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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

 

Pia Padukone, Winter 2010 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Pia Padukone is an aspiring author and a proud native of New York City, where most of her stories take place. A graduate of Stuyvesant High School and the London School of Economics, Pia entered the professional writing world as a copywriter for advertising agencies. She has written children’s books, which embrace the importance of growing up tolerant and understanding in a multicultural environment. Pia’s work is influenced by the world around her—observing interactions while running in Central Park, waiting on line in the grocery store, and those ever-engaging exchanges on the subway. Pia was a finalist in the Seventeen Magazine Fiction Writing Contest. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, triathlon-training, and discovering the endless hidden secrets of her city. Pia is thrilled to be a finalist in the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest.

Please read Pia's winning entry here, then settle in for our chat with Pia below.
Interview by Jill Earl
WOW: First of all, many congratulations on your winning entry, Pia! How does it feel?

Pia: Thank you! I feel extremely honored. I've written my entire life, but always for myself; I've never taken the extra step to enter a writing contest until now. It means so much to be recognized, not simply for reasons of pride, but for the acknowledgment that I am a good writer, and that other people enjoy reading my work. Moreover, it's such an enormous distinction be selected by WOW! and from a group of strong, dynamic, and smart women. It's the best kind of encouragement to keep it up.

WOW: What a great compliment, Pia! We’re glad you entered, your entry was a fabulous read! Please tell us more about the inspiration behind your story.

Pia: I started Decaf as part of a writing group prompt to depict a scene at a breakfast table. Initially, the story unfolded as a rushed interaction between a husband and wife, but I found it might be more powerful to depict a relationship where there is obvious tension without direct confrontation. I was trying to convey the importance of direct communication and the effects of passive-aggression.

WOW: I think you made the right choice to stick with your characters’ passive-aggressive relationship. In reading your story, I wanted them to just say what they meant. Well done! Let’s talk about your writing history. Can you give us some background on it?

Pia: I've always loved writing, whether it was doing 'share stories' with friends in grade school, where one person wrote a chapter and passed it back and forth, to keeping diaries, to writing short stories. I currently work as a copywriter at a pharmaceutical advertising agency where I write promotional copy. It's challenging but obviously quite different than creative writing.

WOW: When writing, what kind of themes do you like to explore?

Pia: I really enjoy finding subtlety in writing. Sometimes I find that sometimes my style is too subtle and feedback is that people don't really understand what is going on. I need to learn to hone that skill. It may sound trite, but I love exploring relationships between different groups of people. And most of my stories stem from autobiographical or personal memories or experiences; it's where I take the storylines that are completely different from my life. There are so many dialogues that I overhear on the subway, or art galleries I visit in New York City that inspire and spark an idea in my head; you could say that New York City is my muse.

WOW: Exploring relationships between different groups of people doesn’t sound trite at all, that’s how you learn to develop interesting characters. What better place for inspiration than New York? I’m somewhat biased, though, since it’s one of my favorite places. I always have plenty of ideas to bring back after a visit there.

Let’s return to your writing history a minute. Your bio mentions writing experience as varied as working as a copywriter for advertising agencies to writing children’s books. Can you elaborate further on that?

Pia: After I graduated from college, I followed in my mother's footsteps and became a copywriter at an advertising firm. My job allows me to both write and think creatively. But it also encourages my creative writing even more, because I write factual content all day long. The children's books I've written were inspired by watching my younger brother experience growing up as an Indian child in a diverse environment and the importance of identity, tolerance and understanding in a city like New York, where so many different types of people live in such intimacy and closeness. I find that writing for children is extremely humbling; often it's even harder than writing for adults because you're forced to think through the mind and see through the eyes of these little people who are experiencing something for the first time, even if it's something you, as an adult, take for granted. You have to dig into the depths of your childhood and often, surround yourself with children to understand how they feel.

WOW: Thanks for sharing that. I think that being both a copywriter and children’s writer helps to make you more well-rounded, and that's will show in your writing. Let's move on to writing projects, are any you’re currently working on?

Pia: I recently went to India and was really intrigued by the hijras, who are males who adopt feminine gender identity and roles. They have their own communities and roles and are both feared and respected by Indian society. I have been researching them in an effort to be inspired by their collective story. I think, partly because many people don't know much about them, that there is a vast amount of material to draw upon about these peoples' lives. I'm also constantly brainstorming and considering new ideas and themes for my childrens' stories, and I hope to embark on a new one soon. Finally, I'm in the midst of writing various short stories. I hope to have a compilation by the end of the year, but I'm also learning that good writing doesn't happen overnight.

WOW: You certainly are keeping yourself busy, which is a good thing. Your research on the hijras is fascinating, what an interesting source to gain inspiration from! And how true that good writing requires one to continue writing and honing your craft.

Wrapping things up, what bit of advice would you like to offer our readers?

Pia: The best piece of advice is just to write. I have a postcard above my desk, which simply states, "Don't forget to write." It doesn't matter what you write, whether you think it's good or bad, or how you're inspired. Even if you're stuck, remember that catalysts always surround you, from the conversations you overhear, to the books you read, to a catchy subway ad that grabs your attention. Almost anything can spark a gem. I've found that as long as you get something down on paper, it can always be edited later on, but the foundation is key.

WOW: I'm going to have to try the postcard idea! Thanks for your writing words of wisdom and taking time out to chat with us today, Pia. Best of luck with your writing!

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