How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.
How is Katherine Mezzacappa coping with this enforced isolation?
At time of writing, lockdown here in Italy is easing, but I am still wary of emerging into the sunlight. To begin with, it wasn’t isolation per se that was difficult to cope with from a creative point of view, but the fear of all the unknowns around the pandemic – I’ve got a little better at living with them. I had the advantage of having worked from home for years so I was used to not having the routines of a commute and a shared office. However, my job is paused at the moment until later in the year, which meant I had to think about how best to use that time. Time is what writers often complain they don’t have enough of, but when you’re suddenly faced with lots of it, the prospect is daunting, and you feel guilty if you don’t take advantage. I know from my writing network that I’m far from alone in feeling that. I had final edits to do on two books, The Gypsy Bride (Katie Hutton) and The Casanova Papers(Kate Zarrelli) so having the space for them was a boon, though revisiting a book set in Venice when I could see that city on webcams, silent and shuttered, was also heart-breaking. Writing did pick up though, as well as other ‘writery’ activities. I’ve co-presented at a virtual litfest with an old friend from MA days, though we’re thousands of miles apart. I am now an assessor for a writing consultancy and a proofreader for a new Italian publisher. Writing predominantly historical fiction is an advantage in lockdown, as the writer must perforce go in her head into a vanished world, and the less interference from the modern one there is, the better (provided that for research purposes, Google works, and ABEbooks still deliver!). Frustration as a writer lies in not being able to do field visits for future projects – a first world problem, and those places will be waiting for me afterwards. The virtual company of other writers has become more important than ever before. There have been some stellar online opportunities, like the Society of Authors workshops, and the Arvon at Home readings. I hope these persist alongside conventional offerings once the pandemic has passed, as they represent real accessibility and democratisation of the business of writing.
Katherine Mezzacappa is an Irish writer of mainly historical fiction now living in Italy. She also writes as Katie Hutton and as Kate Zarrelli.
Her début historical novel as Katie Hutton, The Gypsy Bride, was published May 2020 on Kindle and Audible by Zaffre Books, with the paperback to follow in June.
A sequel, The Gypsy’s Daughter, is in preparation for June 2021. As Kate Zarrelli, writing for eXtasy Books, she is the author of Tuscan Enchantment (2019) and The Casanova Papers (June 2020). Her short fiction (as Katherine Mezzacappa) has appeared in Ireland’s Own, Erotic Review Magazine, The Copperfield Review, Turnpike, Asymmetry and in anthologies with the Bedford International Writing Competition, Henshaw Press and Severance Publications. She’s a member of the Irish Writers Centre, the Irish Writers Union, the Society of Authors, the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists Association. She was awarded a Cill Rialaig residency by the Irish Writers Centre in 2019 for the writing of a Renaissance novel, Giulia of the Albizzi. Katherine regularly reviews for the Historical Novel Society. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Canterbury Christ Church University in addition to an MLitt in Eng Lit from Durham and a first degree in History of Art from UEA.
You are never alone with a book; that’s as true now as it was when I was a lonely teenager. Historical fiction allows us to escape into a different world, and without being preachy about it, can help us realise that we’ve been through terrible times before without the advances in healthcare and communication that aid us now. I do not believe that writers of historical fiction should offer nostalgia to their readers – more perhaps a realisation that human beings are often more resilient than they realise.
Thank you so much to Katherine for being my guest. It is interesting to hear her thoughts from a historical fiction perspective.
It’s been wonderful featuring such a variety of authors and bloggers in this series. All have shared such interesting and perceptive thoughts on lockdown and isolation for writers.
We truly are living in history at the moment. No doubt future generations will reflect on this time period in their studies to come.
I have to agree with Katherine, the human race will find a solution. It will take time but we will get there.
For now, this is the last in this series. Thank you to all that have taken part. I am currently working on my COVID19 diaries, flash fiction and poetry collection which I hope to release soon.And I will also be finalising my YA fantasy The Curse of Time #2 Golden Healer.
More about that soon.
Please comment below, I’m sure Katherine would love to hear from you.
How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.
How is Alice May coping with this enforced isolation?
This is her answer:
Opening the Door of ‘The House That Sat Down’
Many thanks to Marje for giving me the opportunity to open the door on The House That Sat Down and show what is happening to one author, in a remote cottage in the middle of nowhere, on the Dorset/Hampshire border during coronavirus lockdown.
Our cottage looks as idyllically chocolate-box perfect as it ever did – before it collapsed six years ago and needed rebuilding, that is – but that doesn’t mean that life is any easier inside for us than it is for anyone else at this challenging time. (A quick contextual update for those who have not read The House That Sat Down Trilogy, our house fell down out of the blue one day in 2014 and was painfully rebuilt over a traumatic period of time, which involved living in a tent in the garden; my husband, myself and four children. This period in my life led me to write my first award-winning novel.)
On a superficial level, the main change to my daily routine that I thought social lockdown would bring hasn’t materialised. I naively expected that ‘a bit more time at home’ would enable me to finish editing my latest book. The opposite has – in fact – proven to be the case and I am reminded that nothing is ever quite what we might expect.
Like many, I am attempting to nurture my family through their dramatically altered lives; a role which requires huge amounts of diplomacy which has never been one of my strong points. But, from a writing career perspective, I initially found myself paralysed by an overwhelming sense of loss.
My original – pre-Covid19 – schedule for April was chock full of exciting entries. There were multiple speaking events, radio interviews, literary festivals, book signings and even a trip to London to pitch my new book to publishers. It took months to set everything up, but only hours to come crashing down. My new, very empty April stretched before me and mental tumbleweed rolled around inside my brain as I found myself struggling to process the change without dissolving into tears.
With the world so very different, it seemed that the previous twelve months spent writing book 5 had been a colossal waste of time. How could that work still be relevant? I found myself unable to write at all and that worried me.
Instead, I started painting – no, not the walls, although they could do with it. I created big bright, colourful pieces of art to cheer myself up. I have always used painting as a way to express my emotions, it was a massively important part of my recovery from post-traumatic-stress after my house fell down. Recent weeks have seen a resurgence in my reliance on throwing paint around to make myself feel better.
My fabulous PR guru @jane_dean_pr suggested that I put a couple of free art tutorials on my YouTube channel (Alice May Artist https://youtu.be/p6bHYY4xPl0 ).
If I am completely honest, I think she was trying to get me to stop pestering her with questions about what I ought to do.
Nevertheless, it was a brilliant idea and has led to some exciting developments which proves that you never know when opportunity will come knocking. Uploading that first video was the start of a whole new dimension to my creative career. Three weeks and nearly twenty tutorials later, there has been a surge in the number of subscribers to my channel, countless visits to my website (www.alicemay.weebly.com) and an unanticipated increase in book sales. Plus, I’ve had some wonderful feedback via email, twitter and Facebook.
I was interviewed for an article in Good Housekeeping Magazine which was very exciting followed by a lovely chat with Louise Hanna on BBC Radio Solent, which in turn has led to me being invited to deliver paid presentations and art demonstrations on-line to social groups gathering on Zoom. Who knew that such a thing was even wanted, let alone possible? https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/lifestyle/a31989711/art-beginners-guide/
There has even been a suggestion that I might like to start running proper art classes after lockdown is lifted, which is definitely something to think about.
My empty diary is now stuffed full of new activities; none of which I could have predicted before lockdown, but all of which I am thoroughly enjoying. Which only goes to show that you can never predict what is just around the corner. Anything is possible. Stay safe, stay well and stay positive.
Alice May Artist, Author, Speaker www.alicemay.weebly.com You Tube: Alice May Artist Facebook: AliceMayAuthor Twitter: @AliceMay_Author Instagram: alicemay_author_artist
Thank you so much to Alice for being my guest. I never imagined that such a thing would happen. Poor Alice, can you imagine your house falling down with all its belongings, and memories reduced to rubble?
And now this COVID19. How resilient and inspiring she is. I am so glad I started this series. It has introduced me to so many amazing writers and creatives.
We’re All Grieving–Support During This Uncertain Time
Welcome to 2020. We’re living in a time where there is uncertainty (which our brain dislikes), fear, mounting death and illness, lack of supplies, 24/7 social/news, and isolation, all to fight an invisible foe. If you wanted to create a perfect storm, we’re living it. So, yeah, it’s OK to grieve. We’re all grieving something now… …the loss of a job, financial security, loss of a family member due to the virus, loss of freedom to go where you want to go, when you want to go, the loss of being at home without every single family member there, loss of that trip you were going to go on, the inability to visit a loved one in the hospital, the inability to have neighbors, friends or family over, the loss of identity or purpose. Or, the issues you were dealing with before all of this came crashing down. The list goes on. Although we’re all “in the same boat,” there are different areas and points of view from that boat.
This situation easily calls forth the entire spectrum and expression of human emotion. It’s OK if in the middle of the day, or late at night, you suddenly feel heart-broken, overwhelmed, or frustrated, or livid, and just want a hug. As mammals, the sense of touch is extremely important, particularly to babies.
Same holds true for adults. –Whatever feelings come up, see if you can really unpack them and get the core of them. If you’re “angry,” try and see if you can get as specific as possible. Does it remind you of any other times in your life you’re reliving from your past? This is a perfect time to dig deeper to prevent out of control emotional eating, drinking, drug use, porn, or anything else that is used as self-medication. My concern is the number of divorces, domestic violence incidents, and suicides that could increase. –If possible, try to limit the amount of social media and news you allow in. The kicker is that we need to be connected and a need to belong, which social media can provide. However, it can easily suck us down rabbit holes. Personally, I continue to walk the line between being informed and getting sucked in. It’s a tight-rope walk and sometimes I fall. Think of social media/news as a very rich, high caloric dessert.A little bit is OK; too much will make you sick. –Try to create structure in your life. I prefer the word “rhythm” to “routine,” but whatever works for you, try to find it. Otherwise, the days will just run into each other. If you have kids, they thrive in it, even if they say they don’t. Those boundaries create safety, which is at a premium now. I’ve found it helpful to have 3 daily intentions:· Get outside and/or walk. Reach out to someone via email, text, phone call, etc. Work on my next novel, FINDING HER SPIRIT –If you’re a position to do it, I also encourage you to use this time to do things that you normally wouldn’t have time for. Perhaps set a bigger intention…”By the end of April, I will…” But, DO NOT JUDGE YOURSELF if you’re not there. Or, you don’t get there. Or, you find that you need to distract yourself by binging on that show. Or, it’s 5:00pm and you haven’t done squat. That’s OK. –Emotional/spiritual health needs to be fostered, too. Meditation, prayer, watching masses or church services online. Reaching out to others, particularly those who are alone, is important. If we don’t find the need for connection in healthy ways, we’ll find it in unhealthy ways. Channeling your energy into making masks, organizing Zoom gatherings, community virtual food drivers, anything to help others is a way to get out of our heads. Sometimes literally just texting someone and saying you’re thinking about them is enough. –Staying physically healthy is also important. Our bodies are meant to move, and if we’re dormant too long, it begin to affect us emotionally. Also, if you can get outside, even better. Nature and her beauty is so healing. Kids especially benefit from it. –If you can, find some fun.
Whatever that looks like for you. I love to sing, dance, and play piano. I also make sure to try to laugh every day, too. Fortunately, there are so many creative videos and memes out there that help. My two cats and husband are fodder, as well.
–Take this time to learn a new skill, language, or further develop one you already have. Or, clean out that basement or junk drawer that’s been calling your name. Again, be gentle with yourself if the only thing you can do is get up and maybe shower. Maybe not even that. In the same way with grief and/or trauma, not everyone is at the same place at the same time. The trick is to stagger our moments and meltdowns, so we can be there for each other when we fall. It’s happened to me when I had a bad day, people were there for me. Who knows what the next normal will look like? No one really knows. We’re all co-creating this as we go along. This experience brings out what it really means to be human, as the stories of kindness, compassion, and altruism are off the charts. My heart grows in leaps and bounds. My deepest thanks to the medical community, retail workers, truckers, any delivery workers for are keeping us afloat during this time. I picture it as we’re all walking along a path. Sometimes one of us stumbles but doesn’t fall. There will be times, however, when we really do fall. Then, we will be there to lift each other up. From six or more feet away, of course. 😊
Welcome to Chantelle Atkins, my next guest on my new feature – Isolation for Writers. How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.
How is Chantelle Atkins coping with this enforced isolation?
Here is her answer:
What’s Changed For Me? Nothing and Everything
The outbreak of Covid19 and the lockdown that followed has had a huge impact on us all, but as a writer, I feel in a unique position to observe, absorb and reflect on the changes for me personally and on the society around me.
What’s changed for me? Nothing and everything and believe me, that’s as confusing as it sounds. The confusion and anxiety tend to hit me hard in the evening, when my parenting duties are over, and I sit down to write. I’m not ashamed to admit I am often now writing through fits of tears. It’s just such a strange, sad, scary, hopeful and heroic time. You can’t help but be affected by it.
On the surface, lots has changed for me. I have four children aged between 5 and 17 and they were previously all in full-time education. I run a writing-based business called Chasing Driftwood Writing Group and my time is normally spent running after school writing clubs, writing clubs for home educated children and writing clubs for adults. 2020 started off so well for me, with the addition of three new clubs. I really felt like my little business was growing and succeeding.
When the schools closed, so did the libraries, community halls and museums and just like that, I had no work and no income. Luckily for me, my husband had just had a pay rise that almost covered this loss, so we didn’t panic. He works for Iceland and although I worry every day about the risk he is taking being there, I am also extremely grateful that we still have an income and access to food.
I’m now home-schooling my five-year-old son, which isn’t too much of a challenge as I used to be a childminder and I work with children at my clubs. In fact, I’ve been really enjoying it. My older children see to themselves and they’ve been brilliant at playing with their little brother when they take breaks between lessons. We are also lucky to live in a semi-rural location with a huge garden, ducks and chickens and other animals, plus a vegetable plot to keep us all busy. We are fortunate, and I do not take that for granted.
I feel the fear, like all of us. My 17-year-old daughter has just got a job with her dad at Iceland, and although I am proud of her I am also terrified for her. I try to avoid the news in the day and my little boy is a wonderful distraction and a shining light for me daily. His adaptability has inspired us all. But it hits me in the evening, and I can’t help sit and consider everything that has changed and wonder when normality will return.
The things is, I’m not sure how much of the ‘normal’ I want to return. I love schooling my little one and although I think school can provide a better and more rounded education than me, I am going to miss him like hell when this is over. I miss my clubs and the children and adults I work with. I keep meaning to set up online content for them or engage with them via Skype or Zoom but I’ve had to admit at the moment I just don’t have the emotional energy for it by the time my day is over. I don’t miss the stressful day-to-day running around. I spent most of my earnings on petrol I think as we only have one car, so I was pretty much running everyone everywhere all the time. I don’t miss traffic jams and it’s so peaceful now where we live. And I don’t really miss other people. I’m an introvert who loves to be alone. In fact, I need to be alone to refuel, so lockdown is not a challenge for me the way it is for more sociable people. I’m actually a little bit worried about how I will cope adjusting back to ‘normal’ again. I also think the world was heading in a worrying direction and I really hope that this ‘pause’ in proceedings will make us all think about the kind of society we want when it is all over.
As for writing? There is a bit less time as the kids are here in the day, but most of my writing took place in the evenings anyway and now that I don’t have clubs to prepare for, I’m able to get plenty done. I am tired though as I spend a lot of time attacking my garden! I’m probably blogging more than usual, as I keep thinking about lockdown related things to talk about. I find this as therapeutic and hopeful as gardening.
So, it’s weird. I’m still doing all the things I’ve always done, all the things I love. I’m with my kids and my animals. I’m writing and reading and listening to music. I’m gardening and growing things and spending as much time outdoors as I can. Normal, everyday stress and strain has been replaced with a darker, spikier edge of fear that only comes out at night. I the lockdown and love lockdown. I want normality back and I fear it returning. I’m a very confused writer, but that is probably also normal for me.
Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to reading, writing and music and writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling.
Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life and has now been developed into a 6 book series. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere and award-winning dystopian, The Tree Of Rebels, plus a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. The award-winning Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was released through Pict Publishing in October 2018. YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson was released in December 2019 and is the first in a trilogy. Chantelle has had multiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine.
By early afternoon I knew my hubby would be chaffing at the bit if I didn’t do some chores around the house. Window cleaner, that’s my new job role! It pays no cash but keeping my spouse happy counts towards extra brownie points. Of course, I’d much rather be writing… Eldest daughter, Tasha assisted and she’d much rather be reading. Hubby bought a special gizmo to help with the job. A no streak device – I never trust gizmos.
Well, the gizmo worked for a while until it started flashing red – a re-charge. Apparently, the re-charge takes two hours. What to do now… sit in the garden perhaps.
I know what to do… You guessed it… hide from hubby…
23rd Apri, 2020
We did a yoga video in the morning… it was great.
I had this idea to get mum and dad a treat. A delivery of food so they wouldn’t have to go out and brave the shops. What a joke! I ordered from a company … but there was no mince…
How can you make burgers with no mince?
Later on when Mum started cooking she realised the garlic was missing too… But, she also mentioned it was tasty. Hope mum’s delivery next week has some mince… Hello! Hint Hint…
Jackie is an award winning author, playwright, world citizen and huge movie fan She is also a very generous lady as she kindly sent me two of her books: The Seventh Train and Sleeping Through War, looking forward to reading these.
In the afternoon I braved the supermarket. I had tapas and cocktail ingredients to buy! Lockdown has it’s positives!
25th April, 2020
The highlight of the day came as my hubby David was washing his car with a jet power washer gadget which I’ve never seen before… When did he buy that? An unexpected visitor – what excitement – arrived at our door. It was Gina’s friend Elise who had popped round with a present to thank Gina for the present she’d had for her birthday! How eccentric to give your friend a present when it’s your birthday. Lockdown does that to people. Sweet. The two of them chatted for a while (at a safe distance,) and then Gina came in carrying her present looking much cheerier for having seen her friend for a while. The gift bag contained a lovely goodie bag full of treats. Lucky girl!
Earlier in the day I emailed my mum who’s getting fed up. She is very active for a 78 year old lady. Apparently, she has been doing Spring cleaning and painting but has now had enough of it. I don’t blame her!
I’m a bit worried about the painting… I hope she hasn’t been climbing up ladders!
The other funny thing about today is I forgot what day it is.
I submitted a 300 word piece to be featured in Writers Write – CoVID-19 Reflections on Quarantine on Saturday 25th and I completely forgot all about it.
Lockdown does that to you, you forget what day of the week it is.
In the evening, we had the tapas meal which was more tricky than I expected as our bottom oven wasn’t working.
It took forever to make all the little bits and pieces. The predominate ingredient seemed to be CHEESE – cheese balls coated in breadcrumbs, melted cheese Camembert (which my daughter Gina spelt Cannon Bear on the shopping list!) I thought that was kinda cute – she has always struggled with spelling being somewhat dyslexic – and Nachos with cheddar cheese. We also gobbled down home made wedges, sweet peppers filled with rice, chorizo and tomatoes, cold meats, sausages, cucumber strips and olives. All mighty tasty. The only slight disaster was the Camembert which imploded in the oven. It must have been those Cammon Bears getting up to mischief! Still we saved what we could, it wasn’t too bad.
I didn’t care too much for the Aperol cocktail concoction that the girls insisted upon but they loved it. We dressed up and took some photos by a flowering plant in our garden. It was a great evening which seems odd considering all that is going on in the world. It seems our only way to cope is to try to fill our days as best we can.
During lockdown it’s the little things that mean so much. Family time is precious.
Before I go, perhaps I might suggest a little Lockdown reading:
My poetry, prose and photography book – Mr. Sagittarius
Adele Park 5.0 out of 5 stars A poetic journey through life Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 April 2020 Verified Purchase Shaped with poems and beautiful pictures this book is a must-read and keep. This novel is the kind you will go back to again and again to dip into and read your favourites. A fantastic book, the author has delivered with engaging characters and beautiful prose. Well done.
My YA Fantasy – The Curse of Time Book 1 Bloodstone.
For the past several weeks, most of the world has been in quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus. An experience that will undoubtedly remain with us for a lifetime. Writers Unite! offered our members the opportunity to put their experience during this pandemic into words.
We asked WU! members to write a short essay answering this question:
In twenty years, what will you tell your children, grandchildren, or other loved ones about your experience during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Several writers chose to write a letter but some chose to write an essay on the experience in another form such as a statement of the current situation or a fictionalized account. Regardless, we felt it important that we document this experience in some manner.
So, a reader for the letter? Must mean we made it out the other side eventually. I’m glad. No…
Welcome to Catherine Fearns, my next guest on my new feature – Isolation For Writers. How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.
How is Catherine coping with this enforced isolation?
Here is her answer:
Hi everyone, I’m Catherine Fearns and I’m a writer. I have published three Amazon best-selling crime thrillers with Crooked Cat Books/Darkstroke, and I also write as a music journalist.
Thank you very much to Marjorie Mallon for hosting me on the blog today to write about my personal experience of writing during coronavirus lockdown…
For many people, coping with isolation has been the hardest challenge of these times. But some of us have had to adapt to the loss of isolation. With four school-age children and a husband who worked long hours and travelled extensively, I was used to spending long days, and long evenings, alone in my own world. And I loved it. Now I have a house full of noisy people, twenty-four hours a day, all needing a lot of attention. Not to mention home-schooling. And it’s wonderful too, so much so that I feel guilty about all the terrible things happening in the outside world when we are safe in our family bubble. But finding time to write is a challenge.
Before corona hit, I was finishing the edits on my fourth novel, and at the exciting stage where I had just come up with the concept for my fifth book and ready to get started. Then I was suddenly thrust into this new and very confined world. It’s difficult to get into the right headspace for novel-writing when you can only snatch a few minutes to yourself here and there – you really need long stretches alone to think. But even for writers without children, concentrating is a challenge at the moment.
Are you finding it hard to focus on reading a book? To tear yourself away from the news, from social media?
Low-level yet constant anxiety has become a way of life for everyone. When you’re living with such uncertainty, worrying about vulnerable family members, friends losing their jobs, wondering when this will be over and what the world will be like afterwards…
I found an experimental strategy to keep myself writing. I decided to start writing my new novel as a serial, and to let readers experience the process in real-time. I post two new chapters every week on my website, bite-size so readers have time to read them, and I have time to write them! Readers can even interact if they wish, by adding comments and suggestions. This concept actually works perfectly for the dystopian theme of the book, and I have been using a variety of media to tell the story, including audio files, images, video and letters.
I do feel a little reckless, posting my unedited work for readers to see, but it has also been liberating and confidence-building. Most importantly, putting that pressure on myself means that I have to get the words down every day. I try and wake up an hour before the kids, and if I still need more time, I suggest that we all have a reading and writing hour after lunch.
I’m aware that none of this makes financial sense. I may be shooting myself in the foot by making a whole book available for free when I could have waited and published traditionally. But I don’t think I would have had the discipline or concentration to write during this period otherwise. And I wanted to offer something, however small, to readers who might just need an extra little activity in their day.
Nobody should feel they have to achieve things during this time of corona. It’s ok to just be – to stay safe, spend time with family, read and relax. But my personal coping strategy has been to create a little something every day. And I have to admit that one of the things I’m looking forward to most when this is over is to spend a day alone!
Where are you from and in which area of the world do you live now?
I have lived in Reno, Nevada, USA for the past 14 years, moving here from the Seattle, Washington area in 2006. I spent my first 18 years in Jackson, Mississippi and Houma, Louisiana.
Tell me about the inspiration/s for your new book “Words of Alchemy.”
About six years ago, I visited Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe, California. The beauty was quite overwhelming, bringing me to tears. As I drove home, I made several stops along Lake Tahoe, sitting to take it all in. While doing this, poetic words bubbled to the surface of my consciousness. This was the beginning of a six year journey of being inspired by nature with poetic words, then later, inspired by life events.
Here’s that first poem and a few photos from Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe.
As the sun’s rays dance upon you like stars twinkling in the night sky, so shall our souls dance upon this Earth. As you are who you are with ease, so shall we no longer struggle to be who we are. As you adjust to the World around you without struggle, so shall we go with the flow of life. As you release your beauty, power, and love for us to enjoy and learn from, so shall we drop the facade of our bodies and identifying with materialism and what we’ve accomplished … And so shall we become vessels of love, joy and peace.
How did you decide on the title?
What a great question! I like to get ideas out of my head, onto “paper” (in my case, on the computer) as I’m a visual type person. I have to see ideas and concepts to know whether or not they work. I also look at the content to see what I can pull from within the content, that also encompasses the entire book. Shortly after deciding on “Words of Alchemy” for the title, the idea to replace chapters with alchemy sections was born. Synchronistically, this also helped me with organizing the poems as I was stuck with that part of the process.
Here’s a photo of the “Chapter” page.
It‘s lovely to see that your children are also involved in publishing books. How did this come about? You must be very proud of their books: your son Thomas’s Biggest Little Photographer, and your daughter’s debut book Where Would You Fly and Other magical Stories.
When Lillian was 4 years old, I had a knowing that she (and I) would write books. Due to her chromosome deletion, she has difficulty articulating words so she is not easily understandable when she speaks. However, she has (and had) all of the words in her mind, struggling to articulate them. I began researching how to self-publish, collecting information for when the time was right. This was around 2005. My dad bought her a mini laptop in 2007, and I set up a blog for her. We began writing stories together, and soon after she took it from there, writing and creating artwork. When Thomas was 8 years old, a friend shared an article with us about a professional photographer who had taken a photo a day, for 365 days, of a LEGO mini figure taking a photo. Thomas was inspired and asked me if he could do the same. I responded that he could, and also told him that if he stuck with it, we’d publish it as a book. It was published in 2016, and Thomas is 14 years old now.
Next, it was time for Lillian’s book. I gathered her writings from 4 years old through 16 years old, categorized them, and we created a book, published in 2018. Thomas chose the title as he said it would be good for marketing. It’s also the title of one of the stories in the book.
The cover photo is a picture I took of Lillian.
What is the hardest challenge you have ever had to face?
The hardest challenge I’ve had to face began with one extremely hard decision, that opened the door to 13 years of healing. I divorced in 2007, beginning a journey of single parenting two kids, 1 year old and 5 years old at the time. One having special needs, the other with undiagnosed special needs. I had no idea how I would manage, as I was the sole parent, no weekends or holidays off. I made all parenting decisions alone. I spent the first year, sitting in the garage sobbing my eyes out (with a bottle of wine), whenever my kids went to bed. I had to let myself grieve over the life I thought I had, and thought that I would have in the future. Once I moved through the grieving, I began a path of admitting to myself that I was not okay. Deep down I didn’t respect myself, didn’t think myself worthy, didn’t unconditionally love myself, and didn’t know what it meant to be in a healthy, loving relationship with a partner. So began the journey of diving deep into myself, my past, and current situation, allowing myself to feel emotions and process events from long ago. All of this so that I could emerge a healthier person, knowing my worth, loving myself, and loving my kids as they should be loved …. unconditionally. Although I received care and affection as a child, I had never experienced unconditional love. On a wider scale, the past 13 years have been about halting familial patterns, doing my part to reverse unhealthy patterns, starting anew. It has not been fun, it has been deeply challenging. In fact, there were many times I considered just ending it all. The split second that thought would enter my mind, my kids faces would appear, reminding me that ending it was not the solution. I persevered, teaching myself that I can trust myself to be strong, courageous, peaceful, and compassionate when the situation calls for it. It sure as hell wasn’t easy, but it sure as hell was worth it.
As a single mother of two children, one of whom has a significant chromosomal disorder what advice would you give other single women in a similar position.
I can think of three suggestions. One is not to let anger and pride get in the way of making decisions that are in the best interest of your kids. I did that in the very beginning, not asking for the type of financial support we really needed from their dad. I was angry and held an “I can do this my myself” attitude. The second is to find a way to let go of guilt and shame, and ask for help. There are those who want to help, and will do it with loving kindness. The third is to find a support group, online or in-person, that has to do with your child’s differences. These people will be a life-line and offer endless support. I discovered the Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society the night of Lillian’s diagnosis in 2004. This group and its members are like family to us, and it has been invaluable, with the relationships we have built and with the materials presented at the yearly conference.
When did you start writing and why?
I kept a diary as a young girl, from middle school through junior high school. I discontinued when reaching adulthood, picking it up again during my separation and divorce, continuing through to this day. The diary writing as a young girl was mostly written to share the dysfunctional family life I had, with my complaints, and about friendships and crushes. Later in life, I took up journal writing once again for some of the same reasons, yet, with a difference. Writing, getting things out of my head, helps me to see situations differently, helps me to process life experiences, and to discover solutions. Writing is deeply therapeutic for me, allowing my creative and imaginative nature to come out and play as well.
I’d love to know what you are working on next.
I’m currently working on marketing my latest book, as well as Thomas and Lillian’s books. 2020 is the year of rejuvenation for me, the year of pressing the reset button. I’ve been on a 13 year journey of deep healing connecting with feelings and events from my past, letting myself feel emotions, and working through much internal upheaval. It has been incredibly exhausting! I reached a tipping point with that journey in the beginning of 2020, and am now ready for some rest and leveling out. I’m not working on writing projects currently. However, I do feel several projects brewing. I never really know what the next one will be until I focus on it. I hope to one day have a book written by all three of us. We shall see.
What is ‘beauty’ to you?
Beauty is seeing and knowing one’s own beauty, when it is reflected back to oneself from nature, from other people, from life experiences.
What are your favourite genres?
I have made shifts throughout my reading years. As a child and teenager I was all about fiction and horror. As an adult I shifted to mysteries, reading every book Agatha Christie had written, ending with her autobiography. Then I shifted to only business books, autobiographies and biographies of successful people. Reading then shifted to non-fiction books in the self-help, mind, body, spirituality type books. With the latest shift being opening back up to the fiction genre, along with creative non-fiction, memoirs and books about writing.
What books are you reading currently?
I’m just finishing two books that I have thoroughly enjoyed. One is “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean and the other is “all about love” by bell hooks. They won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but, if the topic sounds interesting, I highly recommend them.
Have you a favourite quote or saying?
It’s difficult to pin down just one quote or say. However, I have found this one to be a great reminder, many times: “You’re intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” -Ray Bradbury
Which season is your favourite and why?
I can’t choose just one. I love each season for the differences they bring in nature, and within myself.
What other hobbies do you have apart from writing?
I love reading, having a once a week movie night with my kids, going for walks, creating art when the mood strikes (usually with items found in nature), keeping our online journal, TheTeamTLC.com, up to date, and working on MeetingtheAuthors.com. Thomas and I are currently watching the Marvel movies from beginning to end. I am deeply enjoying sharing this with him. We’ve been at it for almost a year, watching about one per month. Next up, Spider-man: Homecoming. I’m also a practitioner of meditating. However, I’m taking a break during this year of pressing the reset button. For six years, I meditated nearly every day. It was a beautiful experience and helped me to process life events. About two months ago, I just had a knowing that I was to take a break. I’d been going hardcore with the healing and mediating. It was time.
It must be wonderful to be the founder and host of Meeting The Authors. I expect you have ‘met’ many new fascinating authors?
It is absolutely wonderful and inspiring. This is one idea I am grateful to have listened about, and then took action! About a year ago I joined an amazing book group that connects authors and bloggers. I saw the tremendous need for authors to have more online exposure. I’m one of those people who gets ideas for new endeavors constantly, sometimes daily. I’ve learned to get the ideas out of my head, on paper (my laptop) so that I can “see” the idea. I let it marinate for a week or two or more, while I research what it would take to make it happen. I did that with Meeting the Authors. I hadn’t even launched it when I asked a question about launching it in the book group. I had over 100 authors comment on the post, requesting to be interviewed. I knew it was needed. I’m also thankful that I don’t act on every idea, letting most fall away. I’d never sleep! I am a networker at heart. I love meeting new people, sharing ideas, getting to really know one another. I used to attend in person events to network and meet like minded people. Now, I network online. I like to be authentic with networking. I want people to know the true me and vice versa.
It’s nice to see you are also featuring book bloggers. How did this come about?
Another idea that came to me as I networked in the book group, while at the same time going through lists of book bloggers, emailing ones that were a fit for my book. I thought, wouldn’t it be lovely to interview the book bloggers, asking them the questions an author would need to know before contacting them. Plus, throwing in a few personal questions to help us get to know them better. I’m having great fun shining the spotlight on book bloggers. They are a hard working group of people, simply because they love reading and books. Many of them are authors, too, or aspiring authors. It’s a win win for all.
Thank you Marje for having me on your blog. I deeply appreciate the thoughtful questions you’ve asked. I enjoyed answering each one as it caused me to dig deep and really think about my answer.
It’s been my pleasure Camilla, you are a delight and I am so looking forward to reading Words of Alchemy. I have a feeling (and my feelings are normally right!) that I will love it. I reckon you and I are kindred spirits!
Words of Alchemy:The poetry of nature, the poetry of healing, the poetry of appreciation, the poetry of love … in one beautiful book.
Book Blurb: In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.
Praise for Words of Alchemy
“Words of Alchemy, a heartfelt new collection by Camilla Downs, lives up to its namesake in numerous ways. Downs spans the broad range of nature, healing, love, and parenting, while making sure we have a little fun along the way. And the bridge she creates from the mindfulness of how we see the world at large to the poetry of everyday life is certainly worth a stroll or two across its borders.” – Thomas Lloyd Qualls, Award-winning author of Painted Oxen
“This poetry collection offers contemplative words, soothing thoughts and peace to the reader.”
“These poems take you on a calm and loving walk through the verses of the author’s thoughts. Alchemy is a perfect word for the title as Camilla Downs understands nature; connecting with its magical, medicinal qualities and beauty which she conveys throughout her poetry.”
“Words of Alchemy is a chronicle of hope. These poems are an encouragement, especially when we are feeling at our lowest, to keep seeking the light that is our way forward, and focus on the real. This collection is a walk through the positive nature of life. Camilla Downs is to be commended.”
– Frank Prem, Author of free-verse memoir Small Town Kid
About Camilla: Camilla Downs is a bestselling author, indie publisher, mentor, and mom. Nature and life experiences are a constant source of inspiration for her writing. She enjoys living a minimalist lifestyle, practicing meditation and mindfulness, reading, going for walks, and capturing nature’s essence with photographs. Camilla is the founder of MeetingtheAuthors.com and lives in Northern Nevada, USA with her two kids.
It was lovely reconnecting with old friends and making new ones too.
Unfortunately, as with all bashes there is always that moment when you realise that you haven’t had a chance to speak to everyone. So apologies to those I missed and to those I only chatted to briefly.
I took very few photos. Getting lazy…
But here are some, below myself, with Willow and Ritu.
Congratulations to Ritu for winning best book blog and to Sam Smith at Loving The Fifty Something Blog for winning the writing competition this year. I really enjoyed chatting to Sam and wish her every success and happiness with her writing and inspirational lifestyle.
I particularly enjoyed listening to guest author Gemma Todd talking about her writing journey.
From working class girl with no books in the house, or readers in her family, to librarian and Headline author! That shows determination, tenacity and a love of the written word! Gemma flitted across the stage in an exuberant but down-to-earth way making me smile. She shared some touching anecdotes about her father and her genuine authenticity shone through.
A warm welcome to Lizzie Chantree, it is such a pleasure to invite you on my blog today.
Lizzie is a new friend who I discovered recently, and a member of my: Author/Blogger Rainbow Support Club. Her author biography below will totally inspire and enthral you with the multitude of her wonderful and diverse talents. This lady writes, invents, produces cards, and puzzle books is a businesswoman and artist, has two children, a hubby, and an unusual sounding dog. Wow, when does Lizzie ever get time to sleep?
Oh, and by the way, she has invented a ladder stop… what might that be? No, it’s not something DIY based, no rigid device to secure ladders to climb up and fix loose masonry.
It’s the other kind of ladder, the invention to stop those pesky ladders that we always get in our tights. I like that, a word with two meanings…. Being a writer, I can see the humour in that. That sounds beyond useful, how come I never heard of an inventor like that? My youngest daughter is always getting ladders in her tights!
Lizzie is an enthusiastic inventor, businesswoman and artist. She founded her first company at the age of 17 and has been creating products and driving her family mad ever since.
Lizzie appeared on Sky News, ITV Lunchtime News, This Morning, The Big Breakfast, BBC’s Worldwide Radio Service, amongst others for becoming one of Fair Play London’s Female Innovators for her invention, Runaway Spray. Runaway Spray is a ‘ladder’ stop spray for stockings and tights, which has been on sale for over fifteen years. She has also developed a range of greetings cards and puzzle books for children with phonics and short stories inside to encourage independent writing skills in children.
Lizzie lives in Essex, with her gorgeous husband, two bouncy children and a very unusual dog. In between the school run and baking cakes (or burning them!), she sits in her rooftop studio daydreaming about gaps in the market and how she can fill them. Babe Driven is her first novel and she has written two other novels, Love’s Child and Finding Gina. Lizzie is currently writing her forth novel.
Finding Gina book synopsis:
A contemporary romance read with a magical twist! By Lizzie Chantree.
Can a sprinkling of stardust overcome a past full of demons?
Gina had traversed the breadth of the country in her little campervan to try and find everyone on her grandmother’s list, before her father drunk himself into an early grave. She leant down and pulled the battered and worn journal from her bag and opened it to the latest page. The neatly written names were etched onto her heart and she was determined to visit every single one and compensate them in some way. Her family’s debt had to be repaid.
Lewis read another provincial story about a ‘guardian angel’ who had been helping families across the country and his reporters nose began to itch. He was sure that if he could track down the girl they were talking about, he would unearth an even bigger story. He just had to work out how to locate her and then find out what it was that she was running from!
Reviews for Finding Gina:
This is the third book I have read by Lizzie Chantree and again I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality and depth of her writing..
I love a good edgy romantic ‘Chick lit’ Novel and this very much reached my expectations..
The characters are portrayed in such a way that you can really envisage how they look and the environments they live in; to the point that I’d love to stay with Gina in her VW van – v envious.
The story had remained with me; which isn’t always the case with Novels of this genre.
Really worth a read – Lizzie Chantree can really compete with her contemparies (I’m a long devotee to Lisa Jewell and Freya North). I look forward to her next offering.
A really great romance read. This book has humour and romance and kept me guessing the whole way through. Lizzie Chantree is fast becoming my new favourite author!
The main character Gina is running from her past, but discovers her future along the way. The other characters are just as interesting and I especially loved reading about Tom, the gorgeous baker who works at the tearoom and Lewis the intrepid reporter. The tearoom’s owner, Rachel is quite mean, but even she grew on me as the story progressed. She is quite a character! This would make a great holiday read and once I picked it up, I couldn’t put the book down until I had read the last page.
Well that was lovely wasn’t it? I do love having guests on Kyrosmagica. They add a certain magical sparkle to my day.
Don’t forget to let me know if you would like to feature on my next Author/Blogger Spotlight. Or perhaps you might like to join my Author/Blogger Rainbow Support Club? Don’t be shy do get in touch by leaving a comment below, or emailing me: email@example.com.