I don’t usually post on Thursdays, but, this week, it’s my delight to be able to host my WIPpeteer and ROW80 buddy, Melissa Barker Simpson. Tomorrow, we’ll have her cover reveal; today, she’s here to talk about – well, talking with her hands, among other things. Curious? Well, then, it’s time to turn the blog over to Mel – take it away! =D
Shan kindly offered to host me not once, but twice this week.
Tomorrow will be the cover reveal for my current novel The Fifth Watcher, which is set for release on the 21 November 2014.
Today I’d like to share with you a little about myself, and the areas of my life which inspire my writing.
I’m a single mother of two teenage girls, who fill my days with light; even when we’re butting heads! I wouldn’t have it any other way. In addition to being a writer, I’m also a British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreter – a role which is both challenging and rewarding.
I’ve always loved language, and admire those who are multi-lingual. It’s safe to say I’m a visual person, as I’m sure most artists are. So when I first began to learn BSL in my teens I took to it like a duck to water. BSL is a visual, spatial language, with a rich grammatical structure, which is completely different to English. In fact, it has no written form. It is a language which incorporates non-manual features; intonation, emotion, intent, it is all shown through facial expression and placement.
Like other languages, BSL uses a topic; comment structure, as opposed to subject; verb; object ((English sentence structure). As an example, let’s take the sentence – ‘A man walked over the bridge.’ As BSL is visual, the object must come first to give a point of reference. If you were to draw a representation of the sentence, you would likely draw the bridge first, so the man had something to walk over. Basically a whole scene can take place at once and additional information is added by modifying the sign or handshape to show how fast or slow the man is walking, as well as other detail about the event.
Though there is an international sign variation, so people can meet and converse on a global level, each country has its own signed language. Interestingly, American Sign Language (ASL) influences international sign. Names and places are spelled out using a manual alphabet; ASL uses a one-handed alphabet (as do many other countries), but BSL utilises two hands. There are also regional signs – in a similar way that there are regional accents. But this post isn’t about the intricacies of BSL. I meant only to give an overview, and as you can see I can be passionate about my second language!
I find myself in a variety of environments as an interpreter, and each has an influence on my writing. Over the years I’ve interpreted for a variety of training courses, and although I do not retain the information in the way a student would (due to processing between languages), information gets left behind and I unconsciously soak it up. It’s difficult to provide real life examples of how these experiences influenced my writing in terms of The Fifth Watcher. It is a novel that deals with alternate realities, and I’ve only interpreted in this dimension (so far!). In my previous novel, Hands of Evil, my background knowledge helped considerably. One of my characters is a survivor of Domestic Violence, and I have interpreted for men and women who have faced similar forms of abuse. It is also a crime novel, and since I work in police stations, I was able to learn from the environment and observe behaviours.
Interpreters work in a variety of settings; employment, community, legal, mental health, medical, media – the list is endless. With each new situation I learn and adapt. This is mostly to improve my skills as an interpreter, but it also has a profound influence on other areas of my life. I translated regularly between BSL and English, so I’m working into my first language on a daily basis; mostly in written form. This benefits my writing and allows me to analyse and reflect on language use.
I’m self-employed, and feel blessed to be working in a field I love – especially as this gives me the freedom to write. There are times when I find myself with time on my hands, especially between assignments (there is a lot of waiting around in courts), and I take full advantage. I either pull out my trusty note-pad and write for a while, or catch up on my reading. It’s a win-win!
Of course, having two teenagers helps with the writing too – since they ignore me most of the time! If it’s not mealtime, and we’re not talking about their day at school and catching up, I’m glued to my computer. I enjoy connecting with my online friends and the community as a whole, and I’m a great at multi-tasking (if only I could work on my planning!).
Thank you for indulging me today, and I hope you enjoyed learning more about BSL. If you come back tomorrow you can learn a little more about my new release.
I’d also like to thank Shan for all the support she’s given me. She is an endless well of inspiration, and her encouragement is truly uplifting.
You’re very sweet, Mel – and I’m inspired by you, too, and your fascinating career! I’m so happy you stopped by to chat with us, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s cover reveal, too! And, of course, reading your WIPpet Wednesday snippets, too!