Laura May Webb is currently working as an intern assisting with the marketing of the new Parthian Baltic Series, having recently completed her PhD in contemporary Argentine literature at Swansea University.
In December of 2017 I submitted my PhD thesis…and panicked. What next? As a single parent of three children aged ten and under, my career options are, shall we say, slightly restricted. The thesis had taken up most of my time the past six years. Raising children and studying at the same time didn’t leave much time for work experience (or sleep…).
My PhD is in Latin American literary studies and before that I had studied for a Masters degree in literary translation. Having done some freelance translation and proofreading, I was interested in publishing from various angles. In January of 2018, full of New Year’s enthusiasm and fuelled by a brief existential crisis, I contacted Parthian to ask if they had any work experience opportunities and applied for a marketing internship.
I started in February 2018 and although I felt completely out of my depth (it’s not easy to go from being an expert in one area to a novice in another), I was excited to start a new project. I would be working with editor Alison Evans on the new Parthian Baltic series which features new Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian literature translated into English.
I had a clear brief of what I would be doing and checked in via email with Alison and the rest of the team on the occasions I was unable make it into the office. The team were all very friendly and supportive and especially understanding during the various personal crises and obstacles that occurred that affected my internship journey and included a spectacular vomiting incident from my youngest child on day one of my placement, a funeral on week two, a good dose of flu just over a month in and my Viva exam towards the end.
From practical tasks such as compiling author biographies and creating and updating spreadsheets, contacting potential book stockists and organisations, to more creative endeavours, such as pitching and writing a review of the Baltic poetry for the Wales Arts Review (you can read the article here http://www.walesartsreview.org/bad-girls-women-in-baltic-poetry/), during my internship experience at Parthian I have been able to not only use the skills I already have, but have learnt and developed new skills and gained knowledge that I know will benefit me in the future. I have been stretched, and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. I have made valuable contacts and gained as much from the whole experience of being welcomed in and treated as part of the team and observing and participating in the running of an independent publishing house as I have from the specific tasks assigned to me.
I sincerely hope to work with Parthian again in the future and look forward to seeing what they do next.
Eleanor Fraser is a current intern at Parthian, working as an editorial assistant on the upcoming anthology of queer Welsh short stories. Here she talks of her experiences working at Parthian so far.
The project I am involved with is an new anthology of queer welsh writing, featuring short stories from across the decades in a wide range of genres. The collection’s spectrum of voices present a varied and rich exploration into what it means to be queer and Welsh.
I applied for the internship as an editorial assistant with Parthian as I felt this was the perfect opportunity in regards to both my current studies at Swansea University and my future career prospects. I’m currently reading English Literature at Masters level, with a focus upon Welsh writing in English. I am looking to pursue a career in publishing after graduation, particularly with a Welsh literary publishing house such as Parthian, and so this internship felt like the perfect fit. It not only allowed me to contribute to the anthology with practical contributions, such as scanning and typing, but also will give me the chance to have a say on the marketing and social media surrounding the project. It’s rewarding to know that will have made a real contribution to this publication, and it’s something that I will be very proud of once it is finished.
The prospect of having hands-on experience with the day-to-day of a publishing house was very exciting to me, particularly as it was with a focus upon the upcoming anthology of queer short-stories. The writing of marginalized groups has always fascinated me: my undergraduate dissertation centred around minority women’s writing in twentieth century America, and my planned master’s thesis will cover magical realism within a Welsh context. As magical realism is a genre generally used by groups who have been outcast from society in some way, whether in a colonial or social context, my dissertation will include many queer and marginalised Welsh authors, some of whom have been included in this collection.
As an editorial assistant on this anthology, I have worked on a variety of tasks, such as organizing and compiling data on the texts shortlisted for inclusion, in addition to typing up manuscripts from translations and scanning in stories from existing compilations. Being able to work with texts from some of my favourite Welsh authors, such as Margiad Evans and Glyn Jones, has been a real pleasure, and I have been able to explore the works of so many authors who I may never have come across outside of this internship. These writers will definitely be useful in my research of modern Welsh writers for my dissertation, opening new pathways which I had previously not known. A task which I particularly enjoyed was typing up the manuscripts, as it was an exciting privilege to interact with these texts at such a crucial stage in publication and experience the stories as I typed them up. It was so enjoyable it didn’t feel like work at all! Some of the texts that I had the pleasure of typing up were fantastic; humorous and tragic at turns, but always gripping and unexpected until the end. In the stories I scanned from existing collections as well, there were some notable examples of brilliant short story writing.
One such text was ‘The Kiss’ by Glyn Jones. It’s a brief, poetic tale of two brothers returning from the pit, one of them horrifically injured, which combines a gritty coalfields setting, typical of mid-twentieth century South Wales literature, with strongly religious, allegorical imagery. The story is beautifully written, with the religious overtones presented in a narrative style resembling a magical, dark folk tale. The ending was particularly striking, as the entire story was building up to culminate in this single act, a kiss, only for it to be given in the final lines in the most unexpected way. The ‘queer’ element of Jones’ tale is subtle, making it, in my view, even more powerful.
Another of the stories which I enjoyed greatly was Margiad Evans’ ‘A Modest Adornment’, which was originally published in her 1948 collection of short stories, The Old and the Young. In stark contrast to ‘The Kiss’, ‘A Modest Adornment’ feels quaint and pastoral, the characters an entertaining mixture of realist and melodramatic caricature. The humour and light tone of the text, however, only adds to the touching nature of the tale’s concluding reveal, and Evans’ easy, natural authorial voice makes for a thoroughly entertaining read.
Whilst I was well acquainted with the works of Evans and Jones, I was not however aware of Bertha Thomas, a nineteenth century writer whose tale, ‘A House That Was’, was an interesting piece of historical writing under the ‘queer’ literary label. Her brief narrative of an outsider’s view on Wales and a short-lived connection between two strangers is almost Gothic in tone, and whilst it may not have the timeless feel of the stories of Jones and Evans, it was nonetheless an interesting introduction to a Welsh writer I had not previously come across, and part of a crucial chapter in the history of queer writing in Wales.
Overall, this internship has been a fantastic opportunity, which I have thoroughly enjoyed so far, and has given me valuable experience in the field. I cannot wait to begin my career in publishing full time, and I look forward to the rest of my internship!
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:
I feel like this almost goes without saying, but being given books is always pretty great – 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.
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.
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’.
Julia 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.
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 theBeing 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.
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.
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.
Book signing at Heath Christian Bookshop at the book launch event.
Nathan Munday’s father and mountaineering companion.
‘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.
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:
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:
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.
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).
John 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).
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.
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.
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”.