Blog hopping – directing a lens

A month or so ago, Molly Moynahan, a novelist and writing teacher living in Chicago, invited me to participate in a Blogger Hop, something I’d never heard about being such a newbie to the blogosphere. It’s an opportunity, Molly later explained, to open up the genre and introduce your blog to new readers. Molly’s blog is don’t you know who I am? (Click on the link to take a look.)

When I realized the caliber of blogger in whose ‘hop’ I was being asked to contribute, I felt a little daunted, but also privileged. So, with gratitude to Molly, below is my post, which isn’t about food, nature or lifestyle in the Zambezi Valley. It’s a post that focuses on the writing process. Mine to be precise. Molly, meanwhile, writes about her process here.

Heading down to our seedling garden with the dogs.
Heading down to our seedling garden with the dogs.

What am I working on?

I hadn’t written much since completing a political memoir in 2010. Writing that book was like running an endurance race. The end always seemed beyond my reach, and I had to break through threshold upon threshold to finish it. Afterwards I was depleted. To make it worse, I never published. I’d had enough of writing … until, that was, I moved back to Africa from the United States, fell in love with a farmer who also loved words, and started manifesting a vision I’d held for several years.

Once a week I write a blog post about different facets of my vision, unfolding as it does in this fecund, but sometimes challenging, environment in which we live. It’s a vision born out of a sincere belief in the healing powers of the natural world, the therapy of a garden, and the real benefits of growing and eating your own food. It’s a vision that illustrates how one does not need more “stuff” to live well; how, for me, living simply, being present, and trying not to be wasteful has been a sure path to a fulfilled life. It’s a vision with one eye focused on the doctrine of “sufficiency,” a term coined by the American inventor, Buckminster Fuller, who believed that if resources were respected and not hoarded by the few, there’s enough for everyone.

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre? 

I don’t think my work or writing differs in any significant way from others, but I do believe that the creative process, in my case writing, is like a lens: it brings into focus that which one is passionate about; it both concentrates and magnifies a vision.

Why do I write what I do?

I started out as an investigative journalist, moved on to heading up a nonprofit pro-democracy organization in Washington, D.C., and then turned towards the natural world, my garden and cooking when I began the punishing challenge of writing my memoir. Sinking my bare hands into the soil, feeding people, and losing myself in long walks through the Blue Ridge Mountains proved a valuable antidote to the unearthing of a massive catharsis–a painful release from the trauma that my work as an activist induced. Hard as it was, from that catharsis came my vision, and it is this that brought me back to my writing.

How does my writing process work?

Working with deadlines as an investigative journalist instills a level of responsibility when writing for oneself. I made a commitment to publish a blog post once a week, and I do my best to stick to this pledge. Writing about food, the garden and nature ensures I spend as much time away from my blog as I do writing it. I like this. I find experimenting with photography, recipes, seeds, gardening techniques and wild food a real incentive for sitting down to updating my blog with the results. One drives the other. I always strive for brevity in my writing. The tighter the sentence the better. I am a harsh editor, as is my partner Chris, who studied English Literature at Trinity College, Dublin. I am lucky to live with such a wordsmith. As I’ve got older I’ve become less tolerant of lazy writing, therefore I try hard to avoid cliches and overused descriptors. Reading good, tight writing is really important to my process. It is for this reason I love short stories.

A biography of my hostess, Molly Moynahan:

Molly Moynahan camel riding sans hands during her teaching assignment in Abu Dhabi.
Molly camel riding sans hands during a teaching assignment in Abu Dhabi.

Molly Moynahan is the author of STONE GARDEN (2003), a New York Times Notable Book that was translated into Japanese and German and was chosen as a top Teen Read by teenagers and librarians across the country. Her two other novels are PARTING IS ALL WE KNOW OF HEAVEN and LIVING IN ARCADIA. Her short stories and essays have been published in Mademoiselle, North American Review, and The Best Texas Stories, and on 848, a Chicago NPR Arts program. Her essay “How to Sleep with a Professor” was recently published on After completing an undergraduate degree in English and History (Rutgers University BA, Trinity College Dublin) she received an MFA in Fiction Writing (Brooklyn College) and worked as an editor in New York City for Random House and Bantam-Doubleday-Dell. She has taught creative writing and English for 20 years, eleven years of college level creative writing and composition in Universities such as Rutgers, SMU, DePaul and the University of Texas and nine years of high school English instruction. Her book on writing college admission essays, PERFECT PITCH: Writing the College Admission Essay was published in the fall of 2012.

Introducing my invitee, Georgie Knaggs:

I am proud to be passing the Blogger Hop baton on to Georgie Knaggs, a Zimbabwean-born writer and journalist, whose life as a military wife based in the bucolic English countryside is shortly to be turned upside down when she relocates to the maelstrom of Naples in Italy. Georgie writes the blog The Phraser. (Click on the link to take a look.)

Georgie Knaggs.
Georgie Knaggs.

I am a freelance writer and journalist, born and raised in Africa and now on the brink of moving to Italy for a year.  Writing has always been a part of my life – it travels with me as we move around the world, and helps to fill the gaps that increase as my sons become men. I am curious about almost everything, especially people and what makes ‘ordinary’ different.  My blog allows me to explore, and the time and experiences of others have given me much of my material.  I have been published in the past by The Weekly Telegraph, BBC History, and the American children’s magazine Cricket amongst others, but the family gap, and the work-for-regular-pay since then, probably means this doesn’t really count.  Writing my blog is to help find that ‘voice’ again.

Annabel Hughes Aston is a writer and an award-winning chef in Livingstone, Zambia. She is the creator of "bush gourmet" cuisine.


  • Reblogged this on The Phraser and commented:
    Annabel’s blog is beautiful – photographs to feast the soul and recipes that snap all the senses back to life. As for the setting I know it is everything it claims and many elephants more.

    A thousand thanks to Annabel for the boost she gave to my morale by including me in this blog hop. Blogging is like releasing carrier pigeons – a little attention to the pigeons at their journey’s end and then they’ve a real chance to make it home again to fly another day.

    • Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment, Georgie. I’m looking forward to the arrival of that carrier pigeon … bearing the wisdom you’ll be sharing about your writing process!

  • […] than a few decades later and we’ve both turned up on the blogosphere. Annabel, blog name Savannabel, always braver and faster, offered me a hand up in mid-summer. So here I am, writing out across the […]

  • Well done to both you girls! I really admire what you do and you should be very proud of yourselves. I am looking forward to experiencing what you write about – hopefully next year! Much love xxx

    • Thank you, dearest Kate. This is an old post that somehow ended up being republished as a result of the upgraded design. As Stella Day, a seasoned octogenarian journalist and mentor to me, once said: “There is no harm in reminding them … !” I so appreciate your support. xo

  • Your words are food enough, sans the usual recipe and foodie talk – I am sated!!! Delicious..! Thank you for yet another appetizing morsel…

    • Thank YOU, Lin, for your continuing support and interest. It heartens me and makes my day when I read a comment like yours. All the best to you, Annabel

  • It is so rewarding to see fruition come to two very special people, Annabel and Georgie – I continue to follow you faithfully and enjoy the little treasure in my inbox once a week which entices me with African images, recipes and smells…. and for someone who cannot cook and cannot smell, it is a treat indeed!!

    • Dearest Lou … what a wonderful comment with which to begin my day. Thank you so much. xo

  • Just wanted to add huge thanks – can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to find someone has found the precious time to click the mouse and read on. And as for Savannabel – only gets better and better. Love the new design …

    • Much gratitude to one of my oldest friends … and now my fellow blogger, whose writing I so admire on a number of levels. I am loving the tours and history lessons you take me on through your adopted city, Naples, and look forward to reading each post that you publish. xo

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