Writing for Yourself
February 27, 2019
This was featured author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s message to writers at the 23rd Annual Writers Conference in Honor of Elmer Kelton, Angelo State’s yearly two-day conference featuring an array of authors and poets who read from their various works.
Born in India, Divakaruni immigrated to the United States to pursue her graduate studies, and is now an award-winning and best-selling author, poet, activist and teacher of creative writing at the University of Houston. Immigrating to the U.S. is what inspired her to write.
“I felt a great need to write about India before I forgot it,” Divakaruni explained, “and to also capture my early impressions of America. Those were important for me. I just starting writing it for myself. I would write in a notebook, and I didn’t share it with anyone for several years.”
“I joined a writing group,” she continued. “It actually made me want to share with other people and be part of the group. It gave me confidence.”
Beginning her career as a poet because, as she noted, poetry seemed less scary because it could be short, Divakaruni is largely known now for her fiction works. They include “The Mistress of Spices,” “The Palace of Illusions” and “Arranged Marriage,” a collection of short stories.
“Right now I’m writing fiction completely because I just love it,” she said. “I’m just in love with the genre. There’s still so much to learn. I’m in love with telling big stories, which I can’t do in poetry.”
Divakaruni gave two public lectures during the Writers Conference. The first was a question-and-answer session facilitated by English faculty member Dr. Allison Dushane. Divakaruni discussed her writing style and technique, as well as offered encouragement, as she took questions from both Dushane and students from ASU and local and area high schools.
“I love students,” Divakaruni said. “I love students of writing most of all, because I can relate. It’s very nice to see young or beginning writers who are just getting their confidence – they have so many questions. I’ve been through all of that, so I can relate to them and hopefully tell them things that are helpful.”
She also encouraged students to not be afraid to find their passion, and stick with it.
“If you love literature and poetry, I think you should study it because that is where your passion it,” Davakaruni said. “I’ve always been so thankful that I’ve done it. Now there are many wonderful writing-related jobs that people can do while they’re pursuing their passion of their own writing and literature. I think things are getting better.”
In her second lecture, Divakaruni shared excerpts from two of her books, “One Amazing Thing” and “Before We Visit the Goddess.” In addition to discussing her inspiration for both books, she also shared helpful tips to writers across the spectrum, and encouraged people to continue writing and attend conferences.
“At my first conference, I was still so new at it,” Divakaruni said. “I had maybe published two or three poems, and I had very little confidence in myself and was just trying to figure it out. When I heard other writers talking about their experience and honestly sharing their difficulties, it was wonderful. It was so empowering. I felt like I was part of a larger community.”
“Writing is not easy,” she continued. “It’s tough. Sometimes, there’s not immediate gratification. It takes a while, so it’s important to go where you feel nourished. I think a conference like this is very nourishing, and it makes you feel like you aren’t so alone. People don’t understand – non-writers don’t understand. So it’s very important for writers to be around other writers for the community.”