Throughout lockdown, I’ve been writing.
The world is a narrow bridge is my collection of stories of Moroccan nomads, quarantined spacemen, families forced apart, and families reconnected. The memories cover Chilean mountain hikes and an account of the Coronavirus lockdown in Spain and France. There is some adult content, with some LGBT themes. My stories are shaped by personal influences, but only some of it is autobiographical, so don’t read too much into the juicy bits!
I partly produced the anthology to fundraise for a charity called Kidney Care UK, and together with the support of family and friends, we raised £1,095. A huge thank you to everyone who supported my fundraiser, Story-time for Kidney Care.
Here are a few short extracts from The world is a narrow bridge to provide you with a preview:
John Norton was a water-hog of a man, formed to play rugby or to chop down trees. He had a snout for a nose and furious, darting eyes. I often felt his gaze in the refectory. I would pretend to be occupied by a trivial conversation with a classmate, about our trigonometry homework or the previous night’s episode of Grange Hill. I would race through lunch or else wait for the inevitable moment when Norton would pass me and imitate me as a hunchback. I didn’t think I resembled a peasant Italian woman climbing a hill with a week’s worth of spices but that was his apparent impression of me, the way he stooped and craned his neck. (From the title heading story, The world is a narrow bridge).
For hundreds of kilometres this land stretches. East, to the Sahara. I travelled there once, but that was when I was twenty-one and things were confused. A Dutch man I met talked about ‘new opportunities’. Camels, tours for Europeans and ‘plenty of money’. It turns out I misunderstood. We pass abandoned ksour to the left and to the right. Some of the homes hang precariously, others appear suspended in flight, all of them camouflaged into the salmon-pink rocks. It’s hard to distinguish the sheep dotted on the hilltops from the shepherds who herd them.(From story, The blessing of the stork).
Taking a last nervous glance, Esther narrows her eyes to spot what other remnants of Levi’s family past she can still examine. There are a few shrubs growing out of the soil. Small traces of brickwork where the bimah might have once stood. Is that where Levi was invited to recite his Torah portion, she ponders. Beyond, an alcove covered in algae points to a world of burning menorah candle-lights, Purim feasts and later, slaughter. (From story, The Golden Rose).
Why I write, what I write
I mostly draw on personal influences, among which mental health, queer identity, my Jewish heritage and contemporary social history are the topics I’m most interested in writing about at this present time.
I am curious about social history outside the mainstream, and the perspectives of people whose voices were silenced or whose stories never got told. I am especially interested in the diasporas that saw queer Jews having to live a double secret in late 19th century and early 20th century Europe. One niche topic of interest to me, which also saddens me, are the experiences of so-called ‘Chatarreros’, mostly migrant labourers who sell scrap metal to make ends meet.
I have been participating in a number of writing courses, and feel lucky I’ve been tutored by authors Andrew Taylor and Claire Fuller at an Arvon retreat on fiction writing. One day I hope to complete a novel that I’ve been working on for a number of years. It’s set against the backdrop of the 1960/61 Eichmann trial, but there’s some humour thrown in. Until then, my focus is on creative non-fiction and life writing. I am currently editing a memoir on trying to stay stable in an unstable world.
My main lesson? There’s no short cuts!
I am currently participating in an online memoir writing course with author Cathy Renztenbrink and an online course on Queer Words with author, Jonathan Kemp. I have been lucky enough to participate in Arvon masterclasses with writers Sebastian Faulks, Mark Haddon, Louise Doughty, Kit de Waal, Colin Grant, Tania Hershman and Raynor Winn.
I’ve just had life writing from the lockdown featured in the first edition of online journal, Untitled: Voices, here. I have had a short non-fiction feature published by Clavmag, a digital platform hosting queer writing, here.
I am also a freelance writer and have recently contributed to the Huffington Post here and here and here. I occasionally provide travel writing and cultural features for publications such as Culture Trip (for example here and here), Jewish News and Imperica. I also contribute travel features for Atlas Obscura including these two in Barcelona here and here.
So, a chaotic twelve months. Maddening at times – for us all.
But I feel rejuvenated too. I’m sure there will be plenty of twists and turns to come. And you know what? I plan to write about them…
For a look at my anthology, The world is a narrow bridge, take a look here The world is a narrow bridge_v3