From the forward to Shaping the World
When I was asked to edit an anthology what came to mind was a collection I have long wished to read; narratives by women from the sub-continent detailing their writerly selves. For years I had devoured accounts by writers from other parts of the world describing their creative processes but when I turned to writing, I wanted to discover experiences closer to home. What did others like me have to say about their vocation, their craft, the ways in which they nurtured it?
For many older writers finding an author community has been an issue. When we took up our pens, whose example was there before us? Whose voice did we have echoing in our ears that would validate ours? We had the English Literature we grew up with, the British school and adventure stories we consumed, with descriptions, personal appearances, names, foods and places that were foreign to our context. When it came time to write, this is what we had to work against. Fortunately in the sub-continent today, younger writers are able to start out with more confidence in their subject matter. There are enough role models around to give legitimacy to almost every local topic under the sun.
As writers, women frequently have to struggle to find a public space, a daunting undertaking when the publishing arena is driven by market considerations that are often not favourable to women. Furthermore the conflict between home and a sense of vocation, the restraints posed by domestic duties sometimes means that it is years before a woman comes into her own.
Of the writers in this selection some have been published without difficulty, others have had to strive for recognition. Financial security has usually not been of prime concern, but in order to pursue their art, many of our writers have had to generate other sources of income. This then becomes one more factor in the endless juggling that comprises a woman writer’s day. Several have quoted Virginia Woolf, what was true then is true now. To be a writer, we need a room of our own, and money enough to ensure independence.
I am proud to have been associated with the women in this anthology, some of whom I would never have got to know – even by letter – if it hadn’t been for this book. For a lonely writer, sitting in a garret – [metaphorically speaking] the chance to interact with other authors is very welcome. Then too it is heartening to learn that the difficulties you face while writing are not a mark of your failures, multiple and repeated, but simply a part of the creative practice , that in fact, failures are not failures at all, but experiments that help you grow.