Philippa's Bites

 Whoever is praying for me, please - don’t stop.  Last week, when my ECDL Certificate in Photoshop arrived in the post, I felt a great sense of achievement.  The following day, Books Go Social – who organise the Dublin Writers’ Conference – told me I had won their ‘Unlocking Potential’ prize!  More of that anon.


  For now, Philippa’s Farm is out there and being enjoyed – hopefully, as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Late at night, as I sat and told the story to my PC, I had many LOL moments.  My partner would hear strange, snorting noises, leap out of his bath and rush downstairs to make sure I wasn’t being attacked by the last wolf in Ireland.


  As any author would, I soundly berated him for distracting me and creating puddles of water for me to break my neck on.  Floors mopped, he would read over my shoulder and he too would laugh himself sick.  He particularly enjoyed Philippa’s ‘take’ on life and the hilarious situations she got herself into.  A cup of tea would follow.  What?  No biscuits?  ‘Why don’t you rustle up some of those caramel squares Philippa makes?’ he’d suggest.  ‘She refuses to give me the recipe,’ I’d reply.


  Of course, when you write a first person narrative everyone thinks it’s autobiographical.  I suppose it partly is – Philippa’s interest in cooking, for instance, would mirror my own.  But I can say with conviction, she is not me but that ‘voice’ that, when it arrives, is golden.  I merely allowed her to breathe and live.


  If you enjoy Philippa’s Farm, there are two more books you might like to read – Philippa’s Flight and Philippa’s Folly.


        It’s all words, words, words.  My brain needed a holiday, so I took myself off to see the Picasso exhibition in London.  It consists of his collected works from 1932 when he had a burst of creativity.  I gather he was fed up hearing that at the age of 49, he had passed his peak.  For anyone to hear that must be galling and I expect it either goads or floors.  In the manner of the bulls he liked to paint, he contemptuously scraped the dust from the ground, snorted – and charged.  And what a charge.  He found himself a new Muse, new surroundings and didn’t stop.

        For a year’s work, it is a massive collection with one or two exceptional works.  No matter where he went – to the beach, shopping or visiting – Picasso always had a pen and paper handy.  I remember visiting his studio in Antibes where dozens of his plates were for sale.  For about ten euros you could have bought a dinner plate.  At the time it was too hot and too heavy to carry, so no regrets … or have I?

 While it took a challenge to his ego to get Picasso motivated, a writers’ festival or conference can open our mind to new possibilities, pluck our creative strings.  I have been to two this year and found them inspiring and encouraging.  Meeting others who are involved in the same crazy game as yourself – whether its stamp collecting or writing – can change the way you think and encourage you to new possibilities.

Being a writer means being mostly alone.

Of necessity, we try to avoid distractions.  However, these are vital from time-to-time, to re-charge the batteries, to get a different perspective.  At the Words Conference I particularly enjoyed Mia Gallagher’s talk on the writing life and how the ‘wilderness years’ form part of it.

And just to stir the creative juices to new heights (or lows!)  I went to a workshop on Early Recollection and how our first memories shape and mirror our current life and experience.  An amazing idea that got me started on another project … talk to you soon about this.

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Louise Couper