2024 Stella Prize Longlist: Reflections
Katia Ariel The Swift Dark Tide

Two things I can’t write without

Have you ever wondered what an author might need to write a book? We asked Katia Ariel, longlisted for the 2024 Stella Prize for her debut memoir The Swift Dark Tide.

the swift dark tide

First and foremost, I cannot write without fire. If I’m not aflame with curiosity about something, if I am not “worrying” it in some existential way, I cannot write about it.

As such, I tend to run at themes and subjects that kind of intimidate me at first. I want to feel daunted by the intensity of an image or a dynamic or a persona. Then I feel a pulse in the story — quite literally, feel its beating heart in my own veins. And then I know it must be explored; then, I can feel it possessing me, demanding that I find a way to know it and contour it in words. 

If I’m not aflame with curiosity about something, if I am not ‘worrying’ it in some existential way, I cannot write about it.

On a practical level, I cannot write without stretches of isolation, a physical removal from the churn of my daily life. I can fit a lot of drafting and revision into the cracks of my everyday responsibilities, but to advance a story I need to withdraw from the world and become a little feral. In these spaces, I do not cook, I do not drive. I rise and sleep with the sun. I like not to speak to others, but I do walk and talk to myself, laying out a welcome mat to my imagination with every step.

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