MY JOURNEY TO PUBLICATION
My journey to publication was less like a quick Waze-navigated journey, smoothly avoiding road blocks and back-ups, and more like a road-trip with my young kids, full of constant stops and a few tears, taking twice as long as I expected.
Back in 2003, while working on the writing team for an Indian production company, I couldn’t get my great-grandmother’s story out of my head. She was an Indian freedom fighter who worked with Mahatma Gandhi, spent time in jail for her participation in the non-violent civil disobedience movement, was told she would be freed if she would just apologize to the government but refused, and later went on to become a two-term congresswoman post-independence.
It was a story full of persistence and resistance featuring a strong female character, and I was certain it would make a great screenplay.
With my great-grandmother’s biography in hand, I set to work on the script, ready to make an award-winning Bollywood biopic. The only problem was, I just could not figure the story out. So I rethought the plan to write a biopic and instead settled on the idea of fictionalizing the story, thinking it might work better if the protagonist was the privileged daughter of the freedom fighter, rather than the freedom fighter, herself. But despite all my research and effort, I still could not get the story to work.
That’s when I had the brilliant idea to write the script as a novel. I thought it would be a quick and easy way to delve deeper into the story, figure out the beats, and put them back into script form. Clearly, I had never written a novel before, because it turned out novel-writing was neither quick nor easy, and when I was done, I had a badly written first draft of AHIMSA. It was so bad, in fact, that I decided to shelve the project, and went back to focusing on the company’s Bollywood scripts, my own scripts, and, after learning a little bit more about writing books, some more novels, which I spent years querying publishers and agents about, to no success.
But every year, in between the dozens of projects and hundreds of query letters and rejections, I’d remember AHIMSA, and do a revision, adding subplots, killing off characters, year after year after year, until I finally got it to a good place in 2015, more than a decade after starting. And that’s when I heard about Tu Books’ New Visions Award.
I entered the competition, found out AHIMSA had won in 2016, and after a year of edits, fourteen years after I wrote the first draft, AHIMSA was finally a real book.
Looking back on the journey, would I have preferred the smooth, quick route? Absolutely. But all that extra time didn’t hurt me, as I thought it had in the moment. Instead, it helped me grow as a writer, helped me learn more about craft, and helped me toughen up to rejection and understand that criticism isn’t something to take personally and get defensive over, but rather, is something to use to improve your work.
So while the quick and easy way is usually my preferred route to travel, in the end, I’m glad my journey was full of bumps and pit stops.
Just remind me of that mantra the next time I’m on a family road trip that takes eight hours to get to Chicago instead of four.
2015 New Visions Award for her middle grade novel AHIMSA, (October 2, 2017), Supriya is an author and screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films, including Lage Raho Munnabhai and Eklavya: The Royal Guard, India’s entry into the 2007 Academy Awards. She was an associate producer on the Hollywood feature, Broken Horses. Supriya is represented by Kathleen Rushall at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Follow Supriya on Twitter @soups25 and on Instagram @Supriya.Kelkar
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