by Marina Cantacuzino
Writing a book with a co-author, warned my writer friends, is often a clash of egos and can be fraught with problems, especially if your co-author happens to be a friend! Mine was, and so I embarked on writing Forgiveness is Really Strange with a degree of trepidation over a collaboration that for no one’s fault might simply not work out.
I first met Dr Masi Noor in 2008 because of his academic research on the psychology of forgiveness in contexts of past or on-going political violence. He was interested in The Forgiveness Project, the charity that I founded in 2004 which promotes restorative narratives in order to help break cycles of conflict and vengeance. A collaboration in creating The Forgiveness Toolbox followed as we discovered our views on forgiveness were very much in sync – that it should never be pushed or prescribed, that it was complicated and easily misunderstood, but also that it was a skill that could be practised and learned in order to help liberate people from the debilitating power of victimhood.
Forgiveness is Really Strange is our first joint book venture and it was a great opportunity for both of us to reach a completely new audience. For Masi, it was a way of repackaging his thinking about forgiveness for his students (and colleagues) in an easily digestible way; for me – with a background in print journalism – it was a way of making difficult concepts about revenge, suffering, shame and guilt easier to appreciate through imagery and with minimal words.
Forgiveness is Really Strange is the fourth in a Singing Dragon series with the other three books focussing on the strange aspects of pain, trauma and anxiety. All are beautifully illustrated by the artist Sophie Standing who has a talent for translating complex ideas into simple drawings.
The simplicity of the end product however didn’t mean that writing was easy. The words may be minimal but only because we spent hours trimming, pruning and editing. And even then, after Jessica Kingsley had cast her expert eye over the script, we often had to trim, prune and edit all over again.
Neither of us were used to writing for comics; the skill of distilling ideas right down to the essence so that the meaning could be conveyed at least as much through the image as the words took time to learn. As writers it was a good opportunity to shed any ego we might have about our writing skills because in a graphic novel you only use words when you have to. The skill is using words and images together to say something that adds up to more than what each says separately.
In the end, I’m glad to say, that our writing collaboration worked really well – I think this was because Masi brought the science and research (plus a brilliant pictorial imagination) while I brought the stories and real life application. With Sophie’s visual talent, I think we have created something that is solid and serious at the same time as being light and playful with even a touch of humour! And this, (as well as a friendship still intact) seems like a feat since forgiveness has never been a subject known for its humour.
Forgiveness is Really Strange is based on science and real-life stories, illustrates the complexity of forgiveness and what it can mean to different people and its potential for positive change. You can read more about the book here.
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Masi Noor and Marina Cantacuzino. Art by Sophie Standing.
This imaginative comic explores the key aspects of forgiveness, asking what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. Witty and intelligent, it answers questions about the health benefits and restorative potential of forgiveness and explains, in easy-to-understand terms, what happens in our brains, bodies and communities when we choose to forgive.
Click here to read more.
Marina Cantacuzino. Forewords by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Alexander McCall Smith.
Powerful real-life stories from survivors and perpetrators of crime and violence worldwide are told here, revealing the very real impact of forgiveness on their lives. They raise the possibility of alternatives to resentment, retaliation and revenge and prompt the question ‘how can we define forgiveness?’
Click here to read more.