It is September again, and those of us who live life by semester are splurging on some new color corduroy and those of us who migrate are emerging from the summer’s stupor, plotting our coordinates, testing the wind. It follows then that September marks the anniversary of a launched endeavor typical to this shifting season: it is Vela’s second birthday.
In literary years, two years isn’t long. It takes two years or longer for a human child to begin to speak in sentences. It takes longer, usually, for an author to string so many sentences together as to make a book. But many literary endeavors don’t last so long: so we at Vela speak of ours in celebratory tones.
Two years: in that time, Vela has matured from a fledgling collective of six emerging writers into a small magazine running weekly longform and multimedia features of creative nonfiction and literary journalism, inspired by travel (loosely interpreted) and written by women. In those two years our efforts have been bolstered by good fortune. We have been boosted by more established entities (WSJ, Outside Online, Feministing, WorldHum, and Forbes, to name only a few of those to whom our gratitude is due), but we have also been well received by readers—so many of them writers as well—who spread the word and join in the conversation. Best of all we have spent our days in words and in the company of each other, a cohort of women writers collaborating (although I have to mention that several of us who founded Vela have never met in the physical world) to make more of our otherwise solitary pursuits. …
I wouldn’t die if I couldn’t write fiction. Actually keel over and die— it’s unlikely. But quite quickly writing has come to feel like the only thing I really know how to do.
My grandfather lives among the trees. He is streaked with dirt, brown as a fallen acorn. When he walks, the leaves bend under his feet. Years ago, he kept caged pigeons in his garden. In the morning, he would jangle their cage to announce himself.
The garden is his domain, and everything in it his subjects. Out there, we know not to tangle or disturb. We are visitors. We fall in the shadow of his footsteps. …
The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see, and to tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk, for one who can think. But thousands of people can think, for one who can see.
John Ruskin in Modern Painters. Vol. III
Song: “I Can See for Miles” by Petra Haden
Shebana Coelho is a writer, director and filmmaker, who has produced radio and TV documentaries for BBC Radio Four, NPR’s On the Media, the Discovery Channel and Nickelodeon. She received a 2007 Fulbright grant to Mongolia to experience and record life in nomadic communities, and recently completed the radio documentary, On the Move in Mongolia, a series of sound portraits of Mongolian women. Her Vela story “Snow in Mongolia” focuses on her year in Mongolia, and the way it changed her as a traveler. Here, she answers our questions about sound and storytelling.
Read interview here: "On the Move in Mongolia: An Interview with Shebana Coehlo," Vela Magazine blog.