Marjan Kamali is the award-winning author of The Stationery Shop, a national bestseller, and Together Tea, a Massachusetts Book Award finalist. She is a 2022 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. Kamali’s novels are published in translation in more than 20 languages and The Stationery Shop was awarded the Prix Attitude in France. Her essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Literary Hub, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Marjan begins our conversation by talking about her best-selling book The Stationary Shop. It’s a love story that spans 60 years, going back to Iran in 1953 just before the coup that brought the Shah into power. So much of her research came from her father who shared memories of his adolescence.
Marjan explains that she was born in Turkey to Iranian parents. She’s lived in seven countries on five continents. Even though she hasn’t lived for that long in Iran, she’s always been curious about the country that was described so differently by her parents than how it is portrayed on the news.
She and her family moved back to Iran in the summer of 1980 after the revolution. It was a very volatile time where things began to change drastically. She said at the time of the revolution “it seemed impossible” that things could go so far to the religious right.
During her childhood, she explains that her sister encouraged her to read and write during the war with Iraq while taking shelter in the basement as bombs fell on Tehran.
She says writing has saved her and continues to save her. She calls it therapeutic. For Marjan, war is chaotic and nothing makes sense; however, writing gives her a sense of control and she can bring order to the world of her characters. She calls this art form incredibly empowering.
When it comes to offering advice to other writers and artists, she says “throw away the clock.” Pretend that the writing is just for you and your growth. Focus on the art, the craft, and don’t worry about the audience in the beginning. Do your art for art’s sake.
She says: “As long as you know what it is you want, just stop worrying about how you are going to get there because the how will take care of itself.” Just do what you can in the present moment.
You can learn more about Marjan and all her books on her website: https://marjankamali.com/
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