Events in Majorca

Growing up a writer

20049028_10154908909078507_1358458897_oIt’s a sweaty afternoon in Palma but Emily Benet arrives for our lunch meeting looking very cool and composed. She’s just got off the bus (rather than drive, she’s only just passed her test and Pierre the seven seater Citroen Picasso is a bit of a handful in Palma). We’re meeting to talk about her most recent novel, The Hen Party, set in Mallorca with the tag line ” A party of eight arrive on the island, but not everyone’s going home.”  The story features film director, Kate Miller, who is in serious trouble: the entire cast and crew of a reality TV show “The Hen Party”  have gone missing whilst filming. Kate thinks it’s all her fault, well she hasn’t exactly been following the guidelines, but if she is to blame, why are the hens arguing among themselves? And why is the groom-to-be calling her in tears…. ? Emily’s book is a fast, fun, summer read full of comedy and drama and having read it myself, I’m going to tell you to get it because a) you’ll enjoy it and b) Emily is a local author, living here on the island and we should support her.

But, back to the interview, once we’ve ordered our lunches we get down to it.  Aside from living on the island for the past couple of years Emily is an author, journalist and award winning blogger. But her story starts way, way back when she was eleven. “I always wanted to be a writer, I wrote a book, Dandelion Abbey, about talking animals. But it wasn’t until I was encouraged to enter a writing competition by my English teacher at my school in Barcelona that I really believed I could do it. I won first prize, 350€!”

The daughter of a Spanish dad and a Welsh mum Emily was thirteen when they all moved to Spain. “I was determined to pass my Selectividad (the Spanish University entrance exams) because this boy at my school had said he didn’t know why I was bothering. And I did it.” As it was she found herself studying back in the UK at the University of East Anglia, but she didn’t feel like she was getting anywhere, and she didn’t like her surroundings either. “Everything was burgundy, the place looked like a Swedish prison”.  Emily was quickly frustrated by the lack of time actually being taught, only six hours a week, and for a determined, ambitious, some might say workaholic, writer, this was just too much to bear. She dropped out.  An ultimatum was posed, either she studied in Barcelona or went to help in the family business, a chandelier shop in London. She chose the shop. “I decided, I’m going to take a year and help my mum in the shop whilst I write THE novel”.  One year rolled into more but she didn’t stop working on her goal, “I went to creative writing groups and classes, I read A LOT. I found myself inspired by the daily things in life, a single overheard sentence on the bus can spark a “What if… ” in my brain. Then one day she went to watch a football game, Germany vs Spain, with her dad and she met her future husband who was to have an impact not just on her, but on her writing career.”  He suggested to me that I start writing a blog. This was 2008 and not so many people were writing blogs then, I decided to write a blog about my life in the shop. I called it Shopgirl Blog. But I wasn’t really a shop girl, I was a writer, a writer trapped in the body of a shop girl working in a shop”. That’s when things really started moving and Emily started to get noticed. “I posted a link to my blog on the Salt Publishing Facebook page, and I got a response! They were interested in what I’d written and wanted to turn it into a book.” The blog also became a TV pilot (you can watch it on You Tube). Then mega publisher Harper Collins picked up her next books, The Temp and Please Retweet. But as she quickly discovered despite being on the roster of a publishing house that didn’t mean they would do much promotion of her work.  So this time around, with The Hen Party, she’s going it alone.

She admits it hasn’t been easy, switching from being with a publisher to self publishing, but she realises now that she might have been better off doing it her way right from the start as sales for The Hen Party are already surpassing her previous novels. She attributes her success to make this switch to someone she’s never met, Joanna Penn, the host of a podcast The Creative Penn which interviews successful author entrepreneurs.  As Emily tells me, “The word entrepreneur has a lot of positive connotations. An entrepreneur sounds like someone who is driven, creative, has get-up and go. Unfortunately self-publishing entrepreneurs aren’t always met with the same admiration in the writing world. Self-publishing still has a lot of stigma – and I get why. People want the credibility of a big publisher. They assume if a big publisher didn’t print it, then it can’t be good. In reality, a traditional publisher might like the book but may not have space for it on their list. They may well have a similar author writing in the same genre. I didn’t wait until the very end to find out if a publisher wanted my book. It takes months and months for replies and the first so-called ‘rave rejections’ that I received convinced me the novel was good enough for public consumption. The book took me over a year with two massive edits so I wasn’t going to just discard it because three people liked it but weren’t sure they’d be able to sell it. I didn’t just hit publish once I’d made up my mind. It was important to me that it would be produced with the same care as a traditionally published book. Next, it went through a professional editor. After that, a proof reader. For me, it’s about being proactive about your career, treating it like a business and taking the wishful thinking out of it.  It’s about taking creative control of your project, getting fair royalties and being able to adjust prices and book covers if at first it doesn’t succeed.”  We talk at great length about book covers and she shows me the most recent version of The Hen Party, she’s not quite happy with it. I tell her to stop worrying about it, but then if it were my book I think I would be just as fussy. After all it represents more than a year’s work, and who can say that about anything they’ve done?

When our date is over we find it hard to say goodbye, and wander around the streets of Palma together for a while, until finally Emily decides she’d better go find her bus. As I head off I wonder how many new ideas for stories she’ll come up with on the ride home and pledge to take the bus a bit more often myself.

                                                                                                                                                                   

You can get Emily Benet’s books online at Amazon or at the Universal Bookshop in Portals.

Visit http://www.emilybenet.com for more.

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The Grapevine May 20th

Calvia Rotary Club Success

Events in Mallorca

This year the Rotary organisation worldwide is celebrating the Centennial Year of the Rotary Foundation.It now comprises of over 1,200,000 members in more than 200 countries. The object of Rotary is to encourage the ideal of “Service above self”.  They take on projects at a local  level, but also international challenges: one of the main projects being the eradication of polio throughout the world. Every Rotary Club in the world has been asked to organize an event to celebrate their 100th birthday, and the Rotary Club of Calvia International is no exception.  All their members got together to enjoy a Charity Jazz Night at the Club de Mar in Palma proving that fundraising can be great fun as well.

The project was led by member and musician Geoff Frosell and his Dixie Swing Band.  Add superb Gourmet Food by Tomeu Caldentey, some excellent wines, and the wonderful atmosphere of the Club de Mar with night-time views over Palma Harbour and the Cathedral, and success was assured.  An international crowd of all ages gathered to enjoy the event, and support the cause.  As a result of the generosity of everyone, the Club was able to contribute €2,000 to the Rotary Foundation Centennial account, which will be doubled by the Bill Gates Foundation to €4,000.  Together with all the other Rotary Clubs, who are targeting a collection of 300 million dollars this year, this ensures the continuation of the programme to eliminate polio world-wide, as well as projects dedicated to the education of children in the very poorest countries of the world, and many others.

Why not go  along and meet them at the Bendinat Hotel any Monday at 13.30. Send an email to geoffmoorecaracol@gmail.com. For more information :  www.rotaryclubofcalvia.com

The Sea Soirée

Events in Mallorca

Photo credit Sofia Winghamre

Last Friday 12 May, Asociación Ondine hosted a Sea Soirée at Coast in Port Adriano to raise money and awareness for marine conservation in the Balearic Islands. A gathering of 160 people attended in support of the cause, and to enjoy a masquerade-themed evening of drinks, dinner and dancing.

Guests arrived in time for sundowners on Coast’s terrace against the backdrop of live music from Soundhold, followed by a colourful display of Brazilian dancing and acrobatics by the Capoeira Group. A three-course, sit-down dinner was then served by Coast’s finest chefs who specialise in a fusion of Asian-Mediterranean cuisine. (It is safe to say that seafood was nowhere to be seen on the menu!)

Events in Mallorca

Sea Soiree Photo by Sofia Winghamre

With the majority of attendees linked to the yachting industry to some extent, Ondine’s President Brad Robertson took to the stage to say a few words about the ethos behind the charity, and to encourage people to get more involved. While most people know of Ondine through the organisation’s famous beach cleans around Majorca, one of Brad’s main objectives is to emphasise their work towards reducing plastic pollution and establishing marine reserves.

“These efforts are directly related to the yachting industry,” he explained. “If we are going to continue to have yachts coming and enjoying the Balearics, then we need clean and healthy seas. Our generation has done some serious damage to the environment, however we are in a period where recognition of the situation is very clear, so we have a unique opportunity to turn things around. We are lucky enough to live in a pristine part of the Mediterranean, so we need to start appreciating it.”

One side to Asociación Ondine that many people are not aware of is its team dedicated to creating an efficient network of Marine Protected Areas around the Balearic Islands. The team consists of a group of scientists and professionals who played an integral role in the setting up of Sa Dragonera as a marine reserve. Brad urged that more of these are needed, and increased support of Ondine will help towards this. “It’s not my organisation, it’s ours, and if you care about the marine environment then we have created the right platform for you,” he concluded.

Following dinner, it was time to dance to more live music from Johnny and the Blue Valentines. A raffle and art auction commenced with some kindly donated prizes and beautiful pieces of art. For those that had the staying power, the party continued well into the night in Coast’s adjoining nightclub, with music from internationally renowned DJ Alan Alvarez.

Thanks to the efforts of all involved, an overwhelming €17,200 was raised over the course of the evening to help with Ondine’s work towards marine conservation. A special thanks is owed to the sponsors, without which the event couldn’t have taken place. These included Absolute Boat Care, aRikki, Cooling Towers, Doyle Rigging, Doyle Sailmakers, Ecoworks Marine, Electro Marine, iShine, JPL Yachting, Master Yachts, Medical Support Offshore, Nauitpaints, Planet Space, Superyacht Services Guide, Modesty Carpentry, Modesty Interiors, Beaumount Properties, Astilleros de Mallorca and The Islander.

Asociación Ondine’s simple vision to combine science, local communities and conservation to protect and improve local marine ecosystems around the Balearics is truly inspirational. The tremendous amount of money raised at the Sea Soirée is a testament to the yachting industry’s powerful ability to come together and have fun, all for this very good cause. The event is a beacon for the positive impact that the yachting industry can achieve and for that the Ondine team, and its generous supporters, should be applauded.

Tattoo Fest

Events in Mallorca

Photo Phil Rogan

Happening all over the weekend, and until next Wednesday May 24th the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival (www.traditionaltattoofestival.com) is quite an interesting place to visit. It’s designed to appeal to all ages as a  family event which allows members of the public to come and meet artists and performers from indigenous tribal cultures. A day pass is 10 or 15€ with children (u12) getting in free. Doors open each day at 12. You can find it at the Recinta Ferial in Santa Ponsa (opposite the windmill at the roundabout).  Come past and say hi as I will be there with fellow collaborators as we document the event and shoot some portraits of the indigenous tribes. Couldn’t turn down a chance like that now could I?