Ice on Suomenlinna waterway
I haven’t quite caught up with the fact that I am now in Finland.
I learned just over two weeks ago that I had been selected for a Helsinki International Arts Programme residency and it felt slightly unreal. The Scottish Book Trust, who are administering the two new residencies for Scotland-based children’s writers, pulled out all the stops and rapidly got everything set up for my arrival. I packed my gear and said goodbye to the daffodils, knowing I was unlikely to see any in Helsinki yet.
Just before dusk last night, I flew in over tall birch forests and snow fields. There was something mysterious about the landscape. It definitely seemed like a place where trolls might roam. I made my way to the city centre, with its wide avenues and majestic buildings, and waited for the ferry to my temporary island home, Suomenlinna. The small boat ploughed through ice sheets in the harbour as the darkness set in. I tried to put all thoughts of the Titanic aside…
Helsinki is gradually coming out of winter and the ice is changing every day, I was told. Earlier this week there was none in the harbour but it returned in time for my arrival. I feel lucky to be able to watch spring tiptoe in here.
The small Suomenlinna ferry next to a huge one bound for Sweden.
One of my friendly hostesses greeted me at the Suomenlinna dock and we crunched over icy paths, under old arches and past huge rough-hewn walls, sometimes encountering the fragrance of wood smoke when we turned a corner.
I was shown to my toasty-warm quarters in a two-hundred year old brick building with huge wooden doors. This is the place where I’ll be working on my next book and keeping a log of all my discoveries in Finland. I’ll be learning about the local literature scene from writers and publishers, visiting bookshops and museums and getting immersed in Finnish culture. And what about the language, you might ask? I’ll try to learn as much as I can while I’m here. I’ve got a few phrases down already, and though everyone I have met so far has spoken good English, I think it’s not only polite but also important to “taste” the host language wherever I go. And the number one word is, of course, kiitos – thank you!
In which I deconstruct and reconstruct The Next Book.
I am on a short breather from work on my next children’s novel. This gives me a chance to stand back, tidy my workspace (and my brain).
I always find it fascinating to see how writers and artists work. Seeing sketches and scribbles others have done reminds me that we all have our own ways of creating. As I gain more experience writing novels, I am beginning to know what works best for me when I am plotting or rewriting. I am definitely a mind mapper. Maybe this is because I am used to drawing ideas, so it’s logical to work in a graphical way. There’s nothing like drawing bubbles and arrows (using the all-important colored pens) on a big paper.
I took a photo of the mind map I’ve been working with on my latest manuscript. It looks like a jumble of nonsense but it’s my own kind of shorthand. I mapped out the manuscript as it was in the first draft, then marked down all the issues that needed to be resolved and possible solutions. That’s where the colored pens come in handy.
As I wrote the second draft, I often referred back to my mind map. It gave me a structure to work with and was a quick reference guide to my editors’ comments. Before I get to work on the next draft, I will take the time to make another mind map, so I know which way to go with things.
The studio has cooled down enough that I can work without the fan. I have been aiming it directly at me over the last few weeks, trying not to send papers flying. We usually get a week or two in summer where I curse the poor ventilation and wish I could be outside, but this year we are having a “real summer”, which means more use of the fan. I’m not complaining..really! Often the Glasgwegian summer involves drizzle and greyness, so this is a wonderful blip.
I am busy at the computer, working on writing projects. It is giving me good practice with touch typing, which I learned over the winter. Even though I thought I was pretty quick with the two-fingered hunt and peck method, I realised I was fooling myself and getting repetitive strain in my wrists. So I took an evening class and learned what I should have when I was in high school.
My fingers do not exactly fly across the keyboard yet but my posture is better and my wrists thank me. If you plan on writing a novel, learn touch typing. It will take at least one or two small hurdles out of your way.