Published: 07th December 2017
This Finnish association's residency programme is the best retreat for writers waiting to pen their masterpiece
At the end of one’s residency their literary work needs to be complete, the main reason one opts for this programme to begin with
English writer, Virginia Woolf said that all a woman needs to write is "Money and a room of her own," which, incidentally, was the dictum of her book, A Room of One's Own, in which she explores women as writers and as characters in novels. But what if 'this room' wasn’t just some fictitious room meant only for women, but a picturesque villa in Sysmä, a municipality of Southern Finland?
By the window: The table is set for you to pen your thoughts at the villa
Nuoren Voiman Liitto, a 112-year-old literary association in Finland, invites serious writers to Villa Sarkia, its residency programme, where one is provided with the perfect setting to help them churn out a literary masterpiece. A villa, named after the late prolific Finnish poet, Kaarlo Sarkia, a pristine lake, Päijänne around the corner, and an environment which acts as a catalyst for one's creativity is what makes it perfect. We caught up with Anna Ulvinen, Executive Director (Acting) of Nuoren Voiman Liitto and Riitta Kuisma, Head of Sysmä Library about the programme and more. Excerpts:
End in sight: At the end of one’s residency, their literary work needs to be complete, which is the main reason one opts for this programme to begin with
How many writers have taken up this residency programme since its inception in 2010? Can you name a few of their nationalities?
Between 2010-2016, we have made 172 residence contracts, 120 of which were Finnish. Some writers come several times, so about 150 residents from 22 different countries have stayed in Villa Sarkia. We’ve had guests from Russia, USA, Canada, Singapore, India and 18 different European countries.
Telling time: The applicants can stay in the villa for a duration of one, two or three months
How many Indian writers have been guests here? What's your take on Indian culture and literature?
We have our first two Indian guests this year. Saima Afreen from Hyderabad, who brought with her a lot of curious questions, and Tulsi Badrinath from Chennai, who gave us knowledge about traditional Indian dance. Both of them have awoken our interest in Indian culture. Indian poets and authors are very welcome here. Villa Sarkia is a good place to work and Sysmä Village is a very quiet place.
Added advantage: Recreational activities involve a sauna, a collection of Finnish and English books, picking berries or pine cones in the forest and more. And if you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights as well
Why should writers choose Villa Sarkia? How does one secure an invitation to this programme?
The intention of Villa Sarkia is to provide an environment for young writers and translators to work in privacy and improve their professional skills, and also to increase the diversity of the cultural life of Sysmä. If one wants to spend some time in Villa Sarkia, they have to apply to the organisation, Nuoren Voiman Liitto, and if there is a vacant room, the organisation will send them the invitation.
Opt for it: There are periods to apply for — Spring (Jan 1 – Jun 30) and Autumn (Aug 1 – Dec 31)
Finnish translations into English are very few in Sysmä. Hence, it might be difficult for writers of other countries to understand Finland's literature and culture? Do you plan to include more such books in the library and the bookshop at Sysmä?
Villa Sarkia's book collection is constantly improving all the time. Thanks for the tip though! On the internet, there is a lot of information in English. The library staff can help residents find good articles or sites about Finland and Finnish culture.
Check them out at nuorenvoimanliitto.fi