GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Ask any number of writers how they go about their business and you will likely receive, boiled down, this answer: write, write, write. Simple enough. Ask Eda Uzuncakara, Glen Ridge resident and author of “Jumping on the Drips,” a collection of interconnecting short stories, and you will get two answers: draw, draw, draw and write, write, write. This is because Uzuncakara’s stories have their genesis and development as abstract drawings in a sketchbook.
“How you put the story together isn’t important,” she recently told The Glen Ridge Paper. “I begin by sketching and relating the characters to colors. Then I listen to music. I usually pick one composition, something classical.”
Uzuncakara, whose book is published under her pen name, Eda Kara, said that, since she was 8 years old, she has drawn to express herself visually while writing to express herself in words. She recently served as a judge for a writing competition open to Glen Ridge middle schoolers.
“Writing helped me a lot,” she said, “especially as a teen, your hormones go crazy. I didn’t know why. I was writing page after page. Writing was my best friend.”
Using the creative process of drawing to develop a story, Uzuncakara wrote her first book, still unpublished, seven years ago. With “Jumping on the Drips,” she said she “was sketching and writing the story in my backyard while birds were singing for me. I realized that I was able to imagine the faraway island where the story was taking place much better with birds chirping. When birds were not available for me to (hear them) sing, I started listening to polyphony music, especially Baroque compositions. Then, I repeated the pattern for other stories, which turned out to be my creation process. I like feeling the story in my senses before writing.”
Polyphony music is music with more than one melody being performed simultaneously.
Uzuncakara was born in Turkey, where she attended college. She learned English primarily in college. It was challenging, she said, but writing was a great benefit in learning the language, especially creative writing, through which she could express her dream world.
She came to the United States when she was 26 to pursue a master’s degree in information services at Stevens Institute of Technology. She is employed by JPMorgan Chase, where, she said, “language is sitting in the center of my work life.” She has created a newsletter for her workplace.
In writing her stories, she knows how the narrative will unfold as she writes. But when confronted with a problem, she will return to her sketchbook.
“When I work on the detail of a character,” she said, “I go back to drawing. The drawings are dreamlike. That’s how I process the world.”
But once she completes the sketches, she does not review them.
“They’re part of me already,” she said.
Her unorthodox approach to writing goes further than having abstract sketches as notes for a literary work.
“I’m also a yoga instructor,” she said. “I pay attention to body parts. We never think about drawing with our foot.”
Uzuncakara has and does.
“Artists are not copying machines,” she said. “When you draw with a less dominant part of your body, you’re vulnerable. If you pull your walls down, you’re capable of opening up yourself.”
She is now contemplating a novel.
“I have a really clear picture of it,” she said. “It covers multi-generations and -continents. I have some drawings and the song I will start with.”
The composition she has selected is “The Astounding Eyes of Rita,” by Anouar Brahem, a Tunisian oud player and composer.
“We make our lives beautiful with stories,” Uzuncakara said. “People relate to them, and, when you relate, you incorporate them into your life. And with each story, maybe we expand our minds and our perception changes and we become more open to things. We live our own visions of the stories, not the author’s vision.”
Photos by Daniel Jackovino