All Aboard the Runaway Creative Train: The Year of the Handbag

In March, I discovered my husband had published my manuscript on Amazon. Clutching the lilac handbag, I went into a bit of a panic.  The delete button on my laptop did not remove the book from Amazon. There was no chocolate in the house, so I ignored him by reading a book.   Little did I know, he’d presented me with a ticket to begin a creative writing journey via social media.

While waiting to board the creative train, I watched YouTube footage about how to engage in social media. I wish I had known about Neetsmarketing rather than shouting at the lovely people who were trying to explain.  Fortunately,  there was light at the end of the tunnel, Sue Moorcroft was the first person to accept my friend request on Twitter.    Her response to my book review and ideas to promote ‘Just for the Holidays’ lit the creative spark, and she helped me to understand Twitter. The sound of the whistle jolted the pistons in my imagination.

Once I had boarded the creative train, some wonderful people waved me off. The first review request came from Angela Petch.   Her reaction to my review of ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’ fuelled the creative enthusiasm and the train started to increase pace.  She also agreed to join me in a whacky race to meet up with Sue Moorcroft’s character, in France.  Angela introduced me to Patricia Feinberg Stoner and Rosemary Noble.  Rosemary ‘Ranter’s Wharf’ made me rant on behalf of my ancestors. Patricia’s book is funniest book I have ever read about becoming an accidental expat, in France. It was a great day when Patricia sent me her ‘Rude Book of Limericks’, and I realised she had quoted me on her front cover.

I crashed into the inspirational Diane Need, in the Midlands, when my creative ideas were heading in all directions.  Diane’s heart-warming, fun novel was a great read on the journey.  Jan Ellis asked me to review one of her books and sent me a book parcel, and this was the ticket to my new collection of books. Jan is currently writing a blog post about the contents of her handbag, and I know it will be amusing.

On my creative journey abroad, I stopped off to meet Patricia Furstenberg. She took me on a magical journey back to my childhood through her children’s books.  She is also my Twitter guru and is Queen of the Hashtags.  At her stop, Patricia introduced me to Jennifer from ‘Jennieration’.  Jen is a ‘fearless thinker’ who delights in language, culture and creativity. Jen’s daughter, Ella, is the youngest author in my Handbag Gallery, and she wrote a wonderfully creative guest post.

While speeding along the tracks of creativity, I met Carol Cooper.  And I was thrilled when she came up with the idea of interviewing the interviewer.  She looked inside my handbag and made me reflect on my journey. Angela Petch also asked me questions about the editing journey.  At this point, I reached a bit of a crossroads, I had neglected my writing.  The blogging train had been gaining speed and getting out of control.  I decided to get off at the next stop and visit my book again.

Locked in my study, in ‘Editingland’, I couldn’t resist interacting with Wendy Clarke.  I stopped over at ‘Silent Night’ to present an extract, and found Wendy incredibly supportive.  She featured me in her blog, and wrote a generous blog post about how to use software to market a book.  What a wonderful stopover!  I would never have found out about this if I had not boarded the creative train via social media.

Finally, I realised the creative train isn’t out of control.  Sometimes, one shouldn’t worry too much about the final destination, but one does need to interact with others on the journey.  ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’ so I recently asked Angela for support. Angela will talk to me about my editing next year.  My interactions with Adrienne Vaughan and Jan Brigden also gave me a lovely boost on my journey.  Caz Greenham, the children’s author, has convinced me that Eric Seagull exists. I now live inside the creative world with authors. It was lots of laughs with the hilarious Lisa Mary London.  However, it was frightening inside the Dutch woods and the world of Imogen Matthews’s characters.  She is mailing a guest post to Books in Handbag about how she stumbled on a forgotten World War Two.  I will be travelling back in time to the seventeenth century with Anna Belfrage.

Having established my seat on the creative journey, my role as blogger has gained pace in 2017. Thanks to the response of the writing and reading community, I have had a wonderful year. My role as an ‘accidental’ blogger and supporter of writers has pushed me towards an exciting, unknown destination. Each day, I open photos of handbags and develop more interactions with wonderful authors.  Next year, I will launch an initiative for readers with Anne Williams. I hope that many others will hop aboard the new initiative to celebrate reading.

While writing about my journey, Judith Barrow has just tweeted that she has ‘enjoyed being part of the journey’.  The people I have met on my journey have made the whole adventure worthwhile, as I get to peer through the window at their writing world.  Sue Bentley’s friendly comments always make me smile as I head towards my unknown destination.

A big thank you to everyone for supporting my blog – your enthusiasm has fuelled my creativity and put me on track. Have a wonderful Christmas! Best wishes for 2018! Hope you will join me for more adventures in 2018. 

For me, this has been the creative year of the handbag and new friendships!  How can you sum up your year?  The Year of …

 

Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

A Christmas gift from a bright young star

Today, I am handing over this blog to talented, nine-year-old author, Ella Lopez.

Ella has co-written a book with her mother, Jennifer. C. Lopez, about their experience of home-schooling.  Entitled: ‘Thanks, But I’ll Teach My Own Kid’, the book explores fearless thinking and learning without borders. Their book has been honoured by their local library association, and featured in publications across the USA. Ella has also written her debut novel: ‘Legend of Beams’.

I challenged Ella to take me, and my handbag, on a Christmas adventure.  The young, innovative adventurer imagined a placed for the three of us to meet. Ella created a multicultural, celebratory setting and she is delighted to share it with you.

 

Ella’s Christmas Gift of Creativity

Jennifer, Ella and Jessie were having a good ole chat online about our writings, great books we’ve read and even cultural travels, when suddenly the internet line began to crackle. Their laptop screens went dark, but they could still hear each other faintly…they also heard some sort of bells ringing subtly from inside the screen and a jolly deep laughter- on both ends of the line. Jennifer, stared at the screen in disbelief as a faint image of Jessie grew larger out of the blackness. Suddenly, Jessie popped right out of the computer- and joined us. They were all together now, staring at each other in disbelief. Completely befuddled, they looked around. They heard bells and the sound of jolly laughter. They had all been transported through cyberspace when Ella pressed ‘escape’ on the laptop.

Thistle bushes, vibrant green shamrock plants and Noche Buenas of red adorned the landscape. The land appeared to be the most complex and unique combination of two distinct cultures: Mexico and Wales. It was an exuberant pallet of color, music and culture they witnessed unfold in front of us and beyond. Silvery snowflakes fell continuously, leaving a glistening canopy over the entire landscape.

They heard a faint voice echo beyond the grand red and green plants.

Voice of Christmas: Welcome, Bienvenidos, Croeso! You three have arrived in the land of Nadolexmas. This is the land of celebration where we merge experiences and cultures- a blending so unique and filled with pure beauty. You were transported here because the three of you have an immense appreciation of culture that encourages others to feel it too.  We want you to spread good cheer, and Nadolexmas beautifully blends both your loved cultures :Wales and Mexico. Please, sit down for your first meal.

The voice continued…as if closer now- but still there was no one visible within their sight.

A table and three chairs magically emerged on the landscape. Lights enveloped enormous trees that now surrounded our beautiful table. The table was adorned with a ‘Tapete’, hand woven in every color imaginable. Jennifer and Ella recognized it as from their favorite region of Mexico: Oaxaca. The table was set with gold placemats.  Each place setting had a Christmas cracker and some chocolate dragons dressed in festive costumes.  Tangerines and chocolate coins were also spread generously on the table and many plates of scrumptious plates began to appear.  Feeling grateful for this feast before us, Jessie reached for the plate of laverbread with cockles and bacon. She must have been thinking of  a Welsh breakfast.

Ella and Jennifer looked a little dubious at the green laverbread, but always willing to try new things- they placed some on their plates.  Jessie tried to think of something served by her Spanish sister-in-law then presented some additional prawns, with the shells on, cooked in garlic and chorizo. She was thrilled with the scrumptious holiday dishes she’d dreamt into reality, but was still looking for the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Ella BEAMED with joy and closed her eyes then, thinking of her favorite dishes during Navidad (Christmas) in Mexico. A simple few of her favorites came dancing through the air to the tune of ‘Feliz Navidad’. First was Ponche, filled with bubbly sweet fruits. Then, came Chiles Rellenos filled with rice, meat and cilantro. As the dishes gently settled themselves onto the table, Ella reached immediately across the table for a chocolate dragon.

Ella: Mama look! It’s Beams! It is the dragon in my story.

Jennifer: Ella it sure does look like Beams, but you are forgetting your table manners and also- you know we save the dessert for after the main dishes.

Ella: But Mama, it’s the holiday and a special time with Jess. I’m only going to eat just this one now- in honor of Beams. And I’d like to try some Welsh cakes.

Mama: Well, since there definitely doesn’t appear to be a land where rules apply… I suppose just the one Beams Chocolate can’t hurt.

Ella: Jessie, I think the prawns are my favorite. I didn’t know the Welsh loved Chorizo too. We have that in common! Please…you need to try Los Tamales de maíz, fresa y canela now (corn tamales with strawberries and cinnamon).

Jessie: You bet, Ella! I can’t wait. I love how they’ve been prepared inside of the corn husks and wrapped as if they are a gift. Just beautiful.

Jennifer and Ella: ¡Feliz Navidad Jessie!

Jennifer and Jessie raised their glasses to toast this most magical celebration with Sparkling Pear Juice. Jessie smiled.

Jessie: Nadolig Llawin. Now, we have all wished each other a Merry Christmas.

Ella: We have some gifts to share Jessie and it seems there is no better time than now in this special place. It just feels so Christmas-like here.

Jessie: I agree sweet Ella. Might I ask you to open mine to you- first? You know the gifts we share are never material in nature, and I’m awfully excited to see what you think of yours.

Ella: That is really sweet of you to want me to open mine first Jess. I’m just as excited as you are, to find out what is inside!

Jessie: Great, let me grab it out of my Handbag sweetie. I can’t believe my HANDBAG somehow traveled here with us through Cyberspace- but who am I to question the beauty of this mysterious experience!

Ella examined her gift from Jess. Inside was a red velvet bag. She opened it up and bright light immediately illumined the space around Ella and spreads across her face as she smiled. They were the most vibrant sparkles in all shapes and colors.  Ella stared, speechless.

Jessie: I give you the gift of imagination, sweet Ella.

Ella hugged Jessie tightly.

Ella: ¡Gracias! Actually, I’d like to say, Diolch (thank you in Welsh)! I know this gift will help me tremendously.

Jennifer and Ella: We have something here for you now, Jess.

Jennifer and Ella handed Jess a bag of multi-hued golden silk. She looked at us smiling and then down at the bag in her hands.

Jessie: Oh, my goodness- this will go beautifully with my holiday handbag. It almost looks like pieces of iridescent Abalone! How in the world did you make these Ella and Jen?

Ella: Well, Jessie it’s the gift of continued growth in creativity. I think we had similar thoughts on sharing something with each other that we’d always be able to keep with us. You probably won’t be able to guess what these are- that give you the continued growth in your amazing creativity so let me tell you. . .

They are the scales from a most magical dragon. There’s only one of her kind and they can only be found in the Realm of Castelina, where this growing dragon, Beams lives. As she grows, so does her magic and her iridescent wings shed scales during the growth spurts. They will give you much happiness and encourage your creative side to continue to fly. Here, you can read my new novel: ‘Legend of Beams’.

As Ella spoke, the beautiful shiny scales started to rise up out of Jessie’s handbag.

 

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Living with Imagination

Leslie at work

Leslie Tate

 

 

 

Epicure Café, Berkhamsted greeted me with the fragrance of coffee and creativity – a perfect place to meet author, Leslie Tate.  While waiting for Leslie, I explored the art gallery.  Haunting photographs of dream sequences were  hanging in battered frames.   In one retro print, there was a  grey haired man, wearing a black suit and pencil thin black tie; but he looked uncomfortable. The solitary man sat in a dilapidated room.

He wore a long colourful blouse that fluttered and floated as he walked.

I was studying the haunting photograph, of the solitary man, when Leslie arrived. He wore a long, colourful blouse that fluttered and floated as he walked. I admired his red, embroidered ballet pumps, and he complimented me on my lilac handbag.  I’m not sure if he liked my black woollen flare coat. Leslie was laughing, animated and full of fun. I recognised him as the man wearing the suit, in the dreamlike photographs, but Leslie looked much happier, as if he had shed the burden of a chrysalis.

Leslie:  Lovely to meet you, Jessie. I hope you like the photographs.

I admired his red, embroidered ballet pumps.

Jessie:  Wow!  The photographs are mesmerising. I was lost in the haunting disequilibrium.

Leslie: The photographs are stills taken from a film trailer. My novel, Heaven’s Rage, has been made into a 15 minute film.  Look here (he pointed to an eighties style TV screens).  You can tap the various icons to get information and to view the trailer.

Jessie:  I would love to see the trailer of the film, but tell me about the novel.  I want to know about your words: the words behind the images.

Heaven’s Rage, Leslie Tate: ‘A well penned story of a fascinating life.’

Leslie: ‘Heaven’s Rage’ is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, it explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life.

Jessie: Intriguing!  Tell me about the book that had the power to inspire a film made by an ex-Hollywood Director.

Leslie retrieved a copy of Heaven’s Rage from his handbag.  The front cover is a distinctive portrait of Leslie.  The dominant colours of the painting signify a rage but imply a glorious defiance. And I adored the black scarf! Leslie opened Heaven’s Rage.

Leslie:  It began with a dream where I found myself alone in the woods. I’d been captured by a gang on the way to school and tied to a tree in what people called the wasteland.

Leslie tapped the icon of himself, as a child, to play the film trailer for the film based on his book.

Jessie:  The extract explains the reason for the dream sequences in the trailer.  Tell me, how has your groundbreaking book been received by the reviewers?

Leslie: ‘Leslie Tate’s memoir is by turns an elegy for a lost childhood, a tribute to the power of literature and a demand for the right to identity in a world that turns too easily on those who differ from the conventional’ – Jonathan Ruppin, Judge for the Costa Novel Award, the Guardian First Book Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize.

‘I found the beautiful descriptions of Leslie’s journey of discovery and transition from a young boy, terrified of his thoughts, differences and uniqueness, into a man who is happily married and comfortable in his own skin to be very emotionally satisfying.

The style of this book reminds me of the ocean, continuously moving and shifting, changing colour and physical presence continuously. There are conversations, poems, extracts from other novels, reflections and memories which all merge and blend into a well penned story of a fascinating life.’ -Robbie Cheadle as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book?

Leslie at home

Leslie: I knew that publishing the book would take my cross-dressing with friends and family into the public arena. I didn’t know that it would, little by little, lead me into going everywhere cross-dressed. So my feelings combined relief, excitement and release with a quiet sense of trepidation.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Leslie: Myself at the age of 15 when I believed I was the only person in the world with my ‘weird compulsion’. I felt there was something so wrong with me that I’d never have a successful relationship. Heaven’s Rage would have made me see that being trans is a gift rather than a curse.

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Leslie: Because it’s good to read about people who may appear to be different to you – and to share our common humanity.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Leslie: Everything I’ve written stops for this.

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Leslie: It’s hard to continue writing authentically and originally in a genre-driven market, and being isolated can compound the problem. I’m lucky that I’m married to another writer, Sue Hampton, and we support each other.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Leslie: ‘Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.’ — Susan Sontag

More about Leslie Tate

Leslie Tate studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and has been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes. He’s the author of the trilogy of novels ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’, as well as his trans memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’, which has been turned into a film. On his website https://leslietate.com/ he posts up weekly creative interviews and guest blogs showing how people use their imagination in life, in many different ways.

It has been a pleasure to communicate with Leslie.  His love of words is clear in all his communications, and this bodes well for his novel, ‘Heaven’s Rage’.  During our communications, I sent these words to Leslie.

‘The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find dimension, not to be impeded.’
Virginia Woolf.

‘I will go on adventures, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find dimension, not to be impeded.’ Virginia Woolf. 

Heaven’s Rage Official Trailer

Heaven’s Rage has been made into a 15 minute film by ex-Hollywood Director Mark Crane. The film is being shown at a film festival in Stuttgart, Germany and is up for several awards.

Signed copies for ‘Heaven’s Rage’ at https://leslietate.com/shop/heavens-rage/
Publisher’s site http://tslbooks.uk/product/heavens-rage-2/

 

Please see all my author interviews at My Guests and my website and blog at JessieCahalin.com.