Thursday, June 16, 2011

My favorate quote from White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Archie Jones attempted suicide because his wife Ophelia, a violet-eyed Italian with a faint moustache, had recently divorced him. But he had not spent New Year's morning gagging on the tube of a vacuum cleaner because he loved her. It was rather because he had lived with her for so long and had not loved her. Archie's marriage felt like buying a pair of shoes, taking them home and finding they don't fit. For the sake of appearances, he put up with them. And then, all of a sudden and after thirty years, the shoes picked themselves up and walked out of the house. She left. Thirty years.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On Writing: The Short Story Edition, with Ava Homa | Open Book: Toronto

On Writing: The Short Story Edition, with Ava Homa | Open Book: Toronto

This summer Open Book will be checking in with short story writers and publishers to celebrate and explore a genre in which anything is possible. Today we talk to Ava Homa, a Kurdish-Canadian writer-in-exile and the author of Echoes from the Other Land (TSAR Publications), a collection of short stories about the resistance of modern Iranian women. Echoes from the Other Land was recently shortlisted for the 2011 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.

Ava Homa will be reading from her collection at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15th at the North York Central Library. Visit our Events page for more details.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book, Echoes from the Other Land.

Ava Homa:

Echoes from the Other Land is a collection of short stories about resistance of modern Iranian women in post-Revolution Iran. Let me quote some reviewers in response to your questions.

Gavin Wolch writes, Echoes from the Other Land is carefully crafted in a realist style but when compared to homogenized portrayals of Iran in the western media, the reader’s experience more closely resembles the surreal. For a western reader the conflict of the real and the surreal resonates — it echoes — and does not fade away. Echoes from the Other Land is a rare experience. A western reader is confronted not with a didactic tale of oppression or a stark narrative of an alien culture — Iranian — from across the globe. Instead these stories are dry-witted and at times shockingly funny.”

Susan Holbrook, poet and professor, says, “Ranging across regions, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and political dispositions, Homa’s characters give us a prismatic portrait of Iran that resists both internal tyrannies and Western demonization. Her style is elegantly spare, gem-solid. This is a voice we all need to hear.”


What was most challenging about writing or publishing this collection?


I was very lucky when it came to publishing. I sent my manuscript to TSAR and M.G. Vassanji loved my stories. Writing, however, was full of challenges. Due to the severe censorship in Iran, my stories were not published. In Canada, writing in English was a challenge because English is my third language. I did not learn it as a child, nor did I learn it in an English-speaking country. Speaking in a foreign language is completely different from creating stories in a foreign language. This was like a disability that would make writing slow and at times painful for me. Maybe it’s for the same reason that I am the only Iranian-Canadian novelist who publishes in English. Others write in Farsi or in different genres. That means I don’t have a community of writers to share manuscripts with or receive support from. In addition, being in exile makes life — and therefore writing — difficult. I am far from loved ones and I write about a place that I am not at, that I am not allowed to be at.


How do you know when the germ of an idea will be the right fit for a short story?


I wouldn’t know until I polish a presentable draft, leave it for a while and then read it again or read it aloud to somebody who has read a lot of books. When nobody is available (which is the case most of the time) I record my own voice and listen to it sometimes later. That’s when I decide if the story works or not and if I can work it out or totally throw it away. My collection has only seven stories in it. I have written more than 50 stories.


What do you enjoy most about the process of writing a short story?


I love how a story grows and shapes. It’s like watching an infant grow up, smile and cry. Crafting a story is a lot of work but has a thrilling joy for me.


How do you make a character vibrant and realistic in just a few pages?


And that’s why I said crafting a story is a lot of work. The moment I decide to write a story is when a character comes alive in my head and I have a vague sense of what would happen to that character. Before I write the story, or while I work on it, I live with the characters in my head. I get excited and sad with them. Before I write about a character, I know their past, present and future because I believe characters don’t just walk into my story out of nowhere. I know the details of their personal, social, psychological and economic lives. I know what they look like and how they feel about their look…

One weekend, about six years ago, I was at my computer when I felt my eyes were tired. I noticed that it was evening and I had been sitting at my computer and writing since morning without feeling tired, hungry or thirsty. What’s more is that when my characters run, I sweat at my computer. I am not sure how strange or normal that is. Anyway, my point is that without knowing much about a character and living with her/him for a while, a short story writer cannot “make a character vibrant and realistic in a few pages.”


What recurring themes or obsessions do you notice turning up in your short stories?


It’s interesting that you say “notice turning up” because it is something that I discover later when I look at all of my stories. I guess feeling suffocation, self-alienation and hope are among my recurring themes. My characters are farther away from themselves than they think. A smart reader would know more about my characters than the characters themselves. For example, in “Silk Shawl” a couple is sitting at a coffee shop talking about the possible US invasion of Iran, the horror of war and all that. But when readers dig deep, they realize the couple is actually talking about their endangered relationship and the horror of having it shattered.


Is there such a thing as a perfect short story? What story have you read that's come closest?


Good question! Maybe no, but comparatively speaking some stories are significantly more powerful than others. Some of the stories I re-read and continue to learn from are “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver, “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes,” by J.D. Salinger, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.


What would you say to convince someone who is "more into novels" to give short fiction a try?


I’m surprised that short stories are still less popular despite the demands of modern life — I mean lack of time, ever-developing technology etc. You can read a short story at one sitting, devour it and let it grow in your head for the rest of the day or night. Good stories don’t die when you finish reading them; they continue to grow in your head. They are by far more thought-provoking and in that sense much more rewarding than few hundred pages' stretch of the same character! How can anybody NOT enjoy a beautiful short story! Well, give Echoes from the Other Land a try. I guarantee that you will like it!

Ava Homa has an MA in English and Creative Writing and an MA in English Language and Literature. Echoes from the Other Land, her collection of short stories, was published by TSAR Publications. Ava’s writing has appeared in English and Farsi publications including the Toronto Star and the Windsor Review. She was a freelancer and a member of faculty in Iran. Now living in Toronto, Ava writes and teaches Creative Writing, English and ESL. Find out more by visiting her website and her blog.

For more information about Echoes from the Other Land please visit the TSAR Publications website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Friday, June 10, 2011

An excellent opportunity for the writers


Do you enjoy writing and want to learn how to take your craft to the next level?
Are you a professional writer looking to brush up your promotional skills?
The Write Words Seminar is for you.
This enlightening and informative seminar will take you on a journey from inspiration to creation.
 It will cover a variety of topics pertaining to the world of words, from overcoming writer's block to effectively using social media.
 Get tips on harnessing your writing style, choosing the right publisher and marketing your work successfully. 

The Write Words Seminar will be conducted by author and professional spoken word artist, Sheniz Janmohamed (MFA in Creative Writing) who has been mentored by GG winners Dionne Brand and Thomas king to name a few. 


Wednesday July 6th, 2011
6 - 9 pm at The Canada Room, Markham Civic Centre
FREE (pre-registration required)
Refreshments will be provided.
For more information, contact the Markham Arts Council at             905.947.9054      

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thrilling Tales Series snags Ava Homa

Ava Homa, author of Echoes from the Other Land will be reading selections from her short story collection on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 2:00 p.m., in Room 1 at North York Central Library.  Her reading is part of the Thrilling Tales series for adults.
 Echoes from the Other Land is one of seven Canadian titles that was just short listed for the 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.
Ava is a Kurdish-Canadian, writer-in-exile, with two Masters’ degrees one in  English and another in Creative Writing and English Language and Literature.  “Echoes from the Other Land” has a running theme of resistance by modern Iranian women under an oppressive regime.  The stories are told on a universal scale, depicting human endurance, desire and passion.
Ava’s writings have appeared in English and Farsi journals, as well as the Windsor  Review and the Toronto Star newspaper.   She was a writer in Iran, and university faculty member. In Toronto, Ava writes and teaches Creative Writing, English, and English as a Second Language
Please join us to hear Ava Homa read her thrilling tales!

Echoesfromanotherland Ava homa
     Ava Homa

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review of Echoes From The Other Land by Farzana Doctor, author of Six Metre of Pavement

When Ava Homa read the short story, Glass Slippers, at the Brockton Writers Series, I knew I wanted to read her new short story collection, Echoes From The Other Land (TSAR, 2011). Glass Slippers is about a young woman who learns of her loving husband's secret. Despite all the clues, she naively believes that the bra she finds in his drawer suggests that he is having an affair. Much of the story takes place in a storage room, a confining and hidden place from where the protagonist and her suspicious sister carry out their surveillance of her street, waiting for the "other woman" to turn up.

Homa's writing is non-linear, seeming to travel in concentric circles, details almost stealthily offered until a full picture of her characters' worlds is eventually revealed. Setting and emotion tie together well; at one point we are in the storage room, then in the thick of memory, back again with two sisters arguing while balancing precariously on electronic equipment, and finally, in a bedroom, seeing the truth with wide eyes. There were a few moments where this style made me work hard as a reader, almost interrupting the story, but in most places its impact was delightful and suprising.

Many of her stories contain themes of tense relationships between Iranian men and women and her female characters bring with them a wide range in perspectives and approaches to the world around them. One character copes with her emotionally abusive husband, while he seems confused about the reasons for his behaviour. A young divorcee struggles with a man who elicits a push-pull within her. A newly married woman seeks emotional revenge upon the husband she believes cheated on her with a relative. The voices are strong, distinct, diverse.

She deftly describes the impacts of living within an Islamic Republic where religious police monitor behaviour. In Silk Shawl, bitter and angry Noushin attends a party and describes a young man's outfit: "He was in a gray shirt and pair of jeans--torn ones, the current fashion. Had he appeared in public in those pants, they would have arrested him in a second. He must have changed here, too. Young men carrying bags of clothing to change at parties! Jailed just for carrying those. It would be awesome if I could hide his public pants."

Her book has been long-listed for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Echoes from the Other Land is nominated for the world's largest short story award

  Echoes From the Other Land is nominated for the world's largest short story award: International Frank O'Connor short story prize, 2011.  

Echoes from the Other Land featured in a full page review in a Kurdish national newspaper, Bas

ئاڤا هوما: به‌داخه‌وه‌ له‌ كوردستان خه‌ڵكى بێگانه‌ له‌ كورد زیاتر رێزى ده‌گیرێ

ئه‌گه‌رچى تا ئێسته‌ ته‌نیا یه‌ك په‌رتووكى چاپكراوى هه‌یه‌، به‌ڵام میدیا و ناوه‌ندى رۆشنبیریى كه‌نه‌دایى بایه‌خێكى دیارى به‌ "زایه‌ڵه‌كانى نیشتمانه‌كه‌ى دى"ی  نۆبه‌ره‌ى به‌رهه‌مى ئه‌ده‌بى ژنه‌ نووسه‌رى كوردى نیشته‌جێى كه‌نه‌دا "ئاڤا هوما" دا.
ئاڤا كه‌ له‌ تارانى پێته‌ختى ئێران له‌دایك بووه‌ و له‌ شارى سنه‌ى رۆژهه‌ڵاتى كوردستان گه‌وره‌ بووه‌، دوو ماسته‌رى له‌ زمان و ئه‌ده‌بى ئینگلیزى و نووسینى داهێنه‌رانه‌ له‌ ئێران و كه‌نه‌دا وه‌رگرتووه‌.
ئاڤا پێیوایه‌ هۆكارى ئه‌وه‌ى كتێبه‌كه‌ى كه‌ له‌ حه‌وت چیرۆك پێكهاتووه‌، بووه‌ته‌ جێى بایه‌خى راگه‌یاندنى كه‌نه‌دایى ته‌نیا له‌به‌ر نێوه‌ڕۆكى چیرۆكه‌كانه‌ كه‌ به‌شێوه‌یه‌كى سه‌رنجڕاكێشى راستگۆیانه‌وه‌ باس له‌ خه‌م و ناسۆر و خواست و هیواكانى خه‌ڵكى كوردستان و ئێران ده‌كات، هه‌روه‌ها ته‌كنیك و ستایلى نووسینى هوما هۆكارێكى دیكه‌ى سه‌رنجڕاكێشانى كه‌نه‌داییه‌كانه‌ به‌لاى چیرۆكه‌كاندا كه‌ ساڵى 2010 له‌لایه‌ن وه‌شانخانه‌ى TSAR له‌ تۆرۆنتۆ چاپ و بڵاو كرایه‌وه‌.
نووسه‌رى كه‌نه‌دى لویس سه‌برى له‌باره‌ى ئاڤاوه‌ ده‌ڵێ "نووسینه‌كانى ئاڤا تێكه‌ڵه‌یه‌كن له‌ دڵه‌ڕاوكێ و جوانى، كه‌متر گاڵته‌جاڕییه‌ و پتر ئومێدبه‌خشینه‌". سوزن مه‌كلیلاندى نووسه‌ر و رۆژنامه‌ڤانى كه‌نه‌دیش له‌باره‌ى كتێبه‌كه‌وه‌ ده‌ڵێ "كتێبه‌كه‌ى  ئاڤا هێنده‌ سه‌رنجڕاكێشه‌ كه‌ ده‌ستت به‌ خوێندنه‌وه‌ی كرد، ئیدى وازى لێ ناهێنى هه‌تا ته‌واوى نه‌كه‌ى".
له‌باره‌ى  ئه‌وه‌ى ئایا ئه‌و پتر خۆى پێ ئێرانییه‌ یان كورد ، ئاڤا به‌ حه‌سره‌ته‌وه‌ ده‌ڵێ "خوزگه‌ من به‌ ته‌نیا كورد بام، به‌ڵام چی بكه‌م ئێسته‌ كوردێكى ئێرانیم، ئه‌گه‌رچى پتر خۆم به‌ كورد ده‌زانم، به‌ڵام ناشتوانم نكوڵی له‌ ئێرانیبوونه‌كه‌شم بكه‌م. نكارم ئه‌وه‌ش فه‌رامۆش بكه‌م كه‌ من له‌ كوردستان گه‌وره‌ بووم و زۆربه‌ى خزم و كه‌سوكار و خۆشه‌ویسته‌كانم له‌ كوردستان ده‌ژین". ئاڤا ئه‌گه‌رچى حه‌زى له‌ هه‌موو كولتوور و ئه‌ده‌بیاتێكه‌ "به‌ڵام هیچ شتێك هێنده‌ى میوزیك و شیعرى كوردى كار له‌ روحى من ناكات".
ئه‌و خانمه‌ نووسه‌ره‌ كورده‌ به‌ نیگه‌رانییه‌وه‌ دان به‌وه‌دا ده‌نێ كه‌ زۆر ئاگه‌دارى ئه‌ده‌بیاتى كوردى نییه‌، هۆكاره‌كه‌شى وه‌ك خۆى ده‌ڵێ ئه‌وه‌یه‌ "چونكه‌ وه‌ك ده‌زانن له‌ كوردستانى ئێران رێگه‌ به‌ خوێندن به‌ زمانى كوردى نادرێت". به‌ڵام له‌گه‌ڵ ئه‌وه‌شدا ئاڤا ئه‌وه‌ى هه‌ر له‌یاد ماوه‌ كه‌ له‌ منداڵیدا زۆر حه‌زى له‌ خوێندنه‌وه‌ بووه‌ و باوكى كتێبێكى كوردیى به‌ناوى "ئه‌ستێره‌كان سڵاو"ى بۆ كڕیوه‌ و بۆى خوێندووه‌ته‌وه‌، هه‌روه‌ها له‌ ته‌مه‌نى هه‌رزه‌كاریشدا پووره‌كانى (سوڕه‌ییا و موحته‌ره‌م) دیوانه‌ شیعرى كوردییان بۆ كڕیوه‌ تا بیخوێنێته‌وه‌. ئاڤا ده‌ڵێ ئه‌و زۆر به‌ شیعره‌كانى هه‌ژار و هێمن موكریانى و نووسینه‌كانى به‌ختیار عه‌لى سه‌رسامه‌.
مانگى رابردوو ئاڤا بۆ یه‌كه‌مین جار سه‌ردانى باشوورى كوردستانى كرد، له‌باره‌ى ئه‌وه‌ى چى سه‌رنجى راكێشاوه‌ ده‌ڵێ "ئه‌وه‌ى سه‌رنجى راكێشام ئه‌و ئاوێته‌بوونه‌ بوو له‌ نێوان هاوچه‌رخى و نه‌ریتى، ده‌وڵه‌مه‌ندى و هه‌ژارى، ئازادى و داخراوی، به‌ڵام ئه‌وه‌ى زۆر ئازارم ده‌دات باوه‌ڕ به‌خۆ نه‌بوونى كورده‌". هه‌روه‌ها زۆر نیگه‌رانیشه‌ له‌وه‌ى ژنانى كورد زۆر ده‌چه‌وسێنرێنه‌وه‌ وپه‌راوێز خراون، به‌ڵام ده‌شڵێ "هه‌رچه‌نده‌ پیاوى كوردى زۆر مێشك كراوه‌م دیتوون به‌ڵام ده‌توانم بڵێم كۆمه‌ڵگه‌ى ئێمه‌ زۆر تووندوتیژه‌ به‌رامبه‌ر ژنان، له‌ كاتێكدا ده‌بووایه‌ به‌ پێچه‌وانه‌وه‌ پیاوى كورد زۆر نه‌رمونیان بووایه‌ به‌رامبه‌ر ژن و رێزى بگرتایه‌".
دواجار ئاڤا به‌سه‌رهاتێكى ناخۆش له‌  سه‌ردانه‌كه‌ى هه‌رێمى كوردستان بۆ (باس ) ده‌دركێنێ ئه‌ویش كاتێك ده‌گه‌ڕێته‌وه‌ به‌ره‌و كه‌نه‌دا، له‌ فرۆكه‌خانه‌ى نێوده‌وڵه‌تیى هه‌ولێر زۆر ته‌نگى پێهه‌ڵده‌چنن و جانتاكانى یه‌ك به‌ یه‌ك پێ ده‌كه‌نه‌وه‌، هه‌رچه‌نده‌ ئه‌و به‌ كوردیش قسه‌ى له‌گه‌ڵ كردوون و زانیویشیانه‌ كه‌ كورده‌ "ئه‌گه‌ر ئه‌و كاره‌یان له‌گه‌ڵ هه‌موو گه‌شتیاران بكردایه‌ كارێكى ئاسایى بوو، به‌ڵام به‌داخه‌وه‌ ته‌نیا له‌گه‌ڵ منیان كرد و زۆر رێزیان له‌ هاوڕێ چاوشین و قژ زه‌رده‌ بیانییه‌كه‌م نا، به‌ڕاستى جێى داخه‌ له‌ كوردستان، خه‌ڵكى بیانى له‌ ئێمه‌ زیاتر جێى متمانه‌ و باوه‌ڕ بێت. بیانییه‌كان ته‌نیا بۆ قازانجى خۆیان دێنه‌ كوردستان، به‌ڵام ئێمه‌ دڵ و گیانمان بۆ كوردستان لێده‌دات، بۆیه‌ هه‌ق نییه‌ بێڕێزیمان پێ بكرێت، به‌تایبه‌تى له‌ پێش چاوى خه‌ڵكى بێگانه‌".

ئاڤا هوما
- له‌ تاران له‌دایك بووه‌ و له‌ سنه‌ گه‌وره‌ بووه‌.
- دوو ماسته‌رى له‌ زمان و ئه‌ده‌بیاتى ئینگلیزى له‌ زانستگه‌ى عه‌لامه‌ى ته‌باته‌بایى له‌ تاران و نووسینى داهێنه‌رانه‌ له‌ زانكۆى وینزه‌رى كه‌نه‌دا وه‌رگرتووه‌.
- ئێسته‌ له‌ شارى تۆرۆنتۆى كه‌نه‌دا نییشته‌جێیه‌ و خه‌ریكى كارى نووسین و ده‌رس گوتنه‌وه‌ى ئینگلیزییه‌.