“I don’t think anyone will be interested in what I’ve written,” said Shelley as we reviewed our work over a bellini* up on the roof of Masseria Impissi, “It’s too prosaic. I’m just writing about my own stuff.”
The Chalk students all demanded a reading and, as the pink-tinged clouds faded into the Italian dusk, Shelley shared a piece about her childhood in South Africa. We were entranced by her description of teenage girls in cut-down shorts, disapproving fathers, Xhosa “click’ language and Cape Town slang. It was fascinating.
“You see, “I said in my best pedagogic manner, “We enjoy insights into other people’s lives. It may seem ordinary and mundane to you but to others it’s mesmerising. It’s like peeping into other people’s kitchen cupboards and saying ‘Wow! You put your spices in alphabetical order! Well, I never! Hey, you arrange your jars by height and you’ve got five kinds of lentils! Amazing!’”
So don’t be afraid to write about your own experiences and remember what makes them interesting is the authentic details, the specificity. Concretise. Be exact. You will hold your reader’s interest. Look at it this way: one woman’s Sainsbury’s Basics baked beans are another woman’s Carluccio’s marinated sun-dried tomatoes with white truffle shavings.
*a bellini is a prosecco with peach juice first made at Harry’s Bar in Venice for Ernest Hemmingway so literary legend would have it
Chalk the Sun are on their annual writing retreat in sunny Puglia, Italy.