The power of stories

Saturday, 13 January 2018

For me, the beginning of the new year always means reflecting on the past year and reminding myself of all the significant events that came to pass during that time. For VOICE, 2017 has been an incredibly eventful year. We launched our website, delivering information and news on the project in four languages. We gradually grew in the number of participating writers, until we ended up working with 15 incredibly inspiring individuals from all over the world. We celebrated our first birthday. And, of course, we started working with Unbound to crowdfund and publish A Definition of Snow. When I talk about VOICE, the conversation usually reaches a point where the person I am talking to gives me a rather thoughtful look, accompanied by a sentence along the lines of: “Oh, I never really thought of that”. To me, this is one of the things the project is about - broadening mindsets and becoming aware of things that we would not otherwise consciously consider. For example, we didn´t send out Christmas or New Year wishes - because even within the team, we celebrate Christmas on different days, in different ways, or not at all. The same applies to the New Year - for some of our writers, the new year will only begin in February, and for those adhering to the Coptic calendar, it will not be 2018. Of course, everyone I talked to knew Christmas wasn´t a universal holiday. But sometimes we know things without being fully aware of them. And then there are the many things we don´t know about. In the past year, VOICE has made an exceptional difference to my life.

I am not an emotional person, but working with our writers on their stories has seen me go through every emotion possible. And even after reading a story for the fifth or sixth time, I would be flooded with any imaginable combination of sadness, happiness, anger, joy, respect, indignation, hope, grief, admiration, amazement, surprise or whatever else the writer´s words and experiences would trigger. When I work with our writers´ stories, I schedule an extra hour every time. Not because the work takes so long, but because I know I will need the time to order my thoughts after reading them, even though I pretty much know all of them by heart by now. Thinking about my year 2017, the effect of these stories and working with the writers and the international team has been many things - but above all, it has been an absolute privilege, and one that I am extremely grateful for. Those of you who have already pledged and have access to our exclusive supporter updates will know through the preface we shared in December that A Definition of Snow is deeply personal to me. I always described the VOICE stories as inspiring, thoughtful, as challenging perceptions and opening minds, or as a gateway to a world that would otherwise remain hidden from view for most of us. I had countless conversations with the incredibly intelligent and diverse VOICE team on this. And the stories are all of these things. However, it was our writing advisor Catherine who came up with the key word: powerful. All of these stories hold an extraordinary power that will enthral you as a reader and will not relinquish you even after you have put the story aside. So, 2017 has been an exceptional year with VOICE. And I am really looking forward to 2018. For me, 2018 has started with another incredibly important question: What good can writers do? This is the headline of an article on VOICE by Catherine, published in the Irish magazine I urge you to read it - I am sure it will make you think.

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