For the love of writing

In keeping with Young Writers’ Day which was celebrated recently, the Mirror Magazine this week speaks to young writers on their journey with the pen
By Yashasvi Kannangara

What is it to write? Writing to many is a form of expression. A collection of thoughts turned into words and sentences. Others say that writing sets them free, a way of sharing memories and reliving experiences.

To Brandon Ingram, author of 'The Fairy Dance' and 'Living Their Lie' writing is “how I talk to people. It's how I communicate the craziness in my head with others. It's how I share my perspective with those who are willing to listen. Writing is my passion.” Lasantha David, co-author of Colombo City Guide says “It means expression and of course a means of survival and bringing in the moolah. To me writing is writing, putting words together to mean something, to translate idea, emotion, sensation or even experience.

Brandon Ingram Lasantha David Vihanga Perera

International Young Writers Day was last week and although it is still not a recognized celebration held within Sri Lanka, the Mirror Magazine this week caught up with a few young writers on their take on the subject and what other young writers should look out for in their careers.

Many young writers are self taught and it is their own skill and commitment that takes them as far as they go. Author of ‘The[ir] [Au]topsy’, ‘Stable Horses’, ‘Unplugged Quarter’, ‘Pesticides and ‘Busted Intellectual’, Vihanga Perera believes that a writers skills are largely self taught. “Of course, one gets influenced by one’s experience, reading, affinities etc. But, if you ask me whether I have been “trained” as a writer – No. My work is my own. I just write” says Vihanga.

Working at the Serendipity Publishing House and writing working with Juliet Coombe, twenty tear old Lasantha believes that he too has been “Born with a knack for it because I always excelled and enjoyed writing essays in school and just about anything that involved painting a page with words. I also believe that you're only as good a writer as your depth in reading. So I think that the more you read and practice writing, the better you become, and that's how I've done it. Criticism helps too. Critics trying to rip you a new one, often makes you think of different ways to do something and get better.”

Being young and at the peak of their careers these young writers are passionate about their work. They have their own ways of dealing with being inspired, or simply figuring out the times when they feel like writing. Writing to them is very personal and holds a lot of individual and special meaning. “I'm moved to write at the most unexpected moments. But mostly when I'm alone” says Brandon.

Megali Nanayakkara
Amrita Hapuarachchi

“Love as often and as much as you can; whether it takes you to the top of the world or breaks your heart into pieces, it's still the best kind of inspiration there is [ingramism].” Megali Nanayakkara, an aspiring young author is a freelance writer plus an undergraduate at the University of Kelaniya, this twenty four year old dreams of publishing her own work someday. When asked how she gets into the role of a writer Megali said “I guess it's something that just happens. Writing just happened to become the way in which I express myself best; not painting, singing or breaking crockery.”

Yes there are many young writers today, but succeeding as one in Sri Lanka is a difficult task because of practical hurdles along the path, cultural barriers shackling one’s stride and more importantly the lack of funding and financial issues at hand. These are only some of the concerns faced by the young writers of today.

Lasantha David was one such writer that overcame the obstacles ahead of him. “Writing isn't one of those jobs that our Sri Lankan conservative society deems as 'stable'. So when I did tell my folks at home that I was going to become a writer, the decision was met with a lot of hostility and resistance saying it was a dead end, etc, and a lot of people end up asking you when you're going to get a REAL job. Which isn't the case, writing is just as important as brain surgery.”

Twenty eight year old Amrita Hapuarachchi is an avid young writer who spent time in the United States, while there she was the editor of two multicultural magazines on campus. Amrita believes that the final steps of publishing are not the toughest episode, but its about the laboring journey to get there. “Once you start working for a publication, it is not difficult to get published. It is to get to that point, where the difficulties lie.

But of course, it depends on your point of view and what direction you are looking at. If your views are different to the editor, obviously it will be difficult to get your points across and you might feel you have to sacrifice your integrity. There have been times my work has been criticized for being not of the norm or being "too out of the box" - which I disagreed with as I wanted to show a different perspective, and I felt awful and angry that my work was tarnished. But that is part-and-parcel of the job, really. [and] a [young] writer is definitely not paid enough. Unless you write business or investigative reports, leisure writing is not taken as seriously thus not paid as much, I feel.”

Ameena Hussein of the Perera Hussein Publishing House has always believed in and supported the young writers of Sri Lanka. “Today in Sri Lanka we are seeing more and more younger writers entering the field,” explains Ameena. “Prashani Rambukwella who wrote the children's novel Mythil's Secret and Shehan Karunatilleke who wrote Chinaman are two young writers who have won the Gratiaen Prize with their work. Shehani Gomes with her young adult's novel, Learning to Fly was short listed for the Gratiaen Prize for her work.

Younger writers have a different take on life which makes their writing always interesting. Their style, subject matter and language reflect their culture and time which is always contemporary. My advice to young writers is to keep at it, read a lot of different authors, keep abreast of current issues, listen to how people talk and live, which will be inspiration for their writing and to listen to constructive criticism from a respected reader.

With the current wave of interest in speaking English it is only a matter of time before even more people will start writing in English. This will bode well for the writing industry in English in Sri Lanka.”

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