Welsh Writer Menna Elfyn in Malta  

See also:

"Invisible" Women's Writing

(Dr. Mary Darmanin)

A Writer on the Outside:

Clare Azzopardi and Karen Vella Interview Menna Elfyn

(The Sunday Times - 14 July 2002)

No to National Language - Or Lashes

(Narcy Calamatta - maltastar.com - Thursday, July 25, 2002)

Menna Elfyn Interviewed by Gillian Bartolo  

(The Malta Independent on Sunday, 28 July, 2002)

The Power to Change

(Maria Grasso - maltastar.com - Saturday, August 17, 2002)

Read Poems by Menna Elfyn

What Menna Elfyn Reads

(Stanley Borg - The Times, May 3, 2003)

Reappropriating Discourse

(Adrian Grima, Clare Azzopardi - Babelmed, 2003)

Menna Elfyn - Royal Literary Fund Fellow

 



Menna Elfyn, an acclaimed Welsh writer of novels, plays and poetry for adults, was in Malta in July 2002 to lead a number of creative writing workshops at St. James Cavalier organized by Inizjamed. Together with Dr. Mary Darmanin she was also a main speaker at a public forum on “Woman Writing” that was held on  Wednesday, 17 July in the Music Room of St. James Cavalier at 7.30pm. The general public was invited to attend and entrance was free.

Menna Elfyn is Poet Laureate for children’s literature in Wales. Although she doesn’t consider herself a “children’s writer”, she loves writing for the 12-14 age group. “It's the perfect age to address, challenging and difficult. It also reminds me of the joys of being a mother, my children's love of life and I get strength from that.”

She was being brought to Malta by the Mediterranean cultural organization Inizjamed in collaboration with the The British Council and with the support of the foundation that runs the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity. Her activities with Inizjamed were coordinated by Clare Azzopardi (right) and Karen Vella.

For many years, Menna Elfyn taught Welsh literature at the University of Lampeter and education at Swansea University. In 1991 she became a freelance writer and now she teaches one day a week in the MA programme in Creative Writing at Carmarthen.

“A Christian Anarchist”

Menna Elfyn was born in 1952. She is a poet, novelist and playwright who writes with passion of the Welsh language and identity. Dense and elliptical, her poems restlessly search for the spiritual within the earthly. She describes herself as a “Christian anarchist” and critic M. Wynn Thomas calls her "one of the most significant poets currently writing in Wales." Her “conspicuous moral and political commitments… are always underwritten by her prior commitment to language. Hers is a subtle politics of parable rather than polemic, and a style in which vulnerability is the other face of daring."

Elfyn has published seven volumes of Welsh-language poetry including Aderyn Bach Mewn Llaw (1990), winner of a Welsh Arts Council Prize, the bilingual Eucalyptus (1995) and her most recent collections, Cell Angel (1996) and Blind Man's Kiss (2000).  She has also written stage plays, television documentaries, and opera libretti. Her television work includes documentaries on Vietnam and on street children.  

When not travelling the world for readings, writing workshops, television work and theatre productions, Elfyn lives in Llandysul, where she is currently editing a major anthology of Welsh poetry in translation. "English," she says, "has enabled me to travel the world and be understood, but the Welsh language is my world." 

Workshops and Forum in Malta

In Malta Menna Elfyn gave two sets of two creative writing workshops to small groups of people at St. James Cavalier. The first two sessions were for women (not necessarily writers) and were held on next Monday and Tuesday, 15 and 16 July, between 6.00pm and 9.00pm. The other two sessions were open for both men and women and were held on Thursday 18 July between 6.00pm and 9.00pm and on Saturday morning between 10.00am and 1.00pm. Participants were all over 18 years old. All workshops were three hours long. 

The public forum on Wednesday, 17 July at St. James Cavalier was organized by Inizjamed with the support of YMCA. Apart from engaging with the audience on the subject of “Woman Writing”, Menna Elfyn read some of her latest work and talked about her novel Rana Rebel. This is a novel about a child soldier who becomes a suicide bomber.

“With all that's happening in the world,” says Menna Elfyn about her latest novel, “I do hope it doesn't get banned before it's read. Literature is the perfect arena to discuss issues that are difficult. Children see terrible images daily and they need to understand what it is that engages young people in battles.”

Elfyn started writing Rana Rebel (ISBN: 1843231735) “after visiting Sri Lanka, but I've taken an active interest in child soldiers. It could be set in Nepal, in Africa, in the Philippines, in Palestine, but it's set in nowhere, more a kind of parable of this luscious place that could be paradise. And the soldier is a girl. That in itself will raise questions I hope.”

Clare Azzopardi

July 2002


 

"Invisible" Women's Writing

 

Reading for a degree in English in the 1970s I became increasingly aware of the divide between the mainly male ‘canon’ promoted as worthy of attention on the course and my own personal interest in ‘invisible’ women’s writing. These works became a lingua franca of our shared young female life and circulated freely amongst friends. My first role model was Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest with her search for a woman’s way of being. Since then scores of others have validated our lives, given voice to our special subjectivities. Not object of another’s gaze, we are subject of our own stories. No subject is too mundane, too secret or too taboo. We write and read our bodies, sexuality, loves, children, politics, fear, anger, chores, hopes, desires, even our slippers, frocks and knickers! No god is too sacred. What pleasure, what solace, what ruptures, what calls (to arms?) these writings bring. Best of all they are shared, bringing us together, taking us out to others, as I hope the Forum will do.

 

Dr. Mary Darmanin

July 2002


 

A Writer on the ‘Outside’

 

Menna Elfyn, a leading Welsh writer of novels and poetry who has recently been made Poet Laureate for children’s literature, will be in Malta to lead a number of creative writing workshops at St. James Cavalier and to present her latest work. She is being brought to Malta by the Mediterranean cultural organization Inizjamed in collaboration with the The British Council. She was interviewed by young Maltese writers Clare Azzopardi (right) and Karen Vella.

 

1.   In your work you strive to promote the Welsh language and its intrinsic link with identity.
 

It's true that I somehow promote the language in my writing but that's only because it IS my identity and the starting point of every writer is - who they are, where they live, what is important to them. It follows, that the language I speak and wish to write in, has an ambivalence to the outer world, having once been banned.

 

I can recall in school, people laughing at me and saying that I was speaking a 'dead language'. I agonised over this.After all my family were all alive and speaking the language as were my friends and community. Yet, officially, until we actively campaigned to change all that, insisting on Welsh being allowed to be official, the language was seen as a 'curse'. It also became my personal 'curse', My private language. If I couldn't speak it without it being deemed as less urgent than English then, I would write it, in diaries, in stories, in poems. Nothing gives a writer more energy than to be on the 'outside'. In fact the writer is always in exile.

 

The minority language is now accepted as official: schools, all government bodies, television, they all are part of a new confidence in the language. But the sad fact remains, only 20% of the people still speak it...  and the new in-migration of English people to the west is a huge social problem for the language.

 

2.     You call yourself a "Christian anarchist". Why do you choose to wear these robes?
 

I hate labels but it all started jokingly. I suppose I am really a post-Christian. My father was a preacher/minister and so I grew up with theology, loving Christ but hating the Yahweh of the Old Testament and  so forth. Also, I feel a great disdain towards institutions (they have upheld a very male view of God). So I guess, I have a God-problem. I’m fascinated by religions, however, and regret the distance (wars) between them. At times I feel a Buddhist; when people attack Muslim faith, I feel I'd like to be a Muslim, and so it continues. That's where the anarchism is within me. It's a constant search, I guess, for the spiritual in life and that crucial question - how can we be merciful in this world?

 

Perhaps I should instead call myself an athiest Christian. That will really confuse people.

 

3.      In your latest collection of poems Blind Man's Kiss we encounter the more mundane, yet intimate details of a woman's life. For example, you talk about female underwear, and with humour delve into all the social/sexual implications this carries for women. Why have you chosen this focus?
 

There are a lot of whimsical poems in Blind Man's Kiss. It is, in many ways, a happier book than Cell Angel [that was written while also writing a book on Violence for Save the Children Fund - and the poems there are rather sad].

 

This shows my true side, I hope. The quirkiness, the whimsical approach to life, the fun, the joy, along with some sombre moments. In Welsh, writing about 'sex' is almost a taboo subject and so I wanted to open it up by writing about it even if it made my usual admirers a bit fearful of where I was going and started all kinds of rumours about my personal life!

 

4.      In many of your works you combine traditional metrical forms and free verse in a curious and interesting way.
 

I would need an hour or two to explain the strict metre, especially in Welsh.

 

We have unique forms here in Wales, and they stem from the 6th century. So it's very old and intricate. Basically, the words in a line have to be chimed, and echoed, with similar consonants all through the line, and sometimes, even with rhymes.

 

It is a form that takes years to master, and to learn it you need a master who knows all the minute rules and regulations. My father was able to write in this way, and I also played with writing these forms, when I was a teenager. (I still do - I'll write a short stanza in this form, sometimes daily, like playing the scales if you play the piano.] It keeps me in trim, But when I was trying to write, as a woman, I felt I had enough restrictions, and captivities without putting myself into this form of poetry.

 

So my poetry is free verse but laced with the strict metre, like an underlay, so it's not noticed. There is something very showy about those who write in strict metre in Welsh and they hold long competitions drawing huge crowds. The battle is called 'cockpit'. Need I say more!
 

5.     You have edited two anthologies of poetry by women. What is your
belief behind setting up a 'space' solely intended for women?

 

Once again, when I started writing in Welsh, there were no women poets as such I could look up to. There was one poet, a farmer, but it was a very lonely existence. My second collection won a big prize, Waiting Rooms, poems written after losing a baby. The response was mixed. Some thought them crude and I guess it was because men had never had to read

about the life of a woman before.

 

My first anthology was a drawing together of some twenty poets in order to try and make a new tradition. But if I'm honest, the poems weren't very startling - they were very conservative as if the women wanted to

try and behave within this very old tradition of poetry. When a new feminist Welsh press asked me to do a second anthology, years later I was adamant that I would ask for daring work, for no holds barred in the writing. And it worked. Many of the poets were young, and have since published their own collections which is exactly what I wanted to happen.
 

6.      You will be leading a series of four creative writing workshops in Malta. How do you go about your writing? Are you disciplined? What do you need around you; what do you avoid? 
 

I’m looking forward to the workshops even if I tend to do things  there that I cannot do myself! It seems to work for others.

 

I take a long time to write anything, I'll write endless notes, grab epigraphs and read a lot... but being satisfied with a poem is another thing. I am very disciplined. I write in the mornings. I try and write till noon and if I have to do so, I'll allow myself more time in the afternoon. Letters, students, my column to the newspaper, endless things to do with writing but not 'real' writing.

 

It's all 'creative' in the end. I write long hand. I still don't trust computers. I like playing with ink, with nice paper, etc. etc.. And I like paints. Sometimes, I'll paint to get a charge and then return to writing. I'm no painter though. Pity!

 

7.      You have recently been made Poet Laureate for children’s literature in Wales. What does this mean to you?
 

This came as a complete shock to be made Poet Laureate, as it's an honorary position and most people don't really think of me as a children's writer. In fact, I'm not really, although I love writing  [and have done books for children] for the 12-14 age group. It's the perfect age to address, challenging and difficult. It also reminds me of the joys of being a mother, my children's love of life and I get strength from that.

 

I guess it will mean less travel, (or so I read in a newspaper!), for one year anyway. I'll try and stay close to homeground though they understand my commitments in the US. I will edit a book for children before the end of the year and I've just written my first commissioned poem for a poster that will go into all schools in Wales. Then there's a television programme to present.

 

The work could be very exhausting, but very rewarding I hope.

 

8.      Any future projects you'd like to tell us about?

 

I have a new novel coming out in October called Rana Rebel. It's about a child soldier who becomes a suicide bomber eventually.

 

With all that's happening in the world I do hope it doesn't get banned before it's read. I do think however that literature is the perfect arena to discuss issues that are difficult. Children see terrible images daily and they need to understand what it is that engages young people in battles. I started writing it after visiting Sri Lanka, but I've taken an active interest in child soldiers. It could be set in Nepal, in Africa, in the Philippines, in Palestine, ... but it's set in nowhere, more a kind of parable of this luscious place that could be paradise.

 

And the soldier is a girl. That in itself will raise questions I hope.

 

I've also been commissioned to write a 50-minute libretto for a composer I've worked with before and a television company will televise it. It's set in Brazil which means, I will probably need to visit there before the end of next spring. That’s going to be difficult with so many other commitments.

 

Then I also want to bring out a Welsh poetry book, my admirers deserve one since I haven't brought out a Welsh only book for more than ten years. That is why they are a little impatient with me, and rightly so.

 

It isn’t fair to them, that my work sells more copies overseas than in Wales. That's the good or bad side of the globalised poet. But my half a million Welsh speakers mean everything to me. They are in fact my muse. They are also my family. Though it gets a little crowded at times, and I'm scolded more often than praised for forgetting them. Which is why it is good to end this conversation with them in mind.

 

June 2002

Published in The Sunday Times (14 July 2002)


No to National Language - Or Lashes
 
“Welsh Not”, written on a board and worn round the neck was only part of the punishment. Culprits even got lashed with a cane at the end of the day. That was the rule in Wales, up to the 1880’s. The use of the national language was forbidden in schools and in official circles.
 
This tit bit was given to us by Menna Elfyn, the Welsh foremost woman poet, at the forum organised by Inizjamed and the British Council at St. James Cavalier, on Wednesday 17th. I was telling this story to an older friend of mine and she recounted how in certain convent schools in Malta the situation was the same some forty years ago. She recalled how in class the girl pupils kept a penny to pass on to each other every time one of them uttered a word in Maltese. The last one to be still holding the penny at the end of the day was punished. She was given a 100 lines, “I must not speak Maltese”.
 
The other contributor on the forum was Dr. Mary Darmanin. “We write and read our bodies, sexuality, loves, children, politics, fear, anger, chores, hopes, desires, even our slippers, frocks and knickers!” said Mary Darmanin. These were her words of encouragement to a score of student, female poets. It makes you think that women are indeed not creatures of a lesser god. Mary Darmanin insists, “…women write to delight!”

Menna Elfyn added that in Wales, female poets had to fight against many prejudices. “When I write am I a Welsh woman, or just a woman?” She explains that writers write to be read as people not as labourers, blacks or Hindi. She quotes archbishop Desmond Tutu, “We are people, through other people.”
 
In
Wales there wasn’t just the national language barrier to be overcome, but also the gender prejudice, class distinction, and skin-colour phobias, (Shirley Bassey is Welsh). After surpassing most of these limitations, Welsh female activists set ‘children’s rights’ as their next goal.
 
The bulk of the forum was taken up by readings of Elfyn’s writings. She read poems in Welsh followed by their translation in English. Each poem was translated into Maltese by Claire Azzopardi and Karen Vella, and read by Marcelle Teuma.
 
The subject matter of Elfyn’s poems is always controversial, and the idiom is not always ‘proper’, as is demanded of a subjugated being. However, as the gospel says, “…out of the mouths of babes…..and if the masses don’t cry out, the very stones of the buildings will…”

Elfyn does not apologise for her style. “When a new feminist Welsh press asked me to do a second anthology, I was adamant that I would ask for daring work, for no-holds-barred in the writing.”

Elfyn has published seven volumes of Welsh-language poetry including Aderyn Mewm Llaw, winner of a Welsh Arts Council prize. She is also a novelist and playwright.
 
Critic M.Wynn Thomas says of Elfyn’s work,”….Hers is a subtle politics of parable rather than polemic, and a style in which vulnerability is the other face of daring….”
 
This is the new image of Britishness that the British Council is trying to convey. No longer should Maltese be thinking that Oxford Street shopping says it all, according to Ronnie Micallef, the British Council's. Malta director, who was present for the forum.
 
May I add, “And very welcome they are, too,”. Let’s hope they will do more to encourage our young female poets to come out and instil pride in what they are; Maltese.

Narcy Calamatta
Thursday, July 25, 2002

Maltastar.com


Menna Elfyn Interviewed by Gillian Bartolo

Menna Elfyn is a poet, novelist and playwright, deeply concerned with the Welsh language and identity. She describes herself as a Christian anarchist and is one of the most significant poets currently writing in Wales. Here she speaks to Gillian Bartolo about the issues that define her.

1. Why do you say the writer should be an outsider?

I say that because a writer should never feel comfortable within a safe institution or state. What the writer does is challenge the existing order: basically in writing we want to change the world. That's why of course states have always been afraid of writers, because we adhere to another kind of truth, which is not dogma and ideology.

2. How were you involved in the struggle to make Welsh an official language?

As part of the "Welsh Language Society", I took part in Civil Disobedience, and came into direct conflict with the authorities. We did things like damage road signs that were in English; obstructed Oxford Street in the rush hour; broke into the BBC publication house and destroyed the Radio Times- ripped a few up. Our basic principles were based on those of the Civil Rights movement of the United States. We went on trains and refused to pay. But we were non-violent and always phoned the police when we had carried out an action, and were willing to accept the consequences: I went to prison twice. We now have a bilingual situation since 1993 with the New Welsh Language Act

3. Were you involved in any other political campaigns and how has this influenced your writings?

Yes. I was also involved in anti-apartheid campaigns in Wales, and for the release of Nelson Mandela. My early writings in fact were rather didactic and political in tone. But I was always aware that writing and campaigning were two very different things. It was part of the energy of being young and feeling that I wanted to further the cause. I was also marginally involved in the Greenham Common campaign

Now I am political in a more oblique way. I'm still involved in political issues in a quieter way, such as the Middle East question over which I am in constant touch with Ahdaf Soueif the Egyptian novelist. In world politics there will always be the oppressor and the oppressed. The writer has the need to find a voice within this that is enriching and fulfilling without destroying the soul. One could so easily feel so despondent about the world but the writer's place is to be a truth commissioner, who witnesses evil but also bears witness to goodness and joy. This is what I do in many of my love poems in Blind Man's Kiss (ISBN: 1 85224 544 1).

4. You have worked for the Save the Children Fund. Has this influenced any of your writing?

I have always been interested in children's rights. I used to teach innovative education at University and have written books for underachievers, children who don’t want to read. They were called "Slow Readers." From that grew one story about street child. I also wrote a novel set in Mexico City about street children in Puebla who I worked with.

My next book is about challenging violence through a story whereby a girl child soldier finds herself in a situation where the choice is between killing and being killed. I raise issues. I don’t think a writer's place is to tell people what to think but it is to describe a world that hopefully they will find unacceptable. There are moments in this girl's life where things could have been different. In the story I have two other characters: one is a Moslem called back to Iraq because the biggest power in the world is about to attack his country. So it is very contemporary. Its not set anywhere but the idea came when I was in Sri Lanka, watching the Tamil Tigers.

5. Are you happy with the English translations of your poems?

I don’t think my poems lose anything. English has a different sound and patterning, but makes up for this in other ways. Having five brilliant translators allow me to concentrate on writing solely in Welsh. And I can do that because I know no task is too hard for them

6. Is your poetry influenced by Welsh history and by Welsh being a minority language?

The fact that it is a minority language does influence my poetry. Welsh is the oldest living language in Europe. It has a very long history and rich bardic (poetic) tradition. This is why women poets have found it hard to find a point of entry. Poets have always been seen as visionaries and prophets and poetry is seen as high art. In Wales to get an opinion on anything we will ask poets. They are still seen as being the celebrities and that is probably because we didn’t have our own government: so poets were the ones who spoke for the tribe. We only got our first Welsh Assembly in 1998 and we can't pass laws yet, we can only propose them.


I think writing in Welsh is a commitment every bit as important as being committed to human rights. I am committed to believing my language can be a part of world languages. We live in a globalised world where everything seems to be the same. English is endangering other languages, and there are languages that will inevitably die. If a writer doesn’t believe in her language, what hope is there for people who speak it in daily lives? The writer gives language its highest register. I believe like the poet Miroslav Holub that there are still some things that can only be said in these smaller languages. You can conquer the world with English but it has become a very technical language in many ways. In smaller languages, for example in Wales we have five words for snowdrop and 18 for a bluebell. There is a richness in the natural world in some of these languages and a poetic charge, but unfortunately people speaking minority languages tend to negate the richness of their language.

7. You have published two anthologies of women's poetry. Why do you feel the need to promote women's poetry? What distinguishes women's creative writing from men's?

As a pioneering woman poet, I thought I should foster others so as not to feel alone, to start creating a community. The difference between men and women poets is in the subject matters they treat and their style, although the difference is becoming more blurred. For example men will now write about children and babies now. We write about our bodies, which are crucial to women: some French feminists say we write with our bodies. There are perspectives of women's poetry that are different: Walt Whitman said "I celebrate myself". Emily Dickenson would say "I am nobody." A lot of men writing emulate other men role models. They'll imitate Wordsworth or, Shelley or Byron whereas women have had to go it alone in the past 20 or 30 years. Their tone of voice is slightly askew like outsiders. The free verse form used to suit women more, and the exploration of words, whereas men followed the tradition of craft. Women used to improvise and throw things together. But now women realise they need the craft too. There are more similarities than differences now as men become more fragmented. Feminism has reached an impasse where men have to re-examine their lives and to renegotiate where they belong. Some men feel they have to rethink their masculinity, what being a man means. We women haven't worked out how to make men feel comfortable about being more feminine. We need another sexual revolution.

8. How do you handle your bilingualism?


I speak Welsh at home and in my community which is Llandysul in West Wales. I lecture a Masters Course in Creative Writing at University in English, so I speak English there, though we get the odd person who writes in Welsh. I find Welsh serves me perfectly on every occasion. But only 20% of Welsh people speak Welsh, which determines which language I speak.

9. I noticed in your poetry book Blind Man's Kiss that you have three recurring themes: religion, death, bodies and clothes. What do these mean to you?

I'm fascinated by theology. Every time I go to a country I don’t know I feel I want an anchor - it’s a spiritual need to belong to a church that is shared by the whole world. The Roman Catholic Church would fill that role but of course I have difficulties with all churches because of hierarchies. I think Christ came on earth to do away with religions and factions, and the early church got it wrong. They just set up another church. My father is a liberal free-thinking minister, and I have been influenced by him. I would have loved to have studied philosophy or Theology. In many ways poetry is a substitute for that.

I'm interested in death, which could go back to being a minister's daughter. Someone was always dying and my father would come home saying so and so has passed on, or someone's candle has gone out. I'm fascinated by the idea of eternal life, but not that you have to be a committed Christian to get there.

It took ages for me to write about bodies, sex and clothes, and represents a new approach. I had to find a new language - a new way of seeing women's concerns. Nobody wrote about things like that in Welsh before. There's one about a bra, there's one about the vagina. It's surprising how many women loved those poems, but male critics ignore them which says it all, I think.

10. While you were in Malta you conducted a number of writers' workshops. How did they turn out?


I really enjoyed doing the workshops and the opportunity of meeting up with people behind Inizjamed. I do think these workshops are really important. They're beginnings of greater things to come. And I would say from reflecting on some of the workshops I've been part of already, that there's a lot of energy and talent that needs tapping into and guidance. The next step is to see how to translate those poems into finished articles that could be presented in an anthology. I noticed that a lot of them wanted to write about the sea, that comes from living on an island, when we were doing an exercise about a special place.
 

(The Malta Independent on Sunday, 28 July, 2002)

 

Website: www.mennaelfyn.co.uk
Menna Elfyn was brought to Malta by Inizjamed and the British Council


 

The Power to Change

 

Jack and Jill went on a course
St James Cavallier of course.
Jack wrote prose and rhyming verse
Jill did likewise none the worse.

 

It was learning through fun.

Any person fearing, “I can never write”, would have been in for an unbelievable surprise. We were soon plunged into a hectic programme of exercises on visualising scenarios, on finding a way to let our imagination run wild, on the building of characters and creating imaginary worlds. We did practical exercises on how to write quickly, spontaneously jotting down reflections at random and responding to somebody else’s piece of writing.

Quite a list when one considers we are talking about the two morning sessions, open to men and women, only for a total of six hours.

Menna Elfyn, Welsh Poet Laureate for children’s literature (www.mennaelfyn.co.uk) and motivator of the writing course, fired our imagination. She geared us with inspiring and challenging methods to encourage us to write. We were made to search in the depths of our body cells, as far back as our childhood days, for memories, experiences and dreams.

With her tactful questioning, explanation techniques and guidance, we discovered that most willing people are capable of writing, including each one of us on the course. Some of those attending had never written before. But then it started happening. It was like an awakening; an awareness that the least one can do is to have a try at writing.

Remarks like, “I don’t know how to go about it or where to start,” were bandied around. And yet…! It was just like the brewing of mixed ingredients ready to erupt. There we were, doubting, fearing, feeling uneasiness and even almost ashamed of reading our attempted writings.

 

We were allowed two to ten minutes to work on various stimulating exercises. We could write either in English or Maltese. Menna watched our facial expressions and reactions when a piece of work was being read in Maltese. She asked the reader and those around the correct questions to elicit their reactions. She must be a wizard I thought.

 

Menna watched our facial expressions and reactions when a piece of work was being read in Maltese.

Any unfinished work or anything we were not happy with, we redid at home. Next day we reread our work and received assessments and encouragement from our peers and mostly of course, from our tutor, herself. It was a beautiful experience and for most of us a turning point.

“Writing is a craft,” insisted Ms Elfyn, and therefore can be learned. For writing to reach the point of art, Elfyn highly recommends, patience, persistence, awareness and acceptance of criticism. She recommended a rigmarole of daily writing. Even if it is just writing a note of what we have read, heard or seen. It is a discipline. In fact she added that one should set a specific time, daily, when this has to be done. Practice, practice, practice!

We discussed how to build characters, how to live with them to bring them to reality. They can be that, which a writer does not dare to be. We realised that the best strategy for maximising writing potential is the unclogging and wheedling out of trapped imagination and knowledge, buried deeply inside each one of us.

Menna stressed that we should believe in our own affirmations. These have the power to change our points of view and also change our life situations. We need to see a better light in this unjust world, to give ourselves a hopeful future. We should have the courage of our own convictions by using our inner intelligence. All this is a challenge for wannabe writers. Inizjamed should be congratulated for organising this writing course.

 

Maria Grasso
Saturday, August 17, 2002

 

 


 

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