Connecting Over Monday Coffee: “The Next Big Thing”


Wilhelm Schreuer Kaffeekränzchen In our previous post, we mentioned that we were invited to participate in a blog chain called My Next Big Thing.  This blog chain isn’t a chain letter but a chance for writers to connect with with one another over the blogosphere – and isn’t connecting what writing is all about? I want to say “thank you” again to our lovely friend Dr. Pearl Ketover Prilik for this chance to share what one of us is up to these days. Please check out Pearl’s Next Big Thing at this link. And after you’ve read Andrea’s description of this *amazing* project she’s working on, please stop in and say hello to the talented people with whom we’re next sharing this chain! – Ina

The Camino near Burgos

The Camino, near Burgos

Andrea’s Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book or project?

AH: The Tartan Pillow Lead

What sparked the project/book/work off?

AH:I walked the Camino in Spain in 2006 – and why did I? I needed to explain to myself why I did it but after I did it, I most of all wanted to preserve a beautiful picture of the wonderful people I met on the road, The Camino.

The Camino! The Way! People from all over the world walk the Camino every year, and we are following a trail of hundreds of kilometers up north in Spain. There are around 25 kilometers in between the towns and the beds where you can sleep, so for many people the options make it possible. A lot of men wrote about their external sufferings and inner revelations walking these hundreds of kilometers, and I don’t understand this because the majority of people I met on the Camino back in 2006 were women. Women from all over the world losing weight.

I never intended to walk the Camino, but a friend of mine wanted to go there. She had breast cancer, and in a hospital bed without breasts, she cried, “Now I can never walk the Camino.”

And I said, “Of course you can.”

And she said, “Will you bring me?”

And I said, “I’ll carry you all the way if necessary.”

My friend recovered, and every now and then she reminded me of my promise, so one day we were there. “Hello 500 kilometers ahead of you,” I thought one day in Burgos in Spain. It turned out to be a painful nightmare for the first couple of days because I did not know anything else than walking these 500 kilometers (approximately 300 miles) to reach the airport in Santiago to get safely home to Denmark. How would I ever succeed?

I got lost from my Danish friend after two days. Only I met a lot of other people. People from all over the world. People from Holland, Germany, England, Ireland, Canada, America, Australia and yes, all over the world.

I walked all those hundreds of kilometers mostly with three Australians, but I met my Danish friend after 19 days in Santiago. When sitting in a restaurant with my Australian friends, whom I walked with for what felt like a lifetime, my Danish friend asked me, “Andrea, why do you speak in English?”

And what did I say? Likely that it was important for me that everybody around the table understood what I said – only the fact was that I felt more or less Australian. I become “a mate.”

When I returned to Denmark, I started writing about all the experiences with all those hundreds of people that I’d met. I wrote in English, and after three months I ended up with a book manuscript of 72,000 words, now wondering:

Who doesn’t need to follow a long-haired, American anorexic pilgrim walking out there with her plastic bags?

“Being a Franciscan believer doesn’t allow me to own anything,” she said. Only I for one would have loved to buy a rucksack for her. Listening to her endless packing and unpacking of her noisy Spanish plastic bags at 5 o’clock in the morning was hell.

“Sorry, but I need to arrange all my stuff right,” she said.

Or the polite British pilgrim who wore his trekking trousers inside out, explaining to me that the trousers belonged to his dead friend who had wanted to walk the Camino.  He promised this dead friend’s wife that he would wear these trousers along the entire journey, and there he was, “saving” these trousers for Santiago where he would put them on right.

“What an odd promise,” I said.

“Yes, you might say so,” he said, “but that’s how she wanted it, and I do it because she promised me his old car when I return to England.”

How would you describe your project/book/piece of work?

AH: I guess my problem is that I don’t know how to describe it. When you just write like a mad for 3 months and then polish, polish and polish – then you end up wondering what you wrote.

Only basically the genre is non-fiction. I describe poignant incidents but most of all I hope that I meet my fellow pilgrim, Susan, who said: “On my first Camino, I cried – on my second Camino, I laughed.” And I met Susan on her second Camino, luckily, and it should be impossible to be mistaken about cathedrals, towns, roads – but we went lost all the time – in fact we found a cathedral which turned out to be a flamingo dance hall.

And why did we get lost all the time? Because we were two middle aged women who had long lives behind us and needed to tell each other all about them so we missed towns, cathedrals and the arrows on the road because we were so engaged in our conversation. We didn’t see a thing until it was kind of dark or the road, the trail, suddenly stopped.

Only wherever we went, we always were rescued. We, I, were part of a team and we followed Susan who had a tartan pillow so when we saw that pillow in the hostels, we knew that we found the right place, so we booked and stayed there together.

How long did it take you to find your own style and voice?

AH: I love a short and fresh style and I love when I can break it when I need something poignant to be added. And how did I find it? I guess it’s just me like I’m born with this style of mine.

In what ways do you think ‘writer you’ differs from or has similarities to the everyday you?

AH: These are two different characters, sort of. Being a writer, I’m a lot of things but most of all, I’m sharp. In my everyday life, I’m not. Once I wanted to be but life taught me that I’m just a very ordinary kind of quiet person but when I’m writing, well, I’m normally nice but I can be horrible. You see when writing, I am completely honest.

 Who or What makes you pick up that pen or start typing at the keyboard?

AH: I guess that you, the reader, make me want to write. When I was twelve I wrote an ongoing story for a school magazine and when my fellow students protested when the editor wanted me to stop my ongoing story, I felt fine.

I don’t know, really. I’m not much of a speaker, so I guess that writing is a way for me to express myself and when I created something, I always feel fine.

Imagine someone waved a magic wand and you were only able to write one book in your lifetime and you knew it would be perfect and say exactly what you intended and be understood and appreciated by everyone; what would you write about?

AH: I always wanted to create the perfect love story. I’d say “The Tartan Pillow Lead” is a kind of love story so maybe I already wrote it.

So yes, a love story.
Photograph of Coffee Break at National Archives and Records Service (NARS) Conference in the Late 1970s

And  with that perfect ending, here are InOurBooks’ pings for the My Next Big Thing blogger chain:

  • Regina Swint, author of The Other Side of 30
  • Amy Harke-Moore author of poetry, short stories, and non-fiction and editor at The Write Helper [click her link for more info]
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14 thoughts on “Connecting Over Monday Coffee: “The Next Big Thing”

  1. Oh my goodness!!! What an interview. Andrea you never cease to amaze! As far as your book – it would be wonderful to read about these true-life characters. What a wonderful interview!

    • Pearl, thank you so much. I sit here and enjoy your words in a quiet night, also enjoying that a snow storm passed – my cabin didn’t fall apart and I didn’t either.
      Yes, interviews – I also enjoyed yours very much and I was glad to see Ina’s comment. I was right there.

  2. Thank you very much, Andrea and Ina, for mentioning me and my book on your blog. I appreciate your kindness of sharing the info. Hope you ladies are enjoying your holiday season. Keep up the good work, and happy reading, to you! 🙂

    • Hi Regina,
      We were both delighted to! I hope you’ll have the time to post your own answers to the Next Big Thing questions, mainly because I’m SO curious about projects you have coming up (including the anthology in progress at RenInk).
      Ina

  3. Oh, Andrea! How fantastic! I have always wanted to walk the Camino…not sure I will ever get there, but if I do, I will think of you and smile! So glad you wrote about your journey. I hope your book does well! Blessings!!

    • Thank you – but hmn, the book manuscript described here is kind of not published yet. But on the day when it is published, I’d love to send you a copy. You’re such an inspiration.

  4. Oh Andrea – I’m so glad I finally got back here to comment on your interview (my week kind of got away from me there for awhile…). First of all, I’m always in awe of anyone who does the Camino – so picture me bowing, arms stretched straight out and saying over and over “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy” – laughing of course, but sincere, all the same. Second – your telling of this adventure is magical and I can’t wait to read it. You bring your compatriots to life and I felt as if I was right there – especially people like the woman with the plastic bags – oh my – I can hear those bags! You have a wonderful way with words! Thanks so much for sharing this … I look forward to your answers to “the next big thing” also … I’m supposed to be doing that also but I can’t find the questions anywhere. Did Pearl email them to you?

    • Sharon, who are worthy?
      I just walked and since I was able to get numerous stamps in my credential Camino pass port, I also ended up being a certificated pilgrim – and stamps, there is also one from an inn because I wanted to remember the place (they served good food). Just to tell you: never forget to have a good time.
      And the questions. I just copied and pasted the ones Pearl put on her blog. Ina sent me some but since I couldn’t find them and that particular Monday was the deadline, I ended up using the questions that Pearl answered. There may be some more right questions, I don’t know, because later I found the questions Pearl sent for Ina and me and they are not exactly the same.
      I’ll recommend that you look up Pearl’s website and copy and paste her questions. I for one can tell you that they worked fine.
      And just here, you made a grey and cold Friday worth living.

  5. Pingback: The Next Big Thing Blog Hop Database « Write, Juggle, Run

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