Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Sea Side - A First Novel
I've been on a journey of self discovery for the last nine months. It all started in July 2009 when one of my favorite bloggers and my dearest friend Mariyah posted a simple and beautiful entry. For those of you who are not familiar with Mariyah, she is an exceptionally gifted writer from Damascus, who over the course of twenty six episodes told the story of her parents in the form of an inspiring and heart warming fairy tale. I asked her then if this “Sea Side”, as she called it, was going to be another Ghassan & Alexandra. Instead of giving a straight answer she invited me to join her in co-writing a story with the backdrop of the Syrian Coast. How could I ever say no to a beautiful lady like Mariayh?
Privately, however, I felt a little awkward. I've never written anything longer than a few pages. I've never written fiction. I've never written with another person. Yet my deepest desire had always been to write a novel someday. My problem was not one of lack of self-confidence but rather of lack of time. It's not an unfounded excuse on my part. Some people may indeed function better under pressure but I was not wired like that. I write when I'm happy, or at least unconcerned about the outside world and the mundane necessities of every-day's life. Had I been self-sufficient enough not to work yet to bring up three children in the best possible circumstances I would've not minded an early retirement from “employment” to devote my time to reading and writing. Mariyah's invitation was in no way a challenge but the motivation I lacked to give it a shot and thus our journey began.
We alternated in writing subsequent chapters while we maintained a disciplined routine. We published a new episode every Friday and we did not consult directly or agree in advance on a plot. Our story weaved its own way through our words and the four main characters were developed in almost real time. The fact that neither one of us had control over the flow of events meant that a high degree of unconscious mental coordination and an unspoken synergy have to come into play. We continued to surprise each other while enjoying ourselves to the fullest. I had never partnered with anyone before on a creative process and now that it's finally over I want Mariyah to know what a joy, what an honor and a complete emotional and intellectual alleviation she had brought me.
Sea Side takes place in and around Tartous. It's a romantic love story at best, something I never expected or anticipated that I might write someday. But to say anything less than that I'm very proud of it would be an understatement. This is the ever elusive first step and I took it after Mariyah extended her hand and led the way. Now I know for sure how much I want to write and I will unearth every bit of time to do just that.
I have to thank you Mariyah for being my companion by the Sea Side. I already miss Yazan, Yasmina and Youssef but I'm going to miss Amar most. Your words made her unimaginably beautiful while mine only mirrored your charming writing and elegant style. If I ever publish one day the writing of Sea Side will remain my most cherished memory of all. It is after all my first novel.
If I may Mariyah, I am going to ask you to do me a little favor. I want you to write, at your own time, a short story and grace my blog with it. This is of course an open invitation, with the key for you to keep. Come by any time and write here without even letting me know beforehand. Not only once but a hundred thousands times and more. My blog is your blog now and always.
Mariyah and I have set out to have fun but we ended up with much more than we bargained for. Accordingly I have to also thank our friends who commented there on Sea Side and kept us company for 38 consecutive weeks. No matter what our humble effort into writing our first novel turned out to be we have both gained your friendship. How in the world can I be happier?
Ghassan & Alexandra