From the Agent’s Mouth (Part II)

A professional writer is an amateur who didn_t quit.”—Richard BachDublin was abuzz with people and I’d say most of them were tourists. Of course I was a tourist too, even though I’m Irish and used to work in Dublin.

The Date with an Agent Event was held in the Smock Alley Theatre.

I stopped off near Temple Bar, with a vague idea of where the venue was.

Had time for a delicious cappuccino and fell into easy conversation with the young waiter. He was slender, blond and had a goatee, I think. I asked him where he was from. We did the guessing game. I never would have come up with Brazil, but there you go. I joked with him that he should be an extra in The Vikings. “I was,” he said. And he went on to tell me about his experiences, which I passed on to my nephew and brother-in-law who are also interested in having a stint on the silver screen.

But I do ramble! I’m afraid brevity is not one of my talents. On the other hand, if I was reading this, I’d want to know all the little stories that happened around the event. Since I’m probably just writing into cyberspace anyway, I can ramble as I like.

Oh, the people I met, the things I saw!

We all flocked into the Theatre, getting our tickets sorted. I forgot my ticket but the staff were friendly and most helpful. I did have an email confirming my Date with an Agent placement and proof that I was who I said I was.

Excited anticipation was the predominant mood amongst the authors or would-be-authors.

Later, settled in our seats, Vanessa O’Loughlin did a great job keeping it all together. She introduced the agents and gave them each the stage as they told us about their typical work day.

The consensus was that most of the established agents can only take on about three new authors a year. That’s very little. But then there are small publishers constantly emerging, so all is not lost.

I had already had a quick chat with the woman beside me. “In which genre do you write?” I asked her.

“Crime Fiction:”

“Oh, that’s good. It’s very popular at the moment.”

“What about you?” she asked.

“Ahem. I’ve been assigned to the Women’s Fiction agent.”

“Lucky you,” she said. “She’s still taking on authors.”

“Yes, she’s pretty new with the agency.”

But then the agent she’d been assigned to was one of those who only takes on three a year.

I looked around the theatre and everyone looked a bit dejected after hearing how difficult it is to get in the door. “Everyone looks so depressed,” I whispered to my neighbour. She nodded in agreement. .

Like me, you’re probably aware of what’s going on in the publishing industry.

I’m not going to repeat most of the mundane stuff, just information I found relevant.

  1. Do check to see that the agent you’re querying is the right one for your genre.
  2. Mention this is the first paragraph of your letter.e.g. “I’ve noticed you’re representing Lee Child, or Amy Tan …” Or “I see you specialise in poetry, non-fiction, crime/thriller …” Let them know that you’ve done your homework.
  3. Keep the letter short. Agents are busy people. They receive many letters each week. Much as they’d like to, they don’t have time to enter into a discussion with you. Opening up a discussion creates a lot more work for them.
  4. A bit of humour or irony is allowed.
  5. Address the agent by his/her name. Don’t send that same generic email with cc. to other agents at the same time. This could get you expelled from school immediately.
  6. These agents interviewed agreed that the Query Letter should contain three paragraphs. Keep it short and to the point. You can include the letter in the body of your email. But do check the individual agent’s requirements.
  7. Don’t be defensive. Be up for criticism. Scrutinise your motives. Be able to take feedback. Any helpful feedback from an agent is like gold dust.
  8. Literary is “difficult to pitch.” On that note, I stopped off at Tramp Press https://www.tramppress.com/about/, one of the exhibitors at the Words Event, held at Kilmainham Gaol, the previous day. They stressed that they are looking for exceptional writing and asked what my genre was. I felt intimidated, to be honest, and mumbled my way to the escape door. It’s the tone that makes the music. Anyway, I still wanted to pass that bit of information on to other authors who think they fit the bill.
  9. 2nd paragraph of your letter. Here, you should include your short book description and hook. It should be short enough that, should, you ever capture an agent in an elevator, you can pitch your story during the time it takes to reach the next story or level. Some of them recommended approx. 25 words. Try to make it stand out from the rest. This is your chance, baby.
  10. 3rd A short relevant bio. You can mention books you’ve written, fantastic relevant degrees and awards you’re earned etc. Vanessa O’Loughlin is Ireland’s leading literary scout, the founder of the Inkwell Group, and a prominent name in the Irish Literary Scene. It was she who read through all the entries. She said she likes to get a feel for the person behind the application and likes it less formal than some other agents.
  11. Be courteous. This should be obvious. You can make an agent’s day too!
  12. An agent is interested in a long-term cooperation with you as an author. It might be possible to sneak in that kind of information. E.g. “I’m currently finishing up my third novel …” But again, don’t quote me on this. After all, it’s a business. And remember, the agent doesn’t usually get paid until they land a deal for you. It stands to reason that they’ll only invest in authors/books they think will have a good chance of selling.
  13. Social Media. They agreed, for the most part, that a social media presence is essential if you’re proposing a non-fiction book. You will already have followers and a voice in a particular niche. Otherwise, they agreed that it depends on the agent. They didn’t place much emphasis on social media presence, except for non-fiction writers. One of them said. “The more successful the writer, the shorter the bio.” You can already win Brownie Points if your Bio is catchy and unique. (That’s my advice and I should take it!)
  14. If you’re writing an Anthology of Short Stories it’s advisable to have a theme, with a connecting thread.
  15. Understand your character’s motivation. You’re telling the story.
  16. Develop 6-8 (max) of your characters. The peripheral characters don’t need to be developed to such an extent. Make sure their names are distinctly different.
  17. Make sure your Synopsis and Sample Pages are as clean as can be. (12 pt. New Roman (don’t experiment with any fancy fonts that are hard to read), double or one-and-half line spacing. Generally one/two pages. But don’t forget if you’re lucky enough to be taken on by an agent and if they manage to get you a book deal with a big publisher, they will have their own editors and cover designers.
  18. It can take a long time for an agent to match you with a suitable publisher. Be prepared and be patient.
  19. Trends in books are absolutely unpredictable. Most of them agreed with this. If you follow the trends and try to write a similar book, more than likely the trend will no longer be popular when your book is finished. Someone mentioned Up-lit in Women’s Fiction, specifically Elinor Oliphant. I’d heard of the book, of course, but found a great interview by Claire Armitstead with the author in The Guardian. This positive story brought tears to my eyes. This too can happen to you. You just never know. I also like the term, Grip-lit, which was new to me.
  20. On that note. Develop your own voice and write something you’re invested in.
  21. If you’re lucky enough to be asked for the full manuscript, don’t forget to add page numbers, title and name on each page. This might sound obvious, but imagine what could go wrong if someone drops the manuscript.
  22. Don’t include too many characters in your Synopsis. Just mention the main characters and when you introduce them, it’s a good idea to highlight them the first time they’re introduced.
  23. It’s not advisable to start your book with backstory. You need to capture the attention of the reader immediately, draw them into the story. Don’t lose them.
  24. Start your book where the action begins.
  25. The Synopsis is generally written in the third person, present tense.
  26. Even if you have a pseudonym, it’s better to apply using your real name. You can work out details of a potential penname later with your agent/publisher.

After the agents had given us an insight into their work, there was a general question and answer session before the break.

It was time for tea and coffee. Afterwards, the writers who had been awarded the Date with an Agent were asked to go to see their agents in one of the room upstairs.

My group was lucky because our lovely agent had taken the time to write personal notes on our sample pages and Synopses and returned them to us.

Unfortunately, it was hard to hear and we had to huddle closer because all the agents were curtained off in separate sections of a larger room. They didn’t have microphones. That would have been even more disastrous. We had to drown out the din from the other groups. But nobody really complained and we all adapted to the situation.

Our agent was very approachable. Not jaded by the whole industry. While time didn’t permit her to go into detail with each of us, she did give us helpful information, most of which is included above. At one stage I asked her if, after making the suggested changes, we could resubmit.  “Yes, you can,” she said. “Just make sure to mention where we met.”

That’s good news, and I intend to do it.

I will be patient, I will be patient, I will be patient.

And after I send my applications, I’ll continue with my next novel.

Wait…there’s more. Just a few notes on Bookouture. In the afternoon, I listened to a represntative of Bookouture talk about their open submission policy. I’d been hearing a lot about them and know a couple of people who have been offered book deals with them. They are a Digital Publisher and seem to treat their authors well. Although they do not give advances, they are well connected in the industry and do a fantastic job producing quality digital books, while offering their authors a fair royalty. Average Bookouture Crime/Thriller authors earn approx 20,000/book. You can submit directly to them.

Some additional information: Penguin Books have one of the best global foreign right’s departments. If you’re lucky to be signed up with Penguin, you can expect an advance of between 10,000/100,000 (British pounds, I think).

Now that’s something to work towards.

I hope this has been helpful and would appreciate your comments.

 

 

 

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From the Agent’s Mouth Part 1

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When I self-published my first book, I followed a dream I’d had since I was in my early twenties. I’d read so much about applying to agents and trying to get a publishing deal that I felt paralysed whenever I even contemplated writing a book synopsis or a cover letter.

I’m proud of that first novel, and a subsequent Memoir, but I also learned a lot during the process. I was very lucky to have found a fantastic group for Indie Authors on Facebook IASD (Indie Author Support and Discussion). They are a generous and friendly bunch and most supportive.

I also found a great cover artist, Jane Dixon-Smith, for my novel, and a developmental editor to check over the umpteenth edit and give me an overview of pacing, plot, consistency of voice etc. Jennie Kremmer of www.bookanvil.com was an excellent match for me and a most accomplished editor and writer too. Jennie hails from Australia. She offered me a sample edit. It was comprehensive and most helpful. I decided to invest in her and she in me. This is the power of connection through the Internet, which is a double-edged sword, as we all know. Paying for a copy edit was not in my budget.

And believe me, you’ll always find errors, even if you’ve read your work many times and had generous friends and beta readers doing the same.

I didn’t bother doing too much marketing because I wanted to wait until I had at least a couple of novels out there and perhaps even feel like a real author. But I kept on writing because I need to. I write poetry too and love the rhythm of the words. The first couple of lines of a poem will pop into my head at the most unlikely moments, e.g. changing the sheets, weeding, walking or cooking.

With a couple of other novels on the go and a new one finished, I received a message from a friend with a link to win a Date with an Agent for an upcoming event to be held in Dublin.

She sent it not once, but thrice. The dread of writing a Synopsis and the fact that I had very little time to do it gave me a good excuse not to apply. But then, I changed my mind and buckled down to the dreaded task.

No! No! No! This will never do. Writing a Synopsis is a necessary but dreaded task

After much struggle to tell the story in a synopsis (the guidelines were for a max word count of 750 (if I remember correctly), to formulate a cover letter and a short bio, I did a quick online search and realised the synopsis the agent wants should not conceal the outcome of your story. Good thing I checked on that. So, you don’t write something like, “Will she succeed in fleeing her pursuer,” or “Will he manage to gain back the millions wrongfully stolen from him.”

I sent off my short bio, my email, sample pages and Synopsis and maintained a very Zen-like attitude about it. I was sure I had a slim chance of being chosen, especially as I discovered I’d made an error in my Synopsis. As it turned out, the agent would have preferred a one-page Synopsis.

Imagine my delight when I discovered I was one of the fifteen authors chosen to have an extra session with an agent.

No, we weren’t flown in and put up in a top-notch hotel, no limo either. We had to buy our tickets too, like everyone else, but I’ll reserve that dream for a future date

This was definitely thrilling. Success is measured by small steps.

There were five agents, YA Fiction, Sci-Fi, Women’s Fiction, Literary fiction and Crime/Thriller.  Of those fifteen chosen, five had an extra session with their selected agent..

While it wasn’t a one-to-one session, it was insightful and I wanted to share the information with others who like me may have been reluctant to look for an agent for their work.

This is the condensed information for authors looking for a publishing deal.

 

To be continued … (I’m sorry but I realise I need to split this post into two sections. I promise I’ll post the next part within the next few days!)

Mimosa Times

Mimosa Times

If we meet at the place where the art is

Where our spirit thrills with joy

We can skip over eggshells

Avoid falling into holes

Tap to the music

Filling our souls

We can laugh at Mimosa Times

 

There’s no need to prove how good you are

How bad I am

How wrong it was

Sometime none of this will matter

Would your world be less when I am gone?

Will an echo of sadness fill my world?

I’ve lost two friends to desperate illness, whittled them away

I remember none of the drama, only the smile

The greatest teachers are the most difficult ones

Learn their lessons well

You’ll miss them when they’re gone

Portugal–Part Two

Back at the Oriente metro station on Sunday, I made a beeline for the mainline station and found the platform for my train to Fundao. The train arrived exactly on the minute. My brother had pre-booked my ticket and kindly got me a window seat. The train journey wasn’t that exciting, but I had plenty to read. It was strange not having any form of ticket, but I needn’t have worried. Once I gave the conductor my name, I was allow to continue my trip, which took three hours.

The view from the train to FundaoI took this from the train as we approached Fundao.

I could hardly wait to see the property Roger and Billy had bought and I was really looking forward to settling into Pastor’s Cottage up on the hill.

I’d visited them in Montpellier over a decade ago when they were managing a little hotel there. Both of them are wizards of the land and manage to make something beautiful everywhere they live. But the area in which they now live is arid which necessitates experimenting with what grows and what doesn’t.

They met me at Fundao train station and we had a cup of coffee in a café in the sun before heading back in their little jeep to their Quinta in Paradise Valley (Vale de Prazarez).

Their Quinta is near the Spanish border. On a clear day you can see Spain in the distance.

the view from the terrace of Pastor's cottage

We sat out on their terrace and admired the full moon which was perfectly aligned beside the neon-blue cross over the village church down in the valley.  Billy made a special local dish for dinner. It was very thoughtful of him as I’m pretty sure it was in my honour.

On Monday morning Billy and I went to the market in Fundao where all the locals come to sell their wares, plants, vegetables, baskets, piles of dried cod, all sorts of grains and beans and piles of clothes, shoes, boots and sets of knickers, men’s underwear and what-have-you.

It's a cod at the market    grain and beans at the market Fundao

After the market we met up with a couple of their friends at a local café. The cafés are generally very basic, and this one was no exception, but it is generally a very unpretentious place. Ann and Grant have also taken a big step out of the so-called rat race and have bought a plot of land there too, on the other side of the mountain. They’re making a new life for themselves, renovating an old ruin, planting vegetables and living in very simple conditions until the house is finished. All this while trying to learn the language—it can’t be easy.

This area of Portugal is famous for its cherries. I knew this because Margreda had mentioned it to me, as did a couple of other people I’d met along the way.  The sad thing is that a lot of the young people have left the area to live and work elsewhere. There were several ruins right in the local village. The irony is that most of the new influx of people come from cities like Brighton where the cost of living, I believe, has become exorbitant. I met several of them when we went to the local pub, and I remember one conversation in which a fellow in his forties was berating the price of rents and the cost of his daily commute to London to work. I suppose it all balances out in the end. Some leave, others come. But these ‘others’ obviously have to have capital and live frugally as I imagine there aren’t many jobs available.

ruin in the village

Finally, I moved into my little cottage, which basically consists of one-room open-plan (with bathroom). It’s perfect for a single or a couple. I bought a few basics and set myself up. I was glad my husband suggested I take my Notebook because I had music and could continue writing my next novel.

Billy had enticed me, saying the walls of the cottage contain quartz from the local mountains, and that one of the guests had said she’s awoken with all these sparkles lighting up the room.  He also said it was a hotspot for UFO sightings, but I suspect he was pulling my leg. At least I didn’t see any unidentified objects. It was so serene and I didn’t feel the need to do anything much, except sit out on the gorgeous terrace, listen to music, read and write a bit. Usually, around noon, I’d hear Billy making a bird call and spot him through the trees, climbing up the hill like a young goat. (I know he’ll be flattered by that!). That was my prompt to put on the kettle and make some coffee.

picture of the cottage PortugalIMG_20170413_124651

 

In the evening I’d go down and join them for dinner. They were very hospitable and we had some good laughs, listening to music and singing to some oldies.

They were both working on the land, planting, cutting back, digging, clearing the well, taking care of the chickens and of course, doing all the work involved in keeping a B&B (although actually breakfast isn’t included). They’d leave fresh veggies of the season, or fruit, and eggs if the chickens were being productive. For the few days I was there, the guests were mainly from Spain, but I know they’ve had guests from all over as you can see by the brilliant testimonials.

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On Wednesday, we visited Castelo Branco, the nearest big town and had a little breakfast in a nicer café on the square. It was lovely watching the world go by and seeing all the locals out and about. We then walked around town and ended up in a mall, where we had lunch. They did their ‘big food shopping’ in Lidl (yes, they’re everywhere). The first thing we did was look to see what plants were on offer that day. They really do love their garden. Roger bought a big bag of clams. They had lobster and all sorts of seafood there and it was interesting comparing produce to my local Lidl. We were all glad to be back to the serenity of ‘home’ after the hustle and bustle of the city and the midday heat.

I had another few hours on the terrace with a grand view down the valley. The weather was perfect—at the beginning of April it was about 26 deg. with a slight breeze.  I don’t know where all the wildlife was hiding because I didn’t see many birds, or wild boar during my stay. But I believe the locals love to hunt everything that flaps, peeps or grunts, and so I suppose the animals were there somewhere. I took a few excursions in the vicinity of the cottage and checked out the wildflowers, the pond etc. but I was resting my leg and so I must admit, I was pretty lazy.

small blue flower at the Quinta         IMG_20170413_124453

 

Later, Roger prepared those delicious clams with garlic, lemon juice and coriander and a fantastic mixed salad, topped off with fresh strawberries soaked in Port wine.

And all too soon, my fantastic holiday was over. The evening before I left, there was a Reggae Party in the next village, organised by one of the local ‘new’ residents. We met up with some of the others in the pub beforehand and had delicious gin and tonics for the grand price of €2.50 a glass.

The evening was a great success. I particularly enjoyed watching the African Dance performance–yes, I know it was a Reggae Party–by a lovely woman from Porto. She said she was returning in August to teach a workshop. I said I definitely wouldn’t be returning in August as it would be far too hot for me. We chatted to her and her husband outside while we waited for the taxi driver to arrive. What lovely people.

I knew it would be late, and my train was leaving at about 7 a.m. the next morning.

 

That’s all for now, folks!

Sorry, I know this is long.

Photos all taken with my phone. i did my best.

(to be continued …)

 

Portugal Part 1

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Travelling is good for the soul.

I think we all need to step out of the hustle and bustle of life every now and again. Holidays are so rejuvenating. We can forget about duties, bills and the everyday pressures of life. At least it’s true for me.

I’ve just returned from my first ever trip to Portugal and had such a fantastic time. My main reason for going there was to visit my brother Billy and his partner Roger. Last year they took the plunge, sold their house in Ireland and moved to Roger’s home country, Portugal. They bought property near the Spanish border and have been working like crazy renovating the three houses (which are now complete), clearing out wells, planting and beautifying their spot of heaven. I was really curious to see it for myself and had booked seven nights in the stone cottage,  one of the properties on their land.

More about that in Part II.

When I mentioned to my friend, Muffy, that I was planning on stopping off in Lisbon or Porto and spending a night or two there, she said, ‘Oh, you must visit my friend, Margarida. She has a B&B outside Lisbon.  Without further ado, I booked two nights in Margarida’s B&B.

Sometimes we are faced with challenges when we really want to do something.

My challenge was a tendon problem in my right leg. It appeared out of nowhere when I was walking with my husband a couple of weeks prior to my trip.  I was seriously worried about navigating my way up and down stairs with luggage. I was also nervous because I’d never been to Portugal before.

Maybe I was getting cold feet!

Or becoming paralysed with fear?

Our bodies have an interesting way of reacting to our subconscious fears.

But I was going to do it anyway. I’m very stubborn when it comes to seeing things through.

A week beforehand, I was at the hairdressers.  The hairdresser asked me where I was from. I said Ireland. “Oh, that’s interesting. I’d love to go there,” she said. “A friend of mine is visiting Scotland at the moment.” And she went on to tell me that this friend is very active in the local community and that she’s an amazing woman who just married a couple of years ago. “Both she and her new husband married late, just a couple of years ago, and her husband has a severe disability which makes walking difficult for him.”

That was it. Here I was fretting over a small problem but these two people were travelling to Scotland despite severe mobility problems.

The cosmic web has an interesting way of passing on messages to us. We’ve all heard of that book falling off the shelf, hearing an interview on the radio or a song that magically provides us with a solution to our problem. Oftentimes, these messages come in dreams. So be alert for messages.

I had a fabulous time staying with Margarida Freitas and her lovely partner in their B&B in Monte Estoril, outside Lisbon. Granted, I had to take the Metro, change lines, get a mainline train there, but it was well worth it.

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As we sat out on Margarida’s terrace that first evening, exchanging stories, drinking wine and snacking on olives and cheese,  she convinced me to visit Sintra instead of travelling back to Lisbon the next day. Since I tend to follow the signs, I did as she suggested.

The next morning we walked down the hill to the waterfront and continued along the coastal promenade to Cascais, which is a couple of kilometers away. The electric blue water sparkled and palm trees swayed in the breeze in 25 deg balmy sunshine.  This was really exciting. I had no idea how gorgeous it would be. Joggers passed us by and people were sunbathing in early April! A woman in her seventies stopped to talk to Margarida, blew kisses to us and zoomed off with her shopping trolley. Margarida told me that older woman does that walk several times a day.

I’d been looking at brochures the night before and decided to visit Quinta de Regaleira, one of Sintra’s many tourist destinations. It sounded the most interesting as it is steeped in mysticism and contains an eclectic mix of esoteric symbolism, statues of Greek Gods, a deep well signifying Dante’s layers of hell, a lovely little chapel, statues of Greek Gods, and many other fascinating details. It’s not huge, and you can roam the forest-like grounds for an hour or two and soak up the peacful atmosphere, which is just what I did.

I took the bus to Sintra. I think I probably got off a bit too early; apparently there’s an old part of the city and a new part. After walking for a few minutes, I spotted an interesting-looking boutique and couldn’t resist . . .

That’s the joy of travelling by yourself. You can do what you like, when you like.

I bought myself a much-needed backpack and a straw hat. The sun was quite hot at this stage and the backpack was definitely a good buy.

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But I need it, Mommy, as Cassandra, my friend’s daughter used to say.

I knew these would be my only purchases on this trip and, let’s face it, they were necessary. I dumped all my accoutrements, sunglasses, phone, diary, pens, scarf (in case it got cold) and my purse into the backpack and found somewhere around the corner, on a side street, to have lunch.

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The café was perfect and the food was freshly-made and delicious.

Fortified and feeling quite peaceful, I continued walking into the buzzing centre of Sintra. It was teeming with tourists but not half as bad as late afternoon. From there, I followed the signs to my destination, the Quinta da Regaleira, hobbling a bit but curious at the same time.  I think it probably took me another twenty minutes to reach the entrance. It was uphill but manageable.  The guard at the gate directed the woman in front of me to continue on for another couple hundred meters to the ticket office. They were the hardest. Of course I could have taken a jaloppy or a taxi there. There were plenty of modes of transport available, but I’d made it this far!

I spent a couple of hours walking around the grounds and enjoying the peace and solitude. Despite the fact that there were many tourists there, there was plenty of space for everyone. Due to space restrictions, I cannot post too many pictures here. Besides, the internet is full of information and pictures.

Before going into the palace, I sat in the open-air cafe for an hour or so with its views onto the grounds and the imposing palace in the distance.

A view from the house onto the cafe, the interior, the long walk up, an interesting door (I couldn’t resist feeling it–surface was felt) , a fiew from the tunnel.

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Returning back to the tourist centre was a shock after the peace of the gardens. It really was abuzz with people and I just wanted to get back to Cascais. I walked back to the bus station and made it back by 7 p.m. Margarida and her partner picked me up in Cascais. We took the scenic route along the waterfront and I was sorry I wasn’t staying longer. There’s so much more I’d like to have seen. But I hope to return one day. We spent another lovely evening on their spacious terrace.

Boy, does Margarida have interesting stories to tell.

That crispy chicken was delicious!

Margarida, her partner, her mother who is 96, and their lovely dalmation!

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You can find her on Airbnb.

I’ll be posting the second part of my journey next week.

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Bye for now.

Leonard Cohen and a Trip Down Memory Lane

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R.I.P. Leonard Cohen and thanks for the music.

“My reputation as a ladies’ man was a joke that caused me to laugh bitterly through the ten thousand nights I spent alone.”
― Leonard Cohen

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
― Leonard Cohen

“Remember when I moved in you and the holy dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was, “Hallelujah.”
― Leonard Cohen

I associate Leonard Cohen with a rich collage of memories.

I first moved to Germany when I was twenty-two. My German boyfriend and I met at a party in Dublin. That first year we had  a long-distance relationship until he was accepted to study for a year at Trinity. After that, or before it—or both—I stayed in his flat in Karlsruhe. He had a huge collection of LP’s—we still have them.

For me, school was over and motherhood had not yet begun. I was free and happy and the world around me was new and exciting.

I call it my Pink Period. My boyfriend and his friends fixed up an old bicycle for me. I painted it pink, and because I had some paint left over, I painted my suede ankle boots too.

Getting back to Leonard Cohen. He reminds me of that whole period—candlelit rooms, dancing to Harry Belafonte at parties occasionally financed by Blutspenden (donation of blood). Shameful, I know. They sold their blood for the price of a few bottles of wine, which was very cheap. A lot of students did this. And their blood was pure, like their hearts.

You learn to be creative when you’re living on a tight budget.

It was a communal time too. We’d get together and bake Zwiebelkuchen (onion tart), or one of our flatmates would bring huge vats of Most, a most bitter apple cider in its early stages of fermentation. It wasn’t too bad after a glass or two. Roland’s family had a small farm and he’d go down there to Schwabenland (near Stuttgart) every autumn and help harvest the apples.

When I hear Leonard Cohen, I immediately unlock a trunkful of memories and old photos. For some reason, I also associate Leonard Cohen with Raymond Chandler. Since I was enjoying doing nothing much at the time, I availed of the local library services and swept the shelves clean,  devouring Steinbeck, Marlowe, Hemingway, Anais Nin and whatever books the library deemed literary enough to add to their collection. When I hear Leonard Cohen’s songs, particularly Suzanne and So Long Marianne, the memories come rushing in.

When I wasn’t out on my pink bicycle on my way to the Schlossgarten (castle garden) for a morning under the big chestnut tree with a flask of coffee and my Walkman, I was sitting in his high-ceilinged room, listening to my boyfriend’s record collection, or reading.

Turns out my boyfriend (now husband) didn’t particularly like Leonard Cohen. A lot of men don’t, it seems. Ah, but we women love him. And you know, I’m not even too sad he’s gone because he left us his music and poetry and he’s as much alive now as he was then. He lived a long and rich life and now it’s time to move on.

This cycle of birth and death is part of life. Since we’re in autumn on this side of the world and are witnessing the leaves changing colour and falling off the trees, not to mention major changes coming up on the political arena, we know we have to get through this until the next spurt of growth.

Leonard Cohen’s rich, deep voice crooned out pure poetry like no other.

His voice transports me to a different world. It warms me like a glass of good rich wine and awakened a hard-to-put-a-finger-on-longing for something, a Sehnsucht, as the Germans say. The pathos flowed from his huskiness’s throat, which I’m sure was lubricated with a fair amount of rich amber liquid.  He told stories with his poetic lyrics. He was a deeply spiritual man too and I think he had his share of heartache, at least that’s what comes across in his lyrics, and his voice.

Some people are just born like that. Melancholic, deep, soulful. Unforgettable.

Three Quotes for Three Days

Here’s my second quote:
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“Without magic, there is no art. Without art, there is no idealism. Without idealism, there is no integrity. Without integrity, there is nothing but production.”
Raymond Chandler

Thanks to Millie Slavidou for nominating me for the “Three Quotes for Three Days” challenge.
The rules of the challenge are:
Three quotes for three days.
Three nominees each day (no repetition).
Thank the person who nominated you.
Inform the nominees.

My nominees are:

Susanne Downes,

Katerina Sestakova Novotna

Susan Darlene Faw