Archive for the ‘Calais Project’ Category

Waiting For The Big Moment

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Peirene and I are sitting at our desks. Backs straight. Chairs pushed in. Arms bent at a perfect right angle. Fingers resting on the keyboards. Motionless. Eyes fixed on the screens. Hardly blinking. For fear we might miss the moment.SONY DSC

‘Anything in your inbox yet?’ I murmur. My mouth feels dry. My heart is racing.

The Nymph shakes her head. ‘Nothing,’ she whispers.

We’ve been sitting like this since eight in the morning. It’s now midday.

‘What if Olu and Annie have changed their minds?’ Peirene’s voice is barely audible. This question has also already crossed my mind. But before I have time to reply, I hear Peirene plead: ‘I need a wee.’

‘You can’t,’ I respond tersely. ‘Not now. This is the arrival of the final draft of breach, our first fiction commission ever. You can’t miss this moment. Once gone, it won’t return. Ever.’

The Nymph nods. She crosses her legs.

A couple of hours later the Nymph whines: ‘I’m hungry. It’s well past my lunch hour now.’

‘Shh. Be quiet,’ I hiss. ‘It will be any moment now.’

But nothing.

Peirene pushes back her chair. ‘I can’t wait any longer.’ She rushes out of the room. When she comes back in, she has things to say: ‘I knew our Peirene Now! Series was a bad idea. Writers never do what you want them to do. We will certainly not commission another book.’ I nod. She might indeed have a point.

But suddenly an idea comes to me. ‘What day is it today?’ I ask.

‘Saturday. Why?’

‘We agreed that they would deliver on Sunday.’ I’m embarrassed – and I know the Nymph will be livid.  To have put her through today’s waiting ordeal! And sure enough, she rolls her eyes. ‘I don’t believe it!’ Then however she breaks out into an unexpected smile: ‘You take your books far too seriously. But I guess that’s why I like working with you.’

It is one of nicest things she has ever said to me.

Image by John Goode, creative commons.

Early Morning Catastrophe

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

‘Meike, wake up!’ From far away the Nymph’s voice reaches my ear. She is shaking me by the shoulder. Slowly I surface from a deep sleep. I open one eye and see Peirene standing next to my bed. 14323386992_d3aece2eb2_z

‘What’s the time?’ I mumble.

‘Quarter to six. We are facing a total catastrophe.’ The Nymph switches on my  beside lamp. I squint and turn to the other side, hiding my head under the duvet. ‘It’s far too early, Peirene. I’m getting up at 7. So please leave me alone.’ I can’t possibly imagine what “catastrophe” could justify such an early start.

I feel Peirene organising pillows behind my head, then she pulls me up into a sitting position. She pushes a cup of hot coffee into my hands. ‘Drink! You will need it.’ She helps me guide the cup to my mouth. I begin to sip realizing that I have lost the battle. She won’t let me get back to sleep.

‘So, what’s happening?’ I look at the Nymph. She’s a mess. Dark shadows under her eyes, her complexion white as a wall and her hair standing up from her head in big, wild knots.

‘I couldn’t sleep.’ Her lower lip begins to quiver. ‘Because I was so excited to go through the next draft of breach. I got up an hour ago and began to read.’ She gasps for air. ‘We can’t publish it.’

She takes the cup out of my hands and places the manuscript into my lap. ‘Read and see for yourself.’

I throw a quick glance at the pages, then I tap at the edge of the bed. I clearly need to calm down the Nymph first. The previous draft was good, it just needed a couple of extra scenes and work on the overall story arch. ‘Sit down,’ I say. ‘How much did you read?’

‘The first three chapters.’

‘But there are eight chapters,’ I point out.

She nods.

‘So why did you stop?’

‘The first chapter works. But then the second is all over the place and the third only works up to the half way point.’

‘It might just be a question of rearranging the plot and fine tuning.’ I pick up the pages.

Three hours later I lift my head again. While I was engrossed in the text,  the Nymph sat very still in the armchair, hardly daring to breath.

‘And?’ She looks at me with big, worried eyes.

‘It’s great. The ending in particular is brilliant.’ I jump out of bed. ‘I can feel the characters inside me, breathing, alive. Yes, chapter two and three still need some attention. But Olu and Annie are good writers. They’ll get there.’ I slip into my clothes. ‘I’m so pleased that we are publishing this book.’

‘You think I overreacted?’

I walk over to the Nymph and squeeze her pale face between my hands. ‘It’s never good to read a manuscript after a sleepless night. Every typo feels like the end of the world. Go back to bed for a couple of hours, then finish the story. And I promise you an exciting read.’

Image by Jean L., creative commons.


A New Journey

Monday, September 7th, 2015

‘It’s terrible what’s happening with the refugees,’ Peirene is in tears. ‘I don’t want to belong to a country that hides behind barbed wire and turns a blind eye to the suffering on its own doorsteps.’

The luggage that I could never own‘But you and I are part of this country,’ I reply in matter-of-fact tone.

‘Then we have to do something!’

‘We are donating 50pence of each sold book to the Maya Centre, a charity that helps refugee women,’ I point out.

‘That might be enough to calm your personal guilt!,’ Peirene snaps at me. ‘But it isn’t enough to save lives’ she exclaims, wiping away her tears. ‘We need to change society.’ She pushes up her sleeves and begins to stride through the office, brows furrowed in deep thought. Suddenly she stops, looking me straight into the eye.

‘I’ve got it! It’s time we expand what we publish. We will commission a writer to go to the Calais refugee camp to collect stories and impressions in order to create a work of fiction about escape, hope and aspiration. On another level, however, this story will also take seriously the fears of people in this country who don’t want to open their borders. It’s that dialogue that isn’t happening in real life. A work of art can help to bridge the gap.’

‘Wow!’ I stare at my Nymph in admiration. ‘And where do we find such writer?’

This conversation took place at the beginning of August. We sent out news of the project to see if anyone at all might be interested. The response was wonderful. We quickly narrowed down on four writers and asked them each for a proposal. I’m now in the process of signing the contract.

The book will come out next August. The Nymph is beside herself with excitement. For the last few days she’s been wondering aloud how many press conferences to give over the next ten months. And if she should participate by herself or with the writer too? And if she and the writer should wear matching outfits? And if those outfits should be colour-coordinated with the book cover to leave longer-lasting impressions in the mind of the audience and have a bigger impact?

I have to admit Peirene’s dream of press conferences might be fanciful. But over the next months we will certainly keep you up-to-date with the progress of the book on this blog and our twitter and facebook. And I, like the Nymph, am looking forward to our new journey.

Image by Samantha Marx.