Here at the Circus, we pride ourselves on understanding our guests on a personal level and creating exciting and original events that both entertain and illuminate.
With this in mind, we are thrilled to be in collaboration with The Reader Berlin, hosting literary events both at the Circus Hotel and Hostel and working together to offer one talented writer the prize of a lifetime: a one-month residency at The Circus, staying in one of our luxury private apartments in trendy Mitte and the opportunity to be published in SAND Journal, a wonderful Berlin-based English-language literary magazine.
We caught up with one of the competition’s judges, Paul Scraton, Circus veteran, esteemed writer and editor-in-chief of the Elsewhere journal to find out more…
Hi Paul, how are you doing? Many of the friends of the Circus will know you as you have had a long connection with the hostel and hotel. What have you been up to?
Nice to see you too! Since I left the Circus at the end of 2014 I have been pretty busy. With another ex-Circus member Julia Stone I launched Elsewhere: A Journal of Place and we are currently putting together our fifth issue. I am the editor in chief, and the journal brings together writing and visual arts about place and places around the world. It is a lot of fun to work on. I have also written a couple of books. The first, Ghosts on the Shore: Travels along Germany’s Baltic coast is published by Influx Press in London, and we are launching it in Berlin on the 16 June. The other book is about the Berlin outskirts and I have just handed it in to the publishers, but it should be coming out early next year.
Now you are part of the jury for The Reader’s annual writing competition. How does it feel to be on that side of the desk?
We have just done something similar with the new issue of Elsewhere, holding an open call for submissions for the first time. I think it is exciting, to see the different styles and approaches people come up with to a certain topic or theme. I am really looking forward to reading the entries for the Berlin Writing Prize. To be honest, I don’t really know what to expect… but that is a good thing! I am looking forward to hopefully being surprised and inspired by what the writers come up with.
The theme for the prize is ‘Home is Elsewhere.’ What sort of responses would you anticipate from such a theme.
As I said, I am really not sure, but that is the beauty of a contest like this. I know – or I think I know – how I would approach this theme (after all, we launched a journal on something not too dissimilar!) but I cannot wait to see what other writers produce. The concepts of “home” and “elsewhere” are both important to my own work, and if I had to guess, I would imagine we will be reading a lot about ideas of home, belonging and identity… but that might just be me!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers, especially those attempting to develop their work overseas?
I think my advice for writers anywhere is to read, and reading is one of the best ways to engage with a culture. If you don’t speak the language, then translators do an invaluable job of breaking down the boundaries between writers and a potential audience in another country – between “home” and “elsewhere”, if you like. I would also say, from my own experience, that although my German is not exactly perfect, learning another language can certainly change how you think about your own language, and that is sure to influence your writing as well.
The prize for the competition is a month-long residency here at The Circus Hotel. What are your thoughts about that, and where do you think the winner can find inspiration?
Fifteen years ago I also spent a while at the Circus, and it inspired me to stay in Berlin for a while, so you never know how a short stay in a place can change your life. In terms of this prize, I think any time you have as concentrated period where you can focus solely (or mostly) on reading, writing and thinking is invaluable. The winner will be here during some of the coldest months of the year, but I think that this is when Berlin is at its most atmospheric. I would encourage whoever it is lucky enough to have the residency at the Circus to spend some time just walking the city. There does not have to be destination in mind. In fact, maybe it is better if there isn’t, as you never know what you might discover. I would also try and engage with the culture of the city, and especially the literature.