Konst i Hanige

About a year ago I wrote about how Haninge Kommun had commissioned me to write a short story based on a public sculpture in Jordbro, Sweden (just north of where I live, and where my novel Numera Negerkung takes place).  I get a lot of commission work, and have written short fiction based on topics as far-ranging as the life of a guard on the Indian-Pakistani border to a young Korean-English computer-game addict.

But this was one of my more challenging commissions, to write a story based on a sculpture created with the help of children in Jordbro, Sweden.  Another challenge was to incorporate not just visual elements but also bits of the personal narratives the kids –– many of them refugees –– wrote during the process. After meeting with the county department of parks and recreation at the cultural center in Haninge, Sweden, I visited the sculpture itself during a fairy-tale snowstorm.

On the commuter train from Jordbro I scribbled down a rough draft. Then I scribbled down a second, completely different draft. During the next few days I revised the two stories: I restructured, added elements from the children’s own narratives, and added sensory detail and surrealistic elements.  After my wife helped me with spelling and grammar (I wrote in Swedish), I sent the two drafts to the county and asked them to pick one.

Which they did. They chose the second story, which I also felt was stronger.  I made a final revision, they paid me for it, and I moved on to other projects.

Until just recently when I received a copy of the finished catalogue.  Surprise: they had paid me for one story, but printed both –– labelled as chapters one and two.  The Swedish Author’s Guild probably wouldn’t like me saying this, but I don’t actually care about the money: writing is a profession which involves waste, so I had counted on more or less throwing the other story away.  What did impress me was their understanding of the work –– of course these weren’t two separate stories, they were two parts of the same story.  The first one is weaker, because it is the introduction to the second one.

The stories are called “Juvelerna i Jordbro” (“The Jewels of Jordbro”) and are available through Haninge Kommun. (ISBN: 978-91-982495-1-4)  I might re-print the texts here, later.