Is It Possible to Still Publish Epic Novels?

Courtesy of Clem Onojeghuo

I’ve been pondering the title of this article. It’s a heavy one, with three monumental words on it: Publish, epic, novel. Which of the three represents the biggest challenge? Well, that’s a big question too. To create and develop an interesting, epic plot. To have the discipline to write the draft until it can be called a novel. To get it published. Wow. There’s persistence behind these tasks. Tons of work behind these words. And much love for the craft of writing.

What does it take to transform the sparkle of an idea into a novel? And how do we know it will grow until it becomes an epic novel? There’s no universal answer here, although, to the first one I would say “persistence”. The acute feeling that this path is the one you want to follow no matter what. And you stick to that gem, your nails sinking into that lonely trunk afloat in the river. To the second one, I would attempt a quiet “we just don’t know”. We write that’s what we do. We work hard and enjoy while we work. Then we follow our hearts wherever they want to get us to. Maybe one day we’ll find ourselves struggling with the possibility of publishing that magnificent story we’ve poured into the pages along the years. Read More

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Review: My Real Name Is Hanna

I am beginning to realize that freedom means you can be who you are meant to be, whatever that is. . . That breathing without any thought to it is a gift. Now, I think about breathing all the time. What is it like to take your last breath? What if the sound of it gave you away?

Tara Lynn Masih has dedicated five years of research and writing into her first novel—My Real Name Is Hanna. The narrative is set in the years of World War II in which fifty-six countries were involved between 1939 and 1945. At the heart of the disputes were rising nationalism, fascism, and unresolved territorial boundaries. Germany and Italy were seeking to control Europe, and in Asia, Japan was expanding its territory by invading the Pacific. From German U-boats and Panzers to Japanese Kamikaze and American atomic bombs destruction and death ruled. Estimates vary about the number of lives lost during the war, but the consensus is that roughly 62 million people died, including the estimated 12 million in the Holocaust. The historical narrative of World War II is distorted with every generation, but one thing remains constant—the stories of the people who survived it.

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Why I Read Poetry

Courtesy of John-Mark Smith

In Arabic, the word for poem شعر comes from the word “felt”. This simple fact encapsulates why I read poetry.

Back in time immemorial, the first poems were read aloud. Their regular patterns helped memorization of oral history, genealogy, and law. The performance aspect of poetry never disappeared; Robert Frost toured the country and earned a living mainly through poetry readings. In 2012, there were 7,427 poetry readings in April, National Poetry Month in the US. Some would even say poetry is meant to be read aloud only.

This poetic tradition can further be related to orators, who craft messages to be delivered aloud to an audience. Like the earliest poets, the best of political speeches live on in collective memories. It is of no coincidence that the speeches of JFK and Martin Luther King use common poetic techniques. Read More

Procrastination: Worse Than Writer’s Block

I’m supposed to be doing some freelance work today. The problem is that there’s no hard deadline (‘sometime in the coming week or so is fine’). So what do I do? Procrastinate, of course. I’m a deadline kinda girl. And while I was supposed to be working, so that I won’t have to work nights next week, I’m flicking through YouTube videos. A favourite is Ted Talks where I can convince myself that I’m actually doing something useful with my time because I’m learning something. Then I watched this one:

 

 

OMG! That’s me. That’s so me.

I realise that although I always make my deadlines and I do the work well, I’m unable to do non-deadline work. It’s the reason I still haven’t finished all those novels on my hard drive. It’s the reason I’ve hardly sent off any of the picture book stories I’ve written to publishers. It’s the reason I’m bummed on Mondays because I hardly managed to do any writing the previous week. It’s not performance anxiety. And it’s not writer’s block. It’s the absence of the panic monster.

It’s time I worked on this. Right after I’ve finished this blog post. And I’ve done the freelance work I’m supposed to do. And…

Vanessa

Review: Transit of Venus (Poetry Anthology)

Courtesy of Tyler Wanlass

In 2012, three poets from Germany flew to New Zealand to witness the transit of Venus across the Sun, recreating the 1769 journey of Captain James Cook, who had sailed to Tahiti not only to record the transit but to continue further on to find the fabled hidden land of the Pacific. It was this onwards journey that led to the European discovery of New Zealand, paving the way to the colonialization of the South Pacific.

What these German poets wrote on their travels came to form part of the poetry volume The Transit of Venus. I had come across and purchased the volume at Arty Bee’s bookstore in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, not only because of its relevance in a country coming to grips with the wrongs of colonialization but also because of the cover art. The front cover shows a black dot set adrift among the off-pink orb of the sun—and it is fitting for the poetry within, which drifts and crosses in front of the eyes as if it is on a trajectory to something far more important than to merely live on the pages of this collection. More importantly, however, this artwork reflects the nature of the country that has been my adopted home for over 20 years—a land itself in transit, attracting tourists in droves for its natural beauty, only for them to find a nation with far more to offer than just a breathtaking exterior. Read More

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. Read More

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

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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. Read More