I am starting to think I am a writer

I am in Greece on a women’s writers’ retreat.

http://www.womenreadingaloud.org/greece-retreat.html

If you told me a year ago that I will be on a women’s only group activity, I would tell you “Are you bonkers? No way!”

Growing up in a communist country made me deeply suspicious of any group activity or ideology. I am sceptical, individualistic and I question absolutely everything.  The words like “community” feel like swear words…

And a “retreat” sounded religious…I am a non-believer. There was also a slight eastern philosophy flavour- another thing I am sceptical about.

Plus, I am always slightly wary of groups of other women, will they criticise me, give me unsolicited advice, gossip about me, judge me…?

And yet, I am here. On a women’s writers’ retreat in Greece. It seems wrong, but it was the only right thing to do.

My mother died two weeks ago.

Suddenly, like a person who was not destined to die in her bed, at 89, she fell down steep steps and broke her skull.

After the funeral, I packed and boarded the plane.

The retreat, on a beautiful Greek island Alonissos is facilitated by Julie, a beautiful petite woman with short hair and graceful dancer’s movements.

We write in the morning on prompts she gives us. We read aloud what we wrote.

The prompts can be snippets of poems, postcard of a painting.

Yesterday we wrote from the perspective of one of our body parts. My damaged partially blind eye wrote that short story. My blind eye surprisingly has a sense of humour.

I am learning to write work which is less based on my life. but who of course, all writing is autobiographical. Just not literally. Julie keeps telling us:

Remember, it is all fiction

.I wish those journalists insisting on knowing about my personal life realised that the only important part of me they need to know is Lucie Novak, the writer, and them meet her in my books.

Did I say ” books”? Wow ! But yes, I will write more books.

We were all a bit scared.

Julie calls us writers, claiming we are.

Somehow, that made me believe that I really am a writer. The discussion, moderated by Julie is only about “what works”. She tells us to “chase the inner critic away”. How well we all know that little voice, whispering that we are wasting our time writing useless nonsense, instead of doing something useful.

Women are good at believing they are not good enough.

Julie makes us feel we are…

We write on a terrace above the sea. It is quiet, only cicadas making a noise.

Alonissos

We are all different, some confident, some not, black and white, various life stories, all middle aged. Middle age shifted for me once I got older. My children would probably call us “old women”.

The one talking about her long writing experience, convinced she is an author, is most likely the one with most insecurities.

The two women talking about their work being rubbish are probably the most talented.

Surprisingly, I feel safe and liked. I am the only non-native English speaker, and the only European.

Maybe American women are kinder, nicer, but no, it is Julie’s kindness and skill that makes the retreat a safe place.

I forget about my mother, the regrets of the possibility of a good relationship we never had. Here, I am somebody else. Lucie, the writer.

I make friends with several of the Americans. I learn a lot about America, much more than I learnt from all those novels I read and the movies I have seen. It is fascinating.

A former black Panther, a super smart woman and her partner are both becoming close friends…

A teacher, so brilliant and witty I wish my teachers were like that.

A quiet very talented Jewish woman form New York, who looks like Andie McDowall.

Another gentle quiet Canadian, who writes with the same grace she moves.

A slightly older woman writing with such humour about her evil little sister… many others.

I feel that they are all more talented than I am, but we probably all think that…

Thank you, Lily from Goodreads for recommending me the workshop.

Thank you “Women reading aloud.”

 Thank you Julie. Thank you, new friends.

I am having an amazing experience, and we are only in the middle of the ten days’ retreat. You helped me to make the grief and regret of my mother’s death go away. You made me feel happy. I am glowing, and it is not just my tan.

Am I a writer? Who knows?  But I will be back next year.

 

 

 

 

 

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Skiing makes me happy and easier to live with, but is it better than sex?

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Is skiing really as good as good sex?

Well, the jury is still out on that. Of course, I never got injured having sex. Skiing is another matter, broken thumbs dislocated elbow, several knee injuries, two concussions, last one last year with a broken nose added as a bonus.

When I arrived in Austria, I bought a new skiing helmet, the other one lived through those concussions and many falls. They say you should change helmet after each bad fall, so although am now determined to ski carefully, I bought it just in case. Of course, if I keep to the careful skiing, it was a waste of money.

Still, skiing, the speed, the fresh air, making short fast turns, the tips of my skies always facing down the hill, never sideways is exhilarating. I feel graceful and free.

On top of that, the snow covered spikey mountains are very beautiful.

So when I am skiing like this morning, on the steep freshly prepared piste, in sunshine, I would pick skiing over anything.

My problem is that I have never been able to compare sex and skiing properly. I usually ski with friends, not lovers.

I am here with a very good female friend. Eva is smart, fun to talk to. We disagree on many political issues, the migrant crisis, Israeli politics, life style, but we respect the right of the other to her opinions and we never argue.

Well, we do argue, all the time, but there is no hostility or malice. I remember those lectures I have on my iPad about “The History of Argument”. The author, an American university professor, talked about argument being not the negative aspect people believe it to be. That a true proper argument is possible only among people who are open to other opinions, and are willing to listen and possibly even change their opinion. So with Eva, it works. Fortunately, neither of us is committing the sin of presenting opinions as facts.

I am having a great time.

During the day, we ski, talk on the lifts and in the mountain chalet restaurants, and in the evening, we both sit with our laptops in the room, and don’t really talk any more.

I write emails, chat to various people, look at the news, Eva plays scrabble on her computer.

We are comfortable in silence.

Being here made me realise that there is a beauty in being able to be quiet with somebody, just occasionally exchange a sentence. The silence is friendly, not awkward.

And it made me wonder if I could and should do it more when I see my partner, a man I love but don’t get to see enough. When I do see him, there is never much silence. I am a woman of many words, and there are so many things I want to talk to him about…

Well. Maybe next time, I will try to shut up a bit… Famous last words. LOL

Maybe he should come skiing with me. Maybe skiing makes me easier to live with.

We are of the same blood, you and I

Travelling in Germany.

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I am in Cologne. It is a nice city. All that history, from the Roman times.  Must have been even nicer before all those precious old churches were destroyed by the Allied bombing. But, as my German friend Hans said, it was the Germans that started it all. And copies of those churches are here now, to remind us.

It is strange to be here. I have known Hans for 40 years. He was my first love. Did not last long, he was a West German student spending two months in Prague on a work experience. Then he left. But our friendship lasted through all those political changes, our marriages, and our divorces. We are close. I came to visit and meet his new partner, a nice, intelligent, kind, sensitive, very polite, and rather formal woman, who is everything I am not. She is petite, blond, reserved, polite, anxious, quiet. I am dark haired, sporty, loud , bold and direct, and very chatty. Nothing shy or reserved about me.

She must think I am an alien.

But like Angela Merkel, welcoming all those migrant aliens in Germany, Anneliese welcomed me in her home.

She is working, so I spent most of the time with Hans, talking too much in my German full of grammatical errors.

He probably finds me a bit too much, too. But I am also a good listener, despite being so talkative. So Hans told me lots of things, too.

We both feel it is so great we can tell each other anything. We spoke about my Jewish family and what happened to them, his family and his unease about the Nazi past of his father (nothing dramatic or terrible), we speak about the similarities and the differences, history.

There are a lot of similarities, the Czechs and the Germans are neighbours.

How to be German

I bought a book “How to be German”, written by an Englishman. It is very funny. Some things reminded me of the astonishment of my English friends about my habits and life. One example was my double bed. My American lover was rather puzzled by the ridge in the middle. Two mattresses, two duvets.

As the book said “what it lacks in nocturnal romance, it more than makes up for it in practicality, the most prized of German possessions.”

My lover asked me if it was something continental. Now I KNOW it is.

Yes, I am an alien here as I am in England. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that we are all similar. The cultural and other differences are much less important than what we have in common . Hans, despite what happened on New Year’s Eve in Cologne believes that Angela Merkel is right, and that welcoming migrants is a good thing. I believe it, too.

I have now lived in England for almost 30 years , that country which is so different from the rest of Europe, I love an American, I had patients from all different countries and cultures. The most enthusiastic two readers of my book are a black gay man and a young Indian Christian woman, a writer.

I can talk about my murdered grandfather and other relatives with a German man without either of us feeling awkward, and he can talk about the difficulties of being born as a German after the war. I can be close friends with men and women, gay and straight.

We can love our differences and feel close at the same time.

And I dream about the time when we can all do this. The Israeli and Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, Europeans and Americans, men and women.

And I remember Kipling’s:

 “We are of the same blood you and I”

Hans and Anneliese, thank you for reminding me of all that. By your generosity, tolerance, sense of humour and the way you embrace our differences.

No time no time….do you know the feeling?

So, I am back from skiing. I had a great time. And yes, skiing is almost as good as sex, but I never injured myself having sex. .

But this time I am unharmed. Not like last time when I had a concussion and multiple facial bruises. For your amusement, enclosing a photo of how I looked with an ice pack on my face after my concussion in February.

So far so good.

I am in Prague for couple of days, then going back to London and to work.

But I seem to want to do so many things I really do not have time for at the moment.

Promoting my book while having fun on twitter and Goodreads, taking more part in Goodreads Literary Fiction Group, blogging and reading all those great blog entries other people write.

I need to correct the proof reading mistakes in my first book, and finally start editing and finish writing the sequel of my book.

I have several ideas for short stories,too. One is based on a story my friend told me about her mother when the concentration camp she was in was liberated. My friend’s and my mother were both Holocaust survivors,So many stories to tell, so little time.

Anybody has any ideas how to find enough hours in the day to do all this?

Maybe it will get easier when I stop working in June.after my skiing accident in February

Prague-like Kafka’s books the same and not the same.

This is one of the newer things in Prague, a constantly changing silver shiny head of Kafka. My family grave is close to Kafka’s, in the Prague Jewish cemetery. I like his dark humur although I constantly argue about that. I think his books are funny as well as sad, but a lot of friends do not seem to see that.

What do you think?

Trial, Metamorphosis, Castle ? In my opinion, a lot of dark humour in all of them. his book, like this statue are not still, The meaning changes depending on the reader. I am going home tonight.I had a good time. I left Prague in 1986, but it still feels like home. I’ll be back soon.

Kafka's head in Prague

Am I too old for skiing?

Maybe. I love skiing, used to be a competitive slalom skier and I still love the speed.

However, I had my share of injuries in the recent decade. A concussion, dislocated elbow, knee injuries, broken thumb.
My ex husband told me that I ski like when I was 25 and I am twice the age and twice the weight. Unkind? Maybe. True? Possibly.
My new partner, a kinder, but occasionally sarcastic New Yorker said that I should stop skiing so fast or stop skiing at all.

Am I listening? I thought I was.
But on the second day of my current skiing trip to Austria, when I thought I was skiing “ like an old lady”, my friend found me with bloodied face, slightly confused. Apparently my main worry was that I am skiing without a valid ski-pas- not true. At least even when concussed, I am an honest woman.
I do not remember any of the conversation or how I skied down after the fall.

I look rather terrible. My partner commented that actresses pay a lot of money for Botox to get lips like that, my nose is swollen, I have a black eye.

The funny thing is, none of my friends was surprised, they all think I am bonkers.

My partner wrote in a letter to my friend who sent him a picture.:
“No surprise here and just another Lucie’s skiing trip isn’t it?   The warning that something like this would happen came yesterday during our chat when she mentioned that she skied much too slowly and that it was a bit boring.  Well today was no doubt much more exciting!.  The “benefit” of this is that the injury seems to be relatively minor and perhaps boring skiing will be ok for the rest of the trip.  One can only dream! “

Well, I am skiing slower, and did not have any more falls. My brain was only confused for ten minutes. Maybe I lost some brain cells. Nobody will most likely notice.

Am I too old for skiing? Nope. Skiing is too much fun to stop. But maybe my fast black run days are over.
What a sad thought!
So I will have a glass of red wine, and plan my next skiing trip.
To the horror of all around.

 

Last Chance to See

It is always a pleasure to find out about somebody writing interesting things about travelling.
And I already know some of your writing, Lance. Good luck in all you are doing. You seem a very nice person, although you insist my book is Erotica ( it ain’t) .

Write to Inspire

Last Chance to See is the title of a wonderful book by the late Douglas Adams. It is not Science Fiction. It is his account of his travels around the globe to observe some of the planet’s most endangered species. It also contains liberal smatterings of his customary humour.

But today, I am borrowing the title of his book to tell my followers that today is your very last chance to see the Kindle edition my anthology, When Pleasure Blooms, on a free offer. This offer will never be repeated.

What have you got to lose? Download for free today, so that you don’t need to pay in the future. But when you eventually read it, I would really appreciate your reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

You can click on the menu item in my blog header to find out more about this book

I’d also be…

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