Books have always held a lively and supportive presence in my life. When I was young, my parents read to me every night. I remember this was an especially important ritual for my father and I, as it was by reading Swedish books that I felt like I could retain the language my father grew up with. I still, with gratitude, recognize these books (particularly an adorable story about ocean-swimming lambs called Gittan och Fårskallarna) as the anchors that secured me to a background I may have otherwise forgotten.
I always had my nose in a book as a kid, but writing became a space of true solace for me especially during my high school years. At the time, I was enrolled in the only International Baccalaureate program available in my dusty hometown of Grand Junction, Colorado, and that came with an incredible amount of pressure. High school became a space where I felt my value was based on percentages and letter grades; it always seemed crucial to appear like I had everything under control. In the midst of it all, I turned to writing to express any anxiety or depression I felt like I had to hide from everyone else. It was cathartic, therapeutic. It was how I first learned to express myself. It was also how I first connected to cinema.
In a spontaneous decision to enroll in a film class at my high school, I watched Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and fell in love with the resonance that comes from interweaving fairy tales and images. Since then, I’ve always felt like I look at writing the same way I look through a camera.
When I enrolled at the University of Iowa to study Cinema and Creative Writing English, my writing transformed into something even more surprising. I remember taking an International Literature class and meeting Kurdish poet Bejan Matur. In listening to her, I found that Bejan aimed to write about both personal pain and moments of resolution, allowing her to write as if her poetry were its own mutating body, expanding with every life it touches. At the same time, I was also reading books by Swedish author Frederik Backman, writing that was like pure magic simply in the way it seemed to reveal the quirky and breath-catching thoughts people rarely speak out loud. And of course, I also began obsessively following Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, where Stiefvater’s artistic renderings of fantastical characters would somehow always translate vividly into her written narratives until they just felt real.
Through all these experiences, my love of reading transformed into a love for translation—not just literal translation in magazines like University of Iowa’s boundless, but also the translation of internal emotions to external communication, the translation of conceptual fantasies to written realities of distorted beauty, the translation of unspoken secrets to honest admittances speak to our own form of gritty humanness. This type of translated, warping, growing, beauty is what I love to foster by helping others share their own stories. I am so happy to be joining Sundress Publications to promote both the literal and figurative, written and spoken translations that so many writers foster in an effort to connect us all.
Hannah Olsson holds a double BA in Cinema and Creative Writing English from the University of Iowa. During her time in Iowa, Hannah was the president of The Translate Iowa Project and its publication boundless, a magazine devoted to publishing translated poetry, drama, and prose. Her work, both in English and Swedish, has been featured in boundless, earthwords magazine, InkLit Mag, and the University of Iowa’s Ten-Minute Play Festival, among others. Hannah really enjoys works that tell stories of distorted wonders. She also really loves ravens, and, naturally, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle.
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