Countdown to Muse 2019: Impossible Writing by Marjan Kamali

The Muse and the Marketplace 2019 kicks off on April 5th at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. This year’s theme is writing in a time of upheaval — whether such upheaval is personal, political, artistic, or all of the above. In anticipation of the conference, we’ve asked Muse 2019 presenting authors to describe a time when it was impossible for them to write, but they wrote anyway. How did they do it? What did they write? Our next presenter in the series is Marjan Kamali, author The Stationery Shop.



On a cold weekend in January 2017, the president showed off his signature on an executive order that banned my relatives from visiting the United States. The aunt who brought us saffron from Tehran, the uncle who loved American basketball, the cousins I couldn’t visit in Iran – all banned. I wasn’t sure when or if I would see certain relatives again.


On my desk was the unfinished draft of my novel. But working on revisions suddenly seemed absurd. How could I write when the world was spinning out of control? As the weeks wore on and my despair grew, I realized I had to write precisely because the news got worse each day. I had to write to reclaim myself, to knead order from disorder, to tame history. So as cable news hosts repeated the names of the banned countries, I dove back into one of them. I recreated the cinemas, cafes, dances and political demonstrations of 1953 Iran.


Leaders could tell their lies on loop. I had the truth of my characters. I had their love, their losses, their indestructible hope. Writing at that tumultuous time ultimately led to a much needed escape, a surprising healing, and a finished book.

You can catch Marjan’s craft discussion, “It's All in the Details” on Friday, April 5th at 10:15am at the Muse. For all the latest Muse news, follow #Muse19.

Marjan Kamali’s debut novel Together Tea (EccoBooks/HarperCollins) was a Massachusetts Book Award Finalist, an NPR WBUR Good Read, and a Target Emerging Author Selection. It has been translated into several languages and was recently adapted for the stage. Marjan graduated from U.C. Berkeley and earned an MBA from Columbia University and an MFA from NYU. Her work has also been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in two anthologies: Tremors and Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been. She has written essays for The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Review of Books. Marjan grew up in Turkey, Iran, Germany, Kenya and NYC and has spent her adult life in Switzerland, Australia and the U.S. She taught writing at Boston University and is currently an instructor at GrubStreet. An excerpt from her second novel which appeared in Solstice literary magazine was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. This second novel, The Stationery Shop, will be published by Gallery/Simon & Schuster in June 2019.

About the Author

GrubWrites is a space for the writing and reading community to share ideas and seek advice, a place where writers at the very beginning of their careers publish alongside established authors. Book lovers, we bring you reviews, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to keep you up to speed on all things lit. Writers, this is your one stop shop for expert craft talk, opinions on how we learn and teach writing, and essential advice about the publishing industry.

Plus, we want to hear from you! Our ongoing call for submissions is open to literary community members of all types and persuasions. We want to hear from students, teachers, authors, readers, editors, agents, publicists, and any devotee of the written word. If you have something to say about writing, reading, the publishing industry, or anything related to the literary world, this is the place to voice it. We’re particularly committed to advocating for a diverse range of voices in the literary marketplace and raising the visibility of writers from under-represented communities.

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