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The Only Question: Ulyanovsk - Heidelberg - Gala Uzryutova and Juliane Sophie Kayser

Афиша онлайн-встречи Узрютовой и Кайзер

Тhe Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Program Directorate continues publishing The Only Question - new international project - materials. 40 authors from 18 UNESCO literary cities (or related cities) participate in the project.  Meet the continuation of the dialogue between our guests from Ulyanovsk and Heidelberg - Gala Uzryutova and Juliana Sophie Kaiser.

The organizers invited writers, poets, playwrights, translators from UNESCO literary cities to imagine they have the opportunity to ask just one question to an author from any other literary city. The initiative will help to introduce the authors from the literary cities to each other and establish their dialogue. The project will also let to understand what issues are of concern to authors from different countries today. Besides, it will provide an opportunity for readers to get to know new writers and poets.

Questions and answers by the authors (in Russian and English) along with a short biography of each participant and links to their publications will regularly appear on the Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Website, other literary cities' websites, and social media, etc. Writers' dialogs will also be offered for publication on the project partners' platforms (literary magazines, libraries, literary media, and mass media). As a result of the project, in summer 2022 an online anthology.

Ulyanovsk  - Heidelberg  -  Gala Uzryutova and Juliane Sophie Kayser

Gala Uzryutova

Dear Juliane,

You work in several genres, being a fiction and poetry writer for children and adults. Could you please tell me about the specifics of working in different types of writing and for different audiences? What are the differences and similarities?

Juliane Sophie Kayser

Dear Gala,

Thank you for your interesting questions to me.

Writing for children is a far more sophisticated task than many people think… but it also has a momentum of playfulness in it. What I love most about it, that I am very much connected with my inner child in this process. And for me personally it will always be a sweet memory of how I started my writing career with  a time travel novel for children „ Malchen und die vergessenen Zeit“. Published also in english „ Hannah’s fantastic Journey into the Past“,  was a big  success, no one had expected. The inner child that prompts you to start a new book is a very powerful, urging, humorous and witty driving force.

( I remember that in a classical concert I had to run out of the concert hall  the emergency room, where they asked me, what was wrong with me. I apologized and said, could you please hand me  paper and a pen. And so a picture book manuscript was „born“  in a  chopin piano concert ).

Let me quote a line of  the poem „ steps“ of Hermann Hesse : „ A magic dwells in each beginning“.

So I experienced the beginning of my writing also as some kind of magic. The freedom to develop dreams and to go beyond some borders. In our thoughts we can even travel through time: how exciting!  So I let my phantasy reign, while I never leave  the „riverbed “of the historical background. So if the the phantasy is the water, the historical setting is the riverbed of a  good children’s book. Because otherwise your book is drifting to the avarage. But there is also a big obstacle that can withhold the flow of writing for kids. It is not only narrow-minded editors. ( For example one critisized, that I used the word „concert“ in a picture book for 4 year-old, arguing that a 4year old does not know this word. This is really annoing. As a mother of three children I know, that I never talked to my baby in stammering syllables, but, I teach my child real words to train his grow in knowledge. I believe that a lot of big publishing houses really underestimate the intellectual potential of today’s kids. But the even bigger obstacle is „ the pair of scissors in my own  mind“. If I write for example for children from 6 to 11 years,  I always have to doublecheck while I am writing, if my language level might be to high for this age group.

I have a very high language level indeed. So writing my first longer detective novel for older kids was a liberation. And writing for adults is like being in paradise for me. Total freedom of expression.

I have very complexe thouhts. When I write for adults it is the total flow and I don’t have to use any filter in my mind. So this is why I decided to focus on writing for adults now.

Writing poetry is however like making music to me. It is really not to be compared to any other forms of writing.

Although I have worked hard on my first volume of poetry which was just published 2 months ago, it didn’t  feel like work.  I am writing poems since the age of six years. This volume „ Luftlinien“ ( " traces in the sky") includes more than 60 poems from 3 decades.The poems were given to me as gifts from heaven. Then I left them on their own to age like fine wine. My brilliant and superstrict editor, who is an awardwinning poet herself was the midwife that helped me, that my baby ( my first volume of poetry)was born at the right time and in the most beautiful form. Her very precise feedback helped me to  to sharpen my  lyrical voice.

The similarity of writing for children or adults is inventing worlds. Poetry is a cosmos in it’s own.

Gala Uzryutova

You devote a lot of time to social activities, supporting IJM, a human rights organization that fights against modern slavery and human trafficking around the world. How do you see the social responsibility of the writer today?

Juliane Sophie Kayser

I see my social responsibility as a writer to raise my voice for the voiceless. I want to use the attention that I receive as a writer from my audience and the press to help to raise an awareness for the injustice in this world. So I would like to be an example, who inspires others to join IJM , too. When I was appointed by IJM as the first writer to be an artist’s embassador I developed a clear vision. I would love to hand over the torch  with the fire of rightousness  to other writers, so that through spreading sparks other writers might join IJM too. Anyone who is interested should follow this link

Let me end with a word for all writers on this globe: writing is not about self-realization. Our voice is a very powerful instrument. So  according to my opinion all writers should raise their voice for justice and freedom of speech and against racism or antisemitism.

Worldwide I observe dangerous tendencies in nowaday society. Right wing people who are a threat to democracy become more and more active. SO LET US SHOW THEM THEIR LIMITS.


Juliane Sophie Kayser

Photo of Juliane Sophie Kayser

Juliane Sophie Kayser is a German/ American fiction and poetry writer for children and adults. She just presented her fifth book at the frankfurt bookfair: her first volume of poetry. She also gives creative writing workshops for children and teens. Since September 2019 she was appointed by the human rights organisation International Justice Mission as the first writer to become an artists embassador. So with IJM she fights modern slavery. She is married and has three children.  

Gala Uzryutova

Photo of Gala Uzryutova

Photo by Alexander Znak

Gala Uzryutova is a Russian poet, writer, playwright, and author of interdisciplinary art projects, many of which are related to landscape mentality issues. She was born in 1983 in Ulyanovsk (Russia), graduated from the Ulyanovsk State University.


 1. «Turned around, and there was a forest», poetry (Russian Gulliver PH, Moscow, - 2015).

2. «Sasha Country», Young Adult (KompasGuide PH, Moscow - 2019). The book is being filmed by the Vega Film Company.

3. «The snow I missed», prose (Bookscriptor, Moscow, - 2018).

4. «All the names are occupied, but one is vacant» (poetry in English, translated by a Canadian poet Stuart Ross and the author). – Proper Tales Press, Canada, 2021.

 Winner of the Moscow Contemporary Art Museum Garage Self-Isolation contest (2020); scholar of the Culture on the Move Goethe-Institut Programme (2019), laureate of the Russian-Italian Literary Award Rainbow (Verona, 2019), European Drama Contest Eurodram (2018), Literary Prose Award Bookscriptor 2018, International Drama Contest Badenweiler 2016, Blagov Poetry Award 2016, Russian Gulliver Special Poetic Award 2014.

She worked at Writers 'Residences in Ventspils, Ljubljana, Virtual Writers' Residency in Nanjing and Virtual Writers' Residency in Melbourne. Her texts were translated into Deutsche, English, Slovenian, Latvian, Italian, Lithuanian, Chinese, Ukrainian. A Member of the Moscow Writers' Union.


Previous issues:

  1. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk – Şafak Sariçiçek and Sergei Gogin
  2. Melbourne - Heidelberg – Christopher Raja and Klaus Kayser
  3. Calgary-Mannheim - Kelly Kaur And Claudia Schmid
  4. Melbourne And Ulyanovsk - Rijn Collins and Gala Uzryutova
  5. Heidelberg - Nottingham – Ingeborg von Zadow and Leanne Moden
  6. Durban-Ulyanovsk – Adiela Akoo and Sergei Gogin
  7. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk|Moscow – Şafak Sarıçiçek and Irina Bogatyryova
  8. Yekaterinburg-Iowa City – Ekaterina Simonova and Jacquelyn Bengfort
  9. Iowa City-Québec – Jeremy Geragotelis and Vanessa Bell
  10. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk – Juliane Sophie Kayser and Gala Uzryutova
  11. Durban-Melbourne – Adiela Akoo and Rijn Collins
  12. Heidelberg – Dublin – Şafak Sarıçiçek and Csilla Toldy