On writing “Leopold Blue”

Rosie Rowell attended our Tuesday afternoon advanced group for many terms. During the course she worked on her first novel, Leopold Blue, which has just been published by Hot Key Books, showing that publishing success is possible for those who work long and hard enough on their writing! This is what she has to say:

It took many years to write Leopold Blue. Part of the reason is that it didn’t fully become a story until I had a complete draft, at which point the hard work began. From the beginning I saw the process more as one of ‘learning how to write’ than writing my first book. Maggie’s Tuesday afternoon course, which I attended for a very long time, was where I learnt technique and craft. It also taught me the value of developing close friendships with other writers.

There was another process that had to happen in the writing of Leopold Blue that took almost as long as the writing. I call it ‘coming out’ as a writer. It took a very long time for me to be able to call myself a writer in my head and to the world. I found Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones very helpful in that process. So much of what she writes is simply about empowering the quivering, doubt-ridden writer. While Leopold Blue is a work of fiction, it is based on a town where I lived as a child. Characters like Marta, Juffrou du Plessis and Witbooi lived there and I very much wanted to capture them.

In a chapter called ‘Original Detail’, Natalie Goldberg writes:

‘It is important to say the names of who we are, the names of the places we have lived, and to write the details of our lives. …  our moments are important. This is what it is to be a writer: to be the carrier of details that make up history.’

I come back to these words often, especially on those many days that I stare at a blank screen and want to run away. What we write is important and it is important to write.

Rosie Rowell, February 2014

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