1. When did you start writing?
"I started writing when I immigrated to the USA, about 18 years ago. I had always been a reader, and moving here provided solitude and time to write because I came on a dependent visa, unable to apply for a job. My son was two years old at the time, so I created a mommy blog
where I posted his tantrums, his antics, the innocent questions he asked. Then, I started writing about my immigrant experience, the differences in the culture I observed, and the persistent longing to be home. Fiction came much later when my son grew older and my life settled down into a steady routine."
2. What drew you to write short stories?
"I would say the availability of time. After I obtained a work visa and a full-time job, I could write only in snippets of time after taking care of work and family duties. I started writing shorts because once you get a knack for it, they can be written and revised quickly, and yet give the
satisfaction of a completed piece. From the readers’ perspective, a short piece doesn’t demand the time commitment of a novel and still leaves them with an emotion, a realization, or a beginning of something to think about."
3. Where does your inspiration come from?
"From everyday moments, the ordinariness of routine. In my opinion, it’s the small seemingly insignificant decisions people make over the course of a day that differentiates one individual from the other. I often find my stories and characters in quiet, in-between moments. When
waiting for the Keurig to drip coffee into my mug, I think of how I take my coffee black and how my husband needs a cup of sweet tea at the start of his day. And, before I know I have the outlines of two distinct characters that I can fill with their choice of beverage, the time they take to shower, the salad dressing they prefer, etc. The list of possibilities is endless."
4. How did Skin Over Milk come about? When did you realize you had material for a book?
"Skin Over Milk started as a single story set in the backdrop of rain, the relentless monsoon in India that keeps dripping, pouring, and seeping into dwellings and lives. It was a 300-word story of three sisters living in a house flooded by rain. I submitted it to contests and it was shortlisted in a couple of places. After that, I held on to it, did not try to publish it in literary journals. Then I wrote another story about the three girls providing shelter to a dog soaked in the rain. When I
thought about these two stories, I realized I had the beginning and possibly the end of something bigger. With that epiphany, I wrote more stories around rain and the three sisters, added more chapters, and molded the girls’ characters into a logical narrative arc. When I was
10,000 words in, I knew I couldn’t scrap the story. It was meant to be a book."
5. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"I write mostly about girls and women, burdened by unreasonable expectations of relationships, and society, in general. It’s sad that while life on Mars seems like a possibility, gender parity is still a distant and hazy target. Through my writing, I want to give voice to women who are not seen and heard often, women who are not empowered enough to shun their disgruntled lives, women who persevere and do the course of their duties while nurturing within them a quiet, resilient kind of feminism that emerges in a subtle, natural way at the right moment to make the right decisions, trying to make lives right for their daughters or sisters."
6. What’s your favorite writing advice you’ve been told?
"Not sure if someone has told me this but I’ve learned it through my experience: Don’t give up on your work because someone chooses to dislike or dismiss it."
7. Would you like to share what current writing project(s) you are working on?
"I have been working on a novel but haven’t gained the right momentum and motivation. Hope to complete a draft but haven’t set a timeline in my mind yet. Besides that, I continue to write short fiction, whenever the clichéd bulb lights up my brain."
8. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"I love traveling and exploring new places. My family takes a lot of road trips. We’ve driven from Ohio to New Mexico, and to Maine. Besides the external sights and landscapes, road trips are also important to the internal machinery of a family. After a while, when phones die and the
music becomes stale, we talk about things that we forget or don't care to mention in the normal course of our lives. The confined space of the car helps us know each other better and the bonus is that the new understanding comes in a natural way, without making a conscious,
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American writer. She is the author of Morsels of Purple and Skin Over Milk. Born to a middle-class family in India, she later migrated to the USA with her husband and son. She currently lives in the suburbs of Ohio. A technologist by profession and a writer by passion, she won first place in ELJ Micro Creative Non-Fiction Prize, placed in the Strands International Flash Fiction Festival. and is the runner-up for the Chestnut Review
Chapbook Contest. Her stories have been shortlisted in the Bath Flash Fiction Awards and SmokeLong Micro Competition. She is currently a Prose Editor at Janus Literary and a Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. More at https://saraspunyfingers.com. Reach her @PunyFingers
1. I remember our interview from last year when you talked about one of your writing projects, and that writing project is your debut chapbook coming very soon from fifth wheel press. Huge congrats! How did how to construct a breakup poem come about? When did you realize you had material for a book?
"First of all, thank you!! I’m super excited and still kind of baffled that I get to release a chapbook at all. Although I only started really thinking about and putting this together in the spring of 2021, I’d say BREAKUP POEM is a culmination of a lot of themes I’ve been exploring since I started publishing poetry in 2020. I knew I had recurring themes in my work from the beginning, but I didn’t start thinking about making a chapbook out of those themes until March of 2021. I had, at that point, just written the title poem and something about it made my past work click for me. It was that sense of angst, of toxicity, but also of intention. Gently poking fun at myself for all the heartbreak poetry, how I’d become an expert at writing it, how I sometimes made myself sit in the pain to write. I liked the sadness and the narration of it, the way some of my work could jump outside the frame and point out the performance of it. I did Escapril last year, which was a 30-day prompt challenge that I somehow managed to complete, and many of the poems in my chap are from that burst of poetic output in April 2021. After that, I quickly started putting work together, paring down, and reordering it (many, many times) to create the final manuscript."
2. Do you feel like you need to suffer in order to make great art? What are your thoughts on pain and writing, especially as it relates to your forthcoming collection?
"Scary question. I said something quippy about this on Twitter already (along the lines of 'I really hope not!') but this is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time on my own too. I write a lot of sad stuff. Breakup poetry, if you will. And I’m not still sad about my breakups, but sometimes I do worry that I’m mining old pain for poetry in a way that’s almost lazy. I don’t think you need to suffer to make great art. I’ve read tender, joyful, uplifting poetry that I love as much as my favourite angry, frustrated, melancholy poems. I do think sometimes it’s easier to see suffering as poetic. I think of Richard Siken’s words, 'maybe a mouth sounds idiotic when it blathers on about joy', and I’ve honestly thought the same thing about my work. When I am happy, enjoying a packed social calendar, in the honeymoon stage of a new relationship – I don’t write nearly as much. It’s harder for me to write a loving poem, a hopeful poem about the future, than it is for me to write something melancholy or sad or angry. It feels embarrassing, and that’s saying something because in many ways the emotional vulnerability of poetry is in itself embarrassing already. One poem I drafted a while ago while in a relationship ended on a cutesy note that I found cringe even while writing it. After we broke up, I revised that poem to end on a more melancholy note and found it truer to the emotional core of the piece. I don’t want that anecdote to mean that my poetry is better when it’s less happy. But I do think it means I’ve found it easy to settle into a pattern of melancholy, uncertainty, and sadness in my work. I’m working on it. I write occasional funny poems, pop culture poems, irreverent poems – think 'grand prix' or 'love poem for my dying phone battery' or 'what’s in a mouth' – but I just default to a certain tone and so I am better at it, because I practice it. This is all a very longwinded way of saying I don’t feel like the general writing population needs to suffer to make art, but sometimes I worry that I do. As a self-proclaimed creator of breakup poems, what do you do when you run out of breakups? If I end up in a stable, loving, long-term relationship, what then? Maybe I’ll write a different collection, one with a happier throughline. Maybe I’ll write poems about something else entirely. Rocks. Skyscrapers. Peach milk tea in the morning. We’ll have to see if this chapbook gets it out of my system."
3. Tell me a story behind one of your favourite poems in this collection. Where were you when you wrote it? What you were thinking? Why is this one of your favourite poems?
"You can’t ask a parent to pick a favourite!! So I’ll just pick one of the many poems that I like in this collection. The final poem in the collection is called 'pink moon', and I wrote it on April 26 2021. I can remember this because a pink moon is a full moon in April, and last year it was a 'super pink moon', meaning it was a very large full moon in the night sky. I had just learned some bad news – not news for me, but for an old friend. And I was in a melancholy sort of mood, sitting at my desk in my childhood bedroom and looking out the window while trying to figure out what my response to the prompt should be. My windows face south and I occasionally have this problem in the night where I forget to close my blinds and the moonlight, if it’s a particularly bright full moon, will wake me in the middle of the night. So I’m trying to think poetic thoughts and I see a full moon. What more can I say? More seriously, I love this piece because it’s hopeful. Because despite all the sadness it grows out of, it heads towards peace. It’s more mature, more reflective. It acknowledges the unfairness of wallowing in your own victimhood and pinning mistakes on one person. It’s a good ending to the collection, a slow culmination of moving away from this rollercoaster of a relationship and towards something happier. I like the idea of a collection of breakup poems ending on this line: 'tomorrow morning i will roll over to meet the moon, not your face, and wave goodbye as i pull on my jeans.' I like the idea of waving goodbye."
4. What’s your favourite writing advice you’ve been told, or what writing advice would you offer?
"Honestly, I don’t feel qualified to offer much advice. I think beyond the very general, everyone’s writing practice is specific to themselves. I’ve heard all kinds of wacky things that people do that are helpful for them. I listen to music while I write, and I know some people think that’s crazy. I also can’t remember most of the writing advice I’ve gotten! If it was useful I’ve since internalized it and if it wasn’t then I’ve probably forgotten about it. I’d say the best advice I can give is firstly, to respect yourself and your writing. If you want to write, if you like to write, commit to it. Make the time for it. Don’t dismiss it as something unimportant or extraneous. Whether time to write is jotting down scraps on the subway as you think of lines or blocking time in the evening, treat it as something that’s valuable to you, because it is. Finally, dismiss advice that doesn’t work for you. What is life-changing for someone else’s poetry might be meh for you. It’s not necessarily reflective of you, your validity as a writer, or the quality of your work."
5. And finally, tell me what’s going on in june’s world. Books you’re reading, what writing projects you’d like to share, or something else going on in your life that interests/excites you. I’m all ears :D
"Thanks for asking! I don’t have a chapbook to announce like I did last time, unfortunately, but I have still been writing! Lately I’ve slowed down the terrifying pace I had originally kept up of writing, submitting, and publishing as other areas of my life have gotten more hectic. I hope the pieces I publish are, on average, better quality to make up for it. I used to read 70-something books a year, but that’s also slowed down lately. I started reading an essay collection recently called 'Some of My Best Friends' by Tajja Isen that I’m really enjoying! I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and personal essays over the last few years (and of course poetry) and not as many novels. I did finally read the Poppy War series and thoroughly enjoyed that! Can’t wait to find some time to read Babel. And I passed by my local used book store the other day and picked up three books on craft, so we’ll see how that goes. As for something exciting in my life right now, I’ve started rock climbing regularly this summer and unexpectedly loving it. I used to boulder, which is more arm-heavy, but since I discovered top rope this summer I’ve been very good about going once or twice every week. I like the intentionality of it. The thoughtfulness. It’s a very poet thing to say, that I enjoy this full-body workout because I can stop to think about it halfway up the wall. But I appreciate being given that chance to consider my solution while I’m working on it, the way every poem iterates through revisions. It’s also much easier on me, a person who does not have a lot of arm strength, haha. I never thought I’d become a rock climber but here we are. Hopefully I can keep it up as we enter the fall!"
June Lin is a young poet. She loves practical fruits, like clementines and bananas. She tweets sometimes @junelinwrites.
Amy Cipolla Barnes
Cristina A. Bejan
Elizabeth M Castillo
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
Emily M. Goldsmith
Lukas Ray Hall
B. Tyler Lee
June Lin (mini)
Calia Jane Mayfield
Maria S. Picone
Charlie D’Aniello Trigueros
Heath Joseph Wooten