Tag Archives: Ryan VanWinkle

Read this, Save the World

1 Sep

I have written about my love of London on here and I think it’s pretty clear about my romantic feelings towards Scotland. But today, I want to take a minute to really hone in on what is the best part, for not only me, but for hundreds, thousands of other people in Edinburgh: The Forest Café.

I came to Scotland after a terrible a breakup. There I said it. It’s on paper.  So, let’s imagine that, shall we? Broken hearted, 24, in one of the coldest, darkest cities in the world, struggling with the idea that there is no Mexican food or insulation, I wandered around the cobblestoned streets for a few weeks before my classes started. I felt overwhelmed: what had I been thinking, to sign up for a year of this place? No matter how much Scotland had touched my heart on my first trip there, no matter how in love I had fallen with the wet fields, the moody grey sky, and the fairy tales that twisted their way through the air like Fourth of July sparks, it still struck me as insane to have moved away from my whole life. It’s important to remember that even though I have traveled through a lot of countries in my life, until I came to Scotland I had barely even left the town I had grown up in.

I was born in Germany and then my Air Force dad moved my family (which is only my parents and me and whatever animals we collected on the way) to Cornwall and then to New Mexico and then to New York. And there we stayed, in my mother’s hometown of Syracuse. I went to a college only 40 minutes away. I dated boys who were from Syracuse, even all through college. My first trip to Scotland, I had my hand held by my Syracuse boyfriend of three years.  Was I scared? Or had I just not thought to do anything else? I’m not sure. But I do know that the first time I ever stepped into Edinburgh I planned on never leaving and it lit a fire in my heart.

Of course, walking the streets alone, exploring without a map, still left me feel fearful. And then classes started. And I met Ryan. Now, don’t get me wrong, I met a lot of lovely, wonderful people. Obviously, because it’s the people that glue you to a place and I am well stuck on the city. But Ryan was and is different. Ryan is a friend who will visit you in Greece, spend Christmas Eve with you, drinking port, bring you spinakopata for breakfast, let you crash at his house when you miss your train back to London, introduce you to amazing people like Deborah, and read your stories and tell you they are good. Ryan is, above all else, good.

But he is also more than just a friend to me, he’s a great friend to Edinburgh. He helped create and run The Forest Café. It’s beautiful there and it’s a home away from home for not just me, but for everyone who enters the place. It’s a feeling of pure comfort when you wander into the dimly lit rooms.

Free computers and internet, because everyone deserves to be able to access information. Amazing vegetarian food, (including burritos!), free space to do yoga or Spanish lessons or to build your own robot, gallery space, a free dark room, community projects, fund raising, books published, music heard, lectures given, people met. Oh yeah, and you can bring your dogs.

When Ryan brought me to the Forest, I was scared. Really scared. It’s a huge space and there are so many people who always seem to know everyone else. They are bustling in the kitchen, getting food out, and they are stomping around, dragging furniture or amps upstairs and downstairs and people are taking pictures and making music and dishes are clattering and art is being made and laptops are being used and books are being read and there will be people getting hair cuts or massages in the tiny “shops” set up in the hallway.

And I didn’t know if I would ever fit in.

In NY, I was a big fish in a small pond. And even if I didn’t exactly feel like an “adult”, I didn’t feel like a child and I felt like I was very in control of my life. I knew everyone around me and there were few unfamiliar faces. I felt confident about the persona I had built for myself: perfect student with lots of extra-curricular activities, including being in student films and writing on the school’s literary magazine. I had my own apartment off campus, which I loved. I ran at least 5 miles a day and I had plans on going to grad school and then working at a magazine, hopefully Martha Stewart. I worked a few jobs, one of which where I was a manager and worked on all aspects of the business. I felt completely together.

I got to Scotland and BAM! I was a kid again. I lived with flatmates, all of whom had real grown-up jobs, while I was in school, going to class all day and working part-time at a retail shop on the weekends. I drank and wrote and slept and ate heavy cream based foods and danced until late at night and got myself a boyfriend who promised not to break my heart and I felt so young that whenever I entered a room I felt small and insignificant and like I had no experience in comparison to everyone else in the world. Everyone had traveled and written published things and some people were making music while others were starting hip, underground bars where you could drink gin out of tea cups. It was all very amazing.

Possibly the most amazing thing was that people liked me and were willing to talk to me. When I was asked to help decorate for a party at the Forest, I felt like I had just won something fantastic. When Ryan asked me to help him publish books and then it turned into me getting to talk to local bookstores and do readings myself, it started to make me feel like I could do all sorts of magical things. Magical things like move to London or live in a bookstore in Greece.

It’s hard to fully explain the Forest, except to say that it is magical. It gives people permission and space to be themselves and to be creative. It also, even more importantly, gives a lot of people resources to use to be creative.

I have written about my amazing friend Deborah before. She is a playwright and an excellent cook and a good travel companion. And she also is in charge of the Forest Fringe, something that has been called, by a newspaper man at the Guardian, “an ongoing miracle.” But as she says, it’s not a miracle, it’s a product of how amazing the Forest Café is. The Forest gives Deborah the space to put on amazing, free shows that stimulate the growth of art that is so important in Edinburgh. You may have heard of the Edinburgh Festival, which takes place every year in August. And that is a very cool thing indeed. But what makes the Forest Fringe even better than the regular festival is that it is FREE. It is art for anyone, anyone at all, and it is art that anyone can make.

And that is the joy of the Forest Café. It is a beautiful wonderful jumbled up mess of an existence that can and will change your life, if only it gets the chance.

And right now, it might not get the chance.

Developers in Edinburgh want to take the building away and today, yes, today September 1st, every part of the home I remember, has been dismantled and put into boxes. Despite the best efforts of SNP politician Marco Biagi and all of my hundreds of Edin-burgers, enough funds were not raised in time to buy the building before the lease is up.

But all hope is not yet lost! The good news is: The building is historic. Changes cannot be made to the structure, so it makes people not want to buy the building! There is still time for US, for you, for me, to buy this building and continue the co-op. I implore you, to make the Forest Café your home. Because this place does not exist elsewhere, it really doesn’t. I have traveled the world and this sort of thing, at this size, with this many volunteers working seamlessly to make it run, simply does not exist anywhere else. Save the Forest and Save the World! Dramatic? Yes. But please, it’s amazing. And it needs your help.

You can help by going here: http://www.wefund.com/project/help-forest-cafe-buy-bristo-place


Throw away all those extra words…

20 Mar

Since I have returned from NY, I have made a conscious effort to be more self involved. I am pretty sure that isn’t how most people go about enlightenment, but I did realize that I needed to spend more time and energy on myself, rather than on others. This meant that a few people received brisk text messages and emails from me (mostly they were hard to write, one gave me such a thrill that I did wonder what on earth I had been doing speaking to this person in the first place) and this is how I cleared my social calendar.

So today, for whatever reason, I woke up at 4 am. That is incredibly early. It’s so early that people in America were still awake and I managed to waste the first two hours of my being awake talking to people on MSN. That was silly, but good, because I was all interneted out by 6 am. And then I sat down at my desk and started to re-work my novel, which has been laying around, unhappily untouched for several months now. Which was extremely silly, because it is finished. By finished I mean, all of the chapters, plus a few more, that I had outlined originally have been written. There is a beginning, middle, and end. Plot, climax, dialogue. Oh, snap.

But all writers know: just getting that all done does not make a piece finished. It just means that you are now onto the next stage of writing, which is editing. This is maybe my least  favorite stage of writing. This is because it involves re-reading every single line you have written, out loud, maybe with a funny voice here and there, and being ruthless. But I discovered a very happy fact: Letting a manuscript age in a drawer, as somebody famous once said, I am sure, is the best way to get over my biggest writing block, which is my love of my own words.

All through college and university and even most of my writing jobs, I was writing on a really tight deadline. So, I would get an assignment and start my research, take my notes, sketch out my papers or stories. I was never the sort to put a paper off to the last minute, I was always a very meticulous student. But I wouldn’t leave myself much time to let a paper simmer– what student does? You have so many papers to write, even if you start each one the day you get it, you are still working on a tight schedule. So my editing of all my papers and stories took place very very soon after my writing them. And so, even when I knew I needed to cut a paper by 200 words (or worse still, 1,000!), all I could see was how achingly beautiful my sentences were. I have a lot of ego about the beauty of my prose. My main problem is that each of my sentences do tend to be very well crafted, but they don’t always flow into the next one very well or advance the story or point of the paper in any way. As Mr. Holdstock says: line by line, you create something lovely, but as a whole, the thing needs help. Ouch. But true. And so editing was always a bitch: how do I know what to cut? I love each sentence independently, so how can I possibly cut any of them, just to make ‘cohesion’, that foul little word used by editors.

But editing is like packing: easier to do if you let something sit in a drawer long enough. And by this I mean, when I move, and I move a lot, the first things to go into the trash are the things I haven’t looked at in months. I just started packing up my things the other day, in a fierce rage of having too many things and feeling weighted down, and it was incredibly easy to look at a lot of things and go: well, I haven’t used that in MONTHS. I don’t even remember why I bought it or why I thought it was important. I won’t pack that to take to Istanbul, so why do I own it now?  In the end, I have far fewer things in my room and I am very happy about all this.

In my novel? Well, I haven’t looked at it in ages. And I forgot why I told Holdstock and VanWinkle why I had to keep this chapter or why it was incredibly important that this scene appear in a certain spot. In the end, I am chopping and splicing my novel as though I were Dr. Frankenstein, just checking to see if it would actually be better to have an arm coming out of the forehead. I am even experimenting with cutting in pieces of my other, partially finished, novel. It’s like a crazy laboratory in here today and I am loving it.

So, my new literary advice: forget about what you are writing about. Leave it for a few months. Go and get an all-consuming hobby, like doing everything on the “101 Things to Do in London Before You Die” list.  Go on a mini break to your home town for a month. Be too social. Feel like everyone around you is doing so many more creative and wonderful things than you. Feel a bit overwhelmed. Have a sort of breakdown where you become a hermit that bakes cupcakes. Then tuck right back in. Well, at least do steps 1 and 8. Just try and enjoy yourself in between and don’t beat yourself up too much, because we can’t all be productively creative every day.

Things I Love Thursday

25 Feb

<3 I love that Rhea and I do little shout outs to each other, because it’s nice to appreciate each other. And when she manages to do this, even when she has so much going on in her life, as she battles MS. I really adore her and all of strength.

<3 Trips to Niagara where I wear a pretty dress and imagine all sorts of funny little things and smile and curl up and I’m very happy.

<3 watching movies all day long and eating a lot of bowls of fruity pebbles.

<3 Skins. My crush on Cook. Coveting Katie Fucking Fitch’s red hair.

<3 watching the Darjeeling Limited and remembering listening to certain songs from the soundtrack, laying on my couch with Ryan and drinking port on a very lonely christmas and smiling at the memory of having such a great friend.

<3 the fact that my mom thinks it would be a good idea to sell the beautiful mahogany piano in our living room, that I never really learned to play, so that I can use the money for my insane and foolhardy backpacking trip. I love my mom. she’s amazing.

<3 again, those words ‘i miss you’, but this time, for real. And written so many times that it becomes a mantra.

<3 Nicole and getting to be the housewife who fixes her yummy dinners for when she comes home from work.

<3 I’m going to go ahead and give Cap’n Crunch its own entry.

I’m so tired and I have so many things to do today, before my plane leaves, so that’s it for today. But I loved seeing everyone I saw and doing all the things I did and I am happy that I know so many fucking amazing people.


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