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Talking with Amy Gigi Alexander-Part 2

In Part 1 of this interview, Amy Gigi Alexander talked about writing and travel. She has many projects in mind and this interview explores how you can take up so many projects and do justice to each of them. Very often these days, we find ourselves steeped in a quagmire of ideas and possibilities– the challenge lies in  taking your ideas forward.

You are a fan of bucket lists– you wrote one that was a huge motivation for you to experience life– what is the best way to create one?

I’m huge fan of bucket lists. I think a bucket list and what is on it shows the character of the person who wrote it. These lists are not always about quick experiences which are checked off in succession—sometimes they are tasks that take years.

I’m about to write a new bucket list this month, and one tool I will use is to imagine what I am afraid to do. I think bucket lists are useful to get over fears and overcome the blocks that we set up for ourselves. Anything I think I cannot do will be on my new bucket list.

In addition, bucket lists are a wonderful way to find your sense of humor. On my last list I had things which still make me smile that I did them: embarrassing silly acts that make me take life a little less seriously. Be in a parade. Sing in front of a crowd. Try stand-up comedy.

Bucket lists are not just about saving your life—they are also for helping you find your joy.

Tell us about your upcoming book projects and other social media projects and what inspired them.

I have three book projects happening right now. The first the Conversations series. This is a series of long format interviews with travel writers and writers of multiple genres about travel themes. The idea came to me because I was looking for such a series online, and couldn’t find anything. My dear friend Patricia Schultz who wrote 1000 Places to See Before You Die gave me the best advice once: “If you don’t see what you want out there, make it. Create it yourself.” So Conversations was something that came out of that advice. The series is online on my website, also on Facebook page, and will be published as a book in the future.

The second book project is the travel memoir I am writing about India. I lived-and loved—in India for several years, and this book centers on five months of those experiences in Calcutta, West Bengal, and a small village in Bihar. It is a story about falling in love with a city, a love affair that is passionate and intense, and at the same time, working with Mother Teresa’s nuns and questioning the validity of my beliefs and struggles with my own humanity.

The third book project takes place in Panama, and centers around an eight month period I lived in a remote jungle village with a group Ngabe Bugle indigenous people who had invited me to live with them. It is a story about losing oneself and finding oneself in a new way, and also it is the story of the proud and fierce people who I lived with and honored me with their experiences and teachings.

And of course, there are other book projects floating around– one is a travelogue about Varanasi and the Ganges. However, these are the first three to complete.

Online, I have my website, which features my own stories, a blog, the interviews and a guest collection of curated tales; the Walking Writing Women Facebook and Twitter pages; and my own personal Facebook and Twitter pages.

Tips on how to use social media. You curate multiple pages and causes- how do you do this effectively?

Well, first off I think people get the impression that social media is a time drain. I have the opposite feeling—to me it very fast, easy, and doesn’t take a great deal of time. I do schedule the amount of time I spend on it each day, and that time is divided into four parts: (1) my own posts (2) responding to comments and personal messages (3) seeing what others are doing on social media (4) sharing the work and posts of others. Once I hit the time limit, I don’t visit social media again that day. However, I still might go on it to have a messaging conversation. The trick is spread your time throughout the day in segments, so that you are always interacting and always seeing what interests others.

My social media tips:

(1) Be inspiring

(2) Make your page a destination that people want to visit because they feel good when they do.

(3) Share the writing of others

(4)Don’t use hashtags and other annoyances unless it is a theme or an event

(5)Thank others often and by name

(6) Use messaging to deepen the conversations that start on your posts

(7) Choose a few things that you are known for and consistently post about those things.

(8) Authenticity. Love what you post.

(9) Choose five random people each day to visit: look at their page, check out their links, and their websites, and comment on their posts

(10)Be okay with deleting comments without explanations and deleting/blocking and unfollowing people who harass or comment inappropriately

I usually ask every writer who is featured on this blog for a creative prompt- I call it Project Inspire. Give me your version of it. A picture, a story, a tweet…anything you think could get a blogger inspired to write or pack her bags and travel.

Project Inspire:

“I’ve always been fascinated by risk-takers. Maybe not so much risk-takers as people who listen to some inner voice and follow it where it takes them. They follow it even though they aren’t sure where they are going or how things will turn out. They go anyway. These people are the great travelers, voyagers, discoverers. And I’m not just curious about them: I need them. For life without them as guides is like being in a beautiful palace with all the lights turned off and the curtains drawn.

There have been times in my life I felt suffocated, that I walked as though there was a pillow in front on my face, blocking my sight, my speech. Muffled. Closed. Squinting at shadows. Sometimes it has taken me awhile to figure out that the pillow is there, and that my words aren’t being heard, that I’m blind. It takes me time to see that blurred lipstick shallow breaths are not sustaining. That’s when I start searching for risk-takers and I follow their trail, usually in the form of a road trip, a journey towards. Road trips, particularly of the driving-a-car-for-hours-and-hours variety, to some hoped-for destination, sight, or encounter, have a way of unshackling.”

-from Freefall in the Mojave

 

Thank you so much for your time Amy! It has been a wonderful experience talking to you and learning about how writing can be used productively to share experiences and learn from it. For it is not just the journey that matters but the telling too that makes the story a gem.

 

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 

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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Day to day, Interviews with Poets

 

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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……

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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 a poem

We had a book club session which I will be blogging about soon, and I found myself wondering what book had made such a supreme impression. There have been many, many books. I’m a fickle reader- I flit from book to book, linger on some pages, and then rush to another tome or even screen. I had resolved to read every book that came my way, but I take my time with them, and though the falling into love with books is routine, few embed themselves in memory.

Now I take books seriously- review books, complete reading books, write books.

But what piece of writing has stayed with me?

It had to be a poem.The Waste Land by T.S.Eliot was a poem that I loved for reasons far from the poem. It had to do with the teacher who read it to us and turned it into some kind of anthem in our minds. Always, always April is the cruelest month, even though it is the time of our own harvest festival. Always there is hope, even when there isn’t.

So I read a bit of the poem- and it was as though my professor was reading it to us again in that faraway classroom that I wish I could go back to. That could be why the poem moved me, because it had moved someone else as well, in a place that still existed on the map but was now completely inaccessible and severed by time.

Have you found yourself rereading something- a poem, a book, and realizing why that piece of work meant what it did? Sometimes it could be a revelation.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Day to day

 

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Recovery

I must confess I am not through blogging. I blog a great deal where I work and that has led me to the illusion that I am blogging after all and have left nothing behind.But I have, of course.

Waxing eloquent about poetry is not enough– you must pursue it, but as this is my place of honesty, I have not been pursuing poetry for a while now. Not at all– all my interests are going prosaic and this worries me. Though I did madly read Philip Levine the other day.

There are many things about me that my blog has not touched and I find this strange.

Like

The first #book(see I’m a hashtag addict) I ever wrote was a self-help book. It took a couple of years for all the wheels and cogs to come together, but I wrote it to see if 326 pages was possible. It was.

Then I wrote a short novella, and considering that this is my blog and that it must be self-serving, I should have done more work on the paranormal romance genre and speculative fiction genre in general.

Has it ever happened to you that you have been blogging for a long time and you suddenly realized that you had a place at your disposal to say so many things, and you didn’t? I envy those who use their fbs and twitters to speak so fluently about the place where they are at.

It calls for some kind of fluency of the fingers to type out your life to your timeline.

When will I ever learn to do it–must I? Must you?

Of course.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Books, Day to day, Fiction, Paranormal Romance

 

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Count

In a new year mood (that has been dampened by the ways of the world) I visited my Submittable page(the page where are all your submissions to poetry and fiction journals can be recorded) and saw that my submission count of poetry and fiction has been so very limited!

Why is this?

There could be many reasons I do not submit enough and many that you do this as well.

In general, there are many problems with submitting poems. Most magazines will not accept poetry published on your blog or any other social media. So you limit posting them and since posing them is as good as an incentive as any, you write less poetry!

Then there is the problem of writing poems in a  consistent place. Many poems I’ve written have been misplaced or have disappeared along with my hard disk (I’m still grieving over this). You can never capture a poem once it is lost as you  write it in a certain kind of state of mind. How do you save the state of mind?

Then there is the manuscript. You pack whatever you have salvaged into a single Word Doc. The doc grows and grows and then when you look at it after a while, you wonder why so many expletives are about to erupt.

After all you wrote this.

Submittable has salvaged one or two poems I wrote and I am grateful as I can download some work that never made it into the world. Rejections are sometimes a godsend when all memory, your own and the digital Proust fail.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 10, 2015 in Day to day

 

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Easy Hat

Is creativity the easiest hat to wear? A magician’s hat?

A poet has it easy- she writes poems if she is persistent, she publishes in several journals and starts making a name for herself.

A writer writes a story, maybe an e-book that sells like hotcakes. Then he writes a sequel, and then another. His series gets picked up by a producer and now his eureka moment in the bath is a multi-million dollar business.

An artist draws a circle and it turns into a motif known world over.

But whatever is created is made between living and the best work can hardly ever come with success as the final goal. The characters have to talk to you, the melody has to translate from a moment on to the page and the image must come from a heartbeat.

So it can not be the easiest hat to wear. On the contrary.

That’s my 2014 lesson. You can not take this idea of creativity as a permanent sticker that will label your existence. It’s just an indication of the road you should walk on.

You must learn one thing

The world was made to be free in

Give up all worlds

except the one to which you belong.

(David Whyte)

© neelthemuse, 2014
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2014 in Day to day

 

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Talking to The ‘Great’ Indian Poetry Collective

One day I sauntered into a writing workshop headed by Ellen after I talked with Shikha. It was a lovely magical experience. Ellen’s workshops are a treat.

I had just happened to meet a Poetry Collective in the making.

When you think that you are alone in your love for poetry, an alternative world filled with poetry love opens up. It’s that simple. I talked to the lovely ladies about their campaign to support Indian poets.

Why is a collective is good for poets?

Starting this poetry collective has been nothing short of transformational. We often think of writing as a solitary practice, and part of it is:  a writer has to contend with the blank page again and again and grapple with words. It’s magical, fulfilling, and at times requires a good dose of bravery. The other piece about being a writer is that we all need support, and this is what the collective offers:  support and outreach.

Under our peer mentorship model, new poets are paired with published poets to hone and fine-tune their manuscripts through a rigorous editorial process, leading to publication. Once a manuscript is ready, the poet is involved in all aspects of layout and design, working with talented graphic designers and artists.

In addition, our workshops, talks and readings reach hundreds of aspiring poets as well as poetry lovers. We’ve held wildly popular workshops at literary festivals, colleges, and bookstores in India as well as in the United States. Our app, inPoetry, will launch next month, bringing contemporary Indian poets directly to smartphone readers everywhere.  Poets emerge from working with us — whether in a one-day workshop or during a two-year commitment as a collective member — more confident and empowered to bring their skills to the wider poetry world.

The kind of books you are planning to bring out?

We are hard at work to bring out the most diverse voices from global India. We are publishing only first and second books, ensuring that we’re discovering the most vital new voices.

One book per year will always be by a poet living in India, and at least one book will always be by a woman. We also have anthologies in the pipeline, including a teaching anthology for teachers to share contemporary Indian poetry with their students, and a groundbreaking collection of living women poets from India and the diaspora. Our app, inPoetry, will include a new Indian poem every week, introducing readers to some of the freshest and most exciting writing in India today.

A ‘Collective’ secret!

Minal’s dog Champi is an honorary collective member and has the title of Chief Morale Officer. She is working on her own collection of poems that all rhyme with the word “dog.”

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Also a link to your prompts. The prompts are poetry in themselves!

Right now, all of the prompts are on our Facebook page as part of our indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the press. One of the PERKS available is a PDF of all 40 inspiring writing prompts! Please visit our campaign to see all the goodies, including some book raffle/giveaways in the countdown to the end of our campaign on December 19! http://igg.me/at/gr8indianpoetry

 

Thank you! 

Thank you so much for talking poetry with us, Neelima!

For your readers who are interested in joining our collective, we’ll be choosing new members based on book-length manuscripts during our open reading period in February 2015. Please keep up with us on our website www.greatindianpoetrycollective.org, our Facebook page www.facebook.com/indianpoetrycollective, and our Twitter account www.twitter.com/gr8indianpoetry for open calls, workshops, new releases and more.

 

© neelthemuse, 2014
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Day to day

 

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