Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Writer Uma Gowrishankar

Writer Uma Gowrishankar
Uma Gowrishankar lives in Chennai, South India. She writes, paints, practices yoga and maintains a terrace garden in the middle of a noisy and populated city. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Qaartsiluni, Buddhist Poetry Review, Whale Sound, Catapult Magazine, Curio Poetry, Words Dance and Carcinogenic Poetry. Her short fiction has been published in Pure Slush and Postcard Shorts. Presently she is writing a novel in collaboration with a writer friend. She blogs here.

Laura Davis: Where do you write? Paint us a word picture. Put us there. And that other place you like. Or just send a real picture.

Uma Gowrishankar: I write at my table in my room. It is an old teak table that I brought from my parents’ home. The table is at the window that overlooks my terrace garden which teems with butterflies, bees and dragonflies. I live in an intensely populated locality, but my apartment and my room is tucked away from the din and noise, and this garden gives me a piece of quietness to work.

LD: How often do you write and for how long? What time of day? 

UG: I have a 9 to 5 job as education consultant. Fortunately I can quickly slip into my writing, so I manage snatches of writing even through my working day. I write in the evenings between cooking for family and yoga. Basically I am a night person, I stay up late and write. During the weekends I write for full days, getting myself only a few hours of sleep.

LD: What is your favorite exercise that gets the words flowing?

a painting of her writing space by Uma Gowrishankar
UG: If I do not read poetry, I cannot write. I immerse myself in reading poems; I carry a pocket-sized book with names of contemporary poets, which I pick from recommendations made by friends who are fine poets themselves. Reading poetry, for me, is like the breathing exercise before starting the yoga asana; it is the space I create, vibrating with certain energy. Sometimes an image from a poem I have read becomes the germ of my writing, like a cotton seed it flutters revealing various possibilities, capturing on its wings different slants of sunlight. Words, metaphors, turn of phrases and sentences bear such promises; they hold the torch in whose light and inspiration I develop a thought or idea.

LD: What color is your writing process? Do explain. 

UG: I am glad you asked me this question. Being an artist I navigate my life through color codes. My writing process on most days is green color - the green you find under water, turbid at the bottom and luminous at the surface. On certain days it could be warm ochre, the ochre of a mango fruit in the market in Chennai.

LD: How do you motivate yourself to write? Chocolates? Self-flagellation? Coffee on an IV drip?

UG: Oh, none of these! Reading motivates me the best, it could be poetry, prose or novel. Words strung exquisitely make me restless to put aside whatever I am reading, to get to the computer to write. My work table has books splayed open on their spine beside my computer where I write. Yes, I can read and write at the same time!

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