I WON’T READ OR WRITE A BOOK THAT I KNOW THE ENDING OF
by Kadir INCESU
March 21, 2021
“I work with editors who can improve how I think, and with publishing houses enamored with literature that share my ideals,” Mavisel Yener says.
Mavisel Yener is one of the most productive and most read authors of children’s literature. I’ve talked about her new titles Leyla ile Leya(Leyla and Leya), Uçan Kitaplık(Flying Library) and Ejderha Semercisi(The Dragon Saddler) from The Miracle Town Seriespublished by Bilgi Yayınevi and children’s literature with Yener.
It’s being discussed that lately children’s literature in our country has improved a lot. What are your thoughts on that?
When we look at the children’s literature terrain, of course we get our hopes up. However, the improvement of children’s literature is directly proportional to social common sense, consciousness, and the education system. Policies that are nourished by arts and culture such as music, theater, and painting, and that internalize aesthetic values enables the improvement of children’s literature. Otherwise, no matter how qualified our writings are, how good our illustrations are, and how much we raise the quality of our prints, if we cannot raise the social awareness on this issue and strengthen the field, the “progress” process won’t go as we hope. If we are to assess the improvement of today’s children’s literature with the number of books published, we could talk about a “quantitative improvement”. When the quantity makes a leap to a quality and supported with the right policies, only then we will reach the desired outcome.
What can we say when we compare Turkish children’s literature to the children’s literature around the world?
Let’s think whether Turkish children’s literature makes a contribution to world culture. In terms of children’s and youth literature, approaches that do not treat Eastern and Western cultures as opposites and that try to build a bridge between cultures with a humanistic point of view form “world culture”. We can achieve this unison with scientific, secular, and modern approaches. A child’s relation to literature is shaped by society’s outlook on the culture of reading and writing. If you live in a country where reading is a punishment, when a child hears this rule in the news, how can you erase the “books-punishment” duo from their mind?
Do the author and the publishing house –which is after all a business– need to meet on a common ground?
I was just reading a book on the arts, crafts and commerce triangle. In the book published by Delidolu Yayınları which is compiled by Peter Ginna, there is this sentence: “The main purpose of making a sufficient number of sales of a book contributes immensely to cultural life and also financially supports both the author and the publisher.” When we take this into account, one sees that it is not awfully hard to find a common ground between publishing house’s management philosophy and author’s expectations. I won’t work with a publishing house that I can’t find a common ground with. I would prefer the publishing house to approach the issue from the perspectives of literature and children. For example, I won’t work with publishing houses that act as popular culture pioneer or whose sole purpose is to get schools to choose their titles. I work with knowledgeable, intuitive, emotionally mature, editors who has internalized children’s literature, provide me with a free writing environment, and can improve how I think; and with publishing houses enamored with literature that wish to contribute to the cultural life and share my ideals.
Are there generally accepted rules for writing for children?
Rules are against the limitlessness of literature, and in children’s literature -without ignoring it’s “appropriateness for children”- it is possible to achieve that limitlessness. It is important for people who are going to write for children to digest the interdisciplinary knowledge and create new contexts. “Digest” is an important word here. Lately, especially during the pandemic, we have seen that “online writing workshops” that claim “training authors” have multiplied. However, literature is an act of experience andaccumulation, and one can’t do that through workshops. One needs pedagogical, psychological and sociological background as well as creativity. When a person who has never written a novel holds a creative writing workshop, it simply shows their search of an identity.
Does writing for children requires expertise?
“Expertise” is a quite risky word. Author Edward Said says: “Expertise kills excitement and the thrill of exploring something.” Therefore, no one should surrender to “expertise” in the field of literature.
Your three new novels are published at the same time. There are curiosity, research, kindness, hope, love, sharing, writing, reading… and many more topics that capture one’s interest. Miracles in themselves one does not recognize most of the time…
Nothing is ever as it appears to be. The story of how life turns into written word is hidden there. In this trilogy, I tried to show the miracles veiled in life and shine the light of a smiling world to children. Leya the cat that traveled with refugees is a part of this.
Uçan Kitaplık(Flying Library) reminds me of Mustafa Güzelgöz, the librarian with the donkey…
What a nice reminiscence! I didn’t name the protagonist -the old man who travels the world in his hot air balloon the Phoenix, flies over mountains, looks down to earth from the skies and brings children of the world together with book- on purpose. We can name him after our librarians. We shall remember Mustafa Güzelgöz, the librarian with the donkey, with respect. Flying Library is my gift to all librarians who have contributed to the reading culture.
I have heard the idiom “to weave a rattling fabric and sell it to chatters” for the first time. Does it have a story?
This is an idiom that my late grandmother used to say. She used it for people who does not do any work and keep blabbing around. The culture that I was born into forms the gist of my writings. The splendid idioms of our language is a great richness. I like to use the treasures of our language that Anatolian culture offers us.
In the recent years, artificial intelligence is a concept we hear so often. In the novel, the technology of artificial intelligence is also mentioned. Do you think that one day artificial intelligence can write novels?
They tried to make artificial intelligence write a novel in Japan, and in fact, it past the first round of a writing contest. I can’t be sure whether an AI could be as creative as the human mind. Because literature is not bound by rules!
If Mavisel Yener wrote the fourth installment of this series, could it be named “Leya Misses Home”?
Leya is a refugee cat who took that hard trip with the other refugees. I, too, think that she misses home. I don’t know whether I would write it, but I like to make the readers think that none of my stories end, and that there is always an “afterwards” of my stories.
We notice that curiosity plays an important role in your novels. Curiosity makes the reader think, question and research. You seem to say, “Don’t forget the past, take notice of today, and work for tomorrow,” to the readers.
The most important side of writing is the feeling of “curiosity”. I wouldn’t have written stories if I was not curious about how I would write it, how it would progress and how it would end. It is the same case for the readers. I won’t read or write the book that I know the ending of! In fact, I’m not saying to readers, “Don’t forget the past, take notice of today, and work for tomorrow.” I’m saying that, “If you forget the past, don’t take notice of today, and don’t work for tomorrow, these things will happen anyway, yet the choice is yours!” I always leave it up to the reader to decide.