Author Interview - Susan Abraham

V have been waiting with baited breath for the launch of the new poetry collection 'Call the ships of Dar-es-Salaam' by Susan Abraham. Well the wait is over and the book is out there in the bookshops for readers to grab a copy for themselves. The title of the book itself raises enough curiosity to want to know a bit more about the author. We were told it was quite hard to get hold of Susan but hey who said V didn't like a bit of a challenge! So we worked hard and played hard and recently, we got a chance to chat to the beautiful reclusive author and here's the tasty tit-bits for all the readers.
VAANI: Your poetry collection has launched recently, how are you feeling right
Susan Abraham: It's actually a work of modern lyrical writing, featuring both poetry and prose. An inate joy rests within me.  I was far more restless before I was published. I'm  stunned at the idea of people buying my book from different regions and that online booksellers went to town with the title display.

VAANI: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Susan Abraham: I wanted to be a writer from when I was in school and was heartily encouraged  by three  First Form teachers in the Convent, Klang in Malaysia, who read my compositions out in class. They were Mrs. Suppiah, Mrs. Khoo and Miss Harriet Possible. All vouched for a talent I didn't think I had.

VAANI: How long does it take you to write a whole poetry collection?
Susan Abraham: Each piece of work has separate distinctions of claiming a varied timespan, destination and exclusive memories, from personal observations. I merely gathered them together and categorized the manuscript appropriately, for the publisher, Mr. Edward Smith.

VAANI: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Susan Abraham:
I could spend a good 2 hours perfecting a simple rhyme or an hour, scribbling a story. My free-spirited lifestyle accords for an erratic but enthralling writing routine.

VAANI: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Susan Abraham:
An assortment of colourful pencils, I lug with me as a symbol of  art and merriment. The idea serves as a nostalgic romantic element. And I was rather surprised to read while already engulfed in the habit, that one of my favourite classic novelists, the late Dame Iris Murdoch, had featured a principal character, John Robert Rozanov, in her famous comic novel, The Philosopher's Pupil, that was published to splendid acclaim in London in 1983 where the fictitious essayist had often mulled with thoughtful contemplation at a row of vibrant pencils, whenever he worked. I never quite got over that.

VAANI: When did you write your first poem and how old were you?
Susan Abraham: I wrote my first poem at 14, while still upset when my best friend, Jennifer, started following a popular clique in school. My confidences were betrayed and for added injury, my voice was mimicked during a school excursion by the said Jennifer who followed in a different bus.  The result  was a clumsy narration but sympathetic classmates snatched my journal and handed it to our ethics teacher, Miss Rajan who marvelling at the dramatics laid out before her, longed for some theatrics. She read it out in class. She praised my skills but what squabbles ensured afterwards...a group of 14 year old loyalists and Jennifer, now branded a bit of a traitor. It was my first smug moment of reckoning.

VAANI: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Susan Abraham: I adore world literature and world cinema. I have a good collection of books and films. When I'm not travelling, I love the outdoors. Coffee in a cafe with character, that sort of thing.

VAANI: What does your family think of your writing?
Susan Abraham: My partner, close friends, my father and family on my father's side in Kerala,  would be full of oohs and aahs.  My parents are separated. My father sees my Art as a reflection of all the good things, he tried to teach me in life.  My mother and my brothers  are traditionalists and conservative Christians. They shy away from the thought that I would be so liberal with words. My mother has had her kinder moments but is a terribly private woman and from her own issues, used to stay wary of what I wrote.

VAANI: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Susan Abraham: That I was truly in my element, basking in a great ease of spirit at doing what I loved. I didn't realise that preparing my manuscript for publication to meet a tight deadline, could trigger such enthusiasm.

VAANI: How many books have you written?
Susan Abraham: Call the Ships of Dar-es-Salaam is an accidental first book. It was chosen in an autumn publishing round by YourWriteOn in England. I also had another work of fiction selected.  The publisher has since waived the deadline and allowed me to take my time with the novel. I'll be mountaineering in January sometime. My aim is to reach Uhuru Peak on the Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and collect my certificate. I have made it up the summit twice already and at the last count was just two hours away from the Peak.  I had to pull back because of a sudden ankle injury. I am working on my memoirs for this climb. I would like the memoirs to serve as unusual travel literature.

VAANI: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Susan Abraham: I think eloquence and articulation follows when a writer falls in love with the language and is allowed to become intimate with the fundamentals of a language's technical idiosyncrasies and to waltz a room  with it. There is vast depth to a vocabulary that befits the English Language for instance. I would say to read very good books not a few but several and to nourish one's subconscious, with excellent, challenging wordplay.  This over a subsequent period of time and not on a whim.
VAANI: What do you think makes a good poetry?
Susan Abraham:
I've never really thought about this in a lingering sense. I've always just been able to write poetry naturally, when a moment in time warrants it.   I would personally view good poetry as playacting mirrors or prisms, exhibited for the reader's soul, in a  bold manner that reflects different faces to a theme, a subject or an object being written about. That one, would view a leaf or a sparrow perhaps, as represented by an intriguing imagery that creates an abyss for introspection. An abyss that opens up different worlds for the reader of a poem and forms a meditation by default.

VAANI: How would you describe ''Call the ships of Dar E Salaam' to someone who has not read any of your previous poetry?
Susan Abraham: I'd describe Call the Ships of Dar-es-Salaam, as a work of modern - and not classical - lyrical writing  of various contemporary prose and poetry on Malaysia, Tanzania and Ireland. I would describe my work as pastoral where landscapes are concerned and sobering but uplifiting, as regards romantic odes and relationships. And that the entire collection would be fringed by a high-spirited childlike vigour, in parts.

VAANI: You are known to write all kinds of things. Does poetry come easy to you? What other things do you write? Do you have a specific writing style?
Susan Abraham:
Poetry comes naturally to me but at sporadic moments of my life, almost like a season that would come and go. Prose is my great enduring passion. It just happens that sometimes, even my serious prose has a habit of turning lyrical. I recently made a comeback to creative writing after travelling for some years. Before that, I worked as a professional magazine journalist for a Singapore fashion magazine and once before, even as a copywriter for an international advertising agency in Kuala Lumpur. In the past, I've had short stories plus children's and adult radio plays  aired over Radio Malaysia. I could write various styles but employing different forms of serious fiction, as I love the intricacies of language.

VAANI: How did you come up with the title?
Susan Abraham: The title stays beholden to me as a silent exhilaration that lures me back to one of my favourites cities; the bustling ancient port of Dar-es-Salaam... famous in Tanzania but still unclaimed by tourism.

VAANI: Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Susan Abraham: I would love for readers to see the silver lining to every dark cloud in their own lives, to observe how optimism and a spirit of thanksgiving can lead to wonderful things. And that  when they read my book, to shed parochalism for the idea of embracing exuberant foreign lands, if only they would be courageous enough to seek them.

VAANI: Your poetry has a kind of ache in them even when they are sensual and erotic, has that got something to do with your own life experiences?
Susan Abraham: Perhaps. I'm not too sure here. I've always been a bold writer even at 13 and prodded the imagination to seek emotions outside the self.

VAANI: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Susan Abraham: Anjali Joseph who recently published her novel, Saraswati Park. Such an elegant down-to-earth style. No pretentious superficiality. No hint of trying to impress the West. Also, Leela Soma who published her novel Twice Born after a life in teaching and produced a convincing plot that rested on the complications of an Indian immigrant family in Glasgow. And Wena Poon who is published by Salt in London.

VAANI:  What was the book that most influenced your life  and why?
Susan Abraham: Quite a few books influenced my life including Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and the biographies of Beatrix Potter that held lavish descriptions of the Lake District. One prominent example  would be Iris Murdoch's darkly comic novel, The Black Prince.  I was at a crossroads in my mid-twenties where I felt extremely unsettled in Malaysia where I was born and raised. I wanted to broaden my horizons and felt a great spiritual call to the West, even if I had to make my way alone. My writing was already universal in approach - I was never bound by ethnicity or personal cultural communities at the first instance - and I felt that a Western environment would give me the freedom to express my thoughts.  That I would be better accepted and that my audience would be clearly defined.  I wasn't sure if this was the right thing to do but on reading Murdoch who would paint such realistic, hilarious scenes with her characters that highlighted intellectual circles of misfits comprising writers and poets, I just knew that I wanted to be in England in that similar 'emotional' space. The Black Prince was a novel that showed me who I was. I never let go that vision.

VAANI:  What are your current projects after 'Call the ships of Dar E Salaam'?
Susan Abraham: I'm tying up the loose ends for my novel for the publisher who's waiting for it and also working on my Kilimanjaro memoirs, which I want to do in addition to past material; in real time while in Africa in January and February.

VAANI: Name one entity that you feel supported you i.e. family members/friends.
Susan Abraham: My best friend, Lidia in Melbourne.

VAANI: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Susan Abraham: My novel is made up of eccentric characters based on personalities I've met in real life, on a famous street in Tanzania. So it would be considered East African literature. My Kilimanjaro memoirs will be different as I plan to sketch out an insider's view of personal episodes with mountain guides, safari guides, mountain rangers and the odd dangerous  scammer that can crop up from nowhere. There are many haphazards. I've witnessed fights and arguments over tipping and the use of porters and cooks. I know the bars where freelance guides hang out with beers or a smoke, hoping to get clients. I am one of the very few foreigners especially that I'm a woman, who goes up the mountain alone or takes part in wildlife game drives, with an all-man crew of local guides who are friends. Most people come in the context of tourist groups...the tour schedule is laid out, everything is done.  They keep to themselves, get on with their paid holidays and leave.  But I know these guides and rangers on a personal level. I'm aware of their complexities on the Kilimanjaro and I've been to their homes, met their wives and children etc. I'm aware of the hardships of the Kilimanjaro's original inhabitants, the Chagga tribe.

VAANI:  Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Susan Abraham
: Not at the moment.

VAANI: Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about  your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details that would  enliven your page.
Susan Abraham
: a)  It's been years since I wore anything close to a skirt or dress. And yet, I was extremely sophisticated while working as a fashion journalist. I was very timid as a little girl  but became extremely confident in later years. I turned sporty and was gregarious in the outdoors. I became a tomboy.

b) I hate filling in forms so I have a habit of collecting landing cards of my favourite countries and keeping them away till I need them. Recently,  I filled in mine for Dar-es-Salaam at the Emirates Lounge in Dubai airport, while in transit for my Tanzanian route. I had a coffee and sandwich and wrote out the form in my neatest handwriting.  The buxomy matronly immigration officer behind the chaotic counter was most impressed and showed my card to her surprised colleagues. 'Very clever girl," she said approvingly. This is exactly how a landing card should be filled. I can read your writing." She gazed at me with awe. She thought that I too, had huddled at the long crowded table with other jostling passengers. I held on to my secret.

c) Once my mountain guide told me I had to lose a little more weight, so as not to pick up any more ankle injuries. I was actually considered pretty fit. Well, it was midnight on the Kilimanjaro...there was a thunderstorm and the snow was falling heavily and there I stood in anger, not caring about boulders or ridges, but balancing most skillfully at a jagged precarious height. "You calling me fat?" I challenged. I had no fear of heights or the risky weather at all, but was more annoyed from my vanity. I am marvellous on mountains but can be accident-prone in everyday life.

What else do you want your readers to know? Consider here your likes and
 dislikes, your interests and hobbies, your favourite ways to unwind ‹
whatever comes to mind.
Susan Abraham: 
I have no fear about travelling to obscure regions alone. I am currently in love with translated Arabic literature. When I read something from the Arab world, I feel renewed in a splendoured way. In 2011, I plan to go exploring by myself in the Middle-East, to places with romantic names. I love flamingoes. I would fly to Tanzania sometimes, just to regale in a sea of pink flamingoes. I now love authentic cultures with a passion especially Iranian, African and the Middle-East. But I must always come back to find myself in the West. I feel most safe in the West. My plan is to live by the sea and to wake up to the waves every morning.  I love New Age music. My childhood dreams are easily renewed when I hear lively music like Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass or Dave Brubeck's Take Five. I have my favourite rituals in airports especially pertaining to my favourite cafes and bookshops, even at departures. I'm always sad when an old airport is abandoned eg. Dubai and Abu Dhabi and new terminals take their place. I always feel that an airport loses its soul after renovation.

I dislike self-righteousness and the several quotes, that many Facebook people especially, tend to display with the subtle intention of preaching to others. I dislike the idea that someone should tell another how to live. Then why are these peoples' lives so safe and conventional? I actually go out and do things but I don't keep reminding people of what they should be saying, thinking or doing.  I also dislike exaggeration and the competitive spirit, I face with the commercial tourist on an annual budget, when I say I travel. How could they even compare my life to theirs? Yet they try. I also dislike false modesty and any kind of one-sided situation in a public domain where there is no mutual respect, especially when the only connection is virtual.

My favourite colours are indigo and cobalt blue.
My favourite flavours are vanilla and coconut.
My favourite bird is the flamingo.
My favourite flower is the rose.
V thanks Susan for her time and her kindness. It has been great talking to her and V promises, V will come back to the readers with a Book Review in a zippy. So just watch out for this space!

An interview by Smita Singh for VAANI.


Reena's Bollywood Dream by Jewel Kats - A book review

Reena's Bollywood Dream by Jewel Kats is a thought provoking book. The story is made stronger by the the simplicity of the words used to describe horrendous childhood experience of abuse.

Reena the main character tells her own story and that makes it easier for children to identify and understand the significance of the issue. Jewel has perfectly managed to bring out the strong emotions of the child character even in the restrictive space of a picture book. Her efforts to raise awareness among young people is commendable and there's no better medium then a picture book.

On the other hand Richa Kinra amazes the readers with her beautiful illustrations through out the book that enhances the story written by Jewel. The visual aid provided in the book by the talented Richa are immensely enjoyable and even though the theme is serious the pictures act as the positive harness for the story.

It would have been great if there was a little bit more on the feelings and emotions of a child after the incident.

Both Jewel and Richa have done a fantastic job of bringing up this tabooed issue and talking about it in a sensitive way as well as giving advice on how to deal with it. A must read for all young people and also adults as they need to know what a child could go through and also that they should trust their child more.

Smita Singh


The story of love - Musings

It comes in different ways. 
I always wonder what love is. 
I hear people saying they saw a person and in the very first look they fell in love. 
But I always think why it has not happened to me like that. 
Thanks to relishinglife.comand geishaboy500 for the above pic.
That made me think, is love just a feeling? 
No, in my world love is that which makes you happy in your day to day life. 
Love is peace . 
It makes you calm and creates desire in you. 
It comes like a rainbow and fills colour in our life.
With love you make your own rainbow. 
Love is something which is just not in people but you can see it in animals as well. 
Love is when you care for someone or you miss someone when they are not around  and you feel lonely. Or I think love is never enough to make a complete rainbow.
This is something which you always want and need more. 

by Jyotsna Singh


Christmas SALE now on!!!

Please support the new voices of Asian Women writers. Give a gift of poems, short stories and essays to your loved ones this Christmas. Buy a copy from J Publishing Company directly at a highly discounted rate.

Click Here to go to their website but do not forget to come back.


The Obscure Logic of the Heart by Priya Basil - A Book Review

The Obscure Logic of the Heart
I read Priya Basil's Ishq and Mushq and knew that she was a good writer who could create astounding scenes that projected themselves in front of our eyes. It was then logical for me to go for her next novel The Obscure Logic of the Heart. The front cover was quiet intriguing with a half of a face of a pretty woman and a shadow of man in the background. The readers could guess that this book was going to be a love story.

The two main characters are very well sketched and the readers start feeling with them from the very begining. The lifes and the loves of the heroine Lina and the hero Anil of the story are interwined cleverly with the more complex issues of illegal arm trade, Islam religion and interreligion marriages. The story is set in countries like London UK, New York USA, Kenya etc. On these varied platforms the play of emotions perform their best.

Priya has used letters written by a woman to a man to tell the story, a very unexpected technique for a love story I must say. As the readers read the letters, they are subtly made aware of the true nature of the main characters. They get glimpses of the strength behind the apparent weeknesses of the characters.
The scenes, especially the one where Lina and Anil are out with there friends and they meeet a rude gang and their confrontation reminds one of a scene from a Bollywood movie. Priya has created a world away from the usual world where the readers loose themselves in the heart warming story of these lovers.

As is expected in a love story there are oppositions but these are not always via a person, here in this story the strongest villian lies inside the hearts of the characters. The push and pull of the heart strings within each characters creates an intense pool of emotions and the readers are left speechless.

A must read for all as it touches the heart, the mind and in some beautiful instances the soul of a reader.

Smita Singh


Coming up...the Emirateslitfest

V are delighted to announce that the dates for the Emirates Literature Festival have been announced and the list of the authors taking part is now in place. The dates are 8th to 12th March 2011.

Please expect last minute changes as is the norm of the huge events like this.
For more information please visit here.

Its been very successful in the last two years of its existence.
The Main Programme is the heart of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature: a series of talks, interviews and debates featuring authors from all over the world. The 2011 Programme is bigger than ever, with more than 80 events planned for five days of Festival activity.
Main Programme tickets will be on sale from January 10th 2011.

V look forward to the array of authors and talking about them here at VAANI.

Watch Huma Price Talk show

Huma Price talks about Work Permit and the UK laws based on it in her talk show called 'Adalat'
on Venus TV, Sky channel 805 at 21:00 pm tonight.

Please visit her here to know more or to contact her.


Zaiba Malik in conversation

Zaiba Malik is an award-winning investigative journalist who has worked on some of the BBC and Channel 4's most acclaimed radio and TV documentaries. She was recently named as one of the twenty most influential black and Asian women in the UK. “We are a Muslim, Please” is a funny and poignant memoir of her early years growing up in Bradford in the 70’s and 80’s.

Listen to her read from her book and get involved by taking part in the Question and Answer session. To know more about her please visit her HERE at her website.

Admission: £2.50 (Complimentary tickets available for VAANI members)
Time: 7.15pm - 9pm
Venue: Central Library, Ilford
Enquiries: 020 8708 2737 or 020 8708 2537


Launch of the first Annual Anthology

Congratulations to all the contributors of the Anthology, VAANI members, and all Asian women Authors on the launch of the first Annual Anthology.

VAANI has pleasure announcing the successful launch of SAME DIFFERENCE.
We had the honour of having esteemed guests like Deputy Mayoress of Redbridge Councillor Mrs Ruth Clark, Sweta Srivastava Vikram, Hema Macherla, Bhavit Mehta and many other prominent figures of the industry taking part in the event.

'Same Difference is our first important step towards establishing VAANI in the forefront and we are immensely proud of ourselves for achieving this in such a short period of time.' Said the Chairperson of VAANI Smita Singh.

'Congratulations to Smita, VAANI and all its members for having achieved this fantastic feat. The cover of the book looks very interesting and I’m sure to find it an interesting read. Organisations like this not only help increase the awareness among the Asian Women but also helps them to integrate better in the society as more of us know their opinions and their way of life.
My best wishes are with you and hope you keep on progressing with the speed that you have reached here at this stage. And one day we might see you among the best of the industry.' Said the Deputy Mayoress Councillor Mrs Ruth Clark.

'VAANI is creating opportunities for those who need it the most. Its giving voice to the mute yet very large section of the society, the Asian women. VAANI has a long way to go so keep heading forward and working as hard as you are doing now.' opined Bhavesh Mehta Director of DSC South Asian Literature Festival.

'I was delighted to be asked to speak at the launch of Vaani’s first anthology, Same Difference, a passionate collection from new and established authors, with a rainbow of themes from the intimate to the patriotic. Vaani means the voice, and what this collection promises to do is give voice to Asian women, as individuals representing their communities, and as a literary force within the UK and abroad.' Said Roopa Farooki.

'VAANI is the most active and pro-progress group in Redbridge.' said Nick Dobson Head of Ilford Central Library.

'VAANI's Anthology 'Same Difference' is a true reflection of an intelligent Asian Woman.'

'The cover of 'Same Difference' is very evocative and unique.'

'The variety of styles of writing is something to look forward to in this Anthology.'
These were some of the comments overheard during the function.

The event started with the melodious voice of Rita Morar invoking the good spirits and angels to bless us all.

After the chief guests speeches, Art and delicious Asian food that included Thai chicken green curry served with boiled rice, Japanese delicately rolled shushi, Zarda(sweet rice) from Pakistan, punjabi chhole on pilaf rice from India etc, was served to the guests.

Artists who took active part in the Art Exhibition with their wonderful paintings, and eye catching crafts, embroidery and knitwear, were Ruchi Kulshestra, Amber Malik, Dipeeka Srivastava, Jyotsna Singh, Day services for Asian Women, Kay Bhogal, and Rupam Srivastava.

The hall was jam packed with interested audience. VAANI would like to thank all those who attended the event and made it such a grand success. The book SAME DIFFERENCE flew off the shelves in no time!
CLICK HERE for the photos!!!

So thanks to all the authors, artists and audience, VAANI appreciates your enthusiasm, faith and support. Please keep it coming and V promise you to never let you down.

Lots of LOVE to all
For more information please contact
Smita Singh
at smita@vaani.org


VAANI Celebrates October 2010

For the first time Asian Women all over the World have come together to show the mirror to the Asian Communities settled away from the country of their origin. They talk about 'Conflicts within Asian Communities' a truth sweeped under the carpet.

16th October 2010 is the launch of SAME DIFFERENCE

Have a look at all that's in store tomorrow's event. Start time:18:30 pm to 21:00 pm. Venue: Glouscester Room, Ilford Central Library, Clements Road, Ilford. Its five minutes walk from Ilford Station towards Cineworld.


VAANI celebrating DSC South Asian Literature Festival 2010

At VAANI we are celebrating Britain's first major Festival that is focused on South Asian Literature...

15th Oct 2010 to 31st Oct 2010
Venues across London from British Library to King's Place and many more...

Authors like Chetan Bhagat, Amit Chaudhuri, Bhavit Mehta, Craig Jenkins, Daisy Hasan, Frukh Dhondy, Fatima Bhutto, Kishwar Desai and many more are taking part.

VAANI's Upcoming Event on 16th October 2010 is part of the DSC South Asian Literature Festival. 
Roopa Farooki, Sweta Srivastava Vikram and Hema Macherla are our chief guests and also part of the DSC South Asian Literature Festival.

To find out more and to book your tickets, please visit DSC South Asian Literature Festival.


Kaleidoscope - A Book Review

Sweta Srivastava Vikram has had another of her poetry collection published recently called Kaleidoscope An Asian Journey of Colours. The Chapbook is made special by the amazing idea behind the poems. Sweta tells the reader the story of color that has the pleasure and pain of growing up, of love and of desire and also of the death of these trancient phases, gradually like a raisin but even in death life has a colour. Sweta's verses lure the readers into the mythical world of Gods and Godesses and the birth of the color in the begining of the book.

'Few suns ago, Latin, the goblet of romantic lexis created
a recipe for color and poured it into verbal-moulds
so the echo could traverse the human orifice, the Ganges' and

Then slowly the poems take a life of their own and although the words are still sweet, the images and metaphors innocent, a sense of forboding looms. 

My marigold heart, a few kisses old,
echoes the thunder and confesses
to the transient spell of beauty, tulips -
“Me knows, he wasn’t a blunder.”

Each color tells a different story within the story of the extraordinary life of an Asian Woman. Red and yellow tells of puberty and wedding, pink of innocent virginity, brown of chocolate of desire, blue when the rocks take her down and
'A smile adorns my visage, an embalmed cadaver rotting
from the inside. Societal worms laying maggots in my soul
and gnawing on them until I relinquish all desire.
I am sixty, not dead; not beige, color me red.'

The most outstanding of all the poems in the boook is 'Reflecting on Iridescence in Mama’s Wardrobe'
It has the gaity of a toddler and frivolousness of innocence, same in youth and same in death. The last para sums it all up quiet aptly when the author says she hid behind mother's black saree and 'I'm ready for the next destination' as in life we come from our mother's womb so in death we go back to where we came from and 'Shades halt narration.'
Sweta has woven such a spell with her word usage and the symbolisms that the most complex becomes the simplest of all, just as all colors when mixed, end up being just black. The end that Sweta narrates is not gloomy but something mysterious where words fail to convey meaning.
Please click on the image above to buy the book from Amazon.

Review by Smita Singh


Sneak Peek!!! Same Difference - New voices of asian women writers

The poster of the Anthology Same Difference is out now
Please email info@jpublishingcompany.co.uk to pre-book your copy now.
Please send us your comments on this first preview.


The Flowing River - Book Review

The Flowing River by Manju Chaudhuri is a passionate recount of a life long struggle and the enthusiasm to face whatever comes with a staggering power.

Inspite of the book categorised a non-fiction, it flows smoothly just like the rivers Kansho, Ganges and Thames mentioned as the subtitle of the book. The girl Sumana's determination holds the reader spell bounded. A rich Bengali cultural heritage is evident through out the book in the language used as well as the scenes created by the author.

The main characters are like birds raring to fly high inspite of the obstacles ahead, always facing towards a better future. The readers are recommended to read this book if looking for some inspiration. Please click here to buy the book from Amazon or direct from the publishers.

By Smita Singh


VAANI Anthology Short List Announced!!

The short listed Authors for VAANI's 1st Anthology are as below. 

Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Farhana Shaukat
Pooja Shah
Elsa Valmidiano
Gayatri Tandon
Abha Iyengar
Vida Mia Valverde
Athena Kashyap
Sonia Sarkar
Imee Cuison
Gopali Ghosh
Jyotsna Singh
Manju Chaudhuri
Suneetha Bala
Hema Macherla
Rupam Shrivastava
Sunita Pattani

Our heartiest Congratulations to all concerned. We are much obliged for this fntastic chance to read a variety of submissions from all over the world. Our heart felt thanks goes to all those who submitted their works for consideration. This was the most difficult decision to make a short list out of many praise worthy submissions. We tried to have one piece of work on each issue concerning the theme. The reason for non-selection would be simply that either there were too many good ones on the same topic or that the work was not entirely related to the theme. Please don't give up and keep on writing and submiting and one day it will all work out. Our best wishes are always with all the writers. Please email info@vaani.org for any further information.


BOOK LAUNCH on 10th September 2010

Coming Up - BOOK LAUNCH!!

Hope you are all in good shape and enjoying the last day of the summer vacation. As a good bye gesture to the wonderful summer VAANI has organised a book launch for our own member
Manju Chaudhuri.

Please drop in to support her on the launch of her book '
The Flowing River.'

Our heartiest
CONGRATULATIONS to Manju on her fantastic achievement!!

To buy your copy online please CLICK HERE.

Please see below for details of the event.

Time:  Tomorrow
Friday 10th September 2010 from 14:30 to 19:30 pm

Location:   The Foyer, Ilford Central Library
Please visit any time between 2:30 pm - 7:30 pm to meet and get your personal signed copy of inspirational book based on the author's own life.

Author interview by Smita Singh at 5:00pm and at 6:45pm followed by Question and Answer session. Audience  welcome to participate.
Light Refreshment provided.

Manju Chaudhuri has written a heart warming saga of a life full of struggle entwined with the dream to give back something valuable to the world.

Please visit again to read an Exclusive interview with the author and a book review.


Because All is Not Lost - A Book Review

'Because All is Not Lost' by Sweta Vikram Srivastava is a humble book. Although it's a slim book with words floating by smoothly, don't go just by the looks. These few pages carry a burden large enough to drown a mountain. Every word leaves a long-lasting impact on the soul of the reader, almost taking them unawares. Each word treads elephant like heavy yet firm straight towards its destination, your heart.
Reader are sure to find something in the book with which they could relate to, something to feel close to and something to be reassured with. Even those who do not read poetry would understand instinctively the pathos and the twinkling rays of hope in these poetry.

The poetess Sweta has let her heart open to her readers, her vulnerability visible in each of the poems. The book itself is a multitude of emotions bound together by a string of hope. While, 'A note to the biggest thief in this world' is a hopeful poetry in the book which promises the readers "To cherish the lush meadow of what's left behind and not roam dark alleys where phantoms bite like rodents, " on the other hand you have pounding heavily on your chest, 'Don't talk to strangers' and 'Beginning of the End.'
On one hand you have the fast paced 'A different Kind of Thanksgiving' "His blindside, her wrong side. Halt. Shrieks. Blood. Permanent stain." telling a story of anguish yet to be felt and on the other you have 'Lesson Learnt' which says, "Today, I am that age where I can throw rocks at the ocean all night. Swallow fumes of adulthood. But I don't."

This book is for all those who have lost someone close to their heart and also for those who fear loosing someone close. Poetess Sweta's poetry has the power to play with the fear residing inside of us and then leave us gaping with a hope, just like a roller coaster ride. 

A review by Smita Singh


Sweta Srivastava Vikram talks to V about her book, poetry and Shakira!!!

*V got a chance to chat with our favourite Sweta Srivastava Vikram who is launching her poetry collection 'Because All is Not Lost' today!!!* Please read on to know more about Sweta, her new book and lot more...

           V - Your poetry collection has launched recently, how are you feeling right now? 
            Sweta - Very excited and nervous. And a little guilty about eating my favorite cupcake from Buttercup. 
     V - When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 
      Sweta – It was so long ago that I can’t remember exactly when. Maybe from the time I learnt to hold a pen - I am from the ink-pen generation. When I saw pen dipped in ink, birthing words on paper, making that commitment, I fell in love with the art of writing.

My parents introduced my brother and me to books rather early in our lives. And every time I saw a Tinkle, Chacha Chowdhry, or Enid Blyton, I would admire the name of the author splashed on the cover. I just knew that one day I wanted my name on a book.

      V - How long does it take you to write a whole poetry collection? 
       Sweta – There isn’t a magical formula. Each project is so unique. The process from start to completion depends on several factors: theme of the book, frame of mind, emotional commitment to the topic, my environment, style of poetry, and the energy around me. While some books happen in barely any time at all, other projects demand their time.

     V - What is your work schedule like when you're writing? 
      Sweta – Pretty ridiculous, if I may say so myself. It can vary anywhere from 8-12 hours in a day or more. But then “writing,” as you know, involves more than inscribing words. There is research and editing involved as well. And not forgetting, networking and readings.

     V - What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 
      Sweta – I like being a racehorse when I write--see nothing around me. No kidding. I have tried writing in a park, but then the smell of food or the sight of charming handbags and shoes are such distractions. I need to be surrounded by four walls to write.

     V - When did you write your first poem and how old were you? 
      Sweta – I started scribbling in my diaries when I was a kid. Ask my brother about it. He’s lugged my carry-on luggage, filled with semi-used notebooks, from India to Europe to Africa, when we were growing up. But when I was in eighth grade at Oak Grove (a boarding school in Musoorie, India), I wrote my first, serious poem. I must have been a pre-teen then, I guess. The poem was addressed to my father. Mussoorie, with its nippy and foggy weather but nurturing milieu, was the perfect place to write poetry. (My school was rare, in that, it churned out a lot of creative professionals.)

      V - What do you like to do when you're not writing? 
      Sweta – Talking. Seriously, ask anyone. Also, I laugh at my own jokes, not just while sharing them, but also while thinking about them in public places at the oddest of times.
Apart from entertaining myself and the people around me, I am addicted to “active” verbs: dancing, cooking, hanging out with friends, entertaining, watching reruns of “Criminal Minds” and movies with my husband, visiting museums, catching a Broadway show, chatting on Skype with my nieces, going for long walks and taking yoga classes--anything that doesn’t involve my sitting still for more than fifteen minutes. It’s a standard joke amongst friends and family--“Sweta always needs an activity.”

       V - What does your family think of your writing? 
      Sweta– I don’t even know where to begin. I feel blessed and humbled. My husband, my father, my nieces--Diya and Sana--and my husband’s cousin Nidhi are probably my biggest fans and unconditional supporters. This isn’t to say that the others aren’t, but these folks are just special in what they do.

My husband, who otherwise is a man of extremely balanced emotions, goes berserk when my pieces get published. My wonderful publisher, Victor R. Volkman, sent me a poster of my book, Because All Is Not Lost. My husband decided to put it up in his office. Sometimes, he has more faith in my abilities than I do. I get my writing genes from my father. He reads every one of my blog posts, essays, stories, and poems. He keeps me sharp, and we debate all the time. My nieces are hilarious! The older one, Diya, reads my stories, before my brother and sister-in-law can get their hands on them, and she explains it to Sana, the younger one. Sana then asks me to quiz her on my pieces when we talk on Skype. And lastly, but equally importantly, Nidhi is incredible. She has the sharpest editorial eyes. She is so fearless and candid with her critique. And just as easily comforts me with stories.

      V - What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book? 
      Sweta – Nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it. I believe our brain and heart have an indescribable capacity; you have to direct them appropriately. And faith in your own self is key or else it’s very easy to get sidetracked by the negativity spread by some people.

    V - How many books have you written? Which is your favourite? 
    Sweta – By now several. They are all special in their own ways because each book is a journey of its own. However, Because All Is Not Lost, and my first fiction novel, which is with an agent, are probably closest to my heart.
    V - Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?  Sweta – Hardly. Don’t embarrass me. But I will say two things that I follow: write everyday and discipline yourself. Anything is better than blank paper. I can’t tell you the number of times I have revisited an old journal and picked up lines that at one point seemed irrelevant.

Also, have a schedule in place. The stereotype about us artists is that we only work when the creative juices flow and the muses pay a visit. But that’s not the case unless you live in a bohemian world. Most of my writer and artist friends have a routine they stick to. As Peter Vries said, “I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning.”

   V - What do you think makes good poetry? 
   Sweta – Honesty and motivation. I believe if the poet writes about things that require personal investment (emotionally), sincerity automatically creeps into the work. Poetry then becomes a story - --accessible and unpretentious.

   V - What inspired you to write Because All is Not Lost? 
   Sweta – I am a raging optimist. The glass is always half full in my eyes. Of course, dejection and bad news bother me but for an insignificant amount of time. I like to believe that worse is only as bad as you make it out to be. I am not undervaluing the feeling or impact of loss, but ultimately, one has to come out of that shell and appreciate who and what is still present versus what’s become a part of the past. I wanted to get that message out without being didactic about it. At the end of the day, every human being has suffered loss in some form or the other. And what better way to connect with the heart than poetry.

    V - How would you describe 'Because All is Not Lost' to someone who has not read any of your previous poetry? 
     Sweta – It’s a book you want to buy as a holiday gift for everyone in your world. So, rush to the stores, NOW, and show you care! This book will change your life. Haaa. 

But seriously, this is a book about hope. It’s simple and therapeutic. The theme isn’t ambiguous, and the poems are based mostly on real life experiences. I can promise you that every person who reads this book will find at least one poem that resonates with her or him.

      V - You are known to write all kinds of things. Does poetry come easy to you? What other things do you write? Do you have a specific writing style? 
      Sweta – Though I write both prose and poetry, I have to say that poetry and creative nonfiction essays come more naturally to me than fiction. Maybe it’s my personality but I say it like I see it. And given that poetry and nonfiction are straight from the heart, it’s effortless, for me. But that said, once I immerse myself in my fiction manuscript, I thoroughly enjoy it. It just takes a little time to get there. The liberty that you can take with fiction is incomparable.

Aside from the above mentioned, I have a blog (http://pandorastwocents.blogspot.com/) where I post opinions on a wide range of things: culture, traditions, movies, books, perspectives, etc. As for my writing style, it depends on the genre I am working on. Even within each genre, depending on the theme or topic, I might use a different voice.

      V - How did you come up with the title? 
       Sweta – It came to me, literally. I felt that’s exactly what I was trying to convey in each poem.

     V - What was the hardest part of writing your book? 
      Sweta –  Some of the poems are more personal and closer to my heart than the others. Writing them meant revisiting and reliving those incidents that I had buried in a box of denial.
     V - Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? 
      Sweta –As clichéd as it sounds: the worse is over. Good follows bad. Every dark cloud has a silver lining, so don’t give up.
     V- You have mentioned Mausi and Dada in the book, who are they and how did they influence the events in your own life? 
     Sweta – Mausi, was my mother’s elder sister and Dada, was my paternal grandfather, both gnawed by the teeth of cancer.

I lost my Dada when I was five. When I would visit him in the hospital, he would ask me to sing and dance for him. He’d lost his voice, so he would write his requests on pieces of paper. Mausi passed away in 2009. When I last saw her, which was in 2008, she had cooked my favorite food and spent the evening discussing my poetry. She was probably the first woman from my parents’ generation to read my work.

I have asked myself the same question over and over again--why is it that I felt these two losses more than the others? Was it because my last communication with both my Dada and Mausi was when they made my ordinary moments extraordinary? Even if subconsciously, do we as humans seek that experience? I don’t have an answer, but I know that my encounters with them had a big part to play in the creation of this book.

      V - Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 
      Sweta – Several, I would say. But from the top of my head, I can think of Sadia Shepard. Her memoir, The Girl from Foreign, is such a beautiful and honest piece of work. Also, I couldn’t put down Khaled Hosseini’s books: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. He has such a simple yet evocative style of writing.
     V - What was the book that most influenced your life — and why? 
       Sweta - Oak Grove, my boarding school, turned me into a bibliophile. The library there was to die for. It was there that I got introduced the phenomenal world of Jane Austen.

I have to say that Jane Austen’s works have truly influenced my life. She was a visionary. For a woman, who grew up in a very different society and time, it's amazing how she tapped into today's core challenges two centuries ago. Her thoughts, social commentary, and lessons on morality are relevant even today.
      V - What are your current projects after Because All is Not Lost? 
       Sweta – I have a chapbook coming out in August titled, Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors. Plus, another poetry collection, Whispering Woes of Ganges & Zambezi, a collaborative effort with a poet from Zimbabwe, is due for a July end release.

      V - Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members 
      Sweta – I feel fortunate; lot of my friends, both old (especially my Fergusson and Oak Grove family) and new, you know who you are, have encouraged me along the way. They have cheered me incredulously with their phone calls, emails, Facebook messages. But two of my friends, Rashi Baid and Jaya Sharan, deserve special accolades. They have never once left my side.

When I told Jaya and Rashi, at separate times, “I have a dream,” they both responded: “Go for it.” It’s Rashi’s (bad!) luck that she lives in the same city and neighborhood as I do. I have called her up at wee hours and without as much as squinting breath, she’s laughed, danced, and cried with me.

Jaya lives in Calcutta (India). She’s known to call me in the middle of my night, when she’s at some party, to randomly discuss my work. When my first book came out, she sent her father on a wild goose chase. He went to every bookstore in Calcutta to see whether or not a hard copy was available.

     V - Can you share a little of your current work with us? 
     Sweta– I am involved in a project with a visual artist from Australia, which is rather exciting. Aside from that, I currently am working on a book-length poetry manuscript and my second fiction novel.

     V - Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 
     Sweta – I have this awful problem of not knowing when to stop working. My next “Thing-to-do-list,” reads: Discipline myself to take breaks and let go.

     V - Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details that would enliven your page. 

(a) I am a planner and a compulsive organizer. So much so that I have given my husband and a few of my friends a list of everything I want (music, food, wine) at my funeral. These are moments when he wonders why we are still married. J

(b) I believe Shakira’s song, “Hips Don’t Lie” can single-handedly create world peace. Not just that I can dance to the song anywhere and anytime. Ask my friends (especially Ellen Goldstein, Georgia Clark, Katherine Mary Govier, Hadeel Assali, Norma Valdez-Jimenez, and Maria Del Carmen Cifuentes), and they’ll vouch for it.

(c) I don’t like being told what to do. While taking my twelfth board exams, I got so bored of the examiner’s sermon and constant nagging that I napped for a good thirty minutes. Did I mention that my mom, like most other Indian mothers, wanted me to study medicine? Funny story: I would go for these entrance exams and doodle flowers or poems for hours together. I recently confessed to my mother, and six months later, she’s still in a state of shock. J

                  V - What else do you want your readers to know? Consider here your likes and dislikes, your interests and hobbies, your favourite ways to unwind whatever comes to mind.
                   Sweta — 

             (a) I don’t know how to wear a sari.

             (b) I can dance anytime and anywhere.

             (c) Bollywood and art are my religion; my kitchen is my temple; and chilli chicken & chicken biryani are my sacred feast.

             (d) Look me up if you need white wine recommendations on the types, pairings, and tastings.

           Interviewed by Smita Singh for V


V member in News *HOT in!!!*

Sweta Srivastava Vikram's poetry collection 'Because All is Not Lost' is releasing shortly. Please visit again to read her interview exclusive to V. V are thrilled for Sweta. A gripping story of grief and loss and journey to faith and hope will interest all lovers of poetry.

About Sweta Srivastava Vikram    

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a multi-genre writer living in New York City. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in literary journals, online publications,
and anthologies across six countries and three continents. Sweta has attended several
writing residencies and workshops in the United States and Europe. She is a VONA writer and a graduate of Columbia University.

About this Chapbook, Sweta says

We have all lost a dear one at some point in our lives. Grief, depending on the relationship with the one deceased, affects us differently. I feel my Dada and Mausi’s absence every single day for disparate reasons. But these two losses have taught me that their time had come. And that life is about celebrating
those alive and not just mourning those who have moved on. Optimism and faith are the keys to overcoming the roadblocks life puts in our way. This book tries to state that there is always hope for anyone coping with grief. No one can tell us exactly
how; the voyage has to be undertaken by each of us individually.

Visit Sweta's website at www.swetavikram.com


V Competitions - is it fact, fiction or fafiction?!

V announces opening of VISNOMY competitions and welcomes entries from all.
But first you should all know what are we talking about. So here are a few facts, and can V live without fiction? No, so some of those fictions and some half baked, half done, rare, fafictions!!

Fafiction - noun - used first at VAANIester dictionary - meaning in between fact and fiction, the grey area between white and black. other usage Fafict - verb i.e. to fafict and Fafictive - adjective i.e. being fafictive.
VISNOMY was first used in popular English literature: sometime before 1822. Visnomy \Vis"no*my\, noun. [Contr. from physiognomy.]

Noah Webster [Noun] Face; countenance. [Not in use.]


countenance, face, encumbrance, facade, facet, favor, forbearance, forefront, forehead, guarantor, guise, injector. Sometimes also: administrator, advertiser, caretaker, contributor, defaulter, entrant, person, physiognomy, prompter, tester, trespasser, visage, aspect, appearance, form, endurance, sanction, dress, aid, expression.


facilitate, facing, front.


facial expression, friendly disposition, good will, human face, kind regard. 

Examples of usage of word VISNOMY
  • No doubt he saw in his memory's eye the majestic nose of my aunt, and my "visnomy" under the effect of such a contrast must have looked comical enough, by way of a tragic mask.
  • Privately, one studies his own ill-modeled visnomy to see if by any chance it bespeaks the emotions he inwardly feels.
  • His crown was bald and encircled by a fair supply of crisp, curly, and silvery hair, whilst a thick gray moustache gave no martial and veteran air to his visnomy.
  • All those present laughed at her mockery of Iblis and wondered at the wittiness of her visnomy  and her readiness in versifying, whilst the Shaykh himself rejoiced and said to her,
  • And when the morning rose, she rose * And crescent like her visnomy:
  • ‘Physiognomy’ will not give place to ‘visnomy’, however
  • One of the performers had blown his visnomy to a point.
  • "The matter!" answered I, in astonishment; looking to see if the man had lost his sight or his senses -- "the matter! who ever saw a sheep's head with straight horns, and a visnomy all colours of the rainbow -- red, blue, orange, green, yellow, white, and black?"
  • Scotch signifies throat; "if he is Craig-in-guilt just now, he is as likely to be Craig-in-peril as ony chield I ever saw; the loon has woodie written on his very visnomy, and I wad wager twa and a plack that hemp plaits his cravat yet."
  • And were it not that through your cruelty, with sorrow dimmed and deformd it were: the goodly ymage of your visnomy, clearer then christall would therein appere.
Examples have been taken from Wordnik so a big thank you to them.

************************VISNOMY Competitions ****************************

To enter the VISNOMY Competition please see below for details.

Competition 1. Visnomy - Entries are welcome based on the word "Visnomy" (see the word meaning above) It could be a fiction, non-fiction, an article, a poetry or an illustration. For word pieces the limits are 1000-3000. For illustrations the size is A4.

Competition 2. Fafictions - Entries are open for those stories that hang in between fact and fiction or in between two opposites. The word limits are between 1000 words to 5000 words.

Competition 3. Fiction - Entries are open to all kinds of fiction belonging to any genre as long as it is a great read. The words limits are between 2000 words to 10,000 words.

Competition 4. Articles - All subjects are welcome as V knows how intelligent our readers are so feel free but whatever you talk about talk well and talk easy. V are looking for clear and concise but very interesting articles. Photos are okay to be accompanied with the pieces but they should all be in .jpeg form with very high resolutions. The words limits are from 1000 words to 3000 words.

Competition 5. Poetry and/or Pofictry (meaning poetry with fiction )- Contemporary poems are welcome, it needs to be either touching V's heart or tickling the intelligence or just too interesting to ignore. The words limits are not something V likes but something V are forced to take into account due to space limits. So for this they are between 150 words to 1000 words.
Please note that from each competition there will be a winner and two runner up and the prize will be £20 for winner and £10 for each runner up along with a copy of VISNOMY and a BIG THANK YOU certificate from V.

V has tried to keep all entry fee to the minimum. Entry fee for each entry is £4.00 for all and £3.00 for each entry by VAANI members. No submissions will be accepted without the entry fee. Closing date for all entries is 30th September 2010. Submissions are accepted only via email with subject box clearly saying magazine submission and your category. The email for submission is magsubmission@vaani.org. Please choose your options from the button below. The payment is safe and secure through the trusted Paypal website. Your information will not be distributed at any times and will remain in strict confidentiality with only VAANI as per the Data Protection Act.

VISNOMY Competitions


Copyright (c) VAANI etc.

Copyright © VAANI. The written piece of work is the property of the individual writers who belong to the group called Vaani. Copying or abuse of any material here is strictly prohibited. Permission of the writer is required to use their work somewhere else. For such matters, Please contact us here .