Team Kitaab is in conversation with Nutritionist and Writer Annapurna Sharma where she speaks about her latest book ‘When Jaya met Jaggu and Other Short Stories‘ (Hawakal Publishers, 2022), and other things close to her heart.
Annapurna Sharma is a nutritionist by profession, but a writer at heart. Her second book, ‘When Jaya met Jaggu and other short stories’ a short story collection is published by Hawakal publishers, in April 2022.
Her maiden book of poems, Melodic Melange was awarded for excellence (Pulitzer Books, 2019). Her poem I long to sing you a summer song… was shortlisted for the All India Poetry Competition, 2019, conducted by The Poetry Society (India).
Her short story Bubble Wrap was shortlisted for the Twist & Twain short story contest, 2021. Her works are forthcoming or have appeared, in Westward Quarterly, The Punch Magazine, Kitaab International, Mad Swirl, Spark, Reader’s Digest, Women’s Era, Active Muse among others.
Her short story Waiting… was published in an anthology on Domestic Violence by IHRAF (International Human Rights Art Festival), 2021. She is on the team of editors of Muse India, a literary e-journal. More about her at – https://annapurnasharma.co.in.
Read on to know more about her writing journey and writing aspirations.
Team Kitaab: Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
Annapurna Sharma: For me, writing is like meditation. I reflect on life’s myriad perspectives, the refractions, the subtleties, and the nuances that catch my eye. I started writing very late, in my forties. I never thought I could write anything at all. The writing was manna.
I began to write to fill empty spaces in my routine life and didn’t realize when it became a passion. Now, I cannot NOT write. However, I’d like to add that it is daunting to master the craft of writing. I keep learning every time, and make an effort to hone my skills, I fail most of the time yet I don’t fester. In fact, I enjoy the entire process, and the times I succeed, it’s endless bliss.
Team Kitaab: Share a bit about your writing journey so far. How did you start? Any roadblocks? Who were your strongest supporters? Any tips to share with aspiring writers who are just beginning their journey or are about to begin it?
Annapurna Sharma: All writing is rewriting, more or less like a penance. I crash at every juncture yet I tug along with a conviction. Several drafts through and still it’s not ‘the end’. As the story evolves, I discover new shades, I happenstance novel possibilities, I’m impressed by some concepts, reject certain others, the process goes on.
My family and a few friends are very supportive – they are aware that I need my space and time. They bear with my remoteness; which is an integral part of a writer’s life.
Wish I could part with some wisdom. There is no ultimate rule in writing. Each one has to discover one’s own path of writing.
Team Kitaab: Tell us about your most recent book or writing/editing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
Annapurna Sharma: My recent book is a short story collection ‘When Jaya met Jaggu and other stories’ published by Hawakal publishers, April 2022. It was an attempt to explore the diverse perspectives of love. Love need not necessarily be palpable.
It’s analogous to a need – for survival, to be unique, to re-connect, to digress – it’s a precondition to exist in this world, full of eccentricities and hyperboles. The stories are from small towns and the motifs are principally contemporary – Alzheimer’s, child labor, displacement, east vs west, human fragilities, conflict between man and nature, etc. It was a conscious decision to embrace the middle-class and the mundanity.
Team Kitaab: Describe your writing aesthetic.
Annapurna Sharma: Writing happens all the time. The story revolves and evolves in the mind. It’s a continuous process and I try to come as close as possible to the characters, know them better, rehearse their lines, and so on.
Physically if I were to gauge my writing schedule then I prefer writing early in the mornings when I can get a good amount of consistent work done.
Team Kitaab: What/ Who is your writing inspiration?
Annapurna Sharma: Alice Munro.
Team Kitaab: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Annapurna Sharma: I believe writer’s block is unwarranted. It’s probably a mistaken viewpoint. ‘Block’ is imperative for any craft to blossom. I am mindful of my occasional gear shifting where I get involved with some other productive work like reading or writing a different genre. That way I return afresh to my stories.
Team Kitaab: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Annapurna Sharma: A strategist. I contemplate, introspect, write, rewrite, and revise countless times… I pitch the ideas in my head for a sufficiently long time period before I finally choose one to work on. Sometimes I have to work on more than one idea simultaneously. It resembles a tennis ball, going back and forth with the thoughts, from love-all to winning the sets.
Team Kitaab: Who are your favorite authors/screenwriters?
Annapurna Sharma: Alice Munro ofcourse. Followed by Jhumpa Lahiri, Kafka, Chekov, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kiran Desai, Kahlil Gibran, Easterine Kire, Siddhartha Gigoo, Anees Salim, Paulo Coelho, Anjum Hasan, and several others.
Team Kitaab: What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
Annapurna Sharma: Writing a short story is definitely the most challenging. It takes a lot of endurance and resolve to get all the elements in a condensed form.
Team Kitaab: What’s your idea of bliss?
Annapurna Sharma: Reading fiction, especially short stories, under the shade of a tree in the woods is an eternity for me.
Team Kitaab: What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Annapurna Sharma: Talented writers stay in the dark.
It upsets me that there are several such writers who write silently, without much ado or without any social media handles, or without recognition. A tug of war of sorts – literary merit vs celebrity status. It’s time, writing flair is given credence.
Duplicity. Judgmental. Imitation.
I often wonder why people tend to be hypocrites, why they are critical always, and why they compete fervently for every attribute, albeit minute. Everyone is unique. If everyone did their own thing then the world would be much more lively and a better place to live.
Team Kitaab: What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Annapurna Sharma: The World’s Greatest Short Stories. Ikigai. The Alchemist. When the River sleeps.
Team Kitaab: Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
Annapurna Sharma: My laptop. It has all my unfinished work.
Team Kitaab: Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
Annapurna Sharma: Co-existence is the key to existence.
About the Book
Love is complex. It demands sacrifice and vows to fill our hearts but at the cost of something as dear as love. Love is inarticulate, liberating, hurting, healing – it’s an ordeal to be trapped in love. Yet, these stories by Annapurna Sharma are stringed by the one thread called love. The characters imbue love at various levels. They are quirky, filled with a sense of alienation, but at the same time packed with attachment and different shades of love.