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Inspirational Woman: Rochelle Potkar | Fiction Writer and Poet

Tell us about yourself, your background and what you do currently

Rochelle PotkerI write short stories, poetry, and haibun. I write on any theme that fascinates me, be it loneliness, love, or science. I still haven’t grown up and write about romantic love too.

I was a writer-in-residence at the UNESCO city of literature – Iowa’s prestigious International Writing program in the fall of 2015.

Tell us about any current projects or initiatives you wish to promote

I am in love with the word and the story in all its multiciplity. If a day is a life, a word is a story.

• I have drafted two proposals for two-week-long artists’ residencies and am waiting for budget approvals – fingers crossed! If this comes through, we can have South Asian artists converge in Mumbai and through their art, talk on gender-based violence.

• I am currently working on a novel and two collections of short stories. My book of prose (haibun and flash fiction) is ready for publication, and my book of poetry ‘Four degrees of separation’ is due in the first quarter of 2016.

• I wish to promote haibun across India through workshops. Haibun is a prose-poetry form interspersed with haiku. It comes from the Japanese short poetry forms. I believe anyone can write a haibun because it intersects story and poetry.

What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?

My challenges have been external. In my confusion and subsequent realizations that the groups I join have to have objectives that overlap with mine. My biggest lesson has come from understanding group dynamics, mapping emotional needs but not necessarily giving into them. I have learnt to rely on the philosophy that my work should speak for itself, if at all. To be free from the worry that I will miss opportunities if I don’t indulge in sycophancy has been a liberating high point.

What has been your greatest achievement personally?

• That in spite of beginning to write in 2007, I managed okay. I have had a sense of dread with respect to the slipping of time, but not anymore. I feel relaxed.

• Iowa’s three-month residency instilled confidence in me, making me realize that while self-belief is an inside job, confidence comes from external factors.

• The other gains come every day in the pleasure of creating something new; the enriching insights that come from life and human behaviour.

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?

I would have been dead.

Rochelle Potker ReadingOkay, seriously I would be in advertising going against what a wise man once said when he strolled into the marketplace, “There is everything here I do not want.”
Sometimes I think poetry is the best thing to sell. A capsule of lyrical philosophy with appropriate line breaks that can resonate through the day, like a slow-released drug carrying wisdom, causing epiphany, leaving you with a smile, a sense of peace or restlessness.

Now-a-days I am tempted by notions of activism – I don’t know the form yet, but my blood boils over the injustices still prevalent. When I was younger I thought all this would end, but now I see it getting worse… I guess my gaze is shifting from my navel to my surroundings.

Although, stories around navels are fascinating too…

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

In the poetry world (and from a distance): Arundhathi Subramaniam. I don’t give in to idols usually, because I am impatient, greedy, and hence disloyal. I like to learn from everywhere. But whenever I have lifted my gaze from my preoccupations, I have found Arundhathi to be inspiring, refreshing: be it in her poetry, the way she conducts herself, the way she narrates, even her voice. It has been a slow-building fascination. She, to me, is a true poet on and off the page.

Otherwise, I have been inspired by many people. I am a scavenger. Not only do I pick traits off for characterization, I also misappropriate some for myself.

My 6 year-old-daughter has such life flowing through her, she eggs out the child in me. My friends have inspired me as I watch their personal and professional struggles. My family.

I believe there are five — if not more — inspiring attributes in every individual. The way we carry our crosses are different because our crosses are different. For me, people are contagious. If I stay with them for a while, they become poetry. If longer, a short story, and if long enough, an entire novel. But a book (of a person) definitely opens up the moment you say, hello.

Only sometimes you go in expecting a romantic novel and it turns out to be horror.

What does the future hold for you?

A lot!

I am going to spiritually conquer myself, by watching my drawbacks and working on them one by one.

Other than that, I hope to be writing. There is a broken voice whispering in me. I have to stitch that together in full sentences.

I want to meet people who walk this earth with me simultaneously.

I want to see the world.

I want to conduct poetry and haibun workshops across India. (The candy crush saga of prose-poetry. Oh! Don’t even get me started on this form. Invite me to your city.)

About Rochelle Potkar:

5056104921Rochelle Potkar is a fiction writer and poet. Her work has appeared in several Indian and international publications. She won a gold place for her story, ‘The point of Irish coffee’ from Revenge Ink, and an Editor’s choice award for her story, ‘Ramayan redux’ by Triangulation: Parch, USA. Her poem, ‘Knotted inside me’ was shortlisted for The RaedLeaf Poetry India Award 2013, and she won a second place for poem ‘Swing’ at the Wordweavers contest 2014. She narrated two true-life tales at Tall Tales, Kitab Mahal.

Her book, ‘The Arithmetic of breasts and other stories’ was shortlisted for The Digital Book of the Year Award 2014, by Publishing Next. She is working on a novel and two collections of short stories. Her book of poetry ‘Four degrees of separation’ is due soon by Poetrywala. She was a writer-in-residence at The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, Fall Residency 2015. She lives in the spicy, noisy, tropical city of Mumbai, and blogs at www.rochellepotkar.com.

Contacting Rochelle:




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