interviews

Chris Mlalazi

1/First emotions linked to written words?
Letters and how they are arranged into words and then sentences and paragraphs and so forth into sections and chapters and right on into full stories has always been a world wonder to me. It is a magical construction born from the inventiveness of mankind, just like some birds build their intricate nests, the spiders their webs. In my case, I was attracted to the aesthetics of stories as a child even before I learned how to read and write, and so when I began my primary school and started reading stories, this opened a whole new and vast world for me. The written word is a value to mankind that has to be treated with respect, and care taken that it is not abused and employed to bring harm to others as some twisted people now and then try to.

2/What made you the man you are today?
An appreciation that this is a beautiful world that we live in, and that despite adversity that sometimes falls on us, we must not give up, but fight to overcome it if we can, because just as the sun sets everyday, tomorrow there is always a dawn. We must not forget that happiness, strength and creativity is our gift from God, and it is always lying just around the bend of the river waiting for us to row there.

3/If writing/writers didn’t exist, what would you do?
Then I would be part of the oral storytelling movement, yes that old fashioned type where you have people sitting around you by a fire deep in the night with the stars shining and all. If not that, I know I would be engaged in some other creative endeavor whose end result would still be to try to tell stories as a way of entertainment, education, and the appreciation of art.

4/The sense of responsibility of a writer?
First and foremost the writers responsibility is to produce good stories in whatever genre you are occupied in, stories that makes us appreciate the beauty of life and respect for other people. But that comes with pointing at the ‘ugly’ through the same stories as metaphor of our internal struggles. And so through a process of problem identification for the conflicts for our stories, we learn to analyze what is happening around us in real life, and sometimes really get angry at it, and which sometimes might be the catalyst for the writer to attempt to be a voice for the downtrodden or something like that, and for me this is the core of responsibility.

5/How does the future look like?
Climate change is a big worry, and we are all collectively responsible for it no matter where you come from. It hovers over global human conflict like a giant dragon that when it rears its head, we will all forget about our petty squabbles and all come together to try to save the world. But, this is life, it has always been like this, a mixture of strife, peace, and creativity. This is our jam and butter, and we must not forget to find moments where we can laugh about it all and just be happy.

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Martin MacIntyre

1/First emotions linked to written words?
I think I have clearer emotional memories of stories been told to me within the oral tradition and my desire to hear more or hear the same ones again. I enjoyed the cadences and drama of their telling and while growing up I was exposed to different styles and different tellers. Initially written words were more associated with school and thus the ‘work’ of reading and to stories that did not have the same depth or complexity as the oral ones. Once I was reading independently and more for pleasure this reversed and I suppose oral stories receded somewhat until adulthood when my own interest in learning and telling them began to once again complement both my reading and fiction and poetry writing.

2/What made you the man you are today?
Family and close friends, communities (physical and of mutual interest), Scotland, Gaelic, travel, medicine, parenthood, running, literature – storytelling and writing.

3/If writing/writers didn’t exist?
The world would be bereft of many different stories and perspectives expressed with words in some very different ways. Many of the contradictions and injustices of the world would continue un-exposed. Key colours of beauty would be missing from life’s cultural spectrums.

4/Is there something like a sense of responsibility toward books?
I’m sure there is. Bookshop owners and librarians stock and care for them physically and let those interested have access. Writers create and if what they create is best displayed in books then great – sometimes other forms or media are more useful to their purpose.

5/How does the future look like?
Bright. More people than ever are engaging in writing and literature (in some form) and access is much enhanced. More languages and dialects are seen as valid in terms of telling stories to wider audiences.