Yesterday, Sam and I hid away from a chilly, drizzly afternoon in the countryside with the beautiful, warming Kate Forsyth. We devoured hours talking fairytales, courage, and flowers.
Every English summer since 2014 when Kate and I met in London, we’ve managed to meet again somewhere on this tiny island, together away from our big island home. In 2015, I was lucky enough to have a sponsored place on Kate’s extraordinary week-long History, Mystery & Magic writing retreat in Oxford and the Cotswolds, where I found time, space, and the flint I needed to spark Alice fully to life. In 2016, we reunited at Manchester Art Gallery, gazed at pre-Raphaelite paintings together, and Kate gave me a box of Frida’s prints for my birthday, which I later plastered all over my office walls. Often while I was writing, Frida (and Kate’s spirit) would stare me down, crack me open a little bit more, ask me to dig a little bit deeper. What would Frida/Kate do?!
This year however, raising our glasses of prosecco together with Sam in company, was particularly special. “To Alice,” Kate beamed.
To women, who empower each other.
After years of talking about it, finally we walked together across this pebble beach and stood, with bambino, at the edge of The North Sea. My first love; we were brought together by our hunger for books and words and our dreams to live lives immersed in writing. She was one of the first to read anything I wrote after I moved to England. She trusted me with her writing which had such a profound effect on me I still remember lines by heart after reading them eight years ago. When we reunite, we pick up exactly where we last left off, like the very best book; my story sister and me.
We spent election results night in the company of Arundhati Roy, on the last stop of her UK book tour at Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music.
She walked out to rapturous applause, put a hand over her heart, and leant to the microphone. “Congratulations on the momentum,” she said in her soft, musical voice. Raucous cheering and whooping. “Keep it going.”
In the violet light I took notes of the gems that fell from her mouth.
“The essays I wrote after God of Small Things began to deepen my way of seeing. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I wanted to do what I could do best: tell the story. Blow open the spaces that were closing down.”
“Fiction is not an argument. Fiction is a universe.”
“My characters are full of porous borders. You can’t tell the truth…except in fiction.”
“We need literature, art, music; they are acts of shamanism. We need those acts now, as much as analysis.”
“I think it’s important we remain dangerous. When I’m writing, I don’t think about the best seller list, or the number of copies sold. The test is to be dangerous."
We walked out of the concert hall into the watercolour night. Stood gazing at the clear twilight sky. Crossed the road and wandered into the cosy warmth of The Salutation aka ‘The Sally’, a favourite local pub. In 1846 a girl accompanied her father to Manchester and stayed there. While her father had cataract surgery, she stayed in their lodgings and began writing a novel. A little tale called, Jane Eyre.
When we got home I wasn't surprised to find stars in my eyes. Went to bed, hungry for sleep after a few sleepless nights. Drifted off deeply grateful for the safety in my home, the food in my belly, and the life I live.
Here’s to hope, and resilience, wildflowers. I hope your weekend is kind.
HOLLY RINGLAND grew up barefoot and wild in her mother's tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.