Carving a niche
Writing enables a sense of refinement to flow through the conduits of words and sentences, bringing to the reader, a sense of empowerment, wonder, hope, and guidance. Three wonderful women, of three different nationalities, who have carved a niche for themselves in writing careers share their experiences for those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
Young adult fiction
Paro Anand has been a children and young adult fiction writer for the past 32 years. She considers young adult fiction, a tricky genre. “Young adult fiction deals with issues faced by young people in today’s world. You have to speak their language without sounding like an adult who is trying to be hip. Teens change their language fast, and are quick to reject, so you are literally crossing a minefield. I find this to be an addiction, and I need my 'fix',” she says.
No Guns At My Son’s Funeral, Born To Lead, and Wild Child, are some of her penned favorites. One of her favorite authors from the genre is Ranjit Lal, because of his fearless writing. She also loves Judy Blume, Kalpana Swaminathan, and Beverley Naidoo's Web of Lies and The Other Side of Truth.
Speaking of the potential of young adult fiction, she says, “I think it is an exciting new genre that is growing everywhere, including in India. Penguin and Scholastic have just launched young adult imprints. Financially, it may not be great for authors, but schools do pay an author additionally for visits and interactions.”
Advising aspiring writers, Paro says, “Passion and the ability to be critical of one's work are needed. The secret formula is, “Bottom in Chair”, which I received from Uma Krishnaswami, a wonderful writer. Just sit down and write and something is sure to develop. There are literary agents who can help you with publishing, but be patient.”
Gay Degani, flash fiction writer, and editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles, defines flash beautifully, “Flash fiction is to traditional short stories what lightening is to a storm, the compressed moment when desire meets challenge.”
“Complicit” (Smokelong Quarterly), “Rim Shot” (3:AM Magazine), “Chalk Dust” (Night Train), “Oranges” (EDF), “Gumbo” (JMMW) are her favorite self-composed pieces. Her chapbook on flash fiction, Pomegranate was published in 2009; two more are forthcoming. She admires the flash collections of Kathy Fish, Randall Brown, Tania Hershman, and Nik Perring among others.
Speaking on niche creation, she says, “Loving something always creates a niche. Nothing worth doing is easy, but working in flash fiction through my personal writing and through my blogzine, Flash Fiction Chronicles (FFC), gave me fabulous experiences.”
Gay also told us that FFC has been listed in Writers’ Digests Top Sites for Writers. She feels the market for the genre could be lucrative financially if that is one's plan. Referring to its future possibilities, she says, “In today’s changing publishing market, flash is a good fit. Reading is readily available at our fingertips on all sorts of devices that require shorter, quality fiction.”
Her words of advice for aspiring writers, “Qualities a writer must have are to be a novelist, a reporter, a speechwriter, for all these make a flash fiction writer. These include a love of ideas, new and old, a feel for language, insight into what makes people human, and a desire to communicate knowledge, experience, and emotion to others. A writer must have respect for the reader as well as for him or herself and learn the craft of writing, be fearless, disciplined, and wild.”
Steenie Harvey, an established travel writer, combines travel writing with stories about living overseas, and buying or renting property in foreign countries. Her definition of travel writing -- “It can be many things: the personal story, the descriptive story, the informational story. The reader is my companion on the journey, and I want them to see it through my eyes. Hear, taste, and smell it too!”
She has written three practical books on travel, but she prefers writing articles, to books. On niche creation, she says, “The internet has made it tougher nowadays. Though research is so much easier, there are now many more writers out there trying to make a living from writing about their travels. I think my initial success came from writing about a place I knew well—Ireland, my adopted country.”
Iceland for its Viking heritage and landscapes; France, Italy and Greece for cuisine, history and culture; and India, for yoga at Lake Vembanad, Kerala’s backwaters, and Mysore are her loved travel destinations.
“I make a decent living from writing travel and real estate stories, but it isn’t something that I would recommend if you want to get fabulously rich. For me, it’s more about the lifestyle, and having the chance to visit parts of the world,” she quips, on the genre’s financial aspects.
Advising future travel writers, Steenie says, “Start by writing about your home town or the immediate region. Editors always like ‘insider’ stories. You know all the cool places to eat and hang out—and also the treasures only known to locals. Write for the reader, not yourself, your friends or your mother. Readers want to know ‘what’s in it for me?”