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.

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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.

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Tomorrow Mountain and the writing of Today’s Stories

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Education, Politics, The Tin Heart Gold Mine22 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.

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Paris, Africa and Otto Dix’s war paintings

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Art, Graphic novel, The Tin Heart Gold Mine4 Comments

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 cards1

I have just returned from two nights in Paris where I visited a museum exhibition about Africa, saw paintings, and was reminded of Otto Dix’s war paintings — and his paintings of war injuries in particular.

We travelled there by train, which gave me many lovely hours of dozily dreaming and reading. It was a foggy, misty day so staring out at the landscape provided only patchy views of the landscape.

African artists and Trade

From the Gare de Montparnasse we rushed to the fantastic Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac.

I wanted to see ‘L’Afrique des Routes’, an exhibition that turns European perspectives about the African continent upside-down.

All humans originate from Sub-Saharan Africa. From Africa, humans have spread around the world. We are all one people, one humankind.

Africans were the first travellers, explorers, traders, adventurers and artists in our world and this exhibition is about that trade and those routes.

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Writing and Art – Therapy and Resistance

Ruth HartleyArt, Art Process, Corpus, Creativity, Therapy, Writing, Writing Process0 Comments

Corpus

8 drawings are arranged on the gallery wall they show a woman with 5 arms, 5 breasts each containing a drawing of a child. She has wings but is rooted to the earth. Her head is that of Medusa and she holds scissors, a gun, a thread and a lead attached to a dog who is biting her thigh.

Charcoal and mixed media drawings on cotton rag paper titled “The ‘true’ History of my Body” by Ruth Hartley

“Corpus”, my art installation was shown at Peleyre in September 2016. Its theme may be summed up as the search for the spirit in the flesh.

It was well received which pleased me no end as my work is sometimes regarded as challenging and unconventional. I always hope that my art will be the start of a conversation between me and those who come to see it and even if they don’t like it very much I’m normally relaxed about that. As a writer and artist I am used to rejections though never indifferent to them but there was one response to the exhibition that rocked me back on my heels. It was from someone who runs a gallery with a great deal of sophistication and expertise.

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Mixing art and writing – can it be done?

Ruth HartleyArt, Writing1 Comment

Hello again! How many of you do what I try to do? My website — the one you are looking at now — is about both my art and my writing. The fact that they are both on my website and mixed together in my work is something I take for granted these days but I didn’t always. Maybe some of you have experienced the same doubts about mixing art and writing together?

Illustrated verse from a poem The Road by Ruth Hartley

I hope this post will raise questions.

For some of you making art and mixing it with writing stories may just be what you do anyway — either as separate activities or as part of the same creative endeavour. You may be a reader, or interested, or know a lot about the idea.

Films and animations join art and stories

My guess is that people who work in animations, bande dessinée, film, graphic novels, cartoons and comics will not see any separation between art and writing even when it requires different people working as a team to produce the result. The thing is when I was really young – at school and art school – I was made to feel that mixing my passions together was a weakness Though I wanted to do both writing and painting I was told I had to make a choice. It was greedy to want to do both. It was a sign that I lacked focus and I would never be good at either.

Dividing up art and writing

Is this division and the necessity to choose between art and writing something that other creative people experience? Should it be like that?

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The challenge to write The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Mining, Politics, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing Process5 Comments

My life in Zambia was a challenge but wonderful. I was lucky to have extraordinary and enriching experiences. It gave me respect and love for its people, its wilderness, wild animals and beauty. There aren’t many stories written about this period so that was an opportunity to write something new. It was a time full of confusion and conflict as colonialism ended and Africa struggled with underdevelopment and the fallout of the Cold War and it provided me with the political and historical background of The Tin Heart Gold Mine.

I met people who were passionate about Africa. They weren’t all good or altruistic but many were courageous. They inspired The Tin Heart Gold Mine.

Writing The Tin Heart Gold Mine was a challenge

A 19th century watercolour painting showing a dead elephant lying on broken gound near the elephant is the white-bearded hunter Henry Hartley. Several naked African men are pointing to the gold seam in a hole in the earth.

Detail of a painting by Thomas Baines of the discovery of Gold by the hunter Henry Hartley after shooting an elephant.

The Tin Heart Gold Mine had as long a gestation as my first book The Shaping of Water. The idea first came during a visit to an isolated safari camp in the Kafue National Park. It was close to the defunct Hippo Copper Mine, 26 years ago. It was an extraordinary sight — an ugly scar in the bush hundreds of miles from anywhere. It recalled tales of old explorers and gold-hunters who after punishing and dangerous journeys into Africa in the forlorn hope of becoming wealthy ended up with broken dreams. It made me think of Henry Hartley — no relation of mine — but a game hunter who accidentally discovered gold when an elephant he killed disturbed the earth as it died.

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The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Art, Politics, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Truth, Writing12 Comments

I am delighted to tell you about my latest book!

The cover 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

The Tin Heart Gold Mine is the story of Lara, a young and gifted wildlife artist. She lives and works in Chambeshi, a fictional African country whose increasing destabilisation by the Cold War results in riots and a coup attempt. Success has come early for Lara but she is not satisfied. She wants to understand the true measure of artistic worth. What kind of gold will give her life real value and merit?

Tim and Oscar

At an exhibition of her work she meets two very different men who have an enormous influence on her. Tim, an investigative journalist, becomes her friend. Oscar offers to make her rich by promoting her art. Lara likes Tim but is attracted to Oscar, who owns the small and unproductive Tin Heart gold mine yet is surprisingly wealthy and powerful. She wants love but how easy is it to tell the difference between love and sex in a new relationship? Does her thirst for success make her susceptible to Oscar even if his past and the source of his money are shrouded in mystery?

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A Citizen of Nowhere embraces the Nowhere World

Ruth HartleyArt, Corpus, Creativity, Imagination, Reading, Storytelling1 Comment

The Terra Incognito detail from the Spider Woman tapestry, with the words

Terra Incognito detail from Spider Woman by Ruth Hartley, from her Corpus exhibition

Hello Reader, are you a Citizen of Nowhere, like me? I celebrate being a citizen of the world. And, no matter your citizenship, you’re welcome in my Nowhere World of books and stories.

The Nowhere World is an imaginary dimension spun out of the dreams of writers like me for your pleasure and delight as well as for my own. Without readers, writers could not survive and without writers, there would be no readers. Without readers and writers, there would be no Nowhere World. You may ask, “Where is this magical Nowhere World and who can enter its charmed borders?”

“Anyone who wishes to,” I will say, “you, of course, and me.” It is a world where anything is possible. It’s a world where reality is always changing.

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