Reflections from Latvian school tour

Reflections from the litterary Kurzeme-tour 23.04- 25.04 2018 

Back ”home” in Ventspils (the International Writers and Translators House), surrounded by fresh spring flowers, I will try to put down some of my impressions from an intense and inspiring school tour in the Kurzeme region.

In brief, the following is why I was honoured to visit the secondary schools and youngsters in libraries:

  • The second book in the Emma Gloria series, a novel originally written in Swedish, was translated into Latvian (by Mudite Treimane) and got a price for the translation. To my great joy, the price also included a one month stay at the Writers house in Ventspils, which resulted in me coming back two years later.
  • As I also work as a writing coach, a book laureate and often visit pupils in schools (and give workshops), I was happy to accept the offer of visiting Latvian pupils in different towns and villages during my stay in Ventspils.
  • The aim was to inspire youngsters to read and write, tell about the author’s daily work, and answer questions regarding literature and the book of Red Longing, which some of the pupils had read.

The tour lasted for three days and included five meetings (around 40-60 minutes per group). All in all the arrangements couldn´t have been better! During the whole stay, I felt so well taken care of, accompanied by the wonderful Ieva Hermansone, who was hosting the events, introducing and translating from English to Latvian when needed. She had prepared every detail of the tour, and I felt very welcome in every new place and group we visited. During each meeting, I got to answer interesting and sometimes well-prepared questions about the work I do, or how to write.

Briefly, my lecture was prepared to cover the most important themes regarding the author’s daily routines, the writer’s sources of inspiration and thoughts on creativity. I also started up by shortly telling about Finland, and the similarities with Latvia, which I learn more and more of by every passing day (the history and date of the Countries independences, the Dainas, the traditions, the languages used and many other things we have in common). Actually, I did not see much difference between the Latvian youngsters and the Finnish ones – attentive listening and interesting questions posed – I felt that the interest for a dialogue was easy and mutual. (But never in Finland have I got flowers from the pupils – what a wonderful tradition!)

Although I’m well prepared when meeting a group, I always improvise around the themes I talk about. After a short introduction on the subject of Finland (and how I became an author), I talk about writing, reading, the sources of inspiration (which includes encouraging the listeners to find their own inspiration in their surroundings (places, senses, things you see and hear, experiences in real life as well as in your inner life). I tell about the routines and thoughts of other authors, and, if there’s an interest, I also focus on the themes in the trilogy of Emma Gloria.

Questions in between are often asked, the dialogue is essential in meetings with people.

As I was speaking in English, there from time to time a need of a translation by Ieva Hermansone, who was standing by all the time. One hour passed in no time and, like always, I felt that there would have been so much more to talk about. Some of the pupils stayed for a while still, asking some more questions or advice, they wanted to take pictures or have their copy of my book signed. I encouraged them to continue with their writing projects, and also to read as much as possible. (Also pointing out the difference between reading texts/stories on the internet, compared to the fulfillment one feels, when reading a book with a beginning, middle and ending).

During the meetings, I felt the pupils were focused and listening attentively, which isn’t always the case with secondaryschool groups. As a trained actress, I’m used to performing, and also sensitive to the response from the audience – I feel the interest needs to be mutual for a creative meeting to take place. I hope I could contribute with one or two new thoughts or ideas, which they hopefully can carry with them in their lives. The questions I got to answer were proof that they really had been listening, and were not posing the questions out of politeness, which made me very happy.

Surely, there would be more to tell regarding the different reactions I got and meetings I had with each group, and the wonderful youngsters I had the privilege to meet in Pavilosta, Skrunda, Saldus, Druva and Kuldiga. I could go on telling details and how the youngsters inspired me in return, the joy of sharing stories and thoughts of creativity and the wonder of imagination and literature. From every village, and from the fantastic libraries and different schools where our meetings took place, I have memories, which will last for a long time – and who knows – maybe you will find some of them in my up-coming novels.

I’m grateful to all of you, pupils, teachers, librarians, our punctual and skilled driver Sergej, who drove us in time to all the events, and a special warm thank you goes to Ieva Hermansone, for inviting me and for the excellent arrangements, and to the Nordic Council (the Ministry of Culture of the Nordic countries), which recognises the importance of culture and culture exchange and made this tour possible.

 

With gratitude,

Henrika

 

Our schedule:

in April 23

09.30 we start the tour in Ventspils.

11.30. Arrival to Pavilosta. Event No1 (school with classes 5-9)

Driving to Skrunda. Event No2 at Skrunda

(Library, meeting around 20 youngsters, dedicated to literature)

 

April 24

Departure for Saldus. Event No3 at Saldus

(secondary school, about 70 pupils in auditorium)

Departure for Druva.  Event No4 (Library, students from several schools?)

Departure to Kuldiga.

 

April 25

Kuldiga,  Event No 5 (at the Library, secondary schoolclass)

Departure for Ventspils.

Arrival at about 14.00

 

Författare, skådespelerska och regissör