WRITING

A debut novel


In June 2017 I published my first novel "Elsk din fjende?" (in English "Love your enemy?"). I never thought it was possible for me to fill out an entire book with words. But it was. I had something to say. I felt the story was important not only to me but in general; the story about life in Israel and Palestine; the story about how to live in the middle of a conflict every single day. It took me nine years going from an idea to a published book. I quit my full time job, moved out of my established home by the sea, and rented a tiny room in the city. Having absolutely no income my plan was to live off my savings, which was a bit of a stretch. Soon enough, I would scan my room looking for items to sell next in order to pay rent. Many times I felt naive and even stupid for risking everything (including my chances of ever getting a 'real' job again), but no job had ever provided me with a learning process so enriching as this one. When writing I felt alive and I felt good. I was challenged every day in a very inspiring and developing way. What more can you wish for?! I am proud of the result and grateful for the good reviews, but most of all, I am thankful for the practise, the writing process, and for the experience of making a dream come true. Learning by doing is the way to go!


... and a screenplay


PLAYING IN THE DARK is my latest piece of work. It is written in English, and I wrote it when living in St. Louis, Missouri. At first, when my editor encouraged me to write a screenplay instead of translating my novel into English, I wasn't convinced. I spent a couple of days thinking about it - or, actually, maybe only a couple of hours - before I said yes. My time in St. Louis turned out to be one of the most learning, intense, beautiful and challenging experiences of my life.


Logline:

What will happen when Elin, a young woman, agrees to a reunion with her former violin mentor? Certainly not what she was expecting: personal revelations, sexual tensions, hidden love, and a loaded gun.


PLAYING IN THE DARK is the story of Elin, a 26 year old promising violinist, leaving the classical music world. Elin does not feel confident on stage in the spotlight without giving something in return. Especially as a woman, nothing comes for free. Elin agrees to meet up with her former violin mentor Emanuel (43 years old) in a cabin deep in the woods. They both struggle with life and death, but in two different ways.

 

Entering the adventure: How I met my American editor

Some years back I went to Austin, Texas, for a weekend.

I live in Copenhagen, Denmark, so Texas is not exactly my backyard. But, obviously, in my book no place is too far for the right reasons. I wanted to attend a conference studying and discussing oracle cards. I am very curious and openminded as a person, and I am willing to go far in order to educate myself and expand my horizons, but Texas is still Texas located more than 8000 kilometres away, and oracle cards are … well, to some extend, just oracle cards. I somehow knew it was not because of the cards, that I had to go. It was because of something else. Something I didn’t know how to put into words. Point is, that I just had to go. Period.


So, a Friday morning in August at 9 o’clock I was sitting - among 300 other people - in a large room lit up with purple lights in a hotel downtown Austin. Party music was on, round tables with white tablecloths were taking up the whole space, and on every wall there was a poster saying Experience your magic. Everyone went crazy when the hostess - an oracle celebrity - finally entered the stage. For a Scandinavian like myself everything seemed way over the top in a showbiz-kind-of-way. I was not sure I would last the whole weekend.


What saved me was the people at my table. Such a cool bunch. We were alike and yet very different from each other. But, that’s another story. This story is about how I met my editor. Across from me was sitting a woman with short, purple hair, fancy make-up, and blue nail polish. Dr. Flanigan had recently retired as an English professor from a university in the Midwest. For some reasons I had not expected to meet a university professor at a spiritual conference like this one. But why not? I guess life is one big lesson about learning how to welcome, worship, and appreciate the unexpected.



Dr. Flanigan and I ended up having lunch together, and that is when it all began. I told her about my debut novel. She told me about her career of teaching creative writing and being an editor. I told her I wanted to rewrite my book and translate it into English. Unexpectedly, she suggested to be my editor. Unexpectedly, I said yes! Before we knew it, we had started a new adventure without even knowing each other. And, honestly, I felt that there was no way going back! It was real! It was the opportunity! Dr. Flanigan had not seen any of my writing, and I had not realized her being that teacher, whereas your life would be in danger if you would show up in class unprepared. We exchanged email addresses and we kept in touch the following months. But it did not work out. It was not easy working together through email. Then I used my step-1-2-3-mindset: dream, decide, do!



Step 1: My dream was to become a great writer by working with an experienced teacher and editor.

Step 2: I decided to welcome and worship the unexpected opportunity Dr. Flanigan had just given me by offering me to be my editor. Step 3: Last but not least, I moved to St. Louis with only a few chapters of mine translated into English, and no money in my pocket. Coming from my bones I heard a big fat ‘YES’. Coming from my head I heard a big ‘NO’ as it all seemed pretty naive and irresponsible.


"Please, outline your story for me" Dr. Flanigan said, when I finally sat across from her in her living room surrounded by antiques and books. I started talking about my story. "That’s a summary" she said, "I want an outline." Apparently, I couldn’t tell the difference between a summary and an outline. What had I gotten myself into?! She read my translated chapters and she was not impressed. At all. "The novel you want to write is epic. It’s a great story, but you’re not there as a writer." Dr. Flanigan was being honest. She didn’t try to pull me down, she was just being realistic. "Instead, tell me a bit about yourself. I don’t know anything about you." And so I did. I told her different things about myself; things I had experienced throughout my life. After a couple of hours - and several cups of tea - Dr. Flanigan had an epiphany: "I want you to write a screenplay." I was a bit surprised and overwhelmed. I had not written a screenplay before; I had not even seen or read one. "You’ll of course need to read and study other plays along the way" she said. I nodded, trying to take it all in.



Believe me when I say, that I was pretty anxious when handing over the first ten pages of my screenplay to her. This was my writing. This was my level of writing, and this was my very first time sitting in front of an English professor reading aloud from my own script. It felt like being examined for five hours. But, in a good way; in an exciting and life-giving way. The fact that she; being all excited about my story, and me; being the actor of all my characters in front of her, I had never ever imagined would happen in real life. So, when I asked her afterwards if she really believed I could do it, she said: "Don’t think, just do!" In that moment, I knew she had accepted me as a writer, and that our adventure together had just begun.


CONTACT

bernittsommer@gmail.com

Copenhagen, DK

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Copyright 2020 © Pernille Bernitt Sommer