How Worthing's tonnes of washed-up wood inspired a book

The remarkable sight of tonnes of wood washed up on Worthing beach was the starting point for Not Knowing, But Still Going, published by Instant Apostle at £9.99 and available from bookshops and from Amazon.

Jocelyn-Anne Harvey
Jocelyn-Anne Harvey

It comes from Worthing author Jocelyn-Anne Harvey

Jocelyn-Anne explains: “Worthing became a global news sensation back in 2008 when tonnes of timber piled up on its shoreline from a storm-stricken ship. As the Worthing Herald reported at the time, it was an astonishing sight – to see wood where you expected to see stones – and the waves crashing up against it.

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“It was incredible and for me it made even more of an impact because the night before I had watched Evan Almighty for the first time, a film where a US congressman is told by God to build an ark. It made me literally think what if I need to build one! Though I didn’t immediately have the idea for my book then, the piles of planks certainly made a strong impression.

“My thoughts started to develop when I was at the University of Chichester studying for my MA in creative writing in 2014.

“One of the modules was about exploring different sources and then transforming them into your own fictional work.

“For me, that image of Worthing beach came to mind! There are many references to Noah’s Ark in society. It isn’t a new story. It’s embedded throughout history.

“People are fascinated by the ark and the tale has been interpreted differently within various cultures and religions. From South Pacific islands to the Far East there are myths and legends about a natural disaster bringing devastation to their land, people and animals.

“Besides stories passed on down through generations people have been creatively inspired by it. Think of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel – three panels are dedicated to his artistic portrayal of the flood or Benjamin Britten who composed Noye’s Fludde, a play set to music.

“My creative exploration led me especially to the women of the story. We may think we know about Noah, but there were actually eight people who entered the ark, and 50 per cent of them were women. How did Mrs Noah feel? Noah was busy building the ark but what about the women? What was their role in the journey?

“At the same time I was faced with that sense of ‘not knowing’ in my own life. I think this feeling of ‘not knowing’ is familiar to us all too.

“We all face different shapes and sizes of the unknown in our lives – from what we study or do work-wise, to our personal circumstances. Often these kinds of situations demand we have a plan, demand we know the answers, yet all too often we feel far from knowing – we just don’t know what to do. I think the women of the ark would have felt like this on many occasions – if Mrs Noah had asked Noah what rain was, all he could have said was, ‘Don’t know.’ Why? Because back in those pre-flood days people hadn’t experienced stormy weather, raindrops didn’t fall on the earth.

“As I thought more about the story, I became aware of a link between the two. This really helped me to come to an understanding about handling that ‘not knowing’ emotion in whichever form it manifests. And looking afresh at this story, especially through the lens of its women, has given me encouragement and hope as I have encountered, and still encounter, ‘not knowing’ in my life. It often feels like I’m living my book title!

“Not Knowing, But Still Going appeals to people curious to discover more about the women of the Noah’s Ark story.

“And I hope that readers of all faiths or none will both enjoy and be encouraged from reading my book.”

It wasn’t until I left my leadership career in the UK Civil Service that I had the time to start thinking about writing it. But then within this came an unexpected.

“This feeling of ‘not knowing’ that affects us all was amplified to an even greater level in 2020. Though we individually have our unknowns, the world collectively experienced it together. Interestingly there were lots of different media about people again using Noah’s Ark to make a comparison but this time comparing the experience of being locked up in your home.

Rainbows were also the symbol chosen to display hope. Although my creative thinking had been percolating beforehand, I was able to draw on what the world experienced but my book is about more than this time period.

“Well, the book focuses on the women of the ark so you could say it is aimed at women, but any gender can read. I think there is a lot to be learnt from Mrs Noah and the women who entered the ark. Questions Not Knowing, But Still Going considers: How can we progress when we can’t feel any movement? How can we respond to the ‘suddenlies’ in life? What can we do with the want in the wait? So if you’re asking these, then this is book for you.”