Allison's Book Bag

Interview with Robin Ymer

Posted on: January 4, 2013

RobinYmer One of the advantages of email interviews is two shy people can freely communicate with one another. Enjoy this interview with Robin Ymer, author of Mythical Voyage: The Tale of the White Ponca, which originated from a drawing on canvas she made of the Unicorn for her two daughters. From there, she began telling them stories about a special unicorn called Bibi. When Ymer decided to put the story down on paper the story grew into a full-fledged book, taking on a life of its own.

Allison: First let me ask you some personal questions. You grew up in France but now live in the United States. Do you ever visit? What are the sights you absolutely must see again?

Robin: I have gone back to Normandy, Lake Geneva, Auvergne and Paris and its suburbs every two years or so to visit my family. However I faithfully return to France every year to visit my mother who turned 90 years old this year. She now lives in SETE, on the Mediterranean Sea.I would like to re-acquaint myself with the MONT SAINT MICHEL and SAINT-MALO in Normandy, LES CHATEAUX DE LA LOIRE (The Loire Castles), LE PONT DU GARS (a roman aqueduct) in Provence and the BASQUE country in the Pyrenees.

Allison: How did you come to spend time as a child in North Africa? What are some highlights from that time?

Robin: My father was in the French Air Force and our family was stationed in Casablanca. My recollections are many as my parents often toured different parts of Morocco. I have quite a few fond memories of Morocco but there were also troubled times in the nineteen fifties. I am particularly acquainted with Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Fes, Marakech and Agadir. I loved the Moroccan coast for its beaches and the Atlas mountains for its river-pools, palm trees, snow-covered mountains, climbing goats, camels and the ERG CHEBBI, a range of sand dunes not too far away. The archeological site of Volubilis triggered my interest in ancient civilisations.

Allison: You were educated both in France and England. Did you prefer one to the other? How did your schooling compare to education in the United States?

Robin: I spent a summer, a total of three months in Sidmouth, Devonshire, England, to learn spoken English. My education was thoroughly French up to my entering an American University at the junior level. In the nineteen sixties, the French system was much different from the American one as it was very structured and phased by cumulative examinations. We had three tracts in high school, each with emphasis in science, math or humanities to prepare for university.

Universities in America have a quarter or a semester system. France in the sixties had a yearly system. Students were not required to attend every class. They had to pass final cumulative examinations at the end of the year. If they failed one, they had to repeat the entire year.

Allison: In California, you taught yourself to model in clay. What attracted you to this art form? How difficult is it?

Robin: I was a sophomore at university. After an argument about art, a dear friend of mine challenged me and bought me a block of red clay. I worked with it all night and produced my first sculpture. He was as surprised as I was. He asked how I did it and my response was the same as it is today. I insisted on reproducing the image I had in my mind. It is tedious work, very critical, very absorbing, but so rewarding. One must not be afraid of destroying the piece if it is not an accurate representation of what is in your mind.

Portraits are quite different. The model is in front of you. It is a matter of capturing his/her personality so that you may convey it to others. The model’s features become secondary.

Allison: In one interview, you talked about your passion for ancient cultures. Which is your favorite? How about your least favorite? Why an interest in the past?

Robin: Volubilis did it, also the old Berbers villages of the Atlas. I was very young, but I remember kneeling and touching the colorful mosaics on the ground, and staring at the reddish walled villages and cities of the Atlas. Later I visited Le Louvres in Paris and marveled at the greek sculptures,  Egyptian and Sumerian antiquities. My favorite at this time is mesoamerican civilizations for we know so little about them. My belief is that ancient civilizations hold the key to understanding our world.

Allison: You teach ESL. Why languages instead of another teaching area?

Robin: Since we cannot read each other’s mind and thoughts, we have to use language to communicate. Therefore the study of languages and cultures is of utmost importance to bring understanding and harmony in this, our world.

Allison: One of your hobbies is gardening. Vegetable or flower? What is your favorite thing to grow? Any gardening brags?

Robin: Ah, the joy my back yard gives me! Colors, fragrances, shapes, all is a wonder to me; lavender bushes, roses climbing over trellises, fruit trees, shade trees, and anything that comes via bird droppings that wants to stay. Humming birds love them. I spend time in the sun trimming, cutting, admiring and picking. I also entertain friends and family there.

My front yard is formal, red clay brick patio, and a few pots. Underneath a fenced gazebo- the raccoons are quite active in my area- is a three tier fountain that aliments a pond where four miniature koi fish frolic among one plant of water lilies and others aquatic plants. I know very few plant names.

unicorns

unicorns (Photo credit: Martyn and Debz)

Allison: Now let me ask you questions about Mythical Voyage: Tale of the White Ponca. How did you come up with idea of White Ponca?

Robin: The Unicorn is white. I did not come up with that idea. However I am acquainted with an African belief that Albinos are thought to have supernatural powers. So I had the idea that the unicorn came from a tribe of black unicorns which I named the Poncas.

Allison: What is your favorite mythical creature? What is your favorite mythical story? How does it move you?

Robin: My favorite mythical creature is the Unicorn of course. That is why I wrote this book. I don’t have a favorite mythical story. All mythical stories have a hidden message.

Allison: Why did you decide to include pages for readers to color?

Robin: My publisher started a color-me-please series and wanted my book to be a part of it.

Allison: What’s next?

Robin: My next book is a fiction for adults. The story begins in the early seventies in California. It is a complicated love story between two culturally different people, a Moroccan and a French. Their love is overwhelmed by cultural differences, their main obstacle to romance being religion.

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Almost a year after I announced that it was time to take a step back from this blog, Allison's Book Bag is still here. I'm slowly working back up to weekly reviews again. Each week, there will be one under any of these categories: Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, religious books, or diversity books. Some will come in the form of single reviews and others in the form of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

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