My Mummy, Legacy, and My Ambition

Two weeks ago my grandmother, or Mummy as some of her grandchildren affectionately referred to her, passed away. I was fortunate enough to attend her funeral and spend time with my extended family. Since then I can’t help but ponder on how my mummy’s life, her work, her legacy, helped lead me to where I am today.

As hard as it is to say, I must admit that I didn’t know my grandmother that well. From the age of 2-6 my family lived with her and my grandfather in New Delhi. She helped take care of us, raised us. I have a distinct memory of her giving me a bath when I was younger. Once we came to the United States we didn’t see my grandparents for a number of years. In that time I had learned to assimilate in US society, the side effects of which caused a distance from my culture and in turn my own family. I stopped speaking Hindi, listening to Hindi music, watching Bollywood movies, and even really trying to understand that side of my heritage.

It was easier to pretend that it didn’t exist.

Coming to US was a huge cultural shift and extremely emotionally trying. Being made fun of for bringing Indian food for lunch, for my accent, my lack of knowledge when it came to 90s media. I shed my old skin and put on a new one.

Over the years I got comfortable in that skin, one that maybe didn’t fit exactly right, but was easier to wear than the one I used to, the one I had outgrown.

I missed out on a lot. I have regrets. By the time I finally had a desire to reacquaint myself with my Indian identity and family, it was too late with Mummy. She had been diagnosed with alzheimer’s.

Surrounded by my very Indian family two weeks ago, I felt that little tug to the younger version of myself, the one who didn’t know anything but the love they had for one another, the girl who hadn’t lost that part of herself.¬† We shared stories about Mummy and I soaked in every minute of it. My grandmother was a fierce, determined woman. She raised five daughters in India, made sure each of them went to school, by whatever means necessary. One of my masi’s shared that she remembers Mummy selling her jewelry in order for their family to afford the tuition for school. My grandmother was the first female principle at the school she taught in India. When she married she didn’t even have a high school education, but my grandfather put her in school and within six months she had gotten her degree and learned English.

Each of one my aunts and my own mom went on to receive their educations and have very successful careers. My grandmother came to live in America when she was in her sixties. She got a job at the airport as baggage handler. Yup, you read that right, A BAGGAGE HANDLER. After that she got a job at Starbucks. Another one of my masi’s said, “she may not have been the best at her job, but she was the most reliable.” Rain or snow, Mummy was always showed up to work. No matter how early she had to get up, how many buses she had to take, she made sure of it.

Another of my masis’ said Mummy never complained about her life, never felt bad for herself, instead she stood tall and went to work

There are so many more stories about her that I will cherish, even though I did not get to see her incredible drive in action myself. But her legacy has rippled across my life as well as my cousins’, siblings’, aunts’, and uncles.’

I don’t think I would be here if it weren’t for her and the example she set for her daughters. If she hadn’t encouraged my parents to start our lives over in America where dreams were aplenty.

Reflecting on all off this I decided something recently. I have dreams. Big ones. Ambitions that I keep to myself because they’re scary and seem impossible. But no more. I’m embracing that part of myself, the part that is probably comes straight from Mummy. I will not let fear and doubt hold me back. I will think of her in those moments when I want to crumple to the floor, curl up into a ball and cry. Because she didn’t. She never stopped. And neither will I.

 

The Thing About Waiting

Let’s go back. WAY BACK. Like 2007 way back when Baby Writer Prerna was born. For years I’d created stories in my head, I even attempted to write a novel during my freshman year in college with disastrous results. But 2007 is significant because that’s when I discovered that most writers suck when they start. And the only way to get better is to, well, write.

Fast forward a couple of years (maybe even three). I finish my fist manuscript. It is terrible. I don’t think it’s that bad. But it is. It so is. It’s a paranormal romance. If any of you remember what the market was like way back when then you’ll know that I decided to query at the very worst time possible for paranormal. Of course it didn’t help that my manuscript was awful. I waited it out for a while and moved on. I wrote another book, a contemporary, it wasn’t half bad. I got some requests! Then I waited. And the rejections piled on.

Fast forward and now I’ve worked on yet another contemporary, and even though I liked it, there was another idea niggling at me and I knew I had to get it out. Thus began my journey in writing Chase the Night. I got lots of requests with that one. And waited. Yet again. And the rejections started rolling in. Again.

In 2016 I put aside Chase the Night (at the time it was titled Fading). In 2017 I decided to rework it and post it on the Swoon Reads website. This was about three years after I finished the first draft. I figured I had nothing left to lose, so why not? In the beginning of 2018 I got the call.

So what was the point of this whole post? To tell you that things can take a while. So often we hear and read about the overnight successes, those first manuscripts that got snatched up at auction, those authors who were barely beginning and post about the dozen! (Goodness, a whole dozen!) rejections they received before getting the call. I’m hear to tell you those stories are rare, they are not the standard when it comes to the publishing business. Most of us work and wait for years before we find any sort of success. Even those who have been published before end up waiting until their third, fourth, or fifth book is out for things to really take off, just look at Suzanne Collins.

And that’s okay. Success is not one size fits all. We all get there in different ways. Some of us wait longer than others. I’m here to tell you that waiting can be worth it. Yes, it can also be painful and cause crippling self-doubt (things that don’t really go away after you get an agent or a book deal either), but it will help you become a stronger writer, grow a thicker skin, and learn to be patient, and those things are essential if you want to survive in this business.

So keep waiting. But make sure that while you’re doing so you’re also moving forward, because in the end that is the mark of true success. Someone who keeps going despite knowing that rejection waits for them around the corner.

Editing 101

I got my letter a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t know what to expect, but I did know that I would have to have a game plan for when I did get it.

My initial reaction the letter went a little like this:

Shock:

200w_d1

They’re kidding right? Like, they don’t expect me to actually do ALL of that. Right??? Right???

Fear:

scurrd

There’s no way I can do this. I can’t. I can’t. I’m going to fail spectacularly.

Acceptance. Sort of:

tenor

I’m fine. Totally fine. I can do it. Yeah. Sure. Okay.

And finally:

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I feel like that gif really doesn’t really need an explanation. And it didn’t happen until after I talked to my editors on the phone. Which, I highly recommend doing after getting your edit letter. It makes everything so much better when you’re all on the same page.

As far as a game plan? I like to keep it simple. I know some authors who like to do big picture stuff, then go back, or vice versa. Me? I like to go in order. So chapter after chapter. This has been working well for me. So far. If I make a change in later chapters that effect the previous ones, I go back and fix them before moving on. If I know it’ll effect later chapters, I make a note to get to it once I’m there. I’m about a third of the way through and feeling good. I’m excited about the changes I’ve made, I feel like I’m getting to know my characters even better. I’m enjoying the process, even though it can be a bit overwhelming at times.

I do have days where I’m not sure what to do or where I’m going, and on those days I let myself rest. I read, I watch some TV, and listen to some music. If I push myself too much it only hinders my progress. Remember, not everyone works the same way, not everyone can have the same schedule. Find what works for you and keep going. Meanwhile this whole publishing thing is finally starting to feel real. And I can’t wait until you get to read the final version of Chase the Night.

Welcome!

I have a website! It’s official. I’m an author. Okay, kind of joking. I’m still working out the kinks, figuring out what I want it to look like and what not, so be patient because it probably won’t look the same the next time you visit. It’s both fun and frustrating learning how to set it all up, but hopefully by the end of it I will have a website that is uniquely me and easy to navigate for all visitors! I will post¬† more updates as far as publishing and writing goes as soon as I am allowed to (publishing is so very secretive and hush hush lol).