Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “One of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, Amazon bestselling author, novelist, poet, essayist, columnist, educator, and marketing consultant. Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between India, North Africa, and the United States. She is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, two collaborative collections of poetry, a book-length collection of poems, a novel, and a nonfiction book. She also has two upcoming poetry chapbooks in 2016. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, literary journals, and online publications across nine countries in three continents.
Sweta has won three Pushcart Prize nominations, Queens Council on the Arts Grant for BYOB Program, an International Poetry Award, Best of the Net Nomination, Nomination for Asian American Members’ Choice Awards & Independent Literary Awards, and writing fellowships. Sweta is also a certified yoga teacher who shares the love and power of yoga with female survivors of trauma and violence. A graduate of Columbia University, Sweta lives in New York City with her husband.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I started writing at a very young age. As a child, I knew I wanted my name on the cover of a book. I didn’t know what it would take or how I would get there, but I had this dream to be a published author.
After many rejections, one day I got a book contract for my chapbook of poems: Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey Of Colors. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a bad joke. I came home from work and showed the email to my husband—where the publisher had asked me to send the entire manuscript. I started to cry when my husband reassured me that it was all real.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
My latest book, which was ranked #1 on Amazon under Asian American poetry, is titled Wet Silence. A book-length collection of poems, Wet Silence bears moving accounts of Hindu widows in India. It’s a collection of poems that covers a myriad of subjects centered on social evils such as misogyny, infidelity, gender inequality, and celibacy amongst other things.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
While I do work out of a writing studio mostly, for poetry, I travel to Noepe Center for the Literary Arts in Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a homely and creative writing residency. Being close to the ocean, sand, and greenery, it enhances my productivity.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
Aside from being a freelance writer, I am also a digital marketing consultant and a yoga teacher. My workdays are long and my work can be emotionally draining—not complaining, just stating facts. Aside from a busy professional life, my husband and I are grateful to have a full and hectic busy home life too—with friends and family often visiting and us hosting people and parties. And, I’m rather devoted to healthy living—both exercise and eating. Keeping a balance and making room for my own self in all of this is sacred to me. My day starts at 4:45am when I drink some warm water with lemon and apple cider vinegar, meditate, and do breathing exercises.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I write in all three genres: poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. And my writing process for each differs. I have 10 published books and I have noticed that every book demands a different writing process.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
Writing is how I make sense of the world. Writing is how I tell stories. Writing is how I lend a voice to unheard tales. Writing is how I give voice to many women. Writing is also meditative aside from being creative. It brings me closer to where I need to be.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I wouldn’t say there is one thing that does it. People, places, stories, incidents, news…just about anything. Inspiration can be found anywhere. But I will say that to write poetry, I do feel the need to be closer to nature.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Not knowing what to expect every morning—the muse might not show up. Let’s say the muse shows up and you write the best piece, from your own perspective, but no publication publishes it. No one pays you for all the hours spent writing, rewriting, editing, and pitching. Though I am pretty thick-skinned, rejections can get to you. If you are in a bad place, it’s hard to not take the rejections as, “Okay, you suck!” Also, financial instability is another aspect that bothers me. The paychecks can vary in amount and frequency every month. So, there is not much predictability or stability.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
I wish I had a better plan. I have met writers who had 3-year plans with the whole goal and strategy columns filled out. I wish I had seen more of the business aspect of writing life before I started to work as a freelancer.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I am tired of limited number of stories out there about issues and cultures. I would like to see more diverse books.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Jane Austen, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Naomi Shihab Nye to name a few.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Monica Bhide, who is an incredible storyteller and food writer. She has the ability to bring back your childhood through her personal essays.
Thank you, Sweta Vikram!
— Nicole Melanson
* Poet photo by Anudit Vikram
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