AN INTERVIEW WITH MAVİSEL YENER
9 Eylül Newspapers
Interview by Neslihan Perşembe
Publication Date: April 13, 2014
Mavisel Yener, one of the gems of İzmir, graduated from Ege University’s Faculty of Dentistry. She has 871 books consisting of poetry, short stories, tales and novels. Her plays were staged by State Theatres. She has given speeches at national and international symposiums in the field of Children’s Literature. She has also given lectures in universities. Her stories, tales and poems are in elementary school textbooks. She holds her own Children’s Literature Workshops. Yener has won 16 literature awards2. Her books have been translated into other languages, and reached children all over the world. (For more information, visit: www.maviselyener.com)
How did the passion of writing arise? We know you from your books for children and young adults, but you do have books for adults too, don’t you?
My passion for writing steamed during the early years of elementary school with the support of my teachers and my family. I was a lucky child; we had a huge library at our home… As I read, my desire to write increased. I was both a dentist and an author, but later on I fully dedicated myself to Children’s and Young Adult Literature. And you have a point there, I am known as a Children’s and Young Adult author since out of my eighty seven books only two are for adults!
Children’s literature is very important. In addition to writing, you also review children’s books in Cumhuriyet Newspaper’s Book supplement. You had a similar section in another newspaper before, too. I always buy books for my nieces based on your references and they always end up loving them. What do you think about the relationship between children and literature? What should this relationship be like in order to make a child care for books?
There is one thing that’s crucial to getting a child to love books: The approaches in the book should not be enforcing! In fact, isn’t it exactly like that in real life, too? Do we enjoy someone’s company if they patronize us all the time? Children never embrace anyone or anything if they are pressured into it. Child readers do not enjoy a book that “thinks instead of them”; they like books that make them ask questions and feel that they have intellectual freedom. This liberating approach is very important for a child to show empathy towards the characters. Only then they have fun, have adventures, ask questions, wonder; in this way the relationship between the reader and the character starts effortlessly. Children will know if a writer raves trying to please them or force wonderment on them. Because as they can tell sincerity apart from forced writing!
The world of children is more open to imagination and creativity. In that sense, what are the differences between and common points of children’s, young adult and adult literature?
Writing for children requires a different repertoire. A children’s story written by an adult literature author may not be appealing to children. Understanding of childrenhood requires an entirely different talent and point of view. If it is the children and literature for them that are in our mind, we have to focus on pieces that will bring the child together with the eternal joy and meaning of literature! Children and their literature are and should be above all political views. In such an assessment not the political but artistic criterions should be weighed. Those who use religion for political gain are also attempting to make books an instrument for religion, as well. I believe that recommending such publications as children’s literature works for schools is the equivalent of child abuse. Besides capturing the imagination and creativity of children while writing for them, you should have a keen understating of the language properties, physical characteristics, fields of interest and philosophies of every age group. At the same time you should be able to invite them into to infinite depths of literature. At times you should be able to think like a pedagogue. But when you are writing for adults, it’s only you and your literary concerns.
Would you share the responses you get from children with our readers? 19th İzmir Book Fair is upon us. You participate to other book fairs then Izmir, as well… I suppose book fairs are one of the most pleasurable parts of your job. What do you think of the Izmir Book Fair? And taking other fairs into consideration as well, how are the responses from your readers, especially children readers?
Before communicating through online means became common, I used get lots and lots of letters from children and I’d respond to each and every one of them. Now, they mostly send me emails, and again, I write back to them all with such joy. Child readers’ reactions’ are so sincere… “I love your books, what will you write about next?” is a definite question. You can imagine how much that motives me as an author. But of course, having the chance to look into the readers’ eyes in book fairs certainly makes me really happy. In fairs, I can chat with children or young readers, with their parents, teachers and I get to learn their opinions and expectations from my work. TÜYAP’s Book Fair has become a classic in Izmir’s culture scene now. It is also a great touch that the fair takes place in Kültür Park (Culture Park); I hope it won’t be moved to new fairground3. As readers and writers we are looking forward to the fair.
You are invited to the Budapest Book Fair in April 26th by the Ministry of Culture. But I know that this is not the first international fair you’ve been invited to. How do you feel about participating in the Budapest Book Fair? How are they different from fairs in Turkey, in terms of the profiles of reader and publishing sector?
In April 26th I will give a speech representing the children literature of Turkey, and then I will talk about my books that were translated into Hungarian. As an artist, it always gives me joy if my books are being read in abroad. It is very pleasing how much our literature gets attention in international fairs or at gatherings with readers outside of the fairs. I find participating to such events very important in terms of understanding the contemporary and future trends in children’s and young adult literature in the world, and making acquaintances with international publishers. International fairs are held mostly to bring publishers from all around the world together, but they do not forget of the readers either. Fairs in Turkey are mostly targeted for readers.
Compared to the day to day life, is your state of mind different when you’re writing? If so, how does it enrich your life?
As a person whose life is dedicated to Children’s Literature, I cannot deny that writing has given me back so much. One of my young readers once asked me what I have learned from my own books. Yes, it is true that I’ve learned so much from my books. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is this: Every child is a manifesto, every child is a revolution. When you’re writing, you willingly or unwillingly cross to an alternate, fictional, imaginary universe. The reality of that place and that of my life here complete each other, as well as enrich one another.
What feelings does Mavisel Yener experience as she starts and finishes writing a book?
Especially when I am starting off writing a new novel, every time I am filled with a strange excitement as if I am feeling something entirely new and that I have never experienced something like that before. I turn into a little child afraid of getting lost in a forest. I prepare myself for a new adventure. The magic starts happening usually on a night of full moon. Whenever I finish my work I feel happy and surprised as if a miracle has just happened. Isn’t it funny that I still get surprised each and every time?
I know despite your busy schedule, you volunteer at non-governmental organizations. Would you like to give a message through our newspaper?
I try to help out as much as I can when organizations from Izmir reach out to me. I believe that anyone who calls herself an ‘intellectual’ should do it. For example I contribute to “Let’s Be Happy Foundation”; we have workshops with children cancer patients. I volunteer for Turkey’s Library for The Visually Impaired. I have books printed with the Braille alphabet for children who can’t see. Volunteering is the best way to give back to the society. While giving back, I think it’s important to keep it on the low, not to make a huge deal out of it by putting on display for the world to see.
Dear Neslihan, I thank you and your newspaper for providing me another opportunity to get together with my lovely readers.
1 As of December 2016, Yener has ** books published.
2 As of December 2016, Yener has won ***awards.
3 As of 2017 Izmir Book Fair will be held in a new venue little outside the city which inflamed a huge discussion on how it will affect the number of visitors attending the fair. Culture Park was in the heart of the city allowing visitors to reach the venue easily. The new venue will require all the visitors to use a means of transportation even if it’s a short ride. At the time this interview was conducted Yener, just like many of her fellow authors, was concerned of such a change. However TÜYAP decided against the public opinion changing the venue.