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Spotlight: Archita Mittra
Interview by Melanie Bikowski
*Editor's Note: This interview project was created to help you as readers get to know our writers as well as the Quail Bell Crew to get to know each other better. This interview was conducted by assistant editor Melanie Bikowski and focuses on fellow assistant editor Archita Mittra.
How did you become associated with Quail Bell?
I think it was in the final year of high school. I was starting to take my creative writing seriously and was looking for places to submit and I stumbled onto Quail Bell Magazine and fell in love with it. I loved the Photo Tales, the mix of the real and the unreal, and the whole thing just resonated with me so much -- it was exactly the kind of ‘zine I was looking for. So I sent an essay and a few poems and got an email after a few weeks saying there was a problem opening the Word attachment and could I please resend them, which I did. Then two or three days later, I checked my email, again and there was my acceptance letter waiting for me, from [former managing editor] Deniz Ataman, praising my work and comparing my writing to Rainer Maria Rilke. I was absolutely overjoyed and although I wasn’t familiar with Rilke’s work then, he’s become one of my favorite poets now. After that, I sent an internship query and before I knew it, I was added to the Facebook group and was uploading my articles directly onto Weebly. It’s been such an amazing experience -- knowing and interacting with so many creative, talented and positive people!
What kind of writing do you do for Quail Bell? And do you do any writing outside of Quail Bell?
Mostly creative writing -- poetry, narrative essays, creative nonfiction. But I’ve also written listicles, lighter content, have been involved in a couple of Photo Tales, and otherartsy stuff as well. Outside of Quail Bell, I send out my poetry to literary magazines, and do some freelance ghost-writing, content writing and editing jobs from time to time.
Who are the biggest influences on your writing?
Well, I can’t really name a particular person as an influence, because I’m always reading and evolving and I don’t really think you can actually spot the influence of the writers I particularly admire in my work. But then again, I may be wrong. So I guess, it’s safer to say, that more than people, I tend to be influenced by a certain set of aesthetics or ‘atmosphere’- a mix of dark fantasy, surrealism, Romantic Goth, the vintage, the magical and the mythical, anything esoteric really, so I have a tendency to gravitate towards people who give off that vibe like Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton. But I’m into poetry a lot, especially Sylvia Plath and Rilke, as I mentioned before, and I tend to read out of my comfort zone as well, sometimes. So, in a sense, I am actually influenced by anything and everything that is happening to me.
What are your hobbies that don’t involve writing?
I love to draw. In fact, art was my first love and not writing. But drawing and painting is something I’ve only pursued as a hobby and with college and work, it’s hard to make actual time for it. But I did a course in multimedia and animation last year, and I tinker with graphic design projects from time to time. Also, I find calligraphy really therapeutic and I have something off a passing interest in photography though I’m still saving up for that DSLR. I’m also really interested in magic and fortune telling and have been reading Tarot Cards for over three years now.
I really enjoyed your article on Sylvia Plath and all the things listed that can be learned from her life and career. In the article, you state that “If you want to be talented and creative, learn EVERYTHING you can,” so I would love to ask, what is one piece of knowledge that you have learned from the modern world that you would love to give to Ms. Sylvia Plath if you can hang out with her? Would you take her to a place, give her a piece of knowledge, or something entirely different?
Thank you so much. I’m really glad that you enjoyed it. But I don’t really think I’m the best person to give Plath advice but if I had to, I’d tell her what Newt Scamander says in Fantastic Beasts, something about human beings being the most vicious creatures on the planet and so to try her best to not let the negativity of others bring her down. However, in the unlikely event that I actually got to hang out with her, we’d most probably go to a park, feed some ducks, share sandwiches and talk and giggle about trivial things. Maybe, just at the end, when we’re about to leave, I’d say something sentimental, like how I don’t want her to ever go or that I’ve always loved her and always will, and then she’ll look at me with this understanding smile, nod her head and say something that will mean a lot to me in the years to come. Like some form of closure for our childhood demons or something.
What’s a book by a local or indie author you would recommend to someone?
There’s this anthology of comics by Indian artists called ‘PAO’ which I was lucky enough to review and it’s absolutely brilliant both in terms of stories as well as diversity of art. It features comics by both industry veterans like Orijit Sen and Sarnath Banerjee as well as new and upcoming talent. So if you’re the one who devours graphic novels, this is something you’ve got to check out.
Why are small presses so important in the industry?
Because of representation. The way I see it, although I don’t know much about how the publishing industry works, with a mainstream press, there’s always the commercial profit angle involved and creating art to suit a particular market that you know will bring in the money. But with a small press, there’s more experimentation and the chance to represent communities who have been oppressed or marginalized and that’s very important in today’s world. To publish work that’s brave, authentic and which challenges societal norms -- I think small presses are best for this sort of thing, as mainstream presses aren’t that likely to take such risks with authors they’ve never even heard of.
What is your most proud piece of writing that you have written in your career as a writer?
I believe all of my writing is a work in progress, and there are times when I’ve written something, hated it, revised it, got it published, liked it a lot, only to stop liking it after a few weeks or months. So if I were to pick a piece, I’m currently proud of, there’s a high chance I’m going to dislike it after some time has passed. However I’m really proud of this piece which was initially titled ‘The Skin Deep Myth of Black Beauty" but was subsequently edited for publication, where I talk about the oppression that people of color still face. It begins with a personal instance--a childhood game, in face- that still makes me nauseous every time I think of it. So yes, I’m really glad that I wrote this. I’m also still proud of this food poem I wrote a year back about femininity and motherhood.
What is your biggest suggestion to young writers that are looking to be a career writer like yourself?
For writers, I think it’s very important to realize that inspiration may not, and will not, hit us everyday but we have to still show up and do the work. And it’s vital that we choose to do the work we enjoy. So if you’re looking to be a career writer and do a fair share of content writing, try to take projects that genuinely interest you and not just to pay the bills. And even if the circumstances are such that you don’t get much choice, make a promise to yourself to add value to whatever you write because there’s a reader somewhere in the world who is giving up their time to read your work and if they can’t get something useful or productive out of it, it’s a waste of time, right? So basically my point is, don’t write fluff. Double check the information and proof-read your work. Yes, there will be mistakes and it’s important you learn from them, but always do your best. We have enough of bad content and wrong information floating about in the net, anyway. And if you’re looking to further yourself as a creative writer, do experiment as much as you can and have fun. If you don’t enjoy doing what you do most of the time, it’s time you begin doing it differently or try something else. And above all, be grateful for all that you’ve achieved so far and all that you dream of achieving. Good luck!
Welcome to our staff blog, where you can learn more about The Quail Bell Crew.
Christine Stoddard conceived the idea for Quail Bell in late 2009 after writing a children's story by the same name, and launched the website as a college blog in 2010. In June 2013, Christine and former art director Kristen Rebelo officially launched Quail Bell Magazine as a global web magazine. Read our editorial mission statement to learn more.