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Eliza Vitri Handayani has been writing and publishing since she was in her teens. Her novel From Now On Everything Will Be Different came out in 2015 and was launched internationally, including at the Frankfurt Book Fair and Asia-Pacific Writers & Translators Summit. At the launches in Oslo and Jakarta, Eliza wore a dress that she designed and made herself from the novel’s proofs. The novel’s launch at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival was cancelled due to police warnings, and Eliza protested by wearing to the festival T-shirts printed with excerpts from her novel. Her short works have appeared in places including the Griffith Review, Asia Literary Review, Exchanges Journal, Magdalene, Jakarta Post, Koran Tempo, Words Without Borders, Inside Indonesia, and Index on Censorship. In 2016 Eliza was selected as a WrICE fellow and participated in residencies in China and Australia. Eliza has appeared at Northern Territory Writers Festival, Makassar International Writers Festival, and Melbourne Writers Festival. Eliza started and manages InterSastra, a free and independent space for literary exchange.


1img_7972Eliza Vitri Handayani rajin menulis sejak kanak-kanak. Ketika kecil ia memenuhi satu buku dengan cerpen yang ditulisnya berdasarkan mimpinya pada malam hari. Namun, ia nyaris tak pernah memiliki keberanian untuk memperlihatkan karyanya kepada orang lain. Ketika menginjak remaja, Eliza mulai menulis fiksi yang lebih panjang, dan memperlihatkannya kepada segelintir orang.

Eliza memilih untuk tidak tinggal di rumah sejak 14 tahun. Ia mendaftar ke SMA Taruna Nusantara dan hidup di asrama. Di sana ia bergabung dengan klub teater dan menampilkan drama-drama singkat berdasarkan tulisannya.

Khawatir akan masa depan yang tak menentu, ayahnya mencegah Eliza mengikuti lomba menulis atau menyalurkan tulisannya. Namun, Eliza berhasil juga memenangkan lomba menulis naskah film yang diselenggarakan oleh Pusat Perfilman Nasional 1999.

Setelah itu, naskah tersebut diterbitkan secara berkala di majalah sastra Horison (Januari-September 2000). Lantas Eliza mengembangkan naskah tersebut menjadi sebuah novel yang terbit pada 2003 dan menjadi best seller. Pada 2004 novel itu memenangkan Anugerah Adikarya IKAPI dalam kategori buku remaja. Yang tak banyak diketahui orang adalah naskah dan buku itu disensor oleh editor dan penerbit yang tak ingin memunculkan adegan remaja berpacaran, dan Eliza merasa luar biasa malu karena dulu belum mampu membela karyanya sendiri. Oleh karena itu dan alasan estetika novel, ia menjauhkan diri dari buku itu.

Menjelang lulus SMA, Eliza meraih beasiswa penuh sebagai seorang Freeman Asian Scholar di Wesleyan University, Connecticut, Amerika Serikat. Di sana ia meluaskan khazanah bacaan dan berlatih menulis dalam bahasa Inggris. Sekembalinya ke Indonesia, ia memilih untuk terus tinggal sendiri dan bekerja sebagai editor pada salah satu penerbit di Jakarta.

Pada 2007 ia merintis Program Penerjemahan Sastra Dewan Kesenian Jakarta dan mengelolanya hingga 2009. Sempat pula menjadi anggota tim editor Tesaurus Bahasa Indonesia pimpinan Eko Endarmoko pada 2010-2012.

Sudah lama prihatin akan langkanya buku sastra dunia dalam terjemahan bahasa Indonesia yang berkualitas, pada 2011 Eliza menabung dan berangkat ke London Book Fair untuk memasarkan ide membangun sebuah pusat penerjemahan sastra di Indonesia. Ia bertemu orang-orang yang menyambut baik idenya, lalu pada 2012 mereka meluncurkan InterSastra, sebuah inisiatif untuk memperbaiki penerjemahan sastra di Indonesia.

Namun, Eliza masih sering merasa terlalu takut untuk mengutarakan pikirannya dalam kehidupan sehari-hari. Mungkin itu suatu alasan menulis begitu penting baginya. Ia merekam berbagai pengalaman di dalam benak, kemudian di kamar kos ia menuliskan pemikirannya yang kritis. Perlahan-lahan Eliza terus memupuk keberanian untuk mengekspresikan diri dan mengirim tulisan.

Ia menulis tentang dua anak muda yang mencari kebebasan dan berupaya hidup dengan jujur, walau berbenturan dengan orangtua yang mengekang dan masyarakat yang munafik. Julita memilih untuk terang-terangan memberontak, sementara Rizky memilih untuk berbohong kepada orangtua demi melindungi ruang geraknya. Kisah mereka bergulir seiring Indonesia menyambut Reformasi, pada masa perubahan dan perbaikan terasa niscaya.

Ia menulis tentang pengalamannya sebagai penulis perempuan muda yang seringkali mendapatkan perlakuan melecehkan dari rekan-rekan yang lebih senior, juga pengalamannya menghadapi prasangka buruk yang sering dilontarkan kepada perempuan muda lajang yang tinggal sendiri dan menjalani kehidupan seksual yang aktif.

Ia menulis tentang kebingungan dan kecewa yang dirasakannya karena ingin tumbuh menjadi perempuan mandiri, tetapi tak menemukan panutan dalam tokoh ayah maupun ibu. Ia melihat banyak ibu menganggap perempuan yang baik adalah yang patuh dan menderita dalam diam, sementara banyak ayah melihat anak perempuan layaknya hak milik, serta memanfaatkan perempuan lain yang mencoba hidup dengan lebih bebas.

Ia menulis tentang berbagai pengalaman traumatis yang pernah dialaminya seperti aniaya seksual dan kekerasan domestik, lalu pada 2016 ia mengadakan lokakarya Menulis tentang Trauma.

Setelah menemukan seseorang yang memahami, mencintai, dan menerima dirinya sepenuhnya, akhirnya Eliza merasa siap mewujudkan—tak ingin lagi hanya memendam—segala visi yang sudah lama berenang-renang dalam benaknya.

Novelnya Mulai Saat Ini Segalanya Akan Berubah diterbitkan pada 2014 dan diterjemahkan untuk dibawa ke Frankfurt Book Fair, kala Indonesia menjadi tamu kehormatan. Versi bahasa Inggris novel tersebut, From Now On Everything Will Be Different, diterbitkan pada 2015 dan diluncurkan di manca negara, antara lain di Frankfurt Book Fair dan Asia-Pacific Writers & Translators Summit. Pada peluncuran novel itu di Oslo dan Jakarta, Eliza mengenakan gaun yang dirancang dan dibuatnya sendiri dari lembar-lembar koreksi novel.

Peluncuran novel itu di Ubud Writers & Readers Festival dibatalkan karena keberatan polisi, dan Eliza memprotes keputusan itu dengan mengenakan ke festival kaus yang disablon dengan nukilan-nukilan novelnya.

Karya pendeknya telah muncul di media Indonesia dan internasional, seperti Koran Tempo, Jakarta Post, Magdalene, Asia Literary Review, Griffith Review, Ducts, Exchanges Journal, Words Without Borders, Inside Indonesia, Index on Censorship.

Pada 2016 Eliza terpilih sebagai seorang fellow pada program Writers Immersion and Cultural Exchange (WrICE) dan berpartisipasi pada residensi di Tiongkok dan Australia. Eliza telah muncul pada berbagai acara sastra, misalnya Northern Territory Writers Festival, Makassar International Writers Festival, dan Melbourne Writers Festival.

Telah merasakan seumur hidup betapa sering ia disuruh diam karena suaranya dianggap aneh atau berbeda, Eliza paham pentingnya membela kebebasan berekspresi dan keberagaman. Melalui InterSastra, ia menerbitkan serial Defiant Voices yang menerbitkan karya penulis-penulis yang berani menyampaikan visi dan kebenarannya walau menghadapi sensor atau ancaman.


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Eliza Vitri Handayani has been writing since childhood. When she was 8 years old, she filled a book with short stories that she wrote based on her dreams at night. She, however, almost never had the courage to show her works. As a teenager, Eliza wrote longer fiction and showed it to a few people.

Eliza left home at 14 years old. She enrolled at Taruna Nusantara High School and lived in a dorm. She joined the theater club and directed short plays based on her writing.

Concerned about her future, her father actively prevented Eliza from entering writing contests or sending out her works. Still, Eliza succeeded in winning one when she entered a national screenwriting competition held by the National Film Center in 1999.

The winning manuscript was published periodically in Horison literary magazine (January-September 2000). Eliza then developed it into a novel, which was published in 2003 and became a best seller. In 2004 the novel won the Indonesian Association of Publishers’ Adikarya Award in the young adult category. But not many people knew that the book was censored by editors and publishers who did not want to show teenagers holding hands and kissing, as they felt such actions were against Islamic values. Eliza felt extremely embarrassed that she wasn’t able to defend her own work. Therefore, and for some other reasons, she distanced from the book.

Just before high school graduation, Eliza won a full scholarship as a Freeman Asian Scholar at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, USA. There she read more diverse and more difficult books and practiced writing in English. Upon her return to Indonesia, she chose to keep living on her own, although it is unusual for unmarried women to live apart from their parents. She found work as an editor at a publishing house in Jakarta.

In 2007 she started a literary translation program at the Jakarta Arts Council and managed it until 2009. She was also an editor of the Indonesian Thesaurus 2nd edition from 2010 to 2012.

For a long time Eliza has been concerned about the quality of translated literary books,  so much that in 2011 she went to the London Book Fair to pitch the idea of ​​building a literary translation center in Indonesia. She found people who supported this idea, and in 2012 she launched InterSastra, an initiative to improve literary translation in Indonesia.

Nevertheless, Eliza often still feels too afraid to express her thoughts in everyday life. That’s one reason why writing is very important to her. She observed and recorded various experiences in her mind, and then she wrote down her thoughts when she was alone and safe in her room. Slowly Eliza continued to nurture her courage to express herself and send out her works.

She wrote about a young woman and a young man searching for freedom, set in the early years of the Indonesian democracy, in the times when change for the better seemed possible. Julita chose to rebel openly, while Rizky chose to lie to everyone and live in hiding.

She wrote about her experiences as a young female writer who was often harassed by more senior peers, and about the prejudice she encountered as a young woman living alone with an active sex life.

She wrote about the confusion and disappointment she felt as she had wanted to grow up to be an independent woman, but found no role model in her father or her mother. Many mothers think that a good woman should submit to men and suffer in silence, while many fathers see daughters as property or take advantage of other women who live more freely.

He wrote about her traumatic experiences such as sexual assault and self-harm, and in 2016 she organized a workshop on writing about traumatic experiences.

After finding someone who understands, loves, and accepts her for who she is, Eliza finally feels ready to let it go, to realize the visions that have long been swimming in her mind.

Her novel From Now Everything Will Be Different was published in 2014, was translated into English, launched and exhibited at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, when Indonesia was the guest of honor. The English version of the novel was published in 2015 and was launched internationally, including at the Asia-Pacific Writers & Translators Summit. At the launch of the novel in Oslo and Jakarta, Eliza wore a paper dress that she designed and made herself using the book’s proofs.

The launch of the novel at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival was canceled due to police pressures, and Eliza protested by wearing to the festival T-shirts printed with excerpts from the novel.

Her short works have been published in Indonesian and international media, such as Koran Tempo, Jakarta Post, Magdalene, Asia Literary Review, Griffith Review, Ducts, Exchanges Journal, Words Without Borders, Inside Indonesia, Index on Censorship.

In 2016 Eliza was selected as a fellow in the Writers Immersion and Cultural Exchange (WrICE) program and participated in residencies in China and Australia. Eliza has appeared in various literary festival, such as Northern Territory Writers Festival, Makassar International Writers Festival, and Melbourne Writers Festival.

Having been rejected and silenced because her voice was considered different from the majority, Eliza understood the importance of defending freedom of expression and diversity of voices. Through InterSastra, she is publishing Defiant Voices series, which showcases the works of writers considered controversial so that Indonesian readers can read for themselves and make up their own mind.