Grafomania: Promoting young writing in Guantanamo – interview

When asked about Grafomania's beginnings, Yecenia says: "I don't remember the exact moment when the idea of creating the project came up, but it was after the Book Fair in 2014, at an event with important Cuban writers such as Marcial Gala, Geovannys Manso, Luis Yusseff, Maria Elena Llana, Laidi Fernandez de Juan and other such prestigious writers from this side of the island (Eastern Cuba).

She adds: "The initial desire was to encourage young people to write, it was always said that Guantanamo literature was aging, and it is true that there were no new voices except for the exceptional cases of Eldys Baratute, Yordis Monteserín, Alejandro Reytor, and few examples that emigrated from the eastern end. The number of authors born after the 1980s was small. Then, after the initial diagnosis, where we evaluated the pros and cons of creating something new in our town, we decided to communicate it to the rest of the young people we had identified as potential members and that meeting was arranged for April 23. The choice of date was intentional, of course, we wanted to pay homage to the Day of Language and the book, to Miguel de Cervantes, as a very particular contribution to the defence of the Spanish language, young creation, the generational relay of literature and Cuban culture, and the constant search for a platform from which to encourage the love of reading as a form of spiritual and human growth ".

Since 2014 Grafomanía has developed the International Open Door Competition, with more than 600 works submitted and from writers from 25 countries. Open Door, one of the project's tangible achievements, is the only international competition to be convened from the eastern province, the birthplace of the poet Regino Eladio Boti. In this regard, Yecenia says that "one of the important things we have done is introducing (mini) short stories and short poems (epigrams). Thanks to which many new writers have published works and gained recognition through the mass media.But, "Grafomania is a great family, which you arrive at and do not want to leave, because the connection established by literature extends to other aspects of life. Its members are dedicated to it, because it has demonstrated to them that from the unity and the desire one can take leaps and bounds that can not be achieved by institutional means ".

Grafomania has initiated activities in different places in Guantanamo city and several local towns, many of them where there are no literary promoters. Yecenia says: "There are many activities we have set up with the aim of encouraging young writers not only to join the project or collaborate with it, but to have faith in their work and try to get it published, to believe they are writers with talent and potential for writing, some cases with more objective possibilities than others, of course.

The ActivArte space is very lively, because through its dynamics new talents and important guests are presented. They mix creation and literary promotion, and at the same time it contributes new ways of seeing and making the literature. Grafomania Awards, one of the few in the country that visualize the work of cultural promoters whose main goals are to promote books and reading, is an initiative that we started at the end of 2016 and that certainly motivates us to repeat it ". .

She adds: "Epicentro is a digital magazine that circulates through the networks and we upload to our blog: http://www.grafomaní, an alternative publication that promotes and represents work of our writer community, and in which everyone can collaborate with works of different genres, especially unpublished authors. And, although we have only just started it, Epicentro, the radio magazine that replicates the digital, incorporates new content, allows us to reach the Guantanamo radio audience for an hour a week, which extends to the outskirts of Santiago and more. ‘The Route Following the footprint of Boti' is a way of paying homage to this outstanding Guantanamo poet and, at the same time, showing to an audience, often unfamiliar, distinctive elements of local history and relevant sites in the history of literature, such as the house where Regino Eladio Boti was born and died, the La Luz Center, where the first copies of ‘The Golden Age' arrived in Cuba.

"We should also mention the competitions we do to pay homage to the city, aimed at children. We organise presentations in communities, schools, work places, spaces, cultural events and others, in order to bring literature as an artform carried out by the young creators ".

The actions of this Guantanamo project do not stop, because they have very precise objectives: "The creation of a community library, awarding prizes in competitions, inside and outside the city; promotional work in the media all contribute to our objectives, which are: to encourage the creation of young writers based on new literary promotion strategies that allow them to strengthen their social and cultural values; Promote participatory spaces for literary creation and appreciation; To bring the literary movement closer to the community by fostering the habit of reading and participatory management in community development and stimulating the use of new technologies through communicative products that enrich children and teenagers' experiences".

When I ask her what new ideas in the pipeline, she does not hesitate to reply: "Constantly reviewing our projects is what keeps us alive and willing to continue doing more and better things for literature. 2017 is a year of great promise, we have received two prizes and a special mention; Recognition that forces us to consolidate. But the most immediate thing and what we are working on now, is a selection of semi-finalists and winners of the last 3 years of the Open Door Competition, which will consolidate our main project; putting together a children's book by as yet unpublished writers and also considering works to include in national and foreign publications. For the first time, at this year's Book Fair, titles by our members were presented, which I think has been the biggest prize for three years of dedication.

Recently, the Grafomanía Literary Promotion Project received an award from the CITMA Provincial Council of Social and Humanistic Sciences in Holguin, for its sociocultural impact in the community, during the Congress of Young Researchers Memoria Nuestra, held in May.

"It is always a joy to be recognized for what we do, it is the metre of how we value and see others, more when it is outside the context in which we usually work. The biggest prize was to present Grafomanía, in the most important event of the Romerías de Mayo, a major annual event in Cuban culture. In my particular case, it was a memorable experience. It was the first time that I participated in the Romerías, I shared a platform with with poets and I took part in an event that about incentives for new projects ".

The members of Grafomanía obtained the scholarship ‘The kingdom of this world', granted by the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS), to produce a multimedia project to promote the work of young Cuban writers: "This is one of the initiatives created in the early years of Grafomanía, but it needed financing that we did not have. We already needed a space to promote what we did, not only as a project, but for individual work and initiatives, but when I had the chance to present our case I had other things on my mind. I remember writing the project at the end of 2015, I was in Santiago de Cuba with my son in the hospital, and from a hospital couch I finished it and sent it by email on my phone to the President of the AHS at Guantanamo. The months went by and I didn't hear anything, until one great day, I heard that the project had been approved.

"It is a multimedia of literary promotion, containing audiovisual materials, the work of 37 young Cuban writers published and unpublished, some members of the AHS some not, more than 100 digital books, information on projects for new initiatives to promote the book and authors, competitions, prizes and literary spaces.

The multimedia is called ‘Reading is the beginning' and is presented by the outstanding journalist and cultural promoter Fernando Rodríguez Sosa. You can access interesting materials, articles and interviews that reflect the current panorama of literary promotion in Cuba. It became this, almost unintentionally while we put together materials from the perspective of those involved. Once the launch happens we will see what impact it generates and has on its target audience, which are still those young people that Grafomanía has in its sights. I know it will be a rewarding experience, in addition to suggestions and new ideas that may arise, " she says.

Although she dedicates much of her time to the promotion of other young authors and to encourage reading as an experience of spiritual growth, Yecenia recently published the book Coleta, paper heart, and obtained the Novel Prize in the V Charity Pineda In Memoriam Contest Promotion of Reading, Santiago de Cuba 2016, with the text "The book that I had to live"."I have many projects and future plans, I work constantly, but what preoccupies me most is encouraging Grafomania members to publish their books in the future, that is the goal of every young person with talent for writing, although I am convinced that only those with greater commitment will do it".

"2016 was a year of recognition and reaffirmation, literature came into my life never to leave me; I learned it from living my greatest nightmare, from which came the story with which I obtained several prizes, because from the bitter experience of being away from my home for several months with my sick son, the unshakable connection arose with that world that saved me from depression, "she says.

"I think for every writer it is a pride to talk about their first book, which is both the materialization of a dream. Collection, paper heart has been an immense joy and at the same time a commitment to overcoming difficulties. I confess that I never imagined writing and publishing children's theatre, it is the last of the genres I discovered and yet with which I feel more comfortable. Obtaining the Sigifredo Álvarez Conesa Scholarship Grant 2016, from the National Council of Houses of Culture (casas de cultura), was the inspiration to write a second book, this time of teenagers poetry;

Today in a Cuban publishing house outside Guantánamo, you have to push open doors, if you don't not want to be a writer condemned by where you live, because to live in this end of the island has its pros and cons ", adds this young writer who suffers, according to psychiatry, a "chronic delirium" called grafomania: that passionate love for writing and literature, and also for the promotion of this and young writers.

Link to Original interview in Spanish