November 21, 2021 by The Citron Review
Morsels of Purple
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
(Alien Buddha Press, 2021)
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is one of a handful of flash fiction writers I began following on Twitter when I first discovered the genre a few years ago. The musicality and lush imagery of her prose touched my poet’s soul and her storylines satisfied my love of reading. How does one write so eloquently? What goes on behind the lines of the story? I talked with Sara to find out.
Charlotte Hamrick: What is your earliest recollection of the desire to write?
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar: My son brought writing to my life. One morning, he said bye to me happily when I dropped him off at the daycare, and the mixed emotions that stirred my heart poured into my first blog. I wrote and wrote to capture his innocence, his moods, his naughtiness, his smiles and tears—a condensed version of his childhood to have with me forever. The mom’s blog molded itself into the shape of my life and I wrote about my experiences as an immigrant from India, my yearning for home and family while adapting to a new life here in the USA. It was much later, when my son grew up and the novelty of the immigrant experience faded that I started writing fiction.
Charlotte: Do you remember your first story? What was it about?
Sara: As I said before, I wrote non-fiction for years, then delved into fiction when my life became a series of sameness and I found nothing interesting enough to write about. My first story “Math Problem” was published by Star 82 Review. The story, set in India, was about a brother and sister forced to share their lunch with an intolerable cousin, who eats voraciously without consideration, leaving the siblings hungry and annoyed. It was nominated for Pushcart, and that was my encouragement and validation to continue writing fiction.
Charlotte: Is flash fiction your primary genre? Do you work in any others?
Sara: I write flash fiction primarily but my work is not restricted to the genre. I enjoy writing non-fiction and try my hand at some poetry, too.
Charlotte: I’m always interested in the writing process. Tell us a little about yours. Do you ponder a story for a while, keeping it in a draft stage and working on it periodically or do you write it all at once, as the inspiration and words strike you? How do you know when it’s finished?
Sara: I write the first draft of a story in one sitting and a singular frame of mind, complete with the beginning, middle, and end. Then, I let the story steep into my routine, breathe with me. Sometimes sentences and words come when I’m pouring coffee, doing laundry, or watching birds on the patio. An ending or a beginning, drastically different from the original draft, occurs to me and I alter the story, then undo the changes, undergoing the cycle endlessly. That said, every story is different. Sometimes the extent of deviation from the first draft might just be a few words here and there, mostly to fit the word count I’m shooting for.
Some stories take hours, some days. Some never take off at all, die a natural death. I know a story is finished when it’s out of my system, when my mind moves on to the next thing.
Charlotte: Do you have a favorite place to write that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?
Sara: Before, I used to write on the bed, pillows propped behind my back, but things changed with the pandemic. The remote working forced me to have a work desk at home. Now, I write on the desk, seated in a swiveling office chair facing the window. Being on the work desk subconsciously infuses discipline and structure to my writing, makes me sit longer, concentrate harder. Plus, my husband doesn’t know whether I’m writing or working, so there is less domestic distraction.
Charlotte: Some writers advise to write every day, to actually force yourself, that it’s good practice. Do you agree?
Sara: Though it sounds good in theory to write every day, I can’t force myself into the habit. If anything, the pressure to produce daily would drive me away from writing. You can’t force love, or writing. At the same time, I’m not immune from writers’ guilt. At times when I go days without writing a word, something niggles and wiggles inside me, and I go back to editing and reviving abandoned drafts.
Writing is a different process for everybody. No rights or wrongs there.
Charlotte: Where was the strangest place that inspiration hit you for a story and how did it turn out?
Sara: I was on a vacation with my family in Vancouver, bicycling around Stanley Park on a sunny day. I hadn’t packed my writing with me. It stayed back in the computer plugged into the wall socket at home. In the park, on our bicycle route, we observed a throng of people taking pictures of something. We parked our bicycles and saw it: the beautiful bronze sculpture— “Girl in a Wetsuit” —a girl sitting on a rock facing the water. We took pictures of the piece of art, and a thought lodged itself in my brain: the bronze girl was waiting for someone, a loved one, to emerge from the waves. On returning home, I converted the kernel into a story of a woman, waiting for her drowned lover, staring at the sea, shaming the waves into returning him to her. I titled the story “I Wait.” It was published by Crack the Spine magazine and nominated for Pushcart.
Charlotte: Are there any recurrent themes in your stories? If so, why do you think that is?
Sara: Feminism is a recurrent theme in my work because of the injustice, overt or subtle, women continue to face around the world, the shackles our sisters are bound with even as humans take recreational trips to outer space. Relationship is another area I revisit again and again because that is the essence of being human, the mantra to happiness, or the key to despair.
Charlotte: Do you have any favorite words?
Sara: Now that you ask, these come to mind—swivel, glint, trudge.
Charlotte: Do you have any tips to share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a piece?
Sara: Setting a timeline works for mostly everything from cooking breakfast to completing work projects to writing stories. Try to hit a submission guideline but if a piece is stubborn, as some of them are, don’t sweat. It’s meant for another place. Target another goal.
Charlotte: Tell me about your flash fiction collection.
Sara: My debut flash fiction collection Morsels of Purple from Alien Buddha Press came out October 2021. This is a collection of 54 flash and microfiction stories that represent the mosaic of a woman’s life—girlhood and its impoverishment, womanhood and its heartbreaks, wifehood and its travails, motherhood and its responsibility, childlessness and its curse. The stories span across cultural, geographical, and religious boundaries and offer glimpses into the lives of women in different situations—a young Muslim girl who doesn’t understand why her mother fasts during Ramadan, a Hindu girl born to a widow, an Indian girl who’s taught the proper wifely behavior expected by her husband, an immigrant daughter who’s not allowed to bring a jar of mango pickle from India to the USA, a childless woman in Ohio who steals a baby, an American girl who drops out of school to marry her high-school sweetheart, a bereaved wife who writes instructions to deal with an alcoholic husband.
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American writer. She was born to a middle-class family in India. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Reflex Press, Flash Fiction Online, and elsewhere. She has been highly commended in National Flash Microfiction Competition, shortlisted in SmokeLong Quarterly Micro Contest, shortlisted in Bath Flash Fiction Festival. She is currently an editor at Janus Literary and a Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Her debut flash fiction collection was released in October 2021. More at https://saraspunyfingers.com. Reach her @PunyFingers.