Kohima-based writer Avinuo Kire has already written and published three books. The first two are The Power to Forgive and Other Stories (Zubaan), and Where Wildflowers Grow (Barkweaver). Her third book is Naga Heritage Centre: People Stories – Volume One (PenThrill Publication) which she co-wrote with Meneno Vamuzo. A writer by passion and English literature teacher by profession, her love for books started when she was a young child.
‘I have fond memories of weekend visits to the State Children’s Park, Kohima, which had a modest Children’s library attached to it. I would visit the park with neighbourhood friends and would end up spending the entirety of my time in a corner of the library, reading story books and comics while my friends played outside. Sadly, the dilapidated infrastructure which was once the Children’s Park is now no more. I also remember regular visits to the State Library while in school.’ She grew up reading books by Enid Blyton and Dr Seuss. ‘The Enid Blyton’s Book of Brownies, Malory Towers and Amelia Jane series were my favourite.’
When she was twelve years old, her mother presented her with a journal and that motivated her to write. ‘I was quiet and reserved as a child. But when I wrote, I discovered that I could be bold and daring, that I could be completely myself. Writing felt liberating.’ The first story she ever wrote was about flowers and dancing princesses. ‘I used to illustrate my stories as well. I am often bemused by the strong Eurocentric influences in my early stories.’
During her free time, she enjoys spending quality time with her family. Avinuo is also actively involved with her church’s Child Evangelism Ministry and is part of the many varied activities under the ministry. ‘Like most indigenous people, we Nagas, have an oral tradition and I’m always on the lookout for storytellers. I enjoy meeting elderly people and holding interviews/dialogues, whenever I get the opportunity.’ In fact, her third book, Naga Heritage Centre: People Stories- Volume One is an anthology of documented oral narratives. It is one of the initiatives by the Naga Heritage Centre, a registered society which Avinuo, Meneno and a few of their friends have set up.
Many writers have routines that help them channel their creativity, Avinuo reveals that she feels most inspired between late afternoon and the early part of the evening. ‘I enjoy writing during that time of the day. The past couple of years have been a bit hectic and my timings have become a tad erratic as a result. However, I normally always try to write before the sun completely sets.’
Indian writers who she looks up to are Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy, and Vikram Seth. ‘I also enjoy the work of Easterine Kire and Mamang Dai. Janice Pariat is brilliant.’ Although there are a lot of books that are close to her heart, she reveals that Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is one classic that she can read and re-read over and over again.
Being an author from the Northeast can be challenging. ‘Literature from the Northeast is often seen primarily as political literature; a literature of violence and insurgency. This can feel restrictive sometimes.’ But, for the most part, the region offers a lot of advantages that, when used correctly, can work in the favour of the writer. ‘An advantage which immediately comes to mind is our huge repository of folklore, myths and legends to draw inspiration from. Another advantage is the growing interest and awareness of the Northeast by mainstream publishing houses.’
For aspiring writers, she says the best piece of advice that she can give is to read a lot. ‘All readers need not be writers but all writers must be readers.’
By Meeta Borah