Sonal Singh is an award-winning blogger and writer and has won accolades in poetry and prose writing on multiple platforms such as momspresso, artoonsInn, penmancy, womensweb, Asian Literary Society etc. She has also contributed to several anthology publications.
The Asian Review warmly welcome Sonal for a brief interview on her new release Islands in the Stream
If you were given 59 seconds to introduce yourself to the world—how would you do it?
I am a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I don’t believe in competition but believe in milestones instead, and I set some very unrealistic ones for myself. That is what drives me.
I am a multiple award-winning blogger and writer and have won national accolades in the field of poetry and prose writing. I also host a chat show on my Facebook page – OnSonalsTable.My first solo book (poetry) titled – Islands in the stream – was released on May 21.
By vocation, I am the founder of a recruitment firm called Rian Placements. By passion, I am a writer. My creative expression finds release in my personal space On Sonal’s table.
Can you tell us about your work so far and the rewards/awards you have received for your work?
I am a published writer on various literary platforms such as Penmancy, ArtoonsInn, Women’s Web, Momspresso, etc. In poetry, I enjoy writing about nature and life. In prose, it is humour that interests me.
I am the recipient of the Lal Bahadur Shastri award for corporate excellence for my venture Rian Placements (www.rianplacemens.com). In the literary world, I am a relatively recent entrant (www.onsonalstable.com). The first national-level certification I received was as a finalist in the Orange Flower Awards (by Women’s Web) in 2018 for an article that I wrote on ‘writing on work’. Since then, God has been kind to me. I genuinely believe that I am blessed, and 2019 proved to be a fantastic year for me. I won the Gitesh Biva and the Prasanna Jena memorial awards instituted by the Asian Literary society for my short stories. And, I emerged as a finalist in the Orange flower awards in 3 categories – ‘English poetry’, ‘travel writing’ and ‘writing on work’.
In 2020 I won the Orange Flower Award for ‘parent blogging’ and was a finalist in the category – ‘writing on LGBTQ+ issues. In 2020, I was also the recipient of a certificate of excellence in The Asian Literary Society’s annual Wordsmith award.
In 2021, I have adjudged the second runner-up in the Orange Flower Awards for writing in two categories – ‘writing on wellness/fitness’ and ‘writing on LGBTQ+ issues. I also emerged as a finalist in 3 other categories – ‘writing short fiction’, ‘writing humour’ and writing on parenting’. In 2021, in their annual awards, the Asian Literary Society adjudged me as the ‘best blogger’ and also conferred on me the honour of being an ‘Indian woman achiever in literature’. This was also the year when I received 6th position globally in the Bharat Awards.
I released my first solo book, a compilation of 48 poems, on May 21 (available on Amazon) and was awarded the ‘India top 100 prime authors award’ by Foxclues media.
As an author from the Indian subcontinent, what is your opinion about the contribution of South Asian authors to the global literary scene today?
I think that Indian and South Asian writers are gaining popularity in the global scene, but it’s still an uphill task. Authors like Arundhati Roy, Arvind Adiga, Jhumpa Lahiri, etc., have firmly established Asian writers as talented lot. But, the examples are few. For every one success, we have a hundred who did not succeed. But, I hope to see this ratio change soon.
You have written poetry and prose and won several awards; what is your opinion on the position of poetry and short story, in the modern context where narrative non-fictions and fictions are in ceaseless combat that seemingly has created an impression that modern literature is either fiction or creative non-fiction.
I believe there has been a resurgence of interest in the field of the poetry of late. This is attributable to the online literary groups and platforms that are encouraging poetry as a form of self-expression. There are more people publishing poetry books now than they did before, but it’s very difficult to find a traditional publisher. Most of the books are self-published.
If we consider the Indian market, then I feel that prose, especially fiction, needs to still find its niche. Non –fiction sells more, especially if it is historical or mythological non-fiction. People identify with the characters more. So, they tend to pick up these books more. Hence, fictional prose suffers because the market niche that they operate in becomes even leaner.
But yes, a reader tends to slot prose as either fiction or non-fiction with subcategories like self-help, biographies etc., often getting slotted under the non-fiction category instead of enjoying their own niche.
Hundred thousands of readers have embraced your poetic work, and you have been recognized for that. Can you elaborate on your thoughts about how influential poetry is in social change?
I am deeply humbled by the success of my book ‘islands in the stream’. Before I published it, I was told by many established/amateur writers – ‘Poetry does not sell. You should stick to prose’. But, the success of my book has proven to me that a market exists in India for poetry. A poet just needs to find the right manner in which to market the book.
I believe poetry over the ages has influenced social change. Poetry helps people connect to their emotions. It is easy to understand and has thus been used as a consensus-building and awareness-raising medium for generations. Poets like Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, etc., have all used poetry to challenge and influence social, political, etc., beliefs.
Have you ever thought of giving up writing? If so, why? Hundreds of writers in our readership would love to hear how you tackled writer’s block.
No, I have never thought of giving up writing. Doing so would mean losing my right to self-expression.
I believe that writer’s block is a glorified concept. Our mind does tend to stagnate for ideas, but that’s not because it is blocked. It is because the human brain was not meant to decipher things unilaterally. It is a tool that is meant to imbibe and express in multiple dimensions. So, if you only make it express via your writing, then sooner or later, it will run out of any imbibed ideas, situations etc. When this happens to me, I take a brief hiatus from the writing. The story still churns in my head, but I put it on the backburner to percolate whilst I distract myself with reading, relaxing activities, connecting with friends and family etc. That always helps to untangle the mental cobwebs and brings clarity.
What would you choose to write about if you were asked to do a work of fiction/poem or a short story set outside of the subcontinent? Why?
I would definitely write about England/Scotland. In fact, I have written a few short stories based in the Isles, and I enjoy exploring the intricacies of the language across continents. I find that when we write keeping in mind just our country, its people, etc., all our stories start to sound the same after some time. That is because the expressions, emotions, even the expletives tend to get repeated. Writing about places outside of our own environment keeps things interesting and engaging.
As an author, what is the most unforgettable moment of your life and why?
It was the unboxing of the first set of author copies sent by my publisher for ‘islands in the stream’. The feeling was second only to the birth of my children. The moment will always be special for me because with that one moment; a possibility became a reality.
According to you, which are the five books, everyone should read and also who are your top 3 Authors and what impact they had in your journey as a writer?
I honestly do not have any favourite books except the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But, I do have favourite authors who have influenced me and made me a better writer. The list is endless, but I mention three names here.
- Ruskin bond
- Jeffery archer
- Jhumpa Lahiri
All three of these authors have markedly different writing styles, and I learned a lot from that.
Social media has conquered everything in the modern world; publishing is no exception. What do you think of this new reality as an author?
I embrace this change and have to say that it was long overdue. Publishing a book in India (via traditional publishing) is a long and frustrating process. It ends in rejection more than selection. If a newbie writer tries to opt for partnered or self-publishing, they often need to shell out a huge amount of money. Not everyone can afford that.
That’s why the advent of digital platforms like Amazon, KDP etc. is such a welcome change. They allow new writers to self publish for free.
There are thousands of new authors emerging from India; what is your advice for them?
Write for yourself and then customize for the reader. The end game is the reader, but it is your book; it is your work, so express yourself with originality. Don’t be a copycat in a world in which you were born to be original.
“Writing in the times of pandemic” how do you face this?
One of the upshots to the pandemic has been that many working professionals like me found the time to compile their thoughts in a book form. Work from home has allowed us to save a few hours in the day, which many have utilized to publish their first book. So, I look at the brighter side.
There is a saying that writers never stop writing. Do you have anything in the pipeline for your readership?
I would agree with the saying. Once a writer, always a writer! I have a few projects in the pipeline. I have three books (2 short story anthologies and one novel) in the pipeline. Hopefully, I shall be able to release one of the next years.
Any final parting remarks?
My advice to all new writers out there – embrace your critics. Don’t be afraid to put your work out there for fear of ridicule or criticism. Use criticism as a tool to hone your skills. The ridicule will die down on its own.