MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “interview”

Contractual Obligations

http://worldartsme.com/images/people-signing-papers-clipart-1.jpgWhen the first beam of morning light hit his face, Oliver sprung out of bed. He was excited. Today was his interview. He had been searching for a job for months now and could not even remember how many CVs he had sent out, let alone to whom. Just a few days ago, he had finally received a positive response after so many courteously phrased rejections.

So, he put on his smart-yet-not-too-casual clothes and set off for what he believed was a great opportunity. If he landed this job, it would be a stepping stone to advance into something greater. At least that is how he perceived it in his mind, given all he had read about the said company. Even if it did not work out, however, he still thought it would be a good chance to learn from it and become better, even if it was just at the interview part.

But Oliver could never have imagined what followed.

The minute he walked into the office, the secretary did not even raise her eyes to meet his. She looked at him almost demeaningly and simply grunted when she was to accompany him in to the office of the company’s CEOs.

In turn, these two men stared at him, as if trying to sting his entire body with invisible beams of fire launched from their eyes. Oliver already felt the sweat beginning to form. He sat down timidly without saying a word.

Then the CEOs did something that seemed entirely out of their nature; it was too obvious to miss: they smiled.

It is easy to detect a fake smile, especially when it is so forced upon a person you can see them cringe.

Oliver kept a blank expression. He thought it would be best.

He was asked to briefly introduce himself, which he did. And then he had to listen for 40 minutes, while both CEOs outlined the contractual obligations he would be committed to once he entered the specific company.

Not once was he asked why he wanted to work there. He had prepared an answer for that, as it was a common interview question.

Nor was he ever told what the company could offer him.

Instead, he was bombarded with a list of obligations he would consent to, not least being punctual and succumbing to anything his superiors would ask him to do. Worst of all, he was to provide a monthly subscription to the company for the space he occupied there. In plain: he would pay them to work for them.

Asked if he was clear with the terms, Oliver nodded vacantly. He was then handed an 18-page contract, titled “agreement”, which he was to sign and return by the next morning.

What he did not comprehend, was that he was never expected to read it. Because that would be considered “paranoid”. That was what the CEOs described it as in the reply email they sent him when he kindly declined their offer. Because to them, the simple fact that he attended their meeting was a verbal commitment that he was on board with everything they threw his way.

Oliver knew differently, however. This is not what companies were expected to do. And contracts existed for a reason. To be read and understood before being signed.  If these people were so afraid of revealing the exact terms outlined in a so-called agreement, then something was wrong with it. And if they felt so insanely insecure about everything they said and did, that they desperately needed to conceal it all, then there was definitely something that was not right.

Oliver realized that in time to get away. And he was glad he did. Because sometimes, the greatest lessons you learn are from the places you least expect it. They are concealed behind facades that tempt you otherwise.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Conceal

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Interviewing a person you want to be like

DSC_8267 (2)Every young writer has a longing to meet the authors s/he looks up to, either for advice, or to find traits in their writing process that fit into their own, thus granting them a sense that they are doing something right, and if they keep working hard enough, just maybe they too will become bestselling authors. It’s an amazing sensation to be able to sit down and chat with a writer you admire. Even more so when that person is not just a writer, but also an actor, a radio producer, a dancer and so much more. And he inspires you too, to just “get out there and fight hard for what you want”.

Kostas Krommydas is a well-known Greek actor having participated in many TV series, theatre performances and movies. He is the author of four books (and more to come). For the past two years, he selects music for a three-hour programme on popular Love Radio, while he has also participated in the Greek version of Dancing with the Stars.

I first met him at a book exhibition where I was lucky enough to convince him to sign his book for me, and was won over by a chocolate he was handing out, like a host at a party. He is slender and tall, yet emits a warmth and generosity that is rare in people who have so much of the spotlight turned onto them. Active on social media, he will respond almost instantly, and I was genuinely surprised at how approachable and cheerful he is. As soon as I finished his book – based on a true story, weaving together seemingly independent tales with a fascinating and fast-paced cinematographic script – I contacted him to ask for an interview. It is always wonderful to meet the person behind the pen. You always learn something, even if it is just the fact that they are quick-witted and love to multitask. But they do it all so well, and that is truly encouraging for someone who is also involved in so many things they need to make lists simply to keep up with themselves.

“Ever since I can remember I always wanted to be an actor and had begun searching for how to become one from a very young age,” he recounts. “But I also wrote from a young age. In an organized manner, though, I officially began to write the last six years. I began with a biographical book of how I raised my daughter, then followed three novels”.

20151202_120354Can an actor and a writer be combined? Kostas says “One hundred percent yes. Each helps the other, because of all the skills, experiences, and images gained from the one, you can use for the other, and by combining the two you can create something great”.

Like every writer, Kostas too says he is influenced by many other authors, naming for example, Milan Kundera’s early works, the Ancient Greek Tragedians (Aeschylos, Sophocles, Evripides), as well as Alexandros Papadiamantis, and Herman Hesse, as just a few. As for his favourite book, he chooses Oedipus Rex, which he says “even today, it is as if it was written yesterday. It’s structure is simply astonishing”.

Currently working on another book, Kostas says he would like to write a genuine crime novel. All of his novels, however, contain an element of crime, and the last two in particular are based on true stories. “If you look out there, there are amazing stories that life has written, so you don’t have to imagine them; on its own, life hands you a lot of material to take and develop.” Yet, he recognizes the huge responsibility that lies in this, “in basing your novel on a true story and developing it, making it into a version of what the reality could have been”.

Do his books entail something personal? “One hundred percent, yes. All my books have something mine in them. I really like to include a piece of my life, of the images and feelings I have; I think it makes the text more lively that way”.

And what about where inspiration comes from? “From everything. Music, nature, people around you. A lot of things inspire me. I may see something in the street, I may hear music, and be inspired. I think that generally, if you let yourself go and observe what is going on around you, inspiration will arrive on its own”.

IMG_4301That moment when you see your views converge with that of an acclaimed writer is priceless and fills you with a sense of satisfaction. And then he goes and inspires you even further, because how easy is it really to decide what you want to do and simply go and do it? “It is both easy and difficult at the same time. Sometimes it’s simply about deciding what you want to do. But on the other hand, taking that decision is the hardest thing in the world. It all depends on the person, on where in life s/he is when that decisive moment arrives, and whether you take or not those decisions”.

In his latest book, Kostas beautifully writes, «Grab every minute of all the life that is given to you and add value to it. You live life today, in every second that passes by with no return, and not in future desires that never become actions”.

So what advice would he give today? “To do what I did – to go out and fight hard for what you want; to chase after the things you want to achieve. Success rarely comes and finds you on its own.

His words come out flowing, like a strong current full of knowledge, experience and passion for the life he lives. And this is exactly what he both motivates and encourages others to do. After all, he even writes it in his books: “it is better to do something wrong, than to never live it at all…”.

Why do you stray away?

cute stray dogWhat draws a person into becoming a volunteer? (An actual volunteer and not a person who is expected to do professional work without getting paid in kind or acknowledgement.) A volunteer for a cause. Deciding to invest time and energy into something that is important. Like for example, entertaining sick children, playing board games with old people, or taking care of animals found injured and abandoned. It takes strength to do something beyond your own interest. And it is a sad fact that fewer people today choose to do so.

Every day there are tens of animals left in the streets to fight for their survival. People who loved the idea of having a puppy but when it grew up, they decided it’s too much trouble, entails too many expenses, and the kids who were supposed to “play” with it have now found a new gadget that consumes their time. So the apparent solution for some, is to just drop it off and drive away. “It will find a way to fend for itself”.

Hunters adopt Pointers simply for the sake of that season when they wish to engage in the “thrill” of crawling within the bushes and ambushing small, defenseless creatures, because “it is fun” and “it is a hobby”. One in fact that has royal roots – but that is another story. But throughout the rest of the year, these dogs are often left in appalling conditions, locked up in cages outside, with scarce food because according to some that will create a greater appetite that will make them better hunters, and the worse part, if they get sick they are left to perish.

bigstock-stray-kitten-sitting-on-the-gr-18946910As for cats, these tend to reproduce generously, something which frequently causes the discontent of the neighbourhood, as little felines run around house to house constantly searching for food. And in their attempt to stay out of the human hand that seeks to domesticate or punish them, cats habitually end up under some (race)driver’s wheels in the middle of the road.

If only there was some sort of way that these animals could be protected, while at the same time appeasing the neighbourhoods’ request for quiet and stray-free areas.

Animal shelters try to offer some help. But there is little to do if you are fighting on your own. A young couple in Athens set up on their own an animal shelter located in a large field in the suburbs of Attica. They currently offer care to over 100 dogs and on a daily basis issue calls for adoption of cats and dogs alike. Facing huge financial difficulties in supporting this shelter – often at the expense of their own comfort –, they demonstrate their love to these animals (all of whom they name) by refusing to give up on them when everyone else does. The lady described the tender story of how one Pointer was abandoned at their shelter as the previous owner was about to put her down because she had developed a sort of bulking tumour on her chest. Yet after months of tender, love and care, the swelling retreated and the dog was now a joyful, energetic, barking normal dog. One that had almost been killed for no reason.

There are so many people out there who maltreat animals”, she tells me. “And what do these sweet creatures want? Just some love and affection”.

Just recently, in Cyprus, a small stray dog was thrown into a cardboard crusher by two hotel employees “because it was irritating the customers”. The dog did not survive. But just a few weeks later, the story has already been forgotten.

It is strange how we can so easily let go when it does not concern humans. Yet these animals often offer to us much more than some humans ever can. Unconditional love, loyalty, understanding, to name but a few. All you have to do is look into the eyes of a stray to see reflected in them the magnitude of its soul – that despite having suffered so much because of humans, it still has not given up on them. Maybe it is time to return the trust and do something for them in return. Something that goes beyond our own selfish interests for someone who is silently pleading for our help.

An inspiration and an adventure through a book

DSC01554A good book can transfer you to another world, another time, another place and will invite you to literally dive into its pages as if you were its protagonist living out its story. A great book will also transmit to you its feelings and engage not just your mind, but your senses as well. A book is your passport to the world, to places you never even knew existed, and to cultures you knew nothing about.

I was given such a book as a present. And then I was lucky enough to realize a dream every book-lover has – to get in contact with the author and ask questions!

Cássia Martins is a wonderful author, artist and person at heart. Of Brazilian descent, she decided to go back to her motherland after finishing her degrees, and after a mere nine months she had written her book! With Brazil preparing to take center stage with the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Cássia Martins immerses the reader on a heartfelt, touching story of personal development and soul-searching in a beautifully and vividly described “Marvelous City”.

IMG_9663Born in Rio is a book that ravels you up right from the start and leaves you asking for more. Complete with twists, dark secrets, revelations, and a flood of emotions that can be felt right to the core, it is a book so full of life that makes you reconsider your own place in the world. What makes it such a great read is that it is full of gripping, wonderful descriptions that make you feel as if you were really there –  feeling, seeing, smelling everything around you. But most of all, this book embarks you on a trip to Rio, and through its pages you learn about the history, culture and life in one of the world’s most passionate and lively cities.

Contacting Cássia as soon as I read the last line of her book, she not only welcomed my enthusiasm, but reiterated her delight when I asked her if she could answer a few questions for an interview. With a journalistic flair at work and my excitement to be interviewing a published author, I therefore present you the interview with Cássia Martins, author of Born in Rio:

How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
The first idea of writing a novel came to me when I was writing application essays to graduate school. When I was done with my MBA applications I realized how much material I had to build on a story about a New York banker going back to her roots and eventually changing her ways. During my MBA at Wharton, I constantly thought about the plot, and finally when I graduated I had the story figured out. Then it was a matter of sitting down to write it!
 
Why did you decide to go back to Rio now (when writing the book)?
I really wanted to talk about Brazil and Rio because I was born there and it’s a place that has such a special place in my heart. I wanted to show the world how it feels like to live in Rio, the culture, the heat, the people, so living there was actually crucial in writing this story. It had been 15 years since I last lived there on a day-to-day basis, so actually going through the experiences of being back helped me a lot with material for the book!
 
How did you feel going back to Rio after 15 years? How did it feel living there again and then having to go back to the US?
When I left Rio to the United States I was a teenager, and thus I became an adult in the US. Throughout my life I had been to Rio in many instances, but always for short period of times, just for the holidays. My family is from Brazil but I am also American, so there was definitely a culture shock of going back, and then getting adapted back into a culture that I actually had experienced before! But it was such an enriching experience that inspired me to write rich content for Born in Rio; I was never short of interesting things to write about!
Shortly after I finished writing Born in Rio I went back to the US. Going back to the US after Rio was an easier transition. Born in Rio is published in English and most of the work involved in publicizing it now is done from the US. So, to me, I think I had the best of both worlds while making this book.
 
How is the book based on your own experience?
IMG_9220_2The book is based on my own experiences from many angles. All the events Rita goes through when she gets to Brazil, in a way, I experienced them as well. The liveliness of people in Rio, the heat of the culture, the passion, these were all things that took me by surprise, and that I then wrote about. All the places Rita goes to in Rio I also went there. I even took dance lessons (like dancing samba in pairs) and my favorite place in Rio is the Rio Botanical Gardens, where I went often to get inspiration for my story!
The plot and the story itself is fiction, but based on real events, either circumstances that I have experienced myself, or that I saw other people go through. I compiled all my knowledge and allowed my creativity to interweave them in this inspiring story of growth that is Born in Rio.
 
How could you bring yourself to write so vividly about such painful events (the passing away of the mother of the character; the domestic violence from the father etc.)?
I think that one of the missions of an artist is to be sensitive to experiences we all go through as humans. So I always try to think of different circumstances and the feelings that might be associated with it when I engage in the creation of an artistic project. The artistic creation itself, to me, is something I am very used to. Since an early age I was exposed to many forms of art, and I have used my art and creativity as a channel of growth and healing. That ability has allowed me to connect with other people, and to humanity as a whole. So I think I used this approach in writing this story, and in transporting my readers into different aspects, and feelings, we might experience as humans.
 
How much research did you do on Brazil’s history and how did you go about that (by reading books, talking to locals)?
History has always been one of my favorite subjects in school and so it is no surprise that Brazilian history fascinates me even more. I think Brazil is such a unique country, and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be born there, and to live there. It is truly a melting pot of cultures, and Brazilians consider themselves “Brazilians” regardless of where their ancestors came from. So a lot of the material in Born in Rio was based on my own knowledge of my motherland, but a big chunk of it was based on extensive research; I read many books, not just about Brazilian history but also Brazilian arts and literature. I tried to talk to as many people as I could when I was there, so the information would be not just accurate, but also real. I was very happy with the result in the book Born in Rio, readers always mention to me how I was able to transport them into Brazil, and make them feel closer to its history, people and culture…almost seamlessly.
 
Is Rita anything like you?
DSC01562Well, I wanted to write about another woman, so many aspects of Rita do not belong to me. But at the same time, I think that some do, because I can better write about what I know myself. Rita was a very cold woman, not in touch with her feelings a lot in the beginning, and that I cannot sympathize with because I have always been in touch with my feelings. But she is a professional in the finance world, and so I am, so I do understand her demeanor in many work related situations. She was born in Brazil, as was her mother, and we do have that in common also. I can also say that a lot of her “growing up” throughout the book are questionings and insights I also encounter in coming to terms with my own path in life and adulthood.
 
Is the long-haired dachshund appearing unexpectedly a tribute to yourIMG_9706 Dolce?
I’m so glad you noticed that! I have to say, my Dolce was my true companion in this journey. I like to work at night, when everyone is sleeping and the world is filled with silence. Therefore although I spent many, many nights writing with no humans around, I never felt alone. I have had Dolce for 9 years now, and I truly feel he is such a loyal company, that I just HAD to put him in the book somehow! So, of course, I decided to give a “Dolce-like” dog to the artist, Mona, because I feel like my Dolce has really been a crucial supporter and very important part of my artistic creation process somehow.
 
How did you manage the task of doing all aspects of the publication for the book yourself (publishing, promotion, advertising etc.) and how did that feel?
I honestly don’t know which part I liked most: writing the book, or managing it. Although I am an artist, I also have an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship, so to me, this project has always been my business plan. I try different strategies with it, measure its results and built on them to move forward. I’m lucky, I guess, to have developed both the artistic, subjective, intuitive part of the brain as well as the more logical, analytical and objective side. Thus I really love the fact that I have had control both on the artistic creation and the management of the book. That ability has really allowed me to put this project together, wholesomely, and that makes me very proud and happy.
 
Could you ever have imagined that just like you were excited to receive a signed copy of a book by Isabel Allende, someone would be just as excited to receive a signed copy of your book?
DSC02509You know, since I was a little girl, I was so inspired by Isabel’s stories. Paula is one of my favorite books and I read it now in three different languages! So, yes, it was one of the best gifts of my life to receive a signed copy of Paula by Isabel Allende. I cried when I got the envelope, a moment I will never forget. Therefore, if my readers are as excited to receive a signed copy of my books, to me, that is one of the most noble accomplishments I can do; to be able to bring a simple moment of happiness into someone’s life like that. I really hope this is true, and I hope to continue doing that for many years to come!
 

N.B. I am so thankful to K for introducing me to Cássia and her lovely book, but also to Cássia herself for being such an inspiration!

It turns out life does indeed happen independently of what you want, but sometimes, it also goes a bit your way, and when it does you cherish every moment, every contact, and every experience you gain!

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: FAQ

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