USING COLOUR TO ACCENTUATE THEME
I like to use the symbolism of colour to strengthen a common theme(s) I want to explore in my writing. I am fascinated by symbolic references in the books I read too (even if they do not have anything to do with colour), and believe they bring a richness and depth to what we read, even if it is not immediately evident to us. So let me tell you a little bit about how I utilize the combination of colour and theme in my work.
For THE BOOK it was GREEN.
Green symbolizes self-respect, well-being, learning and harmony. It suggests safety and endurance, lack of experience, growth and hope. THE BOOK is about a little girl named Bonnie who is thought to have learning difficulties, but really is quite the genius. Her insights into the adult world are astounding, as she tries to "make logic" of the behaviour of her mother, father and step father regarding a journal ("the book") that is turning their family upside down. Her constant attraction to the colour green was a way for me to explore her subconscious need for security, stability and her desire to learn.
Some examples of the way it is used:
Dr Wright: Do you want to be a doctor when you grow up?
Bonnie: No, I want to give medicine from a shop with a green cross.
Bonnie: [shifts in seat, pushes hair from forehead] Well, my Ted isn’t very smart because I tolded him to fix it so all the greens could be on the same side and he sat with me on the flying carpet, and I made us go up in the air, so there could be magic around us, so he could fix it for all the greens to be on the same side.
“Now, if you have a little patience, my dear, I can show you how to make some green. Do you have a little patience?” I nod. But I can’t tell if this is a Daddy type question or a my Ted type question. But it doesn’t matter. If Mrs Haydon can make me some green, then I can paint some trees.
For STRING BRIDGE it was BLUE.
Blue is associated with freedom, strength and new beginnings, optimism and better opportunities, loyalty and faith, power and protection. No colour is better fitting for this story about a woman named Melody who has let her passion for music die for the sake of her family, but tries to bring it back into her life without it affecting those she loves. In String Bridge, blue things are always deteriorating, symbolizing the fact that Melody feels helpless, and that it's going to be struggle to "start again".
Some examples of the way it was used:
I stare at my bag’s wrinkly, flaking, blue-vinyl exterior. It looks how I feel. Old. Poorly constructed. Depressed. Cheap.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I say, scrubbing the stain from the only decent dress I own. Blue dye comes off on the sponge.
I have another novel that is not yet published, called BITTER LIKE ORANGE PEEL, where I use the colour and flavour of orange to symbolize the bitterness, distrust and sexual desire my protagonists feel. Again, orange crops up in all sorts of shapes and forms such as rotting oranges falling from a tree, orange-flavoured lip gloss, an orange vinyl couch, an orange mohair sweater, photos tinged orange over time, and an orange scrub cap ...
And my lastest work-in-progress, WHITE LADY, (which stands for the drug speed) I have already shown signs of utilizing the colour white to represent tainted purity and cold, sterile environments.
As you can see, there is quite a lot you can play around with in the colour department. If you check out this link, perhaps the meanings of different colours might inspire you too.
Do you like to use symbolism in your writing? Give me an example. Do you notice symbolism used in the books you read?
If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she'd give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she's written. Jessica also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.
How does living Greece affect and influence your work?
There is a lot about Greece in my debut novel, String Bridge, but I have to say that Greece had already started to influence me when I was a kid. I must have been about eleven. I remember sitting on a rock by the sea in a little place called Monemvasia. I was so inspired by my surroundings that I needed a way to express it. This is when I started writing poetry. In the end (well, beginning), Greece is what sparked my passion for words.
Also, I would never have got my first job as an editor if I hadn’t moved here. As I said above, I make a living as an editor/writer of English Language Teaching materials. There is no need for this sort of thing in an English speaking country. So I guess, I have Greece to thank for giving me the opportunity to pursue this career path. If I had have remained in Australia, I probably would have focused more on my music.
You are gaining more readership and recognition with your poetry and fiction. Has this been fuelled by your other writing-related activities?
I believe that all these writing-related activities mean that I need to be online quite a lot. As a result, I’ve become visible, to quite some extent, through social media. And to be honest, I couldn’t live without it. I’m quite isolated being an English writer in a non-English speaking country, and I need to promote my work to the English-speaking world.
The key to social networking, though, is to engage in conversations, interact with your audience. Saying, “buy my book, it’s great” all the time, isn’t going to sell it. But saying “hey, what do you think about blah blah blah?” and actually eliciting opinions from others, means you are saying something that people are interested in. And if they’re interested in what you’re saying online, then it’s likely they are going to investigate you further. It’s a long process, and hard work. But it certainly pays off.
How’s this for statistics? I’ve been blogging and engaging in social media, pretty much every single day, since March 2010. And only this year, three years later, have I started to see true results. It takes effort, persistence, stamina, but most of all love and passion. Because this ‘being visible’, (and let’s say it with a good old cliché, hey?) doesn’t happen overnight.
You founded and are co-editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. What inspired you to create this new journal? What types of literature do you publish and how do people submit to you?
In late 2011, Dawn Ius and I founded Vine Leaves Literary Journal to offer the vignette, a forgotten literary form, the exposure and credit it deserves. The vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot, instead it focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object. The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces that appeared in the journal.
You organized a big writing conference in Greece last summer where Chuck Sambuchino from Writers Digest was the instructor. What made you decide to organize this event?
I have long dreamed of running a writer's retreat on Ithaca. I've spent a lot of time on this little Greek island since the age of two, because my step father and his family are from there (my parents also live there now). With the risk of sounding clichéd, (ha!) this place really is a little piece of heaven. It remains unspoiled by the modern world. Even in the height of summer you can find a secluded beach or a rustic corner to contemplate your thoughts. On Ithaca you'll discover the island’s rich culture and the reason why it holds such a special place in the hearts of those who have visited its shores.
The Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop invites participants to their very own private odyssey on the island of Ithaca—a retreat about riveting one's writing through an immersive and intimate Homeric journey. Our instructors in 2014 are, Katharine Sands, a literary agent with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, and Beatriz Badikian-Gartler, a popular performer in the Chicago area who often lectures on women's issues, art, and literature. In 2000 Badikian was selected as one of the One-Hundred Women Who Make a Difference in Chicago by Today's Woman magazine.
To explore more of Ithaca online, please visit: www.ithacagreece.com.
To learn more about the writing retreat, please visit: www.hwrw.blogspot.com.