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Meet Eshani Surya

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eshani Surya.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I started writing when I was very young, and I have early memories of working on poems with my mother. We used to focus on nature–I can recall one piece called “A Blade of Grass” and another where I compared the pine trees in our backyard to a peacock, stretching its feathers upward. Both my maternal grandmother and mother have written novels, so naturally my family was encouraging when I wanted to focus on reading and writing. In elementary school I was unpopular and had very few friends. Writing became a way for me to explore worlds, but also to create them. I enjoyed having some kind of opening into spaces and realities that others did not, and I tried to write about what I considered darker subjects like loneliness.

I was also a voracious reader, gravitating towards fantasy much of the time, although the book that convinced me to be a writer was Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. I continued writing through high school and finally moved to New York City, where I completed my degree at NYU. After, I worked in publishing for a year, marketing both children’s and adult trade books. Eventually I decided to apply to school and was accepted to the University of Arizona’s fiction program. I have been in Tucson for the last two years, working in fiction as well as personal essays, and this last year of school I am embarking on my thesis project, which will be a novel that considers family, documentary, bodies, and women’s relationships with each other.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m invested in thinking about the ways that reality can be presented, manipulated, and understood. Sometimes I tackle this question thematically, where I write about characters dealing with their perspectives and beliefs butting up against other peoples’ views (such as in the case of care taking, illness, women’s roles, relationships with bodies and sex, environmental concerns). Sometimes I focus on the question more through genre. Some of my fiction takes on fantastical elements which drive the work and sometimes comment on how characters are being forced to live in their world. In other cases, I use form to reconsider reality. I may include diary entries, museum exhibits, or other types of documents in my work to push the reader to look at the different facets of how a story can be presented. I find questions of reality fascinating because most of our politics and relationships with others are based on how we understand the world and how that differs from others’ understandings. In many ways, competing realities are the basis for conflict, as well as comfort, in our communities.

Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
I have found that some of my best work has come out of my frustrated responses to criticism or lack of acceptance. It’s in these moments that I will throw my hands up and write something that doesn’t conform to what I think others will like. At these times I follow my instinct to disrupt the typical relationship between artist and audience (where the artist hopes that the audience will “like” whatever has been produced) and instead write for the pleasure of experimentation, emotional release, and curiosity. Inevitably, this the work that my audience does actually like–but I don’t believe that is the lesson.

What I’ve learned as these experiences have added up is that part of art is never getting comfortable. Artists are propelled by discovery, and the more we can push boundaries, the more our art will grow. My advice to other writers would be to take the strange paths that don’t make sense to you. If it doesn’t work, you can always re-draft. If it does work, you may now be polishing a new facet of your work. Most importantly, remember that you are never wasting time or energy when you are working on your process. So often we want to done and publishing, but each draft brings a new dimension to a work, and allowing yourself to go on that journey is part of being a writer.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My work–fiction, creative non-fiction, reviews, and reportage–is published in various venues, but I have compiled a page on my website (http://eshani-surya.com) that lists where my pieces can be found. I am also active on both Twitter and Instagram and can be found at @__eshani on both. I’m always interested in individual and collaborative opportunities from writing bylines, submitting to journals, participating in readings, or working on multimedia projects and can also be contacted through email at eshani.surya@gmail.com.

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