Year’s end and new beginnings.

When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all that I can permit myself to contemplate. John Steinbeck

I was born on a New Year’s Eve. Nepali New Year’s Eve on April 13 to be exact. Not the one we celebrate here. I wasn’t aware of that until last year. Working and living in Nepal made me realize it. Of course it is of no importance besides the fact that I nowadays celebrate the New Year twice a year. Once is my own new year, the other one is everyone else’s new year. And every year I reflect on the past year, look back a year, or two or three, and compare. Compare how my life is compared to the previous New Year’s Eves. I’ve always done that because I solemnly believe that when times are hard it is good to look back and based on the comparison understand where the progress has been. I thrive on progress and change, that’s why I do that. Because I also believe that the year I can no longer define progress in any aspect I will have lost my soul.

Past nine years have brought joy, challenge, pain and sorrow. So, on the one scale is all that defines me now as the person I am and what I think is good. The other scale is loaded with the negative, the disasters, illnesses and headwind. And I do not even try to objectivate the outcome. Because if I do I I can not be sure that the overall balance is positive. I simply don’t know if I’m better off now than a year ago. This year has learned more than any year before that the negative might just as well bring a lot op positive things and the seemingly positive can be a dark thing.

A year ago I was in love, and love was answered. In another place in the world, far away from home I had unexpectedly found a woman who I fell in love with and in spite of a massive ravine between our cultures. I felt my life had changed and I planned to move away from Europe and start another life in Asia. It wasn’t even a dream but it was a reality and steps were made, choise were made and I felt so good. In February the axe fell. Totally unexpected. Cultural differences prooved unbreacheable. I had to let go and to be honest, I had already done so the day I stepped on that damned airplane that flew me back to my European life in January. Sometimes I still feel I shouldn’t have boarded that plane but just stayed. For that new life. For love.

I didn’t stay. I flew back. I lost my love.

It tumbled me over and then it was the April New Year’s Eve and I turned fifty, thinking it didn’t matter to me at all. But it did. A lot, an awful lot. I fell sick and the summer went unnoticed. I did not live.

By fall I started breathing again. I published a novel and a photobook. Photo exhibitions followed and there is still one ongoing until February next year. Four days after my birthday on April 18 I was in bed with a bad flu and I found a painting on the internet. I swept me off my feet. I had to know what that painting was and I started researching. I found out it was made by a nineteenth century painter who lived in Kensington, London. ‘Flaming June‘ made me restart my life. Research learned me that there was a dispute about the model who sat for Frederick Leighton for thet specific painting. That dispute led me to a forgotten woman who died in the 1930’s but who was three decades earlier one of the most beautiful women in England. And gradually a story unfolded which was already there waiting to be revealed. More on that can be read here: www.woordenstorm.nl/lachrymae.

Flaming_June,_by_Fredrick_Lord_Leighton_(1830-1896)

It’s end of December now, tomorrow is the last day of this year. I am working hard on my new novel which has evolved in a trilogy about three women, about emancipation, about relationships, war, poverty, wealth, beauty and decay. And about me. It’s the work I will have to write in the coming year, maybe even years. I already know most of the story but I also know that as always it will grow and evolve in a much more detailed and compelling story. My biggest work ever. And tonight I look back. Back to this crazy year.

My life is in many aspects destroyed in the past decade. My body is defect in a very private aspect and I feel deep sadness about that. It actually is the reason why relationships scare me. I don’t think anyone can help me with that, it is very much my own struggle to get some peace over that. My economics are, well they are virtually non-existent. To Dutch standards I am poor and in debt to a level that I will never overcome, no matter what I do and no matter how hard I work. This was the year that I had to learn the harsh reality of not having the money to lead a normal life. I don’t have my own front door anymore, most of my belongings have gone (which for the most of it I don’t mind at all), I can hardly afford transport to anywhere and my social life is becoming smaller and smaller. There are days I do not have food. But this year also learned me that I have the ability to go on and after a year living way below poverty standards I am still here. The most important thing that happend to me this year is that I relearned to make decisions about my own life again. Because I did.

Which brings me to next year.

January will be very difficult. They’re coming to take some of my things away. I won’t be there myself. Complicated story. Pressure is building on me rapidly and life will certainly not improve in January. But important moves are being made. Finance stuff for instance. In the coming months it will all become more transparant and that will inevitable lead me into some sort of debt reduction scheme or bankruptcy. Life won’t end over that. What will happen is that I’m entering a couple of years of very poor living standards but I have the assurance that they won’t be worse than they are now. And yes, that old divorce thing will be corrected in the coming months and that might very well bring a lot of relief. If only because the negative economic part of that will be lifted and redevided in a manner that is fair and making my life easier. It’s all the direct result of the I choice made this year to start rebuilding my life after a downwards spiral that had caught me in the past nine years.

And then there is art. The other major decision I made is that my life will be about writing my books, making my photos and filmwork and focus on the arts as my line of business and the major driving force in my life. It even tops relationships. I know now I can not make any concessions anymore in regard to the art I make and the reason why I do that. Because writing is for me like breathing. There is no way that I can stop that or want to do so. Which made me to choose a pseudonym for writing my future work. Enter Anna Ros. 2012 has brought me a lot on the artistic plane because I’ve grown and made major steps forward but 2013 is even more promising in that. My work improved and so did my writing. I have become confident in that work. I know my abilities and I know where improvement is needed. And there is a lot out there waiting for me to take on. The trilogy being the most important work but there’s also that other loosely related work which I make with a befriended writer. It will surprise a lot of people and is really exciting to make. And of course the film will get finished in 2013, at last. Not as one major work but as a series of three or four short documentaries, portraits of specific people telling the story of forgotten refugees.

And love? Well, that is something else entirely. I am not chasing it to the intensity that I did in the past years. If it happens, it happens. Which doesn’t mean I am not in love because I think I am. To a certain extend. Maybe 2013 will be a good year for love. I would like that but of course that’s uncertain. What is certain is that it will be a great year for friendships. With the few people out there who really know me.

So, this New Years Eve is a very unclear one. Unclear on how my live will continue in 2013, uncertain about where I’ll live and with who. Uncertain about love. But very certain about what defines me: my writings.

I wish all of you a good 2013. With health and love. Skip the economics and other non important things of life, just go for happiness and health. That should suffice.

Love,
Alice Anna

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

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Een kadootje voor mijn lezers.

Beste lezers,

soms moet je iets geks doen. Soms is dat heel zo gek niet.
Aangezien de drukkosten tegenwoordig hoog zijn en er geen fondsen zijn voor heruitgave van mijn debuutroman, gegeven dat ik die al lang in een eBook PDF versie klaar heb én gegeven dat ik gezien wat er allemaal dit jaar nog uitkomt aan nieuwe uitgaven, geef ik jullie hierbij een kado.

Daar is een reden voor. Ik ben een tegenstander van het beleid van het inmiddels demissionaire kabinet dat over zijn graf heen regeert en nog steeds allerlei maatregelen er door drukt die de samenleving schaden en de zwakken in de samenleving hard in de portemonnaie treffen. Ik ben een tegenstander van het beleid van de gemeente Den Haag die in navolging van dit cultuurbarbaarse kabinet de kunsten in Den Haag afslachten door intrekking van de steun aan het Koorenhuis waar duizenden Hagenaars met veel plezier tegen redelijke kosten kunst leren beoefenen. En ik ben tegen het intrekken van de subsidies aan kleine theaters als Branoul en de Regentes die een functie hebben in deze stad. Dat soort beleid raakt mij aan alle kanten. Het creeërt een klimaat in de samenleving waarbij kunst als nutteloos, overbodig en zonder waarde wordt gepositioneerd. Als hobby, als tijdverdrijf.

Met het gratis beschikbaar stellen van mijn debuutroman maak ik een statement tegen dat beleid. Tegen de destructie van de kunst, of dat nu amateurkunst of ‘professionele’ kunst is. Het is een statement gemaakt met de wanhoop van de schrijfster en de bohémienne die deze samenleving onderuit ziet gaan en als enig antwoord daar op heeft haar kunst op straat te gooien. Niet omdat die kunst niks waard is, maar omdat het de enige manier is waarop iedereen met of zonder geld daar kennis van kunnen nemen. In de hoop dat de bestuurders ooit hun verstand terug krijgen.

Mijn debuutroman Eén latte, een cappu en een espresso is vanaf vandaag gratis te downloaden vanaf deze website én vanaf GoodReads. Het downloaden hier is natuurlijk het eenvoudigst want dat is als U dit leest precies één klik weg. Klik HIER voor de eBook versie.

Ben ik gek dat ik de eBook versie gratis weggeef? Absoluut!

Alice Anna Verheij

For my English speaking readers: what is written above this is an announcement of the availability of my debuting novel FOR FREE DOWNLOAD. It is in Dutch, so if you’re in for a challenge, please go ahead and download and enjoy the book. And spread the word! To get it, just click on THIS.

The benefits of being ill (for a while).

Sometimes life travels at lightspeed for some. The reasons why are usually a totally unpredictable combination of events, challenges, situations and probably more known factors like character, emotion, personality, ambition and health. For me it’s not difficult to attach something personal to all of these words but the last one has, for the time being, become like the sand in the machine. And that was about time.

There’s no need or ambition in me to go through that whole string of words but a few things are at this moment determining my life in the short term. That is until expectedly the end of this year.

So I fell ill. An intense flu crossed my path and although that is no drama at all for me it meant that I for the first time in many months was forced to take a break. If only for a week or two. And taking a brake from work, obligations, efforts and ambitions forces one to think. Usually.

In the coming months is a lot of work waiting for me and with a lot of luck I’ll be able to get it done before summer. The long awaited novel is getting printed and so are two photobooks. The latter two however still have to be produced from ground up and that is quite a job even for someone like me who is able to make beautifully layouted work in a relative short timespan. And then of course there’s the big one. The film. Still so much to do and so much of it only possible to be done by me. It was, is and will be the biggest time consumer for at least another couple of months. That isn’t everything on the agenda. Because I am turning this work of writing, filming, photographing and publishing my profession rapidly. I know exactly what I want to do in the next part of my life and in fact I have been doing that already since about two years. It feels good, it is me out there doing what I love.

But there’s also the demonic shadow of the past preventing me to build a business of it in my home country because of a business past gone bad (nothing special there either but the left overs are still quite unmanageable). So if I want to do what I do on a solid basis I will have to work internationally. The good news is, I love that. Still, being stranded by illness for a while does force me to revise plans. Not in the least because when out of the performance loop the mind starts asking questions. Making reality checks. And so plans change.

Sure, I still will start to work from abroad for a large portion of the year as soon as it can be arranged. Economics will decide when, I decide if. But the timelines and the way this will happen shift, turn and change. It is not realistic for me to work from Nepal as a home base. I will however keep visiting the country I love so dearly and keep following, filming and reporting the fate of my Bhutanese friends in and around the refugee camps. Not because I promised but because I see that as an obligation to do so. There are more angles to the Nepalese society and the developments of Nepal that I want to report about. But it will never be my only world.

I am still a novel writer and that will not change, just like my love for writing poetry and songs for entertainment. So there will always be times when I am not in Asia or anywhere else for local reporting or filming but in stead I’ll be somewhere, anywhere, writing a novel. And the topic will not necessarily be connected to previous work because my very being as a literary artist doesn’t allow fixation.

So what does all of this mean for the plans I had and for a part still have?

Well, I am the journalist writer, photographer and filmer interested and focussed on human and women rights in South Asia. No doubt about that. But maybe after finishing the film not for this year anymore. Probably if not almost certainly next year again. But I am also the heremit writer in a soft spot somewhere writing that next novel. The sort of novel is already decided and quietly I am starting up research for it already. It is going to be very different from previous work, a challenge to write (that’s never a surprise) and a very special book. And I will also every now and then take the stage with a song or a short story in whatever show with dear theatre friends.

It will mean that I will not leave my country permanently. It will mean that I will leave my country intermittently, sometimes for long periods. But I’ll always be back for long periods. Like this year. Because this year, after the dust has settled of the books and the film and the two years of work involving the Bhutanese exiles issue, I will take a break for something very different, to keep myself in shape and not loose myself in one topic to work on and to take care that my mind stayes free. (I will not drop the topic of the Bhutanese, I can’t but it will be not the main focus for some time.)

Sometime this summer the real work on my new novel will start in traditional writing style. Designing the essence of the story, the plot if there is one to be, the characters, events, images and emotions. It will be England from roughly the end of the 19th century until the 1930’s. It will be distiguished romantic painters and one specific exquisitly beautiful model. A girl who became a model by fate and lost that work also by fate, never known by the public by her real name because she was not so high class savvy as that other famous painters model in that time but by the names of Greec goddesses or biblical Heroïns and who faded away in history but by her image remained unforgettable. I long to write about the life and loves of that woman who was once ‘Flaming June’. And this novel is one that will take quite some time to write wether I am in the flow or not. But it is a certainty that this will be my next major work.

Alice © 2012

Pulitzer Price winner’s article republished on Headwind website.

Today The Nation granted me the rights to republishing an article written by Pulitzer Price winner Kai Bird on the Headwind website. Kai Bird’s article is an excellent account of recent history concerning the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing and exile in the early ninetees of last century, the ongoing resettlement of Bhutanese refugees and the long term to be expected effects of this on the position of Bhutan, it’s king and government.

Kai Bird won the Pulitzer Prize with his excellent co-authoring on a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘invertor’ of the atomic bomb. Mr. Bird has work for many years in the Middle East and has recently published his autobiographic ‘Crossing Mandelbaum Gate‘ about the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and how he has lived, grown and endured in the region. Mr. Bird has lived for some time in Kathmandu, Nepal and recently traveled to Bhutan and was a guest of the royals.

‘The Enigma of Bhutan’ is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing and exile, the ongoing largest UNHCR third country resettlement project and the effects of this all on Bhutan.

The article is published in The Nation’s March 26, 2012 issue and can be read on the website of the Nation and on the Headwind website.

Alice

Headwind and bad times.

Within a couple of weeks my world has turned for the worse. I experience a shitload of headwind.

For whatever reason my love left me, the exact reasons are still a bit unclear although some hints are there. No one to blame. After that came creative crisis. Poetry is far away, theatre performance went well but the videorecording failed tragically (can’t do camera and perform at the same time) and a few days ago my allowance was decreased with more than 30% leaving me with not enough money to live. Rent, health care and normal dayli things leave me without enough money for food. Hard times ahead. And to top it all the effort of finishing Headwind is for whatever reason anyone has until now still more than 90% depending on me. Too little support, to little progress, too little co-operation. It is so clear that if I would stop working on this film it will never hit the screens. That alone makes that this is essence a film made by with. With some support but not enough by any length. Financially this film project has made gone all the way into post production with a reasonable balance sheet but also with ruining my personal economic life. Productionwise it still is mainly me effort, no matter what has been tried so far to expand that effort and have others become co-creators. Currently I am doing camera, audio recording, soundtrack building, audio and video editing, directing and 90% of the producing, writing and financing myself. That is not a good feeling at all.

So I have to get back in fighting mode but somehow I really can’t. Too damned tired of it all. Because doing this all on my own is just too much. But ok, I’ll put up another fight, like I’ve always done but there is little pleasure left in my life especially as I feel so very much displaced with my heart and emotions left in Nepal and my body in this cold, grey and cynical country. From whatever perspective my personal life is a total shambles. Single, desolated, technically bankrupt and creatively worn out. This time the fight is extra tough and I have no idea how long it will take to get on my feet again.

A few things are clear however.

I will finish my film no matter what happens and my finished novel will be published. No idea where or how to get thefunds for it, but it will certainly be finalized in the coming two months. After that all I do will be connected with making my personal life manageable, because at this stage it certainly isn’t. And when that point is reached I will be gone. Leaving this country for as long as possible beause I do not want to spend the rest of my life in this land. I cannot survive here and I feel out of place an useless. I hope that some time soon I will be able to go and place my life in the hands of whatever God / Gods and dedicate what’s left of it to writing, filming and showing the western world the gravity of life in South Asia. Because it is high time that that region with all it’s challenges becomes more known to the west.

I feel I am finished here and as always before in my life I know that this means I have to go elsewhere. And no matter what, I will be able to finish what I started and what I love to do when I feel a bit better: finishing Headwind and bringing my work to the screen. And that is not easy, not easy at all. But it certainly is worth all the crap that is happening to me. Because there are people waiting for that film to come to their screens. Unfortunately in the west most people don’t give a damn about knowing the reality of forgotten exiles let alone support the making of a film. In the end it is like with most guerilla filmers: you make it because there is no way not to do that, wether anyone is interested or not.

Alice © 2012

The Headwind Poject: an overview.

In the past year the Headwind Project has broadened from making a documentary to much, much more. At this stage the project is in fact a more than full time job for the Headwind Production team. The following graph shows what is done and what is coming in the (near) future:

Alice © 2012

Matchboox!

Some time ago a Dutch publisher got an idea. Why not make books that fit in matchboxes? Tiny little handmade books of interesting authors and beautifully illustrated. Squeezed into the tine space of the little matchbox. A perfect little gift for book lovers.

He went to Facebook and started a page.

I found the page, became a fan and did nothing.

And then all of a sudden last week Emmanuel van Leeuwe, the guy I mentioned earlier, send me a Facebook message. I was selected to receive a free Matchboox book. And I got excited. After echanging my address I waited for the mailman to deliver the little miracle and within a few days it was there.

And what a surprise it is. A book from Sylvia Witteman (the cooking books writer) beautifully illustrated by Nanne Meulendijk. Stashed in a matchbox with a great little cover. About what to eat when Obama comes along for dinner. Minestrone is a charm, a beautiful little treasure a little book to read and let read. To show to friends who without exception are puzzled first but become enthusiastic later.

So now I am totally in love with these Matchboox. This is not a commercial but I can safely say that I will Matchboox as presents for people I really like. A carefully selected beautiful for my long distance love who stole my heart and who needs a matchbox to keep it safe and close by. Another one for my daughter, I know she’ll love it.

As a writer an visual artist (film and photo) I feel the desire to make a Matchboox book. To get it published. It is the best format for a poem and so I wonder if that would one day become true. My own Matchboox with my own book. Handmade, beautifully crafted and personal. A gift to cherish.

More info? Check www.matchboox.com and join the Facebook page.

Alice © 2012