Note: Hyperlinks that end with an asterisk lead to Hebrew web pages.
Orna Coussin is a writer and a writers’ mentor*. She is passionate about the genres of creative non-fiction – the personal essay, the memoir and the diary – that are yet to flourish in Israeli literature. She also writes, and loves to read, short stories and novellas. In 2009 she received the Prime Minister Award for Hebrew writers.
Between 1997 and 2007, Coussin wrote cultural commentary for the Haaretz Daily newspaper. She was highly acclaimed for her feminist perspective and her sharp critique of Israel’s consumer culture.
Currently, Coussin is writing a blog about writing*, and will soon publish her fifth book, titled “How to Write”, a writers’ guide and an essay about writing. Coussin lives in Tel Aviv with her partner Michal and their two daughters, Naomi and Yael.
When I was a writer for “Haaretz Daily”, I took great pride in being able to concentrate on my writing in the middle of the chatty open space of the editorial offices. It took me a while to realize that this ability is limited only to writing of the journalistic kind.
Now, my best writing is done at my small, simple corner desk in our quiet bedroom, when I’m alone at home, deep in my silence. Only urban sounds in the background make for white noise, the internet is cut off, and the phone is shut. These occasions are quite rare, though.
A writing morning begins for me when I pull down the shades. I can’t stand the harsh Mediterranean daylight coming in through my eastbound windows. “Writing is a thoroughly shady affair” wrote John Updike in “Self-Consciousness: Memoirs”. I do believe it is. Diving into darkness and lighting it up is a large part of what we do.
I take pride in mentoring writers of creative non-fiction. I enjoy seeing their writing evolve: become more candid, precise, clear; closer to that which they had imagined. I wish I had been mentored myself, growing up as a writer.
But sometimes I think that in a way I have been and still am. I put pictures of my self-appointed mentors on the window sill in front of me when I write. I learned and still learn so much from Virginia Woolf and Simone De Beauvoir: how to write and why, and to what extent may I be true to myself and where to look for courage, and what are exactly and truly my challenges as a writer. I also learn and have learned from E.B White, Lorrie Moore, Lydia Davis, George Orwell and many more. I will add more photos of these inspiring people to my window sill the minute I can put my hands on them.