The line that caught our eye on the ‘That’s Me’ page of Sakshi Nanda reads “I believe watching Pingu, singing Jack-n-Jill and eating baby food is therapeutic. And that the pen is man’s best invention, only after diapers that is!” Well, we’re just intrigued, and not judgmental, but this line sets the tone for the interview to follow. She is also the winner of the ‘Best Creative Writing Blog’ in India at #WIN15 Blogging Awards (Woop, Woop) so ek interview to banta hai. We quizzed Sakshi about her blog, her life and of course about her being an award winning blogger. Read on.
Q. Tell us when you first felt the inclination towards writing. What was the first piece of writing you attempted?
The first piece of writing that I attempted was at a time when I wasn’t inclined towards writing as we know it. The world knows what filled up the first page of my four-lined notebook – an essay on my dog, where I had recounted, nay counted, his eyes, mouth, tail, nose and ended with confirming my love for him. I did not have a dog. But that booklet marked the beginning of “creative” writing for me. My son has picked the baton right up, with an uncanny coincidence. Look …
The inclination to write, really write to be read, came when I blinked in wonderment at the worlds the likes of Enid Blyton and Ruskin Bond revealed to me. That time I went from wanting to be Nancy Drew to creating my own Nancy Drew. Of course, the cycle of stubborn submissions-rejection letters-tears-more stubborn submissions began in college. The rejections continue.
Q. Is there a schedule you follow when it comes to blogging? In what environment do you frame your posts on a typical day?
There is no schedule that I follow for blogging or writing, no matter how scheduled I like to keep my family’s life otherwise! Unless it’s a sponsored post with a client barking unkind deadlines to the PR agencies and the agencies slapping you with them, there is no O’clock for writing, compulsorily.
The environment for my writing is as fickle as Equatorial weather. Sunny but with a great chance of rain in the afternoon. The only constant is a blank Word document ready and waiting for ideas which may pop into my head when I least expect them to. The world needs my ideas, I’m sure of it!
Mostly, I manage sunny writing days. There must be a God!
Q. You grew up in a joint family, how has this fact shaped you for who you are today?
Oh, growing up with kids all shades and sizes definitely helped in shaping me (though being tinier than others did upset the natural flow of hand-me-downs!). When you’re growing up along with five other kids and seven adults, willy-nilly you find friends and foes, idols and wastrels, love and childish hate right inside your house. You get acquainted with a variety of personalities. And relationships become more important than mere roles. Cousins become ‘real’ sisters, aunts become more than mothers and uncles your best friends. That is, after you learn to accept that no one can be as perfect as you!
My growing up years helped me understand and appreciate difference and put in me a strong desire to try safeguard relationships rather than snap them.
Q. What are the challenges you face as a blogger? Do you have any mantras to overcome them?
I found the initial few months of blogging quite challenging. To create a blog, to be noticed, to be read for the first time and then to get regular readers was a steep climb. I also remember hopping blogs like an espionage agent, learning what gadgets a blog needs or how to interact with the readers. The only mantra I followed to have a dedicated readership was to make sure everything I published was tip-top to my eyes and something novel to the readers’. Otherwise, why should they spend time sitting with me ‘Between Write and Wrong’? It did seem like a race at that time.
But over the last two years, the blog has developed its own personality, like its owner. And both believe the only challenge you need to meet is your own expectations from you. Was it Ayn Rand who said a creative man is driven by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others? Four good readers over Alibaba’s forty cunning thieves matter more.
Q. Do you blog to fulfil a passion, as a pastime, a profession or just because?
All of the above and more, put in a pot, stirred to a boil and served hot. Till the gas lasts, that is!
Q. How do you choose books to review for your blog?
It’s quite simple. I request authors/publishers for a synopsis of the book (not the printed blurb) and see if it’s something I would like to read or talk about. I know, as close to a blind date as choosing a book by its cover, but it’s worked, and especially where the author himself chooses to summarize the book ‘in a nut-shell’. As far as I can, I like to review and feature only those books on my blog which I want to recommend, even if partially. Sometime back I read a very telling article in The New York Times about the inefficacy of dedicating space and time to negative reviews. As of now I agree with it and for all time I disagree with condescending reviews, of anything.
Some authors commission an offline critique/feedback instead, which they share with the world if they want.
Q. Which are your favourite books and authors?
Asking me that is making me walk through shelves upon shelves of books, some old, most dusty and so many unforgettable. It’s hard to pick my favourite books. I’m quite wanton in my love for good Literature; the kind which my grandkids will read with love, one day. I’m also quite open to one-night-stands with contemporary/commercial fiction which holds promise of lasting on shelves and in memories for longer than the launch weekend.
Some of the authors who are timeless for me are Shakespeare, Milan Kundera, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Amitav Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee and Toni Morrison. I enjoy poetry by T.S. Eliot, Pablo Neruda and Adrienne Rich and can read Pope and Dryden’s mock-epics over and over again.
Q. A lot of your writing has feminist undertones. What’s your take on feminism and what has shaped it?
I would never ask anyone their ‘take on feminism’. The question implies a for-or-against, and gives birth to contention which Feminism doesn’t deserve. I refrain from limiting the meaning of feminism to its dictionary definition. I have studied feminist literature from across the world, read about the movement, its phases, its consequences and its many, many variants; so many variants as if this historic surge in women’s voices was making sure each woman found a branch of feminism to agree with and hold on to. To explore herself through.
It is here that I regret the noisy labeling that feminism often gets reduced to in pop parlance. An ‘our way or highway’ is sensed in discussions about feminism in groups. I hope we don’t drown out women voices which may not meet our ‘take on feminism’. I hope we let them choose their branch. How else will the dream of equality be met?
Q. Does Sakshi Nanda have a muse?
No, no muse. I have many moods though, and some of them do act as muses too.
I’m forever hungry for new experiences, new ideas and new people (the last comes with a qualification attached!) So the stimulus for writing could be anything from well-written articles to men in good ties!
Q. Apart from blogging, what other shapes does your creative expression take?
Apart from writing, I like to test my creativity at Kindergarten art and craft (as if I have a choice!) and giving my home décor make-overs. And usually I end up using the former for the latter. Would you like to see the chandelier in my drawing made of straws and bells?
Q. Tell us something about your family – your beau and your baby. 🙂
Really, I shouldn’t! One must already have blocked a viral me on social media and the other getting ready to do so, a decade in advance. All I can reveal at this point is that they will always mean the world to me, despite the blocking.
Q. You seem to have had a life ensconced in words. Any plans of penning a book?
No, I don’t have plans to pen a book. But I do dream of doing it. And somehow the timeline between the two is growing to be frustratingly lethargic!
Q. What changes do you see in yourself after becoming a blogger? Has it taught you anything?
Blogging for friendly strangers (and stranger friends) has shown me how an audience acts as an encouragement to write, and write some more, when all else fails to inspire. The ‘blogosphere’ is also full of support-groups for bloggers and it’s been a great way to not just understand blogging but to meet fellow writer-friends too.
I’ve learnt the importance of a ‘market’, so to say, and how this market functions. This market is full of bears and bulls too, so in three years’ time blogging has also shown me the contraries – of what it means to be regarded and discarded, which ‘awesome’ comment to take seriously and how to identify who you really want to write for, and what.
Overall, I’ve become a more discerning person in the virtual world.
Q. Tell us your reaction when you found out that you had won the Best Creative Writing Blog In India at #WIN15 Blog Awards.
Utter disbelief and confusion. Disbelief because I was up against a formidable group of popular bloggers. And confusion because you took so long to tweet the result, I had to distrust the most trustworthy friends who messaged me from ground zero that it had indeed been announced and I had won! All your fault!
Of course, after you tweeted I danced on the table.
Q. What is your family’s reaction to your blogging?
I’m sure those living with me are very happy, now that I spend some hours not nagging them into attention, forward march, left-right-left! Perhaps that is why my husband created a blog for me, named it and said ‘Write right away!’
Like all Indian parents, mine are quite proud of whatever little I have managed till now and sing my paeans to the same people in every gathering of their small town. It is my father-in-law’s reaction that I cherish the most. He doesn’t leave a single post on my blog unread, promptly calling me up then to discuss its nuances and appreciate ‘my gift’ to the skies, exactly where my writing has taken our relationship.
Q. Who is your best critic? Who is the biggest admirer of your writing?
I am the best, with my husband a close, more honest second.
Admirer? I wonder if it’s my kid brother. I would like to know his feelings. Okay, no, I changed my mind!
Now writing an open letter to all secret admirers to make themselves known.
Q. What is the one compliment you received that you will cherish for a life time. About you, your blog or any other aspect about you?
Q. How active are you on social media? How many of your updates are personal and how many are from the blogger Sakshi Nanda?
I am very active on social media. How else would we have met?
I absolutely love your second question but I have no answer. It is something I have wondered to myself. What if we reach a point where we cannot differentiate between the writer and the woman? The projection and the projector? The person and the professional? As a related aside, I read recently that filmmakers have taken six decades, six decades, to separate Manto the writer from Manto the man, for a movie. Aren’t all personas as fluid?
Similarly, our presence on social media makes for great self-study. Especially if you are deep into the existential crisis of ‘Who am I?’
Q. What do you think has been your biggest achievement in life?
I don’t know. Popping a 3.3 kg baby, perhaps? Let’s just say too many to list!
(Psst… I did hug my BlogAdda trophy for the Best Creative Writing Blog in India to sleep many times.)
Q. Tell us about an ambition that has been on your mind for long that you haven’t gotten around to fulfilling yet.
On a scale of 1-10, my ambitiousness figures at 0. Content (not lazy!) too easily, I often need a push to charge my batteries for the next level. If you meant a secret dream, I have always wanted to learn a dance form, professionally. And I will, once I am done with removing the cobwebs.
Q. Do you think that bloggers should branch out into other activities or risk getting stagnant?
You have answered your question.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers?
Quality content, meaningful social networking, ‘till death do us part’ relationship with Writing and spare stinky socks for naysayers’ mouths.
Q. You also provide writing services. Do you count that as ‘monetizing your blog’? What do you think is the best way for someone to make blogging a lucrative profession?
It is my blog posts which got noticed to bring my way the idea and the opportunity to provide writing services like articles, book reviews and manuscript reviews. It is also true that every time I publish a book review, I get requests for three more. Beta-reading an author-friend’s manuscript opened another window for me. So in a way my writing services do signify monetization of my blog.
Blogging can be really lucrative if you can tap the market for sponsored posts. It can also be financially fruitful if you find your niche early on and convert it into a business. Like making a brand of yourself.
Q. How has your association with BlogAdda been?
A day after I was officially registered with BlogAdda I noticed a WOW topic with lines closing at midnight. I frantically wrote something and got a minor heart attack when BSNL internet started misbehaving. Hell hath no fury bigger than mine that day. That post did get selected along with seven others, and I was ecstatic. It was my first, and it’s been the same sentiment for Notable Newbie, Tangy and Spicy picks. And now the award and further dancing on tables.
BlogAdda owes me some tables!
Q. What can we expect from you in the near future?
You want a donation? I want tables!
Q. Which bloggers (Indian and international) do you follow?
I’ll tell you in the next interview.
Q. If you had to give one writing prompt to our readers, what would it be?
Write a blog post as if it is your last. Now read it and see if you can live with those same thoughts, those same opinions and that same writing style till you die.
An ideal day for me is…when I have more time on my hands.
My favourite person in the world is….you want a family feud?
I have a love/hate relationship with….I’m not fickle.
My comfort food is…Bread-Butter-Jam
What I like to do in my free time… Free what?
One destination on my bucket list…Egypt, or Rome or Greece. I’m quite adjusting.
For one day, I would like to live the life of…my child.
We have a teeny crush on Sakshi Nanda after reading her replies, and we’d love to know your thoughts about her amazing interview! If you would like us to interview a great blogger, post their names in the comments section below and we’ll try to bring them on board! 🙂