The Journey Project: The Call of Adventure

The Call To Adventure

‘… the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration (…) which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals and emotional patterns no longer fit;’

Joseph Campbell

I have been working on a paper about the video game Journey for quite along time. This game is based (as many other books and films) on the twelve steps of the hero’s journey, described in Campbell’s book The Hero of a Thousand Faces. I picked it up recently and it has turned to be quite an illuminating reading. I always thought that heros were people who descended to the underworld and came back alive, or killed dragons, or saved a whole city from a nuclear attack – all of these things that I don’t see myself doing any time soon, to be honest.

But it turns out to be that the hero’s journey has seventeen steps instead of twelve (in Campbell’s book) and it’s quite complex. However, the good news is that we all have experienced it. This is the journey of separation, initiation and return. The journey that brings us, for instance, from adolescene to adulthood and all of the other stages in life.

The Call of Adeventure

Who has felt this before? I always wanted to visit foreing countries and live in them since I was a little child. I didn’t travel out of Spain with my family until I was fifteen, yet I tended to set my stories in foreign places and I remember my mother wanting to know why all the characters of a particular plot had French names instead of Spanish ones – at the time I felt it just sounded way more exotic, Spanish names and Spanish places where just too boring.

When I played with my sisters and invented new stories for her we used – sometimes – a big world map that hang on my father’s room. My two favourite places were Ireland and Japan, two countries that keep appearing in my stories.

I think that the first time I followed the call of adventure was to go to Ireland on my own. The country keeps fascinating me as much as the very first day I stepped on it – and I have been there more than six times, even spending quite long periods of time.

Another call of adventure brought me to Scotland – when I was child I though unicorns dwelled in Scotland so I had to go there! So far, nothing has brought me closer to what lies deep inside my soul than the silence of the Highland’s mountains.

And, finally, the call to adventure brought me to Lancaster, pursuing my dream to be a full-time writer. As the character of Journey, I cannot avoid by approach the high, golden mountain that seems to wait for me, just right there, in the horizon.

journey-game-screenshot-1
To me, nothing represents the ‘Call of Adventure’ better than this beautiful image from the video game Journey.

All my travels started with fantasies I already had as a child. I followed them blindly because, sometimes, if you let the current take you, you can end in exciting places.

Have you ever heard the call of adventure? Where has it taken you, so far? Let’s share stories!

 

 

Climbing mountains and writing

Hiking-the peak.jpg
This landscape is one of the reasons why I chose to live in Lancaster…

Last week I went to Grassmere to do hiking. Hiking and writing are two things that I equally love and feel scared of. There’s always something beautiful about seeing mountains from the distance and thinking: in two or three hours, I’m going to be at the top. It’s also beautiful to imagine yourself with your own book in your hands: somehow the idea has made its way through paper and words.

But, what happens in between?

1. The desire.

All books and walks start with that desire, curiosity, wanderlust. Your life woul be ten times easier if you just stuck to routine, or job, or the simple things like eating and sleeping. But somehow you’re not enterely satisfied. You need to do something crazy like climb a mountain and write a book. Why? It’s not about survival or  being reasonable or realistic. But, who cares? You want to. So that’s why you decide to start up the journey: going towards the mountain or opening a new document in our computer.

 

Hiking-the mountain.jpg

2. The peak between the clouds.

You know this moment when you’re still down in the fields and you are surrounded by mountains and an endless sky? You’re still happy and curious but one part of you is thinking: ‘there’s no way I can get so high.’ You want to laugh, turn back, have a couple of drinks in the local pub and go home to watch a film. It’s also easier to turn on TV than defy the blank space of the page. But it’s not going to happen – leaving – because the peak between the clouds is still too fascinating. Too attractive.

Hiking-the big lake
That bag stands for myself in the picture.

3. Climbing.

Now it starts the fun part. The village and the field behind, you can just see one hill after the other. It might be easy at the beginning, but you know this is just the start of hours of struggling between you and the mountain. And then, zas!, you discover a beautiful view. Because that’s the joy of writing and hiking, the sublime might just be around the corner. Just as I started climbing in Grassmere I discovered this beautiful place where the mountains reflected in a big lake creating another world down the waters. The same way, once one starts writing a piece there is always an initial revelation.

Hiking-the crags

4. No way back.

There’s always a point when you find yourself climbing using hands, feet and mouth if necessary. You try not to look down – there are just crags and cliffs – and focus in each little step. The hand here, the feet there. I imagine myself going down, breaking my neck, or my leg, or even dying. ‘Young writer ends her days in the Lakes.‘ I can already read that in the local news. And, most important, I know there’s no way back. I would like to say: OK, I’m going home. But I know there’s no way I try to go down through those risks again, so the only solution is to keep going until the top (even if it seems there’s never going to be one). The same happens when have passed the mid point of your novel: you cannot leave it there even if what you have produced so far feels like crap…

Hiking-'the peak'.jpg

5. The peak?

After the difficult part, when you believed you would never make it, comes ‘the peak’. And I’m saying it like this because it’s never ‘the peak’. THE peak is still a little bit further away but at this point you need to sit down, enjoy the (already) astonishing views and take your time to eat some well-deserved lunch. This break always feels like the best part of the hiking. All the previous suffering is forgotten and you feel truly grateful for being alive. In writing happens something similar when you finish the first draft of your novel or piece. You feel you have done it, you feel like a hero. There’s still so much way ahead, but for a brief time it feels like a nice conclusion. The idea is already on the paper. The thoughts have turn into letters. Now, it’s good to remember we need to keep walking. If you stay too long high in the mountain just looking at the views you start feeling really, really cold and dump. In writing, the first draft is merely the door to editing and rewriting. So let’s keep going!

6. THE peak!

This can be a tedious part in the hiking. You had lunch but the hills are still there, one after the other. You start thinking why you bother about climbing, I mean, you already got the nice views and all, does it pay off to get to the peak? Who’s going to care in the end? When you are telling the adventures of the hiking to your friends next day you can always say you reached the peak anyways. I always tell myself these things when I’m dragging my body to the peak. It never seems good enough to deserve the effort at that point. In a novel, the editing process can be equally grueling. You always reach the point in which you just want to throw the whole damn thing into the bin, I mean, who cares? The world already got Shakespeare and Clive Barker and José Antonio Cotrina. But then…

Then you reach THE peak. And I’m not going to explain but that feels about because if you have reached THE peak in hiking and writing you already know it and if not… you need to discover it for yourself.

7. Missing the hills.

Yep. Remember all that suffering when climbing? You never thought you would miss such a thing, would you? Well, there’s just something worse than going up murderous hills… and that’s going down. Becasue the possibilities of sliding and suffering a bloody death increase in 267%.  In writing this is the moment when you want to put your piece out there and realise than the process of getting it published is much worse than getting it written. Because there are so many things you cannot control and don’t depend at all on you. It’s part luck but part hard-effort – believe, if something I’m learning from interviewing authors in The Writing Life is that all of them worked incredibly hard before they had that ‘lucky’ coincidence or encounter with an agent/editor. So even if you feel you’ll die, go slow but don’t stop. You need to get out of the mountain (or get your story out there) at any price. That’s why you climbed it in the first place!

Hiking-sweet hills
Can you see the tiny daffofil in the rock on the river?

8. Those sweet vallies.

And finally you’re down there. You find the path and everything is easy, too easy in fact. The mountain is behind and you already miss it. You feel happy with yourself but already start thinking about the next hiking, and promise yourself you’ll do it as soon as possible because damn it, it feels so, so good. Whenever I hold a book in my arms I feel incredibly proud but at the same time the story has been detached of myself. It’s not ‘interesting’ anymore. I need something new to ‘get me high’ and that’s writing another book!

 

Do you like hiking? Does it inspire your writing in any way?

 

 

 

 

 

Diving in a Dutch film: Nova Zembla.

Nova Zembla

So it was New Year’s eve and I was spending the night in the Netherlands with a Dutch family. We ate oliebollen – if you don’t know what it is you’re missing the greatest fried sweet after Spanish churros – and plaid sjoebak,  which helped me to release all the bad vibes from 2015. Then we had to wait until 12am to open the champaign and, naturally, watching a movie was the best idea. Because technology is brilliant – when it cooperates – we couldn’t quite work out how to put the English subtitles on. Finally I said I didn’t mind watching the film – Nova Zembla – in Dutch – even if I had just started studying the language.

So, did I enjoy it even if I missed 100% of the dialogues? Of course! Let’s not forget that cinema started as a silent art…

1. The plot. You don’t need dialogue to understand the plot. In most films – unless they are like Saraband – the characters movements and the change of setting tells us what’s going on in a clear way. For example, in Nova Zembla  there’s a scene in which the characters are being chased by a massive polar bear and, as everyone in the room, I was suffering for them – I am not a psycho!

2. The characters.  The human face is a great map of expressions and if the actors know how to do their job properly we get if they are happy, needy, angry… It’s also easy to see who is the good guy – if he’s clean and seems stupidly innocent – and the bad guy – dirty, a messy beard, giving suspicious looks over his shoulder… etc.

3. Landscape and photography. Nova Zembla  tells the story of a ship and her crew during the 16th century. The visual aspect of the film was impressive and I really enjoyed being trapped inside the ship’s gutters or wandering in the vast whiteness of the Pole North. Images are breathtaking on their own: when watching The Revenant I could barely understand Tom Hardy’s accent yet the film traumatised me all the same.

4.Chance to feel smart. When you’re starting with a new language you obviously haven’t acquired the necessary skills to understand a full lenght movie. Yet it’s so much fun trying to ‘tame’ your ear to the new sounds. And when you recognise small words you get all excited – it’s very rewarding.

5. Let’s explore. We’re so used to the American and perhaps English way of doing films that I think we forget there is a complete different cinema world out there. It’s so interesting watching what other countries do, how they tell stories, how they incorporate their own culture and history to their plots… Nova Zembla narrates a discovery trip, because Dutch people were intrepid sailors in the 16th century. We can also have an insight of the way of living, the way the percieved religion, love and morality… – for example, the wide neckline of the female protagonist might suggest that the Netherlands were in no way as puritanical at people in 16th’s Spain, for example.

So defenitely, if you love cinema and you’re also learning a new language, I would encourage you to start watching films from that country or culture as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid of getting lost without subtitles, because it can be great fun. Check out the trailer and see by yourself!

Do you watch movies in different languages? Have you been brave enough to watch them without subtitles?

 

 

Escritora Errante 11: Ríos.

York_flooded

Escribí esta entrada el 6 de diciembre de 2015, cuando Lancaster acababa de sufrir un corte en el suministro eléctrico debido a las inundaciones de varios ríos.

Últimamente tenía problemas para escribir mis quinientas palabras diarias, pero mira por dónde hoy ese va a ser el último de mis problemas. Supongo que a España estas noticias no llegan, porque a nadie le importa Lancaster, esa pequeña ciudad con castillo en el Noroeste de Inglaterra. Después de estar lloviendo un mes los ríos se han desbordado y la estación eléctrica en Lancaster se ha inundado. No hay electricidad, ni internet, ni cobertura en los móviles.

Esto es bastante relevante, ya que estoy escribiendo una novela corta de Ciencia Ficción sobre un mundo en el que siempre llueve. Nunca pensé que llegaría a ver imágenes post-apocalípticamente inspiradoras tan cerca de casa. Qué cosas.

Llevábamos todo noviembre lloviendo sin parar, y mi humor pasaba de gris a negro e incluso peor. No dejaba de pensar que el tiempo era especialmente malo – incluso para Inglaterra – pero la mayoría de las personas me miraban con una media sonrisa por eso de que soy española y claro, tanto sol mientras crecía en mi Madrid me he convertido en una malcriada…

Cielos grises, la lluvia inclemente cual amenaza divina… Ahora mismo me acuerdo mucho de que alguien – no sé quién, pero esa persona merece ser arrojada a un río, lo siento – decidió que el Distrito de los Lagos – uno de los lugares más hermosos del planeta – sería un buen lugar para deshacerse de residuos radioactivos.

No sé si la naturaleza tiene algún tipo de alma – lo dejaremos en misterio – pero cuando el río Conder – que pasa muy cerca de mi casa – bajaba marrón, espuma amarillenta, a toda velocidad, como nunca lo había visto antes… Estaba enfadado, iracundo, y no es una metáfora, es la emoción que me embargó al verlo.

Como el río Ouse en York hoy – estoy en York, por azares del destino he logrado escapar de Lancaster – que también se ha desbordado, y podéis ver en la foto. Ese paseo de adoquinado al lado del río por el que yo caminaba tan feliz al sol este pasado septiembre se encuentra completamente inundado, los primeros pisos de las casas y los soportales completamente cubiertos. Una señal de tráfico. Una grúa. Todo ha dejado de ser una herramienta humana, un elemento más de la ciudad para convertirse en huesos, fantasmas. El Ouse no está enfadado, está pletórico. Cubre todo con sus aguas, se adueña de la ciudad que con tanto ahínco se h ido construyendo a través de los años, piedra tras piedra. Parece querer decir, aquí estoy yo, como estuve siempre antes que ninguno de vosotros, y este es mi reino.

La naturaleza puede convertirnos en polvo en un solo instante. Y la electricidad, los teléfonos, el internet… sirven para cualquier cosa menos para emergencias. Anoche, cuando se fue la luz por primera vez, me fui a dormir ligeramente angustiada. La lluvia seguía cayendo y no podía evitar pensar en el Conder, furioso.

No dejo de pensar en Station Eleven, el libro que leímos en el club de lectura de Ciencia Ficción este trimestre. La historia de un mundo que se va al carajo porque un virus que viene de Georgia – los virus malos siempre vienen de lugares remotos, no de EEUU o cosas así – mata al 99% de la población. Ellos también se quedan sin electricidad, sin agua… el caos y la angustia de esta sociedad fantasma – todo lo que ‘importa’ es intangible.

Bosques oscuros. Tan solo los brillos de los ojos de las ovejas que aun siguen pastando después de que el sol se haya hundido bajo las montañas pasadas las cuatro de la tarde. Recuerdo cuando andaba por el Distrito de los Lagos, Great End. La noche empezó a caer y yo seguía por las alturas. Recuerdo el color del cielo: el azul se volvió más intenso, oscuro y brillante a un tiempo. Añil. La luna se veía enorme entre las montañas,  con un tinte plateado, y las primeras estrellas empezaban a salir pero aún era de día. Nubes rojas en el horizonte, y dorado donde el sol empezaba a estrellarse, contra los riscos.

Cuando la noche se derramó completamente sobre el valle, solo se veía la luna, lejana y distante, ahora dorada, majestuosa. La luna de lejos vigilando como una madre atenta siempre al lado del bebé que dueme. Mil estrellas encima, y debajo brillos aquí y allá, como jemas de jet, titilando, velas de materia oscura. Los ojos de las ovejas. Las ovejas siguen pastando pese a todo en esas noches largas que empiezan demasiado pronto a comerse a Inglaterra.

Durmiendo en York pero pensando en Lancaster. En los campos vacíos, en la ciudad dormida, sin luz, sin ruido, simplemente existiendo.

The story of a return – Persepolis

Persepolis

I read Persepolis when I was 14. I lived in Spain and I went to my first Comic-Con – after begging my parents during days. Finally my father agreed to take my sister, my best friend and I to the place of the event. To be fair, it was quite far away from home, and he thought we wouldn’t  be safe in a place full of thousands of friquis – that’s how we call in Spain the people who like reading comics and manga, play videogames and watch Japanese animation.

We arrived and all that I wanted was merchandasing from Naruto or Death Note – back then, my favourite mangas. My dad picked Persepolis for me and bought it as a present thinking that if I wanted to read comincs at least should read a true graphic novel – the fancy word for comics for adults who don’t like to say they read comics.

I read it and loved. But I hadn’t understood it properly until last week, when I got the English translation – I bought the paperback version for 3 pounds in a charity shop.

This is the story of a young girl who recieves a liberal education – because educations one can have many, and some of them intend to send the brain to sleep instead of awake it – and lives in Iran after the Islamic Revoluti0n. What is this? Well, basically consists in closing universities, separating boys and girls in schools, making the veil compulsory… to sum up, applying all the –human interpreted – religious principles of Islam to the every day lives of Iran citizens.

Majarne – that is the name of the author and the main character, because Persepolis is a memoir – grows up reading Simone de Beauvoir, so you can imagine it’s very hard for her to accept the principles from the Islamic Revolution. Because she’s bilingual in French she can move out from the country during the war against Iraq to study her secondary education in the Licée Français in Vienna. Afterwards, she moves to Strasbourg at 23 to study graphic design. She never comes back to Iran.

French saved Majarne and allowed her to find a home in a place where her values and beliefs were not questioned. But, how many languages can one find in Persepolis?

Persian: A very ancient and unique language. It’s spoken in Iran and it’s Majarne’s first language. We can just find it when the characters curse each other. It’s as if she was suggesting that the visceral feelings of anger they are experienced cannot be translated – these feelings that are indeed a consequence of war and discrimination.

For instance, in a chapter called Pasta, a nun in the Catholic student accomodation where Majarne is staying suggests that she’s a thief as every other Iranian. She replies something in Persian – and for the way she’s screaming at the nun we can be sure it’s not something nice.

French: Majarne goes to a bilingual school as a child until the government shuts them all down saying that they promote a decadent education. Later she goes to the Licée Français is Vienna where she studies French culture. She currently lives in France and sometimes call herself a French artist.

German: In her years in Vienna – from 14 to 18 – Majarne has to learn German to communicate in her every day life. When she goes on holidays to the Tyrol – her roomate is from there – she encounters a special difficult accent.

English: Majarne’s teenage idols are all from the English speaking world – from Bruce Lee to Kim Wilde. As many of us, she cannot detach herself from the English speaking culture – music, cinema and so on. I feel English is a lingua franca because one can gain much more freedom by speaking it. English brings you access to a wider culture while allows you to communicate with people from all over the world. How could a language like this be out from Persepolis, which is indeed a story about gaining freedom?

Arabic: Iranian people have to study the religious texts in Arabic instead of in Persian. This is very demanding, and I guess not everyone undertands the prayers if they haven’t had time to study the language. It reminded me to those times when  mass was given in Latin in Spain. People had to seat in church for a long time – this was at the beginning to the 20th century, they listened to something that they knew it was important yet they couldn’t understand it. Is this a hidden form of opression? For some people, getting the bread home each day is a full-time task – they don’t necessarily have time to educate themselves. And learning a new language – as you probably now – is not easy. Acquiring another tongue is like planting a very rare kind of flower. Unless you take proper care of it it’s going to die. Almost everything can kill this flower so you’ve to make sure you are there to prevent it – everyday. Also, religion is suppose to create a sense of communion and bring people together. But a language one cannot understand can be the strongest barrier. Then, teaching people religion in another language might be a contradiction in itself…

persepolis-veil

Persepolis is a very good graphic novel. If you have left your home pursuing more freedom in life and choices, then you’re going to be identified with it. It’s also an iteresting story if you actually want to know more about Iran and its culture. And even if nothing of these specially appeals to you still go and read it, because this is a piece that will make you laugh even if talks about really dark stuff. I think it should be a classic…

Have you read it? Or watched the film? What do you think about it? Have you ever felt like a foreigner – even in your own country?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing in… Glencoe Café

Highland's cafe

There’s nothing more inspiring than the Highlands because, I promise you, they’re the best cure for the Artist’s Ego disease. Don’t you know what I’m talking about? Let’s be honest, we all want to be the next Shakespeare and/or write the next Fifty Shades of Grey

But when you are in Glencoe – West Highlands – and find yourself completely soaked in icy rain, with your body shaking under the wind and the sky is black and threatens to fall on the ancient mountains so they break and devour you… Then you feel the smallest and humblest creature on Earth. And I tell you, you might be even an atheist but you will pray to come back alive. The Highlands are like an old dragon. Terrible and fascinating.

I first went to Glencoe on April 2013, when I was living in Edinburgh. Because I was a poor student without a car I took the train to the furthest place I could find – Fort William – and booked a room in the cheapest hostal – Ossian Hotel. Now I woudln’t recommend this place to stay unless…

A) You’re a fan of The Shinning – the red carpetted corridors are smelly and equally creepy!

B) You want to get involved in Fort William’s local life – they were many of local aracnids in the toilet.

C) You have a fetish with vouyerism. The toilet window was a large one facing Fort William’s main street. And it didn’t have curtains – or anything – to cover it. Yep, I’m saying that every time you wanted to take a sh* or a shower virtually anyone could see you.

Nevertheless, what I do recommend is the trip I made by train from Edinburgh to Fort William. This is one of the most inspiring train trips ever – I love trains – and I won’t talk more about it because it deserves a whole new post.

Let’s come back to Glencoe now, whose name actually means ‘hell of never ending hard rain’ in Gaelic*. A bus from Fort William can take you to Glencoe village in half an hour. You will enjoy an impressive scenery – Loch Linnhe surrounded by dark woods. Glencoe village is a holiday place, which means that if you go on Summer the colorful cottages would be full of flowers and little dogs barking in the backyards – there is also a special cottage whose backyard is crowded with tiny china figures, quite spooky. If you go on November – as I did once – is a ghost village. But still pretty.

Glencoe Village’s main – and sole – attraction is Glencoe Folk Museum. Although I would like to, I haven’t visited it yet because you have to pay three pounds. Yes, I know, it’s not that much. But if you go to Glencoe you go to suffer – I don’t own any lovely cottage there, I go for hiking. So it seems a bit too much to spend, because if you have money believe me you want to save it to have one, two or three super warm coffes/teas/hot chocolates when your bones are frozen and you cannot stand Glencoe’s weather any more. Which takes me to the purpose of this post…

Glencoe Cafe is the coziest Highland’s cafe I’ve never been to. My perception might be biased because I always come to this place feeling miserable after a long hiking in Glencoe – and I have more in common with a smelly wet dog than a human being. Yet when I leave I always feel myself again. And warmer.

The best thing about this place is that it opens all year around. Even in Winter, when Glencoe is dead, it will be open. I cannot explain with enough words the happiness I experienced when I realised I could have a hot coffe here in November.

The local is small but very clean – and it has free Wi Fi. You’ve a few tables and a big sofa by the window – wher you can enjoy Glencoe’s beauty from a safe place. In Winter they even have tartan blankets – I just love them – in each of the chairs. There’s always music – pop-rock songs – and the smell of soup and home baked scones. The prices are alright – If I had the only Cafe in Glencoe I would be selling my coffes for ten pounds at least, but oh well… If you ask for a large cup  of mocca – I did so in November, obviously – you’re going to recieve a big pool of the sweetest coffe mixed with chocolate. Totally worth it.

Everytime I go they have cakes and they look awesome, but in the end I always go for the scone – I like scones because they’re not too sweet. Their scones are just delicious and you can tell they are home made. You also have colorful postcards with original drawings from the Highlands and things like soaps and pictures to buy. They’re a bit expensive though.

The owners are always friendly. Last time I was there – August 2015 – they even gave me paper and a pen to draw. And you can stay there forever – well, until they close. I remember nursing my gigantic mocca, reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman and imagining the characters of Mrs McLean’s Cabinet of Curiosities (my last novella) wondering around the Highlands…

Glencoe Café is the perfect place to write Gothic Horror.

*Not really… but it would have made a lot of sense…