What a week this has been for me and for my latest ‘babies’: Paper Lanterns, and my publishing venture, Novel Press. On top of all this, I nearly jumped out of my skin this morning when I was leafing through today’s Birmingham Post. I was scanning for an article and a photo that I’d been informed would appear last week.
Although I don’t tend to expect more than my share of luck to land on my doorstep, I have to admit that I was rather disappointed, especially as the photographer had come to take my photo the Tuesday before. ‘Oh well! Never mind,’ I thought. ‘It’s a shame, but they’ve obviously got better things to print.’
However, I never let myself be put off by low expectations , so before I went to work I stopped at the useful shop at the top of the hill. I slowly turned the pages, thinking, ‘Not likely to be in this week with all this election stuff jostling for space.’
It wasn’t in Books, Films, History, Outdoors, Motoring, or Travel. Business Briefing? Not likely! Then, over the page, under the heading, Business Profile there was my face occupying the entire page! And on the facing page, another photo and a whole long article about ME!! AUTHOR AND PUBLISHER CHRISTINE COLEMAN
But I’m running ahead of myself. This amazing double-page spread happened today, and I haven’t yet said anything about Tuesday evening at the Ikon Gallery. What a fabulous venue for my launch! This was all thanks to Sara Beadle and staff at the Birmingham Book Festival who organised the whole event, liaising with the staff at the Ikon Gallery.
They were all keen to help promote me as a local author and publisher, together with my childhood friend, Clarissa Dickson Wright who has loyally supported me in my writing endeavours (more of this in my next post)
When we arrived, Clarissa and I posed for photographs, in the Ikon Cafe and then we and my husband were treated to an excellent meal of tapas and other mouth-watering dishes. Clarissa is well known for her interest in good food, and was genuinely enthusiastic in her praise of our meal.
We were then taken up in a glass lift . Here’s the description from their website
“The dramatic second floor galleries offer 228.2m² of space and are light and airy, retaining the original arched gothic ceiling.”
The Ikon staff and volunteers had to wait till the gallery had been closed to the public before they could bring in the 90 chairs, erect the platform for me and Clarissa, arrange the copies of Paper Lanterns and my first novel, The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society on a table at the far end, and lay out the drinks for the audience at the other end. It was all done with amazing speed and efficiency, ready to welcome the audience at the appointed time of 6.45.
All the seats were taken and everyone in the audience was wonderfully attentive and appreciative. They laughed in the right places and I was amazed and delighted at their reactions to my readings of two of the original letters that partly inspired the novel. I’ll be writing more about this event (including book sales and Novel Press in future posts,) and about the Birmingham Post article.
In the meantime, take a look at this excellent article by Jonathan Davidson, Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands, with his hard-hitting piece ‘New ways of Publishing’
If you can’t get a ticket for my book launch next week, you do have a chance to hear me talking about Paper Lanterns, thanks to Radio Wildfire. “The Loop” is always worth listening to in its own right, and not just because it’ll let you hear me talking about the real-life letters that partly inspired Paper Lanterns. It’s a nonstop transmission between their live monthly broadcasts - two hours of lively interviews with writers , musicians and generally creative types from around the West Midlands region.
The whole ‘menu’ is there for you to read, so you can see what’ll be coming up next. You can’t predict which part you’ll land on, but you’ll be able to see whether or not I’m next on the list. If you’ve worked out that you’ve just missed me, and my turn won’t come round again for ages , you can decide to go out for a walk or dig the garden and then come back to listen to me. (There are lots of other interesting things though, so you might prefer to listen to everything else (instead, or as well!)
All you need to do is click on this link then click ‘Listen’
So what about those letters? Briefly, the story behind the novel relates to some original love letters that were written in China in 1920 by a married English woman to a young colleague of her husband. There were five letters that related to her, and the final of these had been written by a female friend of this woman, informing the young man why he had not heard from her friend. It turned out that the husband had discovered that ‘something’ was going on, so the errant wife had given up her would-be lover for the sake of her children.
Reading these letters, I felt like an intruder even though the writer herself must have been dead by the time I came across this material. I was intensely moved by this glimpse into the private life of a woman from a different era, but then, when I then found that there were the two short letters in broken English, written in 1916, I was almost in tears for the young Chinese girl as she struggled to express her grief at his absence.
There were a few other accompanying documents in the same package, and when I turned to these I realised that both sets of letters had been addressed to the same young man. In spite of my feelings of sympathy towards both these women, the writer in me was already dreaming up ways in which the stories of those two women could be woven into fiction.
I’ll be writing more about these letters soon, but meanwhile, in case you were wondering why I’ve included pictures of a peacock and pink magnolia, it’s because these were taken on a gloriously sunny day in Kew Gardens, while we were visiting our daughter and her fiance in Chiswick for the weekend.
Getting back to recommending other websites to visit, you might like to follow this link I’ve already mentioned Nicola Morgan (aka ‘crabbit old bat’) in a previous post, and the new link is to her new novel, with lord knows how many exciting competitions etc. What a wildfire of energy the woman is!
I was intrigued by one of the articles selected today by The Booksellers’ Morning Headlines. It made me wonder if Emily Bronte would be turning in her grave if she knew that sales of her classic novel of more than 160 years ago had received a shot in the arm from the Twilight series of Vampire stories.
On reflection, I imagine that she might have been amused to hear that the massive increase in sales from 8,551 copies in 2005, to 34,023 last year, was attributed to the recommendation from Stephanie Mayer’s fictional characters: “ Bella and Edward’s favourite books”.
But I doubt that she’d have been too thrilled to know that her masterpiece was boosting the profits of a well-known bloodsucking retailer. According to the Daily Telegraph’s article, Wuthering Heights “is now one of the bestselling novels at Tesco, as well as more traditional book shops.”
What I found particularly interesting about this, is the huge effect of the ‘Twilight-inspired cover artwork’ for last year’s reissue of the classic novel.
It seems to re-enforce what I have recently discovered for myself, readers do tend to judge a book by its cover: there are all sorts of factors operating on both conscious and unconscious levels as we make our decisions, based on the message(s) we’ve received.
I can’t help wondering if any of the thousands of young people, who bought their own copy on the strength of the visual and written reference to a series of young adult fiction written in the 21st century , had been disappointed in what they found between those covers. But I would hope that many of them would have been enthralled by the world they had been lured to enter under false expectations.
My own ‘Cover Design Challenge’ made me change my mind about my own favourite, and I am now delighted that I went with the majority vote.
Back to the subject of vampires, I’ve just realised that today’s topic links nicely with my previous one: Romania is the home of the first ever vampire, Vlad Dracula. so I’ve spent an entertaining few minutes googling for information about the various origins of the legend.
Do I speak Romanian? No. Can I read Romanian? No. Am I a fraud? I hope not.
Then why has EgoPHobia, a Romanian cultural e-journal posted my name under the name of a Romanian writer of a short story called Hell and Blood?
Here it is – see?
“by Cristina Nemerovschi (Morgothya) (Romania)
Translation from Romanian by Christine Coleman and Mircea Filimon, MTTLC student
edited by Robert Fenhagen”
And here is the lively opening of a story that I appear to have translated into English from a language I know nothing about (apart from its links to Latin and Italian)
“Today I started spitting blood.
The first thing that I thought was that I might have tuberculosis, which, actually, made me feel alright, because after all, it’s a disease which sounds good; it kind of gives out a romantic aura: tuberculosis; mononucleosis, well, at least, I think so, and I don’t die too quickly— the worst case scenario, I have a few months to live, which is plenty of time for me to write a novel, or a really good short story, or, at least, some poetry, or, at the very least, an essay–something that will be found after I croak, of which people will say, “He was a prolific writer; we’ll miss him. He died of tuberculosis, you know.” And the other person will say, “Oh my, I had no idea.”
So how did I get involved in the first place?
It was thanks to Anne Stewart, the talented and energetic founder of poetrypf, ”a growing showcase of poets writing in English, some fully accomplished with several published collections, others at the start of their poetic careers.” Anne agreed to collaborate in the translation project set up by Lidia Vianu, Professor of contemporary British literature at the English Department of Bucharest University.
This project began in February 08 with translations of poetry into Romanian and publication online at the Translation Café, along with a programme of broadcasts by the Romanian National Broadcasting Corporation. Anne asked for poets to volunteer some of their own poems for this project, and in early December 08 I had the surreal experience of hearing my own brief biography, and then my poems, read in Romanian.
When you’re on the site, click on: ‘The Poets’ on the top right of the page. Then scroll down the alphabetical list till you reach my name and that of the translator, and click on ‘Listen’, to hear my poems being read first in Romanian, and then in English
Follow the poetrypf link again and scroll down to find out more about this project, including the CD, the anthology and the international tour. I didn’t take part in the tour, but one of my poems, Something Like a Stone, is on the CD in both languages. Read more about my first ever prize-winning poem, here
But that wasn’t the end of the Romanian connection for me. Towards the end of February, I received an email from Anne, “am I right in thinking that you were interested in ‘polishing’ translation from Romanian? We have a short story translated by one of Lidia’s students that needs polishing to publishable standard.”
I tend to try anything once, when an opportunity arises for a new experience, so I agreed. Almost by return, the organiser of this project, Silvia Bratu, sent me the story.
And now for the tricky part: when you can’t understand the original language, how can you be sure of the author’s intentions? Was that slightly clumsy phrasing a deliberate representation of the narrator’s own lively speech patterns? Or was it just ‘bad English’? How far should I go in imposing my own personal views on another writer’s work?
I’d enjoyed reading this story as it had a fresh and quirky style with some highly original images – I particularly liked the narrator’s musing about the moment of death:
“ If…you keep your soul after death, then you need to mark it very clearly so you don’t mistake it for someone else’s. Because there should be some sort of little border to cross, a tiny rupture, during which you and your soul are separated for a short time. It’s like putting it on a plate while you go through the metal detector.”
When I followed this link and read the final version, I was glad to see that the editor had tightened a few of the passages that I didn’t feel a ‘translator’ had the right to do.