Driving back over my childhood

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Displacement, Family, Poetry1 Comment

Going home to Zimbabwe

Because of the unexpected changes in Zimbabwe last week I am posting two poems – one from 1980 when I returned to my father’s farm, and another from 1961 my last year at school.

Ford Laser speeds up the dual highway.

(Commercial break)

Camera pans back to parents.

Airport to homecoming – half an hour and a litre of fuel.

I have been driving back over my childhood

on the rim of a blown out brain.

The past has been smoothly macadamised

and has altered the shape of the day.

Strange trees hold their hands to the sky Read More and Comment …

Love Stories, World Wars, Armistice Day & why I wrote The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Books, Migration, Mining, Politics, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, War, Zambia6 Comments

Today 11.11.2017 is Armistice Day. Next year is the centenary of the end of World War One. On that day the German East African army was undefeated. It only surrendered on 25.11.1918 two weeks later. The surrender was signed in Zambia at Mbala (Abercorn),- check out the website – all those fascinating facts link to The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Love and War stories

Ruth Hartley smiles at the camera. Her expression is friendly, pleased and engaging, inviting contact.She wears light-rimmed spectacles, a red-brown ribbed roll-neck top with a dark green-and-cream patterned pinafore over it, as well as ochre earrings and a black-and-ochre necklace.The Tin Heart Gold Mine is, first of all, a love story. It is the love story of Lara and Oscar and it is the love story of Lara and Tim and it is also a story set in Zambia, a place I love,  which in the book I call Chambeshi. I have other agendas as all writers do – I wanted my story to show something different. In The Tin Heart Gold Mine there’s a new angle on Africa – war is part of it as it was of my life.


By the way – this is  a photo of me smiling. I’m not giving up writing, even if it is tough – it won’t let me – I have to do it.


The Tin Heart Gold Mine and the War Cemetery

One of Otto Dix's war paintings: An armless soldier uses his foot to play cards with two soldiers who have lost their legs. All three men have very damaged faces—one has a rubber tube to near his ear, another has a metal plate covering his lower jaw.

Painting by Otto Dix of WW1 survivors playing cards

It was a tin heart nailed to a tree on a 1914 – 1918 war cemetery in Zimbabwe that was the germ for this story. Read More and Comment …

We are all made of stories, we make stories and we are stories

Ruth HartleyBooks, Reading, Storytelling4 Comments

I want to give up storytelling

The photo shows a laptop on the right, a large screen in the centre, blue and white mug of tea, yeoow post-it notes and pens in front of a sunny window and full bookshelf.

Ruth’s work station with large screen, mug of tea and post-its.

I want to give up writing – my efforts are going nowhere – nobody reads my stories – it’s such hard work – I can never be good enough – I spend all my days doing it  – and I do it alone  – shut away in my study  – tapping away at a keyboard – deleting – editing – rewriting – what for? Why? For you? For me?

Stories will not give me up

But stories can’t give me up because I am a story too and stories made me and make me. The stories that made me are millennia-old and these are the same stories that made you. These are the stories that were sung, shouted, danced, whispered, written down,  were secrets, were saved and were banned Read More and Comment …

Parisot Literary Festival – writers, readers, books, stories – a weekend of pleasure and good company

Ruth HartleyArt, Books, illustration, Reading, Reviews, Storytelling, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing, Writing Process1 Comment

Good company and pleasure at Parisot 82

What better company can there be? A delightful French village called Parisot, the well-organised Parisot literary festival with good companions, excellent food and wine – and BOOKS!! John and I enjoyed ourselves so much that I failed to get photos of the people I met and so you’ll have to do mostly with pictures of books. I have one good photo of John and me enjoying the opening event which was taken by my friend, Ginster. I was smiling at a group of schoolchildren who, together with their teacher and a French writer and illustrator, Thomas Scotto, had created two books for the event which had been published and were on sale there. There’s a great video of the weekend here which gives the flavour of the event.  The festival worked so well for everyone and especially writers and readers – Read More and Comment …

Finding readers for ‘The Tin Heart Gold Mine’ – Lara’s London and Mandela’s statue.

Ruth HartleyBooks, Storytelling, The Tin Heart Gold Mine2 Comments

London’s South Bank Centre and the River Thames

Writers write about what they know. Even an imagined world must be thoroughly experienced and known to the author of a book.

At the start of The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Lara, the main character of the book, lives in London and in a part of London that I loved, so naturally I used my own experiences as settings for the story. On a recent visit to the city I took some photos of the places known to Lara that are mentioned in the book and I thought that I would take you on a journey to introduce you to some of Lara’s London. Read More and Comment …

Book clubs and choices, likes and dislikes, readers and reviewers

Ruth HartleyBooks, Reading, Reviews, Storytelling, The Shaping of Water, Writing, Writing Process5 Comments

What do writers want?

The image shows the writer from behind as she stares at her screen and holds a blue and white mug

The writer writing a post for her blog and holding a mug of tea

What do writers want? They want readers.

They want money and recognition of course, but they want readers most.

How do they get readers?

Well – they need sales. How do writers get sales?

Writers need an agent, a publisher, a good deal of luck and a huge amount of energy so they can do the hard work of marketing and they also need positive reviews – lots of them. Do writers get what they need or what they deserve? That’s another question altogether!


Lovely book clubs, readers and writers

Six people sit around a luncheon table, looking at the observer,

The book club at lunch. From left to right, Ruth Gillian, Val, Graham, Emma and Sigrid.

I love my book club and all the readers in it. Do you know why? Read More and Comment …

Pascale Petit’s art and poetry: The Survival of the Artist and of our World

Ruth HartleyArt, Migration, Storytelling, Writing Process2 Comments

What connections are there between art, song, poetry, dance and all of us?

Pascale Petit has generously agreed to let me put her video about her art on my post. I was moved by what she says in it and I found many thought-provoking links and connections in it to my own feelings and experiences of art, poetry and the survival of our beloved world as we wander down paths that are not entirely self-chosen. I am curious too, about you, my readers, and what your opinions are? Please do comment – I welcome that.

Our animal selves, our environment and Pascale Petit’s poetry

The cover of Fauverie shows a hand reaching out to a black panther in leafy greenery

Cover of Pascale Petit’s Fauverie

I encountered Pascale on the internet and love her Fauverie poems. Pascale writes poetry about what she knows, the places she has been and what she has experienced. For me, there is something lovely and hopeful in the trajectory of a life that is lived through art, poetry and the natural world. Listen to Pascale read My Wolverine – its wonderful!

Read More and Comment …

The Vic en Bigorre Book Festival

Ruth HartleyBooks, Graphic novel, Reading, Reviews, Storytelling, The Shaping of Water, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, The White and Black Blues, Writing1 Comment

Clara and Ruth stand behind a table on which their books are displayed

Ruth Hartley with her books. Clara Villanueva is on the left.

A very pleasant and successful day

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and sold some of my books.

I started the day slightly bemused as we had just returned from Paris rather late the night before. Nick Inman, Clara Villanueva, myself and June Gadsby had a table together for our books in English and Spanish. This is the second year that there has been an “international books” corner. We all hope that it will continue to grow. June’s book aroused considerable interest – as did Nick’s and Clara’s

Read More and Comment …

Why English writers choose to live in France

Ruth HartleyUncategorized4 Comments

That’s why it’s so hard for me to speak French

Ruth sits a table against a wall outside a bookshop

Ruth outside the Glass Key at Montmorillon with The Shaping of Water

I love living in France and I enjoy learning French but I also love hiding away in my study and writing in English. It’s hard to get better at spoken French when my creative world is so concentrated on English – that’s what I tell myself. What about you? Are you gifted at languages? Is this a conflict you experience?

I am taking part in a French Literary Festival today. It has been set up to include writers in English – last year Nick Inman was there alone  – this year there are three of us, but the aim is to make it grow bigger and benefit more English writers.



The Book Fair – Salon du Livre at Vic-en-Bigorre

When this post arrives in your email I will be setting out my books on a stall at this book fair. I hope that if you live nearby that you will come and visit Nick Inman, June Gadsby and me. We will be delighted to welcome you. This book fair is taking place at the season of La Rentrée Littéraire and the award of the Prix Goncourt. In fact it’s about the same time as the Booker Prize. I never thought about the literary season until my publisher said that there are good and bad times to try to launch a new novel. What all writers need, of course, is that ‘Successful’ time when we sell well.

French Literature

French literature appears to be very different to British literature in the way it is regarded. The French take literature seriously, even reverently. In Britain writers become celebs for their personality rather than writers who are celebrated for writing. Even the book covers seem less important in France, which is not to say that many of them aren’t beautiful.

I am not only a writer but an artist, so I am in love with the French 9th. art. Read More and Comment …

Readers, writers and arithmetic for authors and storytellers searching for readers at literary festivals in France

Ruth HartleyBooks, Promotion, Storytelling, The Shaping of Water, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing, Writing Process1 Comment

How do writers and readers get together?

They go to the Second Salon du Livre at the Salle Multimedia in Vic en Bigorre on the 23rd September

Ruth sits a table on which are her novels against a wall in the street outside a bookshop

Ruth outside the Glass Key with The Shaping of Water

A group of people arounda table eating an informal meal in the street

Ruth, John, James and Patsy have a meal with shop owners in the street at Montmorillon









We are all  readers  and more and more of us are writers too. How can writers find readers? That means you and me of course. Well – here we are one week away from the Salon Du Livre organised by Marie-Clémence Duguet and what we need is you to come to make it a success. Please come and say hello!

It’s a new project – this is only its second year but from the outset there has been a place for writers in English. This year Nick Inman, author of A Guide to Mystical France will be a key speaker. June Gadsby, author of Rosa, will be there and so will I with The Shaping of Water and The Tin Heart Gold Mine. Apart from us and over 30 other authors, there will be food and wine. In Vic there is also a lovely bookshop La Litote run by Nathalie. It has a great selection, beautiful books for children, lovely cards, and my favourites – a selection of Bandes dessinées. My books are there too.

Book Fairs can be found all over France  – The Charroux Literary Festival

People reading books displayed on tables by the authors under a marquee

Montmorillon Book Fair


Book Fairs take place in lovely little towns and are great business for them as well as inspiring for both readers and writers. Harriet Springbett, author of a smashing YA book Tree Magic, went to the Charroux Literary Festival. Here is a link to Joining the Dots, her blog about it. Read More and Comment …