March 22, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

“There is so much material out there on how to write and publish your book, but it can be very difficult to assess its credibility and authenticity.”- Shalini Mullick (Indian Author)

6 min read

Team Kitaab is in conversation with Indian author Shalini Mullick 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 Gurgaon-based Indian author Shalini Mullick. Shalini is a practicing doctor. After decades of writing long biopsy reports and applications for research grants, she decided to explore creative writing. She finds inspiration in the routine life and regular people around her.

Her debut book Stars from the Borderless Sea (2022) is a collection of three non-linked novella-length stories. The book is an unconventional, empathetic look at the most universal human emotion — love. 

Shalini was awarded a Jury Appreciation Citation at the UNFPA Laadli Media & Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity (2022). Her stories on women’s identity have won many short story contests and two Orange Flower awards (Fiction, 2022 and LGBTQ issues, 2021). Five of her short stories have found home in 3 anthologies. A humorous short story was selected for the Juggernaut Selects program (2020). Her poetry has been published in reputed Medical Humanities journals. She is a copyeditor and on the Review Board of the journals like ‘Research and Humanities in Medical Education’. 

She was an invited speaker at the Ananke Women in Literature Festival (2022), and the Golden Door Dialogues (2022). She is a columnist and panelist for platforms like eShe, Beyond the Box, Women’s Web and Incredible Women of India.

Shalini believes we don’t get to choose the stories we tell. It is the stories that home into her heart, head and soul. Then they stay there, begging-and demanding- to be told. And she finds herself on her laptop following their command even at the ungodly hour of 5 AM in the winter!

A late entrant to the world of writing, Shalini finds it takes her away from noise, and towards silence. It is also a good excuse to avoid hitting the gym; and stops her from helicopter parenting her teenage children. She is happiest in the company of books, chocolate and old Hindi movie songs. Though she has beautiful memories of her years in Bangalore and has now put down roots in Gurgaon, Shalini remains a Dilliwali at heart.

Team Kitaab: How did writing happen to you?

Shalini Mullick: I am quite the accidental writer, who discovered writing as a way of coming closer to myself relatively late in life. After reading some poetry and short fiction on social media, I tried writing and sharing occasional pieces. These were appreciated and this encouraged me to try write more. In 2019, I submitted my first short story to an online portal for a contest. It was selected as one of the winning entries. This was the major nudge for my writing to pick up pace.

The pandemic followed soon after, and the gamut of feelings that I was going through found expression through short and long fiction, poetry and non-fiction. I regularly participated in short story contests and began work on my debut book towards the end of 2020. While querying and submitting the manuscript also, I continued to submit and pitch other pieces of my work. I published 5 short stories in 3 anthologies as well as an e single.

In 2022, my book Stars from the Borderless Sea was published. 

Team Kitaab: If you had to introduce someone to your work/s, which books of yours would you ask them to start with?

Shalini Mullick:

  1. My debut book Stars from the Borderless Sea explores the different facets of the most universal, yet unique emotion: Love. It is a collection of three non-linked novella length stories which give the reader a window into the nuances, layers and complexities of human relationships. 
  2. This hard-hitting piece on Indian Women’s Mental Health was awarded a jury citation at the UNFPA Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity in 2022. The article, featured on Mental Health Day by Women’s Web takes a close look at the topic and throws up searching questions. 
  3. Written during the brutal second wave of the pandemic, this piece “When love is separation” spoke from the heart of a daughter and a doctor longing for a homecoming. It was featured in the prestigious eShe magazine. 

Team Kitaab: Share five reads you would recommend from your region/ country.

Shalini Mullick: Recommended writings from India written in , or translated to English:

  1. India Unbound: Anne Zaidi
  2. Subversions: Shashi Deshpande 
  3. The God of Small Things: Arundhati Roy
  4. My story: Kamala Das
  5. Bapsi Sidhwa, a Pakistani author: The Ice Candy Man
  6. Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Team Kitaab: Your thoughts on Women Writing as a genre. 

Shalini Mullick: Women’s writing brings the woman’s gaze to writing. The characterisations are informed by gender and by the lived experiences of women in a deeply patriarchal world. By bringing out these voices, it brings diversity and richness and contributes to the world of literature. 

Most of the time, what we call writers block is our simply not giving enough time and effort to our writing. If it is really writers block and we are unable to write, a short break works.

shalini mullick

Team Kitaab: Please talk a bit about your publishing journey. The challenges you faced and the hurdles.

Shalini Mullick: If writing and editing a book is a challenging task, publishing is even tougher. The major hurdle I faced was that I was writing a book in the romance genre with mature protagonists. A double whammy was the format of the novella length of the stories. Definitely not the boxes that a debut writer is expected to check! There were many rejections, before my labour of love found the beautiful, warm home that it did. When the rejections would pour in, it was my writer friends who held space for my frustrations and carried me through them. They would keep me motivated and help to ward off the self-doubt that writers are so prone to experiencing. 

When the rejections would pour in, it was my writer friends who held space for my frustrations and carried me through them.

shalini mullick

During the submission process, one major problem was the lack of authentic information and genuine advice. There is so much material out there on how to write and publish your book, but it can be very difficult to assess its credibility and authenticity. I strongly believe that a good writing community is a huge blessing in such circumstances, and I was lucky to have found mine. In these communities, honest sharing of experiences and information becomes a huge safety net for authors, especially those who are totally new to the writing world.  

Team Kitaab: How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

Shalini Mullick: I am a pathologist and making a diagnosis is my bread and butter. So, in the case of a writer’s block, I would first like to be sure of the diagnosis- is it really a writer’s block, or boredom, or inability to find time? Most of the time, what we call writer’s block is our simply not giving enough time and effort to our writing. If it is really writer’s block and we are unable to write, a short break works.

A few days of doing things unrelated to writing; being away from this solitary existence of a writer often helps. But, even after a few days, if the word, paragraphs and sentences don’t return to us, then we have to show up for them. I try to get back to the routine and show up at my desk at the designated time helps. If writing doesn’t happen, editing, or proofing will. Or outlining and rewriting. Gradually the flow will return.  

Disclaimer: All pictures are copyright of the author/s unless otherwise.