Archive for the ‘Life beyond Peirene’ Category

Syncopated Rhythms

Monday, March 6th, 2017

‘Wow, it’s usually me that looks the part. But you have upped your game, Meike.’ The Nymph is impressed. And rightly so. I’m proud of my look for this evening: Red fingernails, back combed hair, glitter earrings, sparkly top, wide legged velvet 8728839245_530336d781_ztrousers and high-heel silver sandals.

‘I know it’s none of my business, ‘ Peirene clears her throat. ‘And I don’t need to know who you are going with… I won’t tell anyone.. but just wondering nonetheless, where are you going?’

‘To the world premier of the M&M London Jazz duo,’ I reply, grabbing my saxophone case. ‘And by the way, my husband will be in the audience.’ I smile. Each time I make an effort with my wardrobe the Nymph likes to insinuate that I might be up to no good.

‘Are you coming?’ I ask over my shoulder, already nearly out of the office door.

‘Me? No why? I’ve never heard of this M&M London Jazz duo. And frankly I’m not a fan of modern music with its tricky beats. I prefer books.’

I stop in my stride. ‘But Peirene!’ I exclaim. ‘I’m one part of the jazz duo. My friend Madi plays the piano and I play the sax.’ I’m perplexed that this has escaped the Nymph’s attention. Especially since I’ve been practising in preparation for this gig morning, noon and night during the last couple of weeks. ‘I’d love you come,’ I add.

Peirene sighs as she lifts herself from her chair. ‘Ok. I’ll come because it’s you. I hope the Jazz venue’s near by.’

I point to the floor below our office. ‘The show takes place in our front room. I’ve invited some friends to be our audience.’

Peirene breaks out into laughter. ‘And you call that a world premier?’

‘One has to start somewhere,’ I say with a touch of hurt in my voice.

After the gig, Peirene  takes me to one side. ‘I’m impressed with the M & M London Jazz duo. What a sleek performance. However, I’m a bit worried. Won’t music distract your attention from the publishing house?’

I shake my head. ‘Don’t you worry. Playing music helps me to advance in my job. Editing is all about feeling the rhythm of a text. And playing the sax obviously improves my sensitivity to a beat.’

The Nymph raises an eyebrow, not totally convinced with my argument. Still, she’s willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. ‘Well, I can’t wait to read our next book. I hope we can find a translator who can write in syncopated rhythms.’

Image by Floris Oosterveld, creative commons.

Shock at the Front Door

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

IMG_1299‘Why? Why? Why does nothing ever get done when I’m away!’

I drop my bags, tear off of my coat. I have just walked back into the house after five days away on a writer’s retreat. The transition from beautiful, creative serenity to mundane, day-to-day chaos is simply too much for me to take.

The kitchen looks a mess. The dishwasher has not been emptied out. Dirty dishes pile up in the sink, empty beer bottles litter the table, cigarette smell emanates from the bin and the glass of the gas stove has been smeared with something I cannot identify.

The office in the attic looks only slightly better. The bins haven’t been emptied out, the boxes have not been tidied away. And when I open my desktop, I immediately notice that the latest editorial video that Anthony Cartwright and I recorded a week ago has not yet been uploaded onto youtube.

Back downstairs I put on yellow rubber gloves and begin to tackle the kitchen in a mad fury. I wish I didn’t need to come back. I wish I could just stay forever in the little cottage I rent in Norfolk from time to time. Live all alone – just writing and going for runs and not talking to anyone. Then no one could mess up my kitchen, my office, my life.

‘Hehem,’ I hear the Nymph clearing her throat in the corner. ‘Hello. Nice to see you back.’

‘I don’t want to talk to you,’ I say between clenched teeth.

‘I didn’t leave this mess,’ she says. ‘That was your son. You’re always in a bad mood when you come back to the house.’

She’s right. I find change-overs difficult. But I don’t want to admit that just at this moment. So I continue with my list of irritations.

‘You didn’t tidy the office. And don’t tell me that was James, because James worked from home this last week.’ I stop scrubbing the stove door. ‘But he’s in the doghouse too, ‘ I continue. ‘He didn’t even manage to upload the video.’

‘He tried though,’ I hear Peirene say. ‘But somehow the password had changed, and he needs you to rectify it.’

‘Oh, don’t always defend everyone.’ I have now turned to scrubbing the dirty pots where the dried residue of food has been stuck for days.

For a while Peirene is silent. Then she says: ‘Well, you might not be pleased to see me. But I’m pleased to see you. It’d be a pity if you were just living on your own and writing from dawn to dusk. We’re such a good team running this publishing house. I couldn’t do it without you.’

It takes a moment for the Nymph’s words to sink in, but then I take off my rubber gloves, turn to her and give her big hug. ‘I’m actually pleased to see you too. I like doing both, publishing and writing. But transitions are always painful for me.’

Peirene, who sometimes understand me better than I understand myself, just says ‘I know’.

Spring Break

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Meike and Peirene have gone Easter egg hunting. We will be back here 2nd week of April.


Staying Fit Over The Holidays

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

‘So, you are taking two months off this summer?’ Peirene pulls an unhappy face.4660302531_cf428e2585_z

‘No, not exactly.’ I correct her. ‘I’m taking my annual two months summer blog break.  Otherwise I’m going to be quite busy.’

‘With a family holiday and a two-week writers retreat?!’ Rolling her eyes skywards, Peirene puts her right hand to her forehead in a state of lady-like distress.

I smile at the Nymph. ‘Yes, that too. But I will also prepare for print the first two titles for 2016. I will make headway with our 2017 programme which might include a Romanian novel.  I’m also hoping to eat healthily and take plenty of exercise. ’

Peirene tries to interject

I raise a finger to indicate that I haven’t completed my list. ‘And Clara and Sacha will finish the next edition of our newspaper and Jen and Gianna will run stalls throughout July.’

For a moment the Nymph appears non-plussed. Then she says: ‘I agree, that sounds busy. However, let’s face it: there is always a chance that you might not return from your holidays. And then I will have to run this show on my own. For ever.’

I furrow my brows. ‘Not return from my holidays?’ We are going on a 12-day cycle trip through Romania and into the Carpathian mountains. And although I’m looking forward to the adventure, I know that nearly two weeks on the bike and sleeping most nights in tents will be enough to make me want to return to Peirene with open arms. I have no intention of staying in Dracula’s country for ever.

‘You will be eaten by packs of wolves or maybe marauding bears.’ Peirene’s lower lip begins to tremble.

‘Oh, Peirene!’ A warm feeling of love for my Nymph sweeps through me. I put the arm around her. ‘We will be careful,’ I promise. ‘And by the way, wolves don’t eat humans and the bears are little brown bears and as long as we don’t keep food in the tents they won’t bother us.’

‘How do you know?’ She looks at me inquisitively.

‘Because I, too, was a bit scared,’ I admit. ‘So I did some research.’

I turn back to my desk, ready to continue my work. Suddenly I hear Peirene say behind me:

‘Perhaps I can come with you?’

I swivel around on my chair. ‘You want to cycle 7 to 8 hours a day?’

‘No. Of course not.’ Peirene looks at me indignantly. ‘I will sit on the back of your bike. You will become fit. And while you pedal I will read Romanian novels to see if they might suit our 2017 programme.’

Peirene and I will be back on this blog at the beginning of September. We hope you have an inspiring summer and a relaxing holiday.

Image by: Toronto History.

Summer Time

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

… and I am taking my annual summer blog break until the beginning of September.IMG_0408

However, I won’t be idle. Family holidays, then a writer’s retreat. Peirene No 15, Under The Tripoli Sky will be send to our subscribers. And I also want to read a few books.

Most importantly I like to finish The Old Testament. A few weeks ago I started on page 1 and have now reached the end of Chronicles 2. So, I’ve nearly completed the histories and very much looking forward to the Poetry Books.

Other books on my summer read list:

Poetry: Niall Campbell’s ‘Moontide’ and Anne Carson’s ‘Men in the off Hours’

Non-fiction: ‘Words and The Word: language, poetics and biblical interpretation’ by Stephen Prickett and ‘The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms‘ by Ernst Cassirer

Fiction: Samuel Beckett’s ‘Murphy’.

I hope you have a sunny, inspiring couple of months. See you back here in September.


Winter Sleep

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

The Nymph has gone for her winter sleep. And the Peirene Ladies are taking a break. Thank you for reading Peirene’s books and following my dramas with The Nymph.

Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year. See you all back here in January.Winter Chair copy



Summer Time

Monday, July 1st, 2013

This will be my last blog until September. I will take a summer blog break.

As we all know there is stuff we can write about on blogs. And there is other stuff that should not be discussed publicly.Cottage. Image by  Anguskirk

In the next two months I will do and see things I cannot put onto this blog.

For a start I have rented a cottage all on my own, without husband or children or anyone. For two weeks. Somewhere in England. There I will read a lot of books in the search of Peirene’s 2015 series. For each book that I will like there will be at least fifteen to twenty rejections. This is a nasty business and upsetting for many authors and agents and publishers. I’d better not go into details online.

Then I am off again. To one of the channel islands. My mother-in-law has invited us. To a fortified fort that is cut off from the main island during high tide. Now, my mother-in-law is a lovely woman and we get on well. Usually. I hope our love will be strong enough to survive being marooned in the middle of the English Channel.

Upon my return to the office a blood bath will ensue. The Nymph is already unhappy because I am going away and she will be in a horrible mood when I return. Otherwise I have high hopes for my summer. I hope you do for yours.  Peirene and I will see you back here at the beginning of September.

Image by Anguskirk.

Novella News

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Magda, my own first novella, will be launched this week. The book is published by Salt on April 1st. My author’s website is up and running with aMistress, maid&laptop. Image byMike Licht, beautiful cinematic introduction by Pete Gloria. I will be interviewed on Woman’s Hour on Tuesday and on Friday we will celebrate with a launch party.

I am excited, I have to admit, and can’t wait to take Magda on the road. Indeed, last Wednesday was my first outing as a publisher and author. I talked about the art of novella, Peirene and Magda. And sold the first five copies of my own book.

But the most exciting news: the Nymph is thrilled too. Peirene has been a pillar of support. She insisted I book a hairdresser’s appointment for the party and has suggested that I take Wednesday off to look for a new dress.

After finding a publisher for Magda, I initially worried about Peirene’s reaction. Would she throw jealous tantrums? I even briefly contemplated using a pen name so I could hide my double life.

Well, I would have certainly deprived her of a lot of fun. Over the last few days, every now and again, she has stood up from her chair, waving her arms theatrically in the air and proclaiming: ‘Ladies & Gentlemen, please meet Madam and Mademoiselle ‘Novella’ – they publish novellas, they write novellas, they live and breath novellas.’

‘They?’ I raise an eyebrow.

‘Yes. You and I. We. After all, we are in it together.’ She smiles at me and throws me a hand kiss.

She is right. I owe a debt to my Nymph and her authors. Veronique Olmi for her courageous portrayal of a mother-child relationship. Friedrich Christian Delius for handling the familiar subject of Nazism with empathy and from a new angle; and any number of Peirene authors for teaching me the power of compression and strong voices.

‘By the way, I hope you also show your gratitude to your publisher.’ The Nymph has sat down again and now looks at me with a serious expression. ‘They’ve done a brilliant job with it and rolled out some stellar PR.’

‘I do hope I have. After all I know what it feels like to be a publisher who tries her best.’

‘Good. I am pleased to hear that.’ Then she smiles slyly, ‘Because, let’s face it: Without Salt, Magda would have vanished, like your other three novellas, into the bottom drawer of your clothes cupboard.’

Image: Vermeer’s ‘Mistress and Maid’ by

Mad Women

Monday, October 29th, 2012

A few months ago I vowed I would never succumb to an all night binge session again. Back then, it was an easy decision. I had just gorged onArtemisia Gentileschi. Image by  FLORENCEandTUSCANYtoursthe box set of The Killing in two, all-night glorious DVD sittings.

Last night temptation was put into my path again: Homeland – Series One. I started the innocent evening wanting simply to watch the first couple of episodes. 12 episodes later I crawled into bed at 5.30am.

As I looked into the mirror this morning, I regretted my folly hugely. I need my beauty sleep and no make-up can hide the deprivation. What makes it worse, I’d be happy to put up with dark shadows under my eyes if I could, at least claim that I had used the time expanding my horizons and was up all night reading, let’s say, the Bible in Ancient Greek.

I’ve had a few hours of soul searching. Why do these box sets put my normal decision-making out of operation? The stories are thrilling, the plotting intriguing. And both series centre on strong female characters who share common features: intelligence, obsession and drive.  Like many women, I can identify with that.

But Sarah Lund and Carrie Mathison share another personality trait which makes them different from me. They are both psychologically unstable. I like to claim I’m sane.

However, I then wondered: What if neither Sarah Lund nor Carrie Mathison actually have any psychological issues? They both operate in very female ways and use their intelligence differently from their male colleagues.  Our perception of how things ought to be done and what constitutes success is still very much influenced by our patriarchal structures. Moreover, popular art reflects our social values.  So those two characters had to be scripted has unhinged. But are they?  Madness is often in the eyes of the beholder.

Peirene smiles at me graciously. ‘You managed to give your box set addiction a nice intellectual spin, but how do you explain staying up till dawn?’ I agree, that was a temporary moment of madness – but one that I didn’t repeat last night. Like the sensible publisher that I am – I went to bed at 10pm.

Image by FLORENCEandTUSCANYtours.

Royal Encounter

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

I met a prince. A real prince. Prince Albert II of Monaco. At the Science Museum last Friday. We watched a movie and sipped Champagne.  ItCrowns. Image by Double--M was an unforgettable afternoon.

The Swiss Cultural Counsellor invited me to join her for the awards gala of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and La Praerie. These prizes are awarded annually to people who have contributed to the protection of our natural environment. David Attenborough received the Award for Preservation of Biodiversity this year.

I was nervous before going. My knowledge about the fragility of our planet comes from newspapers. I worried that I’d be out of my depth, surrounded by experts in the field.

The ceremony lasted three hours, including a film. I learnt a lot.  Moreover, ten speeches were given, which in turn gave me the chance to study how to deliver a speech well. The best speeches no doubt are well prepared but delivered without notes, looking the audience straight in the eye. They are short, with one passionate message. David Attenborough delivered such a speech.

Truth to tell, the Prince and I didn’t actually talk. But we came close. Very close indeed. At the drinks reception I stood back to back to him. For at least 15 minutes.

‘Oh, why didn’t you turn around and talk to him?’ Peirene was unhappy with my performance.

‘I was too embarrassed and wouldn’t have known what to say.’ I said. Then I added defensively:’ You know, princes are humans just like the rest of us. Nothing special about them.’

‘Still, for once you would have impressed me.’

I can see the Nymph’s point. In fact on my way home, I suddenly thought: Why didn’t I turn around? I could have simply complimented him on the success of the evening and his Foundation. Everyone loves a compliment. And even if the Prince and my conversation hadn’t gone much further, at least I would have had a story to tell. And, when will I meet my next prince? Currently I’m going at one every four and a half decades. The Nymph – and I –  may have to wait a little before the next opportunity.

Image by Double–M.