Friday, 17 August 2012

The Glass Harmonica rocks

Dorothee sent fantastic news: The Glass Harmonica is a finalist in the Utah Book Awards. Although I've always believed in the novel, it's great to have it so publicly affirmed, and this will be a terrific boost for Dorothee as she works on her next writing project. The awards ceremony will be in Salt Lake City in October. We'll keep you posted. Congratulations, Dorothee!

Meanwhile, this morning Ratty shinned up the Delicate Arch in the Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, with the banner that Lily's Thursday evening Sewing and Sipping Circle whipped together last night, on hearing the news.

Which brings me to a delicate point. I'm thinking of subletting Ratty's services to help keep the fabric of Rosa Mira Books together. Do you know of an author (or are you one, yourself) who would delight in having their book — ebook or hard copy — represented by the rat in this place or that? He's able to travel and position himself (and the book) pretty much anywhere, as you'll know if you follow this blog. He's willing to handle the author's writing tools, sit in their favourite chair surrounded by their bric-a-brac, or even, for an extra dollar or two, don the author's clothes . . . your imagination and his will show the way. He'll make the resulting images available in either digital or hard copy on firm watercolour card. He can be contacted here or on Rosa Mira's Facebook page where you can leave a message for him in any recent comment stream.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Road Markings remarked

I'm sorry to think that Road Markings might have been momentarily eclipsed here by Amigas. It's just received a terrific little review from author Sofka Zinovieff who lives in Greece.

"Beautiful, clever, moving and funny, Michael Jackson’s Road Markings is like the literary version of a 'road movie'. On the surface, it is one man’s journey back to his New Zealand roots – the search to find out where this 'Accidental Anthropologist' (the title of Jackson’s wonderful earlier memoir) came from. But it is also something much deeper – a musing on how far one man has travelled and how unpredictable yet significant is the influence of our origins. With the insights of a lifetime’s work as an academic, anthropologist, poet, and writer, Road Markings is written with intimacy and lyricism. It displays the fascinating insights of someone who has refused to be confined by one discipline and who has a vast knowledge of history, philosophy and literature. The book tells the story of one trip, with visits to old friends and relations, and to places that are half-forgotten, loved or dreaded, but which come back to life in new ways. Ultimately, this personal story is also something much larger; a book that is unafraid to confront the essential subjects of memory, life and death."

I've recently read Sofka's book Red Princess, an absorbing account of her aristocratic grandmother's life, who fled Russia in 1917 for Europe and joined the communists — a life 'turbulent and often scandalous'. Sofka's debut novel is newly released: The House on Paradise Street, set in Athens from its Nazi occupation until current times. Sofka's brief biography makes for entertaining reading in itself.

And don't forget Road Markingsbeautiful, clever, moving . . .

Monday, 6 August 2012

Amigas on the wing

Amigas is launched.

Early this morning there was a little candle-lighting, a little clinking of virtual glasses, a flurry of laughing emoticons between Argentina and New Zealand, and a message from Doug to say that the new website pages are live.

With this celebration of our friendship comes an avalanche of gratitude:

Mine to Elena for being the true and generous friend that she is. Amigas was her idea. She has always said yes to every challenge, has always believed the best of me and my capacities, and made sure — somehow — that everything we did was fun. Beautiful woman, outstanding writer, exceptional friend — gracias.

Thank you to Creative New Zealand who sent me first to Iowa and then to Argentina, and to all involved in the Iowa International Writers' Programme itself. To Christina and Beatriz who translated our texts from one language to the other. To Emma who made a detailed and indispensable assessment. To Pablo for our striking cover, and Caroline for her stirling design work. To Jason for patient file-making, and Doug for meticulous website management. To Coral and her class for marketing plans. To Jane for help with enacting them.

Friends and family have enthused from the very start about Amigas. Several have read it and given invaluable feedback, here and in Argentina: Claire, Christine, Elizabeth, Barbie, Raymond who also proofread, Marcelo, Irène, María Andrea, Raúl, Beatriz, Jorge, Tati, Gigliola y Alejandra. I'm afraid of leaving names off if I list friends who have been always alongside — wings or feathers aiding our flight — so I'm going to make this thanks both general and particular: you know who you are and we embrace you. Without friends, this work would be empty of meaning.

Fly, Amigas.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Remembering Hana

Hana Andronikova          Photo from Radio Prague
Elena and I have dedicated our novel Amigas to friend and fellow writer Hana Andronikova. Hana was in Iowa with us in 2007, a beautiful, fiercely intelligent free-spirit from the Czech Republic whose writing was in full flower when she died four years after we met. She and Elena had an especially close kinship.

When Hana found she was ill a few months after Iowa, and decided to go into the Peruvian Amazon to prepare herself for the ordeal ahead, it is typical of Elena that she made the challenging journey across South America to meet and escort Hana into the jungle, to act as translator, and to see her settled, even though Elena hates camping (a point we established early in our friendship).

A talented playwright and short story writer also, Hana is best known for her epic novel, The Sound of the Sundial, set between Zlín in Moravia, and Calcutta. I found an interesting interview with Hana on the Radio Prague website and quote from it here:  "Her last novel, Bottomless Heaven, which last year won the Readers’ Prize in the Magnesia litera awards went in a very different direction. It was a novel that was in many ways autobiographical, telling the very difficult story of a woman’s coming to terms with having cancer and travelling to Latin America, to the Peruvian jungle, to stay with a shaman, and then eventually coming back to Europe to face conventional medical treatment."

Elena visited Hana again last year and spent some hard but precious hours with her friend. Although dying, Hana entirely lacked self-pity, shedding light and love on all who came within her sphere. "By a sad irony, Hana Andronikova died just two days after Václav Havel (in December 2011) and in the whirlwind that followed Havel’s death many Czech papers devoted only a few lines to her life and work. But the Czech literary scene has lost one of its most gifted writers."

Hana was one of our bright stars, as a writer, a friend, and a strong, courageous woman. Her light shines on.

All going well, Amigas will be released tomorrow. In memoria de Hana. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

'Here comes the sun'

Although Amigas is not set out chronlogically, the story begins in 1969 when two teenaged girls, Claudia and Jude, from Argentina and New Zealand, find themselves stranded by fog in the international airport in Rome. Drawn together by unease and a sense of adventure, they strike up a friendship.

Elena (2nd from R) con los amigos                         Photograph by David Otero
To entertain you while you wait (how about Monday for the release of the ebook? — let's see if we can do it) here are photos of the authors at 17 or so — in my case the only teen photo I can find. Claudia and Jude when they first meet are 14, but they go on corresponding into their early twenties.

Penelope (centre) and friends

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Some prize!

Elena emailed this morning to share her terrific news: she's been awarded the the Eduardo Mallea Municipal Award of Buenos Aires for her novella, Otro lugar (Another place), published by Ediciones de Copista. Ratty has decided to give her his almost entirely uneaten (and generally peculiar-looking) apple as a token of his estimation. This is a prestigious award, a fantastic reward for her beautiful novella. Congratulations, Elena!

You'll have to agree, it's nicely timed, too, as we ready ourselves to release our novel, Amigas, our happy experiment, as Elena so aptly puts it. She wrote (I paraphrase), an experimental work may turn out a little uneven, but it is necessary and good. "We did something important, you know? We made our little piece of sand. I am very happy with our work." And so am I.

Without knowing it at the time, we made a novel that is entirely fitted to the new technology of the ebook (with internal links that can carry the bilingual reader from English to Spanish and back again). ("Sin saberlo nosotras, estábamos escribiendo un libro que sólo podía publicarse como ebook si queríamos que se apreciara el modo experimental en el que lo escribimos.") By the time we'd finished writing it, Rosa Mira Books was up and running; we decided to publish here.

Checking the the ePub file the other day (yes, the eternally-penultimate version is being sent to and fro again today for checking and fixing), I realised we were in danger of contravening copyright by quoting freely from the Beatles song our teenaged characters sing together in the airport in Rome in 1969. So I cut the words right back (you're allowed to quote song titles); the reader will have to add words and music

Meanwhile, here's Joe Cocker singing 'With a Little Help From My Friends' live in Berlin. (Thanks, Elena. I found it on your FB page.)