Tuesday 18 February 2020

#WEP/IWSG February challenge - Cafe Terrace - my tribute to the painter, Vincent van Gogh

Hello friends!

For the inaugural WEP 2020 February challenge, I'm taking  a break from #flashfiction and going with a tribute to one of my favorite artists, Vincent van Gogh, that mystic and idealist, who just happens to be the inspiration for this challenge.

Painted in August-September 1888, this painting has had many names - The Night Cafe, Cafe at Night, Place du Forum, Arles, Cafe Terrace. At its first public exhibit in 1891, the work bore the title Café, le soir, or Coffeehouse at Evening. Another name it goes by is Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. To have so many names signifies its importance on so many levels!!

Van Gogh painted this cafe which was open all night in his day. Here vagabonds and drunks would come to find shelter, not knowing where else to go to sleep off their drink and drown their solitude. This cafe was home to them.

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter
 who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.

Even in van Gogh's time, this cafe was central to French culture. A place for a meeting of minds of like-minded souls. This painting was the fruit of a meeting between Guy de Maupassanat and van Gogh and featured at the beginning of de Maupassant's risque novel, Bel Ami. Even though set in Paris, it's Arles he's describing...
It was one of those sultry, Parisian evenings when not a breath of air is stirring; the sewers exhaled poisonous gases and the restaurants the disagreeable odors of cooking and of kindred smells. Porters in their shirt-sleeves, astride their chairs, smoked their pipes at the carriage gates, and pedestrians strolled leisurely along, hats in hand.
Van Gogh loved to paint the night. He loved the colors, the mellow blues, violets and greens.  He wrote 'the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.' Astronomers have studied the placement of the stars in the painting and have lauded van Gogh for getting them exactly right for August/September in his part of the world.

I visited this cafe in Arles two years ago. I was thrilled it was still there as if waiting for the triumphal return of the unfortunate van Gogh who immortalised the cafe. It's been renamed Cafe van Gogh which I think is adorable. This is what it looks like today. Not a lot different from van Gogh's day.

It was still a feast of colour on a bleak winter's night. I stood shivering in the forum, but it was not going to open for me, more's the pity. Had to grab a bite at some ordinary eatery across the way and gaze at it throughout the meal, imagining the roisterous time being had by all in Cafe Terrace 100 or so years back.

I'm not one to sit inside cafes, but here is part of the inside taken from one of my books:

Café Terrace at Night ranks second in a list of the top ten most reproduced artworks of all time. Van Gogh's Starry Night holds first place. I was thrilled to find an airbnb on the Rhone River in Arles when I visited. It reflected this view.  The owner was a van Gogh fanatic who sat me down with a map and highlighter and documented the 'van Gogh trail' for me to follow. I was just as happy sitting at the window of my 'room with a view.'

When I was in Paris at the end of 2019, it seems they've suddenly discovered how fantastic van Gogh's artwork reproduces. I saw Starry Night suitcases and van Gogh reproductions on scarves, especially Cafe Terrace. I couldn't resist buying one and Sunflowers as a gift for someone. Can't wait for the end of the Australian heatwave to wear mine!

Go Vincent van Gogh!

Please click on my sidebar to read more WEP entries. If in the future you'd like to write for us, check out our website! Our next prompt is in April. Yolanda Renee has returned as a WEP host. Yay! She will be hosting:

Isn't that intriguing? Why don't you join us?

And hello! WEP is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020! I  hope you'll join the fun writing competition at least once this year!

Tuesday 4 February 2020

#February #IWSG - Damyanti Biswas gets beneath my skin!

Hi all!

This IWSG I have a treat for you. True to my intent to read more bloggers' books and to review same, I've invited the wonderful Damyanti Biswas to hang out on my blog today.

Damyanti and I have a long history as bloggers. She actually sent me the beginning of her book some years ago when we thought we'd become critique partners. Because of our different genres and writing styles, it didn't work out, but I certainly still recognize the beginning.

Many of you have seen Damyanti's book shoot up the Amazon best-seller charts and have cheered her on. But in this post, Damyanti shares the flip side of her book's success.

As a writer it is hard for me to admit I'm insecure, and yet, that's precisely what the Insecure Writers Support Group, and this post, is about. My insecurities vary from day to day, but in the last year, most of them have centred around my debut crime novel, You Beneath Your Skin.

It is doing well in its home country, and has had excellent reviews outside India as well. You might think I'd have very little to be insecure about, but you'd be wrong. I've pledged all my proceeds from You Beneath Your Skin to two non-profits, Stop Acid Attacks and Project WHY. Both are excellent organisations, and deserve all our support.

Books don't pay a lot, as anyone in the publishing world will tell you. I knew this going in, so I'm not sure why I made it public knowledge that I intended to donate all my proceeds. No matter how many copies sell, unless they sell in the millions, it would hardly make a tangible financial difference to these non-profits. We're hoping to sell other rights, but that's a long shot So, long story short, I'm terrified I won't be able to help the two causes as much as I'd like to.

Damyanti wth acid-attack survivors.

So far, I've had a few instances of readers donating to the causes. In one instance, it was as much as nearly 2000 USD, in several others about 100 USD each. That's was heartening, because clearly, these are readers who were moved by Anjali and Sujni and Sakhi's story in You Beneath Your Skin. Even if I've been able to reach one reader, surely that's worth it?

My silly ego says no. It is still ashamed of not being able to make a huge difference. So, over the months, this is what I've been telling myself about my publishing journey, and I'm hoping that some of what I've learned will resonate with you on yours:

1. Do not compare--your writing journey is your own. Everyone has theirs. In the way of comparison lies misery.

2. Every publisher has more than one book on their plate. Your book's best advocate is you.

3. If you're self-publishing, learn the ropes before you hope for a bestseller.

4. In fact, a bestseller is an amalgamation of a lot of factors--and not all are always within your control.

5. Decide early why you are in this writing business. All goals are valid, but your approach will vary based on your goal.

6. Be nice to people. Do not expect all relationships to be transactional. Focus on giving, and let others decide whether they want to reciprocate.

7. Ask for reviews, but be courteous and professional about it.

8. Do not whine or rant, unless it is a super-exceptional occasion. The writing and publishing journey is not for sissies.

9. Write the best book you can. There's no replacement for that.

10. Love yourself. Your writing success should not come at the cost of your health.

At various times, one or the other of these has helped me stay calm amid the storm that threatened to take over in the past few months. Let us hope that You beneath Your Skin will help Stop Acid Attacks and Project WHY in some substantial way.

I have made peace with the fact that the book may or may not succeed in helping the non-profits, but I have to go on regardless. Writing, and trying to make a tiny bit of difference is what my journey is about.

What about you? Does the publishing journey make you insecure? What are the lessons you would like to share from your journey?

Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and supports Delhi's underprivileged women and children, volunteering with organisations who work for this cause. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. She was recently awarded The Fay Khoo Award in Penang, Malaysia. You can find her on her blog and twitter. 

Her debut crime novel You Beneath Your Skin is an Amazon bestseller, all author proceeds of which will support the education and empowerment of women at Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.


Help #StopAcidAttacks now! Read Damyanti Biswas’ guest post for the #IWSG https://dencovey.blogspot.com/2020/01/february-iwsg-damyanti-biswas-gets.html @damyantig

#IWSG guest post Damyanti Biswas #ProjectWHY https://dencovey.blogspot.com/2020/01/february-iwsg-damyanti-biswas-gets.html @damyantig

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the February 5 posting of the IWSG are Lee Lowery, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Jennifer Hawes, Cathrina Constantine, and Tyrean Martinson!

  Be sure to visit them if you can and don't forget to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

If you haven't already bought Damyanti's book and/or left a review, let's do it now!