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Archive for Pangea

Music and writing: the search for perfection

We asked Pangea author Mary Farquharson to talk about how she juggles her double life as a writer and a producer.

My double life between music and writing enters a new phase with the selection of my story, ‘Sofia the beautiful’, for the Pangea anthology. Without the contact with traditional musicians, I couldn’t have written this story, although – equally – the technical demands of writing short fiction have improved my work as a producer and concert organiser.

I began writing as a journalist in Venezuela although I was never very good; press conferences were boring and manipulative and the idea of sniffing out a news story didn’t motivate. I wanted to find out who or what was behind the news and usually took so long that no one was interested in publishing my findings. I thought that writing about the men and women of the llanos plains, living on isolated farms, roasting meat and playing very sweet, haunting melodies on harps and guitars, was more interesting than reporting on the plunging price of oil.

My stories didn’t sell but they convinced me, back in London, to take a break from writing and join a small n.g.o. promoting traditional music from non-western cultures and had the great privilege of working with artists like Youssou N Dour and Omara Portuondo on their first visits to London, as well as street bands from Kenya, a whore-house singer from the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and several incredible griots from West Africa. The best concerts, not surprisingly, were ones in which the Senegalese or Syrian or Colombian communities came out in force and lapped up the music from their homes. The musicians responded to their nostalgia with a creative generosity that was contagious.

When I left London for Mexico, the schizophrenia continued; I worked first as a journalist and then set up – with my Mexican partner – a traditional music label that promotes Mexican and Cuban roots music. This work has taken me to towns and villages all over the region, meeting, talking, listening and dancing with musicians who have usually inherited the music they play and who compose verses spontaneously in a way that makes you think twice about the long hours doubled over a computer, waiting for words to stumble onto the screen.

Journalism was never enough to communicate the essence of this world and so, a few years ago, I turned to short fiction which has demanded of me new levels of commitment; it is much slower, more difficult and satisfying than journalism, and requires a search for truth that is not always important for newspaper or magazine writing. Producing records and concerts requires the same search for perfection; the refusal to accept the fast track, but rather to look deeper and more slowly at people and to reflect their personality only when you understand, or think you understand, where they are coming from.

Good musicians are generous always, they share their gifts easily and, when they feel they are understood, they respond in ways that one might never imagine. They are great characters: huge, unpredictable, difficult, inspiring. In all my stories, including ‘Sofía the beautiful,’ these musicians are present, as the central character or, as in this case, as the chorus.  My work does not permit me to write as much as I would like, but to write what I like, which is probably more important.


Pangea cover art

Pangea’s editors, Indira Chandrasekhar and Rebecca Lloyd, explain how the artwork came together for the Pangea book jacket.

The cover art for Pangea was especially commissioned for the anthology from artist and fashion designer, Steven Brunner. Below are extracts from the emails from Indira to Steven (Indira lives in Mumbai, Steven in New York) when she was trying to give him a visual and philosophical sense of Pangea:

Pangea is what land on earth was called before it split into the different parts that then moved around to form today’s continents.

Pangea is the time before the land broke up, when the continents hugged each other, when all land was in the centre, all water around it.

Our authors come from all over the world … we want to show that even though the stories reflect all kinds of different cultures, in essence the things that concern us, love, jealousy, fear, grief, happiness, are the same. Our world, ultimately, is PANGEA!

I think of Pangea as one culture holds many cultures. A sort of hold-everything place. A place where all things blossom.

Why we liked the name Pangea was because we thought that all of us authors, from all over the world, have the same roots. We come from the same place, even when we write about so many different places.

When Steven sent the image, Rebecca and Indira wondered how they would set it in the book jacket, where the title would go, where the editor names, whether they needed to work with the Thames River Press designers. Indira went back to Steven and his partner Dan Baum at They created the amazing book jacket with its coherence of design and style that you see in the image above (click on the image for a larger version). The design is now with Thames River Press for incorporating the final details.

Pangea publisher signs Tolkien/Dickens deal

Michael Tolkien, the grandson of legendary J R R Tolkien, has signed a two title contract with Thames River Press. Both books will contain the stories JRR used to narrate to Michael as a child. WISH and RAINBOW are scheduled to be released later this year.

The audiobook versions are being narrated by Gerald Dickens, actor and descendant of Charles. Gerald says, “WISH is a timeless story which children will enjoy for years to come. Michael Tolkien has brought it to life in narrative verse.”

The contract, signed at the London Book Fair in April, has received worldwide media attention:

BBC coverage
Washington Post
Times of India

Interview with our editors

Pangea editors, Indira Chandrasekhra and Rebecca Lloyd, were interviewed over at WriteWords about how the anthology took shape:

It was like some extraordinary mining operation for a rare mineral. Some stories we chanced upon easily. Some were from authors who were active and on the surface. Others we had to dig deep for. And finding some stories was like going on a treasure hunt, following maps…