Dogodki Pogovori

Pogovor #23: Mette Vedsø – “For most people with stress and anxiety I think the social media life is a very hard place to be.”

V teh dneh po slovenskih krajih in šolah skupaj z založbo Miš v sklopu festivala Bralnice pod slamnikom potuje danska avtorica Mette Vedsø. Pred kratkim je izšel prevod njenega romana, ki ima v slovenščini naslov 130 utripov na minuto. Preden je prispela v Ljubljano, sem ji poslala vprašanja o njenem pisanju, romanu in odnosu do tesnobe. Čeprav gre za mladinski roman, menim, da je primeren za vsa starostna obdobja, saj se bomo zlahka vživeli v Piijino zgodbo, zgodbo njenih sosed ali pa pogled njenih staršev. 130 utripov na minuto je roman o temi, o kateri se med mladimi čedalje več govori, hkrati pa je tudi čudovita zgodba o prijateljstvu, medsebojni pomoči, razumevanju in skupnosti. Zaenkrat vas pogovor z avtorico spodaj čaka v angleščini, v naslednjih dneh pa bo dodan še prevod. Uživajte v branju! /

In these days we have a visit from Denmark, the author Mette Vedsø is in Slovenia on invite by publishing house Miš for the festival Bralnice pod slamnikom. Her latest novel Når hjertet er en elpisker had just been translated into Slovenian. Before she arived in Ljubljana, I sent her the questions for my blog topic conversiations with author and other creative people, to talk to her about writing, the novel and her relationship to anxiety. Altought this is a youth novel, I think it is suitable for all age groups, because we can easily relate to Pi story, story about her neighbours and also her parents view. Når hjertet er en elpisker is a novel about the a topic, which is more and more becoming visible between young people, but is also a story about friendship, helping each other, understanding and community. For now I am publishing a conversation with Mette just in English and in next few days it will also be published in Slovene. Enjoy reading it!

Is this your first time in Slovenia? Are you excited to meet Slovenian readers?

Yes, this is my first time in Slovenia. It looks like such a beautiful country with an interesting history and stunning nature. I’ve looked so much forward to this visit and especially of course to see the real Slovenia, visiting schools and meeting the Slovenian readers!

This is your first translation into Slovenian. Why do you think is important to have books translated in languages spoken by a smaller group of people?

I come from a small country myself and I guess interactions and awareness of other cultures is even more necessary for small populations like Danes and Slovenians. To absorb from the outside world in some kind of way is necessary and it’s great being able to do that in your own language.

Your book 130 utripov na minuto talks about anxiety, which has now become important problem at a young age. It looks like we started to talk about it in the covid times. Do you think that before that we didn’t talk about it or it didn’t existed? I think it has, it just became more “visible” in the public.

Awareness and discussion of mental problems in young people has definately increased so much in recent years. In Denmark the debate has been ongoing for quite some time, also before covid. I’m also sure that anxiety, stress and depression is not a new phenomenon at all – but I guess our lifestyle with the social media presence, constant interactions and an immense focus on ourselves as individuals has increased certain conditions and problems.

Have you done any research on anxiety before you started to write about it? How the idea came to you, did you observe life around you, did you have contact with children talking about it?

I generally write about topics and problems that ‘I can’t stop thinking about’ and usually it’s something I find and feel within myself – maybe an old experience of some kind.  I guess my starting point is usually a blend of things – personal experiences, raising my three older children, friends, family, neighbours, reading, observing – writing makes it easier for me to process and understand and to let go of my own busy thoughts.

Your main character Pi experiences anxiety in school and in book is visible that she doesn’t know how to name it, what is it … so she uses all sort of descriptions for it. Was it hard for you to write like a teenager? Did you have any writers ways how to write or did you have help from teenagers?

I generally keep my text quite close to myself and I don’t get help directly from younger people. Writing for me is both exploring my own experiences and obviously observing my surroundings. I also have kids myself so indirectly I observe their life and their words and worlds.

Throughout life, when you experience something for the first time, you sometimes realise that your language for that certain experience is quite undeveloped. It’s obviously more common when you’re young but I can still relate to it and remember it and sometimes experience it even at my age. I guess I try just to rediscover those moments where that lack of language and experience has been an issue for me, more than trying to convert myself into a specific age if that makes sense.

“Beseda popadki se sliši kot bolečina, ki pride in gre. Ko pride, je hudo. Ko poneha, poneha. Podobno je tudi pri meni, kajti preveva me tak on and off. Temu rečem sicer tesnoba, ampak ta beseda ne pokriva vsega. Pod tem razumemo vse mogoče.
V ušesih se zvoki okrepijo, jezik mi oteče na lepem me prešine: sem hroma, sploh še premikam noge? Tudi v zatilju me blazno boli. To je kot elektrika, ki se prižiga in ugaša, in ko že mislim, da je konec, nekaj klikne in ista elektrika se preseli v krvni obtok.”

Str. 37

In the story you are writing how Pi doesn’t want to answer her friends messages, and leave them for later. Do you think that popular apps such as instagram and tiktok are having bad impact on mental health of young people?

For most people with stress and anxiety I think the social media life is a very hard place to be. It portrays this limited and sometimes false picture of other people’s life, and we don’t see the ‘mess in the corner’. But obviously, it’s also a place where you can find the same kind of people like yourself with the same kind of problems so it’s not just black and white.

Your novel is not just about anxiety in general, it is also about friendship, kindness and spreading good in the world. We also met her neighbours, who help her a lot with her troubles. You have included a girl Vicky with developmental disorders and older lady Gillian, who is destined to die soon. They both belong to group of people we often say they are invisible to world, but in your novel, they have so important role. What was your decision on their characters?

You point out something here which is very essential. When I wrote the book, I thought a lot about being a part of a community where you feel important and where there is no real pressure on you to perform. A place where you look outwards instead of inwards, if that makes sense. A community where you sort of forget yourself as an individual – your coolness, your popularity, your look becomes unimportant. I guess a lot of young people lack that.

I still think there is not a lot of awareness about anxiety in younger people, maybe in the past we didn’t even recognize it, they just didn’t want to go to school (because of different problems, fear of schoolmates, fear of writing a test, fear of teacher …). Do you think your book will bring us something or open up a field of talking about it?

I think you’re so right. Thinking back, I had periods like that myself and so did my kids. Life was not just ‘a walk in the park’ in the olden days and life affected you mentally, also back then. I guess the change is more how we deal with mental issues. Now we seem to debate it a lot and it’s maybe finding the right balance.  

“Marsikdo od naših mladih, ki trpijo za stresom in tesnobo, sploh ne zna povedati, kaj ga tare.”

Str. 13

Do you have many tours now, that your book is out? Are you visiting different schools around the world? Are children talking about it with you?

At the moment the book has been sold to six different countries in Europe and Slovenia is the first country outside Denmark that I visit. I hope I will get the chance to visit schools in other countries, that would be great. I have travelled to many Danish schools all over the country, since the book was released here some years ago. I find that the young people are very interested, and they really like to talk about this topic – it is very relevant in their lives.

Your novel was published in Miš collection of books called Zorenja+, a collection of problem novels which explore more complex topics such as mental health issues, identity and growing up questions, relationship with parents, first love, eating disorders drug abuse … It was such an important collection for me when I was young, I read all the books, I was like “eating them up” one up another, and they gave me this wider view on the world, that is not all bad with my life, and open my compassion on viewing other (life) stories. Do you think children have to read about different troubling experiences in early years (like 9+)?

It was exactly the same for me when I was young. I find that I’ve always been drawn to books with strong personal stories, and I guess it helps you to find a language for things and experiences you find hard to express. Talking to a lot of pupils I think you can divide them in groups. Some have the human and psychological focus, others prefer something more plot-driven and then others something completely different. But literature is a great starting point for the more difficult and diverse conversations both between adults but also between kids. And you can be sure that children wonder about complex and difficult issues, and in my opinion, we shouldn’t hide this from them.

Your story has a happy ending, but for many in real life there is not. What is your message to the children who are experiencing this kind of anxiety or even worse? To read your book?

I generally find it natural to write hopeful stories – and because I write for children even more so. In many, many cases there is a path in your life to follow and believe in. And yes, if I was a teacher, meeting children with mental issues, I would definitely suggest books (maybe my own 😉 as one of the options.

And for the last questions, this is something I always ask for my blog, suggest three books for my readers (they can be in English or Danish).

Since I write (and love) books for children and teenagers, I will suggest books in this field.

  • For children/teenagers I recommend a great Danish book called ‘Hest Hest Tiger Tiger’ by Mette Eike Neerlin (it’s translated into German and Dutch and Polish I think).
  • For the same age-group I recommend the graphic novel by Canadian Mariko Tamaki, in English called ‘This One Summer’.
  • I have always really enjoyed the picture books by the Swedish illustrator and writer Pija Lindenbaum, especially the Bridget books (Bridget and the gray wolves, Bridget and the muttonheads and Bridget and the moose brothers)
Mette Eike Neerlin:
Hest Hest Tiger Tiger
Mariko Tamaki:
This One Summer
Pija Lindenbaum:
Bridget and the gray wolves

Pogovor je nastal v sodelovanju z založbo Miš, za kar se jim kar najlepše zahvaljujem. Roman lahko najdete na povezavi 130 utripov na minuto.

Prevod knjige sofinancira Evropska unija. Vsebina publikacije (komunikacije) je izključno odgovornost avtorja in v nobenem primeru ne predstavlja stališč Evropske unije in Izvajalske agencije za izobraževanje, avdiovizualno področje in kulturo (EACEA). Omenjeni instituciji tudi nista odgovorni za kakršna koli dejanja, ki bi lahko izhajala iz vsebine tega dela.

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