My Experience in Writing
My interest in creative writing started when I was just eight years old. Inspired by a winter journey I was taking with my family, I composed my first poem. Later, I began writing sequels to some of my favorite adventure books like The Three Musketeers and Ivanhoe.
With the support of my family, my path to publication quickly commenced. “My mother used to collect scraps of paper I leave on my desk; usually they contained a verse or two. She collected and published them in local magazines.”
I focused on two genres at first, poetry and short stories. “In the early days, I started writing poems and short stories in Arabic. My poems were concerned with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
I wrote my first English work, The Eagle, when I was fourteen. Later, I focused more on writing short stories; “Short stories feel more active and concise.” I began working on my English collection of poems and short stories, Blue Fire in 1991 after the death of my best friend.
Writing poetry requires a very special mood. I find writing stories much easier, and I feel more relaxed. In fact, I enjoy writing short stories because I write in a manner of movie scripts; I visualize what I’m writing and interact with my characters. I feel their pain and joy and live the story for days before I finally put it to paper. “I feel closeness to my imagined individuals.”
I have a wide range of interests. I've always been interested in religion, history, politics and mythology; you can see traces of those in my books.
My first published book is Blue Fire. The book is comprised of two parts; short stories and poetry. Almost invariably, the pivotal thematic concern of the short stories is the precariousness of the human condition balanced by the resilience of the human spirit trying to outdo life at its own game. The stories constitute a poignant representation of human beings seeking to pick up the shattered rainbows of their lives.
The central character in Blue Fire around which the stories are woven is that of Marc/Marco. Marc drifts through my stories, bringing hope and compassion to often hopeless or brutal situations. “Marc is the projection of the writer’s need to visualize a better world in which paradise is not lost but rather retrievable through charity, purity and altruism,” states Dr. Nada Zeineddin in the preface of the Blue Fire.
“Orfali is the real Marc,” asserts Dr. Duane Simolke, “in that she gives a devastatingly honest view of life’s cruelty, yet brings optimism to that view. However, she does so without giving easy, contrived solutions. She also does so with charming characters and believable dialogue.”
Stylistically, the stories have a charming simplicity and economy. They are woven around a sparely plotted situation. I usually provide detached descriptions of action, using simple language to capture scenes precisely. By doing so, I avoid describing the characters' emotions and thoughts directly. Instead, in providing the reader with the snippets of an experience and eliminating the authorial viewpoint, I make my story read as an actual experience. I also rely on previous readings of history, medicine and political events to give my work authenticity. I also focus on structure in my short stories. I write sparingly and eliminate a great deal of superfluous detail from the piece without sacrificing the voice of authority.
A mixture of mystery, realism and celebration of the freedom of spirit often appears in my fiction. The stories use a variety of settings and times from the time of ancient Rome and Arabia to the vague future. In some stories the past overlaps with the present and sheds light on the bleak future. This technique was mostly used in the title story “Blue Fire” and other two short stories “Euthanasia” and “Cabbie”. The stories, however, move along at a rapid pace, relying heavily on credible dialogue and detail.
“Her work may not be primarily concerned with photographically duplicating external everyday reality” states Dr. Zeineddin, ”but it evokes a deeper sense of reality – the reality of being human.”
Death is an ever-present subject in my stories; it acts as the terminal point of the characters’ journeys, in the majority of cases. Yet, death is never a blind alley. It does not spill futility no is it the ultimate proof of the vanity of human wishes. Rather it is a “flight unto the sun,” to borrow the words of Marco in the short story, “Silver Eagle”. The moment of death synchronizes with the birth of a new self, the assertion of identity or the triumph of a principle. Death gives birth to life and ends create new beginnings. In “Help”, Marco’s dying anguished cry for help breathes life, as it were, into his brother’s crippled lifeless legs, and an act of love triggers off an act of will whereby the circle of life is renewed and death is defeated.
A year later, I published another collection of short stories. It is entitled Flower in The Cold.” The title story talks about a dying child last moments with his bereaved father. In the year 2002, I co-authored a fundraiser for cancer research with fellow American writers entitled The Acorn Gathering.
In the preface to the second book written by Dr. Salma Haddad, “Marc re-emerges in the title story “Flower in The Cold”. He is the widower and father of a dying son… The story is formidably written in the form of letters addressed to his dead wife Stephanie. No postman to deliver them, unfortunately. Marc emits his cries of pain into written words, words turn into unheard echoes and the little boy joins his mother with the wings he chooses to draw,” states Dr. Haddad.
The book also rekindles the heated debates about controversial issues like euthanasia, organ transplantation, racial discrimination, sexual abuse, parental neglect and abortion.
The inspiration for the stories comes from within. Sometimes a scene, a sound or even a dream provokes it and the story flows like a fresh stream. Another source of inspiration is the political scene. My poems tackle contemporary and humanistic issues ranging from racial and social discrimination to war. The poem “Exodus” was written from a point of view of an old Albanian woman fleeing the Serb offensive on Kosovo. This human tragedy was also the subject of part IV of the story Blue Fire.
My new book Fisher Prince is a collection of poetry and short stories. It explores the complexities of human society through the form of lyric poetry and short stories. The book employs various speakers to portray the nuances of human experience.
The creative impulse for the poems is equally idealistic and humanitarian for the large part. The poems are predominantly concerned with social and political issues that contribute to universal well being and to the common good.
Having grown up in the Middle East, an area torn apart by war, violence and centuries old hatred, I focus my poetic scrutiny on the terrors of war and the struggle for peace.
The poem “Friendly Fire” portrays the universal journey toward peace as one fraught with difficulties and bloodshed – yet the journey is successful. Peace ultimately will triumph bringing forth a new beginning.
Similarly, the poem “Share Jerusalem” envisions a time of peace in Jerusalem in which divided groups embrace each other and forgive the pain and injury of the past. Peace is elusive but attainable.
The Poems “Waters”, “Another Storm” and “Troy” are tributes to the victims of the Tsunami and hurricane Katrina.
I revisited my own mythology the “Fisher Prince”, which was published in Blue Fire, and transformed it into an epic poem. It is the title poem for this book. It is the ultimate battle against tyranny and celebration of freedom and the human spirit. It is being produced into a musical DVD by the musician Teo Graca.
I have also included the story “Marc”, a biography of a leukemia patient, expressed through the medium of emails written to another patient in a support forum.
In a review published at Amazon.com, Dr. Duane Simolke writes, “Orfali’s poems range from depictions of her Syrian homeland to scenes from treasured myths and legends. My favorite of the poems is “Flip-Flop.” The narrator of that poem forces us to consider the results of violence, who is to blame for it, and who can help stop it; yet the poem also manages to surprise the reader. For that matter, Orfali’s work is a constant surprise.”
Huda Orfali, MA in Peace Studies