First Language(s): Dutch
Second Language(s): English, French
Conny Borgelioen lives on the shore of the North Sea in Belgium. She has a Sisyphean rock called chronic fatigue syndrome and works part-time in a social grocery. Her writing has appeared in Kaleidoscope, Rogue Agent, Feral, Babyteeth, t’ ART, and The Emma Press Anthology of Illness. Her first poetry and essay collection Waking up to Thrutopia is out now.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I had a beautifully illustrated edition of The Neverending Story by Michael Ende that I borrowed five times in a row from my small local library, because I couldn’t get enough of it. The text was printed in sienna- and cyan-colored ink, and the illustrations were two-toned as well. I thought the book was actually magical, especially the ouroboros sign (called auryn in the book) on the cover. Eventually my mother bought me a copy like the one in the library, after the library attendant complained that I was hogging the book and other children wanted to read it.
What was the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
I’m somewhat of a late starter when it comes to writing. Growing up in a regular working class family in the Flemish coastal region of Belgium, I didn’t have access to the right support network to be able to realize my dormant literary impulses. Later on, while living in Ireland, I became ill with a complex chronic illness. In learning to cope with this illness, I had the opportunity to reinvent myself. I was no longer able to work. So, instead I started studying for a humanities degree with the Open University. It was there that I discovered poetry, and I haven’t stopped writing since. I’ve been struggling with this chronic illness for almost 20 years now, and to get to a better place, I’ve had to deal with my past. I’ve had to reveal behaviors and thought patterns that I was oblivious to. Writing has helped me to explore that.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
I’m not the adventurous type at all! All my thrilling experiences take place in books, and I love to live vicariously. But I did leave my country to live in Ireland for ten years. I know that moving abroad isn’t a big deal anymore these days, but it was a pretty big deal for someone like me at the time. I had to return, because I became very ill, and I needed to be close to family.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
I like to have quiet instrumental music playing in the background while I read. Some of my favorite playlists are the ones made with music from Studio Ghibli animation films. For writing, on the other hand, I need complete silence. I have sensory processing disorder as a symptom of my chronic illness, and I can’t think properly if there are too many distractions around. I can only write at home. Sometimes I use earplugs and noise-canceling headphones at the same time.
Issue Fall '23