Planting the Seeds

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This mentorship program is a stepping stone in my writing career. As someone who has been teaching herself the craft of short stories by reading other authors, I have been searching for one-on-one professional guidance tailored specifically to my stories for a very long time. Being mentored by one of Canada’s most decorated authors, Lawrence Hill, is a dream come true.

My collection gestated for many years before coming to life. Soon after I came to Canada, I was fascinated by the resilient and courageous Bengali immigrant families I came to know through my parents, and often found a seed for a story in the many dinner parties, picnics and weddings we attended. I carried the seeds with me for a long time, but could only begin to nurture them once I completed my formal education and had a sense of direction with respect to my profession. Until then, I never found the time to write.

I have decided to set two stories in Bangladesh so that readers can see and understand the other side of the immigrant story. I did not want Bangladesh to remain an abstract idea, or a distant reality to be experienced only through the nostalgia of the characters who have left the physical space. I wanted to portray it as a tangible geographical and social entity with its own set of complexities, so that readers can get a better sense of the identities that Bangladeshis navigate prior to immigration, as well as the ones they confront once they travel back from Canada.

When an idea for a story comes to me, I sit down to write a first draft, which is usually just a skeleton and simply a way to put down the core ideas in paper before they escape me. Then I work extensively on re-writing and creating subsequent drafts to further develop the plot, characters and language. I usually leave a time gap between my drafts, so that I can distance myself from the physical act of writing and think about my stories away from the computer.

Jhumpa Lahiri is who I’d choose to write about my life. She writes with a sensitivity and understanding of human emotions that is unparalleled. Another big reason I gravitate towards her is because of our shared experiences as children of Bengali immigrant parents in North America.

In an ideal world, a writer would have the financial stability to be able to write full-time and have a lot of flexibility in schedule. I also imagine a writer’s life to be very tranquil with a beautiful physical environment for writing. Ten years from now, I see myself as an established author, with at least two published books. I imagine myself as a writer who is celebrated not necessarily through prizes and accolades, but simply because of her ability to create a lasting relationship with her readers through the universality of her stories. The low points in this journey would be rejections by publishers, and the highlight would be the process of writing itself, and meeting fabulous writers and mentors along the way.