Be Persistent with Haris Čolić

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My name is Haris Čolić (pronounced Cholich; 'ch' as in cherry, chalk, chess...). I was born in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I still reside. I am 24 years old, and I hold a Master’s degree in biochemistry and physiology. I’ve been writing since I was just a kid, but I only started publishing my work in Bosnian sometime in 2016. I published some of my poetry in school magazines and gained national recognition with guest appearances in a few TV and radio shows. Some of my short stories were among Honorable Mentions in a few International literary competitions. Since I wanted to reach a much broader audience, I tried writing and publishing in English, in May 2017. I can't say that I'm about to win a Pulitzer, or anything like that, but I did achieve a fair amount of success, considering.

My writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Literary Hatchet, The Coil, Sentinel literary quarterly, The Scene & Heard Journal, The Paragon journal, The Cape Rock and elsewhere. My work in Bosnian has appeared in numerous anthologies. I won the award "Most beautiful love poems" (Artistic Souls Club, Mrkonjić Grad) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was a semi-finalist for 'The Luminaire Award for Best Poetry' (Alternating Current Press) in 2018. I am a finalist for Spring Robinson/Mahogany Red Lit Prize (Poetry Matters Project Ltd.). I write poetry and short fiction, but I’m also working on my first novel. I mostly write literary fiction, but I mix it with genre fiction (crime, thriller, horror, sci-fi).

What inspires you and/or why do you write?

To be honest, I write because I must. It is as simple as that, however, it’s also complicated at the same time. For me, writing is a necessity. It’s almost the same as breathing. I recently submitted a few poems to a literary magazine which shall remain unnamed, and I was asked to send in an ‘Artist’s statement’. This is what I sent them:

For most of my life, I hated poetry. Perhaps I still do, in an indescribable way. I find poetry cruel, ruthless, fierce, unforgiving, and quite painful. Even if the setting or the general theme of a certain poem is painted with a positive feeling, that poem will still evoke sorrow within me. It’s hard to explain why I think of poetry the way I do, but nevertheless, poetry is my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Poetry is the air I breathe. I loved Poe's fiction and when I read his poetry, I was blown away. That’s when I started to read Pablo Neruda, Walt Whitman, Jalal al-Din Rumi (Maulana), Hafiz Shirazi, Sergei Yesenin, Charles Baudelaire, Robert Burns, Rainer Rilke, and many great poets just like them.

I believe that poetry isn’t supposed to make the reader feel good, inspired, motivated, or anything like that. In my opinion, evoking such feelings will only mask the negative ones. Covering emotions with layers of other emotions is not a healthy way to deal with them. Poetry should bring out the worst out of the reader and make him face those emotions. Only then will the reader truly be purified of the negative emotions. To me, that’s more important than simply shoveling them deep inside. That’s why I find poetry to be cruel, ruthless, fierce, unforgiving and painful. However, that’s how poetry is supposed to be. Poetry should draw out our inner monsters and help us deal with them. Defeat them. In the end, it’s better to face our fears, preconceptions, misled opinions, etc. than to just fill ourselves up with a positive feeling that will eventually wear off.Most of my poetry is fueled by frustration.

That’s why I mostly write about things that should be read. Things that must be written. I write so I can give a voice to those things that might need one. Vast majority of my poetry deals with social issues. I write about environment, humanity, discrimination, immigration, war, poverty, wealth inequality, love, death, mental health, cancer, murder, psychology, culture, ethnic disputes, and many other problems that our world is facing. Small part of my poetry deals with emotions and transcending them in order to experience enlightenment. My poetry is filled with metaphors, and is, to be honest, quite dense. I want readers to read between the lines. I want my readers to feel. Poetry is to be read by heart, while fiction is to be read

Most of my poetry is fueled by frustration. That’s why I mostly write about things that should be read. Things that must be written. I write so I can give a voice to those things that might need one. Vast majority of my poetry deals with social issues. I write about environment, humanity, discrimination, immigration, war, poverty, wealth inequality, love, death, mental health, cancer, murder, psychology, culture, ethnic disputes, and many other problems that our world is facing. Small part of my poetry deals with emotions and transcending them in order to experience enlightenment. My poetry is filled with metaphors, and is, to be honest, quite dense. I want readers to read between the lines. I want my readers to feel. Poetry is to be read by heart, while fiction is to be read by mind. Once again, poetry is the air I breathe.

I don’t want to tell a story or show something to my readers, but rather help them see the deeper picture.

Describe your process as best you can:

I just sit down and start typing on my laptop. At least every other day, I go to my favorite café, and I write there, but with pen and paper. Sometimes, I just write without a specific goal, and sometimes, I get an idea and I pursue it. The only thing that helps me become a better writer, with each new day, is reading. I try to read as much as I can.

When it comes to poetry, I rarely edit it in the same way I edit fiction. I write a poem as a block of text, quite simple and plain. After that, I try to enrich the vocabulary in the poem I wrote and impact the imagery by doing that. Finally, I decide how I want the poem to appear (number of stanzas, length of each line, etc.)

Editing fiction is not something I’m good at, but yeah, there is a process there, too. I write a chapter without stopping or even thinking much about it. I write from the bottom of my heart with disregard to rules and grammar. When I finish shaping my thoughts into words, I get down to editing. I do my best to keep it simple and interesting enough. The most important thing is to avoid unnecessary information and not to drop out of pace throughout the entire chapter.

My entire process can be found here: https://uniball.co.uk/creative-writing-guide-for-beginners/ but this is pretty much it.

Biggest challenge for you, and how have you overcome it? (Or how are you working to overcome it!)

Biggest challenge for me was to actually start publishing my work. You could say that I’ve had a strange procrastination period that lasted for a better part of my life. I still fight that procrastination today, but I’m not afraid of stepping into the ring anymore. A lot of people have supported me and found my work inspiring and that will always push me to break my own boundaries.

I’ve been writing poetry and fiction since I was 10 years old, but I’ve only become serious about it in high school. My classmates and my teachers loved the short stories I wrote. I knew that writing won’t pay the bills when I grow up, so I just kind of left it behind me when I enrolled in the undergraduate program at the University of Sarajevo. Worst period of my ‘writing career’. In December 2016, I saw a submission call for poetry and decided to give it a try. My poem “Where the south winds blow” got accepted and was published in an anthology, in March 2017. That was a turning point for me I think. It made me think if I could find a home for the work I wrote in high school so I decided to pursue an actual writing career. I started writing again while trying to publish what I wrote years ago, and after two months, I noticed that there aren’t many options, for emerging writers, in southeast Europe. Since I’m fluent in English, I decided to start writing in English, in May 2017, and see if I can get my work out there. It has been hard, but I got a lot of positive reactions from readers and editors, and I think I’m doing pretty great so far.

I’ve gained a lot of followers on twitter and some of them absolutely love my writing. I have to say that the writing community on Twitter is amazing and I’m grateful for every single person that’s supporting me. I absolutely have to mention a literary magazine The Scene & Heard, because their support has been overwhelming. They’ve published many of my poems, and the editors are just amazing. They’ve helped me a lot. Among others, one special group of people on Twitter is definitely worth the mention, and they are known as #WriteFightGIFClub. They are unbelievably supportive, friendly and fun to hang out.

What do you consider your biggest strength? (Don’t be shy!)

I’m resilient, stubborn and persistent. I know that rejections and negative reactions are quite normal, even expected, since we live in a diverse and progressive world. I know that I’m good at writing and I know that with time and experience, I can be much better. I’ll do whatever I can to leave something special, and meaningful, behind.

Any other advice for authors, based on your unique experience?

Read! Read every single day. Don’t wait for inspiration to find you, or for your muse to magically appear, instead, write no matter what. Write every single day. Set up daily and weekly goals and do your best to achieve them. Involve yourself with the community of writers and readers wherever you can, not just on twitter. Try to find others like you on different forums, blogs and other social networks. Find critique partners and beta readers, and also maintain frequent communication with the people who you connect with. Don’t be shy, you will surely grow as a writer if you allow yourself to learn from others.

Where can other authors or readers connect with you and find your work?

I have a Twitter account, where I enjoy sharing my work and interesting stuff about writing: https://twitter.com/TheHarisColic

I have a personal website where everyone can find something about me, my contact information and my published work: https://www.hariscolic.com