Walking and talking can be therapeutic

Journalism, Pilgrimage

The Times asked me to interview a therapist with a difference: one who takes his clients into the great outdoors, to share stories as they walk.

We did the interview on Hampstead Heath, where I plan to take people to play Chaucer’s Game, on storytelling pilgrimages.

A therapist’s work is different, obviously, because therapy tends to involve something very private, and potentially difficult.

But the similarities were delightful:

  • we had a destination in mind, but took the roundabout route
  • allowed the things we said to emerge spontaneously
  • noticed the effect of different environments (shady groves are nothing like open meadows with extensive views)
  • breathed fresh air, and
  • enjoyed each other’s company (mostly, as you’ll see if you read the piece in full)

You can view a PDF, and / or download it here:

Obviously, the best way to bring The Canterbury Tales back to life would be to travel from London to Canterbury. No argument about that.

But I’m excited about doing a walk from Aldgate, where Chaucer lived, to Westminster Abbey, where he’s buried.

It takes about an hour to walk, but I plan to be slower, and take a few detours. Specifically, I’d like to visit sites relating to some of the following (in approximately the order I’d stumble on them):

  • Benjamin Disraeli
  • Sir Thomas More
  • John Milton
  • Thomas a Becket (buried in Canterbury, but born on Cheapside)
  • Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke
  • William Hazlitt
  • Samuel Johnson
  • Charles Lamb

Naturally, being a journalist, I’d walk along Fleet Street – reaching the end of the City of London to enter Westminster.

In Westminster, the walk to the Abbey could easily take in the following:

  • Bram Stoker
  • Noel Coward
  • Samuel Pepys
  • Jane Austen (finally, another woman!)
  • Thomas Rowlandson
  • JM Barrie
  • Rudyard Kipling, and / or
  • Herman Melville

Then again, I could cross the river and walk through Southwark, where The Canterbury Tales starts.

Southwark was home to:

  • Charles Dickens
  • Percy Shelley
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (another!)

Naturally, I wouldn’t stop for ALL these literary superheroes on a single pilgrimage. Can you imagine!

But choosing one or two for each pilgrimage would allow me (and others with me) to think about very different kinds of storytelling as we spin tales…

I can’t wait.

Note: I love Dead White Men, and intend to be one myself one day. But there are perhaps a few too many in this list. Can you suggest anybody else I might include, to fix that…?

Pilgrimage

Book Group Q&A

Uncategorized

Thanks For Your Questions!

Click on each one, to see my answers…

1. Tell us about your research
2. How did you organise the writing process?
3. Why this period of history?
4. Were you writing about a specific historical event, or were other contexts in your mind?
5. What themes did you set out to explore?
6. How much is fact / fiction in your book?
7. What feedback have you had about the characters?
8. Why crowd funding? Will you use it again?
9. Have you used improvisation in other areas of your life?
10. With so much collaboration, how much of yourself goes into the book?
11. You took 16 years. Did you plan to use collaboration and crowd-funding from the start?
12. Why have you used pictures in this odd way?

 

Tell us about your research…

 

3 mins 03 secs

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How did you organise the writing process?

 

3 mins 33 secs

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Why this period of history?

 

2 mins 38 secs

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Were you writing about a specific historical event, or were other contexts in your mind?

 

1 min 39 secs

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What themes did you set out to explore?

 

1 min 50 secs

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How much is fact / fiction in your book?

 

1 min 39 secs

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What feedback have you had about the characters?

 

1 min 45 secs

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Why crowd funding? Will you crowd fund future books?

Let’s talk about this at your book group!

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Have you used improvisation in other areas of your life?

 

Saving this question for your book group!

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With so much collaboration, how much of yourself goes into the book?

 

See previous question!

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You took 16 years. Did you plan the collaboration and crowd funding/self publishing from the beginning?

 

This question will have to wait till your book group!

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Why have you used pictures in this odd way?

 

Answer to follow… 🙂

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Public talks, via video link

Events

Recently, for reasons outside my control, I was unable to make it to an event where I was scheduled to speak.

My daughter was taken ill. If you’re a parent, you know how that feels. If you’re not, I hope you can imagine my feelings…

… as I mopped her brow in London while contemplating the 200 or so design students expecting to hear me speak about How To Be More Creative, a couple of hours later, in a lecture theatre 150 miles away, in Bournemouth.

When she finally fell asleep, I phoned my host in Bournemouth, senior lecturer Alice Stevens, to ask it might be possible to deliver my interactive talk using some kind of online conferencing tool.

You know, Skype or something…

Alice was not ecstatic, because she’d not done anything like it before, and the time was tight. But seeing little alternative, and being fundamentally an adventurous type, she agreed.

And so the talk went ahead. For myself, I found it a little disorienting, because when I started doing the audience interactions I’m so fond of, Alice kindly walked the laptop around so I could see people…

… and this made me slightly seasick.

But when I said that out loud, it went down very well indeed: audiences seem to quite like it when speakers admit to some kind of wobble. (This speaker, anyway.)

I was happy to learn afterwards that, despite everything, the motivational theme of my talk came through loud and clear.

Here’s what Alice wrote in an email the following day:

Speaking for myself, I had a lot of fun. It was a bit wobbly, and I couldn’t read people’s faces at all, but Alice looked after me very well, and taught me that it’s possible to do more events than I previously managed – because it turns out that I might not always have to travel.

Save the planet – inspire by Skype!

How to print a book (while you’re still writing it)

Editors and experts

When I’m writing a book, I hate to read it on loose sheets of paper. I want to read it as a book.

For that reason, I often use Lulu.com to print my books on demand while I’m writing them. Sew Your Own went through several versions before it was ready to print “properly”. What If The Queen Should Die? is no different, and I thought it might be helpful to explain how I work with Lulu.

Very simply, I save my OpenOffice (or Word) document as a PDF, having first checked the dimensions of the page. (Lulu offers a huge range of sizes, but for simplicity I choose to print my book at A5, because it’s less complicated.)

I design covers for the book using an app on my iPhone, trying a variety to see what works best for the book as it currently stands. Here’s the latest, which I sent for printing today.

Lulu asks me to upload the image, and the PDF containing the interior of the book, and that’s that.

It’s also possible, on Lulu, to set prices on the book, and possibly even to open some kind of virtual online shop. I’m pretty sure that Lulu will sell you an ISBN number, so you can sell the book through other retailers too. But that’s not what I want it for. I just use Lulu as a private space, for printing one-off copies of my own book to send to me as books.

I hope this might inspire you to try doing it yourself. There’s nothing like getting your hands on your own book.

Note: This post first appeared on flintoff.org, 19 May 2015