Tall stories, true stories, lies, fiction, facts and truth-telling

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Apartheid, Books, Family, Poetry, Reading, South Africa, Storytelling, The Love and Wisdom Crimes, The Spiral-Bound Notebooks, When I Was Bad, Writing, Writing ProcessLeave a Comment

Writing fictions, memoirs and versions of my truth

In the last few months I have published three books.

The first is a novel, the second is a book of poetry, the inspiration on which the novel is based and the third is a memoir.

They are – The Love and Wisdom Crimes

A coming-of-age adventure story about a young white woman who discovers that in apartheid South Africa, it is dangerous to love a revolutionary and a crime to love someone black.

The Spiral-Bound Notebooks

Poems from southern Africa that inspired The Love and Wisdom Crimes.

When I Was Bad: A Memoir.

I recount my first year in London as an exile and the unmarried mother of a mixed-race child in the Swinging Sixties.

Writing these three books challenged me in ways that I didn’t expect because I had to engage with the truth of the stories I tell.  It was a fascinating aspect of writing that I imagine all writers have to consider. The close relationship of these three books to each other and to me certainly focussed my mind on the delights Read More and Comment …

Words, the power of words and the work of wordsmiths

Ruth HartleyBooks, Creativity, Gods, Politics, Power, Writing, Writing Process, Zambia2 Comments

“For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

Words and editing

Rain Queen with children in tree

Makemba, the Wise Woman of the Garden with Chipo and Chibwe in the Rainforest. There is a Rainbird, a Honeyguide, and bees in the fig tree. Ruth Hartley

I’m engaged in a major rewrite of my children’s book The Drought Witch. It’s an exciting task expanding a children’s picture book into a novel for 9 to13-year-olds but the interesting work is in the editing and paring down of my words to make them work well. This major commitment is keeping me fully occupied at the moment. I love the way Ursula Le Guin describes writing so she can speak for what I aspire to do. I have been mentored by Sandra Glover, a successful children’s author and consultant arranged by Cornerstones Literary Agency. It’s a good experience and my book is taking shape well.

Chipo and Chibwe, school-children, make a perilous journey through the heart of modern and magical Africa to save their parents’ farm from drought and climate change.

A writer is a person who uses words carefully

Ursula K. Le Guin

“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art Read More and Comment …

Stories about wars that stop us remembering to forget

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Art, Migration, Politics, Power, Race, Racism, Storytelling, The Shaping of Water, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, The White and Black Blues, Truth, War, Writing, Writing Process7 Comments

Black Cowboys in the Wild West and African-American soldiers in WW2

There are facts we don’t know and facts we choose not to know because they don’t suit us. There are facts that are hidden from us by politicians and power-hungry people and there are facts which are distorted by the media, by myth-makers, advertisers and film makers. When it comes to war and war stories the facts may be so extremely complex and convoluted that they are manipulated or simplified “for our own good”!. At the same time, writers, film-makers and artists, by telling stories, can and do remind us of what really happened and why it matters. It stands to reason, for example, that freed slaves would be as likely to seek their fortunes in the Wild West as German and Irish immigrants. It hadn’t occurred to me that there once were black cowboys until I saw Mel Brooks’ outrageous film Blazing Saddles


D-Day landing on the beaches of Normandy – Omaha, Juno, Utah, Gold and Sword

I quote from Texas Democrat Marc Veasey – “It is a fact that too few know: 75 years ago, it was American soldiers of every race that hit the beaches of Normandy. 75 years later, it is our duty to remember and honor the courage of these men. As the world hung in the balance, Read More and Comment …

Hop, skip and jump to the heartbeat of life

Ruth HartleyArt Process, Creativity, Family, Imagination, Poetry, Songs, Writing, Writing Process5 Comments

The Child in the Garden

The child in the garden goes hop, skip and jump and sings to herself.

She dances her world into being.

The garden is dusty, dry sand, withered leaves and sharp-edged stones.

The child draws in the dirt.

The garden is a clearing in a forest, a marketplace of musical insects, a place where snakes wait and creatures watch.

The child weaves sticks and leaves into deities.

The garden is contained by a fence, contrived by another, controlled by a chemist, policed by plastic toys.

The child shuts her eyes and becomes an android warrior. Read More and Comment …

What a writer does and doesn’t do all day

Ruth HartleyArt Process, Books, Imagination, Learning, Music, Promotion, Publication, Reading, Writing, Writing Process1 Comment

All beginnings are hard – just look at the time already!

It’s a good morning’s work when I sit down at my laptop in my pyjamas, before breakfast, ignore my husband, begin at once to write, and then carry on for hours. There were many a good night’s work done when, as a single woman, I wrote after supper, then continued writing till the small hours, too busy to even refill my wine glass.


What happened this morning?

I lay prone, worshipping the sunshine – and my garden  – through the bedroom window while Beethoven’s Pastoral played on France Musique and I reviewed my ideas for this post. I did my routine exercises – stretching under the duvet for 10 minutes – got back into yesterday’s clothes and headed downstairs for breakfast. (We are out tonight – I may shower and put on clean clothes before then.) I cooked, ate, decided on the line of least resistance for supper – no shopping – just  veggies with all the leftovers made into curried fish cakes. (Some may have to be dumped in the compost.) I sorted out the dishwasher and sink and put another load of laundry in the machine. The laundry liquid bag (ecological, of course) had split and spilled – it’s a horrible sticky job to clean it up.  Next I opened the post and turned to The Week’s Wisdom. Is the wisdom I agree with proof that I am wise or good marketing by The Week? Here’s the rub, however, and the literary allusion: if I am wise why do I bother to bankrupt myself by writing?

The writing trap compounded by the marketing trap

It’s true – I’m trapped. Read More and Comment …