Category mothers & daughters

First-time author, Ashley Dartnell, is our guest blogger this month. Farangi Girl was published in June

‘Just put your anxiety aside and write the book.’

Ashley DartnellThis was the advice my teacher (the writer Blake Morrison) gave me as I spiralled through yet another cycle of self doubt. I was in the second year of an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths. I had given up my job to do the course, my husband had just lost his job and my six year old had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. What Blake was referring to was not any of those problems but my chronic unease about the subject matter of my book. This was despite the fact that I had applied to Goldsmiths after twenty-five years of working in business and media explicitly to write this particular book: an autobiographical memoir of my growing up in Iran during the time of the Shah.

What was causing such disquiet, as Graham Greene so brilliantly put it, was ‘the bitterness leaks again out of my pen.’ I was upset and horrified at how much anger, how much bitterness was flowing out of me. Every day, I would sit at my desk in a trance: lost in the sights, sounds and emotions of my childhood. At the end of the day, after I switched off my computer, if anyone asked me what I had written, I had absolutely no idea. The material was coming from some very deep and well hidden reservoir. The next morning I would read through what I had written in a state of anticipation and despair—the scenes of my childhood were so vivid and often difficult and sad.

And, the secrets—so many secrets! All my life I had successfully avoided thinking about the complicated web of secrets my mother had woven. Now I was untangling the strands of deceit and obfuscation and it was painful.

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