It’s very strange having a new book come out so soon in the wake of The Knucklebone Floor being in the spotlight – in fact it’s startling! But that is the anachronistic world of publishing, all loops and flashbacks. Time and the way we travel through it is one of the themes of the new book so maybe it’s a case of whatever you look at is looking back at you too.
So, as Writing the Climate is coming to a close, after three rollercoaster years on the stage of the world and its weather, a selection of my writing from that time is published in Startling, a joint venture between New Writing North and Faber. It will be officially launched at Durham Book Festival on Friday 14th October at 7pm in the new Collected bookshop. Tickets include a glass of wine and a copy of the book – but space is limited so if you’d like to come along, you’ll need to book very soon. I’m looking forward to marking the end of the residency in this way and letting Startling loose in the world.
Writing it has been a more documentary process than usual. The nature of the residency and the context of world events – the pandemic and accelerating climate urgency, alongside political and global upheaval – seemed to ask for a quite transparent bearing of witness and an honest recording of my own response, filtered through all the various collective and collaborative activities that the residency made possible. It’s been an immensely rich time, challenging and profound, and I hope I have done justice to it and there’s something in the book that will touch and resonate with readers. I still have notebooks full of research and reflections that I intend to revisit at some point in what will be yet another version of time travel.
Even though Startling interrogates endings and beginnings, charting the cycles of deep time, the writing itself will continue. At this stage I’m not sure where I’ll go next but there are some seeds of ideas that may or may not germinate. Mostly I’m looking forward to more open space and a less functional, more intentional dynamic in my writing process. We’ll see where that leads – and I hope that I can bring some of you along with me as I go – here or elsewhere (more on that later no doubt).
Other ‘endings’ are the final couple of sessions of our Listening to the Climate discussion space. The next one, on Tuesday 11th October 6 – 7.30 pm BST, will be looking at Episode 9: Consciousness. You can listen again here and book a free space here. The final gathering will be on 8th November, when we’ll be discussing the last episode, Regeneration. I really appreciate the way people have been able to share their deepest concerns and their imaginative responses to the podcasts and connect with each other around this subject of such importance for us as individuals and for our world.
The last last is the very last Writing Hour on Tuesday 25th October 1 – 2pm BST. This is where we come together to write in silence, encouraged by each other’s presence and shared focus, following (or not) a couple of prompts dropped in like pebbles in a pool. Again, I’ve been so inspired by people’s willingness to show up and have the courage to face the blank page with the state of the world in mind and track the movements of their imagination and memory, in community and solidarity with others. It’s a low impact, DIY, start-where-you-are kind of process that I hope has helped everyone who’s come along to find and nurture the seeds of their own unfolding time. Here in Autumn, the season that embodies both beginnings and endings, is an excellent spell for marking transitions, letting cause and effect be more congruent and aligned, and setting our compasses in the direction of love and wonder.
As journalist and yogi Mark Morford writes:
‘Stop thinking the global crisis is all there is and realize that for every ongoing war or religious outrage or environmental devastation, there are a thousand counterbalancing acts of staggering generosity and humanity and art and beauty happening all over the world right now on a breathtaking scale, from flower box to cathedral. Resist the temptation to drown in fatalism, to shake your head and sigh and just throw in the karmic towel. Realize this is the perfect moment to envision a reenchantment of the world, to change the energy, to step right up and crank up your personal volume. Right when it all seems dark and bitter and offensive and acrimonious and conflicted and bilious, there is your opening. Remember mystery. And, finally, believe in the seeds you plant. Believe you are part of a groundswell, a resistance, a seemingly small but actually very, very large impending transformation, the beginning of something important and potent and unstoppable.’