The first ray of the sun - ‘Shalaka’ hails from India’s orange city Nagpur. Her first book “Orenda - flash fiction based in modern India” stands taller as a milestone, starting her literary journey as an author.
Started her journey by publishing poems, became an editor for college magazines, completed writing challenges and is now exploring spoken word poetry, with national forums like Kommune (scout club). She’s also a moderator at the Orange City Literary Festival.
Kulkarni is an artist, TEDx Speaker, social volunteer and global corporate branding/neuromarketing professional currently working with Microland. Was honoured with a national award - Women Disruptors 2021 this March.
She quotes- "People are inspired by stories and stories are inspired by people. And that’s my favourite cycle." and often forgets about her electrical engineering degree!
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW :
Q1) What are your immediate views on flash fiction in Modern Indian English literature? Though the writers are emerging every day, do you think we are on the right course?
Shalaka : Flash fiction is hidden in all of us, everywhere. As we say that brevity is the soul of wit, writing in short is very challenging. It is important to drive the same impact but in lesser words. I experienced the kick-off of micro fiction/flash fiction via Twitter, One Frame Stories (99-word stories), Terribly Tiny Tales and I believe social media had a significant role to play.
I am extremely happy to see so many digital platforms emerging and encouraging more and more people to express their viewpoints and cultivate reading-writing habits.
Q2) When and how (and I can also add why) did you start writing? What was the most striking motivation that you can tell the readers?
Shalaka : I am a Maharashtrian and I come from a family of Marathi authors and literature enthusiasts. We have more creativity in our blood than haemoglobin. 15g/DL. (smiles) I started writing in Marathi at the age of 8. Was shy of putting my work out there, and my mom and grandma pushed me to do so. The first article I ever published was about the summer holidays. Then there was no turning back.
Gradually I started writing in English. My dad had gifted me a dictionary, and I used to read it for fun. I guess I started playing with words since then! (smirks)
I tried different writing forms and ended up learning journalism basics with one of India’s oldest newspapers - The Hitavada during my engineering graduation.
About my inspiration - People and places, lovers and muses, journeys and experiences – have been my inspiration. You’ll find me saying this quite often – “People are inspired by stories and stories are inspired by people. And that’s my favourite cycle.”
Q3) Orenda is your debut novel. Let’s discuss that. What is the story behind this title?
Shalaka : Orenda is a collection of flash fiction stories based in modern India. The word basically means - a mystical force present in all people that gives us the strength to affect change in ourselves and in the world. For me, it is a gallery of the supernatural, divine, extraordinary and inherent – the power within us and all living beings.
Orenda has received appreciation for the book by an eminent author and the director of Jaipur Lit Fest, Namita Gokhale, whereas the foreword is written by ‘the guardian angel of Indian indie cinema’ – Manish Mundra.
The book consists of 52 stories, each per week of the year, with unique titles borrowed from different languages. These 300-400-word stories are relatable, and touch upon different facets of society and want to ignite the reader’s mind. Topics range from passion, freedom, marriage, old age love, poverty, LGBT, religion, education, sex trafficking, prostitution - with a positive twist.
About the title - I had come across the word Orenda in the year 2018 and had told my friends, if I ever publish a book, I would name it Orenda, felt wholesome, you know! (smiles)
Q4) What do you hope the readers take away from this book?
Shalaka : For me, it is a gallery - of local markets and peppermints, adhesives on a dinner plate, embroidery hoops stuck in rusty buses, walls of a boho apartment, and art classes in kaleidoscopic brothels.
There’s love. There’s hope. But more than that, there’s warmth and strength. I hope the readers embrace it well - with open arms and open hearts. I hope they try to transform things around - one wholesome act at a time.
Q5) Will you please briefly comment on your journey as a writer after your debut book’s publication?
Shalaka : Writing a book is not the difficult part, publishing is. More rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I took the self-publishing route (I often all it as my paper pregnancy) as I wanted to go through all the labour pain and understand each and every step. It was an adventurous roller coaster of 16 months - from compiling to marketing the book. You see, self-publishing is in vogue since the pandemic.
Q6) Where do you think the literature in our country is headed in terms of new voices, translations, publishing, literary festivals, awards, et cetera?
Shalaka : A lot of new voices and personas are being heard and celebrated. Newer ideas and platforms are emerging and providing platforms for closeted writers - Kavishala, YourQuote, TTT, etc. Tech enablement has a large role to play in uplifting the self-publishing route too. There’s a warm community feeling I experience whenever I talk about literary fests. Overall, the future seems intriguing and of course, really bright. Cheers!
Q7) What did your creative process behind creating this book entail?
Shalaka : Orenda is based on stories I have written over 8-9 years. There was no defined creative process as such. I have shortlisted and reworked upon stories till I was content. My usual style of writing is to surprise the reader with the end. With that, I always think of the end first and work backwards. You read and let me know what you think!
Q8) And before we conclude this conversation, I would love to know what are your plans for the coming future? What may the readers expect from you next?
Shalaka : Currently working on another collection of flash fiction, have named it Ta.dow. Ta.dow means – expressing the inexplicable synchronicity of human life and the sublime experiences of subjectivity and wonder that the English language cannot adequately describe. Will possibly go through the traditional publishing route for Ta.dow. Fingers crossed!
Q9) What advice would you like to extend to the upcoming generation of writers?
Shalaka : While consistency is the key, don’t force yourself to write. Write when you deeply feel about something, or you have something to say. Also, write for yourself first. The world can wait. Try to widen your perspective and challenge yourself. Try newer formats and keep experimenting. You will find your niche.
Honestly, everyone can write. And everyone should, you know! Because writing is thinking. I think any good writing is the perfect mix of emotional intelligence and creativity.
Thank you all for reading and a big thanks to Shalaka Kulkarni for collaborating in today’s post!
It’s a pleasure!
If any of my readers here , wish to know more about the author or her writings. They can follow the links mentioned below :-
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/shalakulkarni/
Website : http://shalaka.net/
Twitter : https://twitter.com/shalakulkarni
LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/shalakulkarni/