Nest ferch Rhys, the 12th century Welsh princess, is the heroine of my fiction trilogy, Conquest. Nest was wife or mistress to a Norman king, a Welsh prince, and the Norman constables of Pembroke and Cardigan castles. Interpretations of the few facts known about Nest ferch Rhys vary greatly. In my novels I am attempting to imagine and tell her complex story from her perspective. I will be talking with bookshop visitors and signing copies of my books on Friday 28 July 11am at Victoria Bookshop, Haverfordwest.
And on Sunday 30 July at 1pm, I am giving a guided walk around Carew Castle, which was one of Nest’s main residences, built by her first husband, Gerald FitzWalter, the Norman steward of Pembroke Castle. I will be talking about the historical facts behind my fiction. Taffire Theatre Company are also presenting an outdoor performance on Nest’s life on the same day at 11am and 3pm.
I am currently writer in residence at HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme, on the Finnish island of Suomenlinna, working on a project called Frontiers in Retreat.
Frontiers in Retreat is an art and ecology project I have been involved in for the last four years. A series of exhibitions, titled Edge Effects, has just begun and showcases some of the work produced by the 25 artists and 8 curatorial partners in the project:
June-September, Edge Effects at Skaftfell, Iceland; June-August, Edge Effects at Mustarinda, Finland; July, Edge Effects organised by Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Glasgow; July-September, Edge Effects in Aizpute, Latvia, and opening soon online in July: Edge Effects, Farrera, Spain which includes my work, FORD and my interview series with some of the artists. More Edge Effects exhibitions opening later in the year in Zagreb and Seoul.
HIAP has just produced the beautiful booklet above, designed by NODE in Berlin, and edited by Salla Lahtinen and Jenni Nurmenniemi. You can download a free copy here
The booklet summarises the work of the Frontiers in Retreat artists and partners and is also available at the Edge Effects exhibition venues. It features the photograph below of my installed text work, MEANDA, from the Exoplanet Lot exhibition organised by Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc, last year.
Open call for expressions of interest from writers, artists, and others interested in participating in a workshop exploring the vocabulary of ecology, and taking place Sat 8-Sun 9 July 2017. Deadline for expressions of interest: 31 May.
The workshop will set words off on irreverent adventures and explore subversive approaches to lexicons, dictionaries, taxonomies, and glossaries. We will be developing discursive, de-definitions of terms such as nonhuman, entanglement, symbiosis, boundary, interface, mess, remote, dust, toxicity. Other terms for de-definition will emerge during the workshop.
Workshop Leader: Tracey Warr is a writer who has worked with installed text and published books and essays on contemporary art.
Workshop Contributors: Jenni Nurmenniemi, curator at HIAP – Helsinki International Artists Programme, Finland; Jussi Parikka, new media theorist; Antti Salminen, philosopher, poet, fiction writer and literary critic.
Selected texts from the workshop will be included in a book to be published in 2018.
There will be a maximum of 12 participants in the workshop. You must be able to participate fully on both days (10am-6pm). Please email your expression of interest consisting of a one paragraph biography and another paragraph on why you are interested in participating to: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 May.
The workshop will take place at HIAP on Suomenlinna Island, 15 minutes by ferry from Helsinki. The workshop is free. Lunch on both days and dinner on the first day will be provided by HIAP. The accommodation and travel costs to/from Helsinki are at participants’ own cost. HIAP can support the travel costs of 1–2 workshop participants from outside of Helsinki (within Finland), please e-mail email@example.com for more information.
‘The only plagues of London are the immoderate drinking of fools and the frequency of fires’ wrote William Fitz Stephen in his account of the city in the 12th century.
On a recent trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts I came across a little book called Norman London in a second-hand bookshop. The book contained Fitz Stephen’s account of London written sometime before 1183, together with an essay by Frank Stenton and map research on 12th century London by Marjorie B. Honeybourne. The book was a silvermine for my research as a historical novelist and it is ironic that I travelled to a second-hand bookshop in Massachusetts (the wonderful Raven Books) to find it.
Last year my novel, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King, was published by Impress Books. It is the first in the trilogy charting the life of Nest ferch Rhys who was a potent symbol in the struggles between the Normans and the Welsh. The second book in the trilogy, Conquest: The Drowned Court, will be published this autumn. Nest was one of the many mistresses of the Norman king Henry I and parts of the novels are set in London.
The complicated business of the great 12th century city was conducted by the aldermen of London in the Husting which met in the Guildhall every Monday. Husting is a Scandinavian word and it is likely that this city institution had its origin during the Scandinavian occupation of London in the time of King Alfred. The Husting was the court of civil business hearing pleas on debts, land disputes, land gifts, regulating foreign merchants, controlling weights and measures.
Stepping into Medieval Worlds is an illustrated talk on Norman London that I will be presenting at The Guildhall Library on 8 June. It will address the literary sources for my fiction, including Fitz Stephen’s account. It is exciting to be speaking on this topic at the site of the 12th century Husting in the Guildhall which is on a street, Aldermanbury, named after those aldermen in Norman London. I will talk about the range of medieval literary sources I employ to construct the fictional worlds of my novels including Orderic Vitalis’ chronicle of the ‘extremely unrestrained’ Normans, viking poems, recipe books, maps, and medical manuals from the Middle Ages, the songs of the female troubadours, and the lascivious writings of medieval archbishops and dukes.
Many writers, from Joyce to Hemingway, have seen and used the value of the estranged position. Not entirely fitting in, being a bit of a voyeur is the ideal position for a writer. Not belonging can allow a writer to see afresh. I’m looking forward to talking in Villefranche-de-Rouergue on Friday this week, about the impacts and inspirations that living in France have had on my writing.
‘Southern France is graced by spectacular hilltop castles, medieval towns and a rash of English historical novelists,’ I wrote in my article ‘The Lure of Another Time, Another Place’, published in Historical Novels Review magazine (Feb 2016). I interviewed a number of other English writers about living and writing in France. ‘Writing starts with landscape,’ declared Kate Mosse. ‘The landscape itself often suggests the stories that might be possible within it,’ said Deborah Lawrenson. And in the same vein, Jacqueline Yallop found that, ‘It’s actually treading the ground which makes a difference, which allows…you to inhabit other lives’. Amanda Hodgkinson pointed out the supportive attitude in France towards the notion of an artist’s life. And, of course, there is an avid English-reading readership living here in France.
I will be talking alongside another locally based writer Stephen Goldenberg whose latest thriller is set in Villefranche.
The event will take place in the Salle de Travail, across from the terrace of Hotel Les Fleurines. Entry is free.