ROSHEENA ZEHRA

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A Wordsmith, Wise Beyond Her Years..

At 17 she published her first piece followed by the second one at 22, and by 24 she already had a debut novella. 

While many around us have hobbies, not many pursue them ardently enough to make a career out of it. This young lady knew her passion early on, and then worked towards building a life around it which is why we think she is a #BADASSBOSS.

In this exclusive interview with BeBadass, she gives us an honest insight into an otherwise romanticised world of a writer along with some tips and tricks that an aspiring writer should take notes of.

When did you realise this is who you wanted to be?

I was 11 years old. It was during the summer vacation of my 6th grade.

How do you begin writing?

For me what works the best is to plunge headlong into it. The first step is the hardest. This is when laziness, procrastination, the illusion of being busy with mindless tasks, social media are hardest to overcome. But once I start, I don’t need any external agent to keep me going. 

Tell us about your first 2 publications?

First one called Candy Stripes was nothing more than scribbling about teenaged matters of heart, published in 2009 when I was 17. The next one called Moon, a short story about a boy falling in love with the moon, won the first prize in a competition and was published as part of an anthology in 2014 when I was 22.

 

My debut novella Dreamcatcher is an unnerving story of a girl who lives her entire life exactly as how it should be led, and not how she wants to. All her desires are swept aside until one day, when they become too powerful to be ignored, they take the form of madness. The book has repression and clinical depression as it's thematic concerns.

Dreamcatcher, published in 2016 when Rosheena was 24

How do you handle writer’s block?

Travel and conversations. Also by reading and watching TV shows and movies. If all else fails, I resort to whining to my friends about how I can’t write. I am lucky enough to be surrouned by some incredibly positive and supportive people, and they manage to get me back on track pretty much all the time.

What is your most favourite and least favourite part about writing?

There is more than one favourite part. The idea that some day I might create something which would touch someone deeply – this hope is what keeps me going. Writing is also meditative for me. All my troubles cease to exist in that moment. When I am writing, I don’t have an identity beyond that person who is putting words to paper, and perhaps, in that moment I’m truly free.There is of course a flip side to these highs. Moments of uncertainty, self-doubt are not the best parts of the process. But I still wouldn’t call them my “least favourite” parts. They are all part of a wonderful process I wouldn’t change a thing about.

How does one go about becoming a writer professionally? What’s the ideal path to take, if any?

Sadly, there is no ideal path. It’s an arbitrary process of trial and error. The only piece of advice I can give you is just keep at it, no matter how bleak things seem. The first thing to get in order would be your manuscript. Once that is done, reach out to publishers and literary agents that suit your requirements. Reach out to as many people as you can. You are increasing your chances from hearing back from at least one of them by doing so. Hopefully, one day, someone will get back.

Is having a muse overrated?

I wrote some of my favourite pieces of writing for a muse. Having said that, that’s not the only time I wrote something I felt was worthwhile. 

Do you think it is important for writers to be well read?

Yes, absolutely! There is no other way if you want to be a writer. Read, read, read!

If writing is your profession, can you then write for pleasure as well?

Of course. I may be writing a book professionally, but I continue to write for those close to me all the time. I may or may not reveal those pieces publicly, but just their existence gives me happiness.

Fiction or Non-Fiction? 

I’ve never written a very long piece of non-fiction. Simply because it’s easier to write fictional narratives and sustain them. Non-fiction is hard, it requires a certain maturity which I am not sure I possess yet.

What’s the most difficult bit of composing a piece?

Starting it.

Do you think there is a lack of quality female writers in India? 

Not at all. Personally, I haven’t read a lot of Indian writers myself, but when I think of women writers, there are so many names like Nayantara Sehgal, Kamala Das, Anita Desai, Arundhati Roy ...the list goes on. Unfortunately, I don’t have much exposure to younger Indian writers.

What is the relevance or irrelevance of critics for a writer?

Everything in moderation. Criticism helps you grow, but take it to heart and you might as well bid your writing endeavours goodbye.

What is your take on ‘blogging’ and the fact that everyone tags them selves as one?

I think there are more people who are in love with the idea of being a blogger/writer than actually being one.

Your opinions on being a social media sell out?

Social media is a very potent tool in connecting with people, but sometimes, people forget where to draw the line. It’s a slippery slope one needs to always be wary of.

Describe a “Badass Female”

There isn’t one definition and we should remember it all times, especially, when we are being handed a fixed definition we have to adhere to.

Who are some Badass women who inspire you?

There are way too many but few names off the top of my head - Franca Rame, JK Rowling, my mom.

What would you say to a young girl who is trying to win the world with her words like you do?

Never forget that no matter how dark things may seem, the world will always have hope, love and kindness, and never let anything rob you of your own kindness, towards the world, and more importantly, towards yourself.
— Rosheena Zehra

IMAGE COURTESY : ROSHEENA ZEHRA, SANJOY DEB VIA THE QUINT & RESPECTIVE PUBLISHING HOUSES

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