Authors have their say


“It’s a nice feeling to be able to create something and for someone else, who may not even know you, to be able to read it and get inside your mind and your thought processes, but at the same time interprets your work from their own viewpoint, with their life experiences”

— Uvini Atukorala

Continuing the series featuring shortlisted authors for the Gratiaen Prize 2021, here we are getting in touch with Uvini Atukorala, the author of A Place Called Home, this week, talking about her journey as an author.

Uvini always has had many interests lying on different paths, which actually has let her gain experience in numerous fields while she pursued her passions. It is not an exaggeration to mention that Uvini is a juxtaposition of contrasts but the perfect blend of them at the same time. “I’m interested in and have done things that don’t often go hand in hand. I like being indoors with a good book but I also enjoy the outdoor world of sports; my undergraduate studies have been in law and then in English literature. I’ve worked as a radio broadcaster as well as a lecturer (briefly though). I’m interested in concepts that may not have such a wide appeal such as people movement, migration and what impacts those may have on one’s sense of belonging” Uvini spoke to Ceylon Today, revealing who she was.

Just like almost all the authors, Uvini too, has begun her journey of writing as a reader. Uvini mentions that she has been reading for as long as she can remember. “I love the feeling of getting lost in a story,” she shared. However this love of stories has made her start writing but, “It’s been in dribs and drabs.” She has wanted to write for some time; nonetheless it had never really got off the ground till the lockdowns due to COVID-19. “I would write a part of a story and not follow through to the end. Then with the pandemic and the lockdowns, it brought about a break in the normal routine and I had to spend more time at home, and during that spare time, I got back into writing. As difficult as that period was, it also created the time and space I needed to write and I knew I should make the most of it. That time around, I was able to get into a rhythm and keep it going,” Uvini furthered, proving that every dark cloud has got a silver line inside. In this manner, she was able to produce her collection of short stories, A Place Called Home.

Speaking to Ceylon Today about her short stories, Uvini gave an insight into her collection to the readers. “My book is a collection of short stories. This meant that a new storyline had to be created for each story, which was a challenge in itself. I also liked the idea of having some common ideas that pulled the stories together; ideas that intrigue and interest me, such as the concepts of identity and belonging and migration and how they work together too. The stories have characters of varying age groups, communities and backgrounds, and writing from these diverse viewpoints also presented their own challenges.

It features little girls and old men, cookery teachers and people smugglers, Sri Lankans of diverse communities living in Sri Lanka and outside of it. Each is a self-contained story but brings up ideas of identity and belonging and what it means to call a place ‘home’.” The citation from the jury for Uvini’s A Place Called Home; “For the remarkable ability to imagine a vivid storyline out of the mundane; to depict the lives of a whole diverse cast of characters; for stories which tell of Sri Lankans from all cultures and classes through the lens of their relationship to, and their displacement from, home,” deepens this overview with much depth into the stories.

Writing, for Uvini, has never been about competing for awards. She has just started off creating short stories and her focus has been only on writing. Nonetheless, as she started to produce more stories, she has thought that she might submit a collection for the award.

“That also motivated me to keep writing especially as there was a deadline that needed to be met,” she shared her thoughts. Anyways, Uvini recollected how great it felt to be shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize 2021. For someone who wasn’t focused on winning an award, “It feels wonderful. I have not entered any writing before for the Gratiaen award, and it feels good to get that recognition, the exposure it brings and the opportunity it gives to meet others who write.”

Looking back along the way she has come, Uvini thinks that it has not been a, “Long journey,” being an author, but it is certain that there is a much longer way ahead for her to travel in the field of literature during the coming years. “In fact, not many of my family or friends even knew I was writing. I was not sure whether I would be able to complete an entire book and didn’t want to talk too much about it before knowing I would be able to get it done,” she further shared. Thus, Uvini, being shortlisted for the award, must have surprised many for sure.

Addressing the readers of Ceylon Today who wish to write, Uvini also shared some brief thoughts regarding writing. There she emphasised on the significance of having a good storyline for any writing and highlighted that the story has to be written well. “That’s my guiding principle,” she mentioned. At the same time she demonstrated that reading helps in becoming an author but stressed that, “Ultimately, one has to get writing.”

By Induwara Athapattu