“I look at my writing career as a long-distance marathon rather than a short-distance sprint.”- Smita Das Jain (Indian Author)7 min read
Team Kitaab is in conversation with Indian author Smita Das Jain 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 Indian author, Smita Das Jain. Smita is a writer by passion and writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car, and the kitchen napkins. Her debut short story collection A Slice of Life was named among India’s top three fiction works by Writefluence, and her debut novel A Price to Love found a mention in the Top 50 books of 2022 by Delhi Wire. She is also the first-prize winner of the prestigious Bharat Award for Literature, 2023 for her short story ‘Purchased Love.’
Smita was the only Asian to be named in the Top 20 flash fiction winners list in the Spring 2022 contest of the prestigious US-based Women On Writing (WOW!) magazine for women writers, and her award-winning short stories have been featured in prominent national and international anthologies around the globe. She was also shortlisted for the Women’s Web Orange Flower Awards 2022 and 2023 for her writing.
Outside the world of writing, Smita is an Executive Coach and Personal Empowerment Life Coach enabling people to get better at what they do, a TEDx speaker, a keynote speaker at prestigious corporate conferences, and a guest columnist on personal development matters for leading magazines and platforms. Smita lives with her rockstar husband and adorable thirteen-year-old daughter in Gurugram, India.
Team Kitaab: How did writing happen to you?
Smita Das Jain: I was twelve when I wrote my first story. It was published in my school magazine, and I became an overnight sensation for three days. I followed it up with an article. Then another. The series continued, and eventually, I became the Chief Editor of my school magazine. Then I entered college life, and balance sheets and corporate strategies took centre stage; creativity is the last thing someone associates with an MBA professional from IIM Indore. I did write many whitepapers and business articles during my corporate career; however, creative writing took a back seat.
Then in 2018, following my desire to learn something new, I enrolled in Stanford Continuing Studies for their Creative Writing and Novel Writing courses. With their world-class techniques and marvellous faculties, these courses rekindled my love affair with creative writing. I completed the first draft of my novel and produced some forms of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, which were much appreciated. When the course finished, I knew that I would be an author someday- it was a matter of time.
It took another three years for that time to come — I would say that I became a full-fledged writer in April 2021, and I have been writing something every day ever since.
Team Kitaab: If you had to introduce someone to your work/s, which books of yours would you ask them to start with?
Smita Das Jain: For those with short attention spans and who find long-content forms a tad tedious, I would point them towards my award-winning short story collection A Slice of Life: Every Person Has A Story. These realistic stories depict what goes on beneath the calm human façade and the mundaneness of everyday life.
I would suggest my debut novel A Price to Love, published by Readomania, to avid readers and book lovers. Referred to as a ‘literary masterpiece’ by The Hitavda newspaper, under the lens of the romance genre, contemporary fiction depicts a woman’s struggles in career, love, and relationships, eventually culminating in a choice between personal life and professional aspirations. The book is a bouquet of pertinent challenges of modern urban life narrated in a non-preachy entertaining manner.
Last but not the least, for readers who look at literature as an avenue of learning about life, I recommend my short story Keep the Door Open published in Muse India, a prominent e-literary journal in India. Written especially for Muse India’s theme ‘Those Claustrophobic Spaces’, the protagonist in the story longs for some company after staying in a small single occupancy hostel room for two years before realising towards the end of the story that it is her thoughts rather than her surroundings that determines her outlook.
I keep on writing short stories every month, and most of them have been published on prominent platforms around the globe. Readers may also visit my website to see all the publicly available stories on one platform and read what appeals most to them.
Team Kitaab: Share five reads you would recommend from your region/ country.
Smita Das Jain: There are many wonderful women writers in India, and five is meagre to account for the excellent work they produce. Since I have to confine myself to this number, I would suggest the following:
Women And Their World: Tales of love, loss, and survival by Varunika Rajput, who is based in Mumbai, India
Stars from the Borderless Sea by Shalini Mullick, based in Gurugram, India
Wise and Otherwise: A salute to Life, by Sudha Murthy, based in Bengaluru, India
One & a half wife by Meghana Pant, based in Mumbai, India
Eye on You by Kanchana Banerjee, based in Gurugram, India
Team Kitaab: Your thoughts on Women Writing as a genre.
Smita Das Jain: Stories are stories, and a good story will resonate with readers, notwithstanding the gender of the writer. However, about half of the world’s population—women— have been relegated to the margins for far too long; they have and continue to be expected to play a supporting role in fiction or life. We need more writers to give voice to the experiences of women from all walks of life and provide a space for women to assert their presence, challenge dominant narratives, and celebrate their unique perspectives.
Whether through memoir, fiction, or poetry, women’s writing is a powerful tool for expressing the joys, sorrows, struggles, and triumphs of womanhood. Ultimately, women’s writing is a testament to female creativity, imagination, and resilience, and somehow, I can’t imagine any male writers doing justice to female identity in a sensitive manner through their pen. That’s why we need more women writers to challenge social norms and question cultural expectations through their writing.
Team Kitaab: Please talk a bit about your publishing journey. The challenges you faced and the hurdles.
Smita Das Jain: The publishing world was a foreign landscape for me two years ago when I quit my corporate career to pursue writing. But there is no dearth of information in today’s world, thanks to technology. I realised that you don’t need to have a book out there to be called a published writer- there are so many wonderful platforms that publish your stories online and render geographic barriers irrelevant.
The feedback I received on my stories from online platforms like Women’s Web and writing groups like Penmancy helped me hone my craft and build a reader base. Blogs from the Himalayan Writing Retreat were a tremendous help in understanding the publishing ecosystem and processes. I decided to self-publish my first book, A Slice of Life and experienced the challenges of cover design, editing, proofreading, and marketing the book on my own. Then when I traversed the traditionally published path for A Price to Love, I had to endure a lot of no-replies and rejections from the ones who did before Readomania accepted the manuscript, and the rest is history.
Life is full of ups and downs, and every career has its own challenges. Writing is no different. I would rather focus on the positives of the journey rather than the challenges; after all, something must have worked for me for Kitaab to interview me! I look at my writing career as a long-distance marathon rather than a short-distance sprint, so there would inevitably be more challenges. I am ready for them.
Team Kitaab: How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
Smita Das Jain: I haven’t experienced Writer’s Block yet, and I do not expect to encounter it because I have made it a point to write something every day. Of course, there are days when I am in a flow and words come naturally, and then there are days when I struggle for words. But I do end up writing something every time since I have earmarked a specific time for it.
You can only beat writer’s block by writing; there is no other way. I have written an entire blog post on overcoming writer’s block, which the readers can read here.
Disclaimer: All pictures are copyright of the author/s unless otherwise.
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