photo of the hollywood sign

Fiction for Reality (and finally an update)

Hello! It has been absolutely ages since I posted on my blog, or did anything really and I can finally tell you why.. 

…. I moved to the States! I have only just got my authorisation to work so I can now actually get back to posting and working and writing! Phew.

After 2 years of staying within a few square miles (most of the time) courtesy of the pandemic, I moved all the way to LA, got a puppy and got married. We did a fun and small elopement in Griffith Park (we could just see Hollywood sign in the background) with a few friends and family and had a lovely time.

photo of suzanne, her husband and puppy in Griffith park

Although I miss London (especially at Christmas), LA has turned out to be a wonderful place for hiking and discovering all kinds of creatures and plants I’ve never seen before. It’s not exactly what I thought – I was mostly expecting convertibles and palm trees. Look at this little guy I found on the pavement (sidewalk) the other day:

praying mantis that looks like a sycamore seed

And it’s definitely hiking, not just going for a walk (as I used to scoff in a very British way) because the hills here are massive and most of the flat land has been built on. So it’s hills and more hills unless you go to the beach. It’s great for views and the glutes too.

In case you’re interested, this is what I’ve been up to while I couldn’t work: learning archery and Taiko (Japanese drumming), practicing the piano, learning a tiny bit more Chinese and volunteering as an adult literacy tutor (I was inspired after watching Sandi Toksvig’s program The Write Offs). I’d already been volunteering with helping young kids learn to read in the UK, but I was excited to start with adults who’d fallen through the cracks somehow. Did you know poor literacy can hurt your income, health and even your lifespan? It has been a really rewarding experience and ties in with helping me learn about holistic wellbeing in the fullest sense of the word. 

I’ve also been learning how to write fiction and have just started a children’s magical realism story about a boy with a cleft lip and palate who encounters a magical tree and has to save the world. It has been fun picking up new skills, as always beginner’s mind brings rewards beyond just learning something new. It’s great for our brains and also humility. There’s nothing quite as humbling as starting right at the beginning of something and knowing you’re bad at it! And keeping plodding along hoping to get better.

I called this post fiction for reality because I’ve been so interested in how the process of writing fictitious characters and situations calls for me to find an even deeper truth than writing non-fiction does in some ways. Learning to call upon those universal feelings we all have, those moments that shape our lives and the little day-to-day feelings we can all relate to, has taught me more about our reality and the way we live in it than writing anything else. 

During the first year of the pandemic I began a training course in Leadership Coaching. In addition to that when November rolled around I decided to participate in NaNoWrimo (a competition with yourself to try to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month). The coaching, which was based on Psychosynthesis, covered many aspects of the self, one of which was subpersonalities – essentially getting in touch with different distinct aspects of ourselves. This was so helpful when I was writing my story, I would connect to a character and walk around “as them”, not so much figuring out what they would do and why, as realising it. I managed NaNoWrimo that year, by the way, not like this year when I only managed “Na” (I got about a fifth of the way there). Hey ho, knowing when to rest is also good!

Fiction, sci-fi and fantasy have this incredible ability to help us experience our humanity in a way that is much more intimate than reading or listening to a factual story. Perhaps because we can allow ourselves to be more open, setting down the armour we wear for day-to-day life and letting ourselves feel without qualification. This is even true when the stories aren’t about humans, as I found when reading Ursula LeGuin, one of my favourite authors. Half-anthropologist half-fantasy writer, all amazing.

I still love coaching and writing about self-development, of course, but I will also keep working away at my children’s book until it’s finished. And the more I learn about writing fiction, the better grasp I have on what shape I want the second edition of my self-help book The Art of Coming Home to take. I always wanted it to come from the heart, but writing well in that way is a lot harder than it looks. I’m inspired by books like Untamed and Eat, Pray, Love, that help us not only to know something factually, but to be able to experience a truth within us and feel it powerfully. 

Academic books are great, of course, but sometimes I think they could just start with a sentence “the author is really clever” and then be written in plain English, especially with the volume of information we all have to sort through and process nowadays. 

So this has been a life update and a little thought on the reality within great fiction. My goals for this week are to try to write a little bit more of that truth through my children’s book, finish off my final (hard-won British food in LA) mince pies, read my first NK Jemisin book and start on The Politics of Trauma. And go to archery if this UK-level torrential rain stops in time (which is actually great in that everything has been watered and suddenly we’re surrounded by vibrant green instead of our usual less saturated desert palette). 

What are your goals? Have you been doing well over the past year? Feel free to email me and let me know your news.

I hope you’ve been doing great!


suzanne and her dog smiling