Small Things Are Not So Small
The Body, Brain, and Books: Eleven Questions with writer Emma Gannon
What are you reading now?
I am currently reading Ann Patchett’s This Is The Story of A Happy Marriage. I cannot believe I hadn’t come across it before now. For some reason I thought it was a novel and put it on the back burner. I picked it up the other day from my bookshelf and realised it is a collection of essays on writing, opening a bookstore, family, marriage, and pets. I am obsessed. I am eking it out as I’m loving it so much. I was bereft after finishing her recent essay collection These Precious Days so it felt like Christmas Day discovering another collection of hers. Sidenote: I also love following her Nashville bookstore Parnassus Books on Instagram. Cute dog, lovely staff, amazing book recommendations, occasional visits from Reese Witherspoon. Would it be weird for me to travel from London to Nashville just to visit a bookstore/fangirl at Ann Patchett?
What are your most beloved books from your youth? Did you ever hide any from your parents?
The Jolly Pocket Postman books by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg are absolutely iconic. They are the most magical books. You follow the postman’s adventure and they have in-built envelopes on each page and you take out the letters and read them. You really feel like you’re properly inside the book meeting all the different characters. I have the originals from my childhood in my office. I feel the same about queen Jacqueline Wilson (who I had the honour of interviewing a couple of years ago.) Some of my favourites were: Bad Girls, The Suitcase Kid, Double Act, the Girls in Love series. And in answer to your second question, I never hid books from my parents, but I did hide copies of J-17. I stole copies from my babysitter and hid them under my bed so I could read the sex columns.
What’s your favourite book to reread? Any that helped you through a dark time?
I mention this book all the time because it’s the one I re-read the most: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. I also re-read Big Magic byor The Practice by Seth Godin whenever I am feeling lost with my work or creativity. Alain Botton’s Reasons To Be Hopeful recently helped me through a dark time of total exhaustion. It’s a wonderful book that brings you right back to the little things, via big sprinklings of history, art and cultural references. It shows how human beings have survived over centuries by turning to the basic things during bleak times: a mug of tea, a cosy blanket, a friend. We are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for -- and the small things are not so small.
What’s an article of clothing that makes you feel most like you?
My glasses – do they count? Also a good solid colourful jumper.
What’s the best piece of wisdom you’ve encountered recently?
Inspired by something I heard from life-coach Natalie Miller: you are in co-collaboration with the world. You are always moving with something, creating something in partnership. You’re never alone.
Tell me about any special relationship you’ve had with an animal, domestic or wild?
During my burnout episode last year, I looked after two miniature dachshund pups. They would lie on the sofa with me while I watched endless TV and I believe they really did help me heal.
What’s one thing you are happy worked out differently than you expected?
I thought I wanted to be famous and ‘known’. But my career is going in a more interesting direction than that; mostly writing at home, coaching, teaching, running retreats. Less public, less on stage. I like it.
Singing in the shower or dancing in the kitchen? Or another favourite way your body expresses itself?
Dancing while cooking! Not sure how safe that is, but I love to put music on while cooking something new and dancing while stirring on the hob.
What are your hopes for yourself?
That I always remember what’s important. Open-heartedness, being a good listener, experiencing joy, family, friends, and cultivating an honest relationship with myself.
What’s a kindness that changed your life?
The kindness I’ve shown towards myself.
What’s a guiding force in your life?
Julia Cameron. I’ve interviewed her three times, read all her books, wrote the introduction to her re-published memoir and feel very connected to her in general. I recently read her book Transitions, first published in 1999, all about moving through hard times and it spoke so personally to me. Her back catalogue is incredible and timeless. She is a constant guide who feels ever-present for me.
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Meet me in the comment section
What are some of the basic things that have helped you through a bleak time? Do you enjoy colorful clothing? How’s your relationship going with yourself?
Tell me in the comments!