Translated by Marvin Najarro
By Mariela Castañón, diario La Hora
The Guatemalan writer Ilka Oliva Corado, who currently resides in Chicago, announced her new project: an “artisanal publishing house”, which consists in the edition and binding of her own books, using basic resources, with the sole objective of bringing readers closer to her books.
Ilka, an enterprising woman, also opens space to other authors, who have been denied the publication of their texts. In an interview with La Hora Voz del Migrante, she explains the details of her project.
LH Voz del Migrante: What is Ilka publishing house?
Ilka Oliva: Well, I call it this way, because it’s a home project: I edit and bind the books in my house, using basic resources; I do not have a printing press, only a printer and photocopier which are my working tools. I called it artisanal because I see that work as that of artisans who use their hands to create art; for me the whole process of publishing a book is also art, and much more when it is done at home, step by step, as the making of a dress in a sewing machine in an inhospitable village. That dress is very special because the way it was made, and by the hands that produced it. That’s why I call it artisanal because I imagine a process like that, outside the system.
LH Voz del Migrante: How did this project come about and why?
Ilka Oliva: That’s what was missing; being able to bind my own books. For me it is the continuation of something I started a few years ago with the publication of my first book -a natural process; something that had to happen. It was not something planned. The idea came up one day, and I started it that same day, and in a matter of a week I had the materials to print, and I started creating the page on the internet.
LH Voz del Migrante: What are your expectations about the publisher?
Ilka Oliva: In fact, I am only looking to bring the reader closer to my books, and of those who want to publish there; it is an independent project that looks for space for what it is: an alternative publisher. Without great fanfare; it is very simple, like everything in my life, it is looking for those who want to make their voice known; to be heard by a type of audience that feels identified with it, that’s all.
LH Voz del Migrante: What is the reason you are opening spaces for other authors?
Ilka Oliva: To give them the opportunity that publishers denied me, so that they can find in Ilka publishing house the space where they can make their books known without having to be rejected for lack of contacts, recognized names or college degrees, as happened to me. In a way, it is giving back what life has given me, which has been a lot; paving the way for others. And the name could not be other, it is also natural.
LH Voz del Migrante: When did you open your publishing house, and what have been the results until now?
Ilka Oliva: The project is relatively new; a few weeks ago I disclosed it to the public (http:// ilkaeditorial.com) and at the moment the 13 books that I have published are for sale, and the invitation is extended to more authors to publish in it. It has been met with great interest by readers, I think they also were expecting a project like this, so much so that it was not surprising when I made the announcement; as I told you at the beginning; it is the continuation of a path that I started perhaps with my blog “Crónicas de una inquilina”.
LH Voz del Migrante: How many books have you published and in what languages?
Ilka Oliva: 13 books: Historia de una indocumentada, travesía en el desierto de Sonora-Arizona, (Story of an undocumented immigrant: Crossing the Sonora-Arizona Desert) which was the first book I published has been translated into Italian by Edizioni Arcoiris in Italy, also into Swedish -published by Ilka publishing house-, into French by Éditions Nzoi in France, and also published by the same publisher in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire; into Portuguese by Ilka publishing house. And it will be published in English in the coming months, most likely during the summer also by Ilka publishing house.
Then came Post frontera (Post Border), which like the first is also a memory. Then came the poems: Luz de Faro (Beacon Light); En la melodía de un fonema (In the Melody of a Phoneme); Niña de arrabal (Slum Girl); Destierro (Confinement); Nostalgia (Nostalgia); Agosto (August); Ocre (Ochre); and Desarraigo (Uprooting). Relatos (Stories); Crónicas de una inquilina (Chronicles of a Tenant) which is really the first book I wanted to publish, but was one of the last; it took time. Transgredidas (Transgressed), which are testimonies of women who have experienced gender violence. And the last one I have just published, just a few weeks ago, is Melodía de quinqué (Oil Lamp Melody), which are stories too.
LH Voz del Migrante: With which of all the books you have written, do you identify yourself more?
Ilka Oliva: They are all my babies; they are my offsprings and each one of them has a very special meaning; they have their own personality -I could not have a favorite because they are my children, but Melodía de quinqué is a very sweet book, there is a special charm in its stories, a lot of innocence –as it is also the case with the collections of poems Luz de faro and En la melodía de un fonema. And although Crónicas de una inquilina was one of the last books that I’ve published, it contains the essence of my years as a newly émigré; many Guatemalan expressions, and nostalgia for Guatemala. And so, I could talk about each of them, because they all have a very important meaning in my life and at the time of their publication.
LH Voz del Migrante: How can your books be acquired?
Ilka Oliva: By visiting the publishing website (http://ilkaeditorial.com) where you can read them online or if you want them in print you can also buy them right there; I will mail them to the country you wish. You can also buy them at amazon.com.
LH Voz del Migrante: What are your short, medium and long term goals in writing?
Ilka Oliva: The truth is that I have stopped planning my life since long ago, I only live the day to day which is enough for me. Planning did not work, I tried it but it did not work for me, so now I’m letting things go at their own pace, without forcing anything; I learned that life gives me what I need, and I am learning to reap it.
And writing comes like this: in its time, in its forms, and I am learning to listen to it, and to understand its reasons; I am only the one who bring forth its voice. I could never plan to write a book; I do not write to publish, I write as a catharsis. I could never write under a deadline or trying to decorate words, or make them go into a certain rhythm so their harmony fits in somewhere. Perhaps what is changing is that I am opening a space to fiction, although I have written some fiction before. In fact in the last book most stories are fiction; it’s something I’m paying more attention to now. But goals, it’s really not something that I’m interested in accomplishing; it is enough that I can breathe and enjoy the charm of the rain and the mist that are the muses that inspire my writing.
LH Voz del Migrante: What should a person do in order to publish in your publishing house?
Ilka Oliva: Visit the publishing house website and send an email using the “contact” option, and I will contact them.