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Category Archives: Nature

Talking to Amy Gigi Alexander-Part 1

I don’t understand Women’s day as a concept, as everyday is just another for some and The Day for others, but there are days when certain posts are appropriate. I had the opportunity to talk with the wonderful Amy Gigi Alexander- many of us must know her social media profile. She’s an inspiring woman and was kind enough to answer all my questions in time for International Woman’s Day. You must check her fb page: she combines her interests so magically and draws in people from diverse parts of the world with her enthusiasm- quite a refreshing way of looking at the world. She travels, she’s had her battles, she writes, she curates……

amygigiphoto

Amy Gigi Alexander is a writer, explorer, traveler and believer in goodness. She writes long form travelogues mixed with memoir and fiction for publications around the world, including Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, World Hum, The Hindu, National Geographic, and more. Her stories have appeared in collections by Travelers’ Tales and Lonely Planet, as well other literary anthologies and journals.  You can read more of her work at www.amygigialexander.com

 

How is a woman’s writing about her travels any different from the travelogues by men?

I see you’ve decided to start with the easy question first. I’m teasing.

When I go to place, everyone knows I am a woman, and I am spoken to as a woman, offered experiences as a woman, and this treatment colors how I see the destination, culture, and people. The same is true for men. There are simply different experiences for men and women because many cultures treat the sexes differently.

   There are places a woman usually will not go: especially in conservative areas of the world or places which are dangerous to women as the idea of women traveling is unusual. So you might see a story by male travel writers with story lines such as crossing Afghanistan solo by horse, or sailing the high seas with Senegalese pirates—but it’s very rare to see such stories by women. There are lots of exceptions of women in adverse conditions going at it alone, such as Dervla Murphy, Arita Baaijens, Ella Maillart, and more. But the vast majority of women’s travel tales will not involve such narratives.

But I think this fine, because women have access to a world that men do not have when they travel: the world of women. This insider view is impossible for a man to witness, but a woman traveler has instant access due to being female. Some of the things I’ve been invited to do because I am a woman are: sitting on a rooftop with village women talking about their life stories; attending a childbirth; walking with female nomads across a desert. There are many ways women are living around the world, and as a woman, I’m an instant sister and able to take part.

So as women travelers, we really have the best of both worlds: we have access to both men and women, and if we want we can have solo adventures which push risk, or we can take risks in more intimate ways, developing bonds with a worldwide sisterhood.

You have so many stories on your fingertips- how do you keep track of them all?

I don’t think about my stories too much: when I travel I take a lot of notes, and sometimes the story is complete when I return from my journey—sometimes not. Once they are done, I just file them away and take them out as I feel inspired. I keep a running list of what I have completed and what is still in idea phase.

How should a woman travel—alone or in groups—what is your advice to her, particularly when it comes to safe and meaningful travel?

A woman should travel as she wishes.

There is no wrong way to travel, and both solo and group travel have value even though they are very different.

I didn’t travel a lot on my own for many years, and traveled with companions and friends. At first this had its own ease and I enjoyed it. But after I got more comfortable with traveling, I disliked having to constantly take someone else’s ideas and wants into consideration, and felt I wanted more spontaneity. I started traveling alone simply because I wanted to invite serendipity, and it is hard to include that in a structured agenda!

I enjoy traveling alone, but I also love traveling with other women. Traveling in a group of women can give you wider berth in some areas of the world, and if you don’t have a lot of time to make mistakes and get lost, group tours are really advantageous. Still, I also think when you are on that tour, wandering off alone now and again is a wise idea: it helps you see yourself as capable and strong.

Tell us about Walking Writing Women– you share 365 stories this year about traveling women in history. Where did the spark for his idea come from and how do you go about with the research of these sometimes obscure determined characters?

Writing Walking Women started because I wanted to walk across part of Newfoundland, and mentioned this on social media. I got many messages from women who said that they wished they could take a trip like that, but that they could not think of doing it alone—or didn’t want to. It occurred to me that we could all go together. Why not? So Walking Writing Women was born! We do take several trips a year and we meet all over the world, and write about the places we go as we travel together.

The #365 women idea came from a search I did online one day: I was looking for women travel writers and the Wikipedia page came up. On it was a list of travel writers who were mostly men, and a few women, most of whom were long since gone and from the period of history rife with colonialism. I began doing research on women who traveled and wrote about it, and discovered hundreds of women that needed a voice: poets, novelists, explorers, botanists, historians, and memoirists. So many women travel writers from around the world!

The idea grew overnight: why not share a woman travel writer a day on social media? Why not give a biography for each woman and show pictures of her life and literary accomplishments? Then I decided to turn these Facebook posts into a database, and with the help of the other members of Walking Writing Women, that is becoming a reality. At the end of 2015, when you do a search online for women travel writers you’ll see that tired Wikipedia page—but you’ll also see a huge database on our website. We want to create a resource which inspires women to travel and write, and we can think no better way to do that than use the women who have gone before us.

Follow Writing Walking Women on the fb page here.

You write short stories and do travel writing. Where do the lines blur between these two writing forms and where do they separate?

For me, they don’t really stand separate. I know that travel writing has a formulaic reputation, but I find that the travel genre lends itself very well to weaving memoir and stories about place. The only difficulty is that there is a framework that a travel story has to have, a start, a middle, an end. These parts have to be very clear, unlike fiction of cross genre writing, where literary forms can bleed into one another without questions.

 

In part 2 of the interview, we will take a look at bucket lists, social media tips and Project Inspire with Amy. Right now, let me check one to-do on my bucket list: read more about Walking Women on their fb page and inspire myself to move out of the world in my head to the World, the real construct.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

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Reading with my Smartphone

Reading on your smartphone can be a bit addictive and maybe even laced with distraction but have you ever tried reading your paperback or hardcover with your smartphone?

Books are often very geography specific. It’s one thing watching a movie about a story set in a moor and quite another reading a heavily descriptive piece about one. You could decide to abandon a book because you can’t understand the landscape but sometimes that inaccessibility is a good thing- it makes you curious.

What I did while reading one of Robert Macfarlane’s brilliant books was google words, particularly the names of trees and birds and flowers that are completely foreign to my landscape and look for their images. This kind of reading does take much longer but it is so enriching!

It’s not just dictionary meanings I track down now- seeing the thing, especially with nature writing, changes the way you read and experience the book.

When some of you read my ebook Unsettled, you may wonder  what a yakshi or Indian femme fatale  looks like. What is the panna tree that she sits on like? You may have a mental picture of what you read but googling it could give you a complete shock!

I find this method very interesting while reading poems from diverse landscapes. Have you tried it?

neelthemuse@ 2014

Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Books, Day to day, Fiction, Nature

 

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Thinking about ‘People who Like Meatballs’

has a word

the sight of it, the smell, the taste of it on your tongue,

the echo in your head, made you rise a sun in the east,

cringe, an animal in fear?

puzzle

Right now only one Word comes to me for obvious reasons- it is in a poetry book I’m reading. The book revolves around a huge refulgent Elephant. I’ve never read anything like ‘People who Like Meatballs’ and I am happy that I have decided to talk to you about my experience of reading poetry books.

Although I’ve gone on a good deal about Rating, I don’t really think a rating should be the basis of your book choice. Particularly when it comes to reading a book of poems- because so many things are involved like personal choice, cultural constraints, etc.

A good thing about a poetry book is that you can read it in any order. I read half of this book like a regular person and then because I was amazed by the very idea, the premise, the title of this book I read it backwards.While I am madly promoting ebooks(because I’ve written one? no way….could that be why?),  I must tell you that reading Poetry Books is a joy.

You can suspend everything. There are no facts….no logic.

Yet there is beneath it all an invisible thread of logic that connects poetry to song to arithmetic to logic.

In the first segment ‘People who like Meatballs’, Selima Hill talks about man’s humiliation by a woman. The language is surrealistic and bizarre. I’ve never read so many poems that revolve around the very suggestive elephant trunk and its possibilities. The elephant sways, ambles and ‘smiles like a pile of moons’. Even the cover makes one curious about the elephantine.

elephant

In the second part ‘Into My mother’s snow-encrusted Lap’, Selima Hill illuminates a mother-child relationship. There are animal references in this part as well- stallions, walrus, horses, caterpillars, but the primary feeling you get here after reading the first part is that you have left the forest and entered the domestic world filled with cakes, sausages, lettuce, hats and extremely poignant chicken soup,

“Her chicken soup is waiting in the dining-room/but all she wants to do is lie down/and go to heaven….”

A beautiful bizarre book filled with beautiful lines like these…..

~~

Now I have a question for you:

Which word has influenced you in any way ( besides swear words) and why? Think about it and post your comment or just let it linger in your head.

 

neelthemuse@ 2013

Check out my book Unsettled @ the Indireads Book Store: http://indireads.com/books/unsettled

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Books, Nature

 

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The Mara Crossing: Of Migrations

I thought reviewing poetry books would be a fine idea, considering that I enjoy reading poems so very much.

This is not a review though.

the mara crossing

It is a feeling of wonder about what a book can do. The Mara Crossing is the extremely erudite Ruth Padel’s homage to migration. The Mara Crossing itself refers to the Serengeti wildebeest migration phenomenon

But the term Migration is so all-encompassing that it is perfect poetry book material. When you write a book of poems it would be good idea to have some kind of theme that can hold your poems together though this is by all means not essential.

In this book, migration translates into so many ideas.

It could be a flock of birds in their tell-tale V/Streaming cells in a mother’s womb lining up to create a foetus./ It could be the flow of stems and roots and flowers that populate the earth/ the flow of rivers into their seas./The march of people to different beats/ the beached whale/ the wars that make people give up everything they know to gain one thing- living/ the flow of the gene/ the spread of disease.

The book is written in prosimetrum a migratory experience in itself as the poet moves from prose to poetry and again.

The prose explains the premise of the poems. Each poem is crafted with so much scholarship and encyclopaedic accuracy. I found myself going to the dictionary many times- on my phone and the big dictionary on my shelf as well. A migration in itself- the absorption in the sentence turning into a search for meaning, something to pin it down. In the search something is always lost, something gained.

I have a sense of renewed respect for the Bird, Insect, Plant and Humankind, for all things that travel through time. A sense of Yugen- a Japanese word that means a sense of unexplained wonder at the world, in my case wonder at a book.

If you do read The Mara Crossing, tell me what you think.

neelthemuse@ 2013

Check out my book Unsettled @ the Indireads Book Store: http://indireads.com/books/unsettled

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Nature

 

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Aside

What do you do when Theroux and Pico

Set their geographic compass in you?

Traveling has been part of my childhood- I traveled home from the Persian Gulf to India. So vacation has always been about returning to a place that is your own, a landscape, a set of smells, that defines where you are from and how you should act.

I’ve always lived on the outside. Isn’t it strange to go home and find ways to make it your own?

My husband went to Ghana the other day, a long long flight from India. He has a strong sense of home as he grew up mostly in one house that still holds memories and the people he loves.

I wondered what Ghana would mean to someone like him who suddenly transported himself to faraway climes…so here….

Ghana Coast

 

There were a thousand thoughts on the way to the airport and checking in,

Then the sky.

The arrival a warm gush of heat, nothing in the head but new.

 

Like childhood playing football on a beach-sand ripples their chests,

A woman approaches or a wave?   free tonight? she parts her lips and smiles,

Her body opens like a flower- yesterdays cease to chatter- a shift of dialect.

 

© neelthemuse,2012

Dreaming of Ghana

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Books, Day to day, Nature

 

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How the Poem comes

 

Here is Canon’s challenge over at the dverse poets….I love minimalist verse….

Not worrying about the written form too much, try to write a poem using mainly tangible images to convey your thoughts, using as little abstract vocabulary as possible. If you find it difficult, focus on a single image and try to convey a lot of meaning in as small a space as you can.

Eric

*

Blue skies for some,

For others, cumulus assemble

(Drought begins before we know.)

Cast shadows,

Forward march,

Bring rain

Fall.

*

 

© neelthemuse, 2012

 
28 Comments

Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Nature, Prompts

 

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