Author Spotlight: DIANA DUFF

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The genius of Diana Duff’s writing is its elegant simplicity. “It seems such a strange thing to be doing, I thought, however ordinary the surroundings: waiting in a coffee shop in Oxford Street with the London traffic roaring outside, for my mother, whom I would not recognize when she finally arrived.”

With a path that led her from South Africa to Ireland, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, Ms. Duff’s page-turner memoir, Leaves from the Fig Tree reads more like an adventure novel, submerging us in the vastly different worlds she has known with a story of isolation, travel, rebellion, love, and freedom.

At age 2, she was transported from South Africa to her family’s historic estate in rural Ireland, County Cork, in a Victorian estate called Annesgrove (originally Ballyhimmock), built in the 1700s.

A descendant of the brother of the Earl of Annesley, Diana’s pedigree isolated her as a child within the rigid confines of Victorian life in rural Ireland, with no siblings or other companions except a series of ill-equipped governesses, juxtaposed with the expansive freedom and wild magic of the Africa that called to her again and again.

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I talked with Diana from her home in Johannesburg about her story and her writing path:

You were quite the globe-trotter! You went to Kenya from Ireland at age 18, then stayed in Kenya and Tanzania until you were 30, when you went to South Africa. What do you remember most about Africa in your early days there? There was a freedom there that allowed people to live an eccentric way of life doing their own thing. During that time, it was not a very structured society, and it was a fantastic place to live. People were really individuals, they didn’t try to fit into any social system or way of behavior, and they didn’t need to. Kenya was my freedom.

How did living in the midst of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya impact your view of the world? I was so young, I didn’t really appreciate the dangers. But we certainly lived in the middle of it all.

In thinking about writing mechanics, is there one thing that you consistently see writers getting wrong? Nowadays there is a tendency to overdo the shock tactics, and maybe that’s required the way the world is now. It seems that authors feel pressured to write about sensationalist topics rather than writing what they feel strongly about, what moves them. And those books aren’t like art and it’s less of a pleasure to read them. In Isak Dineson’s Out of Africa, for example, you can really see the people, you can feel them.

Which is your preference for the books you read – fiction or nonfiction? What are you reading currently? Though I read mostly fiction now, I’m also reading Heat by Ranulph Fiennes and The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner.

Since you’ve seen so much of our world, what do you think is most different about it now compared with when you were younger? Politics, power and money seem to be the ruling factors today. A drive towards material wealth takes all the color out of life  and is not at all appealing. But there are still magical places in the world. Where I work, we have a lovely Moonlight Market – an evening, outdoor organic market with organic foods and lots of gems and minerals, which attract amazing people with amazing stories. Stories are the common thread for me, for everyone.

Everybody’s interesting. Every single

person has got a story to tell.

At age 85, Diana still works – at Bryanston Organic Natural Market, an organic outdoor market and gem and mineral store, where she meets fascinating people every day. “Today I met a man who’s building a life center on Green Island (Queensland), I met two Americans, someone who’d gone to Malaysia on a canoe trip, and someone who’d been gored by a hippo.” And she has written another story (fiction this time), which takes place in Tanzania.

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Diana’s book, Leaves from the Fig Tree is published by Rebel e Publishers in Kindle, paperback, and other digital formats and can be purchased on Amazon.

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Thank you for reading! If you’ve enjoyed this post, please Like or Share it with other readers and writers 🙂

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Does your writing life need Feng Shui?

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Curious about Feng Shui but a bit bewildered by it? Good, me too. Read on.

When I first started researching this ancient art of placement and spatial arrangement, I felt totally overwhelmed and daunted. There’s just so much to learn and absorb. What’s a bagua? Why do I need a compass (do I even own one)? From tai chi and yoga, I’ve learned a little bit about energy. But the energy of a room, of a desk, a doorway? To be honest, it sounded a little new-agey to me.

As I continued reading, I started learning more about Qi and realized that the science behind Feng Shui is about maximizing auspicious (beneficial) elements in a room so they don’t hinder the flow of energy. So not necessarily the Qi of a desk, but more like analyzing what objects or situations near or on the desk might be blocking the flow of that Qi.

What does all this have to do with writing? Everything. Writing requires that we harness our inner flow of creative energy and imagination to tell stories. The type of stories doesn’t matter. Fiction, nonfiction, they’re all ultimately stories. Writing is hard work and requires not only time but commitment and focus. And small changes can make it easier and more fun.

Where do you write? Lying on the floor with a pen and journal, on the couch with your iPad, noisy coffeeshop, or upright at a desk typing on a keyboard? Do you feel that your typical writing location helps or hinders your flow of creative energy? If you haven’t yet uncovered your perfect writing spot or if you dread the very sight of your desk, simple Feng Shui changes could make a huge impact on how that space feels. Like anything else, it’s best to consult a trained expert on the subject, and I’m the farthest thing from that. But I have spent a couple of years reading about tips and tricks and I can attest to their efficacy in how they’ve helped me feel focused, productive, and excited about going to my writing space at home. I’ve also included lots of links in this post to Feng Shui experts and consultants.

We all have too much clutter in at least some area of our lives. Hopefully your writing desk doesn’t look like this:

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Aside from the obvious hoarding tendencies, lack of organization and a 45-year old chair, this space lacks a few other essential elements – lighting, for one thing. Check this out:

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So the desk/writing surface here is large, which is great. And they’ve got an ergonomic adjustable arm for a computer monitor, which saves tons of space. Love it! More points for the live plant in the corner of the desk. But the best part, of course, is the huge French window with a view of the woods. A nice view, simply put, will make you want to be there. Even if your writing space looks nothing like the picture above, I guarantee you could make your space feel just as aesthetic and inviting, and it might be easier than you think.

Some basic tips:

Don’t use a u-shaped desk or arrange your desk facing a wall, as these orientations could make you feel boxed in. There should be enough space for you to walk completely around your desk and it should preferably be facing the entry to the room. Situate your desk katty corner facing the door for an optimal “command position”.

Don’t put a trash can beneath the desk, as this could impact your writing success. Why? A trash can or waste container is likely to attract challenging, low-energy vibes. Set it out from under the desk and empty it frequently so as to not cause stagnation.

Stimulate your creative juices by hanging inspiring art or decorative objects on the walls. Find an image that makes you feel good, gives you energy, and draws you in. I prefer abstract art because, to me, it looks like a question that wants to be answered.

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Manage clutter! I have no drawers in my writing desk, which is a constant challenge causing me to be creative about what I store and where. I found an open, 3-shelved bookcase, which is perfect for housing decorative office storage boxes. You can find them in almost any color and size to match the vibe and color scheme of your home office.

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Confession: I’m obsessed with pens. I gather, collect, store, and hoard them, and openly steal them from my friends and colleagues. As a lifelong writer, I seriously feel on some level that all pens are just simply intrinsically mine. So one of my most successful de-cluttering tactics was to a) locate all my pens, b) pitch hundreds (literally) of broken, inkless relics, c) buy new ones, and d) display them on my desktop. Releasing that which we no longer need makes s p a c e in our lives and minds for more useful things, like ideas.

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To read more about desk organization, click here.

Next: cables. Look under your desk. What do you see?

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Even if your desktop is clean, well-organized and aesthetic, an atmosphere of unaddressed chaos beneath it can sabotage your writing process. How about this?

IKEA-Signum-Cable-Organizer

Check out cableorganizer.com for ideas.

If after renovating your writing area you’re ready to get serious about Feng Shui, you can easily find a certified Feng Shui consultant online in your area. Typically an initial consultation takes 2-3 hours, and be prepared to take lots of notes! They’ll prepare a list of recommendations along with alternatives. In other words, if you’re not willing to move your home office out of the damp basement, they’ll recommend ideas for making that environment more hospitable and conducive to how you want to use it.

Want to learn more?

http://life.gaiam.com/article/how-feng-shui-your-home-office

http://video.about.com/fengshui/Feng-Shui-for-a-Home-Office.htm