On behalf of Escuela de Escritores (Madrid), Lara Coto, one of the project managers of the Spanish delegation, shares a vivid and personal account of her experience over the first CELA meeting recently celebrated in Brussels (September, 2017). The CELA project (Connecting Emerging Literary Artists) is headed by our Dutch colleagues from ArtEZ and Wintertuin with the support of the EU program Creative Europe
The literary brigades of Brussels
A week ago we returned from Brussels. The cloud of emotion that has surrounded us since then has not yet dissipated. In fact, nothing has dissipated: neither the excitement, nor the long lists of tasks nor the digestive bewilderment that implies dinner at 18:00. But emotion is still present. Emotion is still covering everything.
We know we are part of something very big, and big projects, as everyone knows, always come from the factory with a mix of contradictory feelings. So the cloud of emotion consists mainly of joy, nerves, gratitude, stress, illusion and disbelief.
So, roughly, as a summary.
Umbrellas, laughter and literary brigades
There we were, on September, 23, the Spanish Team in Brussels, exhausted by a troubled trip due to the fog that prevented us from landing in Brussels at first (it had taken us six hours to make a way of two). We had got up at 4 in the morning to catch a plane, so, indeed, we were full of energy and enthusiasm.
deBuren’s team welcomed us headed by Willem and his squirrel printed umbrella, an object that has become the star and the official pet of the project. Using an umbrella as an indicative flag to guide large groups already has its magic, but if the umbrella has a print of squirrels, the experience becomes memorable.
Willem and his squirrels were not the only ones who earned our love in a matter of hours. There was also Frank Tazelaar from Wintertuin. I did not know him until this trip, but in Escuela de Escritores he is already an institution, and now I understand why: someone who can make your gut hurts so much of laughter is destined to succeed wherever he goes. And there was Noortje, also from Wintertuin, who had the best laughter in the world and a wonderful ability to make us feel cozy and organized in the midst of chaos. And the rest of the people of Wintertuin, deBuren and Passa Porta who also made us feel home in Brussels.
But the climax of the trip, when I think the cloud of emotion reached its peak, was when all the brigades of writers, translators and literary professionals of the seven institutions that compose the project finally met under the same roof. Then, we discovered that we were not alone (not before during the preparations of this trip nor ahead of a new experience). We were facing a huge opportunity. The opportunity to meet people with similar concerns, but from very different countries; the opportunity to share our emotional roller coaster with those who would be our companions on a beautiful and terrifying two-year journey; and the opportunity to grow as writers, as readers, as professionals and as translators. To grow a lot, in many directions and in a very short time.
What remains to be told
I could tell many more things about this trip: that we would take a train every day from Antwerp to Brussels (50-minute journey of much laughter and love); that Belgian beer became the favorite dish of the menu for the Spanish; that we led some express encounters in tables of four people, full of reflections and literary confessions.
And that our Spanish accent played a very funny trick when we tried to say “chaos” and ended up saying “cows”. Half an hour we were talking to our Dutch colleagues without knowing that we were not really referring to the same thing. Lost in translation!
Indeed, I could spend hours talking about it, but the truth is that this is only the beginning. Two years as long and as great as the project are waiting for us. Our brigade of writers, translators and professionals will be separated to visit other countries, to be trained, to write and to translate. We ourselves will have the opportunity to host, in Escuela de Escritores, professionals, translators and writers from other countries as the essence of CELA is the exchange. In short, we’ll spend two whole years connecting and growing, because that’s what the project is about: connecting and growing.
I am Lara Coto, and I am part of the logistics management of the project from Escuela de Escritores.
The next testimony will be written by Roberto Osa, who is now in Wintertuin, enjoying the first weeks of residences for writers. Until then!