A revolutionary friendship - virtually.

I’ve never met Rosalie Warren (I couldn’t actually since she’s a pseudonym) and I’ve never actually met Sheila her alter ego (a ‘real’ person.) But we have become friends thanks to the magic of cyberspace. That is the ‘virtual’ world in which increasing amounts of the ‘real’ world are now framed and constructed. And because we’ve become friends I offered to do her post for her today while she brings herself back to the ‘social’ place following bereavement. I feel our society doesn’t ever allow people the time and space to grieve and I’m very pleased to be able to assist ‘a friend’ by hijacking her post for the revolution!   
Because today is the 26thJuly. An important day for Cubans. 26th July 1953 marks the birth of the movement that would ultimately lead to the Cuban Revolution
Sheila/Rosalie with books 
Cally writing in Cuba
And in tribute to the day I’d like to talk about another revolution being born. A revolutionary friendship.

Since I first ‘encountered’ Che Guevara aged 14, I have studied, researched and generally obsessed over Guevara and consequently over Cuba. [click here for 1999 youtube example] In fact Guevarist economics might be just my Mastermind specialist topic! Guevara and Cuba have been a central part of my life and yes, of course have found their way into my creative writing. What has this to do with Sheila/Rosalie? (who on her own admission knows next to nothing of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (to give him his full title).

Well, plenty. I first ‘encountered’ Sheila/Rosalie in connection with her novel Coping with Chloe. Someone had suggested it might make a good play and she didn’t really know where to start. I suggested she solicit help from a playwright. I am/was a playwright! She joined the dots.
She offered, very professionally to pay me for my services. I declined. I was offering a free exchange. A voyage into friendship. A barter relationship in accordance with my Guevarist moral incentives principle (revealed in this story A FISHING LINE). It would still be a professional relationship, but I didn’t want her to pay for something I wanted to give her for free. I suspected there were things she’d be able to do for free in return. The dangers of this system of course can be that everyone feels put upon and ‘gives’ more than they’d like. Don’t get me wrong. When I deal in contracts I like to have watertight contracts. But when I’m working with friends I like the virtual handshake of friendship to be my contract. Something told me Sheila/Rosalie would be a friend. And would be able to offer me something more precious than money in return for my help/advice/expertise in the playwriting arena.

How right I turned out to be. We started to ‘get to know each other’ by reading each other’s works (as well as copious emails of course). S/R read and reviewed Brand Loyalty (because she liked it and ‘got’ what it was about. And we discovered that we had many things in common.
We both lived in Monifieth (small village outside Dundee) for a time. We both lived in Edinburgh for a longer time (and I’m completely sure that we will have either sat next to each other in the theatre or passed each other in a bookshop or some such without knowing it, such is the fickle finger of randomness/fate) and we both have an interest in metaphor and structure.

S/R offered to read ‘AnotherWorld is Possible’ for me ‘two ways’ as I was playing around with the episodic version trying to do something ‘new’ with it – which was going to involve re-working it so that people would read the story twice – thus gaining an insight into the multiple perspectives of the central characters (one of the key issues in the book is ‘whose story is it?’ and ‘whose truth is it?’) But you can only read something for the first time once and I needed to find out which way the story should be told FIRST (episodically or chronologically)
S/R stepped in to the breach. And read it. (Episodically first – which is the way it was originally published – first as an online blog in 2007 under the Spanish title Otro Mundo es Posible, then as a paperback novella in 2008. The ‘stories’ or characters’ truths had outgrown this novella and were now extended into a trilogy I was working on (non conventionally structured of course and with metaphor and ‘perspectives of truth’ featuring in a range of ways – still somewhat shaky on the detail there- it’s hard stuff making difficult things easy for the reader and I’m grappling with narrative voices and structures on this as you read.)
This is where S/R and Che Guevara tie in. Because the underlying ‘truth’ questioned in Another World is Possible is whether Roisin actually is the love child of the ‘great’ man.
The trilogy extends the narrative into the wider world of moral vs material incentive illustrated through the relative ‘perspectives’ of competing economies (sounds riveting I know but my job is to turn this into a narrative which captivates through a trilogy.)

Peugeot garage in Havana c1999 (go figure!) 
 And when S/R had finished her read, she did what you wish every editor you’ve ever met would do but usually doesn’t, offered me some questions and thoughts which enabled me to take a whole new path. And all for no money! I got the view of a writer I trust and  the opinion of a person I trust, doing what I’ve never been able to trust an editor to do.
She wanted more of Roisin. I won’t go into the detail but the result is that instead of Another World Is Possible two ways (though you’ll still be able to read it that way via kindle if you like) I will now have a four part trilogy. As well as AWIP and 

because fishing is economics too 
some things are all in the mind
The One that Got Away (in final draft as we speak) and 

Butterfly Dreaming (the metaphorical denseness of which is confounding me right now and needs much more thinking time)

next up is The Revolutionary’s Daughter. S/R even gave me the title.
Who is the revolutionary's daughter?
And give me a good title and I’m up and running. Roisin is (whatever truth you believe) the revolutionary’s daughter and metaphorically of course, so am I. I am excited about this and already writing the first draft in my head while revisiting research areas needed before I’m ready to start committing myself to virtual paper.

And if that’s not enough S/R further helped me by introducing me to the work of B.S.Johnson who ‘played around’ with structure in a lot of ways I’d been wellying on about. Reading his work offered me the chance to ‘see what works’ or what I thought about some of the things I’d proposed to do. Saved me a lot of time trying, failing and reworking my own writing in ways that would ultimately turn out not how I’d want them. And gave me a lot to think about. That’s a true friend!
I don’t think what either S/R or I have given or taken from each other has been costly – it’s all been part of the emergence of a friendship which while virtual (we’ve still never met, though I’ve heard her voice on radio!) is strong and ‘real’ and I think stands as a testament to how writers can work together in roles of editor/script editor or however you like to ‘identify’ them. When people know their ‘business’ and trust each other sometimes you don’t need to make a financial arrangement. Some things are beyond price.
So I would really like to thank Sheila and Rosalie for everything she’s given me thus far. And point out that in the future people are bound to recreate this story to suggest that we are just ‘pals’ bigging each other up. (For example when I review Charity’sChild on IEBR in August). It didn’t start like that folks. We didn’t know each other. We’ve still never met each other. But we found things in common and ‘get’ each other’s work and so can work together creatively. We have formed a loose creative partnership. If we were paying each other money and giving each other titles such as ‘editor’ no one would get hot under the collar. I suggest that in the indie world it’s possible to bend the ‘rules’ without losing the ‘professionalism’. It’s an established story that editors/agents etc ‘become’ friends. Sometimes you need to look at the other perspective where friends become ‘editors’ and ‘reviewers’ (etc).
But most importantly for me, Sheila/Rosalie is now a friend whose creative comment and judgement I trust and that, believe me, is priceless! And revolutionary. As Che Guevara said ‘words that do not match deeds are unimportant.’  

 You can purchase the following  (UK Amazon links) while waiting for our new books!

AWIP is currently out of print until the re-emergence of the trilogy next spring. Second hand copies are available 


Guernsey Girl said…
Love this post! I've been coping with Chloe for years - she's my amazingly supportive daughter - and reads my novels-in-draft like a pro. I've made some amazing friends in cyberspace, even though I would have said it wasn't possible...
julia jones said…
When one of our children suddenly annouced he wanted to go and spend a post-GCSE with a girl he'd only met via the internet we fell into predictable parental panic mode. Then he managed a winning line "Didn't you used to have something called 'penfriends' in the Olden Days?" Yes we did - and sometimes, a bit trepidatious, you decided to meet your pen friend. I have learned to treasure my electic author friends this year.

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