Finding inspiration for 2017


I have decided this will be the year of doing the good things. Switzerland is home to many world class galleries and museums which I almost never visit. Good intentions are not the problem; I have no shortage of good intentions. Time is not really the problem; these exhibitions run for months. But nine times out of ten I can’t seem to get myself to that location for a day trip. What is stopping me? It could be because I feel I should be doing ‘useful’ things all the time, so it’s hard to sacrifice a day for inspiration.

Until now. A few months ago, I picked up a brochure at the train station for an exhibition in the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, two hours away. For the first time in 30 years, Switzerland was hosting a large-scale exhibition of one of the most fascinating chapters of modern art – Der Blaue Reiter artistic movement, which kicked off in 1911. I didn’t know anything about this movement but I do now, and it was a wonderful discovery. Beautiful works by Kandinksy, Marc and Macke, among others, are now familiar to me, as are the stories of the artists. (There’s a lovely slideshow and info in German here).

Landscape with rain, 1913, Wassily Kandinsky

The exhibition runs until January 22 and I got there in the first week of the year. So, I’m hoping this will be the beginning of seeing through some of the other wishes I have for 2017. Not all my dreams and plans for the next 12 months are writing related but as this is a writing blog, I’ll stick to those:

First, I hope to get my new children’s novel shipshape and start submitting it as soon as possible, hopefully in time for the Meet the Agent event I am attending in Geneva next month, organised by the Geneva Writers’ Group.

I have an idea for a novel set in Switzerland, and I’d like to start getting this story down on paper this year. This will be a departure as I have yet to write any fiction set in Switzerland. After 13 years living here, it’s probably time.

Along with a partner, I plan to launch an online writing-related business. The preparation work for that has already started and I’m hoping it will be a way to combine my love of writing with a new source of income.

My nonfiction book about Switzerland, The Naked Swiss: A Nation Behind 10 Myths, will be coming out in French and German in the autumn. I’m expecting to do more promotion work this year and to create more opportunities to give author talks. Next talk is coming up in Basel on January 26th in Das Narrenschiff bookstore.

As always, I hope to write more and write better this year. That will involve attending some talks and workshops if possible, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for events. And if I can pull it off, I would love to have a short writing break in Ireland.

To go back to the Blaue Reiter artists, the story ended tragically after the outbreak of the First World War smashed their innocence and optimism. August Macke was killed in the second month of the war in France, and Franz Marc was killed in the Battle of Verdun in 1916. As an enemy alien, Russian-born Wassily Kandinsky had to leave Germany.

A month after Macke’s death, Marc wrote to Kandsinky, “I have the sad feeling that this war is flowing between us like a great flood that separates us; each of us can hardly see the other on the far shore.”

I don’t want to end on such a sad note. We hardly need reminding of the devastating cost of war. Here is another quote by Kandinsky and Marc about art, an expression of life and love that remains one of the great antidotes to war and death.


Happy New Year!