- Guest Author -
Today I feature a writer with an interesting background - Witold Kolankowski. Welcome, Witold ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
My father was the Consul General for The Republic of Poland in The Netherlands when World War II began. He took his next assignment and The Consul General for Poland in Scotland where I grew up as an exile. My study of the English language laid the foundation for my writing.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I became a writer when I was twelve years old. I was at a Scottish boarding school and I wrote diaries and letters about the happy years I spent there. I became a professional writer gradually in 1994.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The memories I recall and share with my friends. My writing tracked my growth from childhood towards adulthood. I enjoy recalling the events in my life. I also shared my favorite subjects of literature, history and sport.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The difficulties have little to do with actual writing. I find many non-writing chores very challenging. Dealing with computer glitches, printer problems, password resets and sometimes my health bring distraction and interruption to my creative process.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
As a Polish exile in Scottland, I worked and supported my family, while getting my education. After a few hard years, I received the most advanced degree of Fellowship in Managerial Accounting from CIMA. I also got the Officer Class Order of Merit for my work on Polish history and culture in San Francisco.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Although there were thousands of books written about Frederic Chopin, none was written about his childhood and younger years in English. My-soon-to-be published book explores the wonders of being a child prodigy in an exceptionally gifted family during exceptionally turbulent times. Some of my work is not officially supported by some historians.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
''Siren with a Sword"- The story of my assignments in Poland for Levi Strauss Company in 1991 (two years after the fall of the “Iron Curtain”). The title describes the mystical mermaid warrior which is the guardian of Warsaw. The Siren with a sword is an official city emblem and she is on all the city buses.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My thirty-five year career with Levi Strauss Company, which I talked about in question five, provided me with many travel opportunities. During my travels, I was inspired by my experiences which I put in writing to be shared with my friends.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Non-fiction and poetry because I enjoy both.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Be yourselves and observe the ever-changing pageant of Life. Join that pageant and try to add to its wonders.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
I never suffer from writer’s block, I treat writing like speaking onto paper.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I prefer to write in the morning, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. I find that mornings are quieter and there are few distractions. Most of my colleagues and family prefer to call me in the evenings.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
My study is my sanctuary, just like my home is my nest.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Discovering history while researching my favourite non-fiction subjects is one of the greatest joys. When researching Frederic Chopin’s young life, I learned that Isabella, Frederic’s younger sister taught herself to be a world class virtuoso pianist so that she could play all of her brother’s music. She did this from sisterly love for her brother who was living as an exile in Paris.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Adam Mickiewicz, Poland’s poet. One of my favorite literary works of all time was written in 1832 with the title “Pan Tadeusz” apart from its great writing, this poem is loved dearly amongst Poles because it was written when Poland did not exist on the map. Amongst European poets during that time, he ranks with Homer. The book describes events which are also told in “War and Peace”.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
“I felt I was there” comment about my travels.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I have not heard any bad comments, even from a critic.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Literature has been a great part of my life since childhood. Although I was not a professional writer, my duties demanded that I write reports. I was a cost controller for the international branches of Levi Strauss Company. This career took me to many places around the world, including Poland. My travels became an infinite source of inspiration and my career demanded a mastery of the written English language.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love friendships, travels, history, nature, music and sport.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes, I value professional opinions on the clarity and effectiveness of my writing
This includes grammar and punctuation checks.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My daughter and I were on a whale-watching excursion about a half a mile off the coast of San Ignacio Lagoon. My daughter Julie has seen many whales, and always wanted to touch one. There was something special about that day, as if something wonderful would happen. The sun was in the sky and the bay was alive with whales. Bumper was bumping more boats than ever, while we were also chosen by a mother whale who approached us with her calf.
Julie called softly ‘Come on baby, come on,’ but it was the mother that approached us. She slid under our boat and raised it by a few inches. Most of us lost our balance, but this was not an attack. She was concerned about her calf and wanted to be sure we were gentle. She let us down with tender care, and remained by the side of our boat. When Julie called again ‘Come on baby come on,’ Baby swam up to us, curious and playful, and put her head up for Julie to pat!
Both she and her mother trusted us; a wild whale looked at a human being and wagged its tail like a puppy! She left her world of water to greet us in our world. Julie stroked her head, her face, her lips and cried: ’Baby, you are beautiful, and you feel like an eggplant!’
Delighted, we looked at the mother, and experienced a connection that we will never forget. We looked at her ocean-battered face encrusted with barnacles, and she looked at us. Our eyes met and lingered as we paused. Her eyes looked as intelligent, as trusting, and as wise, as any eyes we ever saw. It told us This is the way, and we agreed.
After a while, the whales swam away. May they live in peace. We are glad the Grey Whales regained their numbers; the world would be less wonderful without them. As Julie said: “We are one family. When I touched that whale I felt I touched the World.”
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My daughter who is also a writer. She is great fun.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I would say that peace is worth much more than war.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
To become the world’s fastest centenarian
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
“Pan Tadeusz” by Adam Mickiewicz
“The Works of Shakespeare” by William Shakespeare
“The Knights of the Teutonic Order” by Henryk Sienkiewicz
“ East of Eden” by John Steinbeck
”A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
It is ironic to say that I do. Most of my writing is about my own non fictional experiences. Despite popular beliefs, my life is based on a true story.
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Literary agents who do not acknowledge my existence, and publishing houses which promptly read and consider all their submissions within the first decade are just fine. I also heard that some of the big publishers are finally recognizing the existence of this technological anomaly called the ebook.
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
I have quit bad habits, but writing is not something I want to quit.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
None of the manuscripts I wrote was a favourite.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
A comfortable retirement with lots of time for further writing.
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
They should feel surprise, delighted and enriched so that they can contribute their own unique gift to their world.
HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A great deal of thought and care. Designing for a thumbnail size image on the screen has special challenges. It should grab attention and repeat its message. When reduced to a size that’s shown in the internet, many excellent book covers become a smudge.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To be remembered as someone who enriched his readers’ world.
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Yes, I thank you for the opportunity to be on your blog.
Clancy's comment: Witold has some great claims to fame:
The Order of Merrit, Officer Grade. By the President of the Republic of Poland. 2004.
Gold Medal, Discus Throw, Senior Olympic Games of Northern California. 1985.
Gold Medal, Shotput, Senior Olympic Games of Northern California. 1985.
Gold Medal, Two Mile Racewalk, Senior Olympic Games of Northern California. 1985.
Here are the links for two of my books currently offered on amazon:
Thanks, Witold. It's been a pleasure. The story about the whales is fantastic.