Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American writer. She is the author of Morsels of Purple and Skin Over Milk. Born to a middle-class family in India, she later migrated to the USA with her husband and son. A technologist by profession and a writer by passion, she won first place in ELJ Micro Creative Non-Fiction Prize, placed in the Strands International Flash Fiction Festival. and is the runner-up for the Chestnut Review Chapbook Contest. Her stories have been shortlisted in the Bath Flash Fiction Awards and SmokeLong Micro Competition. She is currently a Prose Editor at Janus Literary and a Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. More at https://saraspunyfingers.com. Reach her @PunyFingers.
I first met Sara in the South Asian Flash Writers group where she read a story from her collection, Morsels of Purple. I was immediately taken by her vivid, realistic writing. For this interview, we met over Zoom and talked about our doubts while sending out stories steeped in our cultures, using non-English words in writing, and the importance of author bios. Here’s an excerpt from that conversation:
Shipra Agarwal: How and when did you start writing? Or, when did you know that you wanted to write?
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar: Unlike many writers that I’ve read about or talked to, the only writing I did as a kid was for school assignments. But I’ve always been a reader; I’ve always read a lot. I studied engineering in college, and I didn’t write anything during that time, either. When I migrated to the US, I finally had the time and solitude to write – I was not on a work visa, so I wasn't working. That’s when I started a blog about my immigration journey, my experiences, the differences in culture I was seeing. Also, my son was a toddler at that time. I wrote about his tantrums, how he was growing up, learning new English words, going to day-care, making new friends. I just wrote about my own day-to-day life but I was surprised by how many people visited that blog. Somehow, it started gaining popularity and people connected to my writing. That encouraged me a lot.
Then, I obtained a work visa and started working, and life became more routine. The immigration experience was no longer a novelty and my son grew up, too. I needed something new to write about, so I started writing fiction. But again my fiction is real-life based; there is always a non-fiction element to it. There’s one truth, or some level of truth, I should say. As writers we modify the ending or middle of the story so it becomes a story and not a journal entry, of course.
When I posted these stories on my blog, someone commented that why don’t you send it to literary journals. I had no idea about the many literary journals and magazines that welcomed unsolicited submissions. I started following some writers on Twitter and that’s when I saw that there’s a whole virtual world out there.
Very hesitantly, with a lot of doubt, I sent my story, the first ever story I wrote, to a journal and they accepted it. That story was based in India, it had Indian food and characters. I didn’t know that someone would accept it. I thought I had nothing to lose; I was just writing for myself. And next year, they nominated it for Pushcart. I was like, no way, it’s not happening!