A Few Firsts This August

posted by Sara Laksimi

I wanted to write a brief personal record of my experience on the residency. It was my first residency and my first time collaborating with artists of other disciplines. I’d definitely do it again, elsewhere, if I got the chance. As firsts go, it was highly successful. And in fact there were a lot of firsts.

My writing experiences up until mid-August had been solo flights. ’Tis the nature of the art, the writer, to tear away at the little grey cells, to pound fists on tables, madly tap fingers at keypads, stomp, distract, and burst with the strain of capturing the idea that is sitting just on the outer periphery of the writer’s consciousness before it disappears forever…… Often we tell others it’s a lonely experience being a writer, this ain’t entirely true. We live with our characters, with the locations and notions that slip in and around us when we’re writing and when we’re thinking about our writing.

But this August I was lucky enough to share my writing in a very immediate and definitely not lonely way. Collaborating with two other artists was stimulating. As expressed in an early blog post (here), I had no idea how my words would get used. Theme One: Bamboo was a piece of visual and auditory art work that I had contributed to. A true first.

And it didn’t stop there. While other work continued and we each considered our next themes – the first call we would pass to the others – I got on with a couple of blog posts and cogitated on what we had set out to do, how I might accomplish that and what I could do if that initial notion was not possible this time round. When it became clear that an idea I’d had earlier in the year was not going to be viable, I decided to use an Everyday object that can so easily be taken for granted. I did my research: I uncovered curious facts and symbolism; got distracted looking at various images; followed information trails.

In the Square

One morning mid-residency I took myself off to the café bar in the square in Torreilles, ordered a coffee and sat with my laptop.

I was ready to squeeze my brain and, if not quite bleed onto the page à la Hemingway, was at least ready to write for as long as it took to create the story that wanted to be told. Three and half hours later, a beer and Croque Monsieur consumed mid-way, I had completed my first draft. After a bit more tweaking I headed back to headquarters and post-lunch shared my story with Lisa and Zu.

Grub à la Lisa

Because I was still so close to the piece, and because it was a type of story I’d not written before (unusually for me this one had a happy ending), I wasn’t entirely sure how it would be received. With fake bravado (or was it another beer while the others ate lunch?) I read it out loud.

The story got a thumbs up. I was grateful for having taken the opportunity to go someplace else and write (cafés are notoriously good locations for us writers to get down to the task of putting words on the page), that I had completed a full story (albeit a short, short story at just over 700 words) and that the initial reaction had been so positive.

I’d written the story with my intended audience in mind. Keeping the reader in mind is definitely not a first. After all, knowing someone else is going to read your words is what makes the act of writing fun and challenging, to be able to make sense of the sometimes paradoxical ideas running around in your head. But what was a first was knowing the readers, our invited guests for our project celebration, would be wide-ranging in age and, for some, in their ability to read English. All in, creating a story that would be read in sections as it hung from the object that the story was about was a significant first.

What has also been great about being involved in the residency and with artists of other disciplines is the opening up of how my words can be used and the fresh ways in which I can engage with an audience. Writers often wait months before getting feedback about their work, but in this context the responses were, more or less, immediate. Working as a team was a great motivator too and having a very tight deadline to work to was a brilliantly useful challenge. I’ve also enjoyed the new experience of engaging with a blog-following audience and keeping you abreast with the project and our activities in and around that. So I thank you for keeping up with us at L’Appel et La Réponse and hope you stick around as we continue the journey and, quite possibly, experience more firsts.

And finally Dear Reader, what firsts have you experienced recently? What new thing have you tried, or tried to do, or had thrust upon you? Feel free to leave a comment.

Until next time!

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