Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ava Homa

Share |
Ava Homa is the author of Echoes from the Other Land, which was nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2011. Echoes from the Other Land was also placed sixth in the top ten winners of the CBC Reader's Choice Contest for Giller Prize.  Ava’s collection has a running theme of resistance by modern Iranian women.  The stories are told on a universal scale, depicting human endurance, desire and passion. Ava’s writings have appeared in periodicals such as The Toronto Quarterly, Windsor Review, the Toronto Star and Rabble.

Ava is also an academic who teaches Creative Writing and English in a post-secondary level in Ontario Colleges and is a writer-in-residence for Minden Hill Cultural Centre.

Ava is a translator (Farsi/English) and a researcher, too. She loves outdoor activities, music, movies and fine arts.  For more information please visit www.AvaHoma.com. Ava blogs at ava-homa.blogspot.com.

Please send your questions and comments for Ava to writer@openbooktoronto.com

Five Things Literary, with Ava Homa

As part of our mapping of literary Ontario, we're highlighting five things about literary life in communities throughout the province. What do our cities, towns and villages have to offer writers, readers and the curious? Follow Five Things Literary to find out.

Echoes from the Other Land: Stories of Modern Iranian Women

By Ava Homa

Iran is isolated and yet active in the world. It is ruled by religious tradition and yet is in many ways modern and sophisticated. Echoes from the Other Land emphasizes the considerable diversity in Iran, a country with a rich history and variety of ethnicities. While I wish to highlight diversity, to represent such a diverse nation is not the objective of this collection — nor is it, I believe, an achievable goal. In Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative Mary Burger says “narrative is the tool for exploring being in time” (9). So too, my narrative explores being in time. This is meant to resist representations enforced by both the Western accounts of Iran and those of the oppressive regime.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Excerpt: Ava Homa's Lullaby published by Novel Rights

“The call rings out. I tell myself the students are still learning, in secret, the history of the Kurds. The call for prayer echoes through Evin Prison. It turns me cold with fear.

Footsteps! I know the sound of those heavy boots. I know them well. My pen falls down from my bed and I curl into a ball, shrinking with fear. The pain in my head and face, legs and back, stomach and ribs becomes much sharper. Clutching at the pillow does not stop me from shaking. The footsteps stop before they reach my ward. “Hands up,” I think, and almost say it out loud.

“Hands up,” the old guard says.

I know what they are doing in the other cell. The blindfold, the click of the handcuffs, and the guards take Ali out, pushing and kicking him.

Author's Note on Writing Lullaby

May 9, 2010 was going to be a happy day: I had time to write another cover letter for yet another job that was not my forte, not being an author, before I dressed up for a party, to be ready to be picked up by my fiancé…

It was Radio Farda that announced Farzad Kamangar and four other Kurds were charged with “Animosity with God and terrorism” and hanged without warning

My tears had no reason to roll down since I did not know any of these people and they were neither the first, nor the last Kurds executed by the Iranian government. But tears don’t look for reasons and I surrendered to hours of non-stop sobs that smudged the words I’d been writing.

ECHOES FROM EXILE: LIVING IN FEAR By Ava Homa

ECHOES FROM EXILE: LIVING IN FEAR
By Ava Homa
I grew up seeing lash scars on my father’s back. I was a toddler when he was incarcerated and tortured. Why? For possessing banned books, for being Kurdish, for not approving of the nefarious Iranian government. Since the only documents against him were his books, he was not executed; instead, he was left to deteriorate gradually, left to struggle with the never-to-be-healed and invisible traces of torture. The abhorrence he felt toward the injustice consumed my father; the damage turned him into a person he would not like had he met him before the imprisonment—irascible, reclusive, insufferable. Unless one has been tortured for one’s beliefs and stayed the same person as before that incident, one is not in any position to judge my father.

Review of Ava Homa's debut Echoes from the Other Land on Black Coffee Poet

ECHOES FROM THE OTHER LAND (STORIES) BY AVA HOMA

Echoes from the Other Land (Stories)

By Ava Homa

Review by May Lui

Reading the stories in Echoes from the Other Land, I found myself absorbing and learning perspectives and realities that are both similar and very different from the world that I’m familiar with. Ava Homa writes of a world of urban Iran, a world where women; single, divorced and married; negotiate and navigate a sometimes unfriendly and harsh world of religious police, family, religion, narrow views of women’s sexuality and societal expectations for women.

This Story Has No Ending

The veteran walked victoriously through the final battle, passed all the deserts, mountains, oceans and landed in the promise terrain. But, this is not the end of the story.

She reaches for the water to satisfy her thirst and realizes that where she expected an ocean, lies only a pond which is not limpid; that its limits are discernible to her tired eyes. She rubs them and looks at the people around her to whom she looks invisible, who don’t like her look and accent, who are absorbed with body and don't believe in the injured soul that she strove so hard to save, who can’t even imagine what a battle-field looks like, who feel the warrior and people like her are mere invaders.

Reincarnation of Icarus

Her eyes are innocent, that doesn't mean she is a dove to settle at the roof of a house and breed. She is a falcon that flies afar, that knows no destiny, no mate, no home.

Weary of storm and starvation, she sits at a nest that is not hers, that is not welcoming. Wounded, she flies away, higher and higher. The further she goes, the less the number of the refuges that she takes. That makes her put her exhausted wings together and sit at nowhere.

The fatigue makes her nest more than before while the bitter experiences make her fly away soon while staring doubtfully at the pleading eyes of the mate who sheltered her for a while. Excuse her; she does not belong to your warm, luring fireplace. She is the reincarnation of Icarus, with waxy wings and no fear of the sun.

Writing is Geological, Reading is Archaeological

“As writers, our desires and our limits enter our stories, dressed up as events and characters; as readers, through our desires and limits, we take up these events and characters, or their lacks and make them ours, or don’t.” (Tillman)

I try to write you, but I'm writing myself. I'm not even sure if I am the one who writes or I'm just a means through whom something gets written. I'm part of a bigger narrative myself, shaping and being shaped by it. Narratives are embedded with what we think and how we think, with what we know and how we know them.

Can you find yourself in the excerpt of Echoes from the Other Land you just read?

An Excerpt of Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Evening.

“Every relative is willing to donate something, as much as they can.” I recognize Ronak’s voice, my aunt.

“I know, but it’s a high-risk surgery. What can I say? How can I make a decision like that for her?” That voice is Mom speaking.

“Trust God, dear.”

“What’ve I done to deserve this?” Mom asks. “For which sin?”

You Are Creative

Your task is not to find intuition but to seek and destroy all the obstacles to creativity that you have built against it.

You can be creative if you

1. Stop thinking creativity only belongs to special people. He is creative. She is creative. We are creative. I am creative. Creativity needs to respected, encouraged and practiced. After all, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

2. Be open to changes. Don’t be angry when your favourite coffee shop redecorates or facebook and google change their template. Accept and enjoy the new look.

This is a Confession Not a Poem

I have pushed away that perpetual presence and neglected the past.

Now,

In my excavation for meaning,

In my urge to justify an insignificant existence,

I walk back to find a lost me in the dusty, dark hallways.

Time and I run away in opposite directions.

How to Create Characters Who Breathe On The Page by Ava Homa

Narrators aren’t always reliable, even when they pretend to be. Characters who narrate the stories may fake sincerity or simply won’t be willing to open up to the reader entirely. In powerful and subtle short stories, readers know characters better than characters know themselves. How?

Sometimes Write Outside of Every Pre-determined Genre

I'm forced to imagine you.

"Are you in love?"

"No, love is in me."

You exist in me, grow in me.

I shut up.

I want you to shut up.

You yell. You shout.

I forget you, kill you, bury you.

You resurrect.

I die inside.

And, I hatch.

An Excerpt of Echoes from the Other Land

Echoes from the Other Land

"Glass Slippers"

Ava Homa (c. 2010)

“Someone’s coming!”

“Just one?”

“Uh-huh!”

“Alone?”

“Yes.”

“Is it Yusuf?”

“A woman.”

Something falls inside you. You put your hand on your sister’s back, and wait for her to step down; but she raises herself higher, on tip-toes. Staring at Sara’s head, turned away from you, you want to ask her what else she sees, but your tongue, dry and stuck to the roof of your mouth, fails to move. Sara has her head pressed against the thin steel bars of the only window in the electronics shop storeroom. She raises her chin and peers through. Your place is three houses down from here, off the narrow alley into which Sara is peering. This block is honeycombed with dilapidated houses and a few apartments.

Innovative Writing Prompts

Write about what you know — that’s one of the fundamental nuggets of wisdom for writers. “But I don’t know anything worth writing about!” you protest. You don’t? Anything is worth writing about if the writer finds something engaging about the subject. Try these writing exercises based on firsthand observation:

1. Read the titles of books you own or those at the library or a bookstore. Create a story based on one or more titles or words therein.

2. Watch an unfamiliar TV show or movie with the volume turned down and invent a story based on the setting and/or the characters.

3. Look up names in a baby book or on a baby-names website. (Yes, of course there are baby-name websites.) Create characters based on interesting names you find there, and build a story around them.

On Crafting a Piece of Fiction (2): Characterization

How to Create Characters who Breathe on the Page?

When readers don’t sympathize with the characters, they lose interest in following the story. That’s why character is a fundamental element of fiction.
Characterization is a craft, it is a very delicate job when you don’t want to “tell” your reader who the character is, rather you want to let them figure it out on their own. Isn’t it what all the creative writing workshops promote: show, don’t tell? But, how?
You have three ways to reveal your character’s personality gradually and cleverly without hitting your reader in the head by what they already know.

1. Through dialogues

Please Don't Tell Her You Have Read this Letter

Ehsan,
I can’t let Ax write for you anymore; she is intolerably bad-tempered, moody and grumpy inside me while I keep smiling. She’s acting weird: Ax is absent minded and you need to remind her everything at least three times, she spills the milk in the fridge, the cheese on the floor and drives me nuts. And, guess what, she does cry over the spilt milk like a little baby. All she wants to do is to toss and turn in the bed, to sleep nonstop for weeks. She yawns and yawns which make her eyes teary and her vision blurry. Her apartment is a dirty, smelly pile of mess.

A Love Story

The man said, “don’t play with my heart,” then wiped his tears and walked out of the exhibition, the one that can easily be imagined.

He was absorbed in her, in her tenderness, charm, liveliness. She was tempting, bitter and overpowering like the liquor he craved for. She had the enticing attraction he has been looking for, the resistance that he desired to conquer through the wealth, fame and power his position at the government had offered him. He was one of the many she had kindly welcomed to her exhibition.

Creative Writing Prompts

Start with any of these phrases and see where your imagination takes you. Go wild (wink, wink).

1. "No way," I said. "That's impossible!"

2. How could you say that?

3. It took me too long to figure out...

4. And now she demands a public apology...

5. Years ago, when I was an optimist...

6. Does the photo inspire you? Go for it! Imagine the future of these two little girls.

Happy Writing,

Ava Homa
www.AvaHoma.com

On Crafting a Piece of Fiction (1)

But I did not say a word. I just looked into your expressively cruel eyes and then walked to the window and looked at the snow on the cedar’s green leaves which reminded me of how innocent the winter was despite its brutality and I felt the cold of the window against my cheek and the cold made me remember how I felt when I wanted to say a word.

Ava Homa's Imaginary Biography

Hello Dear Readers,

This is my first blog entry in the first day of my writer-in-residency. I suppose you need to know me.

Ava is the great, great, great, grand-daughter of Scheherazade _the story teller of One Thousand and One Night_ but was raised by sea lions after a childhood canoeing accident. She walked all the way from Kurdistan to Canada and ended up in Windsor as a result of taking the wrong flight at Pearson. It took her two years to walk back to Toronto.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.