Silver and song

September 5, 2015 at 10:43 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

It’s time to pull out the leopard print ear muffs again: I’m off to my second writing residency.

Finland is odd, stylish, quirky and absolutely beautiful. Four years ago I sat by the Helsinki harbour eating cloudberries and watching sunlight sparkle on the water around Suomenlinna island. I made a promise to myself that I’d come back one day and explore rural Finland, wandering in the snowy forests it’s famous for.

Another residency, another project proposal, a gathering of portfolio stories and editing of my CV, and another press of the ‘send’ button.

And they said yes.

Sauna elf

In three weeks I’m off to Haihatus, an artists’ residency 200 kilometres from Helsinki. Just like I did in Iceland this time last year, I will tip my little red notebook upside down and watch Nordic stories flutter out like snowflakes.

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If you’d like to keep up to date, I’ve just joined Instagram and will be posting there @rijncollins.

I had the good fortune to be interviewed in one of my favourite literary magazines, SmokeLong Quarterly, where I was asked about the relevance of setting in my stories. For a linguist and traveller whose battered passport is always close by, I’ve come to realise that setting is a key component in my ink, and a source of constant inspiration.

I’m very finely attuned to my surroundings. That might seem like an odd thing to say – aren’t we all? – but in my early twenties I spent several years agoraphobic, unable to even go to my mail box without a Valium shield. I still remember bracing myself against the door frame, fingers fluttering around my collarbone as I tried to will my feet over the threshold. The fact I can now stamp in snow in Iceland, swill voodoo daiquiris in New Orleans, and strut the serpentine alleyways of Hong Kong, fills me with immense gratitude.

My latest story, ‘Silver and Song’, has just come online in THIS magazine. Places can regenerate us, help us renew and recover…but sometimes, like this main character, it’s the last thing we’re ready for. The canoe trip years ago that inspired this story is real, through the Macalister River in rural Australia, with new buds poking through the scorched earth. I’ll never forget rowing until our arms ached, pulling the canoes onto the river bank for the night, and the sound of the guitars melding with the noise from the dogs.

Click here for 'Silver and Song'

As for the rest of it, well, the lines between fact and fiction are so blurred after all these years that I haven’t even tried to untangle them.

Maybe it’s better that way, hey?

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