Julia’s Internship Experience

Former Intern Julia Bradley tells us about her experiences at Parthian over the past two years, and what she will take away from it.

I began my journey with Parthian in September 2015, and have spent a good two years interning in the Swansea office alongside my studies at Swansea University. I should probably mention, Parthian doesn’t normally offer internships that last for two years! I started out doing a couple of weeks of work experience, which is more the norm, and just kind of…stuck around.

Over the course of my internship I was able to experience a wide range of tasks relating to different stages of the life-cycle of a book – from reading and reviewing submitted manuscripts, to proofreading the final texts. I spent quite a lot of time working on marketing jobs, be that researching potential advertising methods, copy-editing press releases, or by working on social media engagement. I got involved with numerous events, from local book launches in Swansea and the Mumbles, to further afield at literary festivals in Hay-on-Wye and in Edinburgh. I was also given the chance to learn the basics of working with Adobe InDesign, and I had an ongoing project of compiling up-to-date eBook metadata. These are all tasks and skills which I’m finding to be extremely useful, now that I’m job searching, but rather than go into the intricacies of spreadsheets (I’m sure Maria misses my pastel colour-coding), here are some of the highlights of my time with Parthian:

Books

I feel like this almost goes without saying, but being given books is always pretty great –2 yet it’s even better when the books themselves are great.

The first Parthian book I read was Alys Conran’s Pigeon, and it did not disappoint. I was fascinated by Alys’ use of the Welsh language, and the plot itself had me refusing to put the book down. Other highlights were the wacky Bad Ideas\Chemicals and A Van of One’s Own, which I was given just before my holiday to Portugal, where the book is set.

Over the course of my internship I was able to get a feel for both the contemporary literary scene in Wales, which is thriving, and for the country’s bookish heritage.

The International Dylan Thomas Prize

Speaking of Pigeon, I joined the rest of the Parthian team to attend the award ceremony for the International Dylan Thomas Prize when Alys was shortlisted earlier this year. It was very interesting to hear readings from each of the shortlisted authors, and whilst unfortunately Pigeon didn’t win the prize, it was a lovely evening which I was happy to be a part of.

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The Edinburgh International Book Festival

I won’t go in to too much detail about this trip, as I’ve written about it before (you can find the story here) but the short version is this:

In August I was lucky enough to get to go up to Edinburgh during the city’s International Book Festival to attend some events with Parthian author Ece Temelkuran (who ended up winning the festival’s First Book award!). You can read more about the book here. A particular high of the trip was getting a tour of the fascinating city from another Parthian author, Tendai Huchu, whose novel The Maestro, The Magistrate and the Mathematician, which is set in the city, I’d read the year before.

Haggis was eaten, wine was drunk, authors were met, and it was ultimately an amazing visit to Auld Reekie.

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Whilst I’m trying not to get overly sentimental, it’s important to say that the experience I’ve gained over the past two years has given me a sense of direction, and it’s thanks to this internship that I feel confident I can pursue a career in what is an incredibly competitive industry. What is perhaps equally important though, is that during my time with Parthian I genuinely felt like part of the team. It seems that being warm, and kind, and passionate are all job requirements for staff at this small Welsh press – I’d like to thank everyone that made my two years here so special!

It is with something of a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Parthian, but I’m looking forward to both keeping up with what comes next for the team, and for my own ‘next chapter’.

 

PC_Logo_Futures_COLOURJulia has been part of the Parthian team as a Marketing Assistant for the past two years and has completed a Santander SME placement. She recently became a winner of the Print Futures Award 2017. 

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An Interview with Bernard Mitchell

Every photo tells a story. A collection of the right photos, can tell a history. Bernard Mitchell’s new collection, Pieces of a Jigsaw: Portraits of Artists and Writers of Wales, captures the faces behind the artistic and literary tradition of Wales. He sat down to an espresso with Parthian and described the origin and process for how these distinct photos were created. Bernard will be presenting Pieces of a Jigsaw at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery on 25th November at 11:00 a.m. as part of the Being Human Festival.

How did this project of taking portraits of writers and artists begin?

I realised there was a group of people from Swansea who were all connected with Dylan Thomas. They were friends, but they were influenced by his writing and they were a symbiotic group if you like. I call them the ‘Swansea Gang.’

Can you talk about your process of staging these portraits?

Daniel Jones was the first of [the Swansea Gang] and I was quite young and very nervous. He very kindly saw me, and they all did. Daniel met with me and we went upstairs to the room where he had a grand piano and he composed his music. Pubs in those days were open at 12 and dead on 12, the clock went boing! and he said ‘Time for a beer.’ So we went to the pub and as we drank more, the more relaxed he got.

Pubs close at three, by that time, we got some very relaxed photographs and it was great. But his wife came in at 3:00 and said ‘Danny, I’m taking you home, I’m locking you in your room, until you compose some music.’ So that’s how it all started, the very first group of people were the Swansea Gang.

And when you’re shooting, do you know when you have ‘the one’ or do you see it in the negatives afterwards?

 

You’ve got to feel it. You know when to stop. But with some artists, they become friends, and some artists I follow. When I restarted in the 1990’s … I wanted to photograph artists and writers and the correlation between them, this catalytic, symbiotic thing that writers and artists are together. Writers are influenced by artists and artists are influenced by writers.

How much time would you spend with these writers and artists before you felt like you could accurately capture them?

I’d always start work about 10 a.m., go to their house, have a coffee, sit down relax have a chat, and while they’re doing that, I’m looking around.

For portraiture and photography, what are the benefits of that medium that other forms of storytelling don’t offer?

Well in the early days, everything was black and white and my opinion of black and white was that it gets to the brain quicker, it’s a very simple . One of the most important things about photography is that it’s international. You don’t have to speak the language. It communicates instantly. You see the image, you should get the message. Fortunately or unfortunately with my photographs, the message is buried deep within the photographs.

Do you envision this project to continue in the future?

I’ve only really just started again, about two years ago. But five years ago, I had a stroke and I did nothing for quite awhile … But now, I want to do it again.

What do you hope people take away from Pieces of a Jigsaw when they read it?

I hope they will look carefully at the photographs and try to analyse what it’s all about, because they’re not accidents. They’re not snaps. They are very carefully constructed, they are constructed within millimeters of what’s in and what’s out.

You said you like the black and white contrast, but there are some stunning colour ones.

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Now, then the reason for this one in colour. Do you see the portraits of herself? She has a red tam. The red tam is by her left foot. By her right foot is a toolbox, it’s red. The tam isn’t on her head, but the tam is on all the portraits in the background and it’s red. That’s the reason for the colour. You see, the colour has a use; it’s not colour because it’s colourful.

Image of Bernard Mitchell with camera.Bernard Mitchell grew up in Swansea where he currently lives after a retiring from a career in photojournalism with Thomson Regional Newspapers. Bernard’s passion for this decades-long project has led to exhibitions at the National Library of Wales and generous donations of portraits to the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University.

Pieces of a Jigsaw can be pre-ordered at the following link: Pieces of a Jigsaw – Parthian Books

An Interview with Nathan Munday

 

‘The mountains themselves are like a kaleidoscope of colour. Something lives in those hues and I wanted to show that we’re not just pieces of slime on this earth, we’re actually wonderfully made and our world is wonderfully made as well,’ Nathan Munday said. He sat upstairs in Heath Christian Bookshop in Cardiff an hour before the book launch of Seven Days, his debut memoir about a trek with his father through the Pyrenees. Published by Parthian in October, Seven Days enfolds readers in the journey–past the vengeful sheepdogs and uncertain storms, and into the warmth of unlikely friendship.

Eddie: When you made this trek in the Pyrenees with your father, did you know you’d be writing a book from the experience?

Nathan: I’ve been to the Pyrenees 7 or 8 times. I didn’t intend to write a book about it all, I do keep a notepad just in case, but that particular week, the main narrative of the book, that was a particularly eventful year. I saw an advertisement for a competition for travel writing in the New Welsh Review, so that was the genesis moment.

E: The memoir is full of characters that are equal parts jovial, solemn, and reflective. Do you think mountaineering attracts a certain type of person, or brings out the same attributes of a vast range of people?

N: I think mountains do attract interesting people, but most people are interesting when you get them on their own. I think that’s the beauty of mountains and refuges is that you’re forced to encounter individuals, rather than groups of people.

 

E: The people you meet in the refuges are transformed into mythological and literary heroes from folklore. Did these attributions occur to you upon meeting them or upon putting together the book?

N: To be honest, a bit of both. When I saw my friend, who we call ‘Hemingway’ come through the door, I did think ‘Dad look, it’s Ernest Hemingway from the dead!’. Others have come later. But I think that’s true of any writer. I think it’s an amalgamation of present experience and looking back.

E: I think it imbued such life into the story.

N: I love myth, and folklore. The whole book really looks at those boundaries of what is real and what is not. And how real people become these heroes or antiheroes or mythic figures. I hope to show in the book that most humans have something wondrous sort of stamped onto them.

E: Let me read a passage from the book: There was something mystical about a grieving traveller crossing a mountain range after so much suffering. The mountains provide an escape for those who suffer. 

Do the Pyrenees provide an escape for you and your father?

N: My dad lost his mother at a young age and I think the hills gave him time to think and sort of stew in what [he was] feeling. For me, I’ve always been quite a sensitive person. I do need those times once or twice a year where I can escape. The modern world doesn’t give us those quiet times. We’re always in a hurry. We eat our food in a hurry. We’re always in a hurry for the next thing in life, aren’t we?

E: The book emphasizes how we associate summits with holiness and accomplishment. Does this notion hold up for you when you reached the summits in the Pyrenees, or it did reside more when you were among strangers in the refuges?

N: I start the book with that idea of ‘to peak.’ And I think a mountaineer has to be careful because you can become a ‘peak-backer’ and all you do, and my dad’s guilty of this, is ticking boxes … The mountains in a way were like a microcosm, where our life is not always going to be on the peaks. The valleys are probably more important, because it’s in the valley you decide which path you take up and if you take the wrong path it can be fatal.

E: Biblical accounts of mountaineering stories are interspersed with yours. Can you talk about how mountaineering provided a helpful lens for you to see these biblical stories in a new light?

N: Religion is always painted in a sort of negative, boring way. But actually if you read the bible, it’s far from it … The historical Jesus was a man, I believe he was also God. He wasn’t just a man, he was a normal man who enjoyed going up the hill, who needed to go up the hill to have times away from the hustle and bustle. It always drew my imagination. I think that’s the crux of it, these are spaces where the mundane fuses with the supernatural.

Nathan Munday is attending Cardiff University for a doctorate exploring Welsh writing in English and Welsh. Seven Seven Days final cover (1)Days was shortlisted for New Welsh Reader University of South Wales Travel Writing Award. He lives in Cardiff and still goes trekking through the mountains with his father for a week every year. He can be contacted on Twitter at @nathanmunday2Seven Days can be purchased from Parthian’s website here: Seven Days – Nathan Munday

An Interview with Eleni Cay

 

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Thursday the 24th of August saw the Slovakian-born poet Eleni Cay attending an evening event at Blackwells in Manchester, alongside two other poets; Michael Conley and Rebecca Hurst. The poets read from their debut collections and engaged in discussion. Parthian intern Julia Bradley attended the event, and interviewed Eleni.

A video of some of the poems performed is available here:

 


 

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Eleni with Parthian’s Julia and Maria

Julia: In your ‘non-poetry’ life you’re a researcher, investigating the effect of technology on children’s learning. How has this research affected your poetry, particularly in A Butterfly’s Trembling in the Digital Age which takes technology as a major theme?

Eleni: Art and science reveal the reality about life and the truth about the world. In my academic research I approach technology systematically. I look for patterns, commonalities and objective assessments of their impact. In my poetic work, I address technology with my heart. I let my feelings bear upon my words, and bring in intelligence from life rather than didactic books.

 

J: A lot of your poems in Butterfly’s Trembling seem to be quite disillusioned with this ‘digital age’ in which we now live, particularly when you write about the use of technology in relationships. Do you think that technology used in this context is purely negative?

E: Definitely not! As Alain Badiou wrote, ‘We shouldn’t underestimate the power love possesses to slice diagonally through the most powerful oppositions and radical separations’. This includes technology and the fact that it can both impoverish and enrich love.

 

J: You’ve created many film poems of your work, which have been shared widely on social media – do you feel any tension or conflict about this, when some of your poems in the translated collection highlight the uneasy alliance between intimacy and technology?

E: As I write on my website, I see multimedia poetry as a way of challenging discriminatory poetic forms. I believe there are many ways into poetry and multimedia can open and validate these multiple paths. To me, poetry can be expressed in a spoken, written, physical or visual mode. Although these different modes of expression have all distinct qualities, I don’t think there should be a hierarchy to them.

I’m particularly interested in spaces that augment content and form into novel poetic genres. This is where dancepoems come in. I have recently created a “Living Book” about dancepoetry. This is part of my ongoing efforts to enrich contemporary poetry with new art forms and diverse voices. The book is freely available online: https://dancepoems.wordpress.com/ . So far, I have received some very positive feedback from poets and dancers across the world.

 

J: Last week novelist Howard Jacobson caused controversy over his comments that the rise of smartphones and twitter could ‘make children illiterate in 20 years’ – how would you respond to this?

E: That’s an interesting comment and I’m curious to know what made Mr Jacobson say that. My definition of literacy is expansive. We have traditional literacies such as reading and writing and new literacies such as multimedia production and design. My projection for the next 20 years is that both kinds of literacies will evolve and enrich our understanding of what it means to be literate. These changes will affect both children and adults.

 

J: What advice would you give to (particularly young) people about navigating today’s ‘Digital Age’? 

E: I don’t think I’m in a position to give advice- we are all participants, designers and evaluators of one big experiment and need to work together to ensure it doesn’t fall apart or leave anyone excluded. The signs that I look for when navigating this “Digital Wild West” are beauty and knowledge. I firmly believe that both hold tremendous potential for recognising that life is full of colours, shades and hues, not black-and-white pathways.


You can watch a video of another interview that Eleni has done here:


Eleni’s first translated poetry collection is A Butterfly’s Trembling in the Digital Age . It was translated from the original Slovak into English by John Minahane.

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The book speaks to the poet’s own (young) generation about how technology affords new ways of expressing love, while nostalgically evoking times before Facebook and selfies. However, nature-versus-technology is not the primary theme here. In fact, most poems focus on how human beings are entangled with technology, and on how they jointly influence all aspects of being in the 21st century.

The butterfly, a symbol of change and fragility, sounds a note of caution about using technology to reinvent love and quintessentially human values. To find the ways in which love can survive in a high tech world, one might need to look again at nature and its laws. The poet tries to catch those subtle harmonies that are often missed when ‘human’ and ‘technological’ are counterposed too exclusively, as Either/Or.

There are 55 poems in the collection, written in a variety of metrical and stanzaic forms, but mostly in common metre, analogous to sung music. The poems are accessible on a first read, with layers that invite a re-reading and re-thinking of what it means to be loved in the digital age.

 

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Eleni Cay is a Slovakian-born poet living in Manchester, UK. Her poems have been published in two pamphlets – Colours of the Swan and Autumn Dedications – and featured in MK Calling 2013 & 2015. Eleni’s poems were included in anthologies such as Mother’s Milk, poetry magazines such as Envoi and Atticus Review and on Button Poetry. A full collection of translated poems was published by Parthian Books in July 2017 and a pamphlet is due in autumn 2017 by Eyewear Press (The Lorgnette Pamphlet Series).

 

johnminahaneJohn Minahane was born near Baltimore in the south of Ireland in 1950. In 1996 he moved to Slovakia. His first major undertaking as a translator from Slovak was a selection of the poems and literary essays of Ladislav Novomeský (Slovak Spring, 2004). Later published works include selections from the lyrics of Milan Rúfus, To Bear the Burden and Sing (2008); Six Slovak Poets 2010; Ján Buzássy’s Eighteen Poems (2012); and the classic novel Three Chestnut Horses by Margita Figuli (2014). Recent poetry collections which he has translated include Jozef Leikert’s The Cobweb of Being (2015), Štefan Kuzma’s whisper (2016), and the anti-war poems written at the outbreak of World War 1 by Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, Bloody Sonnets (2016).

Ece Temelkuran on The Magic of Writing

In the penultimate week of Women in Translation month, here at Parthian we’re celebrating one of our very own female authors in translation, the renowned novelist and political commentator Ece Temelkuran. The English translation of her latest novel, Women Who Blow on Knots, was published in the UK by Parthian in June 2017. So far translated into twenty languages, Women Who Blow on Knots was a bestseller in Ece’s native Turkey, controversial for its strident political rhetoric and its unconventional female Muslim characters.

Hailed as a feminist, magic-realist trip through the Arab Spring, Women Who Blow on Knots is a heady mixture of fairy-tale and geopolitics, where extracts from the fictional tablets of Queen Dido intermingle with scenes depicting the gritty reality of life for Middle Eastern women. The novel chronicles a female Odyssey leading from Tunisia to Lebanon, undertaken by three young women thrown together by fate, led by the enigmatic septuagenarian Madam Lilla. But although each of these young women holds their own dark secret, it is only at the point of no return that Lilla’s own murderous motivations for the trip become clear.

The Edinburgh Book Festival

Earlier this month, Ece and a few members of the Parthian team embarkedon a road trip of our own, visiting Edinburgh as part of Ece’s UK-wide book tour. Ece headlined two events over the course of the weekend: the first an evening in conversation with the American author Jacqueline Woodson at the International Book Festival, the second an interview and Q&A chaired by the translator Annie Rutherford at the Edinburgh Book Fringe, an event organised in collaboration with Lighthouse Books and Golden Hare Books.

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Ece on stage in the Spiegeltent at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Literature in translation was a hot topic at both events. The novel itself has had a somewhat convoluted journey through the translation process, as Ece points out: ‘[t]his book has been lived in English, and then I translated the story back to Turkish’. But for her, English is a clunky, impersonal language, in contrast to the warmth of emotive Turkish; she is keen to emphasise that translating is not simply a matter of finding the equivalent word: ‘[t]ranslating is not only translating one language into another, you have to remove things, you have to put different things in the book in order to find [the] emotional equivalent of the text in the other language.’

 

But it wasn’t simply a case of translating it back into standard English: ‘the English it has been lived in is international English, it’s a different kind of English’. What does she mean, ‘lived in English’? Rather, enigmatically, Ece states: ‘[s]ome parts in the book are real; the least unexpected parts are real […] they happened.’ Indeed, whilst the anonymous narrator (a recently fired journalist fleeing her homeland), clearly has her origins in autobiographical details, two of the novel’s central characters, Amira and Mariam, are in fact based on real women in Ece’s life, as she recounts: “[Amira] is the woman who sat at the bar I happened to enter during the Tunisian elections after the ‘Arab Spring’.” Whilst Mariam has had her name changed to preserve her anonymity, she too is a ‘real’ woman from Ece’s life.

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Ece in conversation with Annie Rutherford at Golden Hare Books

That two women from Ece’s life should feature so prominently in the novel is fitting, given the emphasis that is placed on the significance of the powerful bonds of sisterhood and motherhood between women with no blood relation (‘We did not need a god to love us if we had a courageous mother…’). In fact, she encourages all women to adopt ‘daughters’ and ‘mothers’, as she too was adopted by her own ‘mother’: ‘in that politically unpredictable, misogynistic land where I wanted to become a writer and journalist, she helped me through the tough moments.’ But for Ece, this is not just soft sentimentalism, but a serious strategy of political resistance for women, one of the few available to them in countries such as Turkey. Speaking from her own experiences of inhabiting male-dominated spheres, including journalism, she emphasises that forming these bonds with other women is crucial to surviving and thriving in a man’s world.

Empowering women is at the heart of the novel; an aim, it seems, embedded within the novel’s unusual structure. Each chapter begins in media res, then flashes back to the beginning of the action to elucidate the extract. As Ece explains, this stylistic choice mirrors the way in which women tell stories and gossip; how we start from the middle of the story as a hook to draw the reader in (for example, ‘Did you hear that Susan is having an affair?’), only then giving the full story. Women Who Blow on Knots is a novel of women telling their own stories, it is a tale about how women empower each other and pass down advice between the generations:

..you should keep the basic principles of a goddess in mind. One: Never apologize for something you didn’t do. Two: Don’t try to over explain yourself. Three: Never underestimate your achievements. Four: Never begin a sentence, ‘Now I might be wrong but….’ Five: Never answer questions you don’t want to answer. Six: Don’t be afraid to say no.’

Ece confesses that “Women Who Blow On Knots was written in one of the most difficult periods of my life, where I was in dire need of magical beauty and when I was obliged to learn that nothing and nobody else does the magic for you but yourself.” And whilst her investigative journalism has never shied away from broaching difficult, often controversial topics, for her, fiction is about creating beauty and giving hope. It is itself a kind of magic, one capable of bringing things into actuality. She recounts an anecdote of the real-life Amira’s first encounter with the book, reading it whilst she travelled to New York for the first time, not knowing that the opening of the novel finds the fictional Amira just returned from New York. “She wrote to tell me that she had goose bumps when she read the first pages; how could I have known?” For Ece, this is the kind of real-life magic that fiction can create: “Only when you try hard enough to create magic, will life herself […] grant you moments of real magic”.

You can buy Women Who Blow on Knots here.

You can find Ece on Twitter at: @ETemelkuran

Sian and Julia discuss The Equestrienne

 

Book summary:

As a coming-of-age novel, The Equestrienne addresses the difficulties of friendships, families and desire that adolescence brings. Karolina’s love of riding is a reminder of the discoveries and passions that come with growing up, which renders it easily accessible to both those approaching this trialling period in life, and those who have surpassed it. However, Kovalyk’s choice of setting, placing Karolina’s story at the end of the communist rule in what was Czechoslovakia in 1984, allows the readers to engage with a unique experience of childhood.

The Equestrienne is an empowering novella, an encouragement for young girls to pursue their dreams and ambitions. Karolina, whose family gave up attempting to raise her as an athlete, finds the strength to persist, and is eventually successful in her riding. Kovalyk does not convey success as simple, but instead demonstrates how a young girl’s determination to succeed overrides all obstacles placed in her way.

 

Julia: The Equestrienne is a coming of age story, did you find that as a young person the story had any personal resonances for you?

Sian: I think that any young person would be able to find personal resonances in a story like this. Karolina’s persistence with her riding certainly reflected my experiences with working towards all of my goals; a prevalent example for me would be preparing for my GSCE exams, because maintaining the motivation to continue studying throughout the months leading towards these exams is difficult and unpleasant for all teenagers. However, the sense of achievement and success you experience after coming through this time truly makes the effort feel worthwhile, and it is extremely rewarding in the end. Karolina’s story is not one of a girl who is given success without working for it – she fails multiple times, is doubted by those closest to her and comes close to giving up on occasions, but with her perseverance and determination she is able to reach her goal. I think that is the message that Kovalyk is attempts to convey with The Equestrienne, and this would be extremely inspiring and motivating for young people.

 

Julia: The story is set at an interesting moment in history – the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia – how does this impact upon and interweave with the use of the coming-of-age genre?

Sian: The period that the novella is set in seems to reflect Karolina herself – the end of the communist rule in Czechoslovakia marks a new age of hope and liberation for this society, similarly to Karolina flourishing from a sense of hopelessness to discover her passion for riding, allowing her to experience freedom. The position of Czechoslovakia in 1984 doesn’t necessarily interfere with the story, although it is not ignored; having the context of this dark, bleak period as the basis of a story that seems to promote empowerment and ambition is very interesting for a coming-of-age story, and presents something quite unique to a reader like myself, who lives in what can feel like an entirely different world to Karolina. It is fascinating how, despite Karolina living in such a different society to mine, I am still able to recognise some of my own traits and qualities within her. Kovalyk presents characters whose experience we cannot necessarily empathise with, but there are undeniable connections between the experiences of The Equestrienne’s characters and young people in the contemporary world.

 

Julia: What did you think of the use of the novella form, as opposed to a longer novel? Did things seem rushed?

Sian: As a book that discusses growing up and approaching adolescence, I think that the novella form is actually a very effective way of mirroring this. To me, it represents how adolescence is a time where new things must be learned and processed very quickly, and it is a time where we are exposed to so many circumstances that are unfamiliar to us, with very little time to reflect or dwell on these situations. The book introduces us to new characters, themes and scenarios very abruptly, some of which we may not fully understand. Therefore, as a reflection of the experiences of a teenager I think it accurately depicts what life can be like. Further than this, I think that the length of a novella allows a smaller number of themes and ideas to be fully explored, rather than beginning to discuss a broader range of concepts to be addressed but left unfinished. The way in which Kovalyk balances depth and detail with a rapidly advancing plot allows the reader to be constantly engaged with Karolina’s story, and accurately reflects the world of an adolescent which is always evolving and presenting new challenges.

 

Julia: Riding is obviously of vital importance in The Equestrienne, but why do you think Kovalyk chose to focus on this sport in particular? What did it add to the novella?

Sian: There is a sense of disapproval surrounding Karolina’s interest in riding, as opposed to a more conventional sport. She is encouraged to take up swimming and gymnastics as a young child, but despite these influences by her family and within her school, she chooses riding. It seems that riding is viewed as an elite sport, which is interesting for a story based in a communist society, and Karolina is not deemed as belonging to this “class” of people. It is that sense of disapproval, and overcoming the doubts of others, that I feel emphasises Kovalyk’s message of pursuing dreams and ambitions regardless of how others perceive them. That may have been why she chose to focus on riding, as it seems to convey that a child’s dreams should not be invalidated and that, regardless of how unachievable a goal may seem, it is accessible with courage and determination. In terms of what riding contributes to the novel, I think that it is something that many people understand. Reading this novella about a young girl who does not give in to the disapproval of others, and instead is persistent, seems to contribute to the sense of achievement when Karolina finally succeeds.

 

Julia: The story mainly focuses upon two teenage characters – Karolina and Romana – were they believable? Relatable?

Sian: Kovalyk definitely portrayed Karolina and Romana as human, rather than being overly-generalised or caricatures of teenage girls. There were many aspects of their personalities with which I could connect, and they were therefore relatable in many ways. For example, the friendship between Karolina and Romana consisted of many elements that many other teenage girls also experience, and this allowed me to engage with the characters and feel a deeper understanding for their emotions and actions. However, I feel that Kovalyk did not write generic characters, they were authentic and unique, while possessing qualities in which many teenagers would be able to find themselves.

 

Julia: Have you read any other books that have been translated into English from another language? After reading this, are you interested in reading more works in translation?

Sian: The Equestrienne is the first work in translation that I have read, and it has given me an excellent impression of translated literature. While reading this novella, I was reminded of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief; while this book was originally written in English, the narration and dialogue contains many phrases in German, reflecting the story’s setting in Molching (a fictional town located on the outskirts of Munich). In The Equestrienne, some phrases that have remained in Slovak following the book’s translation into English, which enables the reader to become immersed in the society in which these characters live, and maintains Kovalyk’s natural style of writing within the English translation. Seeing the success of The Equestrienne through its nomination for the 2017 First Book Award demonstrates the importance and relevance of works in translation, a genre I now realise is under-represented and underappreciated. Before reading this novella, I had not fully recognised how writing styles across the world could be so distinctive and vary so significantly, and I am very interested in reading more works in translation after being so inspired by The Equestrienne.

Internship Experiences at Parthian – Eva and Owen

[Originally published on the Parthian website, June 13, 2017.]

Former Parthian interns Eva Queguiner and Owen Locke write about their experiences at Parthian; the jobs they were given and how they found the placements.

Eva Queguiner

I am currently in my final year at the Université de Bretagne Occidentale (UBO) in France, where I studied languages (English, Spanish) and international commerce. As part of my course, I needed to find an internship in a company abroad. During three months at Parthian Books, I learned a lot about the publishing industry as well asabout my personal skills. Parthian looks to find each intern’s individual abilities and therefore it distributes work according to each person.

Over the three months, I had the opportunity to undertake a diverse range of assignments and tasks that suited me well, such as reading manuscripts and writing reader reports to help editors ascertain the quality of each manuscript and whether to move forward with publication. I also helped to promote events by updating the Parthian website and their various social media pages.  However, one of the duties that I enjoyed most is the creation of graphic presentations with page layout software applications such as InDesign. The first page layout project on which I worked is the book launch of Cheval 10, a collection of poetry and short stories from the entrants of the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Award 2017. To promote this event, I was responsible for the creation of an electronic poster advertising the book, which was displayed throughout the university on the interactive screens.

I also participated in diverse literary events such as the London Book Fair, the Hay Festival and a book sale in the picturesque village of Llandeilo. It was a great opportunity to travel throughout Wales and the UK and discover a culture different from my own. Indeed, it was the first time I travelled in a foreign country and Swansea was a warm and welcoming place to live.

Overall, this internship at Parthian was an enjoyable experience, personally and professionally, that give me the opportunity to understand how a small independent publisher works and to discover the culture of Wales. I am grateful to Parthian for this great experience.

 

Owen Locke

I’ve spent an amazing few weeks with Parthian, and it’s tough knowing that soon it will cometo an end. It will be strange not coming into the office every morning, setting up my computer and waiting for another day to just fly by. It will be so weird not having a dozen tabs open to a dozen social media feeds at one time. And it will be hard not having whole days of bookish activity and conversation ahead of me, to be indulged in with people who, after only a short amount of time, have come to be my friends. But, despite my sadness at the thought of leaving, I’m coming away with so much excellent experience and so many happy memories from my time at Parthian, and that’s what I’m here to tell you about.

The Parthian Marketing and Editing Office is situated at the centre of Swansea University’s Singleton campus, and as I am a Swansea University student looking at a career in publishing, this was the perfect chance to gain some experience in the industry. The Employability Office here at Swansea is always e-mailing us with opportunities to enhance our CV’s, and this was an opportunity that really caught my eye. I applied without delay, and before I knew it, I was being sent a task to complete: a blog post to write and ways in which to market the post online. It was an excellent way to get a flavour of what we would be asked to do on the placement; I finished and submitted the piece faster than anything I’ve done before, and from there, all I could do was keep my fingers crossed! I was invited to interview and, meeting the wonderful people working at Parthian and seeing their lively office, I knew this was the perfect place to gain some publishing experience.

My application was successful and suddenly I was sat in the Parthian office, amazed to be there. My supervisors were fantastic: they gave clear instructions, offered help whenever it was needed and maintained a constant stream of tea and coffee. They were also incredibly flexible when it came to my timetable: the placement fell on the eve of my final exams and they were more than happy to accommodate my study and exam schedules to ensure I achieved good results, as well as a first-class experience in the office.

Assigned a range of tasks in different areas of marketing and editing, I began to get a feel for what I did and didn’t like in the publishing game. I’ll never be a designer, as I learned when making a poster for an upcoming event, but my passion will always be writing, and so I was set to work managing the company’s social media accounts, updating their blog and submitting reader’s reports of the manuscripts that crowded the desks and the mailbox! My supervisor made sure I was always doing something I enjoyed and that each job played a true role in the day’s work. There was no mindless photocopying or throwaway tasks for the interns: everything I worked on influenced the company. A particularly proud moment for me was when an idea of mine – a social media campaign centred on International Coffee Day – was given the go-ahead. Having that sort of true effect on the work Parthian does only drove me to work harder.

Another facet of working for Parthian were the events they hold to showcase their authors andtheir work. Getting to attend book signings and literary festivals which featured Parthian authors was a privilege I never envisaged when applying. These events stretched from Swansea to Llansteffan, Hay-on-Wye to Fishguard; I couldn’t attend them all, but those I missed felt like missed opportunities. Parthian was always offering me new skills and ways to be a part of the publishing industry, and being able to be a part of and to attend these events, was an amazing experience.

All good things must come to an end, or so the cliché goes, but I wish my placement at Parthian would keep going and going. I’ll never forget the skills, experiences and contacts I was introduced to during my time there, no more than I will forget that cosy and chaotic office and the amazing friends I made there. If you get the chance of a placement at Parthian: take it. I promise you: you will not regret it.