Published! In Was Gabo an Irishman?

Towards the end of last year I received an email with an invitation to submit a story for an anthology of essays by foreigners uncovering how the works of the great Maestro, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, had shaped their opinions of, or revealed to them, the real Colombia.

I was very excited and immediately knew that I wanted to write about the magical realism of life in Santa Marta that I’d seen firsthand when I first moved to Colombia.

At around the same time I participated in a workshop as part of my work where visiting professors from my home state of Victoria delivered a capacity building program to Colombian PhD supervisors and doctoral candidates. While I fit into neither of these categories, I found the program informative for my work and quite motivational for my personal projects, particularly the piece about writing a thesis or a journal article, and the work involved to craft the story in a coherent way, and tips for making time to write.

I told the professor, Ron Adams, about the invitation and he was very encouraging. And so I started to write. I planned out the story looking at what I wanted the overall theme to be, and also made a list of the anecdotes I wanted to include.

Despite not sticking to my writing plan for a number of entirely valid procrastination excuses, I managed to finish my story and submit it from a hotel in Chile right on the deadline with a mixture of triumph, anticipation and guilt at not having kept to my plan and submitting something that wasn’t quite as polished as I had hoped – but then is it ever really going to be perfect?

In January I received the exciting news that my words would be published, not just virtually on my blog, or in some dull work report, but actually in printed in ink and bound into a book that would be for sale. My story about the beliefs and superstitions I lived amongst in Santa Marta was going to be included alongside two dozen other writers. As I told Edwin that my story was going to be printed in a book, he was very excited, although his excitement grew even further when he learned that he was my muse and that his name was going in print as well.

You see, as we discuss the pros and cons of starting a family together, it is Edwin’s strong desire to leave a legacy behind. He wants our story to be handed down and for our genes and surnames to entwine into a living breathing person. That is the legacy he wants. I think it is quite a common sentiment for many people, however I am not one of them. I don’t see numerous offspring as perpetuating my impact, or importance, in the world after I am gone. It’s not how I need to be remembered. I’m not sure that Edwin’s mind will be changed, even now that our love story is written down and published and being read by thousands of strangers, yet for me, this is more like what my legacy looks like.

I’ve never written down our story before, not even here. I have often thought about writing a post describing how we met, and I’m sure there’s a draft started somewhere but the perfect public forum for telling it was meant to be in the book Was Gabo An Irishman? Tales from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Colombia. We each have our own versions of telling the story of how we met and fell in love, each weaving different threads together and elaborating it with our individual recollections, yet the stories are very different in English and Spanish which is what I guess makes it fabulous as an oral history.

I’m seven stories away from finishing Was Gabo An Irishman? and I know that when I finish it, there will be a sadness because there will be no more incredible personal stories to absorb, admire, amaze and relate to in the accuracy of their observations.

My great thanks go to the editors and founders of this wonderful project, Caroline Doherty de Novoa, Victoria Kellaway and Richard McColl. They have pulled together all these people with interesting stories to tell and have done so in a polished and professional way. I know my story is far better for their insightful comments and fabulous editing and I’m really very chuffed to have my writing alongside such talented and accomplished people.

So now the only thing left is for you buy a copy and read not just my story of falling in love with Edwin and Colombia, but all of these wonderful tales of love, war, magic and most of all, real people.

From overseas you can purchase a copy of Was Gabo An Irishman? via Amazon at this link and by clicking through you can also read a far more enticing description.

In Bogota, the book is available at:

La Madriguera del Conejo bookshop, Carrera 11 #85-52

The Book Hotel,  Carrera 5 #57-79

If you do buy the book, I’d love to hear your feedback!

And as a final note, I’d like to share the fabulous quote preceding my story Bewitched in Santa Marta on page 187.

Crazy people are not crazy if one accepts their reasoning. – Of Love and Other Demons


A Book Swap Party

A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation to a book swap party being held by a colleague of mine and upon reading the rules (one book per person and something you enjoyed) I felt instant regret for having left my latest, greatest read The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert in Australia with my mum after my recent trip back. Why regret? Well you see my bookshelf here in Colombia doesn’t exactly contain a lot of good, intelligent reads. It’s actually a bit embarrassing and given that I knew the other invitees would be book and writing people, I found myself wishing that I had brought Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest masterpiece back with me to share at this event.

But life should not be about regrets, so I set about analysing the books that met the following criteria:

1. I had read, and finished, the book

2. I was prepared to part with it

There were 15 books that I had read, and of those, there 2 that form part of my Latin American collection, and therefore are loanable, but un-giveawayable.

The 13 books included 3 rural Australian romances, 2 historical romances, Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, 1 American chick lit, 1 hideously self-indulgent autobiography, Pride and Prejudice and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

In the end, the toss up was between one of the rural Australian romances Mum had left behind and had inadvertently inspired me to write a few chapters of a similar genre and The Book Thief. I chose The Book Thief. Not just because for a book swap party it is quite apt, but because there is a story behind how I came to have it in my possession.

I wanted to share the book’s story with whoever selected my book to take home. A book is not just about the story contained within the pages, but the journey it has taken. In essence there are two stories for every book and I wanted to tell the unwritten one.

The story of my copy of The Book Thief goes like this:

This book was given to me by Emily in July 2011. I met Emily in Asheville, North Carolina during my solo roadtrip across the US and then I stayed with her and her extremely hospitable family in Connecticut a few weeks later. As I was preparing to leave and hit the road to Vermont, Emily ran inside and came out with The Book Thief. She told me that it was one of her favourite books and she wanted to share it with me. I had heard about it, but hadn’t read it before.

The book travelled with me back to my base in Los Angeles where I left it while I took a life-changing trip to Colombia. In October 2011 I took the book (and a suitcase of other personal effects) to my new boyfriend’s home in Santa Marta to await my return in mid 2012 to live in Colombia.

Two and a half years passed before I finally took it off the bookshelf and opened it up to read, prodded by the pending release of the film adaptation.

Maybe it was the high expectation I had of it being someone else’s favourite book, favourite and important enough to gift to a passing traveller, or perhaps it is the quietly sinister and odd narration, but it didn’t end up in my category of favourite books. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a page-turner demanding me to devour it. That said, it is an interesting story and unique in it’s style. I like the peppering of German words, which really do help to firmly set the story in Germany and take you away to that place, even if you don’t know what they mean. And, it’s written by a fellow Australian.

I am swapping this book so that it can continue on its journey in the spirit with which I came to have it. I hope it passes through many more hands over the years, further adding to its own story.

There were so many interesting books shared and while I missed out on Laura Esquivel’s Swift as Desire, which would have been a great addition to my Latin America bookshelf, I came home with another book adapted for the silver screen, Atonement by Ian McEwan.

Perhaps the greatest gift out of the party was the inspiration to write this post. The desire to put my fingers to the keyboard instead of my crochet hook and get back to writing.

November sunset

I have amazing city views from my office window and last night I got to watch a captivating sunset. As the sun was going down, I scribbled the following description in purple pen…

The sun is descending from the heavens on a zigzag cloud stairway. On the far side of the clouds, its orange intensity burns incandescent through the soft web of clouds shrouding it as it drifts slowly downwards from its vantage point high up above the city.

The brightness points upwards, casting light on the bottom of the clouds and shooting reflective rays into the still light sky. It emphasises wispy clouds detaching themselves from the security of the mother clouds and gives them a golden hue.

Downwards it emits a pearly coral red into the smog lying on the horizon. The coloured circle peeps from below a cloud before it succumbs to the polluted horizon.

The sky is no longer vibrant with life, but dulls into the pallid deathliness of day before night. The zigzag cloud stairway to the sky hasn’t moved.

This post is different to my normal blog style, so this is where I guess I should make mention of the past six months without new blog posts. It’s not for lack of topics, because we all know that when you are discovering a new city in a different country there are always lots of interesting observations. I’ve been kept occupied making a home with mi novio, finding my way around Bogota and getting crafty, but I’ll be back again soon on the blog!



A handwriting analysis

Sample of my handwriting
A sample of my handwriting for the purposes of uncovering my personality!

Last night I made an impulse purchase in a bookstore on handwriting analysis.

It’s not a subject I had thought about much, but I had a slight interest – like that of wanting to have your palms read – and since it was only $5 I thought I’d give it a try and see what my handwriting says about me.

According to Eve Bingham in Simply Handwriting Analysis, graphology (the science? art? of handwriting analysis) is a very accurate personality indicator and that many organisations are now asking applicants to handwrite their cover letter so they can be analysed without those laborious psychometric tests. However I’ve never had to handwrite an application for any of my numerous jobs, so that seems like a bit of a wild claim.

Nowadays, with so much technology about us, we’re more accustomed to tapping out words with our fingertips than holding a pen between them. We hardly handwrite anything these days. However I do love writing by hand. I love to write cards with special messages, I like to write out my feelings in my journal and I can’t stop writing lists. I mean, heck, I’m even drafting this blog by hand.

Whilst the book isn’t an exhaustive compilation of handwriting types and styles, it does give an interesting run down on some of the more obvious characteristics. Drawing from the descriptions and examples in the book, it seems I’m stuck in adolescence.

Varying slant – “This type of writing is often found in teenagers when they are unsettled, with all kinds of conflicting thoughts and ideas, and a need for social and emotional acceptance, and more independence.”

Wavy or erratic baseline – “Teenagers often write with this kind of baseline when they are unsettled, with their minds and moods all over the place due to hormonal changes and a lack of definite direction in life.”

I know people often think I’m much younger than I am, but this is really trumps that. I do have to grudgingly acquiesce to the unsettled description, as until about six months ago, I was all over the shop in terms of what I wanted from life, what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. I wonder if my handwriting will now start to settle down now I’m starting to gather twigs to build a nest… In the meantime, I’m going to seek solace in the ‘garland connection’ of my writing.

“They are, however, kind, friendly, and affectionate individuals who do not have aggression in their nature; they prefer harmony to friction in their lives. These people like an active social life and they enjoy the company of friends and family. This person is an excellent host, who enjoys entertaining on a grand scale.”

There! That sounds more like me.

Back on the bandwagon

It’s been a little while. Six months actually. And I’m slightly embarrassed about this. Why? Well, at the end of 2010 I signed up to write a post a day, and after six months of daily blogging, I suddenly stopped with as much enthusiasm as I started.

I got caught up in my adventures and didn’t have the time or resources to dedicate to my blog. I had ideas in my head, but they never got typed out. Perhaps the promise to blog daily was a little too much, but at the same time, I’m pretty proud that I got that far. Normally repetitious things slide off my radar much more quickly. The other day I inspired a colleague to start a blog, and hating to be a hypocrite, I decided I needed to get back on my blog bandwagon.

“When you feel that you have reached the end and that you cannot go one step further, when life seems to be drained of all purpose: What a wonderful opportunity to start all over again, to turn over a new page.” – Eileen Caddy

So here it is, another starting again for 2012.