Emotional fact and historical fiction


When I was at my lowest point, I consulted a spiritual counsellor, and she advised me – among other things – to start walking the Sacred Land.  To go walking, by myself, and seek out amazing places: ancient stone circles, holy wells, sacred springs, yew groves, and deep forests with vast oaks.

I’m pretty sure that piece of advice saved my life, or at least my sanity.

The path that I started walking didn’t just lead me to Avebury, Glastonbury, and other sites that have now become my ‘go-to’ places for hope and healing.

It’s also led me, after several years, to revive a long-held dream: writing a book, which is precisely about reconnecting with the Sacred Land (and lots of other stuff).

But, just like Brianna, the protagonist of my novel The Reluctant Flame-Keeper, I’m not arriving at my dream destination in the way I planned – with the love of my life by my side, the Sacred Flame burning bright, and an important person waiting to shake my hand and give me lots of money.  Instead, I’m doing the 21st-century equivalent of pitching up in an ox-cart, covered in blood and dust, and lying on top of a sack of barley.  Erm, it wasn’t supposed to be like this…

It’s not the triumphant memoir that I mapped out in 2004 – the literary equivalent of putting two fingers up to the ‘It’ll Never Last’ brigade, showing them how wonderful it was to be married to a Maasai warrior and raise kids in Africa and help people rediscover their Indigenous knowledge even while escaping FGM, and we would all live happily ever after, thank you very much.  (I couldn’t get a publisher for that book anyway, because they all rejected it as ‘too naïve’.   Memoir readers aren’t stupid.  They know that life isn’t really all sunshine and red hibiscus.)

Writing this novel is raw, messy, and bloody painful.  It’s forcing me to reveal aspects of myself that I was very happy to keep hidden.  That’s because it really is my story, at least to some extent – and it’s not just about the mud huts.  Not all of it is ‘true’, of course – but there will be surprises.

I’ve had to start, slowly and painfully, letting go of who I thought I was and what I thought I ‘should’ want, and admitting who I actually am and what I really want…and letting new dreams start to emerge from the broken places.

The Reluctant Flame-Keeper is emotional fact dressed up as historical fiction, and I can already imagine the field day that the right-wing press are going to have with it.   It’s controversial.  It’s going to shock some people, infuriate some people, disgust some people, and probably cause a a few people to decide that I actually am the Antichrist.  I’m anticipating trolls and some serious hate mail.  And that’s nothing, in comparison to what’s going to come at me when I eventually publish the prequel.

But the point is: it’s my sacred task.  So I’m showing up for it, instead of hiding from it.  And arrogant as I am, I believe it’s going to change lives, hopefully for the better.

It’s just as well I’ve already had a bit of practice in dealing with trolls:  three messages so far, in the midst of a lot of lovely supportive ones, in which people have been vile and offensive about my choice of marriage partner and about our beautiful daughters.  If I can get that kind of abuse just for marrying someone with a different skin colour, I’m really curious to see what’s going to start getting thrown at me when the book comes out.  At least this time I’ll be prepared for it, and make judicious use of helpful buttons like ‘Ignore’, ‘Block’, ‘Delete’ and ‘Report’, instead of wasting my time trying to respond to the haters…

And it’s no accident that it’s at precisely this point, when I’m working on the final edits of the book, that I’ve been putting time and energy into creating a new mini-course called Doing the Groundwork: Getting Ready for Major Life Changes.  

Okay, confession time.  I was going to write a full-on, high-end, super-duper e-course called Face the Fear and Chase the Dream.  But, um, I’m not ready yet.  Did someone say I’m too much of a wuss?  No, no, no, that’s not it at all.  I have GROUNDWORK to do first.  And judging from the responses to my first few Discovery Sessions, I’m not the only one.

#FaceTheFear and #ChaseTheDream just sound too… well, scary.  Especially as, where I am, it’s already getting on towards autumn.  When the days get shorter and the nights longer, it really doesn’t feel like the time to go out chasing dreams, or indeed, chasing anything at all.  It’s the time to sit at home by the fire, weaving yourself a beautiful, strong safety net with three strands: nature, creativity and community.  Then, when February or March comes around and you’re feeling ready to spring into action (pun intended), you’ll know the Universe has your back.  Or your front, if you’re unlucky enough to land in the net face down.  (Knowing me, I probably will…)

People say if you want to learn something quickly, you should set a date to start teaching it!   So here it is: 21st September 2017.   More details will follow shortly.

Oh, and on a similar topic of showing up in a slightly less shiny and sparkly way than originally planned – and trying not to freak out because, guess what, I’m not perfect – I am getting around to my New Moon Newsletter, which I promised for the 23rd.  It is still New-ish Moon, and I will figure it out within the next few days.  Honest.  Keep watching this space, and with any luck, a pop-up saying ‘Subscribe Now’ will be popping up sometime soon…


About Gemma Burford

I've travelled to many places, and tried on a lot of different 'hats' - academic, designer, teacher, artist, safari guide, holistic healer, NGO director, life coach, writer... But whatever label you put on it, my passion is helping people to evaluate what's going well and what needs to change, envision a future that lights them up inside, and evolve to fulfil the new vision. As CEO of Green Spiral Consulting, my aim is to help your organisation exceed everyone's expectations - especially your own!

Posted on July 26, 2017, in courage, healing, Novel, Reconnecting, Reflections on Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Bravo!!! I’m just thrilled for you and all that you’ve done, are doing now and will do. Your story is inspirational and I wish you great success!

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