Born in Piraeus and of Cretan origin, Eleni Vasileiou is a self-taught painter and poet. She has held solo exhibitions and has participated in charity groups. She has published two poetry collections, a play and two children’s books dedicated to the fight against childhood cancer. In 2014 she moved to Germany where she continues her career in art. On December 22, 2018, the Nuremberg Hellenic Art Club (Griechischer Kunstclub Nürnberg e.V.) found her literary work remarkable and presented her as one of the new poets of her generation. In December 2019, she was accepted as a new member of the Piraeus Literary and Art Society, after evaluation of her literary work. Her first book ‘Forgotten Fairies’ is in the Nuremberg Municipal Library (Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg) on the shelves of Greek Writers and in the National Library of Greece at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and her paintings are in permanent collections in Municipal Art Galleries in Greece, on ANEK ships, in Institutions and School Units. Her current mask drawings for children with cancer were sent to the organisation “Orama Elpidas”, in June 2020. Vasileiou spoke to The National Herald about her life and work.
The National Herald: How did you start writing/illustrating children’s books?
Eleni Vasileiou: It was meant as a gift; with the utmost respect and love – I wrote, illustrated, and dedicated this book to the children that are fighting cancer. It all started as a promise to all those young fighters that I would be by their side and ended up writing the book titled The Girl and the Unicorn. It was published in 2017 and I continued with the series of the book under the title The Girl and the Unicorn –The Battle published in 2019 by Oselotos Publishing House in Greece. It received an award from the UNESCO Club of the Department of Piraeus and Islands, Athens Greece. A girl called White and her friend the Unicorn are called upon to save the children attacked by a green dragon named Karkinos – Cancer. The illustrations make the reader follow the girl’s travels and forget reality. The net proceeds from the sale of the publication are going to be used by organizations that provide assistance and support to families and children with cancer.
TNH: Which book is the one that influenced you in starting writing?
EV: Well, I have to admit that I was influenced by my protagonist, once she was ‘born’ with my colored pencils, she started introducing me to new pictures and words for the text to flourish. I share the book’s joy, as well as all the sorrows that may come, and all that I wouldn’t be able to discover without her, I do not allow myself to be influenced by any external factor. When I write, it is my very soul that drips from the pen, that is why my writing is poetic, even in a children’s book, I hope my way of expressing myself is going to touch people’s hearts.
TNH: Where do the ideas for your books come from?
EV: During the loneliest times of my life, I create, being inspired by those precious moments that emerge before they fade away to become memories. I feel the need to go deeper into my soul and bring out all this color that is underneath that obscured and covered by life’s various circumstances. Then, every single time, something magical happens. I am reborn and create something new and my main hope is that my readers who have follow in my footsteps the last eight years will be touched.
TNH: How long does it take you to write a book?
EV: It depends really, it may take me a single starlit night or the entire month of August. The Girl and the Unicorn is a series of books that comprise three books. The third was written and illustrated during the Pandemic of Covid-19. The drawings made me have second thoughts and I replaced them, after hearing my publisher’s suggestions along with her patience and help. Although the text was finished, I illustrated the protagonist differently, changing the illustrations many times. This must be the hardest thing for a writer and illustrator when creating a book, to make changes constantly until the desired result is accomplished.
TNH: What about the process of editing and working with the illustrator?
EV: Well, in this case, I am the illustrator, thus any changes are done by the publisher’s graphic designer. I scan my illustrations by myself and then my publisher undertakes to go on with the book, with the graphists’ contribution so as to make the result perfect. The result in its printed form is excellent, so everyone that has a part to play in publishing the book is happy. It’s a magical procedure for me! It combines the creator’s psychosynthesis with the best result possible for the little readers.
TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors?
EV: Inspiration is everywhere – in a song, a smell, in a touch, in a hug. Give the world your color. Write and share your stories. Let your soul to be discovered through your unique talent, since there are unique people out there, like you, that can identify with your creations! They will feel better for sure, precious – they do need that type of feeling. Work and discover new techniques, love the colors, sing those words that offer you inspiration and the utmost joy. Do that not only during the process but also when your project is over. Don’t be afraid of rejections, because they shouldn’t be considered defeats but as an act of great courage that were not able to travel far away from your original thoughts. Believe in yourself and God. Your readers will soon come to enjoy the fruits of your creation…
More information can be found via her blog: https://asteroskoni.wordpress.com