An excellent Q and A session with Linda Lappin, conducted by Shauna Gilligan, Author of Happiness Comes from Nowhere
My Post on The Etruscan by Linda Lappin
My Post on Signatures in Stone by Linda Lappin
My Post on Katherine's Wish by Linda Lapain. A wonderful work on the final days of Katherine Mansfield
One great writer often leads you to another, but not always in the ways we might expect. Five years ago I began reading and posting on all the then published short stories of Katherine Mansfield. After completing the stories I discovered Linda Lappin had written a highly regarded novel centering on Katherine Mansfield's last year. I read Katherine's Wish and felt Lappin had a profound understanding and sympathy for Mansfield as a writer and as a person. I now see how this all ties in with Lappin's wonderful, The Soul of Place, A Creative Writing Workbook, Ideas and Exercises for Capturing the Genius Loci. Mansfield (1888 to 1923) left her home country of New Zealand for London in 1908 never to return. In the stories of Mansfield you see a constant search for a home, a longing for a place of beauty. I feel Mansfield was searching for a Sacred Place, for holy texts and holy men. In her brief stories, such as the wonderful early works contained within In a German Pension, she is able to create a strong and deep sense of place. The ability to do this is one of the lessons imparted in Lappin's workbook.
Lappin's book partially focuses on creating a sense of place in your writing. In order to do this we must first be able to deeply experience a locale. Lappin refrences writers who can show us how this is done and provides very interesting exercises. Her extensive discussion of "deep mapping" was fascinating and open my mind to many new ideas.
The work opens with a section on landscapes. Lappin talks about how we need to remove our complacency to really describe what we see. Good writing requires, among other things, an ability to see the beauty, wonder and horror in what we always have taken for granted.
From this Lappin deepens the teachings with a chapter, taking a lead from Mircea Eliade, on Sacred Spaces. I think Lappin is trying to tell us that we do not just have to limit our selves to the standard sacred spaces of our culture. Writers can and have created their own sacred spaces. Beyond this there is a very valuable spiritual lesson in this chapter about how we can create our own scared landscape. I will try to illustrate what this means. Not long ago I read E. F. Forester's marvelous short story, "The Celestial Omnibus". The story concerns an omnibus that picks people up, you can return, for a trip to literary heaven. I was sitting on the verandah of a family home way out in rural northern Philppines. The peace and the tranquility of this place made me imagine that I was waiting for the celestial omnibus to stop for me. I was on the verandah alone and my wife came out and asked me who I was talking with. I did not know I was conversing but I can accept somehow this place, combined with the impact of six years of blogging and intensive reading has given me the power to create my own sacred space. Perhaps I was in touch with deeper reaches of my consciousness, as Linda will later in the book guide us.
The next chapter is devoted to food writing. The book will be a great help to food writers, travel writers, not just fiction authors. Food writing done well is not easy at all. Lappin gives us a good list of first rate food writers and provides very useful exercises.
Chapter Five, "Submerged Territories Writing and the Unconscious" will take most into unfamiliar ground and suggest exercises that will take "rational minded" readers out of their comfort zone. I think part of the structure of the book and from it the picture of a workshop of Lappin's, is to first show you how to become strongly anchored in place, virtual or sacred, then as the book or workshop closes show you how you can use the Genius Loci you have created or discovered (the lines blur) to let your mind roam free. The exercises and thoughts on matters such as automatic writing are designed to provide you with a structure to look for deeper springs for your writing.
The book returns us home with a practical down to earth discussion about designing a writing space that works for you.
There is much more in The Soul of Place, A Creative Writing Workbook, Ideas and Exercises for Capturing the Genius Loci than mentioned. Almost every page contains thought provoking observations and there are a lot of super interesting reading suggestions.
The Soul of Place, A Creative Writing Workbook, Ideas and Exercises for Capturing the Genius Loci also will make those who take it seriously better readers. Deep reading requires we open our consciousness without fear and that we observe deeply. Lappin's prose is exquisite and is a pleasure to experience it in a different format than her three great novels.
The book is no doubt a work of great value to writers but as a reader I found it gave me a greater understanding of the creative process, increased my sense of reading as a creative act and as a side benefits had numerous excellent exercises and suggestions for further reading. The author has read widely and deeply, traveled and stayed in place with equal intensity and her own beautiful prose testifies to the value of her teachings.
I strongly endorse this book and if life were to ever make it possible I would happily enroll in one of Lappin's workshops.
Linda Lappin is an American poet, novelist, and travel writer. She has published three novels, The Etruscan, Katherine’s Wish, and Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery, which won the 2014 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense Writing. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.
More information, including detailed participant testimonials on her workshops cam be found on her webpage Lindalappin.net.
In an appendix she talks about how the literary culture of Greece is impacted by the very large number of sacred spaces. I found what she says in accord with my experiences talking in Q and A sessions to 80 or so Irish writers about how the conversion of the island into a sacred space has impacted Irish writing.
In a strange way i don't walk to really talk about yet, Linda helped me understand what the purpose of my blog has evolved to become, how it has impacted my consciousness.