Open Call – Ecology of Words Workshop – Helsinki

Heap-of-Language
Robert Smithson, A Heap of Language, 1966

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: traceykwarr@gmail.com and jenni@hiap.fi 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 jenni@hiap.fi for more information.

The workshop is part of the Frontiers in Retreat project.

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).

 

A writing life in France

English Library small

at Hotel Les Fleurines

17 Boulevard Haute Guyenne

Villefranche-de-Rouergue, 12200

France

organised by The English Library

 

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.

Tapas available afterwards at 10 euros per plate and must be pre-ordered by email to jackienaismith@hotmail.com.

Bodice-ripping?

3-impress-books-cropped-no-name

Saturday 25 March

10.30am

Tracey Warr at Parisot Library, 82160, France

Is historical fiction bodice-ripping escapism, taking liberties with historical facts, or a genre putting flesh on the skeleton of history, and engaging with contemporary society? In this event Tracey Warr will discuss a wide range of historical fiction writers from Mary Renault to Bernard Cornwell, from Ellis Peters to Sarah Dunant. She will be presenting short readings from her latest novel set in the 12th century and consider the research and inspirations for her own writing.

Followed by aperitifs at 12 noon

Tracey Warr is the author of three novels, published by Impress Books. Her stories are set in early medieval Europe. She also writes for Historical Novels Review magazine.

Part of the LibraryLit series of authors’ talks

Untold Stories

accession   the-seeker   lady-agnes   kitty-peck

For an article just published in Historical Novels Review, I asked four novelists to tell me about material they decided to leave out of their novels and how they approached being selective about their researched material. ‘You should fight the desire to include something simply because you find it interesting,’ said Livi Michael, who recently published a 15th century trilogy. S.G. Maclean cited cutting out loving descriptions of a 17th century apothecary’s shop and a Scottish bookseller’s shop from her novels, and advised ‘learning not to be self-indulgent, instead keeping the story focused’. French medieval mystery writer Andrea Japp reported: ‘I have to understand everything, even if I do not use it. It is a way to ground my story, so that my readers wish to accompany me back to these ancient times. There are many things that do not make it to my novels, just because they are a sort of substrate.’ Researching her 19th century music-hall novels, Kate Griffin visited Victorian cemeteries and is now immersed in researching Victorian stage machinery, make-up, props, and the mechanics of illusion.

You can read the full article online or in print by joining the Historical Novel Society. They have over 2,000 members worldwide who are historical fiction writers, readers and publishers. They publish Historical Novels Review quarterly, the online Historical Fiction Daily, and organise hugely enjoyable and inspiring conferences in UK, US and Australia.

You never know how the past will turn out*

locust-medieval-manuscript
Locust depicted in an ancient Egyptian mural

It’s interesting to think about how contemporary details find their way into historical fiction. I’m not talking about errors and anachronisms, but how writers use what they see and hear around them and turn it into something else in their fiction. The locusts kept in a classroom by the creepy tutor in my new novel, for instance, are based on my own schooldays in north London when we had a huge vitrine of chirping locusts down one side of the classroom.

A lot of detail in my early medieval novels comes from historical research but equally a lot is contemporary experience that I’ve transfigured and transported back in time. I saw a couple parting from each other at a bus stop in Oxford and transformed that into an 11th century French countess separating from her Catalan lover at Narbonne Harbour. I had lunch with my Dutch neighbour and was transfixed by the beauty, verve and humour of one of her gay friends. He became the model for the Fleming lover of a 12th century Welsh princess. The appearance of the 10th century Count Audebert de La Marche in my second novel, The Viking Hostage, is based on a dear friend who died a few years ago. A scene where a 12th century lady is surprised by King Henry I with a magical birthday punt on the Thames at midnight, is based on my own midnight birthday punt with friends many years ago in Oxford.

the-wogan
The prehistoric Wogan Cave beneath Pembroke Castle, Wales, which lets out onto the river

Two of my novels are set in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where I breathed the atmosphere of castle ruins, studied the lay of the land, their relationships to rivers, imagined how to break in or break out. I gazed at Carmarthen Bay seascapes from train windows and walked the Wales Coastal Path. I lurked in medieval ruins, accompanied by my long-suffering best friend, who had to frequently suppress the urge to say, ‘can we go home now?’.

 

11-najac
Najac, France

I walked into the nave of the medieval church of Eglise Saint-Jean at Najac in France, and stepped on the coloured light patterns projected by stained glass windows. I imagined how it might feel for one of my heroines, to be stepping in silk slippers on these pools of coloured blue, red and yellow light, walking towards the altar to marry a man she had only met once before in a childhood betrothal. You never know how the present will turn out either, when you start making things up in fiction.

conquest-book-cover

 

Tracey Warr’s new novel Conquest: Daughter of the Last King is published by Impress Books today.

 

 

*My blogpost title is a quote from Maria Loh’s marvellous book on Renaissance Artists (Still Lives, 2015).

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