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Member Spotlight: Dipika Mukherjee

author Dipika Mukherjee and her book Dialect of Distant Harbors

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writers wielding powerful pens can be the change they want to see in this world. Writers like Naomi Shihab Nye, Nadine Gordimer and Arundhati Roy, have written (creatively and compellingly) about the sociopolitical forces redefining our world. My literary influences span the gamut from Rabindranath Tagore’s legacy of novels and song/poetry, to Malay pantuns, to modern masters of the novel like Amitav Ghosh, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. Ultimately, my work attempts to deconstruct the notion of otherness by reproducing the familiar within dissimilarities of culture, religion and language. I have been very involved in local as well as international literary forums and I hope to add to the voices that should, indeed they must, smooth over the cracks of our imperfect, violent world.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? If writing doesn’t come easily, I go for a walk. Or read something in the genre I am working on at that moment, something written fabulously well. That usually inspires me to get going with my own words!

What is your favorite time to write? Night. When I am finishing a book length work, I get the most done by starting at 11 at night and writing until 6 in the morning. I can’t sustain this for a long time, for obvious reasons, but it is the only way I have finished an entire draft of a book or the final edits on a manuscript.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I think it was Keise Laymon who urged writers to find the paragraphs that glow in their own writing? I do that often with my own work; it is easy to get discouraged and think and have imposter syndrome, but you must find the strength to keep writing within yourself, no one else can do it for you. So I often find the sentences that glow in my own work, and remind myself of my own talent, and keep going. It sounds boastful, but writers need a tremendous amount of self confidence to keep at this solitary occupation, rife with rejection.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? The global reach accessible to all writers, with submissions online, and zoom readings. I love that we are no longer constrained by geography and time-zones.

Dipika Mukherjee’s Dialect of Distant Harbors is out now with the University of Chicago Press.