Mohamed Tonsy is a queer Egyptian writer and a recent PhD graduate of Edinburgh University. Mohamed has a ceramics practice that runs parallel to his writing, occasionally blending both forms. In 2019, he took part in Talbot Rice GallerysTrading Zoneexhibition. The ceramic pieces created were made to reflect on trauma, physical manifestation of oppression by authoritarian regimes, and how that effects experiences of storytelling. His writing has appeared in Sukoon, Gutter Magazine, is set to appear in Epoch Presss upcoming Transitions issue, Miznas Experimental issue and Miznas un-themed Spring 2022 issue. He has also been shortlisted for MFest’s 2021 Short Story Competition. @m_tonsy on Instagram Mohamed’s piece ‘Take the Chalk, Pens and the Blackboards’ can be found in Issue 4 ‘Transitions’ which you can purchase here.
‘Transitions’ is such an evocative theme, what compelled you to submit for this issue?
It just felt fitting as the piece I submitted to Epoch Press discusses a fluid and ever-evolving relationship with language, and was my own exploration of how that evolution manifests itself. This piece was my way of reckoning with yet more change regarding how I viewed language in light of Sarah Hegazi’s murder. It was a way to measure the weight of the shield I carried by living my life as a queer person in English, while closeting myself in Arabic, and an opportunity to imagine ways in which that could change.
Do you have a routine for writing? If so, what is it and how has it evolved?
Writing is always done in silence for me, particularly when writing first drafts and I have to key in to the voice I’m using. First lines and first sentences are important to me as well. Those are ones that — by the time I feel the piece is ready to submit — will have already been there for a while. They usually act as a sort of key that helps me to tune into the mindset I need to carry on working on whatever piece is in front of me at that time. Another thing that took me a while to learn is to keep reading, and not just what I feel I need to be reading, but what I want to read. If I’m not enjoying what I’m reading then I won’t enjoy what I write next, and even though a lack of enjoyment doesn’t stop me from writing it’s still nice when the writing is enjoyable, and readers can always tell when a writer enjoys doing what they’re doing.
Do you find that CNF comes easy to you as a writer and/or what is challenging about it?
I have mostly resisted writing creative non-fiction, as there was much about my life that I consistently felt I was not in the right space to handle, inluding much of what I wrote about in my piece Take the chalk, the pens and the blackboards. The biggest hurdle for me was thinking that a piece must arrive at a point for me to start writing about it, particularly as most of the issues I wanted to tackle through CNF were not ones I saw as capable of reaching any final resolution. There was also the constant terror of thinking that I could never write all I would ever want to write about a certain event or subject, and that incompleteness would expose a certain lack in me. It was only through practice that I found ways to write about myself that resisted easy resolutions, embraced the unknowables, and consistently tried to find ways of expressing the inexpressible.
What is song is on repeat for you right now?
/ Your Love is Home by Alsarah