Write, write, write

A poster announcing the “internationales literaturfestival berlin 2023” prints in big letters: “Read, read, read, … 14 times”. This is a quote from Werner Herzog when he was asked what makes a good filmmaker. The message from Manjeet Mann to the young audience at Berlin added to this: “write, write, write”. At least this was my impression as a summary of the talk and her short readings from her novel in verse “The crossing”.
The lecture hall of the “Stabi” was packed with students from high-school who felt at ease with the English language presentation and talk. The host Shiva Mesgarian managed to get the crowd of students to ask questions in the huge lecture theatre. Manjeet was giving a lot of insights into writing, editing, motivation and the difficulty to give a voice to persons from marginalized backgrounds. In her case as a person of colour herself, born and raised in England with additional links to India, she took issue with the topic of refugees. Living in Folkestone (Kent), she is confronted with people crossing the Channel on a daily basis.
Her book “The crossing” is actually building bridges between countries and continents. Her entertaining way to talk about her hard work as writer motivates, inspires and encourages young persons to pick up their pencil and/or notebook to start writing. Just don’t stop. Journaling helps. Take your emotions of an issue seriously, then work on it. Give characters a voice who have not received much attention. Go out and interview persons to get authentic input.
It is not about appropriation of a story. It is about meeting and exchanging with marginalised persons. Return your written pieces to those “sensitive readers”, whose story you attempt to develop. All this takes time. Re-writing is an important element as well. “Having written the story for yourself, you then re-write it for the readers”. Edit, clarify, sharpen, blur, attend to detail – all this helps the reader to follow and enjoy. These were the messages to all the students who were grateful for advice as the new season of essay writing in school, university and beyond is about to start.