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Open the window: Pratiwi Juliani on writing and 'Dear Jane'

Devina Heriyanto
Devina Heriyanto

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sun, May 19, 2019  /  09:07 pm
Open the window: Pratiwi Juliani on writing and 'Dear Jane'

Pratiwi Juliani after the launch of 'Dear Jane' on Sunday, May 12 at Kinosaurus, Kemang, South Jakarta. (JP/Devina Heriyanto)

"Take a moment and look through the window of your imagination," Pratiwi Juliani told participants in a writing workshop on Sunday, May 12. The workshop, aptly titled Open the Window, took place in Kinosaurus, Kemang, South Jakarta.

The room, usually used for a movie screening, has a side that entirely consists of windowpanes, almost as if the room itself was inviting participants to look outside and let their imagination roam free.

This, Pratiwi said, is how writs. First, she observes her surroundings, then she finds a particular moment that sparks her imagination. But her writing is not as simple as jotting down life as it happens; thoughts, perception and imagination shape her stories.

“My stories are not based on real-life events, but the questions that arise from my observation of what happens,” she told The Jakarta Post.

Writing seems to come naturally to Pratiwi, whose sophomore book Dear Jane was also launched on Sunday. Since receiving the Emerging Writer award at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) in 2018, she has published a short story collection titled Atraksi Lumba-Lumba (A Circus of Dolphins) under Comma Books, a division of Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia. But it was Dear Jane that shaped her into the writer she is today.

Pratiwi recounted her story in front of workshop participants, and later, an audience at the book launch.

She had not always been a writer. After finishing high school, Pratiwi worked as a contractor. Then, she decided to take a break. During this period, she took a lot of classes, from sewing to writing.

The writing class started in early 2017.

“I remember there were 20 of us in the first session. We were assigned to write a novel, the progress of which would be tracked weekly,” Pratiwi said. “In the last session, out of the initial 20 students, there were three left. Only I had a finished a novel by then. The novel was Dear Jane.”

For a while, she did nothing with the manuscript.

"I was not confident to show it to other people. It's just the work of an amateur," Pratiwi said.

Read also: 'Pay attention to detail' and other writing tips from Leila S. Chudori

Then, her laptop broke and she sent the file to a friend for safekeeping. In mid-2018, this same friend encouraged her to submit the novel to the UWRF.

“I went on a writing marathon. I wrote about 40 short stories in the span of two months,” she said, “I curated the stories myself, which was later published as A Circus of Dolphins.”

Against her friend’s recommendation, she chose to submit her short stories, thinking that her writing was more mature and therefore, better. Instead, she clicked on the wrong file and sent the manuscript for Dear Jane.

The UWRF program received more than 800 submissions from across Southeast Asia. Out of the five pieces of work that made the cut, hers was the only novel.

And here she is, three years after she first learned writing, sharing her craft and launching the book that started it all.

According to the book’s blurb, Dear Jane centers on how an encounter between Jane and Andri changes the former’s life. Jane leaves her fiancé Alex for Andri and faces many obstacles in preparing for her marriage to Andri.

"The book is about love, the arts, travel, food, music and even the engine inside a car. But all these are only vehicles of my [observation] of how we can no longer trust a person [we love]," Pratiwi told the audience during the book launch.

"How much can we trust someone? And what if the longer we trust someone, the more we realize that we don't know who they are?"

Pratiwi told the Post that the novel focuses on its characters and the dynamics of their relationship.

“I think that’s the difference between a short story and a novel. If a short story emphasizes on a moment, a novel must delve into the inner workings of its characters,” she said.

"The three characters in the novel all share one characteristic: they are not to be trusted.

“People are not two dimensional. I wish to show that most often, we know people as not who they really are, but only the image they present."

When asked on how she prevented Dear Jane from turning into another formulaic love-triangle romance, Pratiwi returned to her character’s inner world.

“I deconstructed the reasoning and feelings behind the betrayal. How do the characters justify their actions?” It is not always bad things that turn us into bad people. Sometimes, it’s love.”

During the writing workshop, Pratiwi asked participants to read a draft of their work. Upon hearing and commenting on a participant’s work, Pratiwi concluded: “A magnificent story is one that reveals the mind and life of the writer, and at the same time, the one through which a reader can discover themselves.”

The comment might be just about the participant’s short story. However, the sentence’s echoes could be heard throughout the day. Whether on writing or betrayal, on love or other things, through her stories or the novel, Pratiwi invites you to open the window to your imagination and your inner self. (kes)