This is a space to blog, brainstorm ideas in the making & share my writing progress.
It's also available 🇫🇷 en français, 🇪🇸 en español, 🇩🇪 auf Deutsch.

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It's work in progress so check it out regularly to see added entries.

: Just do it

Ha, fresh air! We wish to get away from the daily grind, be inspired by the sights, smells and sounds of nature, write a manuscript/screenplay/script in a remote place, start anew, and so on. It reads like the preambule to a perfect romcom scenario till real life knocks at the door. Many of us somewhat believe - or hope - that if/when we get out of the nine-to-five, our chores will evaporate and our aspirations come true. Breaking news: they mostly don't - at least not within the premises we secretly set for them. Why oh why?

It could probably be summarised as:

Let's not sound too downbeat. On the plus side, breaking from the daily life mould will give you allowance for exploration. I have been on quite a few long journeys and I have found that the easiest, yet hardest thing to do, is to just go with the flow.

Roll with it

Then, get set and rearing to go with leveraged expectations. I have collected a few inspirational quotes for when the going gets tough and you'd rather see the glass half full:

How about you? Tell us how you roll with it. Connect with us on X (Twitter) or just reach out on Facebook to give us your take on it.

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: The power of walking

In May do as you please, says a proverb. So, I'm going back to the rocky paths of the Camino to walk its route - well, one of its many routes :)).
Why? To reconnect with my self, my companion and the elements. Because walking is akin to meditation in movement. Of course, I will continue writing, but I won't be jotting down my impressions on the wonderful wired world of the Internet - more likely in a journal.

Wandering is as old as homo erectus. From a necessity, it has become an art which has made much ink flow. When I do not have the opportunity to travel, I utterly enjoy reading stories which revolve around the exploration of local neighbourhoods and faraway destinations on foot.
Here are a few quotes taken from books from better and lesser known authors to get you spurred on:

That list does not pretend to be exhaustive, yet these books and wholesome strings of words act as an antidote to overthinking and procrastination: they give us the impetus to take that first step of a thousand mile.

Walking for healing

Before jotting down Nova Terra and working on a second installment, I used to write a journal entry upon returning from walks. At this point, I'll let you be the appreciator and let your eyes wander through one of them.

My head’s buzzing. A million thoughts trail like rockets through my brain, aimlessly looking for outer space. I’m pacing through the streets till I reach a haven of green. I momentarily pause to take a deep breath. Then, my feet take over ground control. I hear the green grass blades creasing under my feet. I see wild flowers parading their colourful petals under the grey sky, still full of summer light and dancing in the wind. I feel the breeze, at times gentle, warm and playful, then strong, surging in waves, caressing my face. I am walking. Surrounding trees gently shake their branches to shed their summer coat of leaves. These peaceful warriors stand guard at the edges of the field, while I walk in circles in its midst and wrap my ears around their wise whispers.

Do you keep a walking or travelling journal? How does writing contribute to your walking experience? Connect with us on X (Twitter) or just reach out on Facebook to give us your take on it.

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: Explore. Dream. Discover.

April takes its name from the Latin word aperire, meaning "to open", and gee, it does the trick. Nature springs up in blooms, flowers, leaves, stems and roots. Abundant crops grow in gardens, fields and meadows. Wildlife comes out of its winter quarters. We, people, are no exception to the gentle pull of springtide: we want to get out and about!

Over the past week, I have discreetly observed how individuals embrace fresh activities and new habits, or rekindle old hobbies. Of course, there is no one-fits-all response behaviour to seasonal change and longer days.

Activities are like birds of a feather which, although they adopt various forms and goals, can be flocked together. Their proponents then assemble in temporary clusters, something like:

If none of the above takes your fancy, then indulge in a brainstorming session and let your imagination run wild to come up with a new hobby. After all, World Creativity and Innovation Day takes place on 21 April.

OPEN ARMS

It could also be that you feel good in several groups, and would like to give them more consideration. At times, we sit in between chairs, we see ourselves, for instance, as active explorers, yet we evolve into patient hobbyists.

a person walks through a colourful natural landscape

That sensation of dichotomy does not equate polarisation. On the contrary, it brings to light a continuum: we're a reflection of the present, the past and the future. The fact that we're not set in stone is alluded in the next excerpt from Nova Terra which recounts the inner monologue of the main protagonist.

Part of me wanted to escape or rebel against it [the system], and feared getting lost in its meanderings. Another part wanted to explore the maze’s nooks and crannies, and leave no stone unturned on the path. I had to reconcile both sides. I recognised that even if theirs would be a tumultuous relationship, they could happily cohabit if left to their own device. I decided there and then that I’d do my utmost to make Nova Terra my new home. Someday, loved ones would make the journey here, and I would welcome them with open arms.
A door had unlatched, letting many opportunities in, albeit with challenges in their fold. I would tackle them with a clear head, an open heart, and the humility and strength of an ever-renewing presence. I felt exhilarated like never before, ready to get to grips with anything that would come my way.

What about you? Tell us what you have in store for coming weeks by connecting on X (Twitter) or just reach out on Facebook.

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: Blooming courage

While seated in my kitchen with the windows open, I witnessed the first signs of spring, the season of renewal. The blooming of flowers silently piercing the ground to blossom in the light of day seemed trivial at first, yet it drew parallel with the awakening of courage within each of us.

Isn't courage akin to a dormant seed which waits to sprout in the face of challenges?
Throughout history, Spring has taken on a political meaning to refer to student protests, social movements and uprisings. Think of the Prague Spring, Arab Spring and Latin American Spring — only a handful of popular movements which have arisen since the 19th century when the term was first coined.

Much like the buds opening in the warmth of spring, embracing small or big challenges can lead to personal growth and in a broader sense, to collective consciousness. Literature abounds with characters who exemplify courage and resilience in the midst of adversity.

I could give you a list of recommended books that showcase characters overcoming obstacles and finding strength within themselves but, when it comes to courage, simple but meaningful words strike a chord. So, I'd like to focus on specific passages which have spurred me on in challenging times.

flower buds blossoming in open hands

These are only but a few inspiring excerpts which have stood up from pages. I believe that literature plays a role in fostering empathy and understanding, allowing us, readers, to connect with characters facing similar struggles.

What books most embody themes of growth, courage, and renewal? Tall order to answer in a few words. I am currently reading Pablo Neruda's travel writings - his bravery in questioning the rigid colonial structure makes no doubt. Beloved from Toni Morrison also springs to mind. You probably hold many a cherished treasure in your literary chest.

Spring forward

Spring is not only a time for nature to bloom but also an opportunity for personal growth and courage to flourish. Thus, dear readers, I encourage you to embrace the season with open hearts and open books, finding inspiration in the stories that echo its spirit.

I could have dedicated this blogpost to DIY home decor projects, outdoors activities - say, treks, bike rides or park workouts - and gardening. Yet, I thought it more opportune to put courage back on the map at a time when it is deeply needed. I wrote it with many people in mind: some of whom I know personally, some others who show up on newspaper columns, TV screens or news sites. Most happen to live in areas where war, dictacture and hardship prevail. So, they require more than a sprinkle of courage to keep going.

What about you? Tell us how courage puts a spring in your step by connecting on X (Twitter) or just reach out on Facebook.

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: Carnival galore

From one continent to the next, February revamps the globe with sparks, strass and parades. While some Asian communities celebrate the Lunar New Year with cultural events and gatherings, Europe, the Americas (a.k.a. North, Central and South) and the Caribbean prepare for Carnival celebrations.

The origins of carnival are not clearly defined, however, historians agreed that it started as a pagan festival centered around the rebirth and cycles of nature regardless of the culture it was rooted in. After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church spread across the world, it realised that native people did not want to give up their celebrations and traditions. So, the church simply gave pagan festivals Christian meanings.

The festival originated with Italian Catholics in Europe, and it later spread to the French and Spanish. The word carnival itself comes from the Latin expression "carnem levare", which means "remove meat", because it falls at the start of the period of Lent observed by Christians. Carnival continued to evolve and became a manifestation of European folk culture.
In other parts of the world, carnival perdured as a celebration of its African and indigenous heritage and as a joyous act of rebellion against enslavement and colonialism.

a colourful carnaval atmosphere

Carnival's Magical realism

Just like carnivals, literature has made use of costumes, masks and characters to convey societal critiques. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical realism, for instance, is a literary reference when it comes to the topic. Let's take a look at contemporanean novels and stories set in vibrant, carnival-like atmospheres, where the setting itself becomes a character.

In the carnival of literature, every book is a colorful float, parading through the streets of imagination, inviting readers to join the festivities of storytelling.
Isabel Allende

That list is a peek preview - I can only but encourage you, dear readers, to explore a few of them and let the essence of Carnival infuse your daily life with more mystery, joy or magic.

I strongly believe that storytelling has the power to bridge the gap between cultures and make a positive change to the world around us. It is in this spirit that News from the Page has taken down the language barrier to reach out to a wider readership.

The world in a blog

Your favourite blog is now available in French, Spanish and German. Check it out regularly to see added entries.

A good piece of news is like a slice of cake, you always want two servings! So, we're excited to announce that we released the first chapter of Nova Terra, our sci-fi novel, on Wattpad. Have a look at the latest updates on our Projects page for more info, and spread the word!

How about you, dear readers? What are your favourite Carnival-inspired books which have motivated you to either see the world in a better light or contribute to a better world?

Just share your stories by connecting on X (Twitter) or just reach out on Facebook.

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: A new chapter

Here comes January with a bevy of New Year resolutions. You and I will be fitter, happier, healthier, better organised, and more prosperous than ever. We're flogged with marketing one-liners urging us to make it happen now! Tick, tock, tick, tock... Come 31st January, we're ditching most of them to get back to cruising mode.

Is it good or bad? Neither. The quality of being resolute does not depend on New Year resolutions. They are just a fragment of glittering promises to self. True resolution comes from handling each day as it comes, and keeping one's goals in mind. Tiny steps, even setbacks, are part of bringing our objectives to fruition. This is where, in my opinion, most of us falter — we want it to be flawless from the get-go.

In relation to writing an article, an essay, a thesis, a memoir, or a book — you name it — many will stumble at the first paragraph, if not the first line. Why? We want to leave a lasting impression. How? By controlling the written (or spoken) word with minutia. Wait a minute... Is it possible to feel awe under the shackles of constriction and control? I would argue that it isn't.

I'm no stranger to wanting it to be perfect, yet, as I wrote one manuscript, then a second, and started on a third, I learnt that it is a chimera, a.k.a. a pipe dream. What then?

a colourful wintery landscape erupts from the pages of a book

9 ways to keep on track

If you care to read, I have a few words of advice on how to keep motivated when the going gets tough.

Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.
Ray Bradbury

That quote has, of course, nothing to do with heartburn. It invites us to bare our soul and pour human life experience in our writing. In sum, just let the writing do the talking!

A new chapter

Regardless of whether you have a writing project or not in the pipeline for 2024, a new chapter begins. It's been two years since News from the Page erupted into a cacophony of words onto the screen to surprise, delight or interject, and three and a half years of jotting ideas in the background and stringing sentences together to bring Nova Terra to completion. Here's to wishing that the coming year infuses it with more life by putting it in front of a wider readership.

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Happy New Year and may your wish come true in the days, weeks and months ahead! Till next month for more News from the Page.

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: Festivity rhymes with diversity

Winter has unfolded its crisp overalls of cold, snow and ice and the festive season is upon us — that is, if you live in the northern hemisphere. What if you don't? You have winter-time traditions too, except for probably more sunshine ☺️.

Come December, I get back to cherished home rituals, especially when it comes to reading. Don't you love to curl up with a favourite book and a warm cuppa? Don't you feel tempted to revisit and re-read your favourite stories? Don't you want to discover new narratives that bring you comfort and joy? I certainly do.

In the mood for books which capture the essence of the festive season through universal themes of love, kindness and togetherness? Oh, yes!

feminine hand meets masculine hand on black and white background

From the steppes of Central Asia to the rising sun of its Eastern confines, Winter solstice is celebrated throughout Asia. I showcase them as 2 entries in this post:

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.
Charles Dickens

These titles will hopefully resonate with you, dear reader, regardless of your religious credos and of where you see yourself on the cultural spectrum. They stand as living proofs of the power of literature to bridge gaps and foster unity.
In these dire times, when millions of people are living with the sad and terrifying reality of daily bombings, war and infighting, when the young and the old have to contend with hunger and fear, I urge you to call for unity, to wish for a peaceful resolution, or at least a lasting truce, so that the people of Ukraine, Russia, Gaza/Palestine, Israel, Yemen, Sudan, and of any territories affected by conflict around the globe right now, get respite from violence, and commemorate their traditions, just like anyone else.

In light of what I've just written, I feel fortunate that I have been able to write a novel in the last few years.

Nova Terra

My sci-fi, Nova Terra, has reached completion stage - at least the first book in the planned series. I am glad to say that a few copies are now in circulation in my 'hood and beyond, ready to delight your eyes and tease your brain. I'll keep you appraised of my efforts to reach a wider readership and get published in coming months. Here's an excerpt where the protagonist shares her struggle to connect with her new life on the namesake planet of Nova Terra.

It just happens. It’s heartfelt. And because we’re families, because we’re friends, because we’re humans, we remember. We remember our ancestors, we celebrate the present, we gather, we pray or we don’t, we care for the young, the middle aged and the old in us: we all deserve a place where we can flourish. And if it’s not on Earth — then I want to make a home on Nova Terra where I sense that love. I can’t give love like a food distributor or a juke box. I truly have to feel love… to receive it before I can give it back. And when I give it, I don’t want a label put on it — this is 10 Megabytes of pure love in there or some shit like that! I truly believe in the good of people, yet I struggle to make sense of what’s happening.

I hand the baton of non-violence over to you, dear readers, to go and pass it on during the festive season. If you want to say hi, hey or hello, or leave a comment on this post, just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

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I wish you a jolly winter solstice ❄️, merry Christmas/festive season 🎄 and happy end-of-year celebrations all around! 🎉
Till next year for more News from the Page.

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: A hero's journey

Muse over the word "hero" for a minute. Do you imagine a knight in shining armour? A peace fighter? A teacher? A nurse or a doctor? An ordinary (wo)man? A relative (brother, sister, parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandma, grandpa,...)? A mentor? How about a fictional character?

Cinema, theatre and literature abound with hero figures. We're made to understand that the hero's journey is far from plain sail, yet we aspire to be like them. We get saddened by their failures and rejoice in their triumphs over evil — or whomever the antoganist represents.

Children's stories and young adult fiction are packed with memorable yet quirky characters who fight injustice such as Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Sherlock Holmes, Winnie-the-Pooh, Mulan, Erich, Peter Pan, Babar, Astérix & Obélix — you name it. We do not just celebrate their heroic deeds; we praise the qualities of endurance, courage and compassion.

kapow in comics style lettering

Though the hero is often depicted as a lone figure, s/he does not confine to one type. On the contrary. Here's a list of top picks in random order:

With great power
comes great responsibility

Imagine being stuck on a boat with a tiger for 227 days? Don't just imagine it, leaf through Life of Pi to get acquainted with the prodigal hero of a philosophical tale who undergoes the departure, initiation and return cycle. While unravelling his adventures, you will have the opportunity to draw (even small) parallels with your personal life events and to take them with a (bigger) pinch of salt.

Ultimately, the flawed yet universal character of hero figures makes them so compelling: they're an expression of the potentials within. Each of us bears the hallmark of a secret hero after all. Perhaps it doesn't get featured in a novel, a theatre piece or a movie, yet we ought to nurture it to enrich the story of our lives.

I think of writing as an initiation journey.

The writing journey

With the first word, you get set on a maiden voyage to unknown territories. You will have to overcome obstacles such as self-criticism, lack of focus or time to initiate yourself to the writer's journey. The final dot on the page doesn't mean that it's all over and you can put your feet up. Quite the opposite!

And so it is with a light heart and much joy that I have reached that stage of the writing journey: I have completed the first book. I'll be focusing more energy on the publishing process and methods in coming weeks, which is a full adventure of its own. I'll tell more in the New Year, so watch this space!

I hand the pen, trackpad and mouse over to you to share your own "hero's journey" and invite you, dear readers, to reflect on your own narrative. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

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: Celebrating Autumn's Beauty

A magnificent oak tree adorned with a thousand brightly coloured foliage towers over a wind-swept landscape. Your eyes feast on the shimmering golden, orange, red, purple, green and brown hues of nature. A lukewarm breeze caresses your face and plays havoc with your hair. Close your eyes for a minute and picture the scene. Feel it, breathe it, and come back to the room (or wherever you are).

What impressions did you receive? Which emotions came back to the surface? Here's my take:

From classic to modern literature, authors reflect the changing seasons to set the tone in their poems, short stories or novels. So, one can state that seasonal changes intensifies storytelling, just as seasonings enhance a bland recipe with a spoonful of exotic flavours.

Autumn is also the perfect time for releases, and not just in the realm of literature.

Uncovering projects

You may have noticed that the website features a brand new Projects tab. In effect, it was hidden in the background for a while before I decided to switch it on.

exciting new projects tab preview on News from the Page website

Check out the projects which I'm currently working towards. Besides writing a book, one of them is teaching. If you're interested in an educational method that involves children's natural interests and activities rather than formal teaching, then just click on the teaching post-it to uncover an automnal treat!

It's time to wrap up this leafy article. So, dear reader or fellow writer, tell us how autumn makes you feel and what you have in store for the season. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

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: Human E.T.

"I am human". What a disarming and powerful statement! If it were a jewel, it'd probably be made of three carved beads threaded onto a simple chain and worn as a badge of honour around your neck. Three little words which captivate the essence of every human being.

Yet, that affirmation is not fossilized in time nor meaning. Based on the content in which it is used, it conveys different messages.

Put simply, "I am human" is a declaration that you and I are not a robot, an animal or a machine. It does not entail superiority but shared characteristics and qualities that distinguish us from other forms of life.

If the above is just plain jibberish to you and you'd rather get a more immersive take on it all, I suggest that you watch "Human", the film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, or at least its short trailer on YouTube.
I'm sure that the protagonists' stories will be as much of an expression of their humanity as yours.

Human shell

I have a deep connection to the "I am human" dimension when I write. I've actually started working on a second book installment while editing Nova Terra in search of a publisher. I'm pleased to say that I received a few offers from printing subsidy publishers, however, I wanted to explore more suitable publishing platforms. Hence, I keep up writing while casting an eye on opportunities.

I realise that it's been a while since I last shared a piece of the manuscript on the blog. In the short ensuing excerpt, the main character experiences a transcendent state which brings her to better appreciate the human form.

The shaking intensifies both in force and frequency. It feels like every single cell shakes in this human shell of mine. I have the clear sensation of floating in space. My body looks akin to an aggregate of thousands and thousands of cells — some particles vanish like ghosts through thin air, while many others collide joyfully against each another. They then come together again to form a human shell of flesh, bones and heart. I automatically pat the length of my arms, back, thighs and calves to ascertain that I am truly here. The experience has stirred my body, yet it feels unburdened, even lighter.

How about you? Tell us what human means for you, and how it feels to be human. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

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: Weaving a web of stories

As a teenager, I loved to take refuge in writing. I owned a journal — a small A5-sized diary which I would diligently lock away with a tiny key after each writing session.
Day in, day out, I would pour my angst, hopes and budding aspirations in it. However small the diary was, it could hold big heavy words on paper without letting them slip.

I went to great lengths to find an intimate space to jot said thoughts down. I'd tuck in a corner of the boiler room in my family house. I'd hide in the tall grass along the peaceful river at the foot of my childhood village. I'd go far and wide with the journal fitted snuggly into my pocket.

Rewrite the world

With the passing of time, the journal with the little key grew into an A4 notebook which contained poetic verses written next to water paint sketches. Then, it took off — nope, not like a rocket into space. It stayed on Earth but went to the web sphere and grew a stronger backbone to travel around and across the world. Whenever I'd go on a long journey or a sabbatical, I'd keep a digital logbook of the landscapes, people, and lands I travelled through, the encounters and discoveries I made, as well as the customs I observed.

The travel logbook expanded into a book manuscript. With much effort, judicious suggestions from improvised proofreaders and time, it became a travel novel — a fictional account of a voyage drawn from real-life experience.

profile of world continents made from greenery by haykanush

I hear you say that it's better to wait for the trip of the century or that perfect occasion to start writing. Yet, summer is when long(er) days, warm(er) nights, planned holidays and improvised excursions give us the perfect opportunity to take pen and paper, or fingertips and touchscreen, to rewrite the world.
Why bother? Because even scribblings will make it your oyster for the moment.

The world is your oyster

In a Shakespeare's play, "The Merry Wives of Windsor", a character coined the famous phrase in a conversation about money:

(...) the world’s mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.

In fact, oysters are not just a source of food but a potential treasure box: they're difficult to open but give you the chance of getting a pearl. Hence, the original expression referred to how life can be tough but if you persevere, it may give you unexpected rewards. The quote has evolved into a most-liked metaphor for life: "The world's your oyster".

Have you kept a diary or travel journal before? If yes, tell us how it has contributed to enriching your real-life experience. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

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: Travelling without moving

Ah, summer! The season holds the promise of travels to far away lands, exotic destinations, and sunny holidays - either atop a towel on a sandy beach, or a majestuous mountain with a view. Doesn't it?

If you answered that question by the affirmative (i.e., yes, it does), then you're ready to consider a selection of hideaways. We'll start with one little but very powerful word as Lonely Planet did:

boat with colour fabrics in a tranquil bay on a blue sunny day by pexels

If you'd rather travel for a cause which is close to your heart, then consider:

Now, time to rewind. Go back to the first paragraph to refresh your memory. If you answered my question by the negative because you can't or you won't travel, I'd tell you that you're probably as much of a traveller as the movers and shakers. Why? Because travelling doesn't always have to involve going somewhere.

An invitation to travel

A travel novel invites us to travel from the moment we open the book cover. As our eyes wander across words, sentences and pages, we are taken to a wealth of lands and continents.

I recall how I kept my eyes riveted on the story when reading through gripping travel (non-)fiction. Bill Bryson, for instance, is a writer whose writings have quenched my thirst for wandering and made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. In "Neither here nor there", he recounts the exploration of a continent with a hint of irony and a bucket full of humour. I have shared an extract for your enjoyment.

We left at exactly noon. I quickly realized that everything about the bus was designed for discomfort. I was sitting beside the heater, so that while chill drafts teased by upper extremities, my left leg grew so hot that I could hear the hairs on it crackle. The seats were designed by a dwarf seeking revenge on full-sized people; there was no other explanation. The young man in front of me had put his seat so far back that his head was all but in my lap. He had the sort of face that makes you realize God does have a sense of humor and he was reading a comic book called Tommy og Tigern. My own seat was raked at a peculiar angle that induced immediate and lasting neckache. It had a lever on its side, which I supposed might bring it back to a more comfortable position, but I knew from long experience that if I touched it even tentatively the seat would fly back and crush both the kneecaps of the sweet little old lady sitting behind me, so I left it alone. The woman beside me, who was obviously a veteran of these polar campaigns, unloaded quantities of magazines, tissues, throat lozenges, ointments, unguents, and fruit pastilles into the seat pocket in front of her, then settled beneath a blanket and slept more or less continuously through the whole trip.

Patience, humour and irony are indeed a traveller's most-treasured companion when met with unforeseen circumstances, inclement weather, foreign languages, grumpy locals, and cancelled transport, etc.

How about you, dear reader? And you, fellow writer? Are you planning to go travelling to a faraway land this summer? Or will you enjoy a staycation and dive into the pages of a novel that will take you miles and beyond? Share your experience: just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

Thank you for reading, and following our blog.
P.S. I'll be back for more News from the Page! Till, then, keep well.

: Must-not-do activities for a lazy day

A full schedule, a spinning head and the sensation that you're about to burn the candle at both ends. Been there, done that? You're not alone.
In the article, "Addressing employee burnout: Are you solving the right problem?", the McKinsey Health Institute highlights increased post-pandemic levels of burnout amongst employees. Many employers have responded by massively investing into mental health and wellbeing.

melancholic girl watercolour by tsukiko kiyomidzu

As praise-worthy as these efforts are, McKinsey have found that they tend to remediate symptoms at the individual level, rather than resolve the causes of employee burnout. McKinsey goes even further by mentioning that in all 15 countries surveyed and across all dimensions assessed, toxic workplace behavior had the biggest impact predicting burnout symptoms and intent to leave by a considerable margin.

Why should companies care? Because the cost of replacing employees is no less than one-half to two times their annual salary so it makes for a compelling business case. All the while ignoring it can lead to a downward spiral in individual and organizational performance.

Employers can and should view high rates of burnout as a powerful warning sign that the organization —not the individuals in the workforce— needs to undergo meaningful systematic change.

Now, it's not all doom and gloom. Positive outcomes including work engagement, job satisfaction and organization advocacy are also reflected in their study. They are largely the outcome of factors such as inclusivity and belonging, a supportive growth environment, sustainable work, and freedom from stigma (click on exhibit for more detail).

exhibit showing contributing factors to workplace outcome by mckinsey Health Institute

All work talk you might say. What about our personal lives? Juggling is not reserved to entertainers; we handle a multitude of tasks on a daily basis.

A deft juggler

I've been a deft juggler; I used to think that multitasking was part of my making.
First of all, I was raised in a stimulating environment where idleness wasn't encouraged. Then, I grew into a young adult and got FOMO when living in a big city with thousands of exciting activities to choose from, day in, day out.
Currently 46-year-old, I still enjoy being stimulated and I remain curious about the old, the new and the unknown. Yet, I've also come to realise that it's ok to relax and not to feel guilty about it.

Doing nothing for 15 minutes was like a dirty word to me. Nonetheless, inspiration and mini breakthroughs have emerged whenever I've allowed my mind and body to unwind. So why don't we put our feet up and chill with a hot/cold drink, leaf through the pages of a book, or any leisure activity which takes our fancy?

There are countless relaxing activities which can help you make the most of summer while regenerating your body and soul.

It's your turn, dear reader: tell us how you unwind after a busy day or week. Do you give yourself idle time? Does chilling out feel too indulgent or just right? Share your experience: just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

Thank you for reading, and following our blog. Keep well.
P.S. I might follow my own advice and take some time to relax this summer but I'll be back for more News from the Page!

: 5 tips for spring cleaning your mental health

May evokes May Day, better weather, summer around the corner... But did you know that the fifth month of the year is also a springboard to raise awareness of mental health in countries like the United States and Great Britain? Meanwhile, the United Nations celebrate World Mental Health Day in October, although its later timing is not the point — what matters is the substance.

While body fitness is encouraged and perceived as an overt sign of self-care, mental health has long been swept under the carpet. Consequence? In our 21-century societies where innovation is mentioned left, centre and right, mental health awareness has trailed behind.

tree branches on a brain profile background

Who hasn't heard, or come across, derogatory expressions such as "nutter", "loony", "thicko", or "freak" to describe a person — a boy, a girl, a man or a woman — who is actually experiencing adverse emotional or psychic states such as stress, anxiety, PTSD or depression?
In 250 labels used to stigmatise people with mental illness, the authors emphasise the stigma experienced by people with mental issues as a major barrier to help-seeking. Yet, mental health is a basic human right, and the World Health Organization has recently highlighted that such conditions are increasing worldwide (by a whopping 13% in the decade leading to 2017!).

Raw and real

So how do we solve this problem? By reading, writing and talking about it, as well as seeking professional help, so that we no longer see it as a flaw, but a pretty bump on the road which makes the ride that more challenging but also raw and real.

I am no stranger to anxiety, yet, I look after it. Here are 5 tips which I've personally tried and tested to spring clean my/your/our mental health:

peaceful landscape of stacked rocks, cairns and sea

I also incorporate writing into my self-care routine - you don't have to write a book, try journalling or just jotting down thoughts, or drawing.
You might have already attempted the above options without significant results. If you still need support, I'd encourage you to seek professional advice. For my part, I undertook CBT and counselling.
There are more than 50 types of therapies available. Without getting overwhelmed by choice, I'd recommend you scan what is available in your area and see what suits you best. Still unsure? Then, discuss your options with a health consultant, and try one session out before embarking on a therapy process.

Full of spirit

So, in May, let us open up about mental health with the aim of improving it, and becoming in Shakespeare's words...

As full of spirit as the month of May, and as gorgeous as the sun in Midsummer.

What is your take on mental health? Have you experienced bouts of anxiety or depression, or witnessed it amongst your family, friends, or colleagues?
Tell us how you feel, or share your experience: just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

Thank you for reading, and following our blog. Keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: Recipes for life

I can't say that I'm a cooking star, but I enjoy concocting delicious unique dishes by bringing together flavoursome ingredients and fresh seasonings. I seldom follow recipes all the way through, yet, they have become an increasingly attractive proposition not just for the kitchen, but for life.

When googling the word "recipe", I came upon an astounding 3,860,000,000 entries! Most are generated by fellow bloggers. I got intrigued and decided to put my reader's hat on. Here is a sample of recipes which took my fancy:

a woman flips through the pages of a cookbook by-dan-gold

Why are these pre-baked formulas so popular? Simple, in the same way a cookbook takes you through steps to prepare your favourite foods, recipes for life provide a clear set of instructions including easy-to-follow lists, videos, or diagrams to achieve something. In a world where time is precious, it's a mane for self-improvement, entertained brains, and happy bellies.

Let's look beyond the current usage of the word and check its etymology.

Transmission of knowledge

Recipe is actually rooted in the Latin term "recipere" which means "receive". Indeed, a recipe is a collection of words which is received from one generation, forwarded to the next and adapted for future needs. Hence, the purpose of a recipe extends to transmission of know-how.

When I think of skills and mouth-watering recipes, I immediately recall Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, a book which contains more than just a smear of literary food moments. Pages after pages, you are transported to a world of culinary magic where the maker — may it be a confectioner, a baker or a cook, produces wonders.

The dessert is a chocolate fondue. Make it on a clear day- cloudy weather dims the gloss on the melted chocolate- with seventy percent dark chocolate, butter, a little almond oil, double cream added at the very last minute, heated gently over a burner. Skewer pieces of cake or fruit and dip into the chocolate mixture. I have all their favorites here tonight, though only the gâteau de savoie is meant for dipping. Caro claims she cannot eat another thing, but takes two slices of the dark-and-white chocolate roulade bicolore.

I bet you're reaching out for dark cacao matter now! I have.

Another literary work which explores the idea of a recipe for life is "Like Water for Chocolate" by Esquivel. The main protagonist, Tita, forbidden from being with her true love and expressing her true feelings, puts all of her passion for life in her culinary creations. One scene describes her as she prepares a dish and becomes overwhelmed with emotions. Her tears fall into her preparation, infusing it with a powerful energy that affects everyone who eats it. This scene evokes the essence of a life recipe — when we use our unique talents to create something that touches others and leave a lasting impact.

You might question my sudden captivation for recipes when I seldom use them in the strict sense of the term. Well, it's because a writer is akin to an explorer. You take an object or an idea, and go beyond its mere usage and description to find out what secret it holds. Then, in the same way as a chef who comes up with a new recipe, a writer threads all the words they've uncovered together to create a story with a unique flavour.

I know this month's blog stands out from the previous ones by its contents, and perhaps its writing style. Yet, it feels like the perfect addition to News from the Page because of it. I hope that you'll look at recipes with fresh eyes, and see them as tiny pieces of far and wide cultures.

What is your take on life recipes? Do you have one of your own, or is it all nonsense for you?
Tell us what you think, or share your recipes: just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

Thank you for reading, and following our blog. Keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: Courage

Don't give up. Take action. Keep going. You can do it. Believe in your strength. Face your fears. Be brave.

You've probably heard, exhorted, or silently expressed these words on numerous occasions in your life. Their common denominator: courage.

The word "courage" is rooted in the Latin term "cor", meaning "heart". Besides the physical heart, "cor" also took on a metaphysical dimension to include one's emotions, thoughts and spirit. In Middle English and Old French, the etymology of courage related to the heart as the seat of emotions and bravery.

Quite a tall order to fulfil if you ask me. Yet, we've all acted with courage at some point. It could be that you did something small: you went out of your comfort zone, even though you had agoraphobia. Or you did something bigger, much bigger than you, and which at times you could barely comprehend, but you felt you had to do it.

floating-door-to-unknown-photo-by-gerd-altmann

Awe-inspiring books as well as cultural and historical figures have encouraged me to be that bit braver. To quote a few:

: AI and I

Unless you've been hibernating or on a Wi-Fi detox since last year, you've probably heard of the latest buzzwords on the high-tech block: Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, a.k.a. ChatGPT.

If you had asked me two weeks ago if I wanted to try it, I would have given you a categorical "Nope". Ask me again. You might get a more nuanced answer.

Before you assume that a bot has taken over this blog, I'll confirm that I'm still very much writing my own material, however, I'm open to trying new technology.
As it stands, ChatGPT is by no way the exception. Other tech front runners such as Google have also long jumped on the bandwagon, and AI has been in the background for a while.

I'm rather in awe of what the brains behind OpenAI have come up with. Ultimately, developing this 'intelligent' tool has required more than a little hard work and dedication from scores of people. However, I'm equally horrified by the far reaching consequences of incidental or intentional misuses of conversational generative technology.

artificial-intelligence-human-depiction-by-gerd-altmann

Calm and curious

So, what are safe uses? Only you can decide, but as a personal rule of thumb, I'd say:

chatgpt-bot-joke

In my opinion, literature is somewhat the precursor of generative chat bot with its verbose and use of internal dialogues to either depict characters' inner conflicts, or reveal the unspoken.

More to the point, the science fiction genre has long made reference to intelligent bots and has kept on pushing the boundaries of technology. It has not waited on the latest high-tech to portray a futuristic world where humans and machines coexist, in some instances with humour, as is the case in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in others to dramatic effect, as in Brave New World.

Let's take a closer look at the perceived impact of AI on literature and writing.

Writing and the means of writing

In an article published in The Unesco Courier, Karl Schroeder, a sci-fi author and futurist, is interviewed about the relationship between AI and literature. He softens the perceived dichotomy between humans and machines, and puts the onus on society to take the right decision for the implementation of AI.

We must be able to distinguish writing from the means of writing. Technology is only a means (...).
There is nothing we need to give up about
what we are or what we want to be
– we only have to prepare ourselves collectively.

You got it, neither friend nor foe, AI is here to stay. So, we need to pave the way for innovations, while ensuring that humans and ethical principles are safeguarded at all times.

We must also continuously acknowledge the importance of creativity regardless of its origins. Indeed, it is not only central to the writing process, but to the development of humanity as a whole.

How about you? What is your experience of artificial intelligence? And what is your take on it?

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this burning subject. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

Thank you for reading and following our blog. Keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: Wishing well

Resolutions usually spring in the new year and go away with the February tide of carpe diem choruses. Hence, I tend to substitute them for wishes.

I don't have a wishing well (although I love that song) but a fertile imagination, so I hanker for:

Thus, there is a world of endless possibilities beyond the traditional resolutions of eating better, exercising more, and their acolytes.
One of them is to make none, as expressed by the author, Anais Nin:

I made no resolutions for the New Year.
The habit of making plans, of criticising, sanctioning and moulding my life,
is too much of a daily event for me.

Here she conveys the need to free herself from the ritual. She doesn't want to feel obliged to accomplish a goal within its confines, when she does it anyhow of her own accord.

Other authors, such as Neil Gaiman, take a totally different approach to new year resolutions. In his journals, he uses them as an exhortation to action, a springboard for new ideas and opportunities.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world (...).

His appeal resonates with me — instead of wanting to reach perfection and recoiling from action, one aspires to go fearlessly with the flow.

child-releases-a-light-paper-lantern-in-twilight

I, for once, have a new year resolution — a naive but resolute one for which I've been working hard.

Nova Terra

After months of toiling, I'm glad to say that I completed the first draft of Nova Terra, my book-in-the-making.

I'm now in the proofreading and refining process. Still, further adjustements will probably be required here and there. So, I'm persevering at this joyful task.

The plan is to publish Nova Terra in the Spring, while continuing to write a second installment (I've already scribbled a trillion ideas for it!), and probably a third (watch this space :).

Pronto, I'm giving you an extract from the manuscript to celebrate 12 months of News from the Page!

A paper note

In this excerpt, the protagonist finds an anonymous note in an improvised hide-out. As she reads it, she reconnects with deep wishes and a sense of purpose.

I hear a noise coming from the door area. I crunch the piece of paper and hastily place it in my pocket. A group of students walk by on their way to the Waterfall Space. I wait on them to step out of the room before taking the note out of its temporary hide-out. I re-read each and every word as if they were the last drops of a sacred chalice.

A huge sense of relief comes over me. A sponteaneous smile lights up my face and brightens my mood. My long-gone friend has returned and with it, the wish to create something new, human in nature, rich in insights, and enhanced by skills gleaned on Nova Terra. I fold my written treasure until it fits into a small gap in the pod frame. I then recline on the bed and close my eyes for a moment.

How about you? What are you wishing for in this moment?

We'd love to hear from you. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

In the meantime, we wish you 12 months of happiness, 52 weeks of fun, 365 days of success, 8760 hours of good health, and more. 🎉

Thank you for your encouragement, keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: No light without darkness

They say that opposites attract. Indeed, people with very different characters can enter into a lasting relationship and become life-long friends, a gorgeous couple, or passionate lovers. Such attractions are not confined to the realm of human connections. Instead, they spill over to everyday language to create funny, intriguing and dramatic expressions.

Could you name seven pairs of antonyms, i.e. words with opposite meanings, off the top of your head?

Thinking aloud, I'd say:

two-hands-holding-sparkles-light-in-the-dark-by-pexels

You may have noticed that the seventh item on the list is pretty similar to the first, and you're not wrong. Yet, you're not quite right either (no antonymic pun intended ;).

The dichotomy between light and dark, or more specifically light and darkness, goes deeper. It probably dates as far back as human history, and appears in many cultures.
Pagan and religious festivals alike celebrate the winter solstice when the shortest periods of daylight and the longest nights coincide. For instance, Yule is a traditional festival observed in Scandinavia on 21 December. Meanwhile, Diwali - a Festival of Lights which takes place in October/November - celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness.

Literature abounds with books, like The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, whose framework revolves around the dual representation of these opposite forces of nature. Still, epic novels are not the only source of such antagonistic rendition. The manga genre is perhaps less known, yet its expressive style depicts the contrast between light and darkness with both bold strokes and sharp words.

Shadows and brightness

In the manga series, Vagabond, the author Takehiko Inoue portays the life and times of the most celebrated samurai in feudal Japan, Miyamoto Musashi, and his unorthodox path to "enlightenment". The following quote is taken from one of its volumes.

There is no light.. for those who do not know darkness.. Live on and endure the shadows (...). And brightness shall come your way.

Do these words speak to you or do you feel at odds with them?
In my case, the metaphor of light and darkness seems too strong, however, I have endured good times and not so good ones to live on. So, they resonate with me to some extent, and I'm sure with you too.

In my book in the making, Nova Terra, I also refer to light and darkness, both literally and metaphorically.

From darkness to light?

In the following short extract, the main protagonist travels with unconventional companions to an unknown location.

Rumours spread fast through the Fortress. The darkness of the tunnel has since long given way to a diffused light with neither the intensity nor the glare of the direct sunlight. The confined space has also progressively opened up to reveal the vast infrastructure of a bustling colony spread across a subterranean valley.

Kenshō has barely guided us to what looks like its nerve centre that a crowd of onlookers gather around. Indistinctive sounds travel through my ears, while strings of streamed conversations disrupt my already perturbed InSight with unfamiliar frequencies.

In the above excerpt, the contrast between light and darkness reflects both the change in physical surroundings, as well as the protagonist's internal upheaval.

How about you? What would you take from this passage as a reader?

We'd love to hear from you. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.

We wish you a jolly winter solstice ❄️, merry Christmas 🎄 and happy end-of-year festivities all around! 🎉

Keep well and till next year for more News from the Page!

: True friends

Ever heard of "A friend in need is a friend indeed"?

This proverb resonates with me: it is only in hardship that we get to know the people we can rely on. I like to call them true friends.

Fortunately, false friends are confined to linguistics, or so they should be.
When switching from one language to another, these words may simply lead you to a formidable faux pas.

For instance, if you say 'codo' in Spanish thinking it means 'code', you're in for a ride. Because you're actually talking about your elbow, or someone else's!

In French, if you speak of 'bras', you're not talking about breast suspenders, a.k.a. 'bras' but of your well-toned or plumpy arms.

If you dare using 'morbido' in Italian to discuss a macabre interest, you're also set for lalaland because it actually means 'soft'.

Finally, when chattering about 'rock' in German, don't hesitate to give some context as the word translates as 'skirt'. I say that but rock'n rolling in a skirt is definitely first class.

surprised-woman-pointing-upwards-next-to-man-with-thinking-expression-by-pixabay

I could go on and on. Instead, I would rather explore the word 'friend' and its constellation.

Friendly words

Enter "friendly words generator" in your Ecosia, DuckDuckGo, Google, Bing or Yahoo browser, and you will come across a list of sites and apps which give you random options for a pictionary, catchphrases, and charades.

Board games are indeed a great way to get people together, nevertheless, nothing compares, in my opinion, to a good friend when it comes to "generating" friendly words.

My favourite qualifiers are:

I'm sure that by now you're ready to snuggle up!

What about less fancy words? What of simple nouns, such as 'mate', 'buddy', and 'pal'? Those commoners have no less flair than their counterparts. On the contrary, they break down barriers between people with infused familiarity.

In my book in the making, Nova Terra, the main protagonist travels alone to a distant world where touching and voiced conversations are frown upon. She develops new friendships which help her make sense of it all.

Undemanding and enriching

In the following short extract, emphasis is placed on human contact, which has become an exception rather than the norm.

Valyeko and I give her a spontaneous hug. Oh, how much sand has elapsed since we last touched another human being in the flesh. It gives us such a sense of well-being that we stay huddled for a while longer.

We enjoy that bubble of friendly love, unconstrained and undemanding, yet so enriching, which expects nothing in return.

This excerpt shows the ripple effect of a friendly presence on our mindset.
How important is friendship for you? What place do you give to friends in your life?

We'd love to hear from you. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.
Keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: A frown smile

Frowning, smiling or laughing -- your facial expressions tell it all. Muscles stretch and tense to wrinkle bushy brows, make eyes smile, give an agape mouth a pout, or lift those cheeks up naturally.

Frowning is often associated with an unpleasant mood state, while smiling evokes positive emotions, and laughter shows overt amusement or pleasure.

Now, what would a frown smile look like?
Perhaps one corner of the mouth would be upturned while the other would be down.
More likely, it would appear as a faint smile which shows a curling of the lips while the brow area is tensed.

Sounds complex? Welcome to the world of facial expressions.

To smile or not to smile

Facial expressions perform a central role in human interactions because they showcase a range of emotions. They, in turn, generate social perceptions of an individual's physical and personality traits.

Smiling, for instance, is credited with countless benefits among which:

surprised-woman-pointing-upwards-next-to-man-with-thinking-expression-on-freepik

Now, you might not feel like smiling all day long, and that's ok: every mood has a part to play.

Frown power

Frowning is often vilified as the ugly duckling of the family of facial expressions, yet it can be as empowering.

Take frown power: an idea devised in the twentieth century by Stetson Kennedy, a civil rights activist, to take an active stance against bigotry and racism.

In my book in the making, Nova Terra, I often refer to countenance to highlight the characters' emotions or give more weight to their innert and overt speech.

Smile appeal

In the following extract, the protagonist lets her fantasies run wild. In doing so, she clearly associates smiling with sexual attractiveness.
Warning - contains suggestive themes.

Soon enough I am transmitting my own fantasies, one of many emitting from Learning Space 4 this morning, each and all ripe for the picking by the Learning Council.

I am in the shower observing the curvaceous bodies of my fellow residents -- someone gently strokes my back. I turn around and I see an attractive naked woman - her smile is so appealing. I feel her kiss as she morphs into that charming Year 5 student. I often see him between Learning sessions, in the corridors or at assemblies, because unlike Living Quarters, Learning Spaces and gatherings are mixed. He stands erect with his arms by his sides, looking deeply into me. His penetrating gaze sends feverish indulgence through my whole body. I dare to look more closely at his face and chest. I smile coyly. His parting lips joyfully curl up in response. A swarming fluid bathes my feet and soon surrounds my legs. It keeps surging acclivitous, and momentarily fills me with anguish, before engulfing me whole. I gasp for air in a panic. In a desperate attempt to wriggle myself free, I close my eyes.

I am floating now, alone, in a sea of beatitude. Over-streams fast turn it into raging water pools with menacing waves. One is towering over me. It's about to come down, crushing anything in its path, when a rescue boat appears to haul me to safety. The captain is none other than Learning 5. I open my eyes in shock. His features soften to reveal the charming Year 5 student again. His image slowly disintegrates and droplets of reality trickle back into the streaming.

This sensual extract highlights the power of an evocative smile, yet, frowning can be equally powerful.
How about you? Would you describe yourself as a power frowner or a sassy smiler?

We'd love to hear from you. Just connect with us on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.
Keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: Home and away

I've been thinking of home, a common word with a distinctive flavour. Distinctive enough that it contrasts with its physical shell: a house.

What's the actual difference between a house and a home?
The former refers to the concrete building in which a person, a couple or a family lives, whereas the latter refers to a place where you live and, most importantly, feel that you belong to.

Home Again

'Home' is usually associated with feelings of safety, security and emotional comfort.

The introduction to Home Again, a song from Michael Kiwanuka's eponymous album, starts with these raw lyrics:

"Home again, home again
One day I know I'll feel home again...
fantasy home floating above a lake against a mountain background

This emotionally-charged quest for a home can be found across many different songs and texts. If you can't think of any, here's a short list to inspire you:

In my book-in-the-making storyline, home evokes nostalgia of a bygone era.
The main character experiences a sensation which brings back emotional memories, pretty much in the same vein as Proust's Search for Lost Time (À La Recherche du Temps Perdu) where a bite in a madeleine revives an episode from his childhood (i.e. when his aunt gave him small madeleines).

Pleasant memories

In this excerpt from Nova Terra, sensations evoke pleasant memories of the protagonist's childhood home.

"I relax my pupils as the wall seems to melt into tiny azure and aqua coloured drops. I slowly step forward while the blue dew brushes my eyes and the skin around it with a refreshing glow. I am quietly bathing in a cloudy waterfall of light. It feels so good.

I would want to stay here forever, but as soon as I stop moving, an unpleasant laser dot beams intermittently. I take very small steps to keep it at bay while enjoying the softness of the dew as long as I can. Little by little, the drops disperse and make way for a solid pale blue light. I'm standing at the entrance of the Washing Quarters.

I let out a sigh - I used to love the sensation of falling water over my eyes, face and body, as it reminded me of home. Now, the strokes of falling water pale in comparison with the caress of the azure and aqua mist. I take a few more steps before I am faced with the flashing numbers of a time sensor. '6', '1' and '6' show up in bright neon colours, then disappear.
They remind me of the effervescence of time - how long have I been away from home. I hurry to the closest shower to wash nostalgia away."

The character painfully recognises that, although she has a strong longing for home, sensations are not immutable. The thinking part of the protagonist wants to hang on to these memories, while the sensual one revels in the precedence of the felt present. Have you ever been in a similar state of mind?

Share your thoughts, connect on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.
Keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: Alive and curious

Daily routine and 'things we have to do' sometimes feel like a high mountain to climb. My personal (and simple) recipe for making certain that life does not get in the way: curiosity.

The opposite of certainty?

By curiosity, I do not mean snooping around but being inquisitive. It requires letting go of certainty and daring to venture beyond what's in plain sight.
Albert Einstein famously said:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day.“

Easily said, yet it can be a tall order when earning a living, doing chores, and owing up to responsibilities that occupy the day with their array of demands.

My suggestion is to allow space for uncertainty, however uncomfortable it may seem at first. Give it room to unfold in a world of convictions and certitudes, and your curiosity will thrive.

child looking at natural landscape

In my book, insatiable curiosity helps the main protagonist go past appearances and conventions to uncover hidden facts about her adoptive settlement of Nova Terra.

The curious incident of...

In the following extract, the lead character makes a surprising encounter. She gives pride of place to curiosity to step into unchartered territories.

"She walks past me and strides confidently towards the back of the Rainfall room. I stand still. I am torn between curiosity and vigilance. The curious side eventually succeeds in setting my legs in motion. Instead of asking her a thousand questions, I silently follow in her steps. I feel unusually serene at the idea of walking behind a stranger.
We reach the foot of the Rainfall's far wall. [She] turns to face me before extending a hand. I respond by resting the hollow of my hand on hers. I sense a trembling across my whole body.
All of a sudden, fissures appear across the wall. They deepen and widen; before long they crack the surface open. Water trickles from all gaping pores. It gathers speed, so that it bulks up and surge into a raging waterfall.
[She] calmly wraps her fingers around mine, then gently pulls me towards the nascent cascade. She gives me a reassuring smile before stepping through the pouring entrails."

The protagonist acknowledges that moment we all experience when confronted with the unknown. Should I go with the flow? Do I dare, or do I stand back?

How about you? Do you let yourself be guided by (healthy) curiosity in your daily endeavours, or do you have another personal recipe to ward off the gloom?

Share your thoughts on this article, connect on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.
Keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: Of Wo/Men

Call it a slogan, call it a proverb - what it does is get you to think, talk and act.

Behind every slogan

Take this saying:

“Behind every great man is a great woman.”

What came to mind as you read it? Did you simply ingest it as a mere sentence? Surely not. Since it first appeared in a newspaper in 1946, the "behind every man" proverb has made an impact in myriads of ways by being used:

These are just a few examples of how a proverb highlights a society's hopes, desires and concerns.

Overall, literature plays a significant part as a source of inspirational quotes, and slogans that make us tick.

Read, think and act

Think about your favourite books. Can you remember any passages that struck a chord with you? Two spring to mind as I write.

The first is taken from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, a strange and wonderful parable of a fictional prince lost on planet Earth. He makes a series of encounters as he tries to find his way back home out of loyalty for a haughty flower.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

These words remind me of refraining from immediate judgement when I encounter someone or something new - a simple but challenging task.

The second is taken from Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzche.

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”

I read it as a credo to listen to my body as much, if not more, than my crowded brain - it's wishful thinking!

Although these passages do not make me go and hold up a placard on the streets, they inspire me to pause and act on changing my go-to reflexes.
How about you? What are the quotes that have spurred you/spur you on to take action on yourself and/or in the world one step at a time?

Share your thoughts on this article, connect on Twitter or reach out on Facebook.
Keep well and till next month for more News from the Page!

: All ... are equal

Anthropomorphism looks - and sounds! - like a mouthful. It's actually about treating animals and objects as if they were human in appearance, character, or behaviour (dixit The Cambridge dictionary).

Famous examples of anthropomorphism in popular culture include:

Literature is also no stranger to using anthropomorphism: it's a powerful literary device to give human traits to nonhumans, typically animals.

No animal shall

An anthropomorphic narrative allows the writer to show, expose, extrapolate, and dissect human behaviours and societies under the guise of satire.

figure of a girl holding a book featured inside the pupil of a wild animal

George Orwell's Animal Farm is probably the most famous example of animal anthropomorphism in literature.
It recounts the rebellion of farm animals against their brutal human master, the farmer, and their fraught attempt at building an equal animal society.
The novel reads as a veiled satire of autocratic regimes in which a few central figures make and change laws to better assert their power, at the expense of true democracy and people.

“All animals are equal,
but some animals are more equal than others.”

This quote taken from Animal Farm's Seven Commandments lays bare the new regime's failures at creating a fairer society and its pervasive effects. Their original declaration of absolute equality ("All animals are equal") is marred by blatant elitism and hypocrisy.

Some books make more subtle use of anthropomorphic characters, yet they remain central to the narrative.

Turning the tables with humour

Natsume Soseki's I am a cat is a fiction where humour and satire get along well.
It features only one anthropomorphic character but since it acts as storyteller, it's the most important too.
In this fiction, an unnamed cat narrates stories about his owner Mr Sneaze, an English teacher, and his acquaintances, to draw a satire of middle class society in the Meiji Era.

One compelling excerpt turns the table on the human species by presenting the cat as a scientific observer, while making humans the object of observation usually reserved for animals:

"At ordinary times, most human beings are wearisomely ordinary; depressingly banal in appearance and deadly boring in their conversation. However, at certain moments, by some peculiar, almost supernatural, process their normal triviality can be transformed into something so weird and wonderful that no feline scholar of their species can afford to miss any occasion when that transformation seems likely to take place."

Perhaps the message is that however different we are and behave, humans or animals are more alike than first meets the eye: we all strive for a better future. Let us then prepare for it together.

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: The censor beeps

When an article, a speech, a film, a song, a piece of music, or a book is banned, the intention is to consign its words, and ideas to oblivion.
In practice, prohibition has sometimes the opposite effect. It attracts attention or changes the audience's attitude - depending on whether the banning authority is seen in a positive or in a negative light.

Examples of censored pieces that have become viral abound in the field of music - especially in the pop genre where censorship has often translated into rising tune sales.
Glance through the top entries of The Greatest Banned Songs of All Time list:

On a 1-10 rating scale, how offended do you feel by these songs today? Probably not so much.
Still, upon release, they made a big impression on the society of their time. They challenged taboos and tackled discriminating views, and we're all the better for it.

Literature too has had its share of censored gems and scandals. Yet, book censorship is not overtly blatant. It can actually go unnoticed when excerpts are simply substituted or deleted at the source (e.g., by the author or publisher), or when the enforced ban is confined to a restricted location. So, it's worth keeping one's eyes peeled.

Bit of Censure

Books such as Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley now belong to the pantheon of literature and educational programmes. Yet, they have been the subject of censorship at various points in time, and in different locations.
Huxley's dystopian novel, for instance, was judged too scary by many American schools in the mid-twentieth century, so it got momentarily banned from the curriculum.

girl wears a blindfold while holding a book with censored words around her

If you think that censorship is confined to history, why would online bookstores such as Barnes & Nobles have a Banned Books section on their website? Think again.
Book censorship isn't just happening in the States; no country is stranger to literary censorship and its more pernicious form: self-censorship.

Not unlike Huxley's novel, my fiction is set in a world which oscillates between dystopia and utopia. Voiced speech is frowned upon as a lowly method of communications, while streaming is the new norm.

An improvised dance of words

In this excerpt, the protagonist relates her experience of using voice in the context of censorship.

"The two other girls behave more discreetly. They only converse in streams, when I have jumped at every opportunity to use my voice for speaking with Dremara and Valyeko, and my ears for listening.
Talking in strings of sounds feels strange at first, even forced. My voice sounds croakier than I remember. Its deep tone flows from the mouth in wavelets. It makes its way through a web of receptive membranes in the ears. Soon enough, its vibrations ripple through the whole body. Something intangible opens up in me - a warm fuzzy feeling of being connected to others through an improvised dance of words. For a moment, I forget the Learning Council's ban on lowly speech and let it be."

Here, voice is not just described as a means of free expression, but also as a way to connect to the tangible world, and other humans.

How about you? Have you experienced increasing levels of censorship where you live? Share your thoughts and get in touch by connecting on Twitter or just reach out on Facebook.
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: The slap

A Hollywoodian tale of wounded pride, or a staged fight? The Oscars slap surprised many onlookers. What caused that outburst? Some say self-publicity, others stupidity, while one commentator blamed it on 'toxic feminity'.

For a moment, picture Will Smith as a knight in a shining armour defending his ladyship from the boorishness of an impertinent fool (shouldn't be too difficult...). Shake that story up and what do you get? Gender dynamics, sexuality, and power: the core ingredients of many successful films, plays, and novels.

The wager takes it all?

In fiction, sexuality plays a more overt role, however, in classics, it is often rebranded as 'love interest' (more PC!), and cast on the fringe of the book's main plot.

Let's take the unlikely example of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days.
Verne uses the character of Aouda to drive home a key point. The last chapter of the book shows that Fogg's ultimate victory is not about winning the wager, but the heart of (or rather having his aloof heart conquered by) Aouda.
Verne goes on to write that Aouda makes Fogg the happiest of men, [a]nd forsooth, who would not go round the world for less?

You get it, the glory attained from accomplishing the challenge of the round-the-world journey would amount to nothing, were it not for winning the affection of a dear one.

photo description

When power play and the green-eyed monster interfere with the hero's love interest, the plot gets entangled to dramatic effect.
Take The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas which sees the main character, Dantè, wrongly accused of a crime. He vows to take revenge against the instigator - no other than his friend, who had secretly harboured feelings of love for Dantè's fiancée.

In contemporanean novels, sexuality has mostly taken over the romantic concept of love interest, yet its tumultuous relationship to power remains.

Sexuality & power

Search for "Sexuality and power", and you'll get millions of results. These combined words stand equally for a history of violence and struggle, as for an invitation to celebrate, or at least tolerate, each other's differences. Ultimately, they have the potential to empower individuals regardless of gender dynamics.

Could it be that gender-neutral language and characters are flourishing in today's media and literature in reaction to that uneasy relationship? After all, gender neutrality offers a way of emancipating oneself from gender dynamics and perceived gender.

In my writing, I do not shy away from adding both ingredients (sexuality and power) to the shaker. A good cocktail is always a mix, yet it allows for surprises.

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: Body image & character development

What does the word "character" evoke for you?
Do you picture a symbol, a personality trait, or a protagonist? Literature actually brings all three meanings to life through a web of pages.
Without character, there is neither plot nor book. Hence, character development is a dense subject which writers take at heart.

As much as character elicits depth, body image usually conveys superficiality. Yet, they're not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, authors might use body image as a core differentiator in character development. Let's explore its role in story writing.

Physical build & character projection

Reducing a character, albeit a protagonist with a unique personality, to a body type may sound like an ill-advised shortcut.

On the one hand, resting personality on appearances amounts to physical stereotyping: the author invites readers to jump to conclusions by associating a particular physique with character traits. For instance, the handsome man with a one-billion dollar smile vs. the fat and the ugly, or the beautiful slim lady with long hair vs. the nondescript one with a big heart.
In some easy reads or novel types, this inaccurate but easy dichotomy serves the story dynamics by removing nuances, and emphasising twists and turns. Once this false duality is set, the author is free to extrapolate generic ideas from the protagonist's looks to serve the plot as a whole.

multi dimensional bodies with inscriptions across them

On the other hand, the author can resort to ready-made physical stereotypes to lure readers into identifying protagonists with a particular character type, only to reveal at a later stage that they were totally misconceived in the first place. This is the premise of thrillers or crime novels amongst others. I find this method most intriguing. It challenges the reader's asumptions and own prejudices, while inviting them to dwelve deeper into the character and its layers.

Finally, a writer might also choose to bypass physical descriptions. S/he leaves it to each reader to imagine protagonists' appearance based on generic character depiction, and background information. The reader is thus further immersed in a plot guided by a fragment of their own imagination.

You have understood it well, body image and character development do not sit at either end of the writing spectrum. They can be played out in a number of scenarios which make them malleable enough to either highlight popular stereotypes (which doesn't imply that they condone them), or tear them apart.

Now, I want to honour the promise I made to you last month, News from the Page readers. So, I'm sharing a longer extract from the storyline.

The story unfolds...

This excerpt is not taken from the opening pages, however, it gives more depth to a leading character by setting the story background. It's not just meant to feed your curiosity but also to get your impressions on it.

“Desrea - that wasn't always my name. I have forgotten what they had called me when I came into being. "They" weren't always called progenitors either. I haven't forgotten that word but it feels almost rude to try and picture it now. Maybe because I'm not allowed to. Mostly because I can't actually picture it - I have to say it. And when I say it, I want to say many more things. I want to talk. I want to close my eyes. And I want to be there, with them, not just see them. Because the more I see them, the less I feel them.
Their projected images drown in the streams of Learnings. And I'm afraid that soon I'll forget that they used to be parents - my parents - and what I picture is no longer what is.
The last time I saw them, the last time I hugged them, was some years ago. I would always remember their faces, torn between sadness and hope, as they waved me goodbye. Sadness at witnessing their only daughter board a passenger spaceship not knowing when they would see her again. But they were also full of hope. I was one of the lucky ones, selected against a specific set of criteria, to board that exclusive spaceship and start a new life on the emerging colony of Nova Terra. Earth had become mostly uninhabitable. (...) I remember how I felt that day; extremely sad and strangely excited.”

How do you picture the character from reading this short extract? I welcome all constructive suggestions about the writing style, the protagonist and background setting.

I can't wait to receive your thoughts on what you would improve, what you liked about it, or what caught your attention - just reach out to me by simply clicking here: Connect with me on Twitter or Connect on Facebook.
Keep well & till next time for more News from the Page!

: What's in a name?

Following on last month's newsletter, I promised to share the outcome of the opening show of hands.

The winner is...

The winner of the 'Give this book a title' poll is (so far) Nova Terra, while Desrea is the current runner-up, followed by Vision.
This is by no means a static choice: Nova Terra hasn't won a clear majority of votes (48%). So, if you haven't taken this 1-minute survey yet, go for it & pick your favourite title.
Thanks to those of you who've already responded. Feel free to share the survey with friends - the more constructive feedback, the merrier. I'll give you the final outcome & the overall winning title in a few months' time. The plot thickens...

The title enigma has brought me to reflect on the naming of things.

What's in a name?

This quote from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet provides much food for thought on the subject:

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

The famed author wanted his character, Juliet, to express the insignificance of a name & the fact that it does not change the nature of things.

Now, everybody and everything has a name. There is a distinguished commonality in naming objects and living beings. We give 'pet names', also known as diminutives, to those we hold dear. We cherish our first name as the main thread of our existence: it is the shiny wrapper which presents the gift of our one-life-show to the world. Can you recall how often you came across someone's name before hearing the sound of their voice or seeing their face in the flesh? No doubt countless times.

typewriter by devanath

We might come to despise our moniker at some point in our existence, or we've hated it for as long as we can remember. Why? Because we feel that it doesn't tell the tale of who we truly are, or it reminds us of painful experiences. We then conceil it under a nickname of our own choosing. People even go as far as changing their name altogether to give themselves a fresh start.

Besides, we make use of aliases to project another dimension of our selves & to highlight a particular aspect of our persona. By extension, we can bestow others or things a name which projects a specific fragment of their personality & role in the world.

I find the latter most interesting when it comes to picking a character name. I want it to offer personal depth, to hint not just at a potential role in the story but also at a personal history, while still affording the reader room for imagining the character.

Now, let's come back to the process of naming a book, i.e. giving it a title. Some of you rightly said that the excerpts in the opening survey provided too little information to make up your mind about it. I am taking your comments on board. Starting from next month, I'll release a longer extract of the story as part of the newsletter for your feedback & comments.
Till then, feel free to connect on social media (Twitter or Facebook), keep well & stay tuned.

: Give this book a title

I've been writing for quite some time now. The first line came out of the blue, as I was walking. I jotted it down. Then came more ideas. So, I eventually set on the wondrous journey of piecing pages together.

Writing a book is usually a solitary adventure. It's pretty much you and the page toying with bouts of inspiration or dry spells. It's also a slow process in which perfectionism, covered in a sweet layer of procrastination, comes into play.

man reading under a tree at dawn by josh hild

You guessed it right, this book in the making will take a little longer to see the light of day. However, I thought it'd be fun to make the writing more interactive by onboarding friendly people in the process, and ask about their opinion from time to time.

What better way to start this journey than brainstorming ideas about a potential book title? Choosing the perfect title is delicate. Few words can fit on a cover; how can I condense dozens if not hundreds of pages into it?

So, friendly folks, if you feel up for a challenge & you're kind enough to spare a minute, jump right in and get started here: give this book a title.

Thanks to those of you who have already taken part. I'm keeping this introductory newsletter short & sweet, however, I'll share the winning title & more insights in the next iteration.

Keep well & stay tuned!