Have you ever heard about Nasreddin Hodja?Society
Interview with Melike Günyüz, author of 'Nasreddin Hodja and His Stingy Neighbor'
Nasreddin Hodja is considered a populist philosopher, and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. He appears in thousands of stories, sometimes witty, sometimes wise, but often, too, a fool or the butt of a joke. Stories about Nasreddin usually have a subtle humour and a pedagogic nature. The International Nasreddin Hodja festival is celebrated between 5 and 10 July in his hometown in Turkey every year. Nepko Kids Publishing has recently published a beautiful picture book ‘Nasreddin Hodja and His Stingy Neighbor’ to their readers. Here we are presenting you the brief interview with its author, Melike Günyüz.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a children's book writer?
When I was 12, I decided to become a writer. I have started my career as an editor in a children's book publishing house. Working on children's literature texts encouraged me to write for children. I was visiting international fairs, connecting with teachers, and responses from children-readers supported my writing.
How long did it take to write Nasreddin Hodja's story?
Nasreddin Hodja is a snappy and funny man, as well as a philosopher. He is also a viral character all over Asian folk literature. While I was writing Nasreddin Hodja’s story, I was trying to bring together all the little stories about him in one book with a fun and poetic language for children. In my country, at the elementary schools, Nasreddin Hodja's stories are read by the students. I realized most of the students were having a hard time trying to understand the philosophy behind the stories because they were actually meant for adults. I wanted and tried to make Hodja’s stories explicit to the young readers. It took almost a year to complete the story, from planning to publishing.
Can you describe Nasreddin's personality in one word?
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My writing quirk is probably the fact that I need sadness to be able to write. Writing makes me feel better, it is like a medicine for me.
Do you have any advice to help people become better writers? What are they?
I believe that there are two ways of becoming a good writer; reading a lot and writing a lot. You can’t be a good writer if you like what you write all the time. You should write, not like your writing, throw it away, and start again. That’s what will improve you. Before you start your writing, make sure that you know your target audience and write accordingly. Finally, the more you read written works from the common heritage of humanity, the more your writing will be open to people from all around the world.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I am a children's book publisher and editor. Writing is not my career but my hobby. I am also a professor at a university and teaching children's literature. My whole life is going around the children's books as a publisher, writer, and a teacher.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your book?
First of all, when my children were young, I was observing their reading interests. Every time I had written a story, I read it to them first. If they had liked it, I continued to publish them. The reflections of the teachers are also significant information resources for me. Because the teachers use most of my work for the group readings at schools. As long as they keep using my work, that means young readers are interested in it. During the first few years of elementary school, first reading books have a crucial role in young readers’ reading habits. Their first books help them pave their way to be a qualified reader for the rest of their lives.
About the Author
Melike Günyüz has over 20 years of experience in managing and directing. She is the CEO of Erdem Publishing Group in Turkey. Günyüz serves as a consultant on publishing and other projects about children at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
She inspires many authors and publishers with the projects that she has implemented so far. Especially the Turkish teaching books project which she has been involved as team leader is accepted as a cornerstone for education publication. She holds several awards such as the best publisher, best picture book for children etc.
She gives lectures at universities, joins conferences about teacher training as a consultant and participates in international events as an author. Apart from her professional career, she also has served for non-profit organizations to spread reading habits, to promote the Turkish Literature around the world, to produce good quality books for children, to lobby in favor of Turkish Publishing Market. Günyüz is the author of more than 25 children's books which are translated into fifteen languages.