We can safely say that stories accompany us always and everywhere. The pleasant voice of loved ones reading has a soothing effect on us when we are children. Later, when we grow up, the impact of stories increases even more: a well-chosen story enriches our experience and imagination, expands our vocabulary, shows other thought patterns, and broadens our horizons. VOICES talked to Iskra Dimkovska, editor of the publishing house Skaznuvalka, to learn more about the power of stories and the new books that will be published in May.
We could meet with Iskra Dimovska, editor of Skaznuvalka, in no other place than the coffee/bookstore Буква/Bookva in Skopje. The smell of good coffee and the books surrounding us provided us with an excellent background for the interview. Skaznuvalka was established not so long ago, in 2015. “Our publishing house specializes in books for children, middle-aged and young adults. The idea is to publish high-quality literature from the best local and world artists and authors so that children can enjoy reading and the visual experience of the books,” says Iskra. The mission of Skaznuvalka is to contribute to children’s development and intellectual wealth through texts and illustrations that will awaken their imagination and artistic sensibility, stimulate their empathy, and offer them different perspectives to help them build up authentic ideas and views.
Thanks to the European Union programme Creative Europe this month, Skaznuvalka will publish five new titles for young people translated from Spanish, Italian, and Dutch. The Italian book “Nebbia/Магла” written by Marta Palazzesi won Strega prize. “La Rete/Мрежа” written by Sara Allegrini won Orbil 2022, the award of independent bookstores. Toon Tellegen, the author of the Dutch title “Brieven aan niemand anders/Писма некому и на никој друг”, is one of the most important European and world writers for children. He won many prizes too. The books that were thoroughly chosen for publishing were nominated for various awards, so they can be considered the best European titles.
The whole process of publishing books takes a lot of time. It begins with establishing the strategy and choosing an approach for that concrete edition. Iskra searches for titles from European, contemporary writers and for Skaznuvalka, they must be quality titles. Copyrights for text or text and illustrations need to be acquired when the books are chosen. “We have done two covers for the books here in Macedonia. They are created by famous and excellent Macedonian illustrator and artist Vane Kosturanov,” adds Iskra. After buying the copyrights, the books have to be translated. The publishing house pays a lot of attention to this matter. After that, the text is proofread and edited. Then, the files are ready to be printed. “There is also the possibility of publishing books in audio format. The readers can find our books on the platform called “Samoglas,” explains the interviewee. This is an important part of publishing because Skaznuvalka can also reach readers with vision impairments.
All the books published by Skaznuvalka deliver some powerful messages to the readers. “We want to offer some themes that may not be so common but give the opportunity to start a discussion with young people about solidarity, friendship, equality, and diversity,” explains Iskra. One of the books is about the importance of communication in the community. The second one is about equality. The third one is about the problems young people face and the importance of the safety net that society should provide them with. As the category of the books is Young Adult (YA), they cater for readers aged 9 to 12/13 and 13+ but even adults will enjoy reading them. Which book is Iskra the proudest of? “I am really proud of all of these five titles. I cannot choose any of them because each of them is special,” she says.
That age category might be challenging to reach, but Iskra is certain that it is possible by selecting the right titles. “What I wanted to do is to find the books that talk really the language of that generation and talk really and openly about their problems, state and emotions,” she says. As the main goal of the project is to encourage young people to read, Skaznuvalka will also try different things to reach the readers. They are planning various creative workshops for young people and also festival and night readings in the autumn. “The other idea is to make videos and workshops in which we will show youngsters that the books are not just some obsolete objects, but they are works of art in which many people and professionals are involved working together,” sums up Iskra.
With its books, Skaznuvalka wants to prove to young adults that following the story of the book character might sometimes inspire, teach or even explain the emotions and problems that young people have to cope with. The power of a single story goes far beyond simple text in the book…