My title 

I knew I could paint but who would have thought I could sing!

by: Oana Deac on

It was two years ago when I came to that point in my life when I was feeling stuck and not able to take a decision about my next step in life, about my future, about moving towards happiness. I knew it existed and I knew it was up to me to go for it, but I guess I was not ready for it yet.

My days in Amsterdam were getting darker and darker, in all aspects, and I could not find any substitute for the light and the sun I was missing so badly from my external and internal existence. Too long in the same corporate company having to cope with the politics, a personal relationship going wrong, insomnia and severe back problems, the all inclusive package, like it was Christmas in hell.

We all have our limits I guess, our timing and we’re all quite different in that matter. It took me one year to realize I had to stop complaining and do something. But what?

I knew I had to leave my life in Amsterdam but I wasn’t prepared for the journey. I could not imagine letting my guard down by making the wrong decision and disappointing everyone, failing, as that was a possibility and my brain tended to hang onto that negative thought.

But then a sense of surrender came over me and I knew it was time and OK to ask for help, so I got myself a coach. After only two sessions the word painting jumped out of my notes and brought me back to my childhood when I saw myself as an artist, only to be told that success wasn’t easy to reach in that world. I used to love drawing, dancing and even singing sometimes. Where did all those joys go? Who scared them away?

And so I joined a painting class and from then on I felt that it was my own movie and I was writing the script at the same time. My first step in the studio was firm and in a hurry, afraid that I might waist even seconds from my time for painting. I knew I had reached that moment when good energy was picking up by minute and building up a strength in me. I enjoyed each and every class and at some point painting became my meditation. As it was an intuitive painting class, we were painting with our hands, even dancing and singing in the same time. There was color in the sounds, in the moves, in the visual space, there was color everywhere and I LOVED IT!

Close to the end of the course I knew I wanted more of what my life was missing, it was COLORS. Loud vibrant radiantly striking colors! I knew they were inside, I just needed some sun to get them blooming. At the same time something got triggered in me at a deeper level and suddenly my fear was gone. I remember the moment of acknowledging not having that heavy feeling of “what if” anymore and next thing I knew that I was ready to leave.

When telling one of my best friends about my plans, he nodded “This is it, you’re on your way! This is the type of passionate energy that drives you and you just need to ride and pay attention. From now on it will be all a pleasant journey”. And so it was and so still is. Bali here I come

I was in love with Bali even before I landed, as “I love Bali” became my mantra when logging in at work every day for my last two months of work. I am sure the Island of the Gods shared the same feelings as she saluted me with a strong earthquake the next day I stepped on her beautiful fields. What a welcome that was!

Sometimes I feel there are no words of describing the beauty of this place. I paint with joy and I breathe it all in, as Bali is my forever green canvas, which changes by light, sounds, smells from a day to the other. Every day is a new painting for me and I absorb and take it all in with gratefulness.

I had the chance to work with painters from Bali, walk into their studios and absorb the knowledge they have to offer and they do it so openly. One of my teachers, I Wayan Karja, has opened his door for me in such a humble way, that I feel honored to be so lucky and have him as my mentor.

But my journey didn’t just get the painting flavor though, as Bali seems to be one of the most abundant places when it comes to expressive arts. People sing, people dance, people create a lot here!

And yes, I never thought I could sing the way I sing. I figured that out when joining the Singabout choir for a week and a new type of energy fueled my body. I did toy around with kirtan for a while since I came to live in Bali, but apart from a one time lifting experience, not too much happened around it, or not enough to get me wanting more of it.

Singing in a choir was empowering, it was lifting, it was joyful and above all meaningful. I felt I was  part of a higher power, maybe of the group, maybe of the Gods within us. I could hardly sleep that week, because of the excitement and high elevations I was exposed too. But still, the energy to do it over and over again every day was there. And what got me more, was the fact that I could hear my voice and I could hear I can sing, something I would have never considered I can do well.

I used to be judgmental about gospel before, but this entire experience delivered music to me in another type of envelope. The joy of singing for God was somehow different when being part of the group. Or maybe it was because I realized I was singing to myself, to my God, to Me God.

I’ll keep that singing week in my mind as a great experience, which nourished my soul, my voice and my inner voice. It helped me express a different part of the artist in me and I am grateful for that.

So here I am, living my life in Bali the way I want, painting and creating, investing time and energy in what I love to do and what has always been inside me waiting to come out and smile to the world. I feel lucky enough to have met and worked with people who believe in me and encourage me to go on, I feel like I have started all over again.

What my story has taught me is that the truth can’t be held down and sooner or later it’s taking you over and brings you to where you belong, HOME.

Living in Bali now seems so natural like I have been doing this all my life. I guess I have been living here all the , in my imaginary mind.

I am thankful each and every day for my choice, for rediscovering painting, dancing and singing and finding the space in Bali to become what I always wanted to become, an artist.

Maybe you don't have to be as radical as I was but I really recommend that you go out and find the artist within you, it was the best decision I have ever made!

Love Oana xx

11 ways to write great dialogue, by Claire Scobie

by: Jennifer Richardson on

This week I started Italian classes in preparation for my upcoming Travel Writing in a Palace retreat. I love languages and Italian, as we all know, is particularly passionate and evocative.

Years ago, I spent a summer learning Italian in Perugia. I have a vivid memory of sitting on sun-baked steps eating a mozzarella-filled panini dripping with olive oil and fresh oregano. I remember thinking, ‘There is nothing better than this.’ I’ve never tasted a sandwich like it.

So even though my grammar is very rusty and I’ve forgotten half my vocab, just being in the class made it all rush back. Afterwards I walked through Leichhardt – little Italy, for those who don’t know – and wanted to say ‘Ciao’ to everyone I met.

Of course, it wasn’t the exercises that made me excited, it was watching the teacher and being part of the group. I was mesmerised by her gestures. How she joked and drew everyone into the conversation; how she listened, her head cocked to the side. How she conducted the evening class as if it was an orchestra.

Capturing how a person talks is crucial to making your characters come alive on every page.

Here are 11 ways to keep your dialogue fresh:
  1. Interleave dialogue with action. This helps create a scene so the reader feels like they are seeing something in real time. i.e. She picked up the cup. ‘It’s chipped,’ she said. ‘Mother won’t be pleased.’
  2. Use ‘telling gestures’ that reflect the character of the person who’s talking. These also help to break up quotes.
  3. Condense an exchange. We don’t need every ‘um’ and ‘aagh’.
  4. Paraphrase some sections as a way to cut to the chase. If you paraphrase, you don’t need punctuation, as you’re not quoting the person word for word.
  5. Edit your dialogue to the strongest moments. Avoid those waffly bits – this is especially true in fiction where there’s a tendency to let dialogue drag. Keep it sharp.
  6. Include information – or exposition – in dialogue. Be aware this needs a light touch (especially in fiction.)
  7. Show what isn’t said between characters with ellipsis. i.e. ‘I was hoping you’d stay …’ she trailed off.
  8. Capture the rhythm of how a non-English speaker talks, rather than relying on dialect.
  9. Include a few foreign words to get the flavour of the language & include the English translation. i.e ‘Basta! Enough!’ said the mother as the child stamped her feet. (You can italicise the foreign word if you want.)
  10. Keep with ‘said’ as your speech tag. Writers often worry that ‘he said/she said’ gets boring, so they replace it with umpteen other words. Actually we don’t notice these tags when reading and it’s distracting if you have ‘hollered / murmured / responded’ etc.
  11. Be careful with swear words. They come across much more strongly in text than in speech

So over to you, how do you use dialogue to humanise your stories?

Join me in Italy this August for a special travel writing retreat. Early bird bookings are now being taken for Travel Writing in a Palace 2014

Hand gestures of Italy by Caurucci

by: Jennifer Richardson on

 Emergency traveler's language guide to survive in Italy- Very helpful for our Festa and Fun in Mercatello sul Metuaro!