Tina Seskis – words from the heart

Christine Miller

Tina Seskisw book

Launch of Tina Seskis book

Christine Miller

It was an honour and a delight to finally meet Tina Seskis – best-selling author of the tautly engrossing psychological thriller ‘One Step Too Far’ - in person at the launch of the paperback version of her book, published by Michael Joseph.

Apart from being a great writer, Tina is a very enterprising and able marketer. She initially self-published One Step Too Far in 2013, when I had the pleasure of being one of the first readers and reviewers through NetGalley. The link to that review is here.

I was completely hooked right from the beginning, and delighted to help Tina garner reviews, readers and sales for the book, because it genuinely is one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever read.

And believe me,  I’ve read a large number of  books …

Christine Miller LondonfromStrand802The launch was generously hosted at Penguin’s beautifully sited headquarters in The Strand.
We were on the 10th floor with magnificent panoramic views of a sunlit London from the terrace.

Christine Miller LondonFromStrand3

Christine Miller LondonFrmStrand804

As the wine flowed, the conversation buzzed and there was a wonderful atmosphere of celebration and success as the crowd of family, friends and supporters gathered to congratulate Tina on her triumphs.

Christine MillerStrand5

What also emerged last night was the poignant ‘story behind the story’ of what prompted Tina to write in the first place. Her mother was unwell, and Tina used the book as a means of engaging her mother’s attention and interest – in her own words, “to keep her going”.  The guidance and insights from her mother helped Tina keep the book’s characters and their actions real and thereby remain sympathetic and appealing to readers, thus sculpting the storyline as credible yet compelling.

When we spoke, Tina told me that the words had come straight from her heart, directed by her mission to keep her mother occupied, as she wove ‘One Step Too Far’ into the fascinating story with the terrific plot twist that led Penguin to pick it up and offer her a completely well-deserved 3-book deal rumoured to be worth a substantial 6-figure sum.

Tina’s humble and heartfelt tribute in her speech to her (sadly now deceased) mother, who she described as the one person who really should have been there, to her husband, her son and all her family, and to everyone who supported her, was beautiful. Also moving were the brief, entertaining and powerful words from Louise Moore, one of Penguin’s managing directors, who justly praised Tina for her creativity and writing skills, her persistence and determination, and her refreshingly open approach.

This is a success story which carries great hope for talented writers wanting to get noticed, a lesson in determination, perseverance and guts.

And I have a strong sense that we haven’t even seen the very best of Tina Seskis yet – definitely one to watch – and read and enjoy.

Thanks to all for a wonderful evening,  and if you haven’t already, go get your copy of ‘One Step Too Far’ HERE.

Christine Miller

Portraying Life – Manet, Bellows & Unexpected Joy

Manet,_Edouard_-_Le_Déjeuner_sur_l'Herbe_(The_Picnic)_(1)


Lunch on the Grass

Manet, Bellows and the surprising pleasure of the unknown

We were thrilled to attend a ‘friends and family’ private showing event at the Royal Academy of Arts in London last week.  It’s a superb building, Burlington House, close to Piccadilly Circus and Green Park, and the RA brings together some wonderful exhibitions.

Manet (1832–1883)

Somewhere along the line, many people will have heard of and seen French artist Édouard Manet’s famous painting ‘Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe’, or Luncheon on the Grass, even if you’re not an art afficionado. It’s a large oil painting which resides in a museum in Paris, with a smaller version in the Courtauld gallery in London, currently on show at the RA. It created a scandal when it was first aired in 1862, largely because of the female nude and the scantily clad bather, alongside two fully clad gentlemen, and a subtext which implied all kinds of (at the time) illegal, immoral and impossible things going on, but also because of Manet’s style of painting which led to him being described as ‘The Man Who Invented Modern Art’.

Manet,_Edouard_-_Le_Déjeuner_sur_l'Herbe_(The_Picnic)_(1)

The Luncheon on the Grass 1862-63

Manet once said, he ‘felt like a man who knows his surest plan to learn to swim safely is, dangerous as it may seem, to throw himself into the water’.

Berthe Morisot With a Bouquet of Violets 1872

Berthe Morisot With a Bouquet of Violets 1872

It was fascinating to see these famous and important works on display, to get up close and examine the way the paint had been applied, the ‘unfinished’ look of some, with evident brushstrokes,  the colours, the talent and flair, and also the expression of Manet’s life unfolding through his paintings. Because Manet often painted his friends and family, not only models and sitters, and he included contemporary figures such as novelist Emile Zola, poets Baudelaire and Mallarmé, Antonin Proust, and fellow artist Berthe Morisot, whose face is perhaps one of the most well-known amongst his many portraits, so there is a relevance, involvement and intimacy which is charming.

Manet’s artistic development straddled the time between the formal painted portrait as the main form of rendering one’s likeness in a lasting form, and the rapidly developing age of photography and daguerreotypes and their more immediate and realistic representation.

My sense of Manet’s work is that he brought an informality and naturalness to his portraits of people and their lives, and their interweaving with his own life, with a casualness that was daring for its time, yet retained startling realism and depiction of his subjects.

The Railway 1873

The Railway 1873

Some of the perspectives and uses of light and shade, and of so many hues of black, especially those I observed in ‘The Railway’, are stunning, and Manet rightly deserves his accolades as an inventor, if not The Inventor of Modern Art.

Some have said these paintings are not the best of his work, and there may be some gems missing from this exhibit; however for me it demonstrates his acute observations and his sympathetic and daring statements capturing life through his eyes and hands.

George Bellows (1882 – 1925)

In contrast, I had not previously encountered artist George Bellows. My loss, as I found his work most engaging and exciting. Bellows was a gifted artist who found success and fame early in life. He has been described as “one of the most innovative and versatile artists of his time”.  In 1913, at the age of 30, he became the youngest ever artist to be elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design.

His exhibit depicts Modern American Life, and as his career coincided with the industrialisation of the USA, he witnessed the rapid growth of New York, which became a frequent subject for his work.

George Bellows, Stag at Sharkey's, 1909

George Bellows, Stag at Sharkey’s, 1909
Photograph: George Bellows/The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B Hurlbut Collection

His early work concentrates on boxing matches, some very gritty and earthy scenes which exude a raw power and the almost animalistic movements and postures of the boxers are visceral, you can almost smell them.

There is a vigour and life in his work which captures early 20th century America with great precision and power, the scenes of New York very much reminding me of films about gang life, and there are also many touching works illustrating the poverty and grim hardships encountered by immigrants and the underprivileged.

Bellows’ war paintings are also powerful, showing scenes from the First World War in varying forms from huge oil paintings to lithographs. They are quite disturbing in their violence and stark reality. As Bellows did not witness WWI at first hand, they were interpreted from The Bryce Report which had recounted eye witness accounts of atrocities perpetrated by the German army on Belgian citizens.

In contrast, in terms of subjects, his later works have many vibrant and invigorating cityscapes, seascapes and landscapes and scenes of winter revelry and snow which are exquisite. I was very taken with ‘Easter Snow’ and also ‘Love of Winter’, so full of life and exuberance and colour.

George Bellows, Love of Winter, 1914 Photograph: George Bellows/The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection

George Bellows, Love of Winter, 1914
Photograph: George Bellows/The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection

George Bellows, Easter Snow, 1915

George Bellows, Easter Snow, 1915
Photograph: Private Collection

Together with the numerous portraits of women, many of his wife, Emma, and his family, which are very tender and beautifully rendered, there is a wide scope and huge talent on display, and it was an unexpected, unanticipated joy to discover George Bellows and his thought-provoking work.

Highly recommended ****

The Manet Exhibit continues until 14th April, George Bellows until 9th June 2013.

Discover more at  Royal Academy of Arts

 

Work as Play

work as play christine miller

Work as Play - The Heart and Spirit of Business

work as play christine miller It seems that increasing numbers of us are looking for different ways to live in a more balanced and fulfilling way, so that we feel connected with our work.

At the heart of this is the growing desire to have a sense of purpose and a yearning for meaning in how we spend our time and make our living. We want to feel the spirit of what we do – to be inspired.


People who have been working in organisations for many years are now being asked to re-apply for their jobs, unable to take them for granted any more and having to market themselves as the best candidates. This means they are in effect becoming more entrepreneurial in their approach to their positions. And those entering or rejoining the job market need to be very clear and precise about what they offer and how they fit with prospective employers, both for their own sake in finding satisfying work, and in order to attract a suitable opportunity. (See:
The ReSourceful Candidate)

Entrepreneurs, the self-employed, creatives and small business owners already know the importance of  this, but sometimes, running a business or being a freelance feels more like a job that ties you down than an uplifting experience of creativity, wealth and fulfillment. And the dream you started out with becomes a drudgery that leaves you working longer and longer hours just to stand still.
 
I had my most recent experience as an employee in the corporate world over 11 years ago now, and friends and colleagues who’ve known me for years (and even some who haven’t known me for long!) comment on the way I’ve crafted what is essentially the perfect job for me – meeting people and asking them about their current thinking and passions, guiding, coaching and mentoring executives, leaders and business people into the best options for them so that they LOVE what they do, writing, being creative, being playful – and having lots of fun.
 
Most of the time, I can’t distinguish whether I’m working or playing, so that my work becomes play for me…that’s a great joy. It didn’t happen by accident – I did actually deliberately create and craft the ‘playground’ (otherwise known as workspaces!)  in which I operate, and it is a highly productive space. And it evolves all the time, as I develop and learn and share with clients in workshops and individual sessions.
 
Find out more about loving work at www.loveworks.co 

Soul Poet

Christine Miller

Poetry is a means of expressing our inner thoughts and feelings, our inspirations, insights and intimate experiences.  Life is poetry – and poetry occurs all around us, in us and through us all the time.


Poetry can be harsh and demanding, soft and yielding, delicate and dreamlike – and filled with stark realism. It doesn’t have to rhyme, it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone other than the poet, and it can blissfully, wilfully ignore the rules of grammar and presentation.

And – poetry can be prose, images, short, long, scribbled on the back of an envelope or inscribed in elaborate hand on expensive paper. In essence, poetry is essence, yours, mine, ours, and it is personal yet universal, even cosmic, at the same time.

These poems are an invitation to journey through the Secret Garden of a Soul, a soul in the process of re-membering its essence and reconnecting to its authentic, joyful self.

My intention is that in reading the poems, you will find a meaning unique to your life, and that you, too, may be led to a place of inner peace and joy, a private place where your soul can dwell unfettered by mundane concerns.

Christine Miller

More here: www.soulpoet.org

Magic, Creativity and Harry Potter

HarryPotterChristineMillerblog

The Making of the Harry Potter Films

Potions Classroom


Not Your Usual Family Day Out!

It was a very uplifting experience to visit the Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Bros, Leavesden in Hertfordshire this summer. Opened in 2012,  it is a pleasing demonstration of the talent and creativity present here in the UK, and a boost for British business and our very vibrant film industry. Who would have thought fifteen years ago, that J.K. Rowling’s initial volume of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ would blossom into such a fertile and multi-faceted business!

We were impressed by the sheer volume of props, models, costumes and sets on show, so I’ve included a few photographs here, and there is a fuller report and more images on the ‘Your Ultimate Resource’ website here.   A great way to spend an afternoon, or even longer, and an opportunity to see the Gryffindor Common Room, the intriguing Potions Classroom, and the Ministry of Magic’s stunning Atrium, to name but a few of the sights to be savoured.

Gryffindor Common Room

 

Ministry of Magic

 

Millions of tiny diamonds discovered in candle flame

Candle flame

 

Diamonds dancing in a candle flame 
Discovery could revolutionise the way we produce diamonds

Changes the way we look at candle flames forever

The magic and romance of candlelight, the way candles bring a sparkle to our lives, might be finding some scientific explanation according to recent research. Throwing a little light on candles, and why they fascinate us so much, a report from Professor Wuzong Zhou of St Andrew’s University, Scotland, published in Chemical Communications Journal reveals that an astonishing 1.5 million tiny diamond nanoparticles are created in a candle flame every second it burns.

 

Zhou created a new technique of sampling particles from the centre of the flame, something not previously possible. He said, "Unfortunately the diamond particles are burned away in the process, and converted into carbon dioxide, but this will change the way we view a candle flame forever".  There is currently no way to extract the diamond particles, but with development the technique could lead to a more environmentally friendly and cheaper way of producing industrial diamonds. 

 

The renowned scientist Michael Faraday in his celebrated 19th century lectures on “The Chemical History of a Candle” said in an 1860 address to the flame: “You have the glittering beauty of gold and silver, and the still higher lustre of jewels, like the ruby and diamond; but none of these rival the brilliancy and beauty of flame. What diamond can shine like flame?”

Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why illuminating flames and candlelit settings are so entrancing, and why they enhance our perceptions of the beauty of the moment and of the people in it.

Just think, millions of tiny diamonds dancing before our eyes!

Who knew what mysterious hidden jewels were forming, shimmering and dissolving, hidden in plain sight in a candle flame!