Abenea Ndago – The Space I Write In

abenea portrait

Abenea Ndago was born in 1979 and brought up in western Kenya. He went through primary and secondary education at Oneno-Nam Primary School and Onjiko High School respectively. He proceeded to the University of Nairobi for a bachelor’s degree (1998–2002), specializing in Linguistics and Literature. He was a high school teacher from 2005–2008. He won an M.A (Literature) scholarship with the University of Nairobi in 2008 and graduated in 2010. He is currently a part-time assistant literature lecturer at Bondo University College, western Kenya, a writer-cum-critic, and also a freelance journalist with The East African Standard. He reads widely, mostly the dark writings of Kafka, and every other magical realist. He thinks that all his writing happens as he walks under the sun – not in his room – where he quietly argues with all the elements of nature, including asking every wall why it’s vertical. He has several short stories. His novel manuscript, The Frontier,is a socio-political tale set in the 1960s’ western Kenya in the heart of the Cold War, and the impact of the same on that part of his country.

abenea writing space

No, the brick walls which shield my writing do not enclose a room. They are a red jail of experiences which began long before my mother was born, married, and expelled from the earth, a decade to the turn of the millennium. There was the ‘initial occupant’, then ‘the white man,’ and finally ‘me.’ How to negotiate these three components of my existence has been as difficult and dangerous for my village as – the way my Luo people put it – ‘milking a donkey’. My neighbouring tribe was the ‘initial occupant.’  Then the ‘white man’ arrived, robbed him/her of land, and erected ranches and lush cash crop during colonization. Before the visitors themselves were expelled at independence in 1963. My village then sprang up as a government settlement scheme in 1964, where ‘me’ was settled (from another tribe), but there wasn’t due compensation to the ‘initial occupant.’ Every election year my microcosm of existence – whose face resembles my country’s – throws up in jolting strife, leaving victims wounded and dead. This state of ‘perpetual suspendedness’ of things, of their being stuck in a small space labelled ‘NO RESOLUTION’, are the signposts I pay homage to every time I write:

 

1. The Stream

Here was the epicentre of my childhood. I still see myself leading six or seven calves to it to drink, after midday, my shadow dwarfed under me. Later it was the large herd itself we were driving to wet their dry throats. Having tethered the calves, we dived, splashed, and the motherhood of her water bathed our small bodies… I was young. So the stream appeared huge. For her waters swelled and howled every April, dead trunks complaining disturbed as they rushed downstream, obeying the dark, muscular current of the raging mother. Either that (my being young), or my people have irreparably violated this treasure of my childhood. The huge trunks are gone; the dark-green foliage and canopy is no more; the noisy crickets with beating wings are a distant memory inside the mind’s ear. Thin water runs on dry rock, the lips of the stream panting under an unforgiving sun, like my shaved armpit when old age comes.

 

2. The Two Footbridges

No, I was not yet born when the lower footbridge was hurriedly laid in 1972. Before then – I heard – the few villagers jumped over the stream on their way to the market, and children to/from school. Then my sibling slipped and fell, water bruising him on the rocks, and he would have drowned but for my father’s being a brother of the fish. He plunged into the water and saved the poor child. A fiercely practical man, my father cut a disused railroad and laid it across the stream, tethering the metal with a very thick wire under the huge rock to the right. The upper concrete footbridge came in 2012, exactly 40 years later. For my writing, that small space between the first and second footbridges represents 40 years of official neglect inspired by political ethnicity.

 

3. The Eastern Hill

In my primary school days (1985 – 1992), we would stay behind every opening day to plant the New Year’s crop on every January 1st. The corn would be fresh by May, and the reason every villager built a small kiru hut in his farm was to scare away the wild pig which raided the crop at night. Fresh beans then flowered between the rows of corn, and in this case the East African bushbuck antelope was the menace. Believe me: the wild pig and the bushbuck are today absent pupils in our village’s class register. Reason: hunting, and human encroachment which has rendered the eastern hill a bald-headed skull. It was once a wilderness of huge trees and mist in the rainy season, but no more these days.

 

4. The Western Hill

This was the great wall which signalled the death of the day, and the end of play. Once the orange ball of the sun dipped behind it, mother called you to open the hut door for the chicken to enter; and for the cow to be relieved of all her milk. We used to hear there was a wild herd of East Africa’s mountain bongo antelope – my father’s generation called them ‘apol’ in Dholuo tongue –who colonized the top of the hill. Again: the mountain bongo antelope went the way of the wild pig and the bushbuck in the late 1990s.

 

5. The Jail under the White Man’s House

Something intrigued me not long ago. When I bid my father farewell on 12th, October 2012, my hollowness was so total that, to fill up the huge void with real essence, I elected to investigate the ‘Kachinja Myth’ whose sorrowful whiff still hangs thinly in my village air. It is a myth about a breed of people who, in the colonial times, waylaid and sucked their victim’s blood to death. If you were unlucky, they took you to their home, kept you in a cave under the foundation of the house, and you were bled slowly, slowly, slowly…and lastly you were slaughtered and your sorry corpse thrown where the museum site today rests. My findings still shock me: these were the white people who lived here. They employed black servants to catch unsuspecting travellers. These victims had their blood siphoned and sold. It was big business protected by the colonial government. Actually, our village museum site was a cover-up for this crime. An extremely wealthy white family which still lives in Kenya may have made its money through the sale of such sad blood, but the victims are lost, lost forever…

 

 

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Ido Angel – The Space I Write In

 

Note: Hyperlinks that end with an asterisk lead to Hebrew web pages.

memis

Ido Angel is an Israeli author, director and entrepreneur. He was born on October 8th 1974 in Ramat Gan and attended Thelma Yellin high school where he studied theatre. He served in the IDF Theatre and studied film at HaMidrasha Art College; where he went on to teach Narratology for seven years. For five years he worked as a news editor for Channel 2, and has written and directed for TV in Israel and abroad. He has published two novels, a novella, a teen book and some short stories. In 2010 he founded the Misantrope – a workspace for writers, freelancers and students in Tel Aviv, together with his partner, Anat Cohen. Angel is divorced and the father of two girls.

His books:

  • Perhaps he should be Called Brave Yoel? (Teen book. Saar, 2008)
  • The Story of Michael* (A novel. Edited by Dana Olmert. Ahuzat Bayit, 2010)
  •  Nick, a Man and his Words (A novella. Appears in “Behind the Money Lies a Story”, an  anthology edited by Dana Olmert. Ahuzat Bayit, 2010)
  • Children’s Story* (A novel. Edited by Michal Heruti. Modan, 2012)
  • Terrible Poems* (a combination of poems, fragments of prose and illustrations. Self-published, 2014)

For TV:

  • Death of Cain (Written, directed and edited by Ido Angel. 50 minute drama. Independent production supported by the Snunit Foundation)
  • Vipo: Adventures of the Flying Dog (Written and directed by Ido Angel. An animated TV series for children. 2 seasons, 26 episodes, internationally broadcasted)

space

1. The Misantrope*

Pay attention: there is no such thing as ‘writer’s block’ – because there are no such things as ‘writing conditions’. Any condition needed in order to write is actually a disguised excuse not to write in its absence. And the guy telling you this has founded a workspace with an extremely meticulous work (writing, or studying) environment. But that’s where the difference lies: it’s an environment, not a condition.

The Misantrope is: a) Not home. Home is where you live, not where you work. Getting out of the house creates a separation that forces borders upon the act of writing, like any other work. You have limited time in a limited space. b) Not a café. Cafés are for leisure. Writing in a café is like trying to draw while on a carousel. The scenery changes constantly and stability is impossible. The Misantrope is quiet. You’re there with yourself and that’s it. c) Cheap. No waiters, the coffee’s free (as are fruit and sweets), the prices are idiotic and set and you don’t have to bother your mind with anything other than the words themselves. If you’re hungry you can take a break – we have a deal with the neighboring falafel stand, the café on the corner and even the bakery on the opposite corner.
This is where I wrote my second novel and the poetry book I have just published. Here I also conduct my Anti-Workshop for thinking about writing.

 

2. Mistakes

If I was forced to dictate one writing condition it would be to learn how to make mistakes. Mistakes are the real writing space. The search for ‘correct writing’ is no more than a sack of excuses for its nonexistence, just like striving to perfect the search for ideal writing conditions. If you try to write only the right words, you’re just being obstructive towards yourself. In order to learn writing, one must decipher its death (or if you prefer softer imagery – in order to learn what’s wrong with your writing, it first has to be wrong). Think how easier it is to look at writing obstacles this way: inspiration doesn’t always come, but mistakes can always be made.

In my opinion every writer has to learn to write in three roles: as a child, a parent, and a teacher. One needs to skip back and forth from one role to the other. To write completely intuitively, with no inhibitions and then look at the text with a mature yet loving and sensitive eye and then with a cold, critical and analytic eye – over and over again. At the end of the day, writing is a process, not a goal. And the compositions – are no more than crossroads.

 

3. An Ergonomically Padded Computer

My joints are made of cardboard. My right hand has already been operated on because of all this ink I waste on paper. My left hand is heading in the same direction.

 

4. People

Who pay me so that I can sit here quietly and write – before the books are even published!

 

5. A Peach

 

6. Gum

 

7. Water

 

8. The Mother of all Chandeliers

We bought 22 reading lamps at Ikea and welded them together

 

9. Lack of Coffee!

The machine broke down today (this never happens). Tomorrow there will be a full cup of coffee right here at any given moment.

10. The Most Comfortable Chair in the Entire Universe.

I wouldn’t mind having it welded to my ass and walking around with it like Hawking.

 

11. Surrounding all this is a Thick Transparent Cloud of Contempt for Normal Writing.

Enough with the characters who come and go from one place to another, saying sentences, experiencing things.

This is how my next book begins:
Eyes fall on the first words of this book like the bodies of two victims, as they hit the ground. A man carries his name within himself, like a disease: Gideon. He looks at the body lying in front of him, in the mirror. He’s wearing a thought like a hat: Day One. Today is Wednesday. But no day came before this day. The phone rings.

Matan Shiram – The Space I Write In

Note: Hyperlinks that end with an asterisk lead to Hebrew web pages.

matan

Matan is a journalist, a blogger* and a beginner screenplay writer. He writes about Cinema and Music for Globes Economic Newspaper*. Matan lives and writes in Hod HaSharon, Israel. (Photo taken by Liron Breier)

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1. Art Room

Welcome to my art room. The space I imagine in, let my thoughts wander, scribble warped characters and nonexistent landscapes onto a page, and mainly write. In my art room I do not work. I create. I work in my workroom, where I write my newspaper articles for Globes. This separation is necessary especially because it’s supposedly the same action – thinking that leads to writing, which sometimes includes characteristics similar to those of building a story. Seeing as I’m aware of my tendency to slip away into the realms of my imagination while writing an article, (some say while doing anything and everything else as well), I am prepared for all sorts of stimulations from my inner metaphoric world to interfere, and so I often find myself telling myself: No! You’re in your workroom now. Concentrate!

 

2. Closet of Thoughts

Like my clothes, my thoughts are scattered (thankfully not in the same closet). As you can see, my closet of thoughts is not a metaphoric closet. In it are pages, notebooks, notes that were ripped out of notebooks, a corkboard overflowing with ideas and fragments of stories and also sharpened pencils, black inked pens, rulers in different shapes and sizes and various kinds of stationary. The reason for this is that I have two main weaknesses: a weakness for stationary and a weakness for stationary shops.

Every now and then I’ll open one of the closet doors and pull out a thought I forgot I ever had, or quotes I collected over the years –something to help me when in need of some empowerment. For example, the following quote, I can’t remember who said it: “You’re considered weird until you succeed”, or this wonderful quote by Rainer Maria Rilke: “In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write.” (Letters to a Young Poet).

 

3. Balcony

The front balcony of my house overlooks a small street, but for me it feels like the street overlooks my balcony. This feeling disturbs me, and I admit that because of it, it took me a long time to discover the magic of my balcony. I usually sit there during the remainder of the night, watching a live picture of night turning into day, listening to the world while it sleeps. Countryside quietness that is only disturbed by a passing truck, a newspaper delivery man distributing morning additions, a few insomniac birds, and (4) my dogs, who bark at the newspaper delivery man. On the balcony, during these hours, there are no distractions. They allow me to reflect deeply upon the events of the day that has just ended, the undercurrent of behaviors that have collected in my memory, an experience of some sort, that sitting calmly on my balcony allows me to continue, expanding its initial existence. There, on that balcony, stories find themselves being born.

 

5. Saxophone

Playing the saxophone enables me to express my inner gaps, that some may define as inner conflicts.The sharp transitions from joyfulness and humor to heaviness and sorrow, from earnestness and self-importance to total goofiness, from trying to silence an inner pain to wanting to shout my inside out. From the subtle to the wild. I like subtlety and not refinement, and I believe in harmony that is rooted in disharmony. For this reason people tend to be surprised when they discover that I don’t like jazz (they seem as surprised by my vegetarianism). Jazz bores me. My music is somewhere between the blues and rock, between George Gershwin and Pearl Jam or Nirvana. When I play I close my eyes and wander through all sorts of places in which I will never really get to play – like the Barbie Music Club in Tel Aviv, or the New York City Subway, and I allow myself to create different characters inside me, some of them find their way to the page.

 

 

Talia Sagiv – The Space I Write In

Note: Hyperlinks that end with an asterisk lead to Hebrew web pages.

t3

Talia zigzags between academic writing (a book based on her research* was published by HaKibbutz HaMeuchad publishing house) and prose (a collection of four novellas she wrote* was published in 2010 by Yediot Books). She’s currently working on a collection of short stories, and makes her living by lecturing and giving workshops on the relationship between the individual and society. She got her PhD from the Hebrew University – Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Talia lives in Beit Zait with her husband and their three children.

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1. Table

I remember how silly, yet determined, I felt going from one furniture store to another and sitting cross-legged next to each and every living room table presented in the showrooms, in search of The One. -The one table I will be able to write on. Recently I discovered that serious workrooms (with a chair, a table, books and office equipment) make me feel stressed and I rarely write in them. This was quite a disturbing discovery, seeing as when it dawned on me we had just moved to an apartment with a small room that was meant to be mine, for writing; furthermore, back then I bought myself a gift to celebrate the publication of my first book – a huge and very expensive office chair.

But the truth is: I prefer sitting cross-legged on the carpet (or a pillow), and writing at the living room table. The table of course has to be high enough for my legs to comfortably fit under it, but not too high, so that my hands and elbows are also comfortable.

When I enter other people’s houses (or even hotel rooms) I always look around and wonder – would I be comfortable writing here? Where would I position myself? If it’s a great house with a good table, I take the trouble to inquire when the owners plan to travel. I like writing away from home: in libraries, cafés and even other people’s homes – when the legal tenants are kind enough to go abroad and leave their intimate space to me.

 

2. Work Hours

Sadly, I don’t have fixed work hours or days. Once in a while a ‘good day’ comes along, a day in which I can hear a click between every two sentences, in which my finger is light on the delete button and clearly recognizes the superfluous, the rest of my fingers fill in the gaps and my head understands where the text is going. On days like these I’ll even print out a draft to read at night in bed. On a day like this – I can’t explain where it comes from or how to stimulate its return, but when it does appear – I try to write as much as possible, from morning till night. But these days are rare. On most days I’m happy if I manage to sit down for 2-3 hours and write, or mostly edit existing materials.

In addition I make sure to artificially create good days: 3-4 times a year I go to an old and cheap (but clean) hotel by the sea (I won’t disclose the name of the hotel). I put the mattress on the floor, drag the old coffee table to the side of the bed and write almost without any breaks. Then and there I am at my best.

 

3. Domestic Landscape

What you can’t see in the photo is that if you sit down to write on the carpet (as I am doing right now) and raise your eyes from the screen, you will see the kitchen. The light coming in from the window floods the sink, the stove, the transistor and the sheepish broom. All these hints of everyday routine actions remind me that I am not obligated to write. If it doesn’t work out, I can always turn the radio on and cook something or sweep a little. On the other hand, the choice between writing and housework is easy, isn’t it? Although cleaning, as opposed to writing, is so measurable, worthy, gladdening and the achievements are so visible. After all, every writing creature sometimes wonders if maybe it would be better to put the pen down, because there are enough books in the world (and articles, and internet publications) – and to add another one, hmmm…. is it really essential to anyone? Quite a bit of hubris is required in order to assume that all the world needs right now is a few more pages written by me.

 

4. Curtain, Pictures, Mortar and Pestle

These are items that I inherited from my grandmothers. The painting grandmother gave me, her dancing sunflowers and a painting of two gloomy friends; my father’s mother crushed nuts and almonds in this mortar for the pastries she made; and on my right is the curtain my great-grandmother embroidered – every time I look at it I think how boring the craft of embroidery is to me and then return to my writing.

These items are nostalgia – multi-generation feminine nostalgia. And it betters me and my writing in a romantic and slightly sticky way – these women, who created me – this is what they did with their time. And now they are no longer here. Thus the words of Walt Whitman touch me through the legacy they left me –

“That you are here – that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

I live, I write, the doubts evaporate. When all of this hits me in the right spot, I run to my computer, shaking off all forms of self-criticism. I must write.

 

L. L. Fine – The Space I Write In

Liron Fine

L. L. Fine is an author (check out his Amazon profile), scriptwriter and partner in a startup company. He lives in Modi’in, Israel and subsidizes his beloved family. (Photo taken by Bella Fine)

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1. The Space

My study is situated in the smallest room of the smallest apartment in the (almost) smallest building in the (almost) smallest city in Israel. It’s cluttered and windowless, but a huge fan injects turbulent wind into it from the doorway and the garden beside it. I never lock the door; it’s the only aperture in the room.

 

2. Writing Schedule

My best writing hours are at night, but night-writing doesn’t work with family life so I’ve established daytime writing habits. My day is divided as follows: at 8 a.m. I send my kids to school and then I work until they return around noon. Then it’s time for my siesta – yay! At 4 p.m. I get up and write some more until 6-7 p.m. On rare occasions I add another writing session at night.

 

3. Work Screen

It’s nice and big. I use it during 70% of the time when working on my clients’ professional projects and on my new book.

 

4. Fun Screen

Not as nice and not as big. It tends to disturb the work screen, but I accept it with love. I usually write with Facebook open, it makes me feel like I have an audience.

 

5. Cellphone Earphones

Because sometime I have to talk on the phone… I also use them when I need to separate myself from the family noises coming from outside the room.

 

6. Backup Computer

As a matter of fact it’s one of my three backup computers. Incidentally this one is a Mac. It defends my materials against viruses that have amorous feelings for windows. Sometimes I write on it too, but not in my study – in my garden. Anyway, I find it more comfortable to type on an ergonomic keyboard and look at a big screen.

 

7. Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard

It’s a must. It enables one to type very comfortably and provides me with a great advertising contract with Microsoft, they’ve just forgotten to pay me for the last decade or so…

 

8. Bills

To remind me why I work.

 

9. A Cup of Strong Black Coffee

The second out of the four cups I drink every day.

 

10. Music

I usually write with meditation music in the background. Lately I’ve discovered Native American music.

 

11. All the Rest is Junk

Or that it’s so important that there’s no point in stashing it away in a drawer. When I write I concentrate and the physical world disappears, so the junk doesn’t bother me. And when I’m not writing? Well, it doesn’t bother me then either seeing as I’m not writing…

Inbal Ganor – The Space I Write In

אני

Inbal Ganor is a screenplay writer and editor. She did her Bachelors and Masters at the Tel Aviv University’s Film and Television Department, where she went on to teach screenplay writing. Inbal lives and writes in Tel Aviv.

Capture1. Cafés

At home I get up, walk back and forth, open the fridge door, look inside, close the fridge door. In a café I am bolted to my seat in a representable and obedient way, ashamed to even go on Facebook. The people around me, the motion, the buzz – bring back my inner serenity; I am part of the human brotherhood, everything is ok.

I tend to choose cafés in which it’s ok to sit for hours, very unpopular cafés and if possible a little musty.

There’s no heat wave outside, I’m not in a busy Tel Aviv street, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath are sitting at the table next to mine, with their laptops open, sipping double espressos.

2. Books

Anything that can give me inspiration, throw me into a different world, a different time, into someone else’s existence and experiences. During writing periods I find I prefer reading non-fiction: sociology, psychiatry, religion, holocaust, psychology, holocaust and psychology. And more.

3. Music

I like having a soundtrack accompanying me and influencing my mood, the characters’ mood and the atmosphere as a whole. The disadvantage of this is that sometimes when I finish what I was working on, I can’t listen to that music ever again.

4. iPhone Notes

If ideas, fragments, dreams I dreamt, or maybe a story someone told me that affected me in some way pop into my mind – I quickly write them down in shorthand on an iPhone note. Sometimes I even manage to make the connection between what I wrote and whatever the hell it was I was thinking at the time.

5. The Lives of Others

Thankfully, most of the people around me are interesting characters with interesting points of view, and there’s nothing I love more than hearing people tell about their everyday dramas and the dramas of the people in their lives. If they’re funny, it’s even better.

6. Wisława Szymborska

This poster I once made (instead of working) at a workplace I no longer work at, goes with me wherever I move. Her presence, her naughty gaze and defiant cigarette, make me feel good. People who carry themselves gracefully and not too gravely, make me happy. Even if I don’t get to meet them personally. And I haven’t even said a word about her writing (who am I, what am I).

Rotem Malenky – The Space I Write In

 

2014-03-10 17.32.29

Rotem is a writer, video director, cameraman and editor. He has been writing since he was 11 and gradually moved from writing short horror stories to radical poems, documentary and fiction scripts and recently blogging. He believes you can fly.

WritingSpace#

1. Movie Posters
It’s important to surround yourself with inspirational images, even if you don’t write for cinema. Your book’s readers are mostly people who are interested in colour, design, shape and form. How many posters can you recognize in this pic?

2. To Do List
Just one of the many tools I use in a desperate attempt to be more efficient.

3. To Do Pile
The obese, 3D brother of the To Do List.

4.  A Good Chair
More important than one may think. Get yourself one today and don’t compromise, or your bad chair will send you off and away many times a day, without you realizing why.

5. The Good Screen
This is where I write, read, fill in my schedule, back up and get down (to business).

6. The Bad Screen
Satan’s own. This is where my time goes to waste. I need it for video editing though.

7. Me
As a 4 year old. This is also a very inspirational image for me. Sometimes I look at this boy’s eyes and try to guess what he would say and do in the scene that I’m writing.

8. A Fax Machine
Yeah, I have one.