Mērija Elizabete Kalniņa is a student at the University of Latvia Faculty of Law and a recipient of the “Ceļamaize” UL Foundation Jurgen Memorial Scholarship. Her passions include writing, history, and criminology. The young author has contributed impressively to Latvian romantic literature with her lighthearted and passion-filled debut novel “Dreaming of the man and the musical”, which has won a prize at the “Zvaigzne ABC” publisher’s novel contest.   

Novel description:  
Laura Rietuma arrives in Paris chasing after her dream – to qualify for the leading role in the “Tristan and Isolde” musical. It’s been five years since she had first embarked on the journey to not just become Isolde, but also attract the attention of her idol and one true love – the musical’s star Julian Barret. Recently divorced, Julian Barret has abandoned all hopes of regaining what he had let slip through his fingers. Having lost the love of his wife, he is no longer interested in making impossible promises and entertaining useless hopes. He approaches women with just one condition: “We shall have one wonderful night, and that’s it. There won’t be a next time.”  

After giving Julian a chance, Laura is convinced that her dream has come true…until the moment when the tower of illusions she had built up teeters on the brink of collapse and the ideal life she had so naively dreamed up for herself gets turned upside down.   
What if the man she longs for is actually far from what she truly needs? What if all this time she has been chasing an idealized figment of her own imagination in a desperate struggle to deny reality…reality that suddenly seems like it could exceed her wildest dreams?” 

The initial thought of writing a novel came to me two years ago, when my Latvian language and literature teacher told me about the romance novel-writing contest announced by "Zvaigzne ABC". The teacher, who knew that I had a passion for writing and dreamed of publishing a book of my own since childhood, encouraged me to write something completely new that could be eligible for submission to the contest. The idea for the novel came to me completely out of the blue, and the plot rapidly knit itself together inside my mind. I’ve been fascinated by French culture, music and language for years, and Paris is the city of my dreams, so naturally I decided to set the events of my novel in France. Julian Barret isn’t just a product of my imagination – he is a musical singer that I fell for five years ago, which prompted me to travel to Brussels to witness his performance.  
I have found the writing process very enjoyable – I write to entertain myself and unwind from the stresses of everyday life. That feeling is reflected in my work – it flows with ease, draws the reader in and fills their heart with excitement. To me, writing doesn’t seem like toil – I only write when I am inspired and motivated to do so. I don’t force myself to meet arbitrary page number goals. 

The editing process and the emotional turmoil of having my first novel published coincided with the most intense part of my second semester – the finals. The support of the UL Foundation really helped me keep track of my priorities: no matter how anxious I am about the big events in my life, I am still a UL Foundation scholarship recipient, honor-bound to do my best at studying. I was able to stay disciplined and reign in my emotions, which allowed me to end this academic year with surprisingly good results. The support of the Foundation is my biggest motivator for constantly growing and being grateful for the things I have and the recognition that my years-long dedicated efforts have received.  

I have recently started working on my second novel, and I can already say that it’s going to be very different from the first. It won’t be the typical Cinderella story where the heroine falls in love with a prince and they live happily ever after. My outlook on life has changed radically since starting college, the rose-tinted glasses have fallen off. I had started writing “Dreaming” back in high school, but the greatest changes in my life happened during my first year of university. I think this story is going to surprise both my readers and me.  
I hope the UL Foundation continues to support young talent in the future – your support and recognition is extremely important to any student that receives a scholarship, and I will continue to be grateful for it next year as well.  

Wishing you all the best of luck!