Autumn inspiration

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

77 thoughts on “Autumn inspiration

  1. I try not to return to London often. When I’m away from the city it seems to be the last place I’d ever want to be but when I do eventually give in and visit I immediately recall the excitement I felt when I was young and worked there. The river draws me especially. I hope you are successful and manage to get accepted on the mentoring programme.
    There aren’t many sports that have singing fans and most football fans wouldn’t normally sing at any other time, I would think. It is such a tribal thing to do, like the Maori chanting before a Rugby match. It is a war cry and very affecting as you discovered, though on a long journey I can quite understand how oppressive it could be! I was once trapped on a tram in Manchester with a lot of Birmingham supporters! Did you hear the Icelandic supporters cheering their team on during the World Cup? I found that quite thrilling!
    https://uk.video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=iceland+football+fans+chant+world+cup+2016#id=3&vid=2a6642cd7b077d95fdda9afb09833d4a&action=view

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    • Thanks Clare, I don’t know London well and it has been years since I’ve been, but the river is definitely my favourite part (that I know of, anyway). Yes, it was a trial being stuck on a train with them for a couple of hours, but there’s still something stirring about it – and I learned some new songs 🙂 The whole Iceland experience was quite touching, with them doing so well!

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  2. Oh, congratulations Andrea! I hope you make it all the way through and win the whole thing! You have such talent. I’m delighted to see it recognized.
    Though I cringed at the headache and the idea of all the noise, I enjoyed what you said about the football songs. There is magic in the spontaneous songs of a group of voices.
    Good luck to Lori as well. Mega hugs.

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  3. It’s good to know that you are enjoying your time in London, Andrea. I hope that you are chosen to go further as well.
    Plus, I like the new colour of your blog page. 🙂

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  4. How immensely inspiring and hopeful and glorious! I’m so excited for you … and for the possibilities. Just to be one of few invited to this event in London is extraordinary. I must admit, I love London, but that is as a tourist from San Francisco and Boston. I’ve visited the city about four times now in three decades, and the ‘feel’ of the place just gets my pulse racing. I’m not a shopper and can’t afford much of the theater, so it’s walking I do – walk from end to end and feel the pulse of this many-angled city. But, like you, I’m not a city person. Four or five day are enough, then I long for the quiet solitary walk in a woods. Ah, I’m rambling, because I don’t want to say goodbye to your expectations and dreams. Please keep us informed of your progress! And Congrats.

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  5. Andrea, your very first sentence on this post mirrored my thoughts about Autumn. May your wish come true with the Write Now program. Your writing always soothes my soul.

    Thank you for including my Kindle Scout campaign in your post. I’m grateful and honored.

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  6. Sometimes football songs are inspiring, though usually best done in stadiums and not the enclosed world of a train carriage. Like all the other voices here, I hope you are chosen as it sounds like a great opportunity. Cities are great but I prefer smaller cities more than the big ones but as you say creativity comes from so many places and it is wonderful to explore all the different avenues provided.

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  7. Your writing continues to knock my socks off, and I’m not even wearing socks at the moment! Read this twice today. I’m glad you got the opportunity to be part of this program, and have the possibility of more of this kind of development. I don’t know the work of the other applicants, but I know your writing, and it is breathtakingly beautiful at times, always impactful, at all times.

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  8. I love the idea that Autumn is to feed the dreams ahead …
    Didn’t you just love O’Keeffe’s skulls!
    It sounds like a great project you are involved in – may it bring you joy, adventure and the inspiration of being with other creatives.

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  9. Wow, I’m a footy fan but even I can’t find much that is uplifting in the, *ahem*, songs 🙂 Great to be involved in an event like this though a pity it was in London rather than (say) Northumberland.

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    • Well it just shows you what good acoustics can do 🙂 It was a great event, there is also one in Birmingham and one in Manchester, but there was some discussion on the day about it seeming as though the literary world is just in London and how that can marginalise people.

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  10. Firstly, fingers crossed for you, doll! You are such a talented writer and I’ll send plenty of good thoughts out there.

    Secondly, I can totally relate to the mish-mash of chaotic inspiration you felt in London. I felt the same way when I went to San Francisco this past week for a conference. Even though it was work and not writing, visiting places always sparks creativity. But the boisterous side, from the traffic and honking to the drunken conference attendees, were like a drill to the head. I’m more of a small city kind of gal…not sure how people do it!

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  11. I’m so glad your distinctive voice is being heard. You are a gifted writer. I hope you are included in the mentor plan. ❤ Nothing like sport songs. I'm enjoying the special thrills of my grandson's High School Marching Band. He plays trombone. My daughter-in-law emails me video clips of the football half time shows. I feel a tingle of excitement and get a grin on my face when I hear the music.

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  12. This is so exciting- if they don’t choose you they are idiots! You so deserve this…I have everything crossed for you!
    As a bit of a football fan I’ve always found the tribal singing moving – none so much as the time my team reached a cup final which was played against our arch rivals, Liverpool, at the Millennium Stadium. Abide With Me moved me to tears, and I have to admit to a sneaking admiration for the travelling. Kop- the Liverpool faithful, whose singing is legendary and certainly lived up to it that day!

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  13. I too love Georgia O’Keeffe’s hills. It is my favorite land, and she depicted it beautifully. Glad you are back, Andrea. I have been away myself – just scheduled my weekly posts and took off 🙂

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  14. A very neat story all around, Andrea. Thank you for taking us on a mini-walk around London, too; its sights and the sounds on the train coming back. I’ve never been there, yet, and don’t know if I ever will. These days, one never knows! I, too, love autumn; the fall foliage, the ways the animals seem to move about differently; the tenor of the air and everything just seems different. Now, the sometimes debilitating allergies that I’m experiencing as it’s harvest time and the air is a clot of corn and soy dust, I can do without those! In any case, a big round of congratulations for you; I’m glad to see that under-represented folks are rising in the literary canon and elsewhere. I try to write, as heartfully and authentically as possible, as many underrepresented people into my stories as I possibly can; so, despite never having been an African-American (male) scientist, one part of a lesbian couple who is pregnant and facing a kind of monster invading the home, or some humanoid-type living many years from now and falling in love with a visitor from (for lack of a better word) out there, I really enjoy bringing those characters to life. I hope I do them justice. Anyway, enough of me . . . I wish you every luck in being recognized for your writing. It’s a deserved accolade for your calming and musical prose. (Unlike some writers I know–ahem, besides myself–I’ve never seen you ‘write angry.’)

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  15. Andrea, Congratulations on getting the invite to the writing event! So great to hear that marginalised voices are being given a platform through the Penguin event. I find that autumn is lovely but cold so I am having to wear my warmer sweaters again… I miss summer but know it will return 🙂 Another beautiful post. I’m heading over to Lori’s site now

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  16. I’m so thrilled about you having got selected for that course, Andrea. Well deserved, of course. Indeed, this might be your stepping stone to fame, although fame would mean many more train journeys to London and to other cities. If only we all could teleport. Like you, I’m really not into travelling or being stifled by London.
    I voted for Lori. Her excerpt got me hooked and I thought her succinct, clipped writing style was spot-on for that type of novel.

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  17. Andrea, best of luck in being chosen for that year of mentoring. How wonderful would that be! You know, for many years I lived and worked in NYC/Brooklyn, and like your experience, when I go in to the city now, I wonder how I ever lived among so many people, so much noise, and in such closeness, yet at the same time am thrilled to be there once again! I do appreciate going to museums, but like London for you, it’s a bit overwhelming nowadays.
    I, too, attend writing/illustrating (for children) conferences, and cherish that one-on-one critique with an agent or editor as you did. You are a wonderful writer; I hope Random House chooses your voice. Jeanne

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  18. Ooohh, good luck to you–I’ll keep you in my thoughts and hope things go your way!

    I agree with you about city life. I’m a country girl through and through, and cities are exciting and interesting to me in small doses. As long as I get frequent breaks in museums, historical buildings/areas, churches, or parks, then I’m okay. I don’t like the rude/pushy people or the pollution–those are my two major complaints. The rest of it I can deal with as being acceptable parts of city life.

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  19. Andrea I was a city girl once and had the pleasure of living in London in the nineties. I bet it has changed and yet the beautiful history would still be there. Memories of trains, your writing took me back there. I would love to visit the galleries once more. We use to pay pittance for tickets to everything from opera to jazz and a show. I promised myself when I arrived back in Australia after two years away I would take in more live shows etc but alas things were way over priced and still are over here. thanks for bringing back fond memories.

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