Instead of a regular blog post this week, we invite you to check out our Writer Spotlight. Here, we ask one of our MFA friends questions concerning their career, craft, and quirks. For this edition, we chatted with Bishnupriya Chowdhuri about her writing, what brought her to the MFA, and her future aspirations.
What is your writing routine? Do you do anything quirky or weird during your writing process?
Before I joined the program, writing used to be a thing that would happen like seasonal blooms. I wrote sporadically, spontaneously between long periods of void. Writing is how I deal with the dark stuff of life and the universe. So, people who know me through my words only would take me as forever depressed (which thankfully is not completely true)! I find happiness too distracting and bright. I burn full and fast when I am happy.
All that changed in the past year. I have learned to practice words (one grain at a time) rather than wait for it to happen. It was not an easy transition but it has been the most productive year writing-wise so I guess the pain is all worth it.
If you could be mentored by any writer who would you choose and why?
There are just too many of them! Whenever I read anything great, I wish I could learn how it is done. And there are just too much great literature and great creators behind them. Garcia Marquez, Ateen Bandopadhyay, Jibanananda Das, Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy…I wish…
Among the novelists, my love affair with Rushdie’s work has been going on for at least a decade. I fell for his stories before I understood his language or saw the full brilliance of his narratives. I wish I could learn from him that grand magic of creating stories that can draw people the way rivers pull rocks and icebergs—that mystery of flow.
Where does your idea begin? With a place/setting? A person/character? An event/scene? An emotion? An image? What about this helps you write?
Most of my characters are emigrants from the land of memories. I see myself going back to my childhood often. Also, I am a vivid dreamer. I write about my town, the people that I grew up being around. I am my most recurred subject not because I am a narcissist (well maybe because that too) but because I think I will lie best among the truths.
What are you currently working on?
I am planning a series of art books and a book of stories for my daughter. One of the books is going to be about the trees and flowers of my childhood. The flowers that she might never see because of the world is changing too much too fast. In my head it is to be about huge flower paintings and hand written tales of stealing flowers, shaking bowers and tending gardens.
What made you want to get an MFA? What made you choose UCF?
Because of this thing that I call “the novel that must not be written” that lives inside me. It is the reason I could never slide peacefully into the sarees, rooms, and bangles of my most uneventful womanhood. It kept me pushing to words, from words to paints, and from paints to kitchen as I flew from one country to the other. Because of it, all my writings feel like chasing.
Also because I felt sleepy in the group of married Bengali women in the USA.
Because I wanted to meet people who do literature the way I do or who are undone by words the way I am. Because, here I could actually say “azure tastes delicate on my tongue” out loud and it would make perfect sense.
I think I was most drawn by the variety of genres taught at UCF. I really needed the freedom to walk across forms to create while I mastered storytelling. I was led to the right place.
What class has been the most beneficial to your MFA?
Coming from a very different academic and cultural background, the classes were an entirely new experience to me. Working at the craft of writing in an academic environment was hard but immensely helpful. I am grateful for the exposure it gave me to American Literature, teaching art as a subject and most of all the push into writing. Prof. Thaxton’s workshop on Hybrid Forms has been one of the most exciting learning experiences, and Dr. Poissant’s writing workshop was one of the best.
Can we find you in the world of social media and do you have an author website?
I have just started a blog. But it is still under construction (which is a very slow construction, too). I hope to keep it alive and growing even if that means writing bizarre pickle recipes. But hey, never you underestimate a girl’s kitchen! A kitchen is where we store our histories and mysteries of heart-warming fish stews and, of course, pickles.
Here is my blog.
What do you plan on doing after the MFA?
I want to work with art-book publishing in India. I want to create picture books for kids and adults. I also enjoy translation (English to Bengali) quite a bit. I would like to find some project involving translation.
On the crazier side of things, I’d like to learn French (to read Baudelaire and Flaubert in their own language) and open a café-library-art studio in my home town.
Bishnupriya Chowdhuri paints, dances and dreams of rooftops and festivals. She enjoys reading old letters and writing new ones. Bishnu is currently reading with her daughter and reading the world through her, and looking at the blueness of the sky like she is looking at it for the first time.