A sports nutritionist by profession, Hemali Ajmera began writing by making several contributions to the field of nutrition. Having worked as a nutritionist for a fitness magazine, she began pursuing creative writing only three years ago when she joined an online group of international authors called The Story Mint. “This group consists of published authors as well as newbies. You write chapters for a serial which is started by one author.
After the preface has been written, each author signs up for one chapter. Then the story begins. It is a difficult yet very fulfilling writing exercise because you have to carry forward the story from the previous authors, maintaining the tone, structure, grammar, language and plot line. The entire story must seem as if written by a single author. The other authors then post their comments, suggestions and remarks on the chapter written.”
Ajmera’s short story The Forgotten Queen was published in one such anthology titled Memories & Mirages. “It is a mythological fiction based on the life of Karna’s wife, Vrushali. I have received very good reviews for this story and hence am currently working on expanding this story into a full-fledged novel by conducting relevant research. I am also working on an initial draft for a ‘slice-of-life’ genre novel where the teenage protagonist describes her experiences of living and growing up in a chawl in Mumbai and how it shapes her outlook and personality.”
Ajmera, who doesn’t believe in sticking to a particular genre or topic, writes about whatever interests her. “I like to tell a good story, no matter what the genre is because I believe people love stories, especially when they are well told,” she says.
Speaking of the reading culture among the youth, Ajmera says that while youngsters are criticised for their internet-driven writing skills, somewhere along the way, “our youth began to realise that just speaking effectively is not enough; it is important to know how to write effectively as well. We live in a marketing world. You have to sell yourself well to make a good impression. Good communication skills are the key players. And writing is one of them. It is a very potent and effective way of expressing your ideas, thoughts and perspectives.”
With a lot of people turning towards creative writing, not everyone is good. “When you write, what matters is how you connect with the reader on a personal level. It is important to take the reader with you on a journey such that he or she feels like a co-passenger on the ride and not like an outsider,” she insists.
The last few years have seen a surge in creativity among Indian writers. “But these are just a handful. It is difficult to be recognised for your work alone, unless there are other forces working in sync with your creative output — good reviews, good promotions and good marketing. You have to be seen at the right place, at the right time,” she says of the publishing scene in India today.
Is contemporary Indian English literature growing then? “Yes, Indian English literature is growing exponentially, thanks to our authors. Also, books are more accessible now in e-book form. Authors too are more accessible. More people are taking up reading and writing which is a healthy sign. The exclusivity that some Indian authors enjoyed a few decades ago is long gone,” she says.
The frequency of litfests and other literary events also helps. “Our literary horizons are expanding and so is our appetite for good literature. This is true not only of English literature but regional literature too. What is important is that people keep reading and authors keep weaving stories,” she says.
Speaking of the role gender plays in her writing, Ajmera says that it has nothing do with a literary piece. “Writing is all about expressing your thoughts, knowledge, perceptions and beliefs. Some people do it well, some don’t. Some leave a deeper imprint than others. So men can be just as good as women in this kind of understanding and vice-versa. There are some wonderful male authors such as Khaled Hosseni who are emotive, empathetic and handle sensitive issues with great finesse,” she says, adding, “I see myself as just a writer, not a male or female. When I write something, it’s not from a woman’s perspective. I like my stories to follow a logical path.”