This has been, despite all my early planning, a year of not as much published writing as I would have liked (or even as much as in 2018.) I could breezily justify this lack of productivity by saying I was focusing on a new relationship for most of the year or I was wading through Indian real estate hell for half the year or I was reading other work for my translation book coming out in 2020 or I was editing my own short story collection also coming out in 2020.
The truth is that, after July, I definitely still wrote plenty — social media post series like my #QOTD and #readmorewomen project on Instagram, a brief Twitter series on #UrduPoetry, and a few other such fun things. I also wrote long daily e-letters throughout the summer to my partner, many of which included my own Hindi-Urdu couplets and verses in response to some conversation or other of ours. And a LOT of personal journaling.
I mention all of the above for two reasons. First, as writers, we all go through phases when our writerly preoccupations will vary depending on what’s happening in our personal lives. Second, it’s not a bad thing to stretch our writing muscles by trying our new genres or forms of writing.
With that said, I had 11 pieces published during the year. Six of these were my monthly short stories column at PopMatters. The rest were book reviews at Scroll.in and PopMatters. You can find them all here.
While I did not do as many book reviews as I’d wanted, I’m glad to point out that I did focus more on women writers, writers of color, and books that were not just from the Big Five.
And, as always, I’m so grateful for the editors I got to work with because they kept me honest and helped make my writing clearer and better.
Other 2019 Writing and Translation Work
While not writing as many reviews as I would have liked of all the books I’d read this year, I did start an essay that I’m tentatively calling ‘A Reviewer’s Manifesto’, which is a way for me to clarify for myself what, how, and why I review books.
I wrote a couple of new short stories for my upcoming collection in 2020 with 7.13 Books: Each of Us Killers.
With my translation of the selected short stories of the Gujarati writer, Dhumketu, I worked on the next round of edits.
At the Jaipur Literary Festival in January, I was on a couple of panels and wrote about them here.
ShethePeople, a large Indian platform showcasing the accomplishments of Indian and Indian-descent women across all fields interviewed me about my reading habits.
2020 Writing and Translation Priorities
As mentioned above, I have two books launching in 2020, which is a bit daunting. As their launch times near, I’ll share more about all the related activities that accompany a book’s release these days.
In 2019, I outlined and began my novel. This will be the big book-length project for 2020. And, as I’m superstitious about talking about works-in-progress, I won’t say more than this: it’s a noir-ish thriller with magical realism and set across India and the US.
Also, I started several new essays in 2019, which I will finish in 2020. Most of them are of the bibliomemoir style because they will, eventually, come together as an essay collection. One of these was published at The Millions in 2018: ‘But Let Us Cultivate Our Garden’.
For 2020, I will also get back to my short story column at PopMatters. These explore five short stories united by a particular theme — all free to read at online literary magazines.
And, of course, I will get back to a regular monthly cadence with my book review work.
As for translation, I’ve been looking across Gujarati literature for my next project. Stay tuned because, again, I can’t talk about it while it’s in the early stages.
A Quick Word About Literary Citizenship Work
So far, I’ve had to abort two literary initiatives I’d started with high hopes. The first was in 2018, when I tried to start a Writers and Translators Association in India (WTAI). The second was earlier this year for a literary podcast.
With a big move back to the US in 2020, I don’t think I can take on any new literary initiative as much as I want to. But the above two are, I hope, simply on the back burner for now so that I can get back to them in 2021.
But literary citizenship continues to matter hugely to me. And whether we, as writers, are doing it through our writing alone or whether we’re actually mobilizing resources and support for other writers, it’s a much-needed thing in a world where writing and reading continue to be under existential threat. I don’t say this lightly.
May all you readers and writers have a fruitful 2020 ahead. Please feel free to share your own 2020 writing priorities in the comments if you like.