On the Mediterranean, the Power of Nature, and the Beauty of Tabarka
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Hella Grichi, a fellow contributor to the Future Fire Press Anthology: Fae Visions of the Mediterranean. Her story ‘The Wisps of Tabarka’ is a compelling tale of spirits of the forest, with themes of persecution, nature, rebirth and renewal.
Hella is a post-graduate student of English Literature, History and Linguistics at l’Ecole Normale Supérieure in Tunis. In our interview we discuss the Mediterranean, Hella’s international background and creative projects she is involved in.
ME: What does the Mediterranean mean to you? Is it an important force in your life and imagination?
HELLA: The Mediterranean has always been part of my life. I spend my summers swimming in it, crossing it or contemplating it. Nature in general is one of my life’s driving forces, especially the forest. It is a soothing and inspiring element and I am lucky to be able to be so close to the Mediterranean sea and the North-Western forests of Tunisia. My love for this very region also played a vital role in the conception of “The Wisps of Tabarka”.
HELLA: When I started writing the story, I was going through a phase where it was up to me to succumb to sadness, or to rise above it and remain the cheerful woman that I am. These feelings combined with my endless love for nature and folklore, and my desire to eternalize the beauty of Tabarka that hasn’t been written about much yet led to a storm of ideas. The words just poured out of me and it was an amazing experience. The album “Beltaine” of neo-pagan folk artist Jennifer van der Harten who is also a member of the folk band Omnia also triggered underlying emotions that surfaced naturally and contributed to the elaboration of the story.
When I started writing the story, I was going through a phase where it was up to me to succumb to sadness, or to rise above it and remain the cheerful woman that I am.
ME: You are a co-founder of Aspire to Inspire. Can you tell me about your involvement in this and what was behind its founding? What do you find most rewarding about it?
HELLA: Aspire to Inspire is a student-led initiative that I started with friends in 2013 and which has been organizing peformance poetry events in the last few years, one of which is soon to take place on May 1st 2016 and is called “Unleash the Poet Within You”. In Tunisia, it is the only event that specializes in English language poetry. The most rewarding facet of it is the success of these events and how young poets actually participate in it with so much passion and devotion in their hearts. The event has been ever-growing and it is so fulfilling to see that the efforts we put into this initiative bear such precious fruits: seeing these young talents shine on stage.
Psst… More on Hella’s poetry below- a video of her performance poetry…
ME: I read in your anthology biography that you grew up in Germany, and returned to Tunisia in 2001. Can you tell me what languages you speak, and what you love most about writing in each of them?
HELLA: I returned to Tunisia in 2005. It was a tough transition at first since I was only 14 at that time. But growing up bilingual and between two cultures is amazing. I speak Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, German, English and French. I mainly write in English of course but I used to write short stories in German and poetry in French. It is interesting how each language has a different feeling to it, different idioms, sounds and expressions. I can’t wait to learn more languages and eventually even write poetry in them.
ME: You do an incredible job creating a world with so much depth and character in so few words. How long have you been writing? Do you have any tips based on your own works and efforts for other young people hoping to be published?
HELLA: I have been writing since I was a child. First in German, then in English and French too but what stuck with me in the end was English. I read a lot in English and feel that I can best express myself artistically in English. If I could give a humble tip to any reader out there, it would be this: write. Just sit down and let your thoughts and feelings flow. Like any other artistic skill, practice and perseverance are the key. Don’t be afraid to put down what you think, don’t hesitate to play with language devices and break the rules. Writing is like therapy to me: to give life to what is in me and see it written down in front of me gives me such intense relief and happiness.
Don’t be afraid to put down what you think, don’t hesitate to play with language devices and break the rules.
You can read Hella’s story, and many more stories and poems, in the Anthology. It is available in both ebook and print format. This link will take you to its listing on Amazon. To read more articles and interviews about this anthology and other projects from The Future Fire visit their press blog here.
As promised a link to Hella’s powerful poem, performed with Aspire to Inspire: