HELA – the hub of excellence in the literary arts – recently launched its new website, helamalta.com, which includes a directory of Maltese writers. This repository currently includes information on 40 writers, but the website aims to continue to grow to shed light on local writers in Malta and abroad.
Talk to Malta Time Commenting on the directory, HELA President Glen Calleja said the launch of the writers’ repository signals a new phase on the path to founding.
“The HELA website aims to increase awareness and access to Maltese literary heritage in the widest possible sense. Since its inception, this has been the overriding philosophy of all the work done by the HELA Foundation,” says Calleja.
“This site is not the first of the association but with the launch of the repository to the public, we announce a new phase of our commitment to the local literary sector.
Calleja argued that the main motivation behind this ambitious project was the need for a reliable reference tool that represents the visions, work and efforts of local writers, translators and editors.
“For now, there have been no structured tools on the local scene,” he says.
The helamalta.com website is intended to be promoted both locally and internationally in the hope of attracting the interest of publishers, literary organizations, research institutes and festival organizers to build professional relationships with Maltese actors.
Calleja says that, to achieve this goal, HELA has started implementing an awareness campaign with global stakeholders that will continue alongside the other work on the site, which mainly involves updating content.
“The repository is designed as a highly navigable catalog of articles and listings in English and Maltese. Search and filter facilities are at the heart of the repository so that visitors can search for specific writers, works or themes and genres according to their interests and needs,” he explains.
“The articles offer site visitors insight into the intellectual biography of the writers while the bibliographies give details of their individual works, including translated works.”
HELA sees the depository as an important tool to help readers, researchers, festival organisers, local and overseas publishers to learn more about Maltese literature and get acquainted with local writers. It is also intended as an informal research tool for educators and students, both locally and internationally.
Alongside this deposit, the foundation is also currently working on making available a deposit of works in audio format where the writers themselves or the actors read aloud excerpts from their work.
Asked about the criteria for including writers in the directory, Calleja argues that the platform aims to represent all actors in the literary sector and not just writers.
“Although we call it a writers directory, we see it as so much more than that and we hope and expect the impact of this platform to go far beyond the interests of individual writers,” he said.
“The foundation aims to represent the interests of all actors in the literary sector, not just writers. This includes writers, editors, translators, editors, critics and cultural journalists and, of course, readers. There are also the interests of professionals such as designers, illustrators, printers and proofreaders, without whose services books would not reach their audiences.
The Foundation aims to represent the interests of all actors in the literary sector and not just writers
Regarding the criteria, Calleja describes how HELA’s editorial board first considers the impact a writer may have had on Maltese literature as well as its relevance and appeal to past and current readers, its development and his professional promise.
“As a voluntary organization whose mission would be unachievable without a group of generous, committed and stubborn individuals who volunteer their time, energy and personal resources to advocate for the sector, we also appreciate writers who share this vision and commitment We don’t care how many literary awards or publications a particular writer has received.
“Such decisions, however, are at the discretion of the editorial board and the custodian’s priorities may eventually change to accommodate a new vision,” he says.
The project took years to prepare and required the contribution of several people, especially because each entry includes the biography and the bibliography of the author.
“The first steps were figuring out what we really needed and what we wanted. We knew that everything we created had to be part of a long-term maintenance plan so that the platform could be updated and active and become a solid reference tool.
“We looked at different possible models and at some point determined that it would be a bilingual repository incorporating various filters. We also wanted a platform that had the potential to include more media and formats as it grew, including audio and video,” he explains.
Speaking of the local literary sector, Calleja says that it enjoys growing respect within the major creative industries, and although it still faces challenges, particularly with regard to dedicated public funding,
literature remains a resilient discipline and practice and continues to find its way into homes, schools, places of work and recreation.
“It is the effect of a philosophy of interdisciplinary curiosity and collaboration within the arts in general where new professional relationships between writers, fellow artists, researchers and audiences are constantly evolving.
“Literature does not need to be saved. What we mean by advocacy for the sector is that we believe that improving current practices that contribute to this sector automatically translates into value for all stakeholders. The foundation doesn’t just exist for writers or voracious readers,” he said.
Fondazzjoni HELA (VO/1822), the Center of Excellence in Literary Arts, is aautonomous organization working to foster excellence in the literary sector in Malta. Visit helamalta.com or [email protected] for more information.
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