Innate Need to Write

I am a writer.

Though I’ve been writing for years, I can finally say it. I can say it aloud and without shame. No more mumbling or down playing it.

And it’s not because I’ve been published. It’s because I’ve discovered that I have an innate need to write. And that – that alone – makes me a writer.

Let me try to explain.

As a child, my family would go on vacation to all kinds of different places. There was just one requirement: my father had to be able to do some sports. There had to be a tennis court or a fitness room or something similar. If these weren’t available, he’d get moody within a few days. In fact, growing up, I never knew a week to go by without my father playing sports at least twice a week. It wasn’t for the social contact (as he does individual sports). It was his passion. A passion I (unfortunately) never inherited, and I never understood until now.

In the first half of this year, I didn’t write at home. I didn’t write at work either, as I only had to do editing. And because of my move at the end of last year, I had to set my hobby aside for a while. When things finally settled, I was drained and tired. In the evenings I couldn’t find the energy to write. After endless evenings of watching TV, I felt bad. I was in a rot.

Then I just started writing! I can’t remember what spurred me, but as I wrote I felt the difference immediately. I realise now that writing is my ‘sport’. It’s my passion. It gives me energy and I get moody and insecure without it.

My father was never a professional player but he is a sportsman. Even nearing seventy he plays whatever sport his body will still allow him to. So, I may not be a published author, but I’m a writer and I’ll be writing as long as my mind will allow me to.

Vanessa Deij

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Publishing and Reading in Bulgaria

Did you know that Jane Austen had written for more than 20 years before publishing her first novel, and Stephen King threw out his first manuscript of Carrie because he thought it was not good enough? Both of them were working hard on improving themselves, and although they had to go through a number of difficulties, they were able to do it, and thus, set an example for others. This highlights the importance of books being discussed, popularized, recommended, and sometimes rejected. The latter is especially important for those writers who think that there is nothing easier than writing a book. After all, being a poet or a writer is not just about seeking public attention and recognition, but also about having something vital to say and knowing the best way to do it. Literature requires dedication and vocation, and something very important without which it just does not happen ­­– dedication. If you cannot understand this yourself, people who understand literature should be the ones to tell you. Nowadays, in my country at least, literary criticism has become a meaningless and incomprehensible occupation to some extent. The reasons for this are yet to be clarified, but that is not my goal.

Nineteen ninety-two proved to be a golden year for Bulgarian publishing compared to the vacuum of previous years. After the artificially sustained paper problem dropped out, the number of private publishing houses grew in geometric progression. In Plovdiv, if they were 7 or 8 in 1991, only a year later, they were 20. Private publishers quickly took the initiative into their own hands and began to dictate the conditions of the book market. The reasons for that can be found both in certain favorable socioeconomic circumstances and in the new course of democratic changes in the socio-political development of the country. In the same year, total book production was about 300 titles with approximately 7,000,000 prints. In comparison to three years previously, the highest number of titles was at 160 with about 1,000,000 copies. The number of titles in 1992 had increased nearly twice, and the circulation by seven times. This data shows that in the last years there was a strong hunger for books in the market, but that it was satiated as much as it could. It also reveals that the market had been artificially restrained so far. Read More

How to Read More Books

StockSnap_T4W98A54R5“I havent read a book in over two years,” I found myself saying to anyone who asked me what I was reading at the moment. Two whole years and 0 books. I went from reading (or listening to) about 5 to 10 books a month to 0 books. How did this happen, considering how much I love reading? Well in the space of two years, I went from having a lot of time on my hands to having two children. Lots of people have children and read you might say. But, for me, it was impossible. I just couldn’t find the mental space to do it.

Bear in mind that I didnt stop reading everything, I read short articles on the internet, Buzzfeed is a wealth of information you never knew you were interested to know. But most of the information is fluff and none of them were stories or novels.

Once my second child turned one, the crazy nights and utter exhaustion started to wane. Yet I still didn’t read books. I think that the time in which I read before having children was now taken up by other things. I had convinced myself that I had no time to read, because I had to care for the children, do household chores, and prepare for the classes I teach. Read More

Reflections: The Importance of Reading Fiction

Courtesy of Lacie SlezakI remember my college lit teacher ranting about how both the writer and the reader are selfish little animals that are “in it” purely for personal gain – about how a writer always writes about himself and a reader always reads about himself, and all-in-all they are both just self-centred little scumbags.  A bit of a gross generalisation there, if you ask me, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  In the end, I guess that is roughly why I always enjoyed reading – because of the kick I got out of it, not because I was keen on picking someone else’s brain.  And speaking of picking brains, some neuroscientists and psychologists seem to be quite partial to finding out what reading fiction does to us – neurologically.  And from their findings it seems that we might not be such selfish little dirt bags after all.

It hardly comes as a surprise that there is no special part of the brain dedicated solely to understanding stories (or at least we didn’t evolve that far yet, ha!).  Instead, we use basic cognitive functions to make sense of what we are reading.  In other words, our brain uses the same tools for understanding the stories as it does for understanding the real world.  Therefore, when we read stories, we invoke our personal experiences.  Have you ever read a story and had a “been there, done that” moment when the protagonist was going through a situation very similar to one of your own experiences?  Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, says that we can not only relate to fictional characters (duh!), but through reading, we are also able to gain new insight into things that have happened to us in the past.  And like that, real life shapes fiction, which shapes real life, which shapes fiction, which… you get the idea.  I think this also sums up the reason why two different individuals can interpret the same art of fiction completely differently. Read More

Reflection: Madam Bovary’s Disillusioned Romanticism

madam-bovaryIn the summer of 1848, a young woman from Rouen, France — Delphine Delamare — who is unsatisfied with the routine of married life, commits suicide.  She is in debt, under financial and emotional pressure.  When Madame Delamare ends her life by taking prussic acid (known today as hydrogen cyanide), she leaves a young daughter and a mourning husband behind; and her story appears in many newspapers in Normandy.

Inspired by this incident, Gustave Flaubert creates his groundbreaking novel “Madame Bovary”, which became a cornerstone in modern literature.  The hype about the book was not indeed overrated.  Its literary brilliance can be understood when we look at the socio-economical criticism and the realistic feature of a romantic novel.  In Vladimir Nabokov’s words, it being a book that “lives much longer than a girl” makes the book a strong sociological reference still in today’s society.  Emma Bovary, without doubt, is a solid character that in every era people can identify themselves with. Read More

Reflection: Guillaume Apollinaire and Cubism in Literature

Courtesy of poets.org
Courtesy of poets.org

Italian by birth, Polish by name (Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki), and Parisian by choice, Apollinaire was an important figure in art and literature in the early 20th century.  A leading name in poetry, he was in the artistic community at the time with famous names like Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Gertrude SteinMax Jacob, André Salmon, André Breton, André Derain, Faik Konica, Blaise Cendrars, Pierre Reverdy, Alexandra Exter, Jean CocteauErik Satie, Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp and Jean Metzinger.  He first coined the terms orphism in 1912, and then surrealism in 1917.

Apollinaire’s art reflected his colorful life.  He had worked in libraries in the beginning of his writing career; he had worked as a teacher (in which period he met Annie Pleyden and fell in love with her, writing his work ‘Alcools’ inspired by this love); he compiled the works of Marquis de Sade; and he even got arrested and jailed on suspicion of stealing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris, but he was released after five days.  At the last years of his life, he fought in World War I and got seriously injured on his head.  In 1918, he died from the Spanish Flu. Read More

Different Language, Different Story?

© Bruce Guenter via flickr.comDoes the language in which you write influence the content of your story?  That was the question I was left with after reading a magazine article about bilingualism.  They interviewed Mohsen Edrisi, a clinical psychologist from Iranian descend, living in the Netherlands.  He has done research into the relation between language and personality traits.

In his experience and research, there are differences in one’s sense of self, self-in-relation-to-other, and level of pathology.  He suggests that people tell their story differently when speaking in the mother tongue versus an acquired language.

In the magazine interview Edrisi says that it is easier for people to distance themselves when reflecting on themselves in an acquired language.  They feel emotions as shame and guilt less strongly, and that talking about taboo issues such as sex and violence is also easier.

It got me wondering what this would mean for fiction writing?  Of course writing in an acquired language is more difficult on a linguistic level — limited semantics and challenges with syntax — but could the essence of a story improve because one can be more honest?  Would it work out to write the outline of a story in an acquired language, and then to write it out in one’s mother tongue.

Just a thought.  Perhaps it is worth a try.  Perhaps it is why some authors do not write in their mother tongue.

Vanessa Deij

[Editor at Cecile’s Writers Magazine]

The Poetry of Langston Hughes

UnknownTired

I am so tired of waiting,

Aren’t you,

For the world to become good

And beautiful and kind?

Let us take a knife

And cut the world in two –

And see what worms are eating

At the rind.

In the 1986 foreword to Hughes’ first autobiography — The Big Sea — Amiri Baraka writes, “Langston is the Jazz Poet! He is the singer, the philosopher, the folk and urban lyricist. His poetry is still one of the touchstones of American civilization, in its originality, feeling, and open commitment to social transformation.”  Langston Hughes is one of the most popular poets in North America, and is famous as one of the key figures of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Jessie Redmond Fauset, the literary editor of The Crisis, the NAACP magazine where Hughes published his poetry, once said to Hughes, “You assuredly have the true poetic touch, the divine afflatus, which will someday carry you far.”  Hughes’ poems are well-known and beloved, and lines have been used in popular book titles such as “Black like Me” by John Howard Griffin, and “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, but his influence is more than that, as I’ve come to realize over the years.

Hughes was a poet, playwright, essayist, memoirist, and a social activist who I’ve been familiar with for the last decade or so.  He started publishing his poetry in 1921 and his first autobiography was published in 1940.  Decades later Hughes is still as important as ever.  Funnily enough, he began to write poetry mainly because of a stereotype his teacher held: Read More