Editor’s note: Our prose editor, Michael Stang, caught up with Sylvia right after she moved back to Germany, realizing her beloved Ireland would not fare well in the coming pandemic. An exerpt is provided below, and you can find the whole interview at:
Storymaker: Can you tell us what inspiration looks like to you, and how do you internalize the experience, and translate it when you write?
Sylvia Wohlfarth: Inspiration overcomes me all the time. I am so aware of my senses I feel I have internally built antennae. It might be a word or words I hear or read; something or someone I see which triggers an emotion, and I know I have a story.
I immediately start writing in the notes on my mobile because otherwise, try as I may, I will forget. The bane of age.
I internalised this sensitivity very early on, growing up as a child from a privileged family in a Third World country, Nigeria. I couldn’t help but notice the poverty around me, and even at four or five, my heart bled for the malnutritioned children I’d see on the streets. Sown in childhood (3), I guess this is the source of my driving force, raising awareness of social injustices
I’ll give you an example of how I tick: Walking through town a few weeks ago, concentrating on whatever it was I was going to do, I caught a glimpse — a matter of seconds — of a young boy huddled in the doorway of a shop. Enough for my antenna to pick up the following thoughts, which I immediately typed into my mobile. And they went like this:
“Boy, you’ve been treated bad, or you wouldn’t be crouched like that outside
the shop with an upturned paper cup in your hand. I feel and see an air of desperation in your pale pinched face. You’re much too young to be out on the streets like this. What’s your story? Shall I give it a try and write it in the name of many like you, shall I begin with your childhood, which you’ve only just left …”
This is how I deal with my feelings of compassion…and at some stage, I’ll return to the notes and relive this moment, and possibly write a poem.
This, by the way, also happens when I experience something joyful or amusing. I am extremely emodiversive…
Anna Rozwadowska 2020