I recently won, courtesy of the SA Writers Centre a place at an Anita Heiss writers workshop.
Anita is a stunning woman – a force of nature. I think she and Hildegard would have been very happy having a conversation in the garden chatting about all kinds of things – dispossession, power plays, what sets women’s hearts on fire and how to be influential in a whole range of media. After the workshop I wondered: What kind of chick lit would Hildegard have written?
A love affair in the cloister? A young novice falling for a visiting Bishop to fuel her ambition to become Abbess?
How about a visitor on retreat in the Convent who turns out to be the Pope and who falls in love with her?
Maybe she could write a crime novel where one of her recipes was used to poison an unwelcome visitor sent from Rome to close down the convent?
Hildegard was such a prolific writer and she certainly was full of feminine advice on everything from orgasms to property management.
It has got me thinking about either writing a chick lit novel in Hildegard’s voice or one set in her Abbey.
Here are a few early ideas – let me know what you think.
Our heroine Hildegard of Bingen receives a young and ambitious Gunther. Gunther is the youngest curate to come to the Abbey and he is keen to ensure the Abbess will not get in the way of his plans to be Bishop one day. He knows her poewre and influence throughout the Rhine and if he wants to get ahead he will need to have her respect but more than that access to the land and produce she rules over. Bon decides to ask the Abbess for her blessing to give instruction on the sacraments to the novices at the convent. Hildegard agrees but it must be under her tutelage and must begin with an 8 day silent retreat. Bon agrees and sees this as a wonderful opportunity to prove his worth. There are eight novices he will be instructing. On the first day of the retreat he begins with Mass and the reading of the day includes the Scripture When the bridegroom comes; As the novices come to receive communion from him one by one he looks into their eyes fairly and squarely and says Body of Christ; the fifth woman, unlike the four before her who close their eyes and put out their tongue to receive the holy and blessed bread, this one simply smiles and winks at him and then puts out her tongue – he is totally disarmed and for the remaining days and nights of the retreat his ambitions are challenged and the fifth novice quest to get Bon to question his vocation is set. The fifth novice is Gisela of Rudesheim – she is a force of nature. Strong, beautiful, dark hair and dark eyes – though you can’t see any hair through her wimple and veil, Gunther swears she leaves a single strand every day not completely tucked in – a most flirtaeous act. Gisela has no intention not to be a Bride of Christ, but she does fully intend to see just how far she can go before she takes her final vows and is resigned to the charity and silence of the walled village that is the convent on the Rhine. Gisela is the youngest of ten children, something she and Hildegard share, but unlike Hildegard she was not given to the church, she freely chose to join the convent – in fact against her parents wishes. Her family ran a boat business and took goods up and down the Rhine, she had six brothers and was the only girl to survive and while the family were guaranteed heirs and grandchildren, Gisela’s family were hoping she would be the one to look after them in their old age as the boys would not be able to do that. Gisela had no intention on waiting on any man, even if it was her father or brother, and even if it was a priest! She only wanted to serve the mission of her God to support Hildegard in her work and bring land justice to the valley. Every week young women like her were wanting to join the convent and she thought it would be fun to be independent from all earthly men. But when she winked at the young Father Gunther she knew that her choice of the cloister might be in trouble.
Would love to hear your thoughts …