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~ Hazel Harps On

Portals

The portal of a new decade, and my thoughts are a whirl. I do have an excuse, though: 16 harp performances in the lead-up to Christmas, each with individual challenges and demands. Several weeks-worth of practice with singing and pedal loop all slid down the drain because of a nasty virus which deprived me of my voice. Plan B (a programme of instrumental-only music) was successfully implemented – big phew! - but I’m still in recovery.

Christmas itself is exhausting, too, isn’t it? Our guests have just left. Over the last week, between cooking, eating, walks, chat and music, we’ve played many, many board games, including a new favourite, Settlers of Catan. My metaphorical mind, as always, draws parallels. Catan is an imaginary island and in the game you have to build new settlements from the materials you possess as cards: stone, wheat, sheep, wood and bricks. In life, however, your materials are things like talent, energy, opportunity, vision, time and practice. You do what you can with these but there’s still a huge element of luck. You might run out of any one of these materials. Your fellow players may help you but they may also, unwittingly or deliberately, block you. The dice may roll in your favour but it may not. Every game presents setbacks and you must develop strategies for surviving and, hopefully, thriving.

Writing and music often seem like a game in which you must juggle your skills with a lot of random forces. Looking back at 2019 I can see that, despite a few downers, I was mostly on a winning streak. My debut novel, ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER, was published and I will never forget that joy after so many years of striving and setbacks. I've done bookshop events, I've publicised, I've given book and harp presentations at festivals. My second novel, AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS came into being, as well. Its birth has been problematic because of the tight deadlines and too, too many physical problems, but by prioritising and pacing myself I’ve somehow got it written. It will be out in March.

(Here's the pack - including promo materials, relevant treats and both my books - that was sent out to Waterstones bookshops recently by my publicists)

Another metaphor also keeps popping up in my head: a door or portal. After all, creativity leads you into that strange, different world, the world of imagination, where anything can happen. One of the loveliest recent reviews of ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER states that I have opened a portal, and this has made me realise I am not only opening up new worlds for myself but also for my readers. I’m only just beginning to register the importance of this.

(An excerpt from the review in UK Harp Association Magazine)

Coincidentally, in AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS, doors play a significant role. My elderly heroine, Veronica McCreedy, is obsessed with keeping doors closed. There are reasons in her past for this as well as symbolism for her unwillingness to let anyone in. Yet as the story progresses, she begins to open up… and so do amazing opportunities.

What opportunities and adventures will be opening up for us all in 2020, I wonder?

(Here's one of the many magical portals I keep finding in the local Exmoor landscape. I can't help feeling that if you crawl through you will find yourself in a different world...)

To all musicians, writers and creators of any kind, and to their audiences, I wish you an opening of wonderful portals! And, of course, A Very Happy New Year!

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