Minna Rytisalo is a Finnish teacher and writer from Kuusamo. After years of consideration she finally fulfilled her dream and wrote a book. Her first work, Lempi, published in 2016, was acclaimed by both readers and critics. Her novel from autumn 2018, Rouva C, about the adolescence and life of Minna Canth, has also been praised.
Rytisalo is from Sodankylä. Her love for books and reading started in childhood and evolved in upper secondary school into the desire to become a teacher of Finnish. She was primarily interested in literature studies at a university but ended up applying for Finnish language studies. Young people from Sodankylä usually try to get into the University of Oulu, but Rytisalo wanted to go to Jyväskylä because of her boyfriend at the time. Even though the relationship eventually ended, she stayed in Jyväskylä.
Minna started her studies in 1993 and found studying Finnish very motivating right from the start. The department was suitable for her and it was easy to join the community. She found friends and there was plenty to discuss with them. For her minor subjects, she chose literature, speech communication, journalism and art history. Minna liked it that she was able to study interesting subjects taught by top specialists. “It was just wonderful to have that opportunity,” she says.
The beauty and architecture of the Seminaarinmäki campus left a permanent mark on Minna’s memories. She later returned to the campus when writing her novel about young Minna Canth.
“The years of studying were good ones. They were years of growth, becoming an adult and making a lot of friends,” she says.
The year of teaching practice was the most memorable and the most important for learning. Even though it proved to be the hardest study year, it strengthened her trust in her own skills and gave a strong feeling that she can cope in the future working life. “I felt that now I am doing what I was aiming for all the time,” Rytisalo says.
Already before graduation Rytisalo started working as a teacher for the adult education centre of Jyväskylä. After that, she taught in the hotel and restaurant school and in an upper secondary school in Vaasa. Her route continued through Posio to Kuusamo as a teacher of Finnish in upper secondary schools.
“University taught me to get down to business. I adopted the attitude that things must be taken care of. I also understood that you do not need to do everything perfectly. You need to learn to move on when the time is right and try not to please everyone.”
In addition to being a Finnish teacher, Minna Rytisalo is now also a successful writer. Her childhood dream of writing a book started to become a reality when Minna was on parental leave. During her leave she started to write a book blog, through which she got encouraging feedback from the blog readers. Work as a Finnish teacher in the Kuusamo upper secondary school has also given her a good background for writing. So Rytisalo started to write her first novel Lempi. The book won the Botnia award and Thanks for the Book Award and was also nominated for the Runeberg and Helsingin Sanomat literature awards.
In autumn 2018, Rytisalo published Rouva C, a novel about Minna Canth. Rytisalo wanted to find out what young Minna was like, the one who managed to persuade her father to allow her to apply for the Jyväskylä Teacher Seminary. The writing process of the book was different from her first work and challenged Minna to go beyond her comfort zone. “My working method is usually very goal-oriented and scheduled, but with this book it didn’t work.”
“When writing Rouva C I learned that it is possible to have varying working methods. You can start to write a text by experimenting as I did with this book. It is a great experience to learn new things about yourself and your work even when you’re over 40!”
In 2019 it is 175 years from the birth of Minna Canth (1844–1897). The exhibition Vapaita aatteita – Minna ja Ferdinand Canth Jyväskylässä (Free thoughts – Minna and Ferdinand Canth in Jyväskylä) is in the Soihtu Exhibition Centre from 20 March to 31 August 2019.