“Breaking into literary magazines was a challenge, and I received many rejections which made me question my ability as a writer.” – Salini Vineeth (Indian Author)7 min read
Team Kitaab is in conversation with Indian author Salini Vineeth 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 Salini Vineeth, a fiction and freelance writer based in Bangalore. She worked as an engineer for ten years before turning to full-time writing in 2018. She has published four books since – Magic Square (novella), Everyday People (short story collection), and travel guides for Hampi and Badami. ‘Everyday People’ was the finalist in the Amazon Pen2Publish contest 2019. She won the eShe writing contests in 2019 and 2020. Her flash fiction was long-listed in the Australian Writer’s Centre’s Furious Fiction contest. Salini won the Orange Flower award for humour in 2023. Her short stories have appeared in The Bangalore Review, Café Dissensus, The Bilingual Window, Kitaab, and The Bombay Review, among others.
Books: Magic Square, Everyday People, Hampi – History and Architecture
Team Kitaab: How did writing happen to you?
Salini Vineeth: I started writing at a very young age, maybe around ten or twelve. The language teachers in my school were very keen on nurturing young writers. When I was 16, I published my first short story in Mathrubhumi, a popular Malayalam weekly. There was a hiatus in my writing during my engineering course. I restarted writing in Malayalam and then moved to English a few years after I started working as an engineer.
I have a Malayalam blog and an English travel website that features my early writings. In 2016, I started writing fiction in English, and as most of my audience is from across India, I continued writing in English. In 2018, I quit my engineering job to write full-time. Since then, I have written novellas, travel guides, and short stories in English. I am looking forward to publishing my debut novel in 2023. I would say writing helped me find purpose in life and changed me as a person.
Team Kitaab: If you had to introduce someone to your work/s, which books of yours would you ask them to start with?
Salini Vineeth: My first work of fiction is Magic Square, a novella that is very close to my heart. I also love writing short stories and flash fiction. Pink Elephants of Jaisalmer is one of my favourite stories. I also write humour. I really enjoyed writing a personal essay for Reader’s Digest titled, More Wasabi, Anyone? It won the Orange Flower Award 2023 for humour.
Team Kitaab: Share five reads you would recommend from your region/ country.
Salini Vineeth: Malayalam has a rich literature. As a child, I grew up reading prominent Malayalam writers like Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, Kamala Surayya (Madhavikkutty), M T Vasudevan Nair, and O. V Vijayan. I recently came across the short stories of Perumal Murugan, which I find magical. So, here’s my list.
- “Me Grandad Ad An Elephant” by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer (translated from Malayalam by R E Asher and Achamma C C)
- A Childhood in Malabar by Kamala Surayya (translated from Malayalam by Gita Krishnankutty)
- “Bhima Lone Warrior” by M T Vasudevan Nair (translated from Malayalam by Gita Krishnankutty)
- The Legends of Khasak by O V Vijayan (translated from Malayalam by the author)
- Goat Thief by Perumal Murugan (translated from Tamil by N Kalyan Raman)
Team Kitaab: Your thoughts on Women Writing as a genre.
Salini Vineeth: I am not a big fan of the idea of gender-based genres like “women writing.” Yes, one’s gender may influence how the person views the world, but so do the socio-economical background of a person. I have never thought about my writing as “women writing,” but I don’t undermine the evangelists of the genre.
Maybe the genre was essential in the past to encourage women writers and to draw attention to their writing. But now, we have women who write in diverse genres and have won the Nobel prize for literature. I believe they’ve paved the way for us women writers, and we don’t need to confine our writing to a particular category. I simply consider myself a human being trying to record the observations I make through the lens of my personality and background.
Team Kitaab: Please talk a bit about your publishing journey.
Salini Vineeth: While I started writing at a very early age, I didn’t publish much until 2018. I published my first book, a travel guide to Hampi in 2018 through Amazon KDP. The Kindle Direct Publishing platform was a boon for me. When Amazon announced the PenToPublish contest in 2018, I translated one of my Malayalam short stories and converted it into a Novella.
It was the beginning of my fiction writing in English. After publishing two fiction books, I started to explore the literary magazine venues for my short stories. Breaking into literary magazines was a challenge, and I received many rejections which made me question my ability as a writer.
My first break came when Kitaab accepted my short story, Gulabrai, which gave me immense confidence. I kept submitting to literary magazines and got tons of rejections and a handful of acceptance from good literary magazines which helped me evolve as a serious writer. I have got more than 20 rejections on a single short story! But, I keep writing and submitting. Meanwhile, I also trained myself in content writing, and now I work for a US-based content agency.
I also had quite a challenge while pitching my debut full-length novel. I finished it around 2020, and then the pandemic happened. I kept it for a year and a half and started submitting it in late 2021, but received so many rejections. I kept submitting till the end of 2022 in vain but constantly polished my novel with every rejection and feedback. In January 2023, I decided to take a leap of faith and publish the book myself. Even though it scares me, I decided to do the entire publishing workflow by myself, starting with getting a freelance editor, a printer, a cover designer, and an ISBN, and planning to register myself as a seller on Amazon.
Through this journey, I got a chance to walk in the shoes of a publisher and understand what goes into the publishing process and how publishers make money (or don’t!). The entire process is exhausting, yet I am learning a lot from this process. I hope my novel will release by the end of March 2023. I always lean on my family and my writer friends for guidance and support. One of my seniors from my college, Vrinda Baliga, a famous short story writer, has been a big inspiration for me. She’s an accomplished writer and has a clear vision of what she wants to achieve as a writer. She has given me great advice on writing.
Team Kitaab: How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
Salini Vineeth: While I was working as an engineer, I yearned to have some time to write. During that time, I never faced writer’s block. After turning into full-time writing in 2018, I have a lot of time to write, and I do write a lot, both fiction and B2B freelance content. But, from time to time, I face difficulty in getting the words out.
During such times, I often resort to shorter forms like flash fiction and respond to prompt-based writing, like Visual Verse. Sometimes I open a blank page on the computer screen and just sit there until I feel uncomfortable and start scribbling a short story. I am a compulsive writer and I feel my day is wasted if I haven’t written anything on that day. Most of the initial scribblings don’t make it into the final draft, but at least I get started.
While facing writer’s block, I think a lot about what I want to write and form sentences while doing the household chores. A line or paragraph would come to my mind, and I would hurry to my computer. I would start typing with fingers smeared with wheat flour or curry powder.
Disclaimer: All pictures are copyright of the author/s unless otherwise.
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