Write Where You Know

By Murissa Shalapata

I follow a strong belief of mine that as a writer you must visit and know, intimately, any location that you chose as a setting for your novels. Not only will this help your writing be authentic but it fuels the writing process itself, allowing you to include real details unique to the geographical location or culture. Even if you write about the medieval times you should at least know the climate firsthand and the smells of the seasons.

When I travel I like to read books that are often set in the location I am exploring, often for the first time. It is exciting when I experience a bond with the author as if I had traveled with them, particularly when I find truth in their observations, physical, cultural etc.

One of the authors that I had the opportunity to share this kindred revelation with is Jeanette Winterson in her book, The Passion. This book was made part of my required reading list last year in a 4th year English course. When I cracked the book I was unaware that it would quickly become one of my favourites that featured one of my favourite cities in the world, Venice, Italy.

Winterson captures the bewildering architecture and history of Venice by weaving in Magic Realism. The book takes place when Napoleon was running a muck of Europe. We follow Henri, a French soldier who is infatuated with his ruler and would follow him to the ends of the world, until he witnesses Napoleon's carelessness with his men's lives. He decides to abandon Napoleon and, during his journey, becomes infatuated with Villanelle, a webfooted daughter of a gondolier who's heart belongs to another (...literally). Winterson captures the unique architecture of Venice that depends on the winding canals and maze-like streets. Her book is, in a way of it's own, a maze, a labyrinth, that is nothing but a joy to read. Having traveled to Venice, I was in awe of the way she captured the odd, overwhelming structure of the city on the lagoon.
And in the end this wonderful bewilderment of the story and the city is also present in the feelings of love, infatuation or passion.

 "Love, they say, enslaves and passion is a demon and many have been lost for love. I know this is true, but I know too that without love we grope the tunnels of our lives and never see the sun. When I fell in love it was as though I looked into a mirror for the first time and saw myself. I lifted my hand in bewilderment and felt my cheeks, my neck. This was me. And when I had looked at myself and grown accustomed to who I was, I was not afraid to hate parts of me because I wanted to be worthy of the mirror bearer." 

                                                                                                                                      Jeanette Winterson

  Murissa Shalapata writes a food & travel blog called The Wanderfull Traveler.
Her poetry is published in Other Magazine:___ and her photography and food/travel articles have been published in Vecu Magazine (July, August & September 2011 issues).
Be sure to "Like" The Wanderfull Traveler on Facebook.
Photography is for sale on Etsy.com


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