Monday 29 May 2017

Guest Post: The Journey Behind Writing a Book by Lainy Malkani

In September 2016, Lainy received a letter from Arts Council England informing her that she had been successful in her application for funding to write Sugar, Sugar. For the next six months, she set to work, researching and writing the stories that would eventually form Sugar, Sugar. But was the journey as smooth as she had first anticipated?

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I am still not quite sure what I was thinking when I wrote out my project plan for the Arts Council England Grants for the Arts fund. Once I received the news that I was successful in my bid, I immediately started researching the stories. I began to write two weeks later, that was in the first week of September and everything was going pretty well. By November, I had written the first drafts of four stories and then I hit a brick wall. I had plenty of opening lines, a paragraph perhaps and then nothing. I kept asking myself...and then? What happens next? Delete!

The Arts Council England funding gave me time to write the collection and to pay for a mentor. Jamie Rhodes, who had written his own collection of short stories, was always at the other end of the phone encouraging me to plough on and write. I allowed myself a week to redraft each story and while I was waiting for further feedback from Jamie I began researching the next story.

As a journalist I am used to writing to tight deadlines and continued writing and deleting for another month, desperately searching for the spark that would lead to a strong narrative. I confess that there were times that I wanted to give all the money back but I continued writing and deleting. By December, I had mapped out two more stories. 

Questioning why I was finding it so difficult to write I wondered if a change of scenery would help? 

Up until this point, I had been writing at home, in a make-shift office in my house. I tried writing in a cafe, in the British Library, in my dining room, and the hallway until eventually; I resorted to sleeping on my sofa, every night for the whole of January and part of February so that I could work at all hours of the night without disturbing my family. I rose at 5am and wrote until 1am, taking time out to have breakfast, lunch and dinner cooked by my husband and two children until finally on 6 February 2017, I submitted the first draft of the manuscript. 

Would I do it again? I know now that to write ten short stories in six months is a huge undertaking. If you would have asked me this question on 7 February, the day after I submitted my manuscript I would have said no! But now that I have Sugar, Sugar in my hands and can flick through the pages of my debut collection my answer would be probably followed by a maybe, followed by a definite yes!

About Sugar, Sugar

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Sugar, Sugar is a contemporary collection of short stories which reveals a rich and culturally diverse history behind India's migrant workers and one of the most abundant and controversial commodities in the world.

Inspired by historical documents between 1838 and 1917, and the living memories of the descendants of indentured workers, Sugar, Sugar spans five continents, travelling through time uncovering inspiring tales of courage and resilience.

With sugar at its heart, this collection unveils lives rarely exposed in modern British literature and adds a new dimension to the history of sugar, post-emancipation, whilst sharing a previously untold strand in the story of the making of contemporary Britain.

Sugar, Sugar is available to buy now. 

About Lainy Malkani

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Lainy Malkani is a London-born writer, broadcast journalist and presenter with Indo-Caribbean roots. In 2013, she set up the Social History Hub to bring the stories of 'unsung heroes' in society to life. Her critically acclaimed two-part radio documentary for BBC Radio 4, Sugar, Saris and Green Bananas, inspired her to create this collection of short stories. She has written for the British Library, the Commonwealth and the BBC. 

Lainy is married with two children and lives in North-West London. Her cross-cultural roots; from Britain, India and Guyana, in the Caribbean, have been a great source of her work, both as a writer and a journalist.

What do you think of the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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