every day, from Open Stages to fire shows to galas.

The heat was intense. If you moved a finger, you poured sweat.

aerial tent

aerial tent

The training standard of these people varied from incredibly high, to improver, to beginner, to “I just came because I love the atmosphere”. It was some peoples’ first EJC (I was one of those), some peoples’ 30th.

After 1 week, Marina and I drove another 11 hours to Brighton, England. Here we attended the European Aerial Dance Festival, where we improved our trapeze & silks techniques, we did aerial yoga, and we learnt vertical wall dance and harness.

our training space

our training space

vertical wall dance

vertical wall dance




counterweight and harness

counterweight and harness


it happened on the spur of the moment!

it happened on the spur of the moment!

After 1 week in Brighton, Marina and I said goodbye. I took my backpack out of  her car, and she took the ferry with it back to Germany. She should be back in Ulm by now.

on the road again

on the road again

But wait!

Before we said goodbye in Dover, I have a ridiculous anecdote to share with you. This is from an email I sent to my parents. Have fun:

“I am sitting in a cafe in Dover, waiting until my bus leaves for London. I just said goodbye to marina, who is now taking the ferry to France and then driving to Germany.

In the UK I’ve been driving, because she was worried to drive on the UK side if the road. I was a bit nervous about it too, but I adapted quite quickly. All went really well. I’m a bit proud!

So she asked me to drive her to Dover today. I could have taken a bus from Brighton to London, but I agreed to drive her and bought a ticket from here to London.

We made it to the ferry port safe and sound. I explained at the check in that I wasn’t getting on the ferry and would like to leave the port on foot. The guy at the check in was nice and young and said okay. So we got in, parked, and set off on foot to find the pedestrian exit.

Turns out that was breaking the law!

When I asked someone where the exit was, he panicked and said I had broken several laws and needed to leave immediately. I said sorry and thank you and yes I’d like to leave, actually. So then we were surrounded by a bunch of official port people, all confused abs distressed because a “clandestino” had somehow smuggled her way – accidentally, at that! – into their super secure system.

I explained and everyone was understanding (if a bit in panic) and I was escorted out. My farewell to Marina after 3 weeks on the road together, was through the fence, feeling like one of us was in a refugee camp! I felt a bit deported…!!!

Luckily everyone was nice. I apologized and explained that we had explained everything at the check in. They said it wasn’t my fault, and in the end I was driven to my bus station!! Of course that was them making sure I don’t continue smuggling myself places, but I didn’t mind, as I got a free ride across the city of Dover. The lady who drove me was lovely; she pointed out the sights and told me some history, and now I’m having a coffee and will head to the bus station in a few minutes.”

Dover from afar

Dover from afar

I am now in London, staying with my best friend Rose (who I travelled with through Peru 2 years ago). I am here with the backpack me travelled with, which is my father’s backpack with which he hitchhiked across Europe in the 70s and 80s.

I may have to leave it here, because tomorrow I will get on a plane back to the south of France, and the backpack is too large to take on a Ryanair flight. I’m not keen to be separated from it, but I cannot think of a safer haven for it than in Rose’s flat in London.

By the time I leave tomorrow morning, I will have spent 2 full days in London. I met up with old university friends, caused mischief, and now the road is calling me again. I am returning to the south of France because I have met wonderful people there who I want to see more, who invited me back; and because I need some sunshine and ocean before I move to Scotland.

It’s my summer holiday. As soon as I return to Ulm, Mark and I will meet and see how far along he has come with the illustrations for Qayqa. He is in Morocco at the moment  – or perhaps he is back by now.

This is just a quick catch-up from the road. I’ve packed my Ryanair approved bag and am about to head out of the house. I’m going to visit the Museum of Natural History because I have never seen a dinosaur before. Then one last night in London and I shall spend the night at Stansted Airport. By this time tomorrow, I will be in the south of France.

And when I’m there, I’ll work out how to get back to Germany.

I didn’t plan this. My plans ended at Brighton. I deliberately left August open so that I could decide spontaneously where to go.

If you want a postcard, send me your address: either in the comments or over twitter @rittisoncco

I leave you with a song. It came on my iPod as I sat in the bus from Dover to London, looking out the window, up at the clouds, with my father’s backpack beside me. And I thought: I am happy. This is when I am at my happiest.

3 Days Until the Road

18 Jul
somewhere between Freiburg and Berlin

this weekend, somewhere between Freiburg and Berlin

This was a beautiful weekend. I spent one night in Freiburg, visiting a very good friend’s graduating art exhibition. Then I spent three nights in Berlin, visiting my backpacker friend Erick from Colombia, who is currently in Berlin with his band Milmarias, recording their second studio album. Shortly before leaving Bogotá, they gave this fun concert á la Bicycle Sessions:

Until their second studio album is released, you can follow them around on SoundCloud here.

Erick & Kike giving an interview to a radio station in Bogotá, Colombia, over Skype

Erick & Kike giving an interview to a radio station in Bogotá, Colombia, over Skype

When I arrived in Berlin on Saturday night, they were opening for a London-Colombian band called Bitch ‘N Monk. Behaving strangely stalker-y, I bought several copies of their demo, followed them on Twitter and found this beautiful band-trailer:

I don’t really have any other way of putting this:  strangely, their music felt like a consolation. I was relieved to know this kind of music was still being made – innovatively. Not re-mixed or re-dreamt from the 60s, but genuine in our days. The lyrics had me closing my eyes, smiling in shame / surprise at being caught: admitting that I had had the very thoughts she was singing of. She revealed me to myself – and that’s not something that happens often. So when it does, the reaction is to behave strangely stalker-ish. Caught in the act of being a fan! Feeling understood by an artist is a wonderful wonderful thing.

Of all the songs they performed that night, one really stuck out to me, which I want to share with you now.



Artists going their way.

Making things happen.

Listening to a gut –

a gut feeling telling them: this might be the right way to do it. 

I’m in that kind of a knot: How to go about Qayqa? The crowdfunding is done, and everything now is about The Next Step. Everyone is looking to me to direct – and I’m trying to slow everyone down because I want the next step to be a very careful & thought-out enterprise. I ran into the crowdfunding with one fist in the air and my other hand balancing a lot of other things on a shaky plate. Miraculously, it worked. Now I need my steps to be less fisty, less shaky, and slow.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the cover for Qayqa. Mark has some brilliant ideas for making the cover seem magical. We recently walked around a bookstore pulling books off shelves and comparing their coversMark is considering something like this:

"The Neverending Story" by Michael Ende

“The Neverending Story” by Michael Ende

But I recently saw something I think I may like more: an insinuation.

Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

Qayqa‘s insinuation is quite clearly knots. Yes, there are flying people in it, but – trust me – they are not as present in Qayqa as they are in the sequel Munay. Thinking about knots, I immediately remembered an album I adored when I was growing up: Alanis Morisette’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. In the CD booklet were beautiful images of her long hair, and I poured over these images marveling at the simplicity behind the idea.

alanis morissette - supposed former infatuation junkie (inside 03)

alanis morissette - supposed former infatuation junkie (inside 02)

Mark will come up with some sketches to show me what’s in his head; and I think I might take some pictures of knots and play around with my ideas.

Now… I have 3 days at home, and I am using them mostly to be in bed. I’m doing what I always dream of when I have little time: I watch films.

On Friday, I’m giving a reading at the Kulturnacht der Universität Konstanz, and on Saturday I’m back in Neu-Ulm reading at the Neu-Ulmer Stadtlesen. 

On Sunday, I head back to the JOJO Circus School to complete the one module I missed out on last year, when I was backpacking through Latin America: the juggling module. I’ll be going back as an “external student”, training with the class that began one year after we did. A parallel class will be there at the same time, and I am friends with this group, so it won’t be too alienating I think. It will simply be … interesting … to go back to the Rappenhof after such an intense 10 days with my group. To train without them, will be very strange.

I’ll be there for 1 week, then I head off with a friend to the Toulouse, France, for the European Juggling Convention, which goes on for a little over 7 days. Here, I will have the opportunity to meet & train with amazing circus people and live among circus tents again.After this I will roadtrip with my friend to Brighton, England, to the European Aerial Dance Festival. More lessons in trapeze and silks. It’s going to be an intense 3 weeks.


Then I’ll come back to Ulm.

That’s my circus summer.

You’ll be getting a lot of pictures (probably mostly on my Tumblr).

I’m looking forward to it all – but I’m also a bit nervous. There will be a lot of hopping from one world to the next. At least it will all be the circus world, but it involves so much Packing Up & Leaving Again – and I think I’m almost done with that. I’m finally starting to look forward to settling down again somewhere. Yet: the many hours in the car will give me great time to think; time to stare at changing landscapes and ponder in my journal. I’m looking forward to the latter the most.

I’ll be blogging from the road. I’m still in the midst of planning possible dates for Qayqa‘s publication. I’ve also written quite a bit for Munay since the crowdfunding ended. A dam seemed to burst open in my head, and I could write with such clarity. It was a great feeling. I hope it stays.

I have so much to digest at the moment, but above all: I feel calm again. I’m practising walking slowly and I’m trying to digest things whenever I can. I’m writing again. Can you believe this life: in order to be a writer, you need to put the pen down and do everything but writing?! It’s a luxury when I can write. I intend to use those many hours on the road, doing just that.


You’ll be hearing from me.

If you’re wondering what direction the writing is going in, I’ve made a new thing for you to follow: my Writing Music playlist on Spotify! I just wrote something terribly dark for Munay, which is why there is so much from the World War Z soundtrack. Now that we’re moving in a more magical direction, I added Lindsey Stirling. (Thanks Ben) If YOU have any Writing Music suggestions: HIT ME! Instrumental music is very good for writing…

You know what I love blogging about the most? Extracts from my work: telling you what inspired me, giving you behind-the-scenes peeks at metaphors, explaining what personal anecdote led to a certain image… I like showing you how my mind works.

So I will leave you with an extract from Munay; I wrote this just after the crowdfunding project ended. This was my mood for the following piece:



One day we awoke at dawn; tangled in our bedsheets, our hair tangled together. We opened our eyes and I saw reflected in his the desperation I felt every morning when I awoke: thankfully, you are still here. The panic subdued. We smiled carefully. After so many months together, we were still afraid to be boisterous.

Laying in my bed, soaked still from the flight of the night before, our careful fingers tried to untangle our heads. Stubborn strands had a steadfast grip. I didn’t own scissors. I held the stubborn strands of hair tightly and pulled. They ripped from my head but kept their steadfast grip onto Mat. Parts of me would not be separated from him. He smiled.

Stretching our legs in bed, the sun came out from behind the heavy grey clouds. Its rays fell onto my feet and Mat said: “Let’s go for a walk.”


You’ll be hearing from me very soon, ayllu.

Love, Ritti

On Translating “Qayqa” and some other thoughts

23 Apr

Here’s what I do in the mornings: I go to the shop and buy vanilla soya milk. I make myself a cappuccino extraordinaire with lots of cinnamon, open Qayqa up and turn my mp3 player on to music that will help me dive into Qayqa’s strange world. Currently, it’s Four Tet.

And when I feel silly because I’m locked up in an apartment staring at my computer screen, well, I blog.

This week’s plan is to finish translating Qayqa into German. I have an endlessly brilliant best friend who has agreed to go over the entire manuscript and police any grammatical errors or weird sentence structures. This is followed by little arguments in which I whine: “But it sounds beautiful like that…” and she sensibly opposes: “It makes no sense like that. No one will understand it.” I then grumble darkly about the misunderstood revolution of changing nouns into verbs and verbs into noun, and how I knew all along that translating was a bad idea, while she patiently changes my strange sci-fi sentence into something grammatically coherent.

What an amazing woman. Qayqa is sounding beautiful in German thanks to her.

And let’s be honest: there are some sentences you really can’t string together in German – sentences that you perhaps can’t string together in English either, but thanks to rhyme and rhythm, it works. I love testing out weird combinations: using adjectives that would normally be foreign in describing certain situations. Like:

this bending howl, this sweltering desert

I think they’re funky, but in translating, they are a b****. I can either remodel the sentence completely because my Crazy Adjective Experiment isn’t going to work in a different language … OR kick the sentence out completely.

Either way, it’s based on freedom. It’s taken me a while to stop reigning total fascist control over my work and allow the Leftist Breeze of Change make some constructive, delightful suggestions. Thanks to that, we now have some interesting twists and bends in the German version of Qayqa, which don’t exist in the English version!

Sweet, sweet irony…

The next issue is the strangeness of GENDER. In English, it’s all pretty simple gender-free: “the”. In German everything has a gender, including “it” which is gender-free except when you’re talking about “it”, in which case “it” is hinted to being male.

All of a sudden I’m told Ochoa is a girl because “die Kartoffel (the potato) is female. If we stuck to Ochoa being male and wrote “he”, no one would know who the hell we’re suddenly talking about. 

Actually… I’ll bet no one thought until now that Ochoa was supposed to be male. We’re talking about a POTATO after all. All bets on “gender-free”?

Truth be told: I love translating Qayqa. It’s like writing her all over again. I love the air in her world, I love the strangeness of the desert and the beauty of the circus caravans. I want this world to go on and on! I’m glad I have Munay for when Qayqa is done, to continue dreaming and writing. The other day I had an idea for a third book… So I thought: perhaps this world needs a name?
Translating is also a great opportunity to edit the original English text and I’m enjoying that I can add sly little hints that will only make sense in Munay
I have a week to finish translating the remaining 30 pages into German, then I’ll hand the manuscript over to my amazing friend who will iron out the grammatical mistakes. After that, I’ll look over it and edit some more… Ah, the work never ends… But so far, I’m enjoying that because I feel very cosy in the crazy world.

He pulled his hair, he covered his eyes. In the dark of his eyes’ hollows, Damian saw a pattern unfolding in the distance. It was a brilliantly coloured curve, much like a mathematician’s sinus, and it unravelled like a snake. Seeing it move took Damian back to the caravans. For a moment, he forgot the heat and the screech of the wind, and all he saw was Anna Maria standing barefoot on a dark field under a black sky. Her arms were stretched out towards the sky and frozen in that position. Her head was bent back. She had just thrown the cloth up into the sky and was watching its descent. Damian remembered following her stare up into the sky and watching the brilliant red cloth falling in curves.

The sinus pattern against the black of his closed eyes was much like the cloth against the night sky. It spun and shone in brilliant colours, fading from reds into greens into browns into pinks. Damian watched it grow in the distance – or perhaps coming closer – and again he felt he was standing the presence of something far superior to him. Like a water snake, it glistened and moved. As it came closer, its voice rose. Its movement changed at every new note, with the ease of a sound wave. Damian was fascinated by it. He stared, frozen in the sweltering desert, watching the wind with his eyes closed.

This June I’m off to Perú to go into hiding and write. The plan is to continue work on Munay, who knows, perhaps even finish her. Since I returned to Germany, I honestly haven’t worked on her very much. I’ve dedicated my time to the other projects that need to be completed while I am here. It actually feels brilliant to know that Perú is reserved for working on Munay, while Germany is perfect for film projects, workshops and translations…. It’s bizarre to divide my work into geographical regions…
… Which made me ask myself:  Perhaps this is the future? The thought made me smile. I’ve lived in Ulm for over 15 years now, and it is a beautiful city with brilliant people, but I’ve also been restless and the thought of travelling to write entices me greatly. Maybe this is the start of something new?
It’s INCREDIBLE to know that people in Germany are interested in what I do, and that over the last few years a readership and an audience has established itself. I am so grateful for this and I promise I’ll always come back to present my work. Many writers go into hiding to concentrate on their writing, and I think I’m just about ready to do that. Well, as of June, I will. So perhaps this IS the start of something new. Either way, I’m taking you with me and I’m so happy about that.

A Piece of My Head

22 Nov

The hardest part about being a writer is actually being a WRITER. In order to survive, we take on day jobs and when we return home, we are tired and beat. The typewriter remains silent. The weeks pass.

Many writers have writing routines. Many writers have assistants who manage their emails and day-to-day business so that they may remain enclosed in their silent writing rooms. Where the typewriter rages like the king of an endless empire.

I need a schedule. There are things I promised myself I would accomplished before I leave for Perú in 2 weeks. And we all know the Christmas season brings a great deal of childrens’ theater with it, so time will remain sparse. Once in Lima, however, I will be given my father’s office to write. That will be a blessing.

Being a writer is all about self-definition. No one will chase you, identify you, and you’ll be lucky if they encourage you. I think Mark has the same issue. No one tells him to paint. The award we won recently has encouraged him to work more on puppets – but it’s above all the plans for upcoming films that encourage him the most. A few film projects are being currently planned, which we are both very excited about. We’ve agreed that he’ll take the steering wheel on the film projects because I would like to dedicate my 2012 to my writing.

One of the things I need to do before I leave for Perú is write abstracts for my books “Qayqa” and “The Double Closet”. Those two want to hit the road and explore the world next year! Only when these abstracts are written and on their way to publishers / sponsors, am I truly free to work on the next book. Perhaps I can even write on the plane! I wonder what they’d say if I unpacked my typewriter on board . . .

I don’t know what’s blocking me, but I have a few ideas. Our apartment is my office, so it’s hard to let go of work and relax. Mark is a loud artist who stomps around in my head – he says I stomp around and am really loud in his head.

I think those are the two main factors. The first is about discipline; the second about communication. I can tell Mark I need silence; he respects it and tiptoes around me. That reminds me of a great anecdote: a few months ago, he tiptoed past me to his work room and on the way out somehow managed to get tangled in a bit of string! So there he stood, in the middle of my room, for a good 10 minutes, trying to remain quiet as he swore under his breath, fumbled with the string and only made it worse. He looked like a confused cat, angrily snatching at the loose ends. In the meantime, I was trying not to let his futile antics distract me and write on like a serious person. But I failed. I burst out laughing. How did he manage to get himself tangled in a bit of STRING!

But I digress: With the Christmas theater madness about to begin (and us bracing ourselves for the storm), there is little possibility to demand silence and unconditional privacy. So it’s actually perfect that I’m about to leave for Perú. “Munay” (or whatever she will be called – perhaps I will really call her “Taripay Pacha”, as I have been thinking of doing) is waiting patiently. I have ideas, I have her feeling, but I have no space around me for the flow of words. Perú is the perfect earth to sink her roots into.

Writing the abstracts for the other two books will hopefully be a good way to get back into the writing process. Writing really is like the third form of meditation that my Buddhist friend in Cologne was telling me about: weave it into your everyday life, use it for reflection and cleanse yourself with it. When I leave Germany, perhaps that will inspire me to write about Anahata leaving to join the caravans.

Mark’s applying for an art studio at the moment and the idea appeals to me as well. A solitary room just for writing, apart from the apartment and somewhere in the city. But what I am increasingly beginning to think may be the best idea is actually reserving months for writing. My day job is giving sporadic workshops which disrupt my focus on writing. I think reserving some months for writing would be very productive. Who knows? The idea feels right . . .

I love sharing these thoughts with you while I make my way through the terra incognita of being a writer. So much happened the last 7 days that I cannot write about individually, so here are some photographs of what happened this week…

A Thank You party for the participants of the Berblinger Anniversary Year. This is a beautiful animation projected onto the Zeughaus, where the party was. To the right are Mark and Christian Pfeifer, project manager of the Culture Bureau Ulm, shouting up to the neighbor kids.

Ms Mann, the head of the Culture Bureau, giving a thank you speech while everyone hoped to be mentioned personally – or was that just me? I salute her vintage background.Bumped into Nancy Calero, co-director and actress at the Theater in der Westentasche, who organised our film tour in 2009. That was when Mark and I produced our firstever puppet-documentary “Children of Roots” (the beginning of it all!) and toured through northern Perú. I hope to meet some of our friends when I’m back in Perú. So much has happened since we were there, including the death of the actress Anali Cabrera, who came to meet us despite her cancer treatment. News of her death shocked us profoundly, for she was warm, so sweet and kind, and so full of life. Here’s an article on Anali: http://archive.livinginperu.com/news/15300 You live on in our hearts.

On Tuesday & Friday, we were at the International School of Stuttgart giving our “Children of Roots” film workshop. We’ve been giving this workshop for 3 years now and I’ve written all about it here. This is the scene in which one of the students shows Ochoa all the places he’s lived.And another of our students inventing great places to hide the puppeteer.

On Saturday I went to an acrobatic convention in Kaufbeuren to breathe in the sweet circus air. All around me were jugglers, acrobats, poi and hoola hoop swingers, Chinese pole dancers – all ridiculously talented and the nicest people you could hope to meet.I did a lot of filming while I was there and am toying with the idea of editing a short sequence before I leave for Perú. It was such an inspiring experience and I can’t wait for the next convention!

Sunday was the first Christmas theater performance. I accompanied Mark with his Kasperltheater Schlabbergosch and made this “Theater in Three Easy Steps”:

But I’m allergic to hay. Everyone at the Ferienhof Lecheler had a great chuckle at my Michael Jackson impression. And yes, I once again wrote the above blog post on my typewriter! Here’s proof.That was my week, dear friends. I cannot express how much I enjoy reading your comments, so I wholeheartedly encourage you keep it up. As for all those watching quietly, thank you for watching!

I Swear It Would Be Easier To Be a Rock Star

13 Oct

Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few days thinking in big headlines like: “What Is the Writer?” and “The Difference Between Artist and Writer”.

Living with an artist (yes, Mark) gives me lots of time for comparing myself to him and him to myself, backwards and forwards, upside and down. I’m realizing that concentrating on being a full-blown writer ultimately means this: sitting alone in a room with armwarmers and glasses.

my trusty Peruvian armwarmers

I love the creatures I find when I’m alone in my room. Mystical creatures who roam the landscapes of my dark mind, who are transformed and made immortal by choice of words. Rhythm! Rhythm! My beautiful children, sleep on my fingertips, ride the foams of imagination.

But then there are the dreaded Hours Inbetween . . . Sitting at a wild party, realising I have nothing to say. Want to get to know me? Come to my readings. All I have to say, I say there. Thinking: “Get me back on the stage so that I can show you 100% of myself. This person you see now, she’s not even 50% me. Let me write and I will show you who I am.”

So we come to the realisation that as a human being who does not write, I am a merry extrovert. But as a writer currently working on something, I am an absolute introvert – and there’s no finding me, no catching me on the phone, no getting me to meet up. I recently participated in a “guerrilla exhibition” in the neighborhood. I exhibited my collages. Or rather: I hung them up and ran away. A journalist caught it on camera:

writer escapism © Südwest Presse

Where does the human end and the writer begin? How to balance the two? Or rather: remember the film The Hours? The soul of the writer caught on 35mm. And the dialogue between Clarissa (Meryl Streep) and the writer Richard always stayed with me, ever since I first heard it so many years ago:

Clarissa Vaughn: You don’t have to go to the party, you don’t have to go to the ceremony, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You can do as you like.
Richard Brown: But I still have to face the hours, don’t I? I mean, the hours after the party, and the hours after that…

It’s all about the hours. The hours between performing, the hours between writing. Who are we then? Who is the writer when she just put down her pen and goes grocery shopping? How do we balance between so many worlds?

I swear it would be easier to be a rock star. I’m looking at Amanda Palmer in her underwear, cheekily playing the piano, suddenly tearful, brutally honest, beautiful as she bares her breasts and spreads her wings.

Being a rock star seems like such a delightful way to balance the extroverted nature with an extroverted art. Writers live in their heads, among joyful creatures no one else can see, that they can smell taste touch. That they have affairs with, whose flesh they dig into and whose souls they shudder. Writers fly in their realms like gods – and the higher we fly into the sky, the less anyone can see of us from the ground.

How invisible are you in your life, Gabriel Garcia Marquez? How did you balance writing with living, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry?

Maybe it’d be easier with an alternate ego. You have to be careful with alter egos though: I had one once but she was useless because she forgot she was a writer and just got drunk.

So let’s invent one right now and we can call her “Kohl Eyed Sonq’o”. She’ll be the rock star when I just put down my pen. She’ll be the one who talks at parties. She’ll remind me to be bold, bare my breasts and spread my wings. Above all: she will be the rock star in the writer.

Writers, don’t get stuck in your heads. Find a way to live in both worlds.

The Night “Qayqa” Went Out Into the World

22 Sep

This summer, I went into hiding. I did it with a simple goal: translate Qayqa. Not only because she has been alive and finished for a year now… but because I had found the perfect night to introduce her to the world: Culture Night 2011.

A quick catch-up for those who don’t know Culture Nights:  Once a year, the city of Ulm proudly presents its artistic capacity. Cafés, bars, art galleries, concert halls and rundown houses are opened for dance performances, art exhibitions, readings and interactive media. Just to give you an idea of how overwhelming it can be, the event brochure boasts: “1 Night, 500 Artists, 95 Locations”!

It’s always a mad scramble among artists to find just the right location for the night. As I scouted the city, I introduced myself to the owner of the esoteric Bookshop Eichhorn. I had an idea that this may be a nice location for Qayqa‘s first public reading because the novel is based on Peruvian shaman philosophies. Also, I would be accompanied by mantra singers!

O, I’m an avid follower of the Beat Generation and spoken word performances in general. My idea of a perfect night out is a spoken word performance accompanied by jazz. How amazing! The intertwining of music and sound… until words become the waves that ride the ocean of rhythm… Breathtaking!

The mantra singers who accompanied me that night were Antal Nitsche and Wolfgang von Boyen: sweet and funny men, who putted about as they decorated the room, draped clothes, scented the room and lit candles. They had me in a constant fit of giggles.I had no worries that we might not get along: from all our conversations, it was clear that we were on the same page and wanted the same thing from the night. We wanted “experimental fusion”. We wanted to push the boundaries of our art. We wanted to see to what extent we could marry Qayqa with mantra songs.

In my eyes, it wasn’t as much a marriage as a ceremony of birth. To celebrate the birth, Antal and Wolfgang told me something that gave me great pride and delight: they had written a mantra song for Qayqa. Wolfgang suggested we sing it at the beginning of each performance. What beauty, what joy, to sing a song for Qayqa!

The readings were electrifying. At each performance, I read a different extract from my novel, with the musicians always improvising and singing beside me. The audience leaned back and closed their eyes. Drifted away. Some stared at us, transfixed. Absolute silence expect for Qayqa and the music.

Joyful feedback after each performance. My hand was shaken and I was thanked by strangers. An elderly woman returned with the words: “I enjoyed it so much, I just had to come back for more.” One couple just stayed where they were and said, “We’ll sit here and wait for your next performance.”

What a birth you had, Qayqa. A magical night fit for a magical novel.

We filmed an impression, which I would like to share with you:

I loved my performance costume. I felt as though I could convince the world to walk with me to the sun. After the last performance, a friend said to me: “You looked as though you were floating.”

She was so well received, my Qayqa, my child. Before I stepped onto the stage each night, I looked at my reflection and told myself, “I am doing this for the Andes. I am doing this for Peru.” For my heritage, for my people. Qayqa is my way of transporting my Peruvian heritage to the hearts of people.

My dear audience, wherever you may be now, I want to say: thank you so much for being there, for listening. Thank you for the feedback I shall always treasure in my heart. Thank you for making this night so unique and special.

That was Qayqa‘s first night out. I look forward to her next performance! I look forward to her magic and to your feedback. Thank you.