Rain Chudori, left, and Syarafina Vidyadhana launched the first of what they hope to be many issues of the Murmur journal. (Photo courtesy of Devi Merakati)

The Murmuring of Young Writers

FEBRUARY 16, 2015

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life, British writer W. Somerset Maugham once said.

Travel to faraway places, make the acquaintance of unique friends, and let the imagination run wild — it can all be accomplished simply by reading an intriguing story.

Rain Chudori and Syarafina Vidyadhana, or Avi, can relate to this well as they have always enjoyed reading; more than that, they also like to share their thoughts on literature in all its forms. This shared passion has led the two friends to establish Murmur House.

“We were having tea and discussed many things, but the topic inevitably turned to literature,” Avi recalls. “We talked about our shared dream of seeing writers and literary activists of our generation to gather and getting to know each other better.”

Thus the idea for Murmur House was born: a community for writers and friends for literature.

“We read that there is a natural phenomenon called ‘murmurations’ where a flock of passerine birds called starlings fly together in sync, and we thought it corresponded to the philosophy of our house,” Rain explains the unusual name.

Murmur House attempts to provide a platform for young writers, to help them grow and progress together.

“We wanted to create a space for writers and hope that the presence of Murmur will initiate writers and readers to be acquainted with each other,” Rain says.

Avi adds that she wants to see Murmur House become a collective where people support one another, “to become a destination for when the creative process makes us feel lonely.”

Murmur House is, however, more than just a community.

Rain and Avi also publish the English-language Murmur Journal, a biannual journal featuring literary works, whether it is short stories, poetry, or essays, accompanied by illustrations and photographs.

“In the Murmur journal, the literary works we accept are either written in English or in Indonesian,” explains Avi, who is currently studying English literature at the University of Indonesia. 

“We believe that language is a medium that should set writers free, not restrict them. We would then translate the stories written in Indonesian. Our reason for choosing English [as the language to publish in] is to publish a journal that can be enjoyed and appreciated globally.”

The first Murmur Journal with the theme “Welcome to Warmth” was published in September 2014 and received positive feedback; currently Rain and Avi are busy preparing the second edition which will carry the theme “Love and Other Drugs” and is scheduled for publication in April.

When it comes to choosing the stories for the journal, they use two different methods.

“The first is the open submission where we upload posters on our website and social media accounts and ask people to submit, while the second is closed submission where we seek out writers we know and ask them to submit a piece,” says Rain, who is a writer and translator and has also acted in several films. 

Her short story collection “Monsoon Tiger and Other Stories” will be published later this year.

The journal requires lots of thought and meticulous planning.

“We have a responsibility to our readers, and as editors we feel the need to carefully select the submissions that come into our mailbox,” Avi explains. 

The launch of the first Murmur Journal was celebrated with a gathering, which Rain and Avi call “murmuration” — these gatherings will accompany the launch of each issue. 

In addition, there are other “murmurations,” such as reading clubs, discussions, workshops and exhibitions.

“On March 8 and 9, we will hold an exhibition at POST Santa, where we will display a re-imagining of writers’ belongings,” Rain says. 

In the same month, Murmur House will also participate at the Asean Literary Festival with a booth and a discussion session, whereas in June, the two friends are planning to establish a book club and a city-to-city workshop.

With the local literary scene stepping into the spotlight this October at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Indonesia will be the Guest of Honor country, Murmur House has come around at a perfect time.

“In my opinion, an initiative like the Murmur House is exactly what is needed in Indonesia. We hope to stimulate the makings of many literary communities for young people,” Avi says.

Rain and Avi have even bigger plans for Murmur House as they would like to establish their own publishing house in the near future.

“We will begin this next year,” says Rain, who cites Sylvia Plath, Lydia Davis, Alice Munro and her respect for her mother’s work, Leila Chudori, among her main inspiration. 

“For now, we are focusing on our murmurations. We began with eight starlings [staff], and now we have more than 30 starlings working with us. We are blooming.”

“The publishing house is a dream we plan with fair calculations and patience,” Avi adds. 

“I feel that it will grow alongside our maturation as writers. When we are ready, the publishing house will also be ready. 

“We are still looking for donations for our community to realize our programs as to be able to grow into other new fields — publishing being one of them.”

 For more information, check out themurmurhouse.com