MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “writer”

The anti-tech mute

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/13/ea/7a/13ea7a3fc1a0414aa846a48ff7c03be2.jpgHis name was Edison. He had it sculpted on a wooden plaque in his bedroom to remind himself of it.

It was years since he decided to retreat into solitude. At first, he saw it as a challenge, because he realised he was too drawn into the digital life of constant social networking, online media access, useless self-advertising and unabashed self-appreciation. He did not like the person he had become. He was hanging upon the number of likes he would receive on every post he made, on the number of followers his posts would receive, on the number of people who viewed the videos he uploaded. It was as if this invisible click by people he didn’t even know was what kept him alive. So he decided to do something radical about it. He decided to disconnect from everything and everyone. Those who really cared would find a way to contact him. Everyone else did not matter.

For two years, he had devised a lifestyle where his talk was limited to simple daily transactions to meaningless chit-chat with neighbours and co-workers. Everything else, was typed on a laptop.

One day, however, he woke up with a strange feeling. He felt his vocal chords had gone numb. He could not utter a sound. Was it true that you could forget how to talk if you didn’t speak?

He tried to shout, to scream, to say something, to whisper even, but nothing came out. Not even a screech.

He felt all his other senses heightened. As though the lens in his eyes with which he viewed the world had suddenly zoomed in and he witnessed everything in more detail, more clearly and with greater analysis. He began to notice things people did that he failed to see before. The level and tone of voice they used to speak to each other. He could comprehend simply by the sound and intensity of their voices and their body language what these people felt about each other. And he acknowledged that as a people we have become more aggressive, more aggravated, are more stressed and in constant agitation.

When he went home that night, he turned on his laptop, opened a new document and began to type. He may not have been able to speak at the moment, but that in itself made a fantastic theme for his new book: the new-age entrepreneur who became an anti-tech mute. He would find a way to raise a warning about the dangers he saw unfolding. And he would do so the only way he knew how.

Keeping it simple

https://tphogan.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/fountain-pen-blank-paper.jpgPen in hand, he stared at the blinking cursor on the white background. He was stuck. There was nothing to write about. They told him to keep it simple. But simple is not as easy as it seems.

His head was swarming with fairy tales of magic and dragons and princesses and kings and monsters. But they were all asleep somewhere, unable to be driven out of his head and brought to life.

He fixed his posture, straightened his back and inhaled deeply. He then slowly let out the air that had refreshed his lungs and looked hopefully at his computer screen.

Still nothing.

Where had it all gone? He was a person whose imagination ran wild and who could write about anything at anytime. But not now.

His emails bleeped away with newsletters and greetings from colleagues, but all he could hear was the clock ticking and his deadline drawing nearer.

All he had to do was write about something, anything. It was supposed to be simple. Supposed being the key word.

He moved to the couch to clear his head. But he soon fell asleep. Two hours later he leapt up like a damaged spring and raced to his computer.

Something. Simple.

Sometimes the things we take for granted, the simple things, are not merely as simple or as easy or as abundantly available as we may think.

He had found his topic.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Simple

Survivor Juice

http://p5cdn4static.sharpschool.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_3029735/Image/27346-Owl-Coffee-Beans.jpgHe would never really wake up completely until that heady aroma of a pure Arabica blend drowning in a cup of too-hot-to-touch-the-mug water entered his nostrils. He eagerly awaited the warm trickle of this “survivor juice” down his throat and into his nervous system before he could even begin to plan the day.

Coffee was an essential part of waking up. Or rather of functioning at all.

And it had to be accompanied by an aroma that made its taste all the more enjoyable. On certain days, he even preferred it flavoured. Sometimes not too strong. Maybe with milk. And sugar. On others, he wanted a double espresso. You knew what type of day it was by the coffee he would drink. And the amount of cups he would consume.

Perhaps he was addicted to it. But isn’t most of the world?

Coffee has become the signature drink with which to start the day. It’s the “thing” that everyone loves, that everyone needs, everyone can share, and almost everyone can relate too. The easiest days were usually the ones were the dilemma was coffee or tea.

It also often depended on the time of day.

But whatever the choice, there had to be an aroma soothingly fuming from that warm drink. It made all the difference. As if it was telling the brain to prepare for a stimulating ride. And it usually was. It was those small moments that he would forget everything and just concentrate on the mug in his hand. It was the strength needed – the psychological boost – to survive yet another day.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Aromatic

An innate curiosity

http://previews.123rf.com/images/brux/brux1301/brux130100030/17503613-illustration-curious-owl-with-a-magnifying-glass-Stock-Vector-cartoon.jpgRobert took out his notebook and began to scribble frantically. It would have seemed absolutely normal for the journalist he was, had he not been in the middle of a queue in a supermarket. Across him a middle-aged man who had just finished paying for his groceries was looking for his wife who had re-entered the aisles in search of an item they had obviously forgotten. But that was not what was worth noting. The man stood boldly at the till and yelled out her name. His wife was called Nora. Once he had no response, he asked the security guard roaming the general area, where his wife was. The guard looked up in awe, as if someone had awoken him from a deep sleep by pinching his arm. “Who is your wife?” he asked. The episode continued for a few more minutes, until the wife finally appeared without holding anything and asked her husband in the most natural of tones, “did you find it?” He hadn’t moved all this time.

Robert was smiling as he was noting it all down. It was the perfect story for his next novel.

He usually found these sporadic gems in the most common places. In markets, in buses, in coffee shops, even just during a stroll around his block.

It is amazing how much you can find by simply observing and listening to people.

Robert had an innate curiosity. It was characteristic of his profession, but it was something that to him came natural. He always wanted to learn more and constantly urged himself to discover something further than what was handed to him. That, he believed, was the only way he would mature as a person and expand his knowledge.

It’s good to wonder about the world. It opens your eyes and ears and takes you to places you would never have otherwise encountered.

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…”.

A little shameless self-promotion…

toxamenofws-cover-510x760The most exciting moment for any writer – or even wannabe writer – is the time when they see the realization of their dream. That time when they receive the printed version of what had previously only been imprinted in their minds. The publication of their first book.

I have been lucky and privileged enough to see this dream come true. My collection of ten short stories, following the adventures, thoughts and daily happenings of a bunch of characters that could easily form a part of our own social group, our friends and family. They are stories that aim to bring light into our busy and often stressful lives. To make you think of your problems in a different glow, to view life in a different perspective, to cause a smile to form on your pretty face.

It is a book that encompasses stories that have moved from the fantasy realm of my mind into the printed wonder of the published word. And I would love to share them all with you. Just like you share a good book, movie or wine with friends, unleashing all the while an inner secret that would otherwise never be heard. Because a good book always reveals an unknown inner part of its author. And in this way you gain both an entertainment and a new friend!

The book is in Greek (for now) and is available here.

A Journalist by any other name…

twitter-journalismThe other day, as I was blissfully walking across one of the city’s busiest shopping streets (no, I had not bought anything, strangely enough, and yes that does happen), I had an interesting encounter.

A young man was trying to promote a beauty salon and caught my attention with a joke. He asked me what I do. When I responded that (among others) I am a journalist, he frowned and said “well, I can understand the rest, but that, I am not so thrilled about”.

It got me thinking. Why do journalists have such a bad name? And since when? I grew up believing it was so cool to be a journalist, a reporter roaming the streets, cities and countries in search of news, and always being the first to find out exciting information.  It was an ideal job.

But now? Now, journalists are one of the most underpaid and overworked professions there are, with citizen journalists trying to steal the show, and all these social media attempting to take over traditional forms of information.

Journalists have gained a bad name. Why? Because there are so many bad ‘journalists’ out there, that it makes the rest (of us) look bad too.

Everyone suddenly thinks they can be a writer, a journalist, a reporter. Because it is easy to just sit and write whatever comes to mind. But not everyone can express this adequately. And this is something few realize. A journalist is more than a writer and a storyteller. It is a person who searches after news, who can sense what is newsworthy, worthy of reporting; who can understand what the public is concerned about, and who can express it in such a way that every citizen/reader can understand what it is s/he is saying. It is about being concise, comprehensive and to the point. It is about being able to challenge the status quo when necessary, prompt change, and above all make the reader think.

In today’s digital and socially interconnected world, real journalism has lost its meaning. Instead it has become what Frank Zappa called “rock journalism” and most of it “is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read”. And media today have become associated with this bad journalism.

Trying to stand out of the crowd in this storm isn’t easy. But they say that s/he who perseveres wins, and what is more, there is always the faith that a good journalist will never get lost. At least in a world where people still strive for perfection, quality journalism will remain a necessity always searched for…

Also part of NaBloPoMo (November 2013)

Also part of Daily Prompt: Teach Your (Bloggers) Well

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

Can you read this?

Every writer should have an editor. And I am lucky to say that I too have my editor. A person who I can ask for advice and to whom I can look to for ideas. A person who will be honest about what they think and who will help me improve. A person who I value in every way. The relationship between a writer and an editor should be one of utmost respect and absolute communication, for both need each other in order to produce their best work and to thrive professionally. An editor becomes a writer’s best friend. The person to turn to at any time. The person who you end up calling in the middle of the night with the most frequent question an editor hears “can you read this?” – usually followed by a “please” or an “if you would be as kind” or something of the sort that would indicated courtesy – at least if you’re going to disturb them at the most unusual hours and all the time, you might as well be polite!

An editor becomes an essential tool to writers because, as it is not easy to write, it is not easy to edit either. Writers are often attached to their piece that they often cannot see what to leave out, change or rewrite. That is why editors are needed. They are the external eye, the one that will place all the pieces together. But that is why it is important to have an editor that can enter the writer’s mind at times. That can understand what you are writing and what you mean to say by it. That can even read between the lines and if needed above and beyond them! Jarod Kintz had said that “there are two types of people in this world: those who can edit, and those who can’t”. Editing isn’t an easy job. But with the right kind of collaboration and a descent raw material to start with, it can lead to an excellent result. I used to think writing was easy. But early in my years I found out that not everyone can do it. Indeed some things seem easy, because for us they feel natural. But perhaps that is why writing and editing, just like drawing and painting, are considered talents. Not everyone has them.

Nonetheless, editors have perhaps one of the most criticized jobs. For intruding into the author’s mind, meddling with their thoughts, their creativity, their ideas. And interfering with a product that is simply not their own. But like Henry James said, “in art, economy is always beauty” and in these fast-paced times it seems valid that less is indeed more. I believe a good editor reveals himself from the relationship maintained with the author and the understanding that ensues from this. Like the saying ‘behind every great man is a strong woman’, well, I think this is also true for writing: behind every great author is a really good editor. Even though the latter is left in the shadows. At least they can have the appreciation of being acknowledged once in a while. And I doubt if there is any author who has not learnt at least something constructive from their editor and vice versa.

[An editor] Rides the whirlwind and directs the storm – Joseph Addison

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Second Opinion

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