P is for Paul

You may remember that my short story ‘Three Goddesses’ was published in a competition anthology called ‘Cat Tales’. Here’s a taster of the story, posted on Curtis Bausse’s blog as part of his A-Z Blogging challenge. All proceeds from Cat Tales go to charity.

curtisbaussebooks

harriet1

Well, yesterday was a mix of outside and inside, but this one’s very much inside. In fact it stays on the sofa all the time, where Paul is in the company of two cats and Caroline, divine creatures all. And Three Goddesses is the title of Harriet Springbett’s story in Cat Tales, the anthology drawn from last year’s Book a Break short story competition.

But believe me, a lot can happen on a sofa. Why, I’ve seen Sam and Sam get up to all sorts of mischief, but I’d better not go into that here. Paul and Caroline have only just met, so the sofa activity goes no further than coffee, cigarettes and cats.

Paul perched on the edge of Catharine’s leather sofa. A ball of striped fur with two heads reclined on the armchair opposite him. He stared at it, puzzling where one cat ended and the…

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Sing for the Trees – Guest Post

The 22nd April is Earth Day, a moment to celebrate our long-suffering planet. Have you heard of this before?

Susan and her husband Ian

I hadn’t. Not until I was told about a children’s novel about trees called Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation. It was written by Susan Elizabeth Hale, the American who founded ‘Sing for the Trees’ as part of the Earth Day celebrations – and who came to France last year to sing to a special tree in Bagnères-de-Bigorre.

Now, I can’t sing – so I’m not sure I would be doing any trees a favour by singing to them. But I was intrigued to learn more about another lady who appreciates trees. I contacted Susan, read her fun story for 9-11 year olds, and asked her to tell me more about ‘Sing for the Trees.’ Here are her answers to my questions as well as some links to find out more about her work.

  1. What is ‘Sing for the Trees’?

‘Earth Day-Sing for the Trees’ is an annual global celebration for trees that began in 2010.

  1. How can we take part?

On 22nd April, at noon. Wherever you are in the world, just sing for the trees you love!

  1. You were the founder of ‘Sing for the Trees’. Where did your original inspiration come from?

In January 2010 I was already at work on my juvenile fiction novel Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation. I felt discouraged, as I knew the message I had to deliver about trees would take a long time to come to fruition.

What could I do now? I woke up with an idea. I heard a voice in my mind say Earth Day-Sing for the Trees. The 40th anniversary of Earth Day was coming up on 22nd April, and I had attended the very first Earth Day in Northern California. How could I let people know about my idea? I was new to Facebook and decided I would create an event.

I thought I would be lucky to get 100 or so of my friends involved and was astounded when the first year over 3,000 people signed up to sing for their trees. This included a man in England named Ian Woodcock. He sent me a lovely email with pictures of three trees he sang for: the Great Oak of Eardisley, Whiteleaved Oak and the Much Marcle Yew tree.

I came to the UK in the spring of 2011 and we met. He took me to the Whiteleaved Oak. We are now married and live ten miles from this tree. The trees brought us together!

  1. That’s a lovely story. Do you have a background of working with trees?

No, but I have a life-long appreciation of trees: from the fig tree in my grandmother’s back yard to the California redwoods. My father was on the tree committee in our hometown of Hanford, California.

  1. So what is at the origin of your concern for the wellbeing of trees?

In 2007 I travelled for a full year. Everywhere I went throughout the USA, UK and France, people told me stories of how their local trees were dying. Hemlock trees were dying in North Carolina, juniper trees were dying in New Mexico. I heard stories about olive trees dying in Spain. In 2007 I lived briefly in Peachtree City, Georgia. Many streets there and in Atlanta are named after peach trees. But where are the peach trees?

Trees do so much for us. They give us the very air we breathe. The bottom line is that if there are no more trees, there’s no more ‘us’.

  1. Why sing?

The voice is a way of making connection. Singing creates a connection through the heart, and when we sing to someone we add the special ingredient of love. Indigenous societies have always offered songs to the earth as a way to give thanks. England has a pagan tradition of singing to apple trees in January through wassailing to wish good health to the trees in hopes of an abundant crop in the new year. In Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation, Emma’s special tree, Annie Oakley, tells her: “Your singing nourishes us. It is sweeter than the sweetest honey. The song spreads through Aaouma’s root system to all the trees on the Earth.”

  1. Yes, I remember that line. What made you want to write Emma’s story?

When I was in the 4th grade I told my teacher I wanted to be a writer. Later, as a young woman, my father said, “Susie, some day you ought to write a book.” I wrote my first book Song and Silence: Voicing the Soul in 1995. My second book, Sacred Space Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places was published by Quest Books in 2007.

Nina Winge Earth Day

As a music therapist and voice teacher, my life’s work has centred on and around the healing power of singing. Most of the people who came to my workshops were my age. I don’t have any children and wanted to find a way to bring my message about the importance of singing and trees to children.

  1. Do any trees have a particular significance for you?

Yes, Much Marcle Yew and the Whiteleaved Oak do. I believe these trees brought me to my husband and to the UK. The story is told in full in a Valentine’s Day article published by the Woodland Trust here: Valentine’s Tree Love

  1. And what is your favourite species of tree?

Yew. The largest concentration of yew trees is in Wales and some are thought to be 5,000 years old, making them some of the oldest trees on the planet. Yews are considered to be candidates for the Tree of Life due to their age and their ability to regenerate themselves.

  1. Which season do you prefer for admiring trees?

All seasons offer a unique experience of trees. I love winter for revealing the bones and bark of trees: bare branches against the sky. Spring gives buds and blossoms. Summer offers us trees with full leaves and fruit. Fall dazzles us with colour and change.

  1. Which organisations support ‘Sing for the Trees’?

The College of Sound Healing, Sound Travels and The Woodland Trust in the UK.

  1. And will you be in France again for the 2017 edition?

No, I will be in Sedona, Arizona. The red rocks are calling me. There are many special juniper trees with twisted trunks from the vortex energy in the land.

  1. Finally, are there any tree stories from around the world you’d like to share?

I love it when people share pictures and stories about their events. A few special ones come to mind:

– The first year a kindergarten teacher in Switzerland took 30 of her students to the forest and they sang for the trees. Afterwards, every time they went to the woods, they spontaneously burst out singing. They even sang for their Christmas trees.

– A bedridden woman sang to the tree outside her window that gives her comfort. She wanted to thank the tree for the way it brought healing to her.

– A group of people on a Peace March through the site of the first atomic blast in Nevada sang to the Joshua trees as they walked.

– Children sang around a Native American Prayer tree at the Cabin Path outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

– A man sang to a tree near the ruins of the Berlin Wall.

– Last year a young woman in Ireland created an event to sing for the Fairy Tree at the Hill of Tara.

Thanks, Susan, for taking the time to share your passion for trees with us. And thank you, readers, for reading this rather long post. I’d love to hear which tree you’re going to sing for on 22nd April.

***

Some Useful Links:

If you’d like to find out more about Susan, singing, tree-hugging or ‘Earth Day – Sing for the Trees’, Susan has added some useful links below:

Contact Susan on her website: Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation

All about Sing for the Trees

The Facebook event 2017 with lots of tree suggestions.

Buy Emma Oliver on the UK Amazon website

Scientific studies on the benefits of tree-hugging

Studies on singing: 6 Ways Singing is Beneficial, Singing Changes your Brain, Eric Whitaker’s video on Why We Sing.

And, to finish, here’s Susan’s biography:

Susan Elizabeth Hale M.A. is an internationally renowned music therapist. She circles the Earth with song, teaching how to find and free the natural voice. She is creator of Earth Day-Sing for the Trees. Since 2010, over 10,000 people in 45 countries have participated in this annual global event. Susan is the author of Sacred Space Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places (Quest Books, 2007). American born, she now lives in the Malvern hills with her husband Ian. Her newest book is Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation, a juvenile fiction novel published in 2016 by Our Street Books.

 

Author Q&A

Oooh, exciting! Another feature – this time a Q&A – on Australia’s YA blog in Melbourne. Thanks guys.

The YA Room

Hello again, friends! Today we’re bring you something really special – an interview with author Harriet Springbett! If you haven’t seen our last post yet, check it out to learn a bit more about Harriet’s novel – Tree Magic – and to hear more about the ideas behind it!

We were interested in learning a bit more about Harriet’s writing style and her tips for aspiring writers, so she was kind enough to give us a bit of an insight into her writing world! Enjoy!

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What does your usual writing routine look like? Do you prefer a particular place to write in? What time of the day do you get the most writing done?

I started to take writing seriously in 2005 and an integral part of that decision was to allocate myself a specific writing time and then stick to it. I’m definitely a morning writer – this…

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Magical-Realism, Metaphors, and Ideas

An Australian Book Blogging group – The YA Room – has reviewed and featured Tree Magic today. Read my article to learn more about the ideas behind the novel.

The YA Room

A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to receive a copy of Tree Magic, a new YA debut by Harriet Springbett. We utterly adored reading this magical and intriguing novel. Set in England and France, this alluring tale follows Rainbow, a girl who can shape trees at her will. As well as being a novel about overcoming fears and fighting her way through parallel worlds, it’s also a touching coming-of-age story about finding yourself.

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn a little bit more about how Harriet came up with this fascinating concept. Here’s a little piece Harriet wrote to be featured on our blog… 

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Fishy Stories

My story ‘I am most alive‘ has just been longlisted in the annual Fish Publishing competition. This may not sound like much of an achievement, but I’m delighted because the standard is very high. There were 1300 entries, of which 190 were longlisted. 40 of those were shortlisted and the top 10 winners will be announced on 17th March. You can find the listings on the Fish website here.

Interview with Author Harriet Springbett

Writer & blogger Chantelle Atkins posted an interview with me this week on her website ‘The Glorious Outsiders’. Here it is:

The Glorious Outsiders

Last week I read and reviewed a beautiful and unique YA book, called Tree Magic. I came across this book in a Facebook group I am lucky enough to be part of, and the front cover and title immediately caught my eye. It sounded just my sort of thing. (If you follow me on Instagram you might have an idea of how obsessed with trees I am!) You can read my review of Tree Magic here. Author Harriet Springbett kindly agreed to an interview, which you can enjoy below. Tree Magic comes out in paperback on the 1st of March, and is currently only 99p for the ebook on Amazon. Grab it!

Tree magic31) Can you tell us what inspired you to write Tree Magic?

I was sitting under a weeping willow tree in my garden, writing the start of a novel about Rainbow, a teenager who didn’t fit…

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Casting Aside your Morals

When I tell the French people I meet that I’m a writer, they often ask if I write in French.

‘No way,’ I say.

‘Why not?’ they ask. ‘You’re pretty much bilingual.’

That ‘pretty much’ is what has always stopped me. How can I possibly nuance my language, weave a subtext, hook the exact word I’m fishing for from the little pond of French I possess? Come on: it’s difficult enough to do this in my native English.

Me

Me

I have tried. A few years ago a literary friend invited me to her French creative writing workshop. When I eventually summed up my courage and went along, I discovered that it was a surprisingly stimulating experience.

Knowing I couldn’t expect any elegance from the French corner of my mind, I felt more liberated than in English workshops. My creations were basic but the ideas, associations and images flowed easily and naturally. By letting go of my language expectations I was able to focus more fully on the narrative.

Much as I enjoyed the other participants’ poetic prose, though, I was unable to write a satisfactory piece in French.

So I was intrigued to see the title ‘Why Write in a Different Language?’ featuring as one of the discussions at the European Literature festival in Cognac last November. I hurried along to listen to the panel of authors, who all write in non-native languages.

Vladimir Vertlib & interpreter Valérie Terrasson

Vladimir Vertlib & interpreter Valérie Terrasson

There were two Slovak authors, Jana Benova (has written in Czech) and Irena Brezna (writes in German); a Czech writer, Lenka Hornakova-Civade (French); and the Russian writer Vladimir Vertlib (German). It turned out to be one of the most thought-provoking themes of the festival, and one that remains with me three months later.

Lenka Hornakova-Civade (coline-sentenac)

Lenka Hornakova-Civade (photo Coline Sentenac)

Lenka argued that your native language is one of emotion. In your mother tongue, the emotion surges out and grips you as you write. Writing in a different language, however, gives you the distance you need for the surgical precision of the job.

Jana Beňová (Tomáš Benedikovič)

Jana Beňová (photo Tomáš Benedikovič)

Jana agreed that when writing, you’re searching for the clearest way of communicating, and suggested that this distance can also be achieved in terms of letting time pass or writing in a different location.

Vladimir talked about dogs: when he says his native Russian word for ‘dog’, he can smell and feel the animal. But when he says the word in German, there is a space between the word and the feeling. This made me think how feeble the French swear words sound to me, compared to the strength of English ones. Now I know why.

Irena Brezna & Lenka

Irena Brezna & Lenka

There’s also a freedom in writing in a different language, according to Irena. She’s sometimes horrified when she reads her German work once it’s translated into her native Slovak: not because of bad translation, but because she’s shocked to think she could have written those things. The distance she felt when writing in German is lacking when she reads her translated words in her native language.

Jana confirmed this and quoted the results of an interesting study. Apparently, when you use your mother tongue you respect your morals, whereas you morally let go of yourself in a foreign language.

You have been warned, Ex-pats. No casting aside of your morals here, please.

The panel also explored the difference between translating into a different language and writing in that language.

At the time of the Cognac festival, Lenka was in the process of translating a French work into her native Czech. She pointed out that when translating you must respect what is written rather than interpreting the author’s intention. The result of her translation, both in terms of sonority and meaning, didn’t resemble what she would have written in Czech.

Vladimir Vertlib

Vladimir Vertlib

Vladimir put himself firmly on the writer side of the fence for this very reason, admitting that he would be tempted to rewrite rather than translate.

He brought the discussion back to the freedom of a non-native language, saying that you actually re-invent a language when you adopt it: you create your own nuances that enrich your use of it.

Lenka suggested this is because you don’t have the codes you learn from growing up in a language. And Irena added that German readers have told her that her use of German is more beautiful than native German.

Jana Benova & interpreter Diana Jamborova-Lemay

Jana Benova & interpreter Diana Jamborova-Lemay

I particularly liked Jana’s reference to Samuel Beckett – an Irish writer who lived in France and wrote in French. He apparently said that he knew English too well to write in this language.

Who knows? Perhaps, one day, I will know English so well that I’ll be able to write in French! Though with over a quarter of a million distinct words in the English language, there’s still a way to go.

And, to be honest, I like writing in English. I like the way it keeps me in touch with my origins.

If you’d like to read more about other writers who write in non-native languages, there’s an article on the Telegraph website here

(Photos courtesy of Littératures Européennes and Lycée Jean Monnet’s photography club)