Eia Uus – the virtue of books & travel
Meet Eia Uus – the Executive Editor of Anne & Stiil, which is the biggest Estonian fashion and lifestyle magazine. We in Wuruhi are inspired by the multiple ways of how people have chosen to live their lives and Eia surely has her own unique way. What is her favorite accessory, you ask? Books, she replies.
Her writing debut, “Kuu külm kuma” was noticed already in 2004 and in 2006 she won the Eduard Vilde literary prize. We were therefore excited when Eia invited us to her grandmother’s countryside home in Saue where we had a splendid photoshoot, got to see her beautiful garden and had a sneak peek into her world of books and travels.
You are the youngest person ever to win the Eduard Vilde literary prize. How did you get into writing?
I once found myself in a terrible situation and discovered that a way to tolerate it, to go through it, is to write it out. I was 19 then. On Mondays there were no lectures at the University (I studied International Relations then), so every Monday I wrote a chapter and finished the first draft of the novel in 20 weeks. That ruined me for life! I still sometimes assume that writing would always be this easy and books would not take years and years to write. I was barely out of high school when my first novel became something students read at school… It was very strange meeting people almost the same age as me who would say I was their compulsory reading at school.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing a novel set in Canada that I began writing eight years ago. Many of the characters I had created years ago, I now had to remove to make the story work, and it was a bit sad – for years I’ve spent so much time with them, had endless conversations, and then I just throw them out… It’s funny how much has changed in the world in eight years – and at the same time, nothing at all.
Also, I’m writing a book of letters from Buenos Aires where I recently lived, which will be published in English as well.
However, of course, there are four other novels that I have drafted over the course of years, that I’ve been writing slowly when I get specific inspiration or witness or experience something that is perfect for one of those books.
Is traveling important to you?
Absolutely. I’ve made an effort to live abroad enough to set all my books in different countries. First one in Thailand, where I lived from the age of 14 to 18, second novel in Estonia and Greenland, third book in France, the fourth in Sardinia, New York, Burma, etc.
What’s your top travel tip?
Do it. Just travel. When I was still a student, I spent everything on travel, and found a lot of ways to do it for free or almost free: the pilgrimage in Spain, au pairing in Paris, taking care of the elderly in Canada, scholarships and cultural exchanges. I still don’t own a car, instead I travel.
What’s the best part of travelling?
For me, the most important thing is broadening my mind. It is imperative to realise that your (nation’s) way is not the only way. You need to see that things – anything from eating to mourning – are done differently around the world, so there is no one correct way. It gives you a massive sense of freedom every single day of your life. People often tell me: “things aren’t done like this” or “things don’t work like this”, but when you broaden your mind through travelling, you get a firm belief that they might as well be. That everything actually is possible. Also, I love feeling completely unnecessary and ridiculously tiny in the face of an immense world. And how conversations with people from other cultures and beliefs make you re-evaluate your life.
You are also the managing editor of a women’s lifestyle magazine.
Yes, that is something I would never had expected from my life… But compared to novels, I love how logical putting together a magazine is. How there’s an assigned slot for all types of knowledge and a monthly print date by when everything has to be absolutely perfected. I get to learn a lot about people there. Sometimes, when I fact-check something for the magazine or find information for characters in a book, I think that a Google-bot has probably marked me as an anomaly or a psychopath.
Doesn’t journalism step on the toes of writing books??
Of course it takes a lot of time that could be spent on novels, but a lot of writers worldwide do both. Journalism teaches me a lot. Like discipline, and the courage to ask difficult questions, and what I’ve realised recently – clarity. I think ten years ago I didn’t care that the book was too complicated for most people to follow, but you can’t allow this in journalism. Every sentence has to carry the reader. Also, when I’m traveling I ask a lot more questions about everything, and if there’s someone I’d like to meet or something I’d like to see, being a journalist opens doors – and mouths.
Your advice to people who want to be writers?
Write. It really does come down to this. I meet so many people who say they feel they will become writers or they have a book inside them – but they never write. Also – read. Read a lot! A writer friend who teaches creative writing in University said that a lot of her students nowadays want to become writers, but are unwilling to read anything but the internet.
How do you find the time for writing books when you have a demanding full-time job?
I really loved the advice of an older successful writer: treat writing as a lover. You know, when you are really in love, you want to see this person all the time, you’d do almost anything to meet them even for five minutes a day – and you find the time for them even on the busiest of days. I work better when I can go into a novel, be alone for days with my writing, forgetting to eat and sleep, but I’m trying to get to the place where not a single day passes without familiarising myself with my characters and the story. Even spending ten minutes re-reading a dialogue, editing, not writing. Being in the book.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The way it goes up and down until you’re sick with it. I always wanted to believe that writing is only discipline and hard work, but I’m afraid it really isn’t. When I’m inspired, I can go five days and nights, just on and on and on, everything is real and devastating and acute and necessary. Then I come out of the haze and spend the next five days sitting in front of the draft unable to believe how awful everything is and thinking whether I was mad to believe that something worthy would come out of this.
Also, when I use a personal trauma from the past, writing about it, travelling back into that moment with all my senses… Did you know that the brain can’t tell the difference between what is actually happening and what you are remembering or imagining? So when you’re remembering something awful, your body gets a dose of all those chemicals your brain pumped up when the actual thing was happening. That’s why one should not dwell on the past. So after writing about something horrible, even if it didn’t happen to me in real life, I can feel really beaten up.
What do you love most about the writing process?
I suppose making sense of the world. That every day we have all these senseless, meaningless experiences, like seeing something fall out of a window or someone yelling at the store, and there is no rhyme or reason to the experience of being a human. But when I sit down to write, something becomes of all this mess surrounding us – a book has a beginning, an end, it is possible to contain an experience between covers. And it’s an incredible feeling to receive letters from readers who write that my book has somehow helped them, made them happy or brave.
What is your “must have” accessory?
Books. Really, no exaggeration. I never go out without a book. Even to a party or even when I’m not taking a bag with me. If I could work with any kind of designer, it would have to be a bag designer, who’d create a special purse with a book in mind!
Do you have a piece of jewellery that you never take off?
Yes, a tiny gold bracelet by New Vintage by Kriss on my left wrist that I got instead of another tattoo. When I notice it, I remember to breathe deeply.
|Eia Uus||Arttu Karvonen||Alli-Liis Vandel||Sofia Lark & Katrin Veegen from Wuruhi.com||Sofia Lark & Diana Arno|
|Robi Agnes||Saue, Estonia|