- Writing has always been part of my life. As a a teenager I wrote stories for my friends, studying for an arts degree In English I wrote essays and as a teacher I wrote essays for professional journals. To write and publish books came late in my life. When my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I chose to be his carer for sixteen months. After his death, I met many people in my travels who were facing death in some form. I realised that when I shared the experience of my husband’s death, this gave the listeners comfort. This led to my writing my first book about facing death, grieving and moving on which in my case meant going to live in South America on my own.
- I was used to journal writing for most of my life. When I started writing my first book, I had a goal to finish it. One morning I started writing at 5.30 am and stopped at 10.00 am. From then I repeated the pattern for eight weeks, five days a week. Then came the editing and proofreading.
- My first book was “From Cornwall to the AndesOne Woman’s Journey from Griefto Self Fulfilment”published August 2014
My second book was “South America A New Rhythm to Life” published May 2015
- I started writing with the specific aim of sharing a personal experience and inspiring the reader - there is hope after the death of your beloved one. In my case “moving on” involved physical change because I settled in Quito, South America, on my own.
- Both my books are non fiction, specifically memoirs. Now I am writing a novel which is a very challenging writing experience after non fiction.
- Apart from the great literature I studied and taught, I have always been an avid reader. I believe that reading is the foundation for writing. However, writing has greatly changed in the last fifty years, and I have never limited myself to the influence of one author.
- My writing style is contemporary. I have always been interested in “what makes people tick?”. I have studied the various psychological models so my writing is people oriented. As I have lived in seven of the fifty one countries I have visited, living in a foreign culture is often a component of my writing.
- I don’t agree that the public regard self publishing as vanity. For the last three years, writers have participated in the process of self publishing to such an extent that it has become the norm. It is here to stay. I have found no prejudice against my books beingself published.
- Writing has always been important me as a means of self expression. I wrote journals for over twenty years. I wrote reports or articles for an equal period of time. I feel equally comfortable in verbal and visual(painting) forms of expression. Now I am reaching out to the realms of creative writing through fiction. I also find myself writing more articles about writing
- I remember my own struggle to accept ebooks. I love the smell and feel of paper books. Because of my moves, I had to sift through the books I would keep every time I moved from one continent to another. When I travelled luggage restrictions limited the number of books I could take with me especially to a non English speaking country. Now I read ebooks all the time. I think other people have similar experiences.
- I am currently writing a novel. I was aware that fiction writing techniques have changed greatly in the last fifty years. “Show the story” rather than “tell the story” have become the norm. Dialogue is used to spice up the prose, and never reflects the spoken word. The writer has to address the structure in the story in specific ways. So I wrote 35000 words of my novel and hired a professional editor that specialises in structure to critique it ruthlessly. This was an immensely useful exercise, even though it meant rewriting some of the text.
- More about me:
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I recently had the good fortune to visit Viareggio, a quiet seaside resort on the Tuscan Riviera. It welcomed celebrities in the days of Nouveau Art and became the beach focus for the wealthy residents of Lucca twenty five kilometres away. The promenade includes several hotels in the "grand", liberal and gracious style of the 1920's and 1930's on the one side of the road and a string of exclusive boutiques, such as Lacoste, the length of the whole promenade.
Taking advantage of the warm autumnal weather I took a local bus to Lucca. The landscape was soft and green as the bus chugged up the curving road. Burnt sienna tiles and bottle green shutters were the standard "uniform" for houses. Some broke the pattern and hesitated between mauve and pink painted walls.
Lucca's old town was impressive. As I sauntered through the cobbled streets I came across a wine tasting organized by the local sommeliers to show off the best of the wines from Lucca and Montecarlo. A rather sophisticated event. After consuming the three rather generous samples of "vino rosso", I found myself abandoning the visit. On the weekend I returned to complete my touristy walkabout.
I experienced rain "Viareggio style" - bucketing rain which flooded the streets to levels of six to eight inches. Two Italian ladies signalled for me to follow them. I ended up in an extensive shop with antiques, paintings, rugs, ceramics and glass. I was grateful for the roof over my head, fascinated by the displays but found half an hour later I had to brave even greater flooding in my new sandals which looked rather forlorn after a thirty minute walk!. Couldn't take the risk of walking over sharp objects!
Of course this is Puccini countryside. Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, composed his most famous operas such as "La Boheme" and "Madam Butterfly" at his villa at Torre del Lago and lived the last few years in Viareggio.
The Teatro Bolivar had a policy of presenting innovative programmes, as it wished to provide entertainment that other theatres and concert halls in Quito did not offer. The variety of programes therefore included charity events, such as Miss Quito, pop music concerts and evenings of chamber music. The latter were frequently performed by the Tuhuamari Ensemble, playing music composed by Ecuadorian composers that was not as well known as the usual classical repertoire.
One of the most unusual events was an art show. Now you know what art exhibitions are like - everyone arrives, picks up a glass of wine and socialises. By the time a crowd gathers no one can see the actual paintings so the Director decided to make this a different kind of presentation.
Guests who had been sent invitations were gathered in the big foyer of the theatre with no wine and no explanation. They were addressed by professional actors and actresses who introduced the history of the theatre. Then small groups of visitors were sent on their way through the dimly lit theatre. They were specifically asked not to speak on their walk. On their way they were able to view the perfectly lit artist's paintings, but they also met more Ecuadorian actors and actresses who acted out the dramatic events associated with the theatre's past history, such as the Pizza Hut fire. Sometimes the performances involved music and others included recitation. Finally, when the group of attendees reached the third floor, they came across the dramatic image of the artist painting a canvas, his hand moving in time with the piano music being played by a Russian pianist on the stage, now visible from the third floor. Only then were refreshments served and people were allowed to burst into conversation after their unexpected experience. It was events such as these that made the Teatro Bolivar special.
(From Chapter 6 in "South America Under the Skin of a Foreign Country")
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Barbara M Webb graduated in English at Queensland University, St Lucia. She has lived in 7 of the 52 countries she has visited. and now lives in Cornwall in the UK.