Welcome to the third part of Bring Three, an interview series, where each guest brings three things connected to their interests and occupation. In this part, I welcome Hana Bujanović Kokot, an aspiring poet and writer, who recently started her own publishing house, Hestija.
Hana, what have you brought today?
Firstly, I brought my socks because I believe they’re something that helps me stand out, feel different and be confident, which can be hidden, as socks aren’t as visible as perhaps a shirt. I also brought a book of poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. I think that he was actually the first author that I sat down and said, I’m going to read poetry now. And he is still my idol because of his work, not as a person, but his poems and stories are the ones that I look up to and want to write in a similar way. And then lastly I brought Kakuro – it represents my mathematical side, that I believe I lost in elementary school, but I had it, I swear. And besides, it’s something to do when stressed, it feels like a good use of free time. It’s also a way to write down anything when my notebook is not around.
What got you into literature and poetry?
I was reading from an early age and I knew how to read pretty fast. Maybe that’s because of my family, which always supported my creativity. My teacher in fifth grade said I could do literature for homework, and she would take the best piece and sign it up for competition. I totally agreed, ‘I can compete in that!’. I wrote a poem and then I wrote another one and the next week she said: ‘Hana, try stories!’. I’m a competitive person, and when she said: ‘Do you want to compete?’, I was like ‘Of course, yes!’. I think it was 8th grade when she said I could write stories to compete, and the best ten would get published. So I wrote about fifty pages in Word documents with size-ten font, and I got third place that year. So the next year I wrote one-hundred and fifty pages and that was my second novel, which won me the first place in the same competition. By the end of elementary school, I already had four works (two novels, a musical and a poetry book), and the school offered me to publish them. The teacher was my mentor and proofreader, and me and my mother chose the poems and even created the book cover. The next year, the music teacher introduced me to a composer Pavel Dolenc who I wrote a musical with. I wrote the story and the lyrics of the songs. Schools are still performing it, and it was actually on the RTV Slovenia radio this Saturday. And I thought ‘Wow, the thing actually lives on, even when I’m not around.’ I may have created it, but it’s everyone else that keeps it going.
You’ve started a youth publishing house, Hestija, to encourage writing among the young. In what ways is writing getting more popular?
I think it was always popular, but I don’t think young writers had the chance to show their talent like today. They fear to ask anybody for opinion and don’t get the chance to publish. What Hestija does are newsletters, talking to publishing houses to put the young writers into newspapers, and even writing workshops. A goal is to show that they’re not the only one and that they can find comfort in poetry and prose, and even be successful at it. So I just want to show them that they can present their work to the public and I believe Hestija could be that change.
How did Hestija get its name?
Hestija is a Greek goddess of fireplace and family. It was actually my artistic name for writing, because that’s what writing meant to me – finding comfort even when you’re not at home. And the reason I chose this name is that I want to give others what writing gave me.
Do you think that the web is a good medium for an author or should their writing stay in a physical form like it always was?
I believe that’s a choice that every author has to make for themselves. In my personal opinion, holding a book with your name on it is completely different from just scrolling through it. If you want to publish it quickly and cheaply, of course, publish it on the internet. You have to understand, everyone can copy it from the internet. But then again, I’m doing online newsletters with Hestija, and I believe we have to stay with what’s popular today. It is a lot more difficult to succeed solely through traditional ways. Still, I believe that a real accomplishment is to hold a physical book in your hand. You can hold all your hard work, and there’s a certain weight to it.
Would you say that it’s important to make a distinction between beneficial and wasteful (but fun) use of free time?
It would be ideal that wasteful use of free time would not be in your schedule at all. For example scrolling through your phone, for example, Instagram and looking at the same pictures over and over again, that’s not really beneficial, even though I do it a lot myself. I think everyone should find something they love that benefits them at the same time. Especially adolescents, because that’s the time when your brain develops. I still do it myself, but I would rather not – I have a lot of work, and when I have free moments, I want to use them effectively. That’s when Kakuro comes in. I do something with my brain, I actually have to think, but this way of thinking is actually one that I enjoy. I don’t have to think about formulas, but still use some tricks that I know. When I solve it, I feel better about myself, and each time, I go a step further and increase the difficulty. So getting rid of your time wasting will benefit you, if not immediately, in the long run for sure.
Is there a balance between your creative side and ‘scientific’ side, and how do they connect?
If not anything else, then definitely in my free time. I believe that both sides need to be developed, and I have to work on both sides even if I like my creative side better. Research told us that different parts of the brain are connected, and if not anything, mental stamina is important for everyday life.
How do you keep your ideas organized?
I don’t, it’s as easy as that. I do have a notebook with my poems and I write everything down, but as you could see, I have them written at the sides of my Kakuros, and notebooks from physics class. I don’t intentionally organize, but it’s funny because my writing is actually quite organized. When I write a poem for example, I just write it down and it’s not crossed or anything. So it’s organized in my head, even if it doesn’t seem so.
What’s more important: being different in your writing or dressing?
I believe that the difference I make in my style of writing is the most important to people around me – my readers and everyone else that follows my work. On the other hand, the difference in dressing has importance to me. I believe that every person should find a balance of being important to yourself and being important to others. That’s the thing I despise about so many artists, as you can respect their work, but not respect them as a person. I believe that’s the problem with our idols. They should be people to whom we can look up to not only because of their work, but also because of who they are as a person. I would rather be a good person than a successful person, but I want to be successful as well. So I believe that everyone should find a balance to be both – and that one side doesn’t ruin the other.
Trying to convey a message, do you rather communicate it directly or in a more subtle way?
I am a direct person, but that depends on a person that I want to communicate with. If I need to be subtle, I’ll be subtle, but my goal is to get the message across, do it as quickly as possible. Maybe that’s the problem with me, and possibly also what holds me back in some moments and ruins some opportunities for me. You have to look at and think about what the situation wants from you, and then do that. It is not on you to choose what will work, it’s already chosen and you have to find the solution.
Nobody should ever take themselves too seriously – what can they do for that besides just switching up their socks?
It’s nice to take yourself seriously not in a way that I have to succeed, but in the way that you are important and you are a serious person. For example the ‘formal day’ in Gimnazija Kranj – I am important, and I will succeed, and I can wear my business or formal wear because I feel that way. But you have to let yourself be young and free, and be there to do things. For example, even when I’m formal and I go to a meeting, I always wear my All-Stars, at least, because I’m young, and I can do that. What makes me special is that I published four books till the age of sixteen, and I believe that I have to show my youth, my chaos, and freedom to actually be myself.
Thank you Hana for joining me today and I wish you and Hestija all the best. This wraps up another part of Bring Three! 😀
Go follow Hana’s website: https://hestija.si/