Into the Map

Limousin Map

For the last few days I have been putting together maps to help readers envisage the action of my latest novel set in the 12th century, The Drowned Court. The characters travel from Dublin, to Wales, to England, and into northern France. Poring over old maps and, as far as possible, walking the terrain myself are essential parts of my writing process.

‘It’s actually treading the ground which makes a difference, which allows…you to inhabit other lives.’ (Jacqueline Yallop)*

Next week I will be treading the ground of my first novels, Almodis the Peaceweaver and The Viking Hostage, when I talk at the Charroux Literary Festival on landscapes inspiring fiction.

I love maps – I have shoeboxes full of them. The old map (above) showing the medieval French counties of La Marche, Perigord, and the Limousin, which I found in the British Library, was an important inspiration for my first two novels. The archivist at the Musee d’Augustins also gave me a copy of a map of 10th century Toulouse which helped me think about my characters moving around that city.

‘The landscape itself often suggests the stories that might be possible within it.’ (Deborah Lawrenson)*

Maps often inspire me to write new scenes and they are full of suggestive text too, which can be put to use. Maps and walks around the triple river estuary of Carmarthen Bay in Wales were the starting points for my latest Conquest trilogy. I’m fascinated by the uncertainty between land and water, by islands, coastlines, spits, and estuaries. I was interested to try to write as if the landscape/seascape was almost a character in the novels itself – rather like the gloomy, ominous heath in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native or the sinking sands of the saltmarsh in Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone.

‘The author must know his countryside, whether real or imaginary, like his hand; the distances, the points of the compass, the place of the sun’s rising, the behaviour of the moon … even when a map is not all the plot … it will be found to be a mine of suggestion.’ Robert Louis Stevenson**

* From my article, ‘The Lure of Another Place & Time’ published in Historical Novels Review.

** From Peter Turchi (2004) Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, San Antonio, Texas: Trinity University Press.

My talk on landscapes inspiring fiction at the Charroux Literary Festival in France is on Saturday 26 August at 9.30am.

Other authors at the festival include Barbara Erskine, Andrew Lownie, and Alison Morton. I am also contributing to the festival’s panel discussion on historical fiction on Friday 25 August at 9am.

 

Stepping into medieval London

Dunstable Swan Jewel from the British Museum
The Dunstable Swan Jewel

‘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.

Guildhall._Engraved_by_E.Shirt_after_a_drawing_by_Prattent._c.1805.

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.

Stepping into Medieval Worlds

Thursday 8 June 2017, 6-8pm

Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH

Tickets: £5.90 includes wine reception. Book at:

https://steppingintomedivalworlds.eventbrite.co.uk

Carew_Castle_(6816) copy
Carew Castle, Wales

I have more author talks coming up soon in Wales:

Fri 28 July 11am Victoria Books, Haverfordwest

Sun 30 July 1pm Carew Castle

Sat 23 September 10am-4pm Narberth Book Fair

Sat 30 September 11am Tenby Library in Tenby Arts Festival

Sat 14 Sept 10.30am Pembroke Dock Library for National Book Month.

 

 

 

Image credits:

The Dunstable Swan Jewel in the British Museum (Wikimedia photo by Ealdgyth)

The Guildhall, engraved by E.Shirt after a drawing by Prattent, c.1805 (Wikimedia)

Carew Castle, Wales (Wikimedia photo by Nilfanion).

 

REMOTE PERFORMANCES

London Fieldworks and Resonance104.4fm present

REMOTE PERFORMANCES

New artworks made for radio and broadcast live from Outlandia

4- 9August 2014 

www.remoteperformances.co.uk

outlandia-studio-03

Remote Performances is a collaboration between artists London Fieldworks and Resonance104.4fm, (the world’s first art radio station).

For one week in August 2014, 20 specially commissioned artist performances and programmes created with local residents will be broadcast live from Outlandia, a unique artists’ field-station in Glen Nevis, Lochaber, Scotland.

With Resonance104.4fm’s mobile studio ‘in residence’, Outlandia will become a portal between Lochaber and the rest of the world, a context in which participants can transmit experience of place to diverse audiences through art, music and performance.

Artists from England, Scotland and beyond will respond to Outlandia’s distinctive and remote geographical forest location overlooked by the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, in the Scottish Highlands. Taking place at the moment when Scotland votes on the continuance or dissolution of the 300 year old Acts of Union the week-long series of broadcasts and blogposts will be a timely reflection on contemporary ideas of remoteness, capturing and transmitting creative interactions with the land, its history and people and the tensions between nature, industry, tourism and heritage.

Remote Performances will be broadcast live through Resonance104.4fm with listening posts set-up at Edinburgh Art Festival and the Live Art Development Agency in Hackney Wick, East London. Daily blogposts featuring texts, images and films from Remote Performances will be hosted in collaboration with the LADA (www.thisisliveart.co.uk). Full details of live broadcasts and listening posts will be announced in July.

Remote Performances Artists:

Bram Arnold • Atlas Arts • Ruth Barker • Ed Baxter (with Resonance Radio Orchestra) • Johny Brown (with Inga Tillere and James Stephen Finn) • Clair Chinnery • Adam Dant • Tam Dean Burn • Benedict Drew • Alec Finlay (with Ken Cockburn) • Bruce Gilchrist & Jo Joelson • Kirsteen Davidson Kelly • Parl Kristian Bjorn Vester (aka Goodiepal) • Sarah Kenchington • Lee Patterson • Michael Pedersen (with Ziggy Campbell) • Geoff Sample • Mark Vernon • Tracey Warr •Tony White

For further information, interviews and images, please contact Jo Joelson at: info@londonfieldworks.com

Or: +44(0) 7712 425054 or: +44 (0)20 8985 6340

London Fieldworksis an arts practice formed in 2000 by artists Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson for creative research and collaboration at the intersection of art, environment, technology and society. They create artworks, performative architecture, films and publications exploring human engagement with environment. Through their projects they have experimented with radical production methods to explore how experience of place can be transmitted from remote and wild locations through art.

www.londonfieldworks.com

Outlandia is an off-grid, architectdesigned, artist treehouse studio and field-station, a legacy project for the Year of Highland Culture 2007, imagined by London Fieldworks and designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects. Outlandia is located in a copse of Norwegian spruce and larch on Forestry Commission land in Glen Nevis, at the foot of Ben Nevis in the Scottish Western Highlands. It is an artist-led project built for artists and community groups, to foster links between creativity and the natural environment. Outlandia has hosted over 25 DIY artist residences since its launch in 2010, documented on the blog:www.outlandia.com

Resonance104.4fm is a ground-breaking 24/7 arts broadcast platform, which exists to encourage creativity through radio. Open to as wide a range of artists, art forms and diverse communities as possible, its broadcasts challenge, inspire and transform people’s creative and listening experiences. Now in its 12th year, through it’s wide-ranging and far-reaching programming Resonance104.4fm strives to be culturally influential – locally, nationally and globally.www.resonancefm.com

Remote Performances is supported by:

ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND (Grants for the Arts)

NEVIS LANDSCAPE PARTNERSHIP (Heritage Lottery Programme)

OXFORD BROOKES UNIVERSITY

LIVE ART DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (LADA)

EDINBURGH ART FESTIVAL

Image credit: Outlandia by London Fieldworks, 2010

Walking, mapping, writing workshop in Fort William

1 Outlandia Path
The Path to Outlandia

Tuesday 5 August 2014            

10am – 4pm

Lochaber Archive Centre, Fort William

and Glen Nevis Visitor Centre

Free

‘The moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow’, wrote Henry Thoreau. Many other writers including Walt Whitman, John Muir, Iain Sinclair, Will Self, Robert Macfarlane and Rebecca Solnit have written about walking in wild places or used walking to inspire writing on other topics.

Tracey Warr is running a one-day workshop with adult writers, using maps and short walks in Glen Nevis. In the morning at Lochaber Archive Centre, maps will inspire us to write of imaginary or remembered engagements with landscapes. The afternoon session will be based at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre with a one hour walk in the Glen to help us develop our writing in progress. Published and aspiring writers are welcome. Selected texts will be read (wherever possible by the authors) on Resonance Radio http://resonancefm.com on the following days: 6-9 August and will be published on the Outlandia website http://www.outlandia.com

Places on the workshop are limited so please email me as soon as possible on traceykwarr@gmail.com to book your place.

Tracey Warr has published two historical novels: Almodis (Impress, 2011) and The Viking Hostage (Impress, 2014); a short story in Shadow Plays (Parthian, 2010); and many books and essays on contemporary artists. Her first novel, Almodis, was shortlisted for the Impress Prize for New Fiction and the Rome Film Festival Book Initiative and received a Santander Research Award. She also writes for Times Higher Education and New Welsh Review magazines.

The walking, mapping, writing workshop is part of the week-long radio art project “Remote Performances” taking place August 4-9th, which is supported by: Arts Council England • Nevis Landscape Partnership • Oxford Brookes University • Heritage Lottery Programme. Thanks also to Lochaber Archive Centre and Glen Nevis Visitor Centre.