İlkyaz means “Early Spring” in Turkish, also implying, first writing. It is the name we preferred for our platform for young writers, established with the support of PEN International, Norwegian PEN and PEN Turkey. As the founder and coordinator of İlkyaz, I welcome you alongside our Manager Irmak Ertaş and our friends on the advisory board, Halil Gediz and Özge Sargın.
İlkyaz is a platform built to showcase and nurture the imagination of writers under 35. So our focus is young literature. But our job is exchange. In these times where divisions thrive, and interaction between people gets increasingly narrow due to political, economic or ideological boundaries, literature is a shelter for us all. It’s an avenue where we can meet beyond our differences in opinion, and witness our communal home, that is the Earth through various windows. It’s a precious common ground we can find morale in and appreciate insight into experiences across the isle in an era besieged by a lack of communication.
Writing evolves as one reads, writes and shares. Thus, we hope İlkyaz will encourage a wave of young writers, who are growing ever more doubtful of their talents and potential due to a lack of publishing opportunities. We wish to support young voices, even when other publishers say their content is “too raw.”
Our wish for İlkyaz is to act as a bridge. Not just between our readers and writers, but also between the first and later stages of a writers’ career – newly emerging and more established names; between young Turkish writers and writers and audiences from around the world.
WHAT HAS İLKYAZ GOT?
Primarily we introduce three main young writers every month. We translate these works, made up of a short story or poem, into English as İlkyaz volunteers and endeavor to introduce these to the readers outside of Turkey. As well as the English translation, each month we partner with one of over a 100 PEN Centre’s located in different countries around the world to have the pieces on our platform translated into their local language and shared.
This, we hope, will create new audiences for our writers both in the country and in the world arena and introduce them to a global network of the world’s literary figures. With our heartfelt gratitude, Norwegian PEN took the lead on translating and sharing the works of our first set of young writers into Norwegian in December. This collaboration, and the publishing of our young writers in various languages and platforms was so far monthly followed respectively by, PEN Germany, PEN Belgium/Flanders and PEN French Centre, PEN South Africa, Scottish PEN ile tanıtıldı. PEN Catalan, PEN Moscow, PEN Kanada ile, PEN Venezuela, PEN Croatia, PEN Wales Cymru, PEN Denmark and PEN Belarus.
We apologise that due to the global effect coronavirus outbreak we have been unable to find more PEN Centre’s to collaborate with. Thus, after ensuring publishing for our writers in 14 countries, able to meet readers in their respective languages, we are moving to explore different avenues of collaboration with PEN’s global network such as joint online events and writing collaborations.
In the meantime, we will continue to work to get the voices of our young writers amplified beyond Turkey by continuing to translate them to English and distribute among PEN networks.
In the blog on our main page, you will find posts related but not limited to literature that is food for thought.
On the section titled “15-“ we make space for the imagination of writers under the age of 15, whom we don’t get to read often, and publish their short essays, stories and poems.
In the “Human Portraits” section, we shed a light on the lives we tend to pass by in a hurry in our daily lives and share their insights through photos and short interviews.
In the “Reading Suggestions”, we share five books suggested to young writers by leading authors in Turkey and around the world.
And lastly in our time where various forms of expression are expanding their cooperation with one another, İlkyaz also needs to create an innovative space for young literature. It is possible to expand the reach of literature and other styles of expression by creating a common ground between them. Keeping this aim in mind, our section “Literature +” is quite simple; inviting artists to produce works inspired by İlkyaz’s writings and expanding their reach into each others expressive form. Our call out to Turkish and foreign artists on this initative is open!
Lastly the subsection “FiveFaces, we set out to reflect the realities surrounding us all through young literature with 500 word pieces from 5 young writers on the same topic, translated to English also.
İlkyaz So Far and Goals For Year Ahead
In one year and six months of life, we as İlkyaz published 98 young writers ranging from under 15 to 35, translated 70 writers to English, and 50 to a third language via international collaborations with other PEN Centre’s managed to increase our readership to over 5.6K a month on average, reached out to people from 124 different countries (although 30 of these were made up of a single person only). We gathered book recommendations for young writers from 18 renown writers of Turkey and the world. We are at a stage now that through advertising and improving recognition, we received a record 1028 submissions for our most recent May issue!
At the end of each year we are readying to publish an anthology of all the writers we feature on the website and distribute as widely as possible. Looking forward, we hope to bring together the followers of our platform in events we will aim to organise around Turkey.
In a time when different branches of communication are increasing their collaboration, we hope to grow this vision and lay the groundwork for a setting that will inspire new generations of writers for years to come.
PEN, in its almost 100-year history, undoubtedly formed one of the worlds largest literary networks, and holds that position firmly today. We are grateful to receive their support for our project. I also would like to thank Alkamanas for designing our website, my friends in the advisory board for their support and the young writers who contributed.
As mentioned before Ilkyaz means early spring in Turkish but is also a combination of the word “ilk” for first and “yaz” for write. I hope that much like the awakening of spring, we can pave the way for new writers and ideas to grow on our platform. We eagerly await your ideas. Welcome to İlkyaz!
Although we primarily work with young writers from Turkey, we welcome all ideas and thoughts on the “Contact Us” section. You are also welcome to send us posts you find intriguing to be shared on our blog.
Founder/Coordinator of İlkyaz