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How to Start Writing: A Glimpse into a Writer’s Mind

Anwesha Mittra has been in the writing profession for over 14 years as a journalist/features writer, and now as an author. She has the experience of working with well-named publications such as The Times of India by leading their online Life & Style section, as well as writing elaborate features for Times Life and the Sunday Times. This was followed by her stint at India Today’s Men’s Health magazine, where she was responsible for writing cover features. 

Her specializations have been in lifestyle and society, with a special fondness for travel. Currently, she is serving as the Content Head for for the past five years, where she writes and curates blogs, and works on research-based articles with a keen eye for SEO.

Her debut book, No Lemon in My Lemon Tart and Other Poy Stories, released last year in London, and then went on to release all over the world. While it is available on Amazon in India, it is possible to buy it off popular bookstores worldwide like Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Booktopia, and Brown Brothers, to name a few. The book is her ode to the eight virtues of life she holds dear and is her way of telling her daughter (Poy, the protagonist in each story) about them. 

Q: What inspired you to write your first book, No Lemon in My Lemon Tart & Other Poy Stories?

A: Well, it was my then newborn — now almost three-year-old child. I was on maternity leave and would spend my days nursing, feeding, and telling my daughter’s stories. Soon, I felt the need to document these stories that I cooked up on-the-go. And the documentation took the form of an anthology of short stories that had my girl, nicknamed Poy, as a protagonist in each, though not always in a human form. I let my imagination run wild as I turned her into a dog, a plant, a bird, and a school-going girl in the stories that each spoke of virtue and how Poy learns to embrace them. It was actually my way of telling my daughter about some of the important virtues of life I consider sacrosanct by way of a story.

My idea of getting them printed in the form of a book by my own means and presenting it to her on her maiden birthday met with a stroke of incredible luck. Olympia Publishers of London rang me up within a couple of weeks of sending them the manuscript, wanting to publish the book. They thought the stories would resonate with children and, especially, the parents of young children all around the world, who too perhaps struggle to teach their little ones about virtues without sounding preachy. But more than the virtues, they loved how nuanced the stories were, allowing young readers to think for themselves and interpret. 

So, No Lemon in My Lemon Tart and Other Poy Stories went to press on that note. By the time the book came out and saw a worldwide release, with greater prominence in the States and England, my little one’s first birthday had come and gone. But I guess some belated gifts are very special. 

Q: How has the response and the overall experience been?

A: For a debutant, the response has been extremely heart-warming. I can say with some sense of pride that my book has been selling across top bookstores across the world, including the landmark ones like Barnes and Noble USA, Waterstones UK, Booktopia Australia, Little Brown & Brothers UK, Foyles UK, and Standaard Boekhandel in The Netherlands, among others. 

No Lemon has had a rather extensive release across Europe, from Italy, France, Estonia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Norway, Sweden to New Zealand, Australia, and other places in the South Pacific. In India, and elsewhere too, you can buy it off Amazon. 

The overall experience has been very rewarding. Especially when I get to know from my publishers about schools so far away from our shores, stocking my book in their libraries, and their library teachers reading out to little children in their library class. One such incident took place in an elementary school in Virginia Beach, USA, where the kids were approaching their exams and had a few preparatory classes, but they requested their library teacher to extend her class because they didn’t want her to stop reading from my book. 

Q: When you hold workshops on writing, what is the philosophy that you want to impart in budding writers?

A: Everything in life takes discipline, and writing is no exception. 

There is a terrible myth surrounding fiction writing — that you need an ideal setting, wonderful views outside your window, great inspiration, etc., but all of that is pure rubbish. If you aspire to be a writer, you need to write in earnest. You need to write like the way you keep tabs on your phone or a movie on Netflix. Do not postpone writing daily for anything in the world, not even your job. If necessary, take the weekends off to just write.

You need to write like the way you keep tabs on your phone or a movie on Netflix.

In my sessions, I like to tell budding writers to believe in their story, not fear any ridicule, and simply write. Be compulsive, be selfish, be your own worst critic, and keep improvising. If you have an idea, it can be built upon. I can only provide you with the essential tools so that you do not veer off-course. 

Q: Are there any future projects that you are undertaking? Do you have a word of advice for budding writers on how to make the creative juices flow in this trying time?

A: I am writing my next book, a young adult fiction, but I am not allowed to reveal anything about it yet.  

Regarding budding writers — there cannot be a better time to focus on some serious writing and get your work done. The upside of this lockdown phase is that you are no longer traveling, whether to work or to meet people, and since the majority of one’s time is spent indoors, why not write. Choose a time of the day and get on the job. 

A word of caution: do not get carried away by adjectives and adverbs, and focus on writing honest, authentic, real, descriptive fiction. Don’t forget that you are writing because you want to tell a story and you already have that hidden creativity inside you that will enable the flow of words — you just have to be sincere and methodical about it. 

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