Allegra Huston

08-07-2017Jeff Rayner

This autumn Allegra Huston, who was brought up by the late great film director John Huston and is the sister of actress and director Anjelica, is going to be holding a Memoir Writing Workshop at Belmond La Residencia in Deya.

The workshop is being hosted and organised by Rosalinda Much with the full support of the hotel. Allegra told the Bulletin from her home in New Mexico this week that she cannot wait to come to Deya because of its great literary legacy and history.

Allegra, who studied English Literature and Language at Oxford University and has worked as an editor, decided to write her memoir Love Child: A Memoir of Family Lost and Found in 2009 in an attempt to get away from having a "secondary role" in a family of extremely powerful leading players such as her father and her sister.

Love Child tells the story of her fragmented childhood: from the intimidating presence of filmmaker John Huston, introduced to her at four years old as her father, to her early years under the shadow of her famous sister Anjelica and the Hollywood élite she mingled with, to as a young teenager being presented to her biological father, the British historian John Julius Norwich.

Allegra’s memoir is a poignant tale of a child trying to find where and to whom she belongs while feeling herself a misfit among the Hollywood royalty and was extremely well received. Love Child was praised by Simon Schama (author of Citizens and Landscape and Memory) as "so bravely written, so clear and intensely vivid, so unsentimentally honest, so deeply humane". Salman Rushdie said it is "an extraordinary telling of an amazing life. I loved it". In The Telegraph, Lynn Barber wrote that "Huston is an absolutely outstanding writer, incapable of writing a dull sentence".

Huston is also the writer and producer of the award-winning short film Good Luck, Mr. Gorski and the author of a number of screenplays currently in development. "I believe that stories - both fiction and non-fiction - are vectors of deep human connection. When we read or watch movies, we recognise ourselves in the characters and those characters in ourselves as well as sharing the thoughts and feeling the emotions of people very different from ourselves.

"I am drawn to stories of love, of discovery, and of commitment to a cause. I hope that the stories I tell will leave people with a sense of possibility and excitement about the beauties of life, even in dark times." Through writing her memoir she was able to overcome the obstacles in her life and take ownership of her own life and a leading role for change.

"When I started writing I didn’t really know where the journey was taking me but I learned to find my own way and it really helped me. It was also my way of holding up a candle to the world for reconciliation, love, companionship - things we tend to be lacking in right now. I guess I have also been lucky to have worked with some of the gold standard writers over the years. I will be bringing all that experience to Majorca. I have held workshops all over the world and all kinds of people attend. Some have already had work published while others have just started or want to write a memoir but don’t know where to begin.

"Everybody has a story to tell and I encourage them to do so. It could be for publishing or it could be just for the family and future generations. Everybody has their different reasons, but everyone should tell their story. It makes for a richer world.

"My problem was that, as en editor, I was always very self-critical. I wanted the perfect book, but the first step is to just start writing. What I do is help people to find out where they want to begin, what they want to say and then help them with the techniques of setting up a structure, a path to follow as they put their memoirs down on paper. I believe it is also a healthy process and helps people take ownership of their lives, just like I experienced.

"Quite often when people start writing they jump from here to there as they try to recall their lives; it can be very fragmented. What I will be doing is helping those attend get on a straight line so they can convey their experiences and feelings in an order that will make sense for the reader. One has to remember that they may be your memoirs, but hopefully someone is going to read them."

Regarding her memories, she said they are happy ones and that being brought up by John Huston was wonderful.

"We were very close but he was the sun. The universe revolved around and it was wonderful to have been in his orbit. I adored him and he was very good to me. Initially he wanted to be an artist. He went to art school in San Francisco and then Paris. I’m not too sure what happened in Paris but when he came back he ended up working for his father at Warner Bros." The rest is cinematic history.

"But as a child I always remember him painting. When we lived in Ireland - I must have been five, six and seven - I remember always being in his studio watching him paint. When you were talking to him, he would always be sketching you.

"I was in awe of him, he was so well travelled, so knowledgeable, well read and very well lived; he was simply a joy to be around."

Allegra's second book Say My Name, her first novel, is the story of a 48-year-old woman’s love affair with a 28-year-old musician: a love affair bound together with music. It's published in the UK on 27 July.

"It’s kind of about coming back from the dead in an emotional way. I guess the key character is similar to me but it’s not autobiographical. It’s about music and love, it’s very sexy, quite erotic and I hope lots of people read and enjoy it."

The five-day creative workshop starts on Sunday 22 October with a welcome afternoon tea and an introduction to the course by Allegra, followed by a walk and talk around Deya with Dr. Jacqueline Waldren, an anthropologist and long-time resident of the village. It continues until the Friday.

Attendees who book accommodation at Belmond La Residencia will be offered a 20% discount on room rate for the duration of the workshop. The workshop is limited to ten pupils and Allegra was keen to point out that those wishing to attend do not have to stay at La Residencia. For further information, please contact: louise.davis@belmond.com.

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