Welcome back to my Blog!
If you have been following me for a few years now you might have come across my first book review by Jo Ann Bugeja, namely Confessions of a Burning Soul, which you can have a look at here. I do enjoy a good book every so often and when I find some real time to unwind which is a pity if I may say so especially when I have an 8 year who is not so keen to read books because of course, he does not see enough of that at the household! However, having said that I am always trying to make amends to that of course as I try my best to lead by example.
Anyways after that little confession, I was sent a couple of new books written by Joanna Bugeja and so I thought of giving you a little bit of insight as to who is Jo Ann Bugeja. So I had a little informal chat with Ms. Bugeja and here we are.
About Jo Ann Bugeja – AUTO BIOGRAPHY
Writing has always been my one true passion. Pouring my thoughts on paper is soothing for the soul and is a powerful therapeutic resource especially when dealing with day-to-day stressors. I’ve been keeping a journal since a very early age. You could always find me scribbling down poems, letters, or notes to special friends and daily journal entries between classes. I’ve dreamed of getting published since age 16. I fondly remember one time when I met up with my brother’s university colleague to discuss my writing ambitions.
My goal was to write an autobiography at that time. He used to write a column consisting mainly of poems and short stories in a local newspaper and I thought since we shared a common love of writing, he might be able to give me some tips. I had this ingrained belief that it would be quite challenging to get published especially given the fact that I approached quite a bit of local publishing houses who were averse to publishing poetry books. When I was in the process of submitting my manuscript two years ago, I encountered quite a bit of rejection for the aforementioned reason but I’m the type of person who doesn’t back down easily. You could say persistence is my middle name.
On July 26th, 2018 I saw my lifelong dream come to fruition. My debut book of poetry, Confessions of A Burning Soul was finally published and a few days later, I received my complimentary copies. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled upon opening my box of books. This book was my brainchild; I had been writing poetry and short stories for years but had never encountered the opportunity to share my thoughts with the rest of the world. I am very precise and self-critical when it comes to language. I must have proofread my writing more than I can remember, adding poems, fixing punctuation, making sure my writing was perfectly polished.
I’m very much my father’s daughter in that regard. Not only do we share the same penmanship, but we are also both extremely meticulous. There’s no room for errors or misspelling. I’m well aware that perfectionism carries a negative connotation, however, I find that constructive criticism helps challenge and improve your writing skills. Being self-critical doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t believe in your abilities but it shows a remarkable ambition to continue to strive to be the best you can be. A writer, just like any star athletic should always be on top of his game.
Writers are very much like artists; they require a muse to make their creativity flow. A muse doesn’t necessarily have to be a person or love interest. A writer can find their inspiration in nature, by the sea, they can extract beautiful unforgettable memories from their childhood or early life and with a little bit of added imagination, write themselves into a magical world.
1. you have been writing poems and short stories since your pre-teen years. What was the urge to do that? Did you keep your writings to yourself ? Did you have writers to look up to ? What happened to them?
I’ve been writing poems since age 9. I remember I used to write love poems in Maltese for my first childhood crush while I was helping him with his homework or secretly passing them along through his mother, who’s also my godmother as our families were very close. They say “at a touch of love, everyone becomes a poet” and one cannot argue with that as the greatest artists of all time produced their most memorable masterpieces inspired by that special muse. Oskar Kokoschka’s painting, Bride of the Wind inspired by his lover and muse, Alma Mahler comes to mind. Others drew on their emotional turbulence and fulfilling relationships to create their works of art such as Picasso’s Blue and Rose Period. That is precisely what I tried to do in Confessions, which, you could say is a mixture of the two.
Yes, I did and still do keep some writings to myself, mostly intimate journal entries. Back then I shared my poems with one or two close friends. I fondly remember this one time during biology class, I’d been writing a love poem and a classmate asked if she could copy parts of it for her boyfriend as it was Valentine’s Day.
At age 16, I met up with my brother’s university colleague to discuss my writing ambitions. My goal was to write an autobiography at that time. He used to write a column consisting mainly of poems and short stories in a local newspaper and I thought since we shared a common love of writing, he might be able to give me some tips.
However, it would be many years before I’d realize my dream of getting published.
2. Do you keep a daily diary? Why ? Since when? Do you go back to your diaries every so often and relive certain moments, be they happy, or not. Or to check out something you cannot remember well but are sure you wrote it somewhere?
I’ve been keeping a journal since a very early age. You could always find me scribbling down poems, letters, or notes to special friends and daily journal entries between classes. Yes, I do go back to my diaries to reread old entries and poems, for poetry recitals on my YouTube channel (I’m the old-fashioned kind of gal. I prefer to read from my original pen-written text. I feel it’s more personal than typed text. I believe penmanship brings forth an author’s personality even more and familiarizes the reader with them, making it easier to relate with the writer’s mood and emotions when s/he were writing the poem)
3. Is what you are today what you want to be or do you have plans for the future?
Well, I’ve always envisioned myself helping people, especially with regards to their social and emotional wellbeing. That is precisely the reason why I studied psychology; my plan was to become a clinical psychologist. However, I’ve always had a fascination for both psychology and the law. While reading for my psychology degree l, I used to attend public lectures offered by the faculty of law, followed a study unit called Mapping the Crime Scene, Issues in Criminal Justice offered by the Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences a couple of years ago and attended a conference back in 2013 called Online Privacy: Consenting to your Future”.
As regards to my future, I’m currently reading for a higher diploma in Legal Procurator and I see myself working in Court in the near future.
4. Do you travel? If yes…obvious question, Favourite country, favourite people, any adventure , mishap, happy occasion in your travels?
I’m not the traveling kind of person. However, I greatly enjoy being in nature. My favourite spots are The Chinese Garden of Serenity, Selmun, San Anton Gardens. Anywhere where I can be one with nature really.
5. What is your attraction to epic fantasy? Does it go way back to childhood days? Favourite writers? Tolkien? Films? Harry Potter? If that’s alright with you, perhaps we can add to Question 5, what are some of your favorite poems and books?
I suppose my fascination with mysticism, Greek mythology, and the supernatural had a lot to do with my attraction to epic fantasy. I remember my eye-popping fascination with a collection of folkloristic fairytales, particularly ‘The FireBird’ and ‘Beowulf’ and his mission to capture and kill Grendel’s mother, who in turn, seduces him.
Also, my favourite cartoon growing up was Sailor Moon and Lady Oscar. I was enraptured by the bold heroine in distress who’s vulnerable yet transforms into this impressive warrior spirit. Also in the series, Charmed, three sister witches United in power combat evil beings and display impeccable courage and strength in a 90’s culture setting.
As regards to my favorite writers, I’ve got a wide range of poets and authors who’ve captured my attention and fascination and inspired me over the years. Definitely Gorg Peresso and Anton Grasso (in the local context) as well as Susan Jane Gilman, particularly her overwhelmingly empowering book, Kiss My Tiara, Ira Levine, and William Katz. Two books that left a great impression were Surprise Party and Death Dreams by William Katz and Ira Levine’s novel, A Kiss Before Dying.
As for poets and poems, some of my favorites are;
Defeat my Defeat by Kahlil Gibran; Failing and Flying By Jack Gilbert; Still I Rise by Maya Angelou; Desiderata by Max Ehrmann; Invictus by William Ernest Henley; The Guest House by Rumi; Voice by Ann Sansom
When it comes to films, let’s just say the original tv series Charmed might have had some influence on my writing inspiration as well. I’m a crime drama junkie; my favourite show of all time is Law & Order; Special Victims Unit. I was also a big fan of other crime drama series like The Closer, Major Crimes, Close to Home, and supernatural shows like Ghost Whisperer and Tru Calling (among others such as Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Point Pleasant).
6. Do you think your poetry is unconventional in style? Does some of it verge on gay feelings and situations?
Well, you could say it’s unconventional in that I write narrative poems in free verse. I would say they verge on a wide range of situations and emotions, although I did dedicate a few poems to same-sex romance and love triangles such as my two-parter poems, Narcissus Gets Married, The Hunger, and my contemporary same-sex fairytale, Tale of True Love’s Kiss (An Epic Gay Romance) as a tribute to a very good friend of mine. I’m an ardent advocate for diversity and inclusion. I remember writing two versions of Angels Behaving Badly (from my book Daughter of the Sun and The Moon). One had same-sex protagonists and the other was the more conventional type.
7. What or who gives you inspiration?
I have referred to a particular individual over the years as my river of inspiration but I like to keep a little mystery so I won’t reveal anything more. However, I must say I get my inspiration from multiple sources. Writers are very much like artists; they require a muse to make their creativity flow. A muse doesn’t necessarily have to be a person or love interest. A writer can find their inspiration in nature, by the sea, they can extract beautiful unforgettable memories from their childhood or early life and with a little bit of added imagination and write themselves into a magical world. My primary inspiration is my inexhaustible hope, passionate persistence, and insurmountable enthusiasm.
8. What of the world of fashion do you like/dislike?
I love the fact that since 2010, Malta has had its very own fashion week which brings us to par with other countries thanks to the vision and deep dedication of Adrian Mizzi. I love that up-and-coming designers are given the chance to showcase their work at fashion week and make a name for themselves thanks to the annual new designer’s fashion show and that models have so many opportunities to book modelling gigs and make it big even at an international level. When I was 14 and I took a few modeling classes, we were much more limited. Nowadays, with social media platforms, models can promote themselves and be influencers at the same time. They get a big audience and this, in turn, helps boost their career as they are able to reach more people. So, yes networking has served as a great way to advance in your modelling career I believe.
I dislike the fact that we haven’t fully embraced the concept of size diversity in the local fashion scene, the fact that plus-size models are very underrepresented in our country and not given enough opportunities as is the case with UK and USA.
9. How do you write?
Well, I’m a spontaneous kind of person, so when inspiration strikes, my fingers automatically reach for that pen (it’s like a reflex action) and I get scribbling. I remember this one time, a couple of years ago, I was having an early dinner by the pool, palm trees swaying in the cool winter breeze and I felt this sudden urge to put my thoughts on paper. I had no paper with me, so I pulled out a napkin and wrote my poem on it. The poem in question is “Falling Stars”. It exhibits deep symbolism yet this is very subtle. Falling stars refer to a pair of blue eyes. With phrases like ‘Falling stars are chasing me, I’m referring to an earlier romantic encounter with a special person at that time.
10. ‘Hope Hakkiema tal-Lejl’ : Why hope? What is hope to you? Any reason you wrote in Italian and Maltese. Then English in your next two books. Do they carry the same feelings and messages you think?
The title is pretty much self-explanatory. I intended it to be conspicuous. Hope triumphs over darkness – ‘La Speranza Trionfante Sull’Oscurità’, therefore the only way to salvation (this in no way has any religious inferences) is through hope; by keeping the flame of hope alive even if it’s merely a tiny spark. I used to say, “l’unica persona che possa Salvarti sei tu.” And I found this to be true because when we change our attitude towards negative external forces (events we have no control over) and choose to remain hopeful and not allow ourselves to become bitter as a result of hardships and adversity, then we would emerge triumphant over darkness and one step closer to the divine (a higher self) because only through self-mastery can we be free and therein lies true power).
I am a sucker for the Romance languages; Spanish, Italian, Romanian, etc (unfortunately I can only speak Italian but I’ve been teaching myself basic Spanish) and that is why I chose to write Part 2 of ‘Hope Hakkiema tal-Lejl’ in Italian. Things sound more sensual, more melodious, and romantic in Italian.
I opted for Maltese as well because certain phrases make more impact (iktar jaghmlu hoss) and if you translate them to English, you’d be lessening their intensity and the message gets lost along the way or misinterpreted/ you’ll risk losing/reducing the poem’s integrity and substance. Yes, I do carry the same feelings and the message conveyed is always the same.
Heartfelt poems with the following major themes;
Soul strength which I also refer to as intrinsic strength (la forza interiore) and Hope who envelops weeping souls into a warm embrace and spreads her light into the world, illuminating our journey (la speranza che sparge gocce di luce illuminando il cammino di quelli che si nutrono della fiamma inesauribile della speranza)
11. In “Confessions”, what is it you are confessing to oris it another souls that is confessing?
Confessions of a Burning Soul are my raw confessions, where I bare the most intimate corners of my soul, it’s also an open love letter to who I refer to as my river of inspiration, an invitation for the reader to get to know my true authentic self. It’s basically my true essence (that is what I call my soul) exposed. It’s also a manifesto, rebuking any form/type of intolerance and a prejudicial society that’s conditioned by first impressions and prioritizes perception over truth. This is expressed passionately in Confessions of A Wild Untained Soul. Untainted, referring to the fact that I will not compromise myself to fit into society’s ideal or let society mold me into its definition of me. I am my own definition of me. I’m not the sum of parts; you can’t pick and choose aspects of me which you deem acceptable and ask me to repress other sides of me just because they don’t fit in with your reality. Basically, the poem is encouraging the reader to stay true to himself/herself in an express yourself, don’t repress yourself Madonna-like fashion.
12. Who is the Daughter of the sun and moon? Why these two? St. Francis liked to talk of Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Did you subconsciously think of those words?
Hope is the Daughter of the Sun and The Moon. When the Sun and Moon collide, a daughter made of stardust and moonbeams was born. Her name was Hope. She is pure light, a welcoming presence, and a soothing melody for weeping hearts and restless souls. She resides in each and every one of us. She is the key to the salvation of humanity.
The Sun and the Moon are contrasting symbols, the sun representative of light, liveliness, warmth, and the moon represents the mystical night and ethereal beauty and mystery. The Sun and the Moon have been a source of worship over the years and I attributed to them the same characteristics synonymous with the divine. I’m referring to Greek deities such as the Titan Goddess, Selene (as a matter of fact, Selene is a name I like to use for my lead characters such as can be observed in Angels Behaving Badly) and Olympian Sun God, Apollo. Hope, being an offspring of the divine is also divine in her own right; she is an heiress whom her father, The Moon entrusted to continue his mission to save humankind in ‘Daughter Hope and Father Moon’. However, Hope takes on a dual role as I also depicted her as unafraid to expose her human frailty. She is a goddess yet she has human qualities as well, emphasizing the duality of man, which is another major theme in my writings. She is simultaneously unafraid yet vulnerable, always hopeful yet is on the verge of giving up on humanity at times (asking her father to return home as she’s tired of dancing on shards of glass), strong, determined, infallible yet experienced moments of darkness, despair and conflict and doubts in her tumultuous relationship with her one true love, Poseidon. An example of the latter is my final poem, Open Love Letter From Poseidon’s Lover.
13. Still poetry in your mind of are you thinking of other different flights of fantasy?
Poetry is always on my mind. It’s embedded in my very essence. I tap into its healing powers as well (poetry therapy) but yes, well when you have a colorful imagination like mine, you live and breathe fantasy. I step into my idealistic world of fantasy when I’m meditating or breathing in the beauty of nature and the soothing sounds of heavy rain or getting lost in the rhythm of the music. Music is another source of inspiration, I might add and in the words of one of my all-time favourite singers, Sophie Ellis Bexter, Music gets the best of me and I dance to my own rhythm literally. I love dancing and listening to noughties music. My favourite year in music was 2003 which takes me back to 17 again. Songs I love the most are now considered classic hits, though it seems so surprising to me as I’m the eternal childlike woman. You could say a female version of Peter Pan.
Well as you can see the chat took us into venturing a lot of questions and I truly enjoyed getting to know Jo Ann a little better and I hope you enjoyed it too. If you would like to check out Jo Ann’s publications I have got you covered because I have all the links for you so please go show some love by subscribing and get a copy of your own!
Daughter of the Sun and the Moon (Book Depository Link)
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Until next time,