Sevda Khatamian is a designer, artist, author (and friend), and she recently published her second memoir, Morning People, to follow her first book, That Year. Sevda, as a person, is lovely and interesting and her artistic process follows suit.
As part of my effort to interview artists and makers that inspire me, I wanted to lead off with Sevda. She’s multifaceted and totally game for anything and totally fits into the book, In the Company of Women. What I like in her writing, she does what my favorite author, David Sedaris, does, where she shares a moment of her life that is painful and poignant, and within its unfolding, there’s something so extremely hilarious that you’re like, “Can I do this right now? Is laughing the wrong thing to do right now?”
I met Sevda at Gullkistan and am so inspired by her work, her outlook, and creativity. She was kind enough to answer some questions for me about her work! Please have a look at her responses to my questions and her books available on Amazon!).
Thank you, Sevda, for your kindness and for producing beautiful things!
Why did you choose to write a memoir?
- I think it’s one of those things that were led to another. I wanted to write, and I mostly wrote about people and things around me. I had talked to a friend about the process of writing a book. He advised me to start taking notes, and later draw a map and a general outline of my story. So, I took notes, and practiced writing and developing my story. The first plan was to take advantage of some of the incidents and friends as elements for my book, but later I found the actual “life” to be more interesting than fiction. A lot happens in an everyday life, I started to notice, and decided to write a book based on my reality and my personal thoughts.
How long have you been writing?
- Well, not so long. It must be about three or four years that I’ve taken it seriously. I’ve written a couple of short scripts and short stories before, but I only wrote them for myself as a personal study. I believe I took a journal when I was in high school, and I wrote about two or three pages every couple of weeks.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
- Every word and every sentence is like a window into the writer’s mind. The phrases, sceneries, smells, dialogues and the atmosphere created in a book pretty much flashes the kind of life the writer had and the environment he/she grew up in. Writing is like documenting a part of a culture, a piece of time, a lifestyle reflected through an individual, and the perspective the author has seen things through.
What were your goals and intentions in this book?
- I also wanted to create a more abstract world in this book; it wasn’t just the story of my life and the city. As I mentioned earlier, I’d intended to be clear about what I was feeling. Well, I think I was a little bit too focused on “lucid-dreaming” back then, and I somehow killed it. I’d reached the point where I couldn’t tell if it was a dream or an actual memory that I was thinking of. Combining dream and reality was a good experience that I tried in this book, at least for me.
- The very first thing that I wanted was to be able to express the exact feeling that I had as I was living the moment. The ideas grew as I started working on the book, and they were very complicated toward the end. I don’t how the readers take it, but I tried to stress on self-censorship a lot. You see, we may never see the whole face of reality. There’s always something we might miss as we tell a story, whether we hide out the facts we don’t want to be heard, or we just drop them since they seem to be unimportant.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
- I should say editing. You see, I’m not an editor. I was editing my book, absolutely unsure of what I was doing. I wasn’t in a position to hire an editor, which was a good thing at the same time; it gave full control over my work, but it exhausted me terribly. I had to read it over and over again, and after a certain point, the words stopped making sense. Although, I think it was mostly the ‘time’ that made things difficult. I wanted to release the book as soon as I could, to work on other projects, but the editing took forever, and that stressed me out a little bit.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
- I hand-wrote the first two drafts, which was unbelievably relaxing. I might’ve underestimated the power of pen and pencil and paper. I decided to wrap up my notes and pieces of writings as I was traveling the Black Sea area with a couple of close friends. I remember finishing the draft as we’d camped in one of the villages (“yayla” is the actual word, they’re not really villages) of Kaçkar Mountains. I was filled with fresh oxygen and the happiness over my little personal success that I had completed my draft.
What inspires you?
- Details. I believe “detail” is what makes any idea stand out.
What projects are you working on at the present?
- Currently, I’ve given myself a break, both to enjoy the spring, and to relax my brain muscles a bit. Although, I’m still drawing for my postcard project, Lonely Places. I also write for my blog. I recently decided to run a personal blog about my travels and my daily experiences.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I will be working on my short animation project called “The Street”. It is a series of animated images captured from the book that would not have the same effect when they’re envisioned in words, or chapters which are taken out from the book, or left unsaid, sometimes only a hint is mentioned in the book. It visions emotions and feelings that I carried at certain moments, such as the fear of future created by on-going facts and the media, stillness of the present, journeys and runaways from home and city, relative concept of the time, views out of our windows that we might be so used to that we miss out details.
I have already prepared a few drawings as location and background images of the scenes; they’re all views of the windows that I’ve written about in the book. More drawings will be added as I develop the script.
Thank you, Sevda!
Links about Sevda
- Sevda’s website
- Morning People (published 2017)
- That Year (published 2015)
- The Company of Women
- My interview glossary
Sevda’s interview was posted unedited and with her permission.