Author Interview- Praniti Gulyani

1) Can you tell us a little about your book?
My book, 'The Width of A Word,' attempts to live up to its title. It truly measures the width of every word that stems from the heart and soul. In addition to that, this book, by default, is a collection of personal essays. There is a personal touch imbibed into every little word. . . the "width" of a word has been measured and elucidated upon to the best of my abilities!

2) Is there a specific event that inspired this story, or was this an out-of-the-blue idea?
I attended a mentorship session by Scholastic Quill Club Writers in November last year. One of our mentors shared a beautiful perspective about how a writer must be vulnerable. This perspective stayed with me till I was appointed as a staff writer for Chasing Shadows, an international literary magazine. Over there, I saw a new category for writing called 'personal essays,' and oh, I was intrigued! I read a few samples and got down to writing my essays, which resulted in this. I think I owe it entirely to Chasing Shadows and Scholastic Quill Club Writers; as they say, good advice + good experience = great things!

3) What got you writing in the first place?
I have always said this - and I will continue to say this - there is one person who got me writing, and that person is my Grade five English Teacher, Ms. Kavita Sarin. I would never have pursued writing with this sense of seriousness if not for her encouragement, and I owe every word that I have written and continue to write to her. In Grade Five, Kavita ma'am gave me the tightest of hugs and told me that when I commit pen to paper, I create something called poetry and prose. Kavita, the ma'am, is that driving force behind 'The Width of A Word' and will continue to be the energy behind every book I hope to write in the future! As far as my interest in composing socially centric pieces goes, I owe it to my Sociology teacher, Aastha ma'am, and my memorable Sociology classes at school. Sociology, as a discipline, inspires me to combine Society with Literature, which can be viewed in my book as well. However, as a whole, I owe my writing to my mother - she spent her most precious years (she could have invested those years in her career) in training me, giving me the best of books and resources, and formulating that base upon which my writing lies today. Her hard work and time dedicated towards me have surely borne fruit (even though she may not be wholly satisfied with my career choice). I think I have been lucky to have inspiration in the form of living persons around me!

4) What was your impression of your first draft when you read it?
I was astounded by how courageous it looked. I know this may seem odd, but the 'courage' pulsating in my essays made me feel very slightly proud of what I had written. My articles aim to encompass every segment of society, from the prostitutes in the brothels to the domestic violence victim hiding her bruises. Good writing and courage go hand in hand, and even though I was not sure about the former - the latter was indeed in place. Moreover, the child in me was elated to see that I had written 'so many essays, to fill a whole book!'. This, in itself, is a feeling of alcoholic thrill and planted several goosebumps on my skin, all at once!

5) Which part of your story connects the most with you? Why?
I cannot point out a specific essay in the anthology which appeals to me the most. However, the most favorite part about the book is the foreword! The foreword was written by a teacher I have looked up to with eyes of awe and respect since Grade 9, Sudeepta Ma'am. Finally, in Grade 12, I mustered up the courage to approach her, and when she agreed, my happiness knew no bounds! The foreword describes my journey in my school and is probably one of the most beautiful memories of my school life - a perfect culmination of my school years and an epitome of a new bond forged and cherished!

6) What makes your book the one to read?
I don't think I am the best person to decide that! However, I have attempted to be the 'voice for the voiceless, and I hope that my readers will be able to find a bit of themselves tucked within the heart of these compositions. The choice, of course, lies in the hands of the reader, but I hope the book is enjoyed and the vulnerability is cherished.

7) What was the best advice you got while writing?
I used to be highly one-dimensional regarding my writing and believed that I could only compose good poetry. However, my maternal uncle, Mr. Anuj Khanna, advised me to write just about everything. He told me that to be a "writer" in the true sense of the word; I must try essays, novels, songs, and even indulge in comedy-writing, a genre I am the most uncomfortable with; however, I hope to try this too, one day. His advice enabled me to shatter my self-created barriers and made me a diverse and accepting person. Thanks to this advice, I can proudly say that - even though I may not excel at all forms of creative writing and may have a certain unique flair for poetry, I have tried every form of writing, ranging from songs to comedy, and hope to attempt horror writing and nature writing when I have more time on my hands, sometime soon!

8) Who's your all-time favorite author? Which book of his/hers made you fall in love with them?
Out of all the authors, I have read, Nadia Hashmi and Adeline Yen Mah are my absolute favorites! Their books are synonymous with the person I am; they describe a person's quest for identity and love, which is, after all, the very point of human existence. The language of narration used is extremely simple and somber, yet the narrative is abreast with the toughest and strongest emotions. I have also learned an essential nuance of writing from these creative composers - to maintain an apt balance between simple language and deep feeling and how these two can surely go hand in hand. In the case of Adeline Yen Mah, her book entitled 'Chinese Cinderella' made me fall in love with her. The vivid descriptions, the heart-wrenching poignancy, and the effective use of dialogue make this book a masterpiece. I believe that while good books tell a story, favorite books tell your story. Indeed, this describes the relationship I share with the mentioned book.

9) What is your evergreen tip to the writers out there?
I don't think I am qualified enough to give "tips" to writers out there. All I'd like to say is that the "fire" that burns within you that fills your fingertips with the magnetic energy of creation is highly precious. Keep it safe; clasp your hands around it as tightly as you can. Also, no matter how absurd this may sound, be human and be vulnerable! Let the sharp claws of agony tear through your being when you feel pain and let yourself bleed. When you feel joy, let the balloons of happiness swell up within you and overwhelm you. As writers, we deal with emotions every day, and what better than writing from the first-hand experience! To put it poetically, 'open the doors of your heart, throw open the windows of your soul' and let the magic happen!

10) Do you have another plot brewing?
Yes, I do! I wish to compose a novel about the nuances of human existence and the vulnerabilities that we, as humans, are abreast with. I am considering a plot set in the future, where instead of humans or any concrete forms of life, only 'balls of energy exist, and the humanity that pursues so many things is folded into a History Textbook. I also want to explore the life of Mirabai and write her story in the form of letters between her and Lord Krishna. I want to write about history, geography, attempt to encompass the Liberal Arts with literature. There is so, so, so much I want to do - but I think I will focus on my studies as of now and let these ideas come together to form a future that I can anticipate!

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