Introduced by Gertcha Cowson
What can I say about our Madeleine without needing a lawyer?
Madeleine is nothing short of pure inspiration to and for anyone who wishes to be a writer, whatever style or form. Including personally encouraging myself to write articles and stories for Write On!
You see here how Madeleine uses her personal and travelled experiences, mixed with an absolutely wonderful imagination to paint a world of family, ethics, ecology and individuals with their stories mixed up into a world of fantasy and sci-fi. As well as her ambition to urge others to use the power of the pen to build and empower them.
It seems wherever Madeleine places herself, positivity and creation blooms and here we see the journey to her latest destination.
Madeleine was born in Germany, with roots in Canada and the UK. A magazine publisher and editor, she has produced national and international web and print magazines, creating a voice for those without one, such as the successful Nina-Iraq, a project she worked on with the World Bank to reach out to Iraqi women everywhere. Since 2019, she has been founder/editor of the co-created Write On! suite of publications.
I have always passionately believed that, by sharing experience strength and hope with each other, we can create a community of hope. This driving force behind my writing lead to my creating teen magazines Oi! and So in the early 2000s (based on co-creation; just as Write On! is. The extract below was from an interview with the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that went on to become international news.
Tea And Toast With The Archbishop Of Canterbury
Oi! comes from Kent and stands for Outspoken Individual. On the hunt for outspoken individuals who are also linked to Kent, we went to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, one of the world’s great spiritual leaders, to find out if he is as forthright as he is made out to be. Three of us, typical Kent year 11s and 13s, had all our preconceptions shattered, leading to what turned out to be an overwhelming interview.
He didn’t shatter them immediately, of course, but that was partly because we are all different people and all had quite different questions. However, the fact that the Archbishop heard us getting lost outside his palace and stood in the door-frame welcoming us, with not a servant in sight, had an immediate impact.
Read the full piece here: churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2007/14-december/news/uk/teatime-revelations-from-dr-williams
(c) Holly Mounter, Georgie Gothhard, Mily Veitch, 2006
Journalism was a big part of who Madeleine was and in 2014, after having written for The Iraq Business News as a guest blogger for a year previously, she launched a magazine with the World Bank called Nina. It was based on Madeleine’s experience in education and international development, with a focus on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE). This was extracted from the Iraq Business news in 2014:
As the Editor-In-Chief of Nina Magazine, a bilingual magazine in print and online for Iraqi women everywhere, I passionately believe in the power of young people to step up, once they believe they can do something. That, of course, is the importance of education: creating not just the tools of knowledge, but also confidence and understanding of how their actions are able to impact immediate communities. I am therefore delighted to share with you a story first published in nina-iraq.com (arabic.nina-iraq.com). A group of girls from Baghdad, all still in education have started the Mawada initiative to support displaced Iraqi families.
I’ve so often used poetry to make a point. To me, the importance of Nina went beyond physical boundaries – it was a way of bypassing physical and cultural barriers by linking shared human experience in order to build economic opportunity. I tried to embody its values through a poem I initially presented at IWEC in Stockholm in November 2015. This is also the poem that was placed in the 2018 Pen to Print poetry competition (where I met Lena, Lisa and Zoinul) – so, without Nina and this poem, Write On! would not have happened.
Nina is timeless and placeless
But holds also the heart of Iraq,
A place for the woman who’s faceless
To discover that the world has her back.
A place for the woman who’s nameless
To discover that things she has done
Support the growth of a nation…
Part of a global web being spun.
By reflecting this voice in her pages
And valuing truth above all
Nina’s strength is the story of ages
With hope as a clarion call.
The voice of a nation united, that reflects both new and old ways
By lighting a path for tomorrow, Nina connects our todays.
© Madeleine F White, 2015
Full explanatory feature here: maketrade.se/nina-magazine-offers-a-forum-for-women-globally-to-share-experience-strength-and-hope/
What next? Madeleine tells me she was exhausted after taking on a high-profile job that involved lots of travelling: she crashed and subsequently resigned. Shortly afterwards, Lucie horse came into Madeleine’s life and made her refocus. The result – a year of writing a novel which saw Madeleine attempting to combine her experiences of the international stage and the individuals she’d met. leading to her debut, Mother Of Floods. This speculative, spiritual novel is set in a world ravaged by greed and technology that has seemingly spun beyond human control. The story starts with Martha and Dave, her (reluctantly) dead husband who has chosen a digital universe as his hereafter. Together, they embark on a journey to heal their troubled family, which includes overcoming mountains of debt and supporting an anorexic daughter and a gamer son. By questioning what life actually means in a world of 24/7 self-sustaining algorithms, Mother Of Floods challenges us to reimagine our own lives, drawing inspiration from a framework provided by some of humanity’s very earliest stories.
Baba John sat in his one room, wrapped in the orange and saffron robes of his calling. Despite his long white beard and mane of hair, he had a strong, healthy physique that belied the many decades he had spent in Gangotri. When he had moved into his guru’s hut nearly seventy years ago, it had been virtually inaccessible. Not any more, though. These days, it seemed as if everyone wanted to come here, and corresponding numbers of roads and houses had been built. India’s Tiger Economy had consumed most of the subcontinent’s untouched places, including this, the source of the Ganges.
The Western journalist was typical of those who came to see him now; paper people, blown here and there by a desire to be whole and yet missing the point entirely. Did they not realise that pilgrimage started within? One just needed to “be.” Barely registering the woman’s proclamation of how her journey would start here, at the birthplace of the Goddess Ganga, he cast his mind back to the splendid wilderness as it had been. To the time before the number of those seeking to connect with something beyond themselves had smothered it all.
Feeling compelled to pursue those memories, he used the ubiquitous “Shanti” to cut off his visitor. Watching her departing form, his eyes found relief in the black-and-white photographs of the once verdant flora and fauna that had covered this region. The next set of images, though, depicting all the hotels and houses that had sprung up in the wake of the receding glacier, caused him to feel physical pain. With each decade it had got worse, and the farther down Gaṅgā’s length one travelled, the more despoiled her healing waters became. By the time she swept out into the Bay of Bengal, this goddess of wholeness and purity, whose 10 wild advent on earth had once needed Lord Shiva’s hair to bind her, had become the embodiment of death and decay.
There was, however, always hope. He should know. Many years ago, his truth had been broken into pieces, and it was that hope he’d come in search of.
Once he’d been Amresh, a bright, middle-class Indian boy and typical product of the British Raj. Thanks to a number of unfathomable coincidences, the eighteen-year-old had been given a chance to study in the UK. Seduced into being part of a culture that was not his, he had grabbed the razor-sharp spires of 1930s Oxford with both hands. At the time, he hadn’t realised that he was cutting away his name and colour in the process.
It was only twelve years later, when the self-styled John had found his hollowly echoing soul too much to bear, that he turned clay feet back to this remote part of northern India. As his squeaky-new climbing boots made their way up the Gangotri glacier, the empty shell of his carefully cultivated identity fell away, leaving a bleeding, childlike soul to stand bare before Gaumukh. Released by his scream of brokenness, water seeped from the fissures in the bedrock, lacerated vocal chords heralding a new existence.
Having heard his call, a shrunken figure reclaimed him and led him back down to safety. Baba John remembered deep, welcoming eyes of kindness. He had come as Seeker but was told, when the time came, that he was to become the next Watcher. As his damaged voice recovered, so did his soul, and like raven’s wings, a sense of purpose brushed his consciousness. He must wait. Another would come. There would be other screams, more pain, but no longer his.
By the time he was back on his feet again, his rescuer had taken to the pallet John had so recently vacated. From his deathbed, hoarse whispers set his successor’s task.
“The time is coming when the balance will be lost. The world of spirit and our physical world will be consumed by one that is yet unseen. This emerging dimension will take the earth’s energy, causing Ganga to fail, but in her death throes the next Seeker will be birthed.”
A weak hand clawed at his sleeve, the inexorable will of a dying man shaping the rest of Baba John’s life.
“Watch for the signs. You must help the next Seeker shape this destruction. Only so can resurrection be found.”
(c) Madeleine F White, 2020
Based on the Mother Of Floods storyline, she wrote a one-off audio drama, The Ark, commissioned by the Alternative Stories podcast and featured on the BBC.
PS: Madeleine has been working on a companion book to Mother Of Floods, but that has stalled somewhat. If you’re interested, do listen to her audio recording from the first 45 minutes of Sisters Of The Storm https://bit.ly/sistersofstorm1
She’d love to hear what you think. Here’s to is hoping it will inspire her to take up her magic pen again!
Madeleine launched The Horse And The Girl, published by Lapwing Publications in Belfast in June 22. It was serialised on BBC Radio Kent, and other independent and national radio stations. The collection is based around her own experiences with Lucie Horse.
This series of 30 linked narrative poems, conversations between ‘The Horse And The Girl,’ looks at issues such as relationships, climate change, growing older, life, death and change in general. The Horse And The Girl offers a wry, poignant look at the world around us, calling on us to embrace life and the world we live in: if we notice the small things, we have a better chance of seeing the big picture. Read the title poem below:
The Girl On The Horse
“I can’t breathe” said
The Girl who sat on
The Horse who strode on
The Road that distributed load
And covered The Earth.
“No more can I carry” said
The Horse with
The Girl who sat on his back on
The Road that distributed load
And covered The Earth.
Too long have we tarried
“I am dead” said
The Road that covered
The Earth which had given birth to
The Girl and the Horse.
“I was never alive you know.”
I’m not part of your daily bread
“I’m alive” said
The Earth murmuring under the road
“I distribute the load and hold what is green and unseen
In the dark of my womb to bring forth life.”
Together we thrive
But if you keep covering all I am and will be –
My forest, my fields and my seas
With things that are dead,
The girl on the horse will not catch a breath,
And we’ll all be dead as a matter of course.
© Madeleine White, 2021
And finally, when trying to chart where Madeleine is going, she finds it helpful to remember where she has come from. This poem, co-written with Madeleine’s daughter 11 years ago, helps her do just that.
My Little Candle Flame
(From a daughter – Erin (eight) to her mother on Mothering Sunday)
My little candle flame so soft and sweet,
My little candle flame gently quivers to the beat.
This little flame so delicate and gentle
As a little raindrop in no rage.
My little candle flame as movement touches
My little candle flame as things get tough.
With a little excitement, with sadness too,
This little light keeps shining on you.
With carelessness and caring
With being sensible and daring
Don’t go wandering into the wilderness with temptation too.
(c) Erin White, 2012
My Little Candle Flame
(From a Mother to her Daughter in reply)
My little candle flame was very, very small,
My little candle flame was hardly there at all.
The wilderness had got too wild
Temptation ran too deep,
But your little candle flame stopped mine from going to sleep.
That and God’s love and our family
Gave me the strength to try to fight free.
God said just call and you shall be healed
And light will blaze over all that once was concealed.
Your little candle flame kept me alight
It stopped mine from going into the night.
So keep blazing my darling with joy, hope and love
And your little candle flame will stay lit from above.
(c) Madeleine F White, 2012
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Madeleine is nothing short of pure inspiration to and for anyone who wishes to be a writer, whatever style or form.