Thank you David Colin Carr, for inviting me to participate in “My Writing Process Blog Tour.” You've pulled me out of the writer's abyss and plunged me into the transformative world of @MondayBlogs.
Below are the answers to the questions I've been asked to answer in this post.
1) What am I working on?
I am always working on my blog, Afghan Culture Unveiled. Telling stories of Afghanistan, testing recipes and reading Afghanistan related books to review.
My other project is a novel I’ve been working on for the past year with the working title, “Two Women and a Warlord”. Here's a blurb about the book.
A charismatic warlord facilitates a meeting of two women in a remote province of Afghanistan. Assia and Feroza’s unlikely encounter comes as each of their lives unravels.
The 33-year-old Assia is burdened by a successful career, motherhood, a doting American husband—while living in a lavish home in San Francisco. The price of the “American Dream” has meant abandoning her Afghan heritage, leaving a void in her fairy tale life.
Feroza is not so lucky; her life is riddled with bullets, Taliban and an overbearing mother-in-law. But neither birthing 9 children nor an oppressive society stops her passion to be a game changer. But, it all comes at great cost.
Feroza and Assia begin to fill the voids in each other’s lives. Together they set off to change the lives of Afghan girls in one of the most conservative and Taliban riddled provinces of Afghanistan. This novel takes the reader through weddings, births, humor in life’s setbacks and two women’s enduring friendship across distant lands.
Intrigued? I am.
Three years ago if someone had asked about writing a book, I would’ve thought they're CRAZY. I still don’t see myself as a writer - I am a storyteller with unique life experiences. The novel writing journey has been self-revealing, intriguing and inspirational. As my main characters Assia, Feroza, and the warlord Khan have developed into full-fledged beings, they have become constant companions on walks with my dog, in my kitchen and in my dreams.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My blog explores Afghan cuisine and culture. I unite traditional recipes with stories of my Afghanistan. The recipes are clearly written, tested and authentic - adapted with modern cooking techniques. The stories convey an older, deep-rooted culture. You might say I am filling an untapped niche.
My family fled Afghanistan after the Russian invasion in 1979. Now I’m an Afghan American. Over the last twelve years, I have reconnected with Afghanistan through my work to educate girls and women there. The Afghans, Americans, soldiers and aid workers I’ve met give life to my characters.
The book portrays the essence of Afghan women, not as victims but as powerful, beautiful, and at times flawed humans. I also share the untold story of the Afghan American immigrant, through Assia, who straddles two worlds. She struggles to connect with who she is, Afghan or American.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Afghanistan is still an enigma for Western minds. Even after more than a decade of being embroiled in Afghanistan, most Americans know little about this complex country or it’s people.
As an Afghan and storyteller, I feel compelled to share the beauty of Afghanistan’s culture and people. My blog allows me to promote Afghanistan’s fabulous cuisine with foodies around the world. But for years I've been drawn to tell bigger stories. I accosted my husband about my calling. Finally, in a car ride home after the 2013 New Year’s celebration, he turned to me and said, “Maybe this is the year to write your book.” That put a stake in the ground for me to either do something or stop talking about it.
An untrained writer, handicapped with constant self-deprecation and bad grammar, but armed with relentless grit, I finally sat down in March of 2013 and started writing my novel.
4) How does your writing process work?
My writing process is not organic, inspirational or euphoric. My first hour of writing is spent on social media, the NY Times website and various other distractions. Once I start feeling guilty about not meeting my timelines, I set the timer on my iPhone to 90 minutes; I grab hold of a pen and start writing. Sometimes I get nonsense and other times gems.
When the timer goes off, I stop writing, stretch my fingers and get a cup of cardamom tea. Then I type everything into my computer and edit as I go. This is the start of a lengthy edit process.
I feel lucky to have met my editor David Colin Carr early in the process of writing my novel. He encouraged me to write a detailed outline, I obeyed. That outline has been my guide through this journey. The book reads nothing like the original outline, but if I didn’t have that road map, I would’ve never made it past chapter two.
I have invited the following lovely women, who are fabulous writers, and spiritually transformed being. They will blog on June 16th.
Martha Conway’s first novel, 12 Bliss Street (St. Martin’s Minotaur), was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her short fiction has appeared in TheIowa Review, The Mississippi Review, The Quarterly, Folio, Puerto del Sol, Carolina Quarterly, and other publications. She graduated cum laude from Vassar College and received her master’s degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She is the recipient of a California Arts Council fellowship in Creative Writing, and has reviewed fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Review of Books, and TheIowa Review. She has taught fiction at Stanford University’s Online Writers’ Studio and UC Berkeley Extension. Born in Cleveland, she now lives in San Francisco with her family.
Kanchana Krishnan Ayyar has lived in 3 continents where she has dedicated many years to the cultural education of children, imparting the richness of Indian History, Music, Yoga, and Philosophy.
She discovered writing in 2008 and embarked on a historical fiction book, which was published in 2011. She is the author of three books. Her debut novel “When the Lotus Blooms,” a story of two child brides in colonial India, has received two Literary Awards in 2013. Subsequently, she released a mini-anthology of short stories, “Snapshots” based on her extensive travel experiences. “The Present: A gift from the Divine” represents her foray into the sublime world of inspirational non-fiction. Besides being blessed by H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, it has received a rare endorsement from H.H. the Dalai Lama