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14 Jun

From India with poetry. Hear the story of Vijaya Gowrisankar…

JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

VG: I was born and brought up in Kolkata, India. I currently live in Mumbai, India. I am a thinker and introvert at heart. I remember I used to spend hours reading books when I was young. I was content being by myself, with my books and my thoughts.


JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

VG: I did not realize I wanted to be a writer. We used to have inter-school competitions. Our teachers encouraged us to participate in these events. Most people used to register for events like debate, extempore, etc. Not many registered for writing contests. Our teacher (who used to take Hindi language) used to encourage us to register for writing. Her words motivated me to register for one such event. It started with that and it continued, on and off.

I used to write since I was in 8th standard. Feelings I could never share/express were written on paper. I often made paper boats out of these papers and let my words float away.


JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

VG: I do not have formal education in creative writing. I joined MOOC online courses and completed a few. I joined Poetry workshops on LinkedIn and received feedback on my work. Formal education in writing would be an advantage to writers. Each writer has their own unique style and at the end, that is what prevails.

I have published four books of poems till now and each book has seen me evolve as a writer. As I learn more, I evolve more.


JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

VG: I am not a full-time author. Writing is my passion, and I am following my heart when I am writing. I write at least one poem a day. Between June 2015 and October 2015, I wrote more than 300 poems. On November 1, 2015, I decided I would publish my book. Inspire was released on 14 December 2015. For Reflect and Explore, my second and third books, I took about a year to write and complete the books (start to release). Savour happened in 4 months. Savour is a book of ekphrastic poetry, featuring 19 artists, 58 paintings, 73 poems against the paintings and 20 poetry forms. Something drives me from within when I decide to publish my poems into a book. I focus and spend time and energy to make it happen.


JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

VG: There is something deep within me, that pushes me to write. The words and thoughts push their way to make their presence felt. It could be an emotion, a circumstance, an event happening around me, nature, etc.


JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

VG: The greatest lesson is the power of my words. With writing and getting my work published, comes a responsibility. I realize I have the medium to spread positive thoughts, to create a change, to surface a thought in my reader. This realization is very humbling.

The greatest achievement is the divine connection I feel with my soul when I write. When I read the poems I have written, I can’t believe that I have written them. The poems feel so beautiful. Each poem has a soul.


JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

VG: I need space and solitude to write. I need to be able to hear my thoughts. I can write anytime/anywhere, as long as my thoughts connect with me.


JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

VG: For Inspire, I wrote the poems in 4 months. I spent 6 weeks in the layout, formatting, editing and finalization. For Reflect and Explore, I took nearly a year to get the books to the market. Savour took four months. With each book, I make a conscious effort to give my reader something new and something different.


JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

VG: I edit my own work. My publishers Cyberwit.net are extremely supportive and very patient as I strive for excellence in my work. Poetry is my voice till it reaches the reader and becomes their voice.


JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

VG: Inspire has a rawness to it. It is a voice straight from the soul, unpolished. After Inspire was published, I joined poetry workshops on LinkedIn and learnt a lot through my interactions. I learnt Haiku/Senryu. Reflect has poems both in Free Verse and Haiku/Senryu.

For Explore, I continued to learn from different forums and online materials. I was fortunate to get a mentor, BeaJay McNeice, who has published many poems in Shakespearean Sonnet. He is extremely good at Sonnets and writes them with ease. Explore has Shakespearean Sonnet, Haiku/Senryu and Free Verse poems.

I participated in Poetry Marathon 2016 and learnt new forms like Pantoum and ekphrastic poetry.

My poems were published on Silver Birch Press and I learnt to write keeping the prompts in mind.

Savour is a book of ekhprastic poetry. It has 20 poetry forms.


JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

VG: Yes, I do, many times. I just let it be. When I faced it earlier (in 2014 – 2015), I used to worry that I would not be able to write again. Then I realized, I used to write in school and then resumed writing after 15 years.

When I face Writer’s Block, I read. I read poems, fiction, books on self-help, management – any books I can get my hands on. I listen to Ted Talks. I take long walks and connect with nature. I talk to clouds. I feel the ground, the mud beneath my feet in parks. I look at trees and feel the movement of leaves.


JR: Do you have professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

VG: Cyberwit.net helps me with book cover and interior of my books. Inspire, Reflect, and Savour covers by created by them. For Reflect, we took the permission of the artist Mary Ellen Golden to use her painting.

Book cover of Explore was created by artist Arunabha Sengupta.


JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

VG: This is a tough question. I am not great at this and am still learning how to market my books and reach a broader audience.

There are 2 major areas – one is the mindset that “Poetry is dead” or “Poetry is boring” or “Poetry is difficult to understand”.

Second is marketing and reaching out to the right audience. Through word-of-mouth, social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, I am trying to spread the message. I have recently created my website and started to use Instagram.


JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

VG: I think it is about finding the space each author is comfortable with. Be it traditional or self-publishing, the author must be involved in each aspect of the book creation and book marketing.


JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

VG: I have written and published four books of poems – “Inspire”, “Reflect”, “Explore” and “Savour – Art and Poetry meet”.


JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

VG: I write poems. The beauty of poetry is the freedom of interpretation. Each reader can feel/visualize the poem in their context. A poem on See-Saw will invoke different memories for each reader – their experience on See-Saw. Some may interpret it as a metaphor for ups and downs in life.

I have written my first book as a part of NaNoWriMo 2016. I am yet to decide when to publish it.


JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And savourwhat do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

VG: This is a very difficult question to answer. Each time an author publishes a book, or a creative artist publishes their work, they open themselves for opinions and allow themselves to be vulnerable.

Savour – Art and Poetry meet is visually very appealing with paintings and poetry against the paintings. It also explores 20 different poetic forms like Villanelle, Rondine, Rondeau, Pantoum, etc.

During my trip to Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in November 2016, I came across artists for whom their art was a passion. I wanted to bring art and poetry together. Savour – Art and Poetry meet was born out of this idea.


JR: Any other works in progress?

VG: I am writing a poem a day. I am submitting to anthologies. I am marketing Savour.


JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

VG: Follow your heart and dream. Every story needs to be told. The universe is big enough to embrace all our stories.


JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

VG: Thank you to all the readers. Reach me at:

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Vijaya-Gowrisankar-865437770243338/

Website – https://vijayagowrisankar.wordpress.com/

Amazon author page – https://www.amazon.com/Vijaya-Gowrisankar/e/B071CGBYHR

Twitter – https://twitter.com/VijayaG1

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/vgowrisankar/


Vijaya Gowrisankar