Autumn was slow to begin, but now it rushes ahead of me, leaves crackling on the ground when I’ve barely witnessed them fall. The continuing warmth of the days is sandwiched between morning and evening chills. The harvest is done and we will soon head into the darkness that births new dreams, but before that happens, there is still time to gather in some autumn inspiration to feed the dreams ahead.
I’ve travelled to London. Not a place in which I would usually seek inspiration. I’m no longer used to cities. Too confined, too many people, too much noise, too much of everything. I find them overwhelming. But I’m here for a special event. Penguin Random House, in partnership with writer development charities, have begun a programme called Write Now to find new writers from communities whose voices are under-represented in publishing. 1,000 writers applied from LGBT, black and minority ethnic, disabled and other marginalised groups and I was one of 50 invited to attend.
But first, I visit Tate Modern to see an exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. It’s a relief to reach the river, where the landscape of the city opens up. I find myself seduced by the new skyline: the shard, the ‘walkie-talkie’, the Leadenhall building, glistening against the Thames, juxtaposed against Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe. In the Tate, it’s the sculpture and the installations that attract me today: Cildo Meireles’ Babel, constructed from 800 radios all tuned to a different channel; Sheela Gowda’s Behold, made from human hair and car bumpers; Louise Nevelson’s Black Wall fashioned from scrap timber; Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Embryology, made from stuffed fabric. In this season of earth, I’m drawn by shapes, by the physical, by the tactile. I’m not concerned by how they might be interpreted, only by my instinctual attraction to them.
I love Georgia O’Keeffe, but have never been particularly enamoured by her famous flowers. It’s the sensuality of her earth that I love. Her hills that look like living things. Her buildings that grow out of the landscape. Her vibrant autumn leaves. I’m drawn to her layers, the often stark images that nevertheless appear to be made from flesh.
The next morning on my way to Penguin, the bells of St Clement Danes are glorious as I walk in the rain along the Strand. At Write Now, we hear about the publishing process, from author to agent, to editor, to book cover designer. We hear from authors about their experiences and discuss how the industry can help to get under-represented authors heard. And then there is a one to one with a Penguin editor, to talk about the work we’ve submitted. It’s exciting to imagine that this might be my future, a moment to dream that it might be possible. There will be two more Write Now events around the country, then 10 out of 150 people will be chosen to take part in a year long mentoring programme. I can only hope that I’ll be one of them.
I leave London on a quiet train blurring through a rainy landscape. My mind is full of impressions: modern and old, busy and tranquil, stark and beautiful. As I stare out of the window, the sun begins to set and the landscape is gilded by the dying sun. Mist hangs over the fields and the result is a breath-taking golden haze I have never witnessed before. But the tranquillity is short-lived. Further north, the train is flooded by football supporters from my local team. They have won their match and are travelling home, boisterous, drinking and singing football songs. My head is pounding by the time we reach our destination, but as we pour into the station, the soar of all those male voices singing in the acoustics of the station is electrifying. This isn’t high music, but the effect is as uplifting as the most sacred of songs. As the impressions of the weekend sink in, I’m struck by the endless possibilities for inspiration: painting, sculpture, architecture, weather, church bells – and even football songs.
Please take a moment to visit my blogging friend Lori. Her novel has been accepted for a Kindle Scout campaign and will be published if enough readers nominate it. There are only 13 days left to nominate her so please visit her at https://loreezlane.wordpress.com/ where you’ll find more information and the link to follow.