The Thursday Interview: Stella Mullitova

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Giorgio de Chirico, Piazza d’Italia con Arianna, 1945

Welcome to the Thursday Interview, in which I talk to leading figures from the world of the arts, politics or make believe. Today, Stella Mullitova, Head Dream Reader at Wide Open Press.

– First of all, can you tell us how you became a dream reader?

– Well, I’ve always been interested in dreams. When I was young, I was struck by the way they slip from our grasp within a few seconds of waking, like water vanishing into sand. So I started trying to capture them, write them down as soon as I woke. But I found after a while they weren’t that interesting, or perhaps I just wasn’t very good at making them interesting, so I thought I’d be better off reading other people’s dreams. It’s a choice I’ve never regretted.

– How many dreams do you receive each week?

– Oh, hundreds, if not thousands. They don’t come to me nowadays, but at the start of my career I was reading through the slush pile and even back then, it was huge. There are even more today.

– Most of them are rejected, I suppose?

– Unfortunately, yes. The vast majority are night dreams and without wanting to be brutal, it has to be said that they’re either banal or poorly reported or both. My advice to dreamers – to anticipate your question – is to run your dream past a few trusted friends before you submit it. If they say it’s dull, you’re better off waiting till something more original comes along. And then, of course, polishing the presentation and the query letter. Too often, we receive dreams that are rambling and confused, or only make sense to the dreamer. That’s an inherent danger with night dreams, of course, so a lot of work has to go into making them relevant to other people. Even the surrealists had trouble with that in the end. It’s why the movement petered out, though of course it did produce some excellent work. De Chirico, for example. Some of his work is splendid.

– You talk about night dreams – do you get daydreams too?

– Oh, yes. Not quite so many because they’re possibly more elusive even than night dreams. Typically, we drift away for a few seconds without realising. But if you can harness them, it’s probably worth examining them closer. Sometimes they’ll contain a seed that, if nurtured correctly, can be magnificent – mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

– So what counts more, the seed or the nurturing?

– You can’t say one is more important than the other. A great dream combines the two. Which leads me on to the third category, what I call the MLK dreams, after Martin Luther King. His, of course, is the most well-known, the most inspiring. I have a dream… I still get goose pimples every time I read it. But even if few of us reach those heights, those MLK dreams, those visions, are the ones to cultivate, each at our own level and in our own way. I now have the good fortune to be Head Dream Reader, so the best dreams are passed to me and every so often, one will come along that’s so beautiful and uplifting it reduces to insignificance all the hatred and ugliness of the world. You know, people often ask me what the secret of good dreaming is, but there’s no secret really. Be aware of your dreams, work on them, perfect them. And if you aim high, some of the dream will come true.

For those who dream of writing:

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