Paper vs. Digital

I was standing last week in front of my bookshelves, looking up at the dusty, colorful, but forgotten books I haven’t stared at in a long time. Searching for an empty spot where to place Irene Nemirovky’s Suite Francaise, I pondered the book’s heaviness. It’s quite a thick book, a precious book, and of course I couldn’t find any place for it. I wandered around the house, then, and found myself seriously considering and struggling between my preference of reading in paper versus the physical impossibility of storing more books at home.

I actually read both digital (e-reader or tablet) and paper books, but I totally love the touch of the page and the old resin, foliage-sort smell of books. If I can choose, I choose to hold a printed book, caress it, breath its perfume. Then, have a close look at it, page by page, beginning from the end, slowly balancing the depths of the story before jumping into it. But there’s truth in my storage problem, and setting aside all romanticism, I think it’s fair to give a thought to the digital alternative to reading (and writing) as a storage solution.

Do we read better or worse on screens compared to paper? In my case, staring at a screen compared to a book quickly tires me. When I work for long hours in front of the screen, the letters tend to come alive at some point, like little ants running back and forth from one period to the other. So, whenever I am clear enough to see the ants, I stop and walk away to grab a cup of tea, or simply leave the text until the next day. At night, however, I enjoy reading in bed, scrolling the softly illuminated screen of the tablet or the e-reader with no need for the bed lamp. But writing is different. I feel comfortable with the keyboard, but somewhat less creative than with the pen. It’s as if the screen has the capacity to awaken the judgmental editor in me, whereas paper can lovingly embrace the good and the bad, and also the rubbish that often pours out together with the meaningful words.

I’ve done some research and found that when reading long, linear, continuous texts that require concentration (deep reading), the reader experiences better understanding and a greater overview from a printed medium compared to a screen. Other studies show that we believe we understand texts better when we read from a screen; however, we tend to read faster and consequently retain less compared to when reading from paper. In general, it’s quite obvious that the physical attributes of books give engaging information that make people feel connected, browsing in a story; while a digital device remains flat, cold, always appearing the same.

I came across an interesting article that says despite the enormous migration to electronic media during the last years, neuroscience researches keep showing that reading paper-based content brings advantages to the brain compared to digital media. By activating the ventral striatum area (seen on brain scanners), which is an indicator of desire and valuation, reading on paper has shown the highest correlation with reading effectiveness.

Another study, conducted by Bangor University and the branding agency Millward Brown on the differences in communications effectiveness of physical and virtual media concludes that:


  • Physical material is more real to the brain. It has a meaning, and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with its spatial memory networks.
  • Physical material involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations.
  • Physical materials produced more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater internalization of the content.


What happens, then, with writing? I was not surprised to find also studies that suggest that the relative slowness of writing by hand demands heavier mental lifting, forcing people to increase conceptual understanding, application and retention. It seems the variety of physical writing, and the demanding motor-skill activity tends to light up our brains more than the weightless scrolling of words on screens.

It’s up to you, then, to decide what means to use when reading or writing: paper or digital. On the one hand we have this light, uniform, aseptic, confined digital technology with endless storage space, capable of holding our entire libraries in our bags. On the other, there’s our heavy, fragrant, dusty pile of old books we can caress and look at in awe. Personally, I subscribe what Glen Stansberry, designer and creative from LifeDev, answers when asked about paper versus digital: “I can answer that question in one word: Both. Creativity flourishes with paper and pen, and digital systems are better for organization, collaboration and storage. But unfortunately, there is no solution for people who want to combine the two. It seems like you’re just stuck with one, longing for the better parts of the other. But the answer is really simple: Use both tools, paper and digital, to effectively plan and capture ideas. It’s really not that hard.”


Paula Arellano Geoffroy is a Chilean writer that lives with her family in the Netherlands. She is also an engineer in forestry, but her true passion resides in working with both creative and technical writing. Always curious, avid reader and a perennial student, she is actually writing articles for different organizations, revising the draft of her first novel, and studying creative non-fiction and professional writing at an American university.



16th Edition Cecile’s Writers Magazine: Emotions

One of the joys of open submissions is receiving all sorts of stories, poems and essays.  The challenge, however, is to find a common theme across them.  The overall effect we feel of what we have published so far this quarter is the theme of ‘emotions’.  While most fiction can be said to be emotionally based — for what else is there to convey by and through characters? — it is the various moods in which these emotions are depicted that strike a chord in this collection.  From humour to psychosis, from gay partying to self-doubt, there is much to feel as we read the prose and poetry here.

Cecile, Samir, Sofia & Vanessa




How I Write Poetry

Courtesy of Mohammad Bahmanyar

Dawn has just broken in New Zealand—and here, the tui song is what greets you, though here is just one place out of the many we have lived in in the last twelve months. If life were normal at the moment, it would be dawn in New Hampshire that would have woken us.

I’m always the first to wake up. My wife, the prolific sleeper, dozes until eight (though she likes to think that seven thirty is more accurate). The morning routine is the same, really, no matter where in the world we are. Wash first and coffee second. Breakfast table conversation is non-existent until the hot coffee has done its job. Back home, I would be the breakfast chef, and have lunch packed and ready before watching my wife depart for work and settling myself into a day at home.

At some point in the last two years I became a full time writer. It was more by accident—a by-product of falling in love, you could say—rather than a purposeful fruition; a temporary luxury, perhaps, as the life of being a full time writer is a rare one, but one that has shaped the way in which I compose my art.

I’ve written poetry since I was young. Initially it was the not-so-good kind of poetry that hormonally charged teenagers scratch out between panging bouts of broken-heartedness or love. I would write about whatever I believed was important to me, scribbling in journals or on the back of books, or whatever came to hand. As I matured artistically, the number of times I wrote diminished. After finishing my education, I headed out into the world. But always, there was this longing to be a poet that travelled with me wherever I went.

Fast-forward to the present day and a few unfulfilling jobs later, I’m now that poet. Having earned my masters in poetry and set up my own independent publishing company, I formally gave the middle finger to corporate life in 2017. It was then that I met my future wife and then that I began to write the way I do.

So back to a typical day for me in the US. The wife is at work and I’m at home. The news scrolls in the background continually, I’m onto my fourth cup of coffee, and the cats are running amok. I have just finished reading a collection by Steven F. White and am contemplating where to put the new stack of books I shouldn’t have bought but have. My goal is to write a beginning draft of the final poem in my new collection, another one on top of the two other unpublished collections I’ve written. Being a full-time at home writer (and husband), I have a prolific output rate. My philosophy is if I have all day to write then write I will. The advice of my mentor at university of “practice your god-damn art every god-damn chance you get” has stuck well, and so here at the cusp of yet another finished manuscript I sit. I have four more rejection letters received and ready to file (you stop caring about rejections pretty quick), and I have no idea how to start what I need to write.

There are days when inspiration seems easy—and those days are few and very far between. A fine white snow is lacing past the window—and a bottle of opened red wine sits calling until the hour hand ticks past twelve. I give up my mental struggle for now, throw on my shoes, and decide to stroll out into the cold to watch freezing pancakes of ice float down the river outside our home. The moment I’m outside I regret it. The wind is biting cold, the ice moves languishingly slowly, and the daylight struggles to filter through the grey, giving the entire landscape a surreal purgatory like ambience—somehow our backyard has donned the visage of a halfway house between life and death.

I turn to go inside and notice a lone leaf frozen mid-way in between the tree from which it fell and the ground for which it’s destined. A spider web of ice has caught it mid-fall, adding to the palpable sense of being stuck in another world.

Back inside I begin preparing dinner. The news still scrolls and I have flipped on some blues to accompany the red wine—and then it hits me—one line, one sentence, the opening of a poem. I drop everything and run to write it down, and when I do, I keep writing. I keep typing verse after verse, my thoughts on the frozen leaf, the state of decay, of being kept where one should not be kept, of the cold, of the lacing snow, of Steven F. White. It all goes down on the page, and then I stop. It’s gone—both the thought and the drive vanish into the ether of my brain.

I finish preparing the dinner, tidy up, and greet the wife on her return. The house is clean, the cats are fed, and dinner is eaten. Later in the evening when my wife has turned in, I turn back to what I wrote. Reading the draft, I re-work it, edit it, and for the next three hours take what was a brain-dump and mould it into a first draft. Over the next week I’ll re-edit it many times and then count another manuscript finished.

Poets are today the fringe writers of literature, but they haven’t always been so rare. There were centuries when poets were the leaders of the written and spoken word. Like any change, however, there are highs and lows, and there have been times, like now, when poetry has receded to more estranged parts of the cultural sphere. These changes have led to poets having vastly developed different manners with which they forge their verse. You have the fervent moment-of automatic writers like Kerouac, to the adamant editors and re-workers (some like Marianne Moore going even as far as to edit works for years after publishing). Some of the greats even wrote for dollars per line—hence works of vast scope and a better price paid at the end (I’m looking at you Wordsworth). I never try to emulate these writers that came before and those that are during my time. What I’ve found is that trying too much is worse than not trying enough when it comes to writing poetry. If I force the thought then the poem feels forced. The wording becomes jilted, and sometimes the message too obvious—too preachy.

It’s the little things I write about now—not the lost loves or the dogmatic politician. I don’t write of the tsunami that has killed thousands, or of the state of religion in the West. I can’t remember the last time I wrote of something that mattered to anyone, but what I write always matters to me. The way a snow-shielded light creates lace patterns on my wife’s back as she sleeps. The way the moon seems so far away, but in the next century will be so close. The way red wine, when left to breathe, tastes much fuller and flavourful—perhaps like how people, when given the chance to breathe, can be more themselves.

I write now of what is important to the personal—and in doing so have found that my poetry has begun to matter to others. Rejections decline, books are read and bought, questions are now asked of me.


Most importantly, however, I still write poetry both with set goals, and with set aims and dreams. I pair this obsessive planning with the carelessness of creation and in doing so have found a teetering balance. I don’t follow grammar all the time—and sometimes what I write makes no sense at first. I’ve forgotten thoughts when I’ve been too slow to jot them down. But my work always starts with a single thought, and then comes the mad dash of writing, followed by another slow crawl to publication.


D. Mars Yuvarajan is a Tamil New Zealand poet.  He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and lives in New Hampshire, when not traveling the world.  He has published six poetry collections to date: Night Owl and Other Poems, Kintsugi, .M.oments (Volume One), Quiet Songs From Yesterday, We Live With the Departed, and In My Dreams I Walk Through Killing Fields.  He owns and runs the independent publishing house Works of Mars Press.

Thoughts on the Harlem Renaissance

We are drawn to the [Harlem] Renaissance because of the hope for black uplift and interracial empathy that is embodied and because there is a certain element of romanticism associated with the era’s creativity, its seemingly larger than life heroes and heroines, and its most brilliantly lit terrain; Harlem, USA.

– Clement Alexander Price

It’s the 1920s, and the Thirteenth Amendment that was signed to abolish slavery was signed in 1865.  Under slavery it was deemed illegal for African-Americans to read and write and go to school; but in the 1920s, and despite the short time between slavery’s end and this time period, African-Americans had already made important and impressive strides in the literary world, strides that would influence the American literary scene.

The Harlem Renaissance is often seen as a literary movement, but in actual fact it was an art movement that included theatre, dance and music, among others. I’m no expert on the movement as a whole, having focused my time mainly on the literature, where my passion lies. Nevertheless, I know that even in literature I have barely scratched the surface, and there is so much more for me to discover from that era; I’ve yet to read writers and poets like Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, or Dorothy West; yet so many of my favorites, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Robert Hayden, James Weldon Johnson, come from the Harlem Renaissance, and the more I read their work, the more I realize just how important this era was. Read More

My Greatest Challenges Writing Creatively

I have been there many times – staring at the empty virtual page as I question my own existence and ability to write. It is usually referred to as a writer’s block – although some say it is a disease that only creative workers succumb to. Some say it is a curse. Others argue that it does not exist at all. But I have experienced sitting in front of a blank screen, fingers itching to create a masterpiece, yet nothing happens. It is as if my mind is overwhelmed with ideas, scenarios, characters, plot, but I fail to write anything down as the words are somehow eluding me.

At times like this, I usually take a break. Most often it occurs by re-reading some books on writing such as On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King or The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist by Orhan Pamuk. One cannot produce without consuming. Quite often, reading books inspires me and gives me the needed level of confidence to start writing again. Read More

There Are Now 100 Cecile’s Writers!

This week our magazine has published work from the hundredth intercultural writer. We are so proud that there are now a hundred Cecile’s writers living in almost 30 countries all over the world from Algeria to Vietnam. We have authors from 44 different nationalities, showing that many of our writers are writing in their second language.

Our Cecile’s writers have the following nationalities:

Algerian, American, Australian, Brazilian, British, Canadian, Chilean, Chinese, Costa Rican, Dutch, Egyptian, Estonian, Filipino, Finish, French, German, Greek, Guyanese, Hungarian, Indian, Irish, Israeli, Italian, Japanese, Kenyan, Kuwaiti, Malawian, Maltese, New Zealander, Nigerian, Pakistani, Peruvian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, South Korean, Spanish, Sudanese, Swedish, Swiss, Taiwanese, Tunisian, Turkish, Vietnamese.

And live in the following countries

Algeria, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malta, Netherlands, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, Suriname, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vietnam.

We are so honoured that these hundred writers have shared their high-quality stories and poems in Cecile’s Writers Magazine. We are looking forward to further expanding our community and publishing more wonderful works from intercultural writers all over the world.

CW Team


Reading to Your Children: A Treat or a Chore?

The best part of my day is story time at the end of the day, just before bedtime. Of course, partly because I know that me-time is not too far off, but mostly because I love sharing my love of stories with my children. I enjoy how they laugh, gasp and sigh as I read. I even enjoy the upset faces when the chapter has ended. “No mum, just one more chapter! Please, I need to know what happens next.”

The upside of story time is that it’s really good for children’s creative and linguistic development. It’s known to improve vocabulary as well as empathy. It gives you some calm ‘together-time’ after a usually hectic day, and it will teach kids to love reading for themselves. I think this is something known to most parents, yet surveys have shown that less and less parents are doing it regularly. Read More

Review: No Longer Human

Depression has to be one of the hardest subjects to tackle in fiction. It presents a peculiar set of problems, in that if a piece of writing is to be effective it must grab the reader. It has to do so with energy. Some form of sustained momentum is necessary to propel the reader through the text. An aspect, any aspect, must engage them, and invite them to stay, chapter by chapter, line after line. And what makes this so difficult for writers who choose depression as their subject is that it is an affliction characterized largely by a subject’s inability to summon a feeling of interest.

To the depressed person, nothing is of interest. Nothing manages to grip them. The sadness they feel doesn’t manifest as a sharp pain or sorrow, but a flatness, an absence. An all-encompassing lack. The body is there, held in place, going through its day, its motions, and that numbness just swirls away inside them. The question for the author writing about this tragic, unbelievably difficult state of being is: how do you do the concept of such emptiness justice, when your only option is to fill blank pages with a pile of words?

This is the task Osamu Dazai set for himself in his novel No Longer Human. It is the story of a deeply sad, self-conscious person. Someone whose every action is lorded over by their own overwhelming shame and fear. Having finished it, I’d say Dazai achieved what he set out to do. But it’s hard to know where to go from there. Read More