The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.
Today we are speaking with Kateryna BABKINA Катерина Бабкіна, a fiction writer, poet and playwright from Ukraine.
1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?
Before coming here, I was thinking on working on a short stories collection about people, who were born I soviet time, but grew up in the contemporary world. About how their past affects their mind, how they find their ways to set up in new Ukraine or abroad. Well, I’ve started. The other purpose to come here was experiencing creative writing education. I teach creative writing back home and it’s a privilege to be able to participate world-famous creative writing and translation workshops in Iowa, as well as all the events, panels, discussion. This is very inspiring.
2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?
Well, here in Iowa the best time for writing is between 6PM and 12AM, for everybody in Ukraine is sleeping so there’s no e-mails, chat and phone calls. Apart from the jokes, I do have my writing routine. I make living from writing, so it’s my main occupation. I have my office where I write, big white desk, nice view in front of it, all the vocabularies and books I might need are in hand reach. I need quiet, empty space. I’m not the one to work in cafes. Good reading is also vital for my writing, it keeps me inspired, full of ideas, active, thinking.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
I'm reading The Beginner's Goodbye by Ann Tyler, for pleasure. As I finish I wanna read as much from James Baldwin as I can, I kind of rediscovered him here. He's great. I must confess I don't read much for research apart from things on the Internet, but it would be a lame answer, like What are you currently reading? – Well, the Guardian and Vulture…
4. What is something the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and/or your work?
At the International literature Today class one student asked me, if the fact that I became so successful so early (I've published my first book at the age of 17) influenced my mind and writing. As if I were successful, as if. I'm proud of all books I've published and I'm happy they find the translators and publishers abroad, yet I'm still the beginner. And I love it – being a professional writer, hardworking and responsible, yet the beginner, with eyes open wide, surprised, openminded, inventive.
5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
Ukraine used to be a part of Soviet Union, and before it the country had had very complicated, thrilling, yet exciting and heroic history. Now we’re trying to overcome our difficult past. It’s good place to be and to write. Ukrainian language is very beautiful and melodic, it’s abilities in expression and it’s flexibility is amazing. I think it’s one of the best language for writing. Honestly, I think that’s the language what made me write. Ukraine is now in a state of war with Russia and we’ve lost more than 10,000 our people because of that. Beautiful part of Ukraine, Crimean peninsula, is occupied by Russia. There are a lot of interesting and cool Ukrainian books translated into English – check it out!
Thank you Kateryna!
Kateryna will be reading with IWP Resident Faisal Oddang and Iowa Writers' Workshop student Sarah Thankam Mathews at Prairie Lights, 4pm on Sunday, Oct. 7, as part of the Iowa City Book Festival: Link
Kateryna BABKINA Катерина Бабкіна (fiction writer, poet, playwright; Ukraine) published her first book at age 17. Since then, she has authored three story collections, four volumes of poetry and two novels, with translations into 12 languages. Sonia was shortlisted for the 2013 BBC Book of the Year; three of her screenplays have been made into films, including Зло [Evil] and Жовта коробочка [The Yellow Box]. Her children’s book Шапочка і кит [Cappy and the Whale], a commercial success, raised funds for pediatric cancer. She participates courtesy of the Paul and Hualing Engle Fund.