“Life can be fascinating when we pay attention” | Ana Pessoa, Aarhus 39

“Life can be fascinating when we pay attention” | Ana Pessoa, Aarhus 39

Ana Pessoa is an acclaimed Portuguese writer, part of our Aarhus 39 selection of the best emerging writers from across Europe. Ana will be appearing at the inaugural International Children’s Literature Hay Festival Aarhus 2017 later this month. Here she talks about her new story for Odyssey, our new anthology of  stories for young adults, inspired by journeys. 

Tell us about your story…
My story is about a young girl who goes on a hike in the mountains with her family. While she walks, she wonders about the landscape, thinks about the past and also imagines things that are not real. Fundamentally the story is about walking and contemplating.

Why did you pick that theme?
The theme of the anthology is “Journeys” and strangely enough I have been writing quite a bit about travelling. This Summer I went on a hike in the mountains and realized I wanted to write exactly about that experience.

When did you decide to become an author?
I don’t think I ever did! I’m not sure if I am an actual author! When does a writer become a writer? I’m not sure. In any case I always enjoyed writing. When I was a teenager I wrote a lot of short stories and I also kept a diary. It was a very creative period in my life. I suppose that is the reason why I enjoy writing about adolescence.

When did you publish your first book?
In 2012, just before turning 30 years old. The book is called “The Karate Girl’s Red Notebook” and is beautifully illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho. It’s about a girl who does karate and writes fictional stories in a notebook.

What is special about writing for children/teenagers?
I write about teenagers but not necessarily for teenagers. Adolescence is a very special period in our lives. We have a lot of energy and a lot of ideas. We rebel against the establishment, but we are still not sure of who we actually are. We also deal with a lot of expectations (school, family, friends) and with a lot of emotions (love, hatred, frustration). Very often we are caught in contradiction: we want to be original and unique, but we also want to belong to a group and feel accepted. It is not easy to deal with so many feelings and thoughts. From a literary point of view, the challenge is enormous!

What does it mean to you to be a part of the anthology and the Hay Festival?
I am very excited to be a part of this anthology. I can’t wait to meet all the writers and read their stories. I am also looking forward to the festival. I enjoy meeting new people and sharing experiences, so I think this is going to be a very important week in my life. To be honest, I am still a bit shocked that I was given this chance. I feel grateful and honored.

Do you have a favorite spot where you write?

Where is that? And why is that your favorite spot?
For me, the best place to write is at home. Silence and comfort is what I need to really focus on my writing. My desk is in a corner of the living room and is facing a window. I have a very good view over a crossroad. Whenever I need action I just look outside.

How do you get inspired?
I get inspiration from nearly everything. Meeting friends, watching a movie, reading a book. I also get inspiration from my daily routine. Having breakfast, watering the plants, doing the dishes! Life can be quite fascinating when we pay attention.