These last few blisteringly hot months have been packed with work. A few journeys undertaken but mostly I have been at my desk at the farm, scribbling away. These are the days when I appreciate how very privileged my life is. I have the liberty to begin as early as I want and to type away until I am content with the hours put in. I have a new ‘office’. The dark old garage with its fraying electric wires and single light bulb, that reeked of oil from the monster tank that lived along the back wall and took up way too much room, has been gutted and transformed into a light airy den with exquisite stone floor tiles, white walls and a very modern shower (should I decide to pause and have a swim, mid-sentence). The space remains almost entirely devoid of furniture and bookshelves because I have overspent the budget and must wait for a while longer to complete the decor and furnishings. There is no telephone, which is terrific but it does link to the upstairs internet point. So, I can work away without being disturbed by ringing phones or Michel’s endless exchanges with his Paris office. It is my new hideaway and I am utterly delighted with it and intend to use it fully and fruitfully. Since its completion (or semi-completion) I have written my next young adult book for Scholastic: If You Were the Only Girl in the World, which is a WWI love story due to be delivered first week of October, to be published in Spring 2014. Also my first Kindle Single for Amazon, The Girl in Room Fourteen. Some of you will know that this was published on Thursday and I am thrilled to say has risen to the number one slot on the Amazon Kindle Single site. To all of you who have bought this Riviera love story, huge thanks. You, not me, have made this bestseller listing possible and I really appreciate your support. If you have not yet purchased it and would like to, the links to both the US and UK sites are posted at the very end of this letter.
Last weekend I was in Omagh, Co. Tyrone, northern Ireland for the Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend. The library in Omagh decided to screen our film, The Olive Tree in the Holy Land as the opening event of the festival and I was invited to be present for the screening and a question and answer session afterwards. It was a remarkable experience. The bombing in Omagh that took place on Saturday 15th August 1998 caused the deaths of twenty-nine and injuries to over two hundred. Amongst those massacred were six children, a woman pregnant with twins and two Spanish tourists. To have chosen to screen our film on the olive tree and its roles within the conflict zones of Palestine and Israel was both a brave and an enlightened choice. For me, to be in the presence of a roomful of people living within a community who have suffered deeply at the hands of oppression and terrorism was a deeply moving experience. Our film really spoke to that audience and I was able to learn and understand a little about the traumas these inhabitants and their neighbours have suffered, and I was humbled by all that I was told.
Extraordinarily and serendipitously, as has been the case throughout my travels since I began this never-ending journey of mine in search of the secrets and mysteries of the olive tree, I was told a very upbeat story. In the days that followed the Omagh bombing, flowers poured in from well-wishers all over the world. The town was drowning in flowers and the citizens did not know what to do with them all. They could not be thrown out. They were a potent symbol of international support and they meant a great deal to the local people. A local artist, Carole Kane from Portrush, came up with the idea of drying the flowers and pulping them into paper to be decorated as wall murals. Each family who lost someone received a mural and the towns from which the victims came also received a large mural. In Remembrance.
One week before this tragic episode in Omagh, a series of bombs had been exploded in Nairobi around the American Embassy there. In the aftermath of the African massacre, Nairobi had also had been flooded with flowers. Theirs included olive leaves sent to them from Italy. A collection of these olive leaves were posted on to Omagh. It was Nairobi’s way of saying: ‘We who have also been bombed this month, can stand in sympathy alongside you.’ When the dried-flower murals were being completed in Omagh, the Italian olive leaves were added to the artwork.
A man in the audience said to me ‘Go to our Strule Arts Centre and take a look at the mural hanging there’, which I did and I saw that it is indeed adorned with dozens of curled olive leaves.
How apt then that I had been invited to present our film The Olive Tree in The Holy Land to this community living on a northern island so distant from the Mediterranean world of olives and olive trees, and I found the tree of peace had left its autograph there. The Tree of Peace. A tiny but vital reminder that the search for peace and understanding through dialogue is the only way to put an end to such senseless murders as those perpetrated in County Tyrone.
As you can imagine, my flying visit to Omagh has deeply marked me and I will certainly be returning. The people were very welcoming and are building their lives beyond the aftermath of such a tragedy.
Next week I am off to the Somme region of northeast France. Here is where my young adult book, If You Were the Only Girl in the World is set. I will spend a few days there. Thankfully, the guns stopped firing there almost one hundred years ago. I will write an article on the region and just add any tiny details I find there as finishing touches to my book before delivering it.
Afterwards, I will go straight to work on my first adult book in three years. Also, a fiction. So, as you can see I intend to put my spanking new, white-walled den to very good use.
Once more huge thanks to all who have bought The Girl in Room Fourteen and for helping to put it at number one on the Kindle charts list. For those of you who have not yet purchased it and would like to, here are the US and British links for it. I believe they work worldwide.
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