Aida Ibisevic: Summer 2013

What was the inspiration behind “Mama’s Bread“?

“Mama’s Bread” depicts the first winter during Bosnian war. It captures the angst my family and I felt waiting for my brother to return home from the trenches, and the constant hunger that lingered on.

A little background on the war for those not familiar… During the early 90s, my hometown of Sarajevo was under the longest modern siege in Europe’s history.

Before the war, Sarajevo was a modern city. We lived a normal life, comparable to life in any other city. But with the war, everything disintegrated.

The electricity was cut off. We had to wait in lines for water and humanitarian aid, and then bring it back to our homes under bombings and sniper-fire. Continuous shelling became the background soundtrack of our lives. We all knew someone who died, whether it was a neighbor, friend, or a family member.

But the siege also allowed humanity to express itself in a very honest way. People dropped the daily masks they carry during easy times. Everything that was done during the siege was done with intensity. Even though we lived in subhuman conditions the schools reopened, city’s universities continued with the classes, the theater and ballet studio put on productions, and our parents resumed working.

There was no five-year plan. All one had was the current moment, fleeting furiously. So we had to grab it.

How do you write? With a pen? A keyboard?

Both. And a typewriter too.

What is your writing process? How many drafts do you go through?

The act of writing to me is similar to the process of carving. I write a story, and “carve” it continuously until the piece feels finished. This may mean two drafts for one story, and fifteen for another.

Where did you publish your first piece?

As an adult? Apeiron Review. 🙂

What writers have influenced you the most and why?

This entire interview could consist of this question.

  • Mikhail Bulgakov… for giving us The Master and Margarita.
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer… for being the maestro of a modern fairy tale.
  • Zadie Smith… because reading White Teeth was to understand what a modern classic looks like.
  • Ray Bradbury… because Fahrenheit 451 is possibly the most important book ever written.
  • Bruno Shultz… because The Street of Crocodiles is the most beautiful collection of short stories put together.
  • Herman Hesse… for giving us Steppenwolf.

What are your favorite writing resources?

Books. Reading is a gratifying process because – in addition to the gift of the story itself – one encounters different forms, styles and techniques. This provides a good amount of mental freedom necessary for the act of writing. Seeing other writers go “out there” gives you fearlessness to go “out there” yourself, wherever that “out there” is for you.

Shout out to your favorite small presses and magazines—excluding us, of course.

Jersey Devil Press, Red Fez, and Literary Orphans.

Do you have any upcoming work that we should keep an eye out for?

JDP recently published “Little Monster,” a part two of sorts to “Mama’s Bread” (the following winter, and the burning of books).

I’m still writing down stories from the siege period – it’s becoming my family’s surrealist memoir of sorts.

What question would you have liked us to have asked? Answer it. 

–What is the best advice you received from a writer?

I went to reading by Aleksandar Hemon once, and he signed my copy of The Question of Bruno, adding “Everyone deserves a story.” Whenever the writing gets really frustrating – those days when no words are coming no matter how much I threaten them – I pull that book out and read his words.

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