By Daria Popovich, participant of The Odessa Review journalism seminar and workshop
This is an excerpt from a longer work in progress on working on a book within the Ukrainian literary context.
In Ukraine as anywhere else, it is an entirely natural process for a book lover to decide to write a book. Writing can be fun (when it is not excruciatingly difficult) and many people enjoy the process of blogging, keeping diaries or exchanging letters with a pen pal. Taking the next step and beginning to write a book is of course a very serious endeavor in comparison to the everyday sort of writing that many book lovers might engage in. Ideas on how to write a book and on what sort of context it may depend are numerous and wildly contradictory. So how does a new writer go about finding the ideas for a book? And as difficult in the Ukrainian context as in any other country how does one go about publishing that book and making sure that it will find it’s intended reader?
There are it is sad to say, preciously few cultural initiatives for informal education in Ukraine, few mentorship programs where young writers might come to listen to well-known masters of prose and poetry to get help with the basics in working with plot, composition, depicting the character etc. In the future, Ukraine will have to work very hard on creating and updating infrastructure for it’s cultural production. It is very useful and inspiring, and important thing to find friends engaged in writing as well creating a community of writers to solve communal problems together. Many young authors are fascinated with literature, and found their own amateur reading groups. They choose a book to read and plan to meet together and discuss it. Clearly the communal aspect of discussing a book is very important for generating ideas and pooling resources.
Writing for several hours a day is critical to beginning the work of a writer. way to start. It must be everyday no-matter-what practice. One must simply sit and write for some time or write some number of pages, so that work becomes a habit.
I many senses writing has a lot in common with therapy and this occurs to be the most important, but not obvious reason to write. So it may be surprisingly hard to proceed because of dealing with the spiritual difficulties of the craft. But making writing a daily job and going on according to plan may help to overcome it
Ukraine has as small and undeveloped literary industry and not enough presses to serve the literary needs of such a large population. There are probably less than 100 people in a country of 42 million who are professional writers, and who make their daily income with writing and editing. Though things are slowly improving.
There are few major literary contests in Ukraine. Winning a contest usually means the promise publication of the book from a major press and also sometimes the promise of an honorarium. The major problem with contests is that a huge amount of varied writing of widely different quality and will have to be read by the jury. This makes it very hard for the jury to stay objective.
There is a large amount of popular authors who have been sending their texts into contests for more than five years with no result or positive feedback. So the beginning writer has to always remember that a contest is something very much akin to a lottery and that it is very important to not to give up in the face of rejection.