An Interview with
Member of the Year - Kasturi Patra
by Joyce Hertzoff
You’ve recently had a novel and a couple of short stories published. 2020 wasn’t a good year for most of the world, but you ended it on a high note. Tell us about your novel and short stories.
I wrote the first two drafts of this novel in 2018 and then left it in the backburner. Around the same time, I joined WVU and I got more interested in writing literary short stories, so I’d been doing that ever since. However, when there was a novel pitch competition by the Indian publisher, Half Baked Beans, my husband inspired me to send the pitch. I really didn’t expect it to win the competition but it did. The book is about to be released in a few months’ time.
A few of my short stories got published in 2020. All of these stories began in WVU. I’d run with a prompt and then let it take me on a creative adventure.
For example, I wrote Reunion as a homage to Richard Ford’s Reunion. This is a part of an anthology and will be found on Amazon. I wrote it in the Homage Story class. Broken Dolls and The Atlas began in the Literary Fiction class. Dadu’s Beedi which is forthcoming in Lakeview International Journal also began in the Literary Fiction class. Lucky was written in a Flash Fiction class.
All my published stories in 2020 have been inspired by the classes, exercises, and discussions in WVU and the Sweethearts of the Rodeo workshop.
Do you prefer working on longer or shorter pieces? Why?
I love working on short stories more because there’s so much to learn in terms of the writing craft. I feel that the more I revise, edit, apply certain techniques, tweak the structure, POV, voice, etc. the more I grow as a writer.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on a collection of linked short stories based in ‘90s Kolkata and the present day Delhi and Kolkata. The stories are linked by themes such as female friendships, coming of age, mother-daughter relationships, growing up in nineties India as a woman, and so on. The women in these stories have different personalities but the one thing that they have in common is the way they try, sometimes even desperately, to rise above their experiences/conditions. They refuse to be defined by whatever happened to them. Just as in life, they succeed at times, and fail at others. There will be characters that feel more lovable than others, however, my aim is that they are all realistic and are people that the readers can empathize with, even though they might not be lovable. It will be a character-driven collection with certain social messages, however, it will not be preachy in any way.
Some of my published stories that I mentioned before are a part of this collection.
What courses and forums at WVU have helped you along the way?
The Literary Fiction class which I think I’ve taken thrice so far! Also, the Linked Stories course and workshop which I’d taken twice.
I also enjoyed the Narrative Design class, some of the classes on flash fiction, and the series of classes based on Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story.
I am a part of the Sweethearts of the Rodeo study group and I owe a lot to the group for my growth as a writer. I learn a great deal from each of the talented writers over there. Their feedback helps me strengthen my stories and become a better writer. We do weekly writing prompts and that has been the one steady writing practice in my life even during my busiest or roughest phases. Sweethearts is my true “home” in the literary world. 😀
What advice would you give writers who are just starting out?
• Write every day. If you’re not writing, then edit or revise. I don’t believe in writer’s block and my personal experience is that the more I write, the more ideas come to me. I’ve set myself a goal of writing or editing 500-1000 words every day for six days a week. I completely adhere to this quote by Cheryl Strayed: “Writing is hard....Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”
• Be gentle with yourself. Writing is lonely and hard. Be open to learning but don’t judge yourself too harshly. Celebrate your successes no matter how small they are.
• Take time out for self-care. Meditation, vision journaling, and exercising are the three things that I do almost every day. They hugely help me with my writing and with navigating life in general.
• Other writers are your friends and not your rivals. The more you’re open to helping and learning from your peers, the more your work will improve. We are all unique human beings with unique stories to share. Someone else’s success should be the cause for celebration and not jealousy. Be inspired by the success stories of your peers, try to learn from them. When you live from an abundant mindset, everything you do (and this includes writing) brings so much joy and fulfillment!
Do you have a website? How active are you on social media?
Yes, my website is called kasturipatra.com.
I share writing and reading-related resources; inform readers about publication/submission opportunities; talk about my own work and learnings, as well as, those of my fellow writers.
I’m very active on Facebook. I also have a page over there called Kasturi Patra – Writer
My novel is yet to be released.