Writingredux.com – Project 001
So said Keats, and so do I. Writingredux.com is the result, bringing to light as beautifully as possible thousands of quotations, metaphors and other gems gathered during decades of attentive reading, together with reviews of the most memorable, enchanting, inspiring, provoking ‘bestellar’ books I’ve read.
This is not my first website – www.beatriceotto.com was created earlier to have a professional profile online without the aesthetic blandness of LinkedIn. So why ‘Project 001’? Because it is the first personally fulfilling online project I have worked on, and because there are others in the pipeline.
‘Double-oh’ creates the wide open sense of possibility of expanding to 999 projects. And of course, if I make it past half a dozen, I will be able to launch a seventh with glamour borrowed from my fictive countryman, 007.
Thank you for visiting, and look forward to seeing you here often. And having recently launched Project 002, I hope you will visit that too: a celebration of taking extravagant pleasure in being alive and delighting to find it in other people.
So who’s behind all this? About Beatrice …
On my desk I have one of those enamel badges that remind Brits of St Trinian’s. They were used to recognise clever clogs or goody-two-shoes who made it to the rank of ‘prefect’ or class ‘captain’, allowing them an early taste of leadership. This badge has a yellow background and gold lettering that says ‘writer’. I bought it to encourage myself but haven’t yet had the gall to wear it. Yet, yet, I have always loved reading and writing, and somewhere along the line managed to end up as an ‘award-winning author’.
As a child, I wallowed in the illusion of being able to read before I really could – I remember being three or four and reading picture books. Whether I actually read them, or simply scanned over the text assuming it said what I thought the story said, I have no idea. Later I learned to write at school and at home, where my elder brother taught me to trace letters the way he had been taught in Switzerland. My handwriting became a more curlicued and chaotic version of his exquisitely even, elegant hand. One of my proudest moments was being among the first in the class to graduate from a pencil to a biro and being awarded this marvel, made of buttercup yellow plastic, tapering to a stylish point at the top.
The love of books has always been there, passed on practically and perhaps genetically by our mother and grandfather. I still have the books they gave me, and sharp recall of my mother’s comments: that she had loved The Pied Piper of Hamlyn and Milly-Molly-Mandy when she was a girl. My grandfather made no allowances for a child’s age: he gave his daughter Virgil when she was six and gave me a red leather-bound Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of poetry when I wasn’t much older. I have yet to live up to his expectations but am having a blast trying.
And what, exactly, have you done with your life?
2015-present - Switzerland - bringing ideas and dreams to fruition
Finally (finally!) developing ideas that have been tugging at my sleeve for a decade or two. A few such projects, already built or still being carved, burnished, calibrated, or simply coaxed into being, are featured here.
All complemented by a joyous process of (half-)mastering web and other online technologies so I can build spaces that are almost as beautiful and outstanding as I would like.
2006-2014 – Geneva - World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
The WBCSD is a CEO-led coalition of some 200 global companies working to advance an ambitious sustainable development agenda. As Director Member Relations I managed the organization’s relationships with member companies and hundreds of potential members from 20+ sectors and over 35 countries, recruiting new members, and developing and delivering the member engagement, retention and recruitment strategy.
2003-2005 – China - EU-China Environmental Cooperation Programme
Working to integrate sustainability into Chinese business management for a major EU-China government cooperation programme, bringing sustainable business concepts to life, including piloting a CEO Sustainable Business Network and senior executive seminars, designed and delivered in Chinese. A chance to get back to China for a while…
1995-2005 – London - independent consultant on sustainable design, innovation & business
Working for a variety of clients, principally the UK’s Design Council, on projects related to sustainable design, innovation and business, with client reactions ranging from ‘a joy to read’ to ‘I wouldn’t change a word of it’.
1989-1995 – Edinburgh - living in a library writing a book…
Five glorious years spent researching and writing Fools Are Everywhere: The court jester around the world, under the benign and brilliant guidance of a polymath sinologist, Bill Dolby. The most comprehensive and only global study in its field, it was published to broad critical acclaim (University of Chicago Press) and won the American Association of Publishers’ award for outstanding book of the year in its class. Presentations and interviews include: Australian National Radio, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service, Appledore Book Festival, Hanken School of Economics and others. Always happy to give talks on this death-defying and humanizing character.
I also lectured on Taiwan and history of technology in China and was voted the best and liveliest lecturer. To earn extra cash, I spent a month a year as Chinese interpreter and chaperone for Miss and Mr. World. For most of my time in Edinburgh I lived in The Vaults in the port of Leith, a 14th century building that was the oldest in Scotland in continuous commercial use, still housing the Scottish Malt Whisky Society. My landlord was a naval officer who became a great friend and who was so generous he told me to stop paying rent when my money ran out before I’d finished writing.
1986-1989 – Taiwan – working, studying, and living in Purple Cloud Street above Taipei.
Institute of International Relations – edited international conference papers and speeches for Prime Minister and others to foster quasi-diplomatic relations. This was a blissful job, with an office looking onto a bamboo grove among wooded hills full of temples.
Hsueh’s Enterprise – helped establish the import branch of a Taiwanese trading company, finding international agents and researching products suitable for import to Taiwan, operating in a Chinese language context. My boss was a character, roaring to the office on a smoke-cloud of a motorbike.
Commercial Trademark Services – wrote reports on investigations into copyright infringements for use as evidence in court – praised by prosecuting lawyers for clarity and wit (‘I just wish I could bill my clients for laughing time’).
Sinorama and Tri-Services Hospital – translated articles for Sinorama (a Taiwan international showcase) and medical research papers.
1981-1986 - Leeds & Shanghai - learning classical & modern Chinese
BA Hons in Modern Chinese and Mongolian, with a year in Fudan University, Shanghai; one of the best years of my life. This was followed by a British Council Postgraduate Scholarship to spend another year in Shanghai studying classical Chinese literature and philosophy and swanning around that vibrant city on a Phoenix bicycle, spending most evenings in the jazz bar of the Peace Hotel. I practically lived off their apple pie.
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