“I think women writing has now peaked with voices of different kind echoing across the world.”- Asha Iyer Kumar (Indian Author)6 min read
Team Kitaab is in conversation with Indian author Asha Iyer Kumar as a part of the South Asian Women Writers Feature.
For the whole of March, we will be featuring South Asian Women Writers on Kitaab for the whole of March. You can read the editor’s note to know more about this.
Today we are featuring Dubai-based author, Life-Writing Coach and youth Motivational Speaker, Asha Iyer Kumar. She writes for Khaleej Times and is a top blogger on popular Indian sites. Her writings are steeped in emotion, empathy and wisdom and her stories have an overarching theme of life’s poignancy.
Asha was born in Madras, India and was brought up in Kerala. She graduated in English Literature and did her master’s in journalism from the University of Kerala. Her first novel, Sandstorms, Summer Rains came out in 2009 and she has published four more books and an e-book since then – three collections of short stories, a collection of poetry and a compilation of her columns written for UAE’s popular daily Khaleej Times, in her solo non-fiction title.
As an author, children’s writing coach, and youth motivational speaker, Asha aims to use the power of story writing to relate to and understand the world around her and transform young people’s lives by helping them recognize the subtle and sublime aspects of life through the written word. It has also taken her on an inward journey, giving reflections of the unknown quarters within her.
Her professional qualifications include a master’s in communication and journalism, PG Diploma in Advertising and Corporate PR, Diploma in Training, Certificate Course (Supporting Adolescent Learning, Social and Emotional Well-being) and a Master Life Coach Certification.
You can read all her works here.
Team Kitaab: How did writing happen to you?
Asha Iyer Kumar: Writing happened to me over a period of time. Although I was hooked on the charm of words and expression since college, and I had taken to writing little things (that we now call blogs), the fact that I would take up writing seriously occurred much later when I started attempting short stories, and then one fine day decided to write my debut novel in 2001. I haven’t looked back since then.
Team Kitaab: If you had to introduce someone to your work/s, which books of yours would you ask them to start with?
Asha Iyer Kumar: My two collections of short stories, After the Rain and That Pain in the Womb, and my novel, Sandstorms, Summer Rains.
Team Kitaab: Share five reads you would recommend from your region/ country.
Asha Iyer Kumar:
1. Arachar/Hangwoman by K.R. Meera (Malayalam/English)
2. God of Small things (Arundhati Roy)
3. Benaras (Mona Verma)
Team Kitaab: Your thoughts on Women Writing as a genre.
Asha Iyer Kumar: I think women writing has now peaked with voices of different kind echoing across the world. What used to stay behind closed door and suppressed under the bosom of countless women is now being spoken aloud, and the world is sitting up and taking notice. Not sure if the world is liking it, but women writing has arrived, bringing with it unprecedented changes in the lives of women.
The biggest change I have seen is how fearless women writing has become now, and how nothing is swept under the carpet. Words have become veritable swords, and there is no stopping the women’s pens from bleeding.
Team Kitaab: Please talk a bit about your publishing journey. The challenges you faced and the hurdles. Do share any person/s who helped you in your journey.
Asha Iyer Kumar: I started writing long before the digital revolution. It was a time when there were few avenues to present your work and get noticed. All that was written remained on the paper or later on, in the word processor. My first collection of short stories remained untouched for more than 5 years, unaccepted by publishers because short stories were then not considered ‘saleable’.
Even when people who read my stories hailed them, finding a publisher became a nightmare. It was then that I accepted the idea of vanity publishing for my first two books. After the first two books, I decided to go it alone, publishing my stories on my own. It gave me a sense of freedom and a feeling of doing justice to my words.
Although I published them on my own, I made sure there was no compromise on quality. Every word, every sentence, every story was there because they deserved to be there. No flippant writing, no slapdash content. If I wrote and if it was out there, then it has to have merit.
I still publish my own books, albeit that keeps me out of the big league and the litfests. My writing may be of great quality as confessed by my followers, but the truth remains-a self-published will never get the limelight. Something for something, I guess. Fame for freedom.
Team Kitaab: How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
Asha Iyer Kumar: The truth is, I don’t deal with it. When there are nonproductive, passive patches, I just let them be. I know that it isn’t a block, but just a lean period that will pass. I allow myself the freedom to not write when the creativity levels are low. On the other side, I pick up books that have left indelible marks on me, writings that have inspired me with their content and style; I drown myself in the works of people whom I admire, and hey presto, my muse awakens to spur me on.
I then write one sentence. And the next. And then the next. Soon, before I realise, I have a few paragraphs written down. The challenge is to keep this ignition on without letting the spark die again. If I don’t keep the story spinning in the head or take a break of more than 3-4 days, I can fall back into the abyss again. I have to stay alert and conscious of it, and the rest is all about how determined I am to keep going.
Disclaimer: All pictures are copyright of the author/s unless otherwise.
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