A whirlwind of crazy chaos, a dialogue in the digital world, and the first ray of the sun – ‘Shalaka’ hails from India’s orange city Nagpur, calls Bangalore’s purple skyline her favourite muse and every window seat her favourite abode. She has been passionate about writing since 8, and her first book Orenda stands taller as a milestone, starting her literary journey as an author. She started embracing words by publishing poems in local newspapers, became an editor for college magazines, did multiple poetry and writing challenges (NaPoWriMo, Inktober) and is now exploring the canvas of spoken word poetry, with local and national forums like YourQuote & Kommune (Scout Club). She’s also a core team member of the Kalinga Literary Festival.
This sanguine writer is also an artist, TEDx speaker, marketing/branding professional and has been associated with big brands across the globe like McDonald’s, Salesforce, HPE, Hindustan Unilever, VMWare, Kantar, Brillio – A Bain Capital Company, Terribly Tiny Tales, Unacademy, etc. She was in the top 3 of India for LinkedIn’s internship contest – Get a Job Season 2 with Godrej India. She currently manages global brand marketing at Microland. Kulkarni strongly believes in the spirit of giving back – has extensively worked with the underserved communities in India, cancer patients, and acid attack survivors. Has been recognized for being an impactful volunteer. She organised a fundraiser with her Inktober paintings for feeding the hungry last year and aspires to launch more ‘art for greater good’ initiatives in the near future.
Here is Shalaka Kulkarni in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.
1) How did your journey as a writer begin?
I belong to a family of Marathi literature enthusiasts and authors. We have more creativity in our blood than haemoglobin. 15g/DL. (smiles)
I started writing at the age of 8, in Marathi. Gradually moved to English and have tried Hindi too. My family pushed me to share the pieces with newspapers and magazines. Later, during my engineering, I interned with an age-old newspaper and learnt journalism basics. Was heading the college magazine committee as an Editor-in-chief too. This paved way to managing the Media and Corporate Affairs of an International Model UN Conference. Post which, I decided to pursue a degree in Marketing Communications and was introduced to the world of “content”.
I feel, in today’s day and age, content is everything. As a marketer, I honed my writing skills from a business standpoint, worked with multiple brands to formulate their brand and communication strategies. Continued writing stories and poetry on the side. Have successfully completed four writing challenges till now, and am in the middle of the fifth one now.
Last year, during the pandemic, took the book baby project seriously. And here we are!
2) Who has been your inspiration?
People and places, lovers and muses, journeys and experiences – have been my inspiration. You’ll find me saying this quite often – “People are inspired by stories and stories are inspired by people. And that’s my favourite cycle.”
3) Tell us about your first book.
My first book is titled “Orenda ~ flash fiction based in modern India” and is a collection of 52 stories – from the narrow lanes of old Delhi to the posh streets of Bangalore, in sweaty locals of Mumbai and in childhood memories of Nagpur – these sanguine stories with unique titles and aim to warm the reader’s heart. Have received appreciation for the book by an eminent author and the director of Jaipur Lit Fest, Namita Gokhale, whereas the foreword is written by ‘the guardian angel of Indian indie cinema’ – Manish Mundra. Orenda’s 300-400-word stories touch upon different facets of society all set to ignite the reader’s mind. For me, it is a book of pictures – of local markets and peppermints, adhesives on a dinner plate, embroidery hoops stuck in rusty buses, walls of a boho apartment, and art classes in kaleidoscopic brothels. There’s love. There’s hope. But more than that, there’s warmth and strength. I hope the readers embrace it well.
4) What is your specialization in writing and why did you choose it?
Over the years, I have tried my hand at short stories, flash and micro fiction alongside poetry. I have worked with Terribly Tiny Tales in a business capacity and was an ardent contributor to One Frame Stories. Didn’t let any amount of workload invite writer’s block! Used to ask my friends for 5 random words, for widening my perspective. It has helped me enormously. Flash and micro fiction writing are in vogue given the drastically reducing attention spans. I feel my forte has hit the right spot with a layered style of writing. What do you think? 🙂
5) How difficult is it to get a book published?
Writing a book is not the difficult part, publishing is. More rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I took the self-publishing route as I wanted to go through all the labour pain and understand each and every step. It was an adventurous roller coaster of 16 months – from compiling to marketing the book. You see, self-publishing is in vogue post the pandemic.
6) How much time does it take to complete a book?
It is very subjective. If I have to talk about Orenda, well, I had written these stories for 8-9 years. But now with my next book, I might take lesser time knowing the meat. Novellas take longer than flash fiction, and poetry collections might get done quickly. On a lighter note, the book babies need all your time and attention to grow and flourish, just like the human ones. 24 hours a day are never enough!
7) Tell us about your TEDx Talk.
I was honoured and thrilled to deliver my first TEDx talk – “Trusting the Process” at my alma mater. I spoke about my journey as a professional and a writer – about what really goes ‘under the stairs’ while you climb them to touch the skies. How the values of discipline, consistency, courage, resilience and empathy have the power to change your fate. I also stressed – how success cannot be defined and how a prestigious college tag matters only to a certain extent.
As a storyteller, I spoke about how life is more about people and less about success. And why it is important to celebrate pitfalls as that is what goes into building a strong foundation. Embrace the uncertainties, and trust the process. Always remember, because the best things happen when you least expect them to – the universe has a plan kids, and it is always in motion!
8) How is life on the other side of writing?
I write. The rest of the time, I am wrong. So yeah – There’s nothing right on the other side of writing. (chuckles)
Jokes apart, I love solo travelling and exploring lives – to collect souvenirs, stories and experiences and that makes me a better person, a better artist. Volunteering and painting keep my spirits high as well.
9) Tell us about your next book.
Currently working on another collection of flash fiction, have named it Ta.dow. Ta.dow means – expressing the inexplicable synchronicity of human life and the sublime experiences of subjectivity and wonder that the English language cannot adequately describe. Will possibly go through the traditional publishing route for Ta.dow. Fingers crossed!
FACEBOOK: Shalaka Kulkarni
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