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Haig-Brown writer-in-residence typing up a storm in Campbell River heritage house

Danny Ramadan hopes to exchange writing ideas with locals at upcoming workshops
Danny Ramadan is this year’s Haig-Brown House Writer in Residence. Ramadan is a Syrian-Canadian author and LGBTQ-refugees advocate. Photo submitted

The Haig-Brown House’s latest writer-in-residence said living on the banks of Campbell River has been a novel experience.

“I’m a city boy,” Danny Ramadan confessed, “I’ve grown up in capitols, and lived in Vancouver before I moved here, so living here is completely brand new for me.

“But it’s added a lot of excitement, because I’ve been writing up a storm.

“I cannot stop.”

The Syrian born author, who has won many prizes for his work, speaks highly of the quiet and serenity he’s found.

“It’s given me a lot of time to focus, and produce some really good work for my memoir.”

READ MORE: Syrian-Canadian author and LGBTQ-refugees advocate Danny Ramadan takes up residence at Haig-Brown House

READ MORE: Writer in residence to read from his upcoming book

The initial plan was for Ramadan to hole up in the heritage house by himself to be free from distractions, but his husband Matthew convinced the writer to bring him along.

“I said, ‘You can come for a week, and then we’ll see,’” Ramadan joked, “But honestly, it has been a joy, especially since we’re usually stuck in a matchbox of an apartment in Vancouver.”

Consultations with local scribes intent on taking their writing to the next level have also been illuminating.

“I love hanging out with those folks, and talking craft with them.”

One of his favourite benefits from spending time with the new writers is recalling tips and tricks which might not be top of mind when he’s alone.

In addition, Ramadan said he’s also being exposed to many different styles, and narratives.

“There’s a variety of topics, and there are a lot of stories coming my way, and many of them are quite innovative honestly,” he noted.

“I’ve got some writers who are writing memoirs, I have a writer interested in the conflict between Palestine and Israel, who is writing poetry about it, and somebody who is writing this really heart-wrenching romance book about a woman who fell in love with a gay man.”

On Saturday, Feb. 5, Ramadan will be hosting a pair of workshops where he’ll sit down with groups of five-to-ten people to discuss their writing.

He expects lively participation from all who take part.

“It won’t just be me telling you what to do, as I could never teach you to be the writer you’re supposed to be. Only you can teach you how to be the writer you’re supposed to be.

“What I can do is offer a space for brainstorming with all of those different folks, and guide the conversation in a direction that allows you to grow and evolve as a writer.”

Ramadan’s own journey to becoming a writer started when he was seven. He wrote a play for his cousins, which he said was ‘a roaring success,’ in his household.

That being said, a career as a writer was frowned upon by most in his family.

“When I started doing it as a job, everybody made fun of me.,” he said. “My family wanted the best for me, and their idea of what was the best was to be a doctor, or an engineer, not to be a writer.

“They had never met an artist who could afford life as an artist.”

It’s that much more impressive Ramadan is now an award winning author in a language he didn’t start learning until he was 12-years-old.

A fascination with the way words are used has served him well.

“In English if you want to say something makes you happy, you say it warms my heart,” he said. “But in Arabic, if you want to say something makes you happy, you say it ices my heart.

“If you think about it, English was born in a very cold place so warmth is something that brings you happiness, while Arabic was born in the desert, so it’s coolness that brings you happiness.”

The author’s latest work, The Foghorn Echoes, is set to be released in August. Ramadan has been working on the novel, which is about a forbidden love between two boys in war-torn Syria and the fallout that ripples through their adult lives, since 2017.

He said the process has made him protective of the characters as he prepares to release them out into the reading public.

“Those characters are like my children,” Ramadan explained. “I’m not ready to share them with the people, but they have to grow up and go out in their own way.”

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