Tag Archives: creativity

Writing Life: too political?

‘My writing is my activism. Writing is like breathing.
I do it to stay alive as well as to feel alive.’
Una Marson.

Una Marson (1905-1965) was a writer and the first black woman presenter to be employed by the BBC, working there from the 1940s. I found out about her through this fascinating documentary: BBC iPlayer – Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice And check out her poetry, especially Little Brown Girl and Black is Fancy. An introduction to Una Marson’s poetry | The British Library (bl.uk)

Of course, my life has been very different to Una Marson’s, however, the quote above really resonated with me. ‘My writing is my activism.’ Yes it is for me too. I rarely go on marches these days – though I was once tear gassed by the French police on an anti Front National rally. I am involved in various non-governmental organisations, especially ATD Fourth World UK – All Together in Dignity to Overcome Poverty (atd-uk.org), and I give money to others, but my writing is the place where I mainly explore the issues I feel passionate about.

Recently, I have been asked if my Donna Morris novels (https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Kate-Evans/A-Wake-of-Crows–The-first-in-a-completely-thrilling-new-/25544314) are too political and too didactic. I find these questions difficult to answer.

I came to political consciousness through the feminism of the 1980s. The idea that everything is political and the decision not to discuss something is as political as the decision to do so, remains paramount for me. Plus I write what I would want to read. I want to read things which open me to differing worlds and perspectives.

Or do I? Apart from as background for something I am writing, would I want to read a novel from the point of view of someone who supports Nigel Farage?

Apparently we all want to live in an echo chamber these days. And it is true, that I have grown weary of arguments with people who hold views which are completely opposed to mine. In the past, I have found these energy sapping and, quite frankly, a waste of time. How many opinions have I changed? People are as entrenched in their silos as I am. I think maybe only experience changes views. Perhaps if Suella Braverman spent a night in a detention centre, she would behave differently?

However, it’s worth noting, there are studies which show that reading can increase empathy for people who have different life experiences from our own. So hopefully, if I do my research right, my writing could at least have that effect.

Will I lose some readers through revealing my political stance too readily and clearly? Do I care? I’m not sure that I do.

Next Event
If you want the chance to question me further on this or anything else, then I would love to see you at Newcastle Noir, 11th December 2022, 2pm, The Bloody White Rose: Newcastle Noir 2022 Tickets, Fri, Dec 9, 2022 at 6:30 PM | Eventbrite

Events!

I have been rather overly excited these last few weeks as I have been involved in several literary events.

The first was Bloody Scotland, in Stirling, 15th-18th September. The biggest crime writing event in Scotland, and the biggest I have ever attended. I got to wear one of these for the first time!

It was a whirlwind. I tended to swing between feeling, ‘Yes, I have arrived, this is my tribe’ to feeling small and a fraud. The well known ‘imposter syndrome’. But I got to meet some genuinely lovely people who I hope I will stay in contact with. And my panel went well, ably chaired by Harriet Tyce, with Jane Corry and Trevor Wood either side of me. The audience of about 30 to 40 people were attentive and appreciative.

Then a surprise invitation from Philippa East, to be part of an online panel chewing over the Psychological Secrets of Writing. Along with Philippa chairing and me, there were authors Bev Thomas and Julia Stone who are both working psychologists and psychotherapists. The discussion was far ranging and interesting from my point of view, looking at how our psychology/therapy training and experience interweaves with our writing. It is perhaps not surprising that our novels feature therapists. Some of you will know from my self-published novels a counsellor called Hannah. She will make a triumphant return in my third in the Donna Morris series, No Justice (soon to be delivered to the publisher and out next year).

If you want a listen to the Psychological Secrets of Writing, then this is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGmuYBbitKjO2yhfGSR4SgQ

In the same week, I was lucky enough to be invited to do an event at Scarborough library. It was fun to be on my home patch, with people in the audience who I knew. Not all of them were friends and family, though, there were some new readers and I am grateful for that, not to mention the book sales.

And in October, I am making the short journey to York to be part of their Big Read programme.

My event is on Thursday the 20th October, 7pm-8pm. Tickets can be reserved at Explore York or via this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/drowning-not-waving-with-kate-evans-tickets-403295185757?aff=odcleoeventsincollection&keep_tld=1

I do feel dizzy with it all and that means I have less headspace for the creative stuff. But this week I have to centre myself – walking and swimming will help – in order to complete No Justice and work on proposals for the next three Donna Morris mysteries.

Author Interview: Philippa East

Today I am delighted to welcome crime writer Philippa East to my blog.

Philippa grew up in Scotland and originally studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Oxford. After graduating, she moved to London to train as a Clinical Psychologist and worked in NHS mental health services for over ten years. Philippa now lives in the Lincolnshire countryside with her spouse and cat, and alongside her writing she continues to work as a psychologist and therapist. Her debut novel Little White Lies was long-listed for the Guardian’s “Not-The-Booker” prize and shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. She has since published two further psychological suspense novels, Safe and Sound and I’ll Never Tell, and is currently working on her fourth. See more at: Amazon/Philippa East

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my fourth psychological suspense novel, currently titled The Hoax… It features a remote Scottish boarding school, a group of troubled teens, the untimely death of a therapist, and two ex-spouses thrown together to investigate. I’m coming towards the end of the first draft right now, which means the hard work of “making it good” starts soon!

What has inspired the novel you have most recently published?
My most recent novel, I’ll Never Tell, had lots of iterations before it fell into its ultimate shape! I think ultimately, it was a combination of two idea kernels. The first was of a couple arriving in a foreign country and having to confront their own marital crises in the process of searching for their missing daughter. I also was fascinated by the question of how a family might function with a child “star” at its centre. And then I thought: what if the child star was the one who had gone missing?

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
As a crime/thriller writer, I definitely draw a lot of my story ideas from true crime TV shows and podcasts. I think I write to try and understand people and what makes them “tick”, so although I write fiction, I am definitely always trying to make sense of real life, and the people we encounter in it. Sadly, my novel Safe and Sound was inspired by the real-life story of Joyce Vincent, a charismatic, sociable woman in her thirties whose death went unnoticed for nearly three years. Since I wrote and published Safe and Sound, tragically there have been further similar stories in the news.

You are a working clinical psychologist, how does this help or hinder your writing?
I think mostly, it helps it. As therapists, we hear many, many narratives about people’s lives and struggles, and I think this has given me insight into some of the universal themes of the human condition: love, acceptance, belonging, self-esteem and truth. I think it also helps me understand how people generally “tick” – what affects us and how, what motivates or frightens us, and how we relate to other people.

For me, writing is a way to try and understand the world, other people, and myself. I think this drive originally led me into the field of psychology – and now story-telling has become my means to ask and explore those questions. Therapy is so much about empathising with other people – putting yourself in their shoes, with compassion. This is the way I try to relate to my characters too.

How would you describe your writing process?
Um… messy! (Despite being a very organised person generally in life.) I generally will spend a number of months exploring an idea and working it into a rough outline, before I start writing. These days, I steer clear of formal outlines (which tend to lead me down the wrong track) and I just make loose notes in a notebook to steer me along the right story track. I will then do a VERY messy first draft of about 80k words, writing about 2,000 words a day. I don’t edit as I go, and I write in a VERY undisciplined way. I will then usually spend another 2-3 months working through a number of further drafts to sort everything out before showing it to my editor. After which, I’m likely to go through at least another three drafts.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
Since becoming a professional author (wow, that’s weird to say!), I’ve learnt to keep a clear separation between my creative processes as a writer, and the business of publishing, promotion, etc. Too much focus on sales, reviews, the market, etc can really create a lot of instability and self-doubt which is fatal to creativity! On a more practical level, I treat writing as a job (which, um, it now is!), meaning I prioritise it and carve out time for it every week. Having author friends to chat to and share ideas with is also essential. As you’ll see from the dedication and acknowledgements for I’ll Never Tell, my fellow authors have been an invaluable source of support along the way.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
Mainly using Google! With the sorts of books I write, there isn’t usually too much research required, and most things I need to know I can find on the Internet. Occasionally, I will put a shout-out on Twitter for someone who knows about something more niche that I need help with. I generally focus on telling my story first, in the way that works for me, and do my fact-checking later, otherwise I think I would get too restricted by the facts and feel unable to keep the plot going. I have to give a shout-out here to my friend Stuart Gibbon, a retired Police Detective who has helped me hugely to get any police-procedural parts right in my books.

Do you have any crafting tips, eg to do with writing dialogue, for scene setting, plot or pacing?

There are five key craft elements that I would say all writers should aim to grasp, practise and master. These are:
# show vs tell
# point of view (POV)
# psychic distance
# the “five commandments of story telling” (the art of structure)
# story genre (NB: this is different to marketing / publishing genres!)

For the first three (and much more!), I recommend the various blogs that writer and tutor Emma Darwin has on her website here: https://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting

Regarding the last two, I highly recommend The Story Grid podcast series. Later episodes are highly technical, so I suggest you start here, and then work your way back and forward through all the early episodes: https://play.acast.com/s/thestorygridpodcast/shawn-rips-it-apart

For fun, I’ve also done some Twitter tutorial of genre and structure, all of which you can find here: https://twitter.com/philippa_east/status/1526255737508356101

You write crime novels which are stand alones. Have you ever thought about writing a series? What do you think are the pros/cons of writing stand alones rather than a series?
I tend to think of my books as standing “one step to the side of a crime”, rather than traditional crime novels. As a result, I’ve tended to write stand-alone books that often focus on interpersonal relationships and the emotional fall-out of extreme events as much as solving a mystery. For me, story-telling is about a character’s journey though challenge, conflict, “death” and “rebirth” (the classic “Hero’s Journey”). For me, the story naturally concludes once the protagonist has completed this cycle of growth. I can imagine that in some ways it is “easier” to write a series, in that you generally have your setting, characters, etc. ready and waiting for you at the start of each book. However, I think I’d feel too “hemmed in”, since I do like the flexibility of being able to explore brand-new characters, themes and set-ups each time – even if it means starting from scratch with each book!

Could you say something of your publishing journey and your experience?
I began writing ‘seriously’ about 12 years ago, with a terrible novel that I never finished or showed anyone, but which made me fall in love with writing. I then wrote short stories for many years, which was a great way to practise my craft and learn what it takes to get published. In 2015, I left my full-time NHS job to work part time as a private psychologist, and began another novel. After slogging through 12 drafts (yes, 12), an agent at the York Festival of Writing showed some interest. She read the full MS and then suggested I re-write the whole thing. The thing is, she was totally right. So I re-wrote it – cue another 12+ drafts! – and (thankfully!) the agent took me. This ultimately became Little White Lies, which subsequently sold at auction to HQ/HarperCollins. Somehow, I have since completed two further novels, and have a fourth in the pipeline!

The question you wished I’d asked you.
Oo, I’m not sure! I’ll take this opportunity to say do come and say hi to me on Twitter (@philippa_east), which is where I’m regularly hanging out. I love chatting to readers, writers and all book-ish people, so I’ll be happy to hear from you. Obviously you can keep updated on my book news there, and I also post about upcoming author events I am doing (online and in person), in case you’d ever like to join in on that. You’ll also get to know my cat Mimi who regularly appears in my posts!

Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2022

Attending events – especially those where a certain amount of networking and putting myself out there is required – is not without its anxieties. Then Covid added its own peculiar menace to being around people. I have to admit, therefore, it was with some trepidation that I set off for Harrogate and Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival on Saturday.

Luckily this year the sessions were in a large airy marquee and eating and drinking could be done outdoors, which allayed some of the fears. And I was able to meet with a couple of authors who I already knew, so that also helped.

I enjoyed the sessions I attended. ‘Experts Chortling’ brought together some of my favourites: (Baroness) Sue Black and Carla Valentine with psychologist Emma Kavanagh. They were joined by former police detective Graham Bartlett. As well as being a wellspring of interesting information, they were all very funny too.

By the time I got to the book shop Sue Black’s books had sold out. I am not surprised. She manages to make the business of death and the dead fascinating and entertaining without ever losing respect for those who have died. Plus, if you are a newbie crime writer, along with Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepherd, Black’s books, interviews and documentaries are gold dust.

During the panel, Emma Kavanagh said crime writers were too often drawn to featuring characters traumatised by their pasts. What is more remarkable in reality, Kavanagh suggests, are the number of people who fall apart after trauma, and then show resilience, recovery and growth. It got me wondering where this might fit into a crime story.

The other afternoon session I went to was a discussion of the ‘future of the police procedural’. The panel was: AA Dhand; Jane Casey; Parker Bilal and Adam Lebor. All were clear on the duty of the crime writer to tackle difficult issues in a responsible way. Casey suggested crime authors are the ‘Rapid reaction squad of the literary world’ developing stories around current debates quicker than other writers.

Lebor said (as I have done in the past) that there are far too many young women who end up dead in the crime fiction genre. His series is set in Hungary and has a detective from the gypsy community (apparently ‘gypsy’ is the term used by the peoples themselves in this country). It has plenty of scope for exploring the lives of refugees, as well as the prejudices against the Roma.

They all characterised their protagonists as ‘lone wolfs’, especially AA Dhand’s Harry Virdee who the author likened to a gothic comic book hero (not my taste at all and I realised why I had never taken to his books). With my Donna Morris mysteries, I have gone in the other direction. Donna is definitely not a maverick and she needs the team, just as they need her (though she struggles to properly comprehend this). The relationships between the police officers are something which has been praised by some readers. I hoping the future of the police procedural includes space for a team player.

After paying £4.35 for a cup of tea (yes!!) and spending more than I would care to mention on books, I wended my way home. A shout out to Northern and Transpennine Express whose staff were friendly and whose trains were on time, comfortable, clean and not too busy.

Have any of you some good memories of literary festivals you would like to share?

Midsummer

‘Kate Evans delivers a gripping crime debut
with a truly original policewoman as the central character. Highly Recommended.’
Myles McWeeney, review of A Wake of Crows, Irish Independent, May 7th 2022

The days are getting warmer and brighter. In a week it will be the longest day – midsummer. This always seems to come too early for me. We’ve barely begun to enjoy the season and suddenly we are at the mid point.

I also feel slightly out of kilter when it comes to my novel writing. A Wake of Crows has appeared in paperback and Drowning Not Waving in hardback. The first of DC Donna Morris’s adventures in Scarborough is just garnering some interest – like the review above – and I am already finishing off her third story (yet to be titled). I am on track to deliver this in the Autumn.

I was comforted when I heard Abir Mukherjee on Radio 4’s Bookclub. We were discussing his first novel, while he had already published his fifth, and he quipped that he had almost forgotten the plot of his debut. I am certainly afraid I might muddle up what happened when to whom between the three DC Morris mysteries.

What is also facing me – as the excitement around A Wake of Crows is rising – is a big blank. My contract was for three novels and I have, essentially, completed them. What comes next? I have everything crossed for another contract. But the workings of the publishing world are still something of a mystery to me and this is by no means certain. So maybe this is the end of my ‘being published by a traditional publisher’ trajectory. A brief but magnificent arc, like the traces of a rocket on bonfire night.

In my early twenties, I would attend firework displays put on by a BBC engineer friend of my husband. He boosted his pyrotechnics until it felt like being in the middle of the Big Bang when they went off. How I hope my publishing rocket could be given the propulsion of one of his.

The Year of the Tiger

January has slunk by without me acknowledging it on this blog. But, by chance, I have hit on the Chinese New Year (just a week late!). It is the beginning of the Year of the Tiger and crime writer, Ovidia Yu has helpfully summarised some predictions: Murder is Everywhere: Gong Xi Fa Cai from Singapore Ovidia is the author of an excellent crime series based in Singapore, next book out soon I believe: Ovidia Yu – The Official Ovidia Yu Site

According to the Chinese zodiac, Donna Morris, the protagonist in my crime series set in Scarborough, is a tiger, so it is her year. The first book in the series, A Wake of Crows, is out in paperback soon, and the second, Drowning Not Waving, is published in hardback in June. A Wake of Crows by Kate Evans | Hachette UK (littlebrown.co.uk)

In a lot of cultures, resolutions are a part of the turning of the year. If the number of swimmers in our pool is anything to go by, most of Scarborough appears to have decided to take more exercise in 2022.

For writers – would be and more experienced – the resolution must be to write. To listen more, to notice more, to read more, but always to write.

I enjoyed this from Cathy Retzenbrink:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/jan/02/we-often-fail-to-keep-resolutions-but-writing-in-a-notebook-brings-great-rewards

In another interview, she suggested writing as if no one will read your words as a way of keeping going. This might be a method for circumventing the internal critic for some, however, for others I guess the question which might pop up is: ‘If there are no readers, then why write?’

For the pure joy. To tell us about ourselves. To explore the world as we and others experience it. To understand more. To distract us. To give us a safe place.

These are some of my answers. Let me know your own.

I do think that once we think of sharing our writing with a reader, then we have to consider them. We have to get feedback. We have to craft. But I also know that I would keep writing even if publication is not a possibility. Just as I would keep breathing – my rather fiery breath – since, in Chinese terms, I am a dragon.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Workshop!

I am exceptionally pleased to be offering this workshop in February 2022 for NESTT. All details below.

Nourishing the Creative Self: Sustenance for the Journey

A creative writing for wellbeing workshop
Saturday, 12th February 2022. Arrive from 9.30 for 10am start.  Finish at 3pm Venue: NESTT CIC, Pocklington, East Riding of Yorkshire.
Covid arrangements:  This will be a small in-person workshop with 6 participants and 2 facilitators.  We intend to include a short walk.  If government regulations do not permit us to meet in-person, this workshop will move online.  On this occasion, we will not be offering a blended experience. 
Fee: £50
Tutor: Kate Evans
Booking through Lydia Noor lydiamnoor@icloud.com

For those of us who choose to take on a caring role either professionally or within a private capacity, there is often an emotional toll which we are sometimes not fully aware of. To be available for others, we need to develop a certain psychological robustness. We need to take care of ourselves. If we are shredded, then we are no use to our clients or those we support.

Exploring and nourishing our creative spirit can be part of our self care and creative writing for wellbeing one route into being more attentive to our needs and providing for them.

Through some gentle facilitated writing prompts, this workshop offers the opportunity to discover what creative writing for wellbeing might bring us. It is suitable for those who are new to this approach, as well as those who have some experience and want to go further. We all have a creative self, all it needs to flourish is time, space and permission. This workshop will offer ways of encouraging it to breathe. The focus of our time together will be on the process rather than the product, therefore, participants won’t be asked to share their work.

Nourishing the Creative Self: Sustenance for the Journey is a creative workshop organised by NESTT. It is aimed at therapists, those who work in the caring professionals and also those who have chosen to take on a caring role for a member of the family.

The tutor
Kate Evans is a writer. She trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor. She has facilitated creative writing courses in academic settings, as well as within the community and for health professionals. She is a firm believer that creativity is good for our wellbeing. This belief stems from both her own personal experiences, in addition to her training and academic study.

She writes poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. She has a MA in Creative Writing, Education and the Arts from Sussex University and she trained to be a psychotherapeutic counsellor at Scarborough Counselling & Psychotherapy Training Institute. She is involved in organising events within the spoken words community in Scarborough. Her non-fiction Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment was published in 2013. She is currently writing a crime series for Constable/Little Brown. The first novel, A Wake of Crows, came out in June 2021

Solstice Reflections

We are at another fulcrum point in the year: after the 21st/22nd of December the days will get (infinitesimally) longer. In many traditions, light is brought into the darkest part of the year and it is a time for reflection. Personally, about the only aspect I do enjoy of the modern frenetic/consumerist Christmas, is the lights which twinkle out even as the day dissolves into evening around mid-afternoon.

2021 has not been an easy year for any of us – and much tougher for some than for me, certainly. However, it is perhaps worth considering some of the things which have kept me going: love, friendship, swimming, yoga, walking, reading and, of course, creativity.

2021 saw the publication of my first novel brought out by a traditional publisher: A Wake of Crows (A Wake of Crows by Kate Evans | Hachette UK (littlebrown.co.uk). Literally a life-long ambition. This is grounds for great joy and satisfaction. And things roll on from this: an audio book (which I still haven’t been brave enough to listen to); a large print; copies in libraries; my appearance at a literature festival; the paperback appearing next April. Sweet.

My second novel in the series, Drowning Not Waving, has been accepted by editorial and is now going through the process of copy editing, proof reading and production. It should be out next June.

The making of Drowning Not Waving has not been exactly smooth. It was a story I wrote when I did a course with Curtis Brown in 2017. It has been re-written several times since. And at the beginning of 2021 I started on the final re-construction: changing the main protagonist to Donna Morris; changing the other point of view character to help with plot issues; and strengthening the environmental theme.

Perhaps it is because of the amount of re-writing and re-configuring which has gone on that I have found getting feedback from editorial and the copy editor more sticky than usual. Still, deep breath, I think I have ended up with a good novel, despite it being a bit of a messy ‘breech birth.’

As a member of the Poetry Books Society (The book club for poetry lovers. (poetrybooks.co.uk), I have enjoyed discovering new poets this year. And with many literary events and workshops going on-line, I have been able to participate in them more than usual.

The most recent has been Radio 4’s ‘Bookclub’ discussion of Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man, (due for transmission on 2nd of January 2022). Who knows if I will make the final edit, but it was great fun being involved. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to tell the presenter, Jim Naughtie, that I was there at his debut on radio. I was the production assistant for the ‘Week in Westminster’, where he first got on air. I doubt he would have remembered me: the typer of the script and the bringer of tea.

This year, I have also once again kept up with my monthly collages. Some technically better than others, but all a pleasure to realise.

As the year ‘turns’ and we move into a new year, I send warmest wishes to my readers. I hope 2022 will be easier for everyone and a creative year for all.

The Writing Process: Turning Up

I am not the first person to say that one of the most essential things for becoming/being a writer is to turn up. Of course, there are other factors like: reading; cultivating the creative process; finding support; getting feedback. But in the end, unless we are there with pen in hand or fingertip to keyboard, we won’t be writing. It is not something which can be done in theory.

In general, I would suggest what gets in the way of ‘turning up’ can be separated into two categories:

(1) External pressures.
(2) Internal scripts.

I have been lucky not to fall prey to (1) too often. When I did paid work full-time, I wrote in the evening and at the weekend. I have (selfishly, some might say) never felt responsible for feeding/clothing/entertaining another nor for cleaning the house/tidying the garden. I have never had to negotiate a ‘room of my own’ and time and space to write. However, if you want to write, then this negotiation – with self or others – has to take place.

On the other hand, my internal scripts can pull me up short. They are often along the lines of ‘I am not good enough’ and ‘this is a waste of time’. Ten years of therapy has helped and the support of writing friends. Plus writing around these internal scripts, playing with them, having a dialogue with them can also be beneficial. I would be amazed if there was a writer alive who did not have to wrestle with some internal scripts, so acceptance that it is part of the process can also be useful.

Stepping Away
As well as turning up, I have found stepping away valuable. My creative process works best with bursts of writing (60 to 90 minutes) followed by some kind of exercise. I walk, swim (pool or sea), do yoga or cycle. And then come back to the writing with renewed vigour and fresh ideas.

I think, perhaps, some writers find themselves blocked because they haven’t worked out when they need to step away. However, it is also important to recognise when the ‘stepping away’ is an avoidance or a distraction rather than a refuelling. The clue will be that you are not getting any writing done at all.

What is it about movement and the creative process? Over centuries, a division has occurred between what has been designated ‘the mind’ and ‘the body’. This wrong step is slowly being re-examined with research around holistic medical approaches, and around thoughts/feelings originating in the body to be interpreted by the mind.

It becomes complex exploring this without falling into the dualistic trap. But basically, we are one organism. When we are writing, it might feel as if the creativity is coming from our head and our body is merely the mechanism by which the words reach paper or screen. However, I (and others) do not believe this to be true.

Our head and body work as one system – complementing and informing each other. The creativity swishes around like blood circulating. If we become too static, sat at a desk or scrunched in a chair, only our hands shifting, then the dissemination gets blocked. It is only in getting up and moving that we can release it again.

Creative Process
We all have our own creative rhythms. Be sensitive to them. Notice them. Encourage them. Working out what they might be and working with them will aid us to be the writer we want to be.

Sea Swimming by Kate Evans (mix media/collage: acrylics; felt tip; paper) November 2021

The Art of Remembering

On Saturday the 16th of October, I will be appearing on a panel at the East Riding Festival of Words – East Coast Crime (festivalofwords.co.uk). My first public outing with my novel A Wake of Crows, published by Constable/Little Brown.

A Wake of Crows has a back story which dips into the history of the former GDR (East Germany). I have wanted to write about the GDR for some time because of a long term friendship I have with a woman from Dresden and because of visits to that city and Berlin in the 1980s and after. One thing I noticed soon after the Berlin Wall came down was that the years of communism were being glazed over. Especially in Dresden where it was like the history of the city jumped from Baroque glory to the present day. This is changing somewhat particularly in Berlin. When I was last there, a park was being built up around remnants of the wall and oral histories of the communist period.

However, I do think as humans we are good at forgetting.

Recently I have been reading various books exploring racism to help me examine my part in it. The one I am currently on with is Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch. She brings into sharp focus how racism is experienced by Black people in the UK and how white people in the UK have not even attempted to understand our history of slavery, prejudice and denigrating those who have been ‘othered’ and exploited because of the colour of their skin. We white people want to forget, because it is easier to do so. As Hirsch writes: ‘We want to be post-racial, without having ever admitted how racial a society we have been.’ (P125.)

Non-remembering is easier, but it means nothing changes.

There is a danger that the true visceral horror of the pandemic is being lost in the sprint to ‘get back to normal’. Plus, that the trauma and mistakes are not going to be springboards for a better way of doing things. We lurch, it seems to me, from one crises to another without any real vision. And we fall into the trap of silo-ing issues. An item on the news about climate change is quickly followed by another on ‘growth’ or holiday flights or problems with fuel deliveries. No link is made. No pause is taken to say, well maybe, because of climate change, we should be looking at things differently.

I certainly do not have any answers. But as a writer, I do think I have a role in keeping the collective memory alive. I have a role in pointing and saying, ‘There look’, even when it’s uncomfortable and upsetting. This is what I attempt to do, in a very small way, in my writing in general as well as in my novels.