As writers, it’s easy to lose heart if the words in your heart don’t match the words the public want to read. You read all these articles telling you what the hottest trends in publishing are, and you realise that your work is, according to these articles, desperately out of fashion. The publishing gurus and best selling authors tell you to write what’s inside you, but those words can ring a little hollow if the words you write are often rejected.
Last Saturday, I went to a highly original one-woman show in my local town of Tramore, Co. Waterford. It was my second time going to Seriously Now, by Petra Kindler. Part monologue, part stand up comedy routine and part reflection on the meaning of language, it defies categorisation and is the most original and stimulating show I’ve seen in years.
Petra’s originality and dedication to her vision to prove that Germans really can be funny has been rewarded. She’s been included in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will give 19 performances of her show next month.
There are three lessons that I think writers who are worried they don’t fit the mould can learn from Petra’s performance.
1. You don’t need visual aids
We live in a visual age and attention spans are dropping like stones. Social media is driven by pictures, and people who are more aural or language oriented can feel they’re being drowned out. Petra uses two highly effective visual aids, but apart from that, her message is driven solely by her words, and she’s able to keep people rapt for 60 minutes. Sometimes words really are enough.
2. Translation is vital
Translation can be seen by many to belong to the dusty realm of academia, or obscure literary awards. In the opening part of Petra’s show, she demonstrates that translation gives a glimpse into the soul of a people, and that the quality of translation greatly changes how a reader perceives a book’s meaning. She also warns authors who want to be translated into German never to use the word “hen party.” If you go to her show, you’ll see why.
3. Your life is more interesting than you think.
One of the great skills that writers have is being able to mine their own lives for stories that will resonate with a wider audience. Everyone has aspects to their lives which seem ordinary to them, but fascinating to everyone else. Petra is a German woman who moved to Waterford in South East Ireland and being able to send up commonly-held stereotypes about Germans has given her a rich seam of material to mine. She’s able to give an affectionate outsider’s perspective on Irish culture too.
If you happen to be in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, you can catch Petra between July 31st and August 24th in Laughing Horse @ The Phoenix, at 3.45 every day, except Mondays and Tuesdays. Petra needs those days off to gather what’s left of her marbles.