“This anthology features the work of 33 talented new writers, representing almost all parts of the globe. Their pieces have been selected from the intercultural, literary showcase The Writer’s Drawer, run by academic editor and writer Beryl Belsky. The stories and poems in the anthology reflect not only literary merit but also the multicultural nature of the website and its contributors. The book is divided into three parts: Short Fiction, Stories from Life and Poetry. The Stories from Life, in particular, provide a fascinating look at the cultural mores and religious rituals of the countries of the writers. The book is an ideal gift for lovers of all genres of writing and for those who enjoy literature from different cultures. Its mix of cultural-specific and universal themes makes it an excellent tool for teachers to use in the classroom, too.”
A writer’s drawer
Imagine a writer’s drawer or small compartment filled with secret poems, jotted notes, scribbled words, and life experiences. Sometimes these words grow into wonderful stories. Beryl Belsky’s new book, A Certain Kind of Freedom: Stories and Poems from The Writer’s Drawer, boasts 33 writers from around the world. The culturally driven book features essays, poems, and short stories from her website, The Writer’s Drawer.
Launched in 2012, The Writer’s Drawer grew in both publicity and content. After about a year, Belsky realized that some of the material she was posting was very good and deserved a wider readership. The book is like giving a whisper of a voice a bullhorn. “Several riveting stories had come in, as well as some fascinating essays from writers living in various parts of the world, such as Iran, India and Vietnam,” she says. “Some of the poetry was also good, although I don’t consider myself an expert on poetry; I go more by instinct.”
When Belsky decided to publish an anthology of stories and poems from The Writer’s Drawer, she already had several pieces in mind. “I posted the concept for the anthology at the website and on various social media, with a deadline for submissions.” Several more outstanding stories and poems found their way to Belsky, which she knew immediately should be published in the book. “When I was in doubt about a piece or wished to choose between two or more pieces by a particular writer, I sent them to a writer/editor friend to get her opinion. This process continued for a few weeks after the deadline until I had lined up the 33 writers and their work.
Belsky helps writers by editing their submissions prior to publishing their work. She explains the complex issue, “First, let me state that I don’t accept all submissions to The Writer’s Drawer. I do require a minimum standard of writing ability and potential reader interest. Second, most of the submissions, even those from more experienced native English-speaking writers, do require some editing, some a lot more than others. Since the website attracts also non-native English speakers, their work is the most time-consuming to edit, but sometimes very interesting, which is why I make the effort to edit and post them.”
The process for publishing A Certain Kind of Freedom was an entirely different one, says Belsky. “The stories I selected needed further work. Therefore, all the pieces I chose had to be polished and even re-edited, some substantially so.”
Diversity and intimate cultural glimpses
A Certain Kind of Freedom is multi-culturally driven with a wide range of cultural diversity. “There are stories and poems from Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Iran, Pakistan, Liberia, Israel, Switzerland, Australia, England, the USA, and Canada, among others. Some of the so-called Stories from Life, in particular, give some fascinating glimpses into countries and cultures most of us know little about: a girls’ day out, for example, in Iran, or the fate of a woman in India who was prevented from living in the parental home of her new husband after the family discovered her secret.
Belsky also included stories that focus on universal themes: “a mother from Israel, for example, expresses her feelings of disappointment and sadness after the break-up of her late-30s daughter and her partner.”
Communication challenges and a frog factory
Working as an editor and somewhat of a translator takes great patience and effort. “Yes, indeed. Some stories were particular challenging. Although the Iranian writers’ English is good, they sometimes confuse words and phrases. Thus, while talking about the sorry ecological state of the swamps in north-west Iran, one of them was ‘surprised’ to see a ‘frog factory.’ It took me a long while to grasp that she meant ‘frog reservation.’ The Liberian folktale was tricky because it needed a fair amount of style editing.”
Judge a book by its cover
A lovely peaceful image of a lone kayak graces the cover of Belsky’s book. “It is actually connected to the title story, A Certain Kind of Freedom. But while the story ends unhappily, I wanted the cover to reflect optimism, and especially, ‘freedom’ to think and write, which explains why the scene is tranquil rather than threatening.”
The Writer’s Drawer
Belsky’s website, The Writer’s Drawer is a global experience. Filled with posts and stories from around the world. Her very first entry came from a work colleague. “After I told her that I had just launched the website, she confessed to me that she wrote poems for the drawer. And amazingly, she agreed to let me post one. After that, the website grew slowly: a friend of a friend in Australia sent some tales about his adventures in the bush; an elderly gentleman in India began sending me fascinating stories related to his past and to life around him, and so on.”
Live anywhere; belong everywhere
Few people are fortunate enough to experience living abroad. Belsky is well-traveled and I would love to see her passport entries. Born in Ireland, her family moved to Australia when she was eight. “After I graduated in Far East Asian studies from university, I got a job in Japan, where I lived for a year. After that I moved to England, where I lived and worked for five years, and then visited Israel, where I met my husband. All this traveling means that I feel I can live anywhere but belong nowhere!”
Belsky and her husband like to holiday in Europe, but their next big journey involves travel in the States, where their son is studying.
On the bookshelf
It is no surprise that a world traveler reads novels from just about every continent. “I’m a huge fan of Indian writers and writers about India, as well as Asian literature in general. In fact, I titled one of the posts in my blog The Asia Collection Indian Writers and Writers about India: An Introduction to a Rich and Colorful Literature. So my shelf contains works by many Indian and other writers about India, such as Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry, Sujit Saraf, Paul Scott, Salman Rushdie, and Gregory David Roberts. I have just finished reading The Accidental Apprentice, by Vikas Swarup (author of Q&A/Slumdog Millionaire), and have begun a semi-biography by Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, about – strangely – the Irish nationalist Roger Casement.”
Belsky loved reading as a child and read the usual childhood tales, including many by Enid Blyton, “who is now frowned on for her racism and sexism.”
“I also read the classics: Anne of Green Gables and all the books in that series, Dumas, Dickens, Etc.”
In the DVD collection
Beryl is a great fan of British period drama and has seen nearly all the great TV drama series produced in the last two decades of the last century (I Claudius, The Jewel in the Crown, Wish Me Luck, Tenko, etc.). “And of course, I am currently addicted to Downton Abbey and eagerly awaiting the special Christmas episode. I also enjoy some British comedy. I love Monty Python, the Black Adder series, Hello, Hello, Absolutely Fabulous, and others.”
She’ll occasionally watch a film that has been “highly recommended that is not of the above genres – as long as it’s not an action, thriller or horror movie,”
Beryl Belsky is an experienced writer and seasoned editor. She lives in Israel with her husband.
Beryl Belsky is the innovator of The Writer’s Drawer and her first book, A Certain Kind of Freedom: Stories and Poems from The Writer’s Drawer is available NOW on Amazon. She also has a tennis blog. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
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