Photo Children

Ruth HartleyFamily, Marriage2 Comments

A row of chairs sit below a row of transparent family photos lined up on a wall marked by the stains made by the removal of previous photos. The eyes of all the people in the photos are lined up so that one can see the family resemblances between the children and the photos of their parents as children

Installation of House Ghosts 1996

I don’t change

but the photos of my children

grow younger all the time.

My children are ageless too

but their recorded images

alter every year

The photo children become thin or fat

They wear braces or smiles,

spectacles or scowls.

Their hair is straight or curled,

but in their present flesh

they are constant.

My heart holds them so,

As my eyes hold them loved.

Note on the photo of the House Ghosts installation for Cambridge Open Studios

One day I moved some pictures from my dining room wall and saw that there were faint marks around the places they had been. This stirred my heart. I thought of removals and changes and the germ of an idea for this installation was born. I made transparencies from the photos of myself and my husband and all our children and framed them so that the marks on the wall behind could be seen through them when they were hung up.  There were many emotions stirred up by this installation. Every home, every house has ‘ghosts’ in it even when the same people live all their lives there – the ghosts of themselves as young, as infants, as adolescents. What I also found as I looked at the photos were the genetic ‘ghosts’ that haunt us in the physical appearance of ourselves and our children. This was also an homage to my family that was riven by divorce that year 1996.

Cambridge Open Studios is a wonderful idea started by people I knew there many years previously. Artists exhibit every year in their own studios or homes and the organisation coordinates with a catalogue and maps. I took part for many years till I left Cambridge and took part in the Artists Network Bedfordshire Open Studios.

 

All the world’s a wedding

Ruth HartleyMarriage13 Comments

A man and woman in evening dress holding champagne glasses by the front door of a ruined chateau in a bed of nettles

Ruth and John among the nettles Photo by Marianne Pascal http://www.mariannepascal.com/

What is a Marriage?

Marriage- a formal agreement between two people – the ceremony in which this agreement is made – the state of being married.

Wedding – a marriage ceremony.

Women and men are equal in law and in marriage.

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time,  made new” Ursula K Le Guin The Lathe of Heaven

 

 

A man and woman holding champagne glasses stand in front of a tower with a tree shadow on it

Ruth and John in the shadow of the 12th century tower. Photo by Marianne Pascal http://www.mariannepascal.com/

What makes a marriage?

Love – chemistry, biology, hormones, culture, social conditioning, need, divine and genetic input woven throughout our being. A strong feeling of deep affection. Passion.

Comfort – help, kindness, relief, ease, consolation

Trust – a good marriage is based on trust as are all good human relationships

Intimacy – closeness – sex.

Time – all the years of the past, present and future.

 Who is married?

Helpmates – supportive and critical partners.

Companions – those who travel together.

Lovers – people who look at each other

Different people – people who do not know each other.

A couple in evening dress with champagne glasses in front of a ruined chateau.

Ruth and John and the ruined château of lost dreams. Photo by Marianne Pascal http://www.mariannepascal.com/

All marriages are mixed

You can share the same pillow but not the same dreams.

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages”. Friedrich Nietzsche

“To keep your marriage brimming with love in the wedding cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up.” Ogden Nash

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” John Steinbeck Travels with Charlie: In search of America

 

What is essential for a couple are good friendships – those they each have and those they share with other people. Here’s a toast to our friends.

Families are complex and changing. Marriage makes individuals into families. Love, generosity, and kindness make them function.

Here’s a toast to our families.

The lovely, but ruined chateau in these photos is in our village on the banks of the Adour River. We live in a cottage nearby. Marianne took these photos.

 

Storytellers, readers, writers and reviews

Ruth HartleyReviews, Storytelling, The Shaping of Water, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing2 Comments

A brown vase with pale pink roses to the left of a young girl with dark hair engrossed in a book her fist on the page and her head propped on her other hand a brown coffee mug in front of her

Painting by Ruth Hartley of her daughter reading at the breakfast table 1980

We are all storytellers. We are all readers. Some of us are writers. Not all readers write reviews but all writers need reviews and even bad ones mean that we have been noticed and read. In this post, I am going to tell you in a 4 short paragraphs, about 4 books that have given me great pleasure and that I recommend. Afterwards, I will briefly say how writing changes the way I read. I belong to an enjoyable book club and while readers never agree on all the books, the best books do get approved by most.

I, Carmela  Clara Villanueva

Cover shows a young girl in a flamenco dress with castenets

Cover of I, Carmela

This is a cracking read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s fast-paced, funny, a little sad, interesting and the heroine is a feisty, passionate young woman who is determined to never give up in her search for love.  I recognised the locations and felt I knew the people. It’s set near Toulouse in France. Carmela is Spanish. I read it in Perpignan where I saw an exhibition about the Spanish Civil War – that is the background to Carmela’s identity. Spanish refugees like Carmela’s grandfather crossed the Pyrenees to this part of France. It’s a story about mixed-up people, in a new-age, mixed up place told by Carmela as she tries to straighten up her life and her old lovers.

The Ginger Tree Oswald Wynd

Cover shows a Japanese painting of two carp behind a net pattern

Cover of The Ginger Tree

I picked up this book with reluctance expecting a historical romance about Japan. I was stunned and seduced by the story. It is a romance, but not a conventional one. It’s a love story about Japan that starts in China. It is a love story about two people who have only sex in common because their cultural backgrounds are so different. Read More and Comment …

My story, is it a memoir, an autobiography, or a novel?

Ruth HartleyGraphic novel, Storytelling, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing Process4 Comments

The image shows a long knitted road with drawing fastened to it of the samewoman at different ages

My installation, Surviving Monsters at Peleyre Gallery, is not about me but about the journey through life.

What is my novel?

“How much of your novel is an autobiography?”

It’s a good question to ask a writer.

A good question

It was asked at the launch of The Tin Heart Gold Mine, but it’s not a simple question to answer. I immediately wanted to ask the other writers there what they thought. It’s easier to answer this question sideways by referring to other authors and other books. I’ve just finished reading The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd. I loved the book, but, as a writer, I wanted to ask Wynd how he arrived at the main character. Did he know someone like that? Did he research the character? Was she entirely imagined? Was she a female version of himself? How many genders, generations, epochs and eras and cultures must a writer experience before they can write about it? How fictional can fiction be?

Fiction, non-fiction and autobiography

There are many ways in which the writing of fiction differs from the writing of an autobiography. To complicate it further, both fiction and autobiography have many differing and shared elements that go into their construction. What they have in common is that they are both constructions – artificial and invented structures for telling a story. Writers construct these inventions – story nests if you like – from their own breast feathers, lay their eggs in them, incubate them, hatch them by chipping at the shells and then feed their story babies with half-digested regurgitations from their own bodies. Read More and Comment …

June Gadsby — author of 24 multi-genre books

Ruth HartleyCreativity, Storytelling, Writing2 Comments

June Gadsby smiling

June Gadsby

This post is to introduce my neighbour, the writer June Gadsby. We have known each other for over 7 years and June has been a kind and supportive friend. June and her husband have lived in this small corner of rural France for over 20 years and her lovely home and garden have hosted many pleasant gatherings. What is very important for me, is the creative drive that we all have, the need to express ourselves and tell the stories that really matter. I do enjoy contributions and comments from writers and readers which can be shared on this blog and I am delighted to post this article about June. Writing 24 books is a tremendous achievement.

A writer all her life

June Gadsby has been writing all her life, but it took a series of lucky coincidences to see her published. Read More and Comment …

Writing and selling The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Promotion, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing5 Comments

Writers need to sell books

Writers write – rather than talk about what they write – but the current publishing market forces us to become Independent Authors and acquire self-promotional skills entirely different from writing. The idea of a book launch for The Tin Heart Gold Mine gave me sleepless nights, but, nevertheless, we decided to hold the event at the Cafe du Centre in Gascony. It’s a great place for a meal and served our large party a delicious fish and chip supper afterwards.

Book launch and promotion

Ruth sits at a table of which are spread copies of her new novel The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth at the launch of her new book. Photo by Geraldine de Haan

Claudia sitting at Ruth's right opens the discussion at the launch of Ruth's new book

Claudia introduces Ruth and her new book The Tin Heart Gold Mine. Photo by Geraldine de Haan

I did, however, enjoy the book launch. I was surrounded by friends and among them was a number of writers. Both together made the evening pleasant and interesting. My friend, Claudia, facilitated the evening raising the points that she thought would interest my readers.

She suggested that we discuss the autobiographical elements in my novel, something all readers are curious about and something I promise I will enlarge on in another post.

It’s relevant as my protagonist Lara, in The Tin Heart Gold Mine, is an artist like me. We also talked about southern Africa where I have spent most of my life. Africa, as I pointed out, is not one country, but a vast continent of many different countries and peoples.

Claudia also raised the question of Lara’s development to maturity and her relationships with Tim and Oscar, two very different characters.

Nick asked how I write about black and white characters without mentioning skin colour. It’s an important question and will get a separate blog post. It’s an idea I had started to explore in my post on Surviving Monsters. Read More and Comment …

Writing, hunting Agents, surviving Rejections, reaching Readers

Ruth HartleyThe Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing, Writing Process0 Comments

All that happens before the book launch

This post will be published the morning after the book launch of The Tin Heart Gold Mine. I had to write and schedule it before the launch and so can’t report on that event. I’ll do that the following week and then I’ll give all my loyal readers a break and only post fortnightly.

The photo shows a laptop on the right, a large screen in the centre, blue and white mug of tea, yellow 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.

This time I thought that it might be interesting if I wrote a brief post about writing, being rejected, and eventually self-publishing  The Tin Heart Gold Mine and my first book The Shaping of Water.

Writing my first book

I was fifty before I was able to sit down and concentrate on writing. Writing was, in part, a mechanism for surviving the rupture of divorce. It was also simply what I had always wanted to do. I had been forced to squeeze that desire into foolscap pads, sketchbooks and notepads kept in a bedside drawer for those ‘nuits blanches’ – sleepless nights – when I wrote mad and secret poetry.

Once I was back in England, semi-employed and alone, I had my evenings to do as I pleased and I spent them writing.

A bookshelf showing writer's handbooks.

A shelf of how to write and publish books in my study. Photo Ruth Hartley

My first manuscript was a fictionalised memoir of the year when I learnt about politics in South Africa after graduating. I called it The Love and Wisdom Crimes. The title was suggested by the Chinese proverb that says it is impossible to love and be wise at the same moment. It contains many of the notes, poems and scribbles about life that I had made as a young woman.

Read More and Comment …

See you at The Tin Heart Gold Mine book launch!

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Reading, Storytelling, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing Process0 Comments

This invitation to "The Tin Heart Gold Mine" official book launch is illustrated by the book cover which shows a tin heart nailed to a tree with the book title in gold across it

“The Tin Heart Gold Mine” by Ruth Hartley. Cover design by Terry Compton Design

Excitement is building for The Tin Heart Gold Mine official book launch, to be held at the Café du Centre, Maubourguet, at 19:00 on 24th March 2017.

I’m looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine and some snacks with interested readers and friends.

As well as reading some excerpts from the book, I will answer questions about it and about the process of writing and publishing as an independent writer.

The official invitation went out on Friday 3rd March. If you missed the email, but want to be there, please click [RSVP to Book Launch] to email me so I know you are coming.

RSVP to Book Launch

 

Reminder: The Café du Centre are doing an evening menu that includes Fish & Chips, so reserve your table direct with Melany on +33 5 62 96 31 88 if you would like to stay on afterward.
Why not make an evening of it? We will!

A migratory species — wandering, wondering and warlike

Ruth HartleyFamily, Migration, War2 Comments

A very faded sepia photograph shows 5 mounted soldiers of the Imperial Yeomanry in Pretoria during the Anglo-Boer war

5 horsemen of the Imperial Yeomanry taken in Pretoria. Among them are two Hartley brothers.

Going back to the past

There is no going back to the past. The past has no memory. It is another place but one that has vanished. As L P Hartley wrote in The Go-Between, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” I’m sad that L P Hartley is not a relation of mine.

Barriers and boundaries

We wander about, wondering about our place in the world. We explore and we tour. Only in our heads can we ever go back to the past. The Rhodesia I was born in exists only on the shelves of the Zimbabwe National Archives. Everywhere in the world boundaries and borders are as fluid and migratory as humans are. Walls and fences go up to mark them but turn out to be as breakable as Humpty-Dumpty. Fences can offer only temporary safety, for we humans are brilliant at overcoming barriers and breaking boundaries.

Read More and Comment …

Tomorrow Mountain and the writing of Today’s Stories

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Education, Politics, The Tin Heart Gold Mine21 Comments

Tomorrow Mountain today

A black and white photo taken from among trees across a wide valley towards distant mountains

The view from the top of Wedza Mountain towards the Bvumba and Chimanimani Mountains 1960 taken by Ruth Hartley

There were debts to be paid. I knew that. I hope that I’ve made a small repayment in The Tin Heart Gold Mine.

When I was a girl of 16 I lived with my mother and stepfather one day’s walk from Tomorrow Mountain. It stood out against the sky, a long shape humped at both ends like a sleeping lion with its head between its paws facing away from the Sabi Valley.

This red painting shows a lioness reating under a tree with her head on her paws. There is a hut in the background.

Lion, detail from mixed media painting titled ‘Exile’ by Ruth Hartley 1994

In the ChiShona language of Zimbabwe the mountain was called Wedza – the place you could get to tomorrow at dawn. I loved Wedza and the farm with all the passion of a romantic teenager.

My stepfather’s farm was called Eldoret – the little place of Gold. It was a small farm and its golden tobacco leaves did not make his fortune.

There were only 80 arable acres and my stepfather owed the Land Bank a huge sum of money. He wouldn’t be able to pay it off tomorrow or ever.

There were 2 roads to the farm from the nearby town, Marondera. One was the long high road along the watershed. The second shorter route crossed two river valleys that flooded when it rained.

Read More and Comment …