Writing, Impostor Syndrome and Productivity: a Confessional

This started out as a late night Twitter post but I think, I hope, it’s worth posting it here. It was inspired in part by SFF writer Matt Dovey’s own, extremely honest thread about the doubts and tribulations regarding his writing process. Since it resonated so hard with me, I can imagine it resonating with others.

This is what I wrote yesterday, expanded a little, because I’m not restricted to 280 characters here!

“I wrote a new poem. That’s a much bigger deal than it sounds. I haven’t dared to write anything truly new in four years: since I was nominated for a BSFA Award in 2017.

In hindsight, I found the sudden sense of scrutiny crushingly intimidating: it juddered me to a slow crawl, during which I made many notes and obsessively squinted at poems/fiction I’d been writing already. I barely submitted anything. What I did submit bounced, usually with encouraging noises attached; two publications that did accept pieces sadly folded before they could bring their project to life.

Looking at that, it was my confidence that was shot (by getting an award nomination.. the irony), rather than my work lacking, per se. Not that I saw it that way, I was my own worst heckler. But considering no one else at the time went: ‘Your work stinks, Suna, give up!’, I was definitely getting in my own way. I did an interview here, a blog post there. I could talk up a storm about my WIP’s. I just omitted they’d been ‘IP’ since 2011 or thereabouts! I knew intellectually it’s fine if you’re not prolific for a while, or at least not as prolific as you feel you should be. To not beat yourself up on top of everything else. Easy to understand, harder to break. Especially since words and concepts swam opaquely around my head but I just didn’t seem to have the whats to capture them with a pen.

I never entirely stopped but my heart wasn’t entirely in it, either. I just dribbled occasional words into notepads or my writing app. Then something did change. As insidiously as my confidence leaked away, my will to write crept back. I’d love to say I made a conscious choice to grow a spine, but it grew over time.

A drabble prompt clinched it: short enough to not be daunting, challenging enough to make blood flow back into places I thought I had only tar. It got accepted almost immediately. The validation, the sense that I am doing something right after all, helped enormously, too 🙂

I felt excited about writing again. There was movement, albeit still a bit uncertainly. Then I read Matt Dovey’s thread. A long heartfelt sharing of his difficulties, obstacles both internal and extrnal, his doubts: his honesty and vulnerability were so moving and galvanising, it helped stoke up the fire in me. Yesterday, I used another call for submissions to write an entirely new piece. What made all the difference: I spent no time fretting about The Gallery of Scrutiny, its nameless judgements and the shameful sense I should pander to it. It was mine.

I still lack structure. Music is partially responsible, but really, it’s discipline and I am inconsistent. But I’m writing again and I’m happy about it. Matt’s post really yanked my chain in the best possible way, it helped me to nail my courage to the sticking place and I’m so grateful he shared it. I’m excited for his newfound fuel as much as mine and I look forward to reading his upcoming work.”

Afterthought after having posted the thread: “Maybe I’ll hardly publish actual fiction again. The most important and liberating thing is that the shouldism and self-judgement are gone. I play music, I perform. It’s an infinite luxury to have a creative career at all. When they flow, there are words. I’ve made amazing friends through writing. If you’re still reading, you are probably one of them, so: thank you.”

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Book Review! The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

This is a cut and paste of my review on NetGalley!

As a longstanding Nix-fan, I’m very happy to say this book did not disappoint. It was a delight and I’m so grateful for the advance reader copy!
I love it when Garth Nix writes standalone books; as much as I love his series, he really shines when he condenses the narrative to a single volume, as he did before with the brilliant Shade’s Children.

This adventure is packed with pagan lore and big, quest type concepts, sweeps the English countryside and manages to feel cosy and folksy at the same time.
But what is really wonderful about this book is that I was, very decidedly, suffering from major ‘Merlin-Fatigue’ before reading it.
I will admit that when I realised this was a Merlin based story my first reaction was ‘For heaven’s sake, hasn’t riffing on Arthurian themes been done, overdone, and then done to death?’

It’s always brilliant to be proven wrong. This is such a lovely take on Merlin and his relationship with his sister Vivien, Susan and the human/magical worlds around him that I was riveted. The fact that everything is tied up with a secret society of ancient personages prowling the perimiter of the modern world to protect it, in the guise of booksellers-with-supernatural skills, plus that a lot of those society interactions take place in libraries and/or specialty bookshops, is a joy for a bookworm!
On top of that, I’m a middle-aged woman and officially not the target audience but it didn’t matter one bit. That has always been the case with Garth Nix.
I wasn’t introduced to his books until at least my early thirties and I’ve been hooked ever since. That is certainly not always so with YA books but he has a fantastic insight in the teenage mind and has an ability to describe them so well, without them ever becoming exasperating to the reader!
This is a ripping yarn, I loved the pagan elements, the beautiful yet wild spirit of Old Nature that permeated everything, the snappy dialogue, the humour and the very present sense of dread and danger.
Susan’s personal quest for her father and how she comes to grips with who and what he is is extremely well done and the final resolution is deeply satisfying, albeit bittersweet.
There is definitely scope for a sequel but I almost hope this is it.
Perfect book.

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Casting The Blind Fisherman

This is very exciting: I’ve been waxing lyrical about the beautiful and engaging Hopeless, Maine graphic novel for years so it’s a thrill to be cast as one of the island’s characters for a short film!! I can’t wait to work with Tom and Nimue Brown, my fellow actors and the rest of the team!

The Hopeless Vendetta

It was obvious from very early on that as a motley crew and not an organised studio with a proper budget, we could not approach casting by putting a call out. We would have to find our players. We’d got Reverend Davies. Fortunately, two of the cast were blindingly obvious in terms of who we wanted, so as the project got moving, we got in touch with them to ask if they would be up for it…

I’ve known Loretta Hope since she was a kid. She’s a fantastic human being, an actor, dancer, model and aerialist and more. Multitalented, lovely to deal with and someone who very much looks the part. She’s always been the person I wanted to have playing Annamarie Nightshade. I asked, and she said yes, she would be up for doing this with us. You can find out more about Loretta here – https://lorettahope.co.uk/

There’s…

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The Latest Gupshup*: Coming Soon!

I am woefully sporadic when it comes to blog updates, so thank you all of you who have born with me so far, you are appreciated!

There have been many moves and shakes in the last year; I have had some major perspective shifts as a writer, a musician and a queer brown woman, all of which I’d like to share here. It’s been somewhat of a journey..

If you can stand to bear with me a little longer, consider this a placeholder for a more expansive post in which I will try to articulate some of the things that have been happening, as openly and honestly as I can!

For now, enjoy the delight of this hundred and fifty year old harmonium, which was preposterously offered up for FREE on one of the UK’s biggest personal ads magazine.

We saw this amazing piece of history, went for it like a shot and Harriet is now proudly standing in the vestibule of our art collective building (more on that!) in the Scottish Borders.

So, keep an eye out, I promise I’ll be back in the swish of a sari’s dupatta.

* Gupshup: (Hindi) Chit chat, casual conversation, gossip!

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Steampunk Hands Around the World! Steampunk Road Trip. Grasping February’s coattails on the way out.

(Art by Alex Xpike)

Steampunk Hands Around the World is a recurring event in the Steampunkverse. I’ve had the pleasure of being involved since its early beginnings, though my contributions in the past few years have been erratic at best! The project is something I will always champion, since what drives Airship Ambassador Kevin Steil’s initiative is global connection and friendship.

He believes there is a need to unify Steampunks everywhere. Whether they are writers, crafters, bands, event organisers, alcohol manufacturers, diversity warriors, costumiers or simply lovers of the genre who express their enjoyment by attending events and gatherings, his wish is to tie them all closer together and break any walls that stand between different articulations of the genre. It certainly helps towards the ‘More Steampunk Than Thou’ syndrome that can still prevail sometimes, though much less so than when I first became more active and vocal.

I love meeting people, I always have. Steampunk has facilitated some friendships I absolutely never would have had and they cross other interests of mine, too. I made friends with Steampunks who are also pagans, Steampunk who are also musicians, Steampunks who also write across other genres, Steampunks who are also filmmakers, the list goes on.

Some of these friendships could be laid down on a map as a digital road trip, as I have yet to meet some of them in person.

It is a real feature of the modern age that we can sustain a friendship and grow close without physical proximity.

I’ve had some real life-wrenching, air-punching, joy-affirming, sorrow-sharing Skype and Facetime conversations. I’ve exchanged heart secrets via WhatsApp. (Probably foolish, actually considering no data is safe.) But it is a sharing across boundries, visible and invisible that is reflected in the idea behind Steampunk Hands.

When you end up getting closer, it does become an urge to meet up in person, something I try to do whenever possible.

Last year, I finally had the thorough delight to meet up with Diana Pho and her newly wedded partner Ashley.

When I first launched Steampunk India in 2012, Diana was one of the first people to express her enthusiasm and support. She kindly signal boosted articles and posts on Beyond Victoriana to help bring SP India to a wider audience. An online friendship grew through a raft of other mutual interests across fiction, comics, theatre, movies and being vocal for inclusion in various pop culture/alternative communities and LGBTQ representation.

So there we finally were, at one of my favourite Edinburgh haunts – Treacle on Broughton Street, loved by me for their inventive cocktails and the TV screen near the door that plays Thundercats episodes on an endless silent loop. Tipples of choice in hand, we chatted nineteen to the dozen about all these things we were passionate about and our most recent and current projects. It was short but sweet, she and Ashley were taking full advantage of the fact they were in town during the Fringe and had a show to catch. But these moments where lives touch, in this case lives that mostly play out continents apart, is exactly what the joining of Steampunk Hands is about.

Diana Pho of Beyond Victoriana (Right)

An armchair Steampunk road trip of sorts took place over the past two years or so. Josué Ramos and Paulo César Ramirez Villaseñor, as a direct result of connections made through Steampunk Hands, came up with the idea for a bilingual Steampunk anthology that would include writers from all over the world. It was homeless for a while until it found a publisher in Luna Press.

I covered this publishing journey in previous articles so I shan’t rattle on about it at length again. It deserves a mention as an example of a Steampunk collaboration that joined people together, who had become friends during past Steampunk Hands events and who, besides writing the fiction and creating the artwork, became mutually invested in the technical side of getting the book to see the light of day.

(Night train from Kolkata to Assam. ©️Suna Dasi)

At the beginning of this year, I was in India (which deserves a whole article in itself – if I manage to sit still for more than half an hour at some point) and could not let the opportunity slip for another joining of Steampunk Hands: Shreya Ila Anasuya is an award winning writer, academic and activist who currently lives in Mumbai. Those very worthy features are not the things that connected us at first, some five or six years ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure the very first thing we did together was fangirl online at each other about the Steampunk/Lovecraftian joy that is Hopeless, Maine, which I enthused about on the SP India Facebook page when it came out as a serialised online comic. We ended up chatting in the comments thread and have been corresponding ever since.

(Hopeless, Maine. ©️Tom & Nimue Brown)

A lovely addendum is that Tom and Nimue Brown, the creator couple who draw and write the comic together, also became friends in more than one way, though we have so far not met face to face. I occasionally exchange ideas and thoughts on various strands of witchcraft and paganism with Nimue, which is always fascinating as we both come from extremely different schools of thought and practice. Tom happily boosts all music projects I’m involved in and literally cheers from the sidelines when I sell a new piece of writing. They’re both just lovely and part of a minute group of people whom I would meet without hesitation after having known them previously online. Fingers crossed that will happen in the near future. But I digress down a sidetrack on this road trip…

Back to Mumbai; sweltering, blistering Mumbai, even in January. Shreya meets my travel companions and I in Versova Social, a bar that so utterly exudes the same wonderful vibe as De Kroon in Amsterdam that it’s uncanny.

And there we finally were, at Versova, now forever loved by me for it’s great ambiance, inventive cocktails and perfect lounge music. Tipples of choice in hand, we chatted nineteen to the dozen about all the things we were passionate about: poetry, books, queer activism and representation in Indian society, people we admired, writing projects we were involved in.

The best thing about this meeting was that there was more time; as all of our conversations ended up being unfinished business by the end of the night, we met up again the next evening and simply continued. There is even a joint fiction project in the works for the near future!

Shreya Ila Anasuya (Left)

India itself was a true road trip, too, and very often Victoriana and the modern clung chaotically together like a messy, jungly, Victorian/Blade Runner mashup.

(Kolkata, ©️Suna Dasi)

One of the things that struck me is the fact that it isn’t merely a small effort to imagine yourself back in the days of the Raj, but that your surroundings will accommodate you with ease.

(Yep, that’s me! ©️Suna Dasi)

Everywhere, traces of the colonial empire persist, in the architecture and infrastructure on first glance, in the culture when probing further and deeper under the skin of Indians and Indian-ness. It’s not so much what Indian culture has lost (which is much, if you consider for example that it was the Victorians who introduced a form of prudery and lack of acceptance regarding sex and sexuality that was hitherto not part of the Hindu mindset – also food for an individual article later down the line), but what it has retained. Indians are obsessed with giving out cards, for instance. It is a leftover from leaving calling cards when going visiting and it is seen as a mark of sophistication to have your own cards.

(Victorian lamppost, Juhu Beach, Mumba. ©️Suna Dasi)

This impromptu article was cobbled together in haste, to be able to contribute to Steampunk Hands Around the World before February 2018 turns into a pumpkin at midnight. I have neither expressed myself as well as I’d like, nor included everything relevant to the concept of a Steampunk Roadtrip. The main thrust however, is this:

Journeys are made more meaningful by the people and places you connect with. The more people and places you connect with, the richer your experience of the world and the more likely we are to have a greater understanding of it. The Steampunk Hands initiative insists that boundaries are there to be crossed, cultural walls to be scaled and continental distances to be covered, in order to make those connections.

So if you find yourself with an opportunity of meeting someone you might otherwise not be able to, for reasons of distance, circumstance or what have you, do it. Enjoy the chance of sitting in a favourite haunt, tipple of choice in hand, chatting nineteen to the dozen, sharing the things that drive you and stir your passions. Keep travelling.

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Filed under Books, Comics, Culture, Diversity, Events, India, Steampunk, Steampunk Hands, Steampunk Hands Around The World, Victorian, Victoriana, Writing

2018: Steampunk, SpecFic, Music and more!

Happy New Year!

Seldom do I post (for regular updates Twitter is best), yet now I have many excitements to impart. Please make like the tiny turtles in Finding Nemo and scooch together, my kind followers.

2017 ended on a high note with big gig conformations for Erin Bennett: Planet Rock’s Winter’s End Festival, (we play on Sat 24/02) plus Hawkwind’s Hawkeaster Happening, in Morecambe. Krow, too, has an epic gig confirmed – announcement coming soon! New album releases are pending for both. (For those of you who followed this blog fairly recently; I sing backing vox in both bands, which is how I make a living. I write in the gaps.) The Cherry on the Christmas Cake: invites for contributions to two new anthologies & a speculative poem for a third.

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2018 started with a bang because oh, my goodnes; My short story ‘Unmade‘ (featured in Steampunk Writers Around the World) has been nominated for a BSFA by the British Science Fiction Association! Many congratulations to all fellow nominees & my open minded publishers at Luna Press Edinburgh.

For the full list of nominees in all categories, see the BSFA website.

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Coming Soon in 2017: Steampunk India News

A  belated Happy 2017 to all!
This year there are several music, film and writing projects in the works. While I’m quietly tinkering away at a book, I am pleased to confirm the inclusion of Steampunk India short story Unmade in the Steampunk Writers Around the World Anthology, by Edinburgh based Luna Press Publishing. The anthology is a direct result of Kevin D. Steil‘s annual Steampunk Hands Around the World project. The project connected writers from across the globe, with the result that some of them joined forces to create an anthology of non-Western Steampunk fiction. The editors, Paulo Ramirez-Villaseñor and Josué Ramos, found themselves on a quest for the ideal publishing company and landed on Luna. Contributors besides the two editors include Milton Davis, Ray Dean, Fabio Fernandes, Aníbal J. Rosario Planas, Petra Slováková, Marcus R. Gilman, César Santivañez and Elaine Vilar Madruga.
Release date to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, USA based editor Sarah Hans and Alliteration Ink publisher Steven Saus ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for their Steampunk Universe anthology.
The book, a follow-up to Steampunk World, aims to highlight fiction that includes disabled and aneurotypical characters. It will feature Steampunk India story Internal Devices, which focuses on the carer aspect of being in an LGBT relationship with a disabled partner, in the guise of a swashbuckling adventure.
Release date to be confirmed.
(Cover art for Steampunk Universe, by James Ng.)

In other news: it’s studio time. We are working hard on Erin Bennett‘s upcoming album SXC, it’s honestly a joy to work with someone whose songwriting flies as hard and fierce as this Texan belle’s does! Here is a foretaste, music video ‘Cold & Still’ 

(Photos and Video by Art Attack Films)

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We will be hitting the road again in March, keep an eye on Erin’s site for gig dates near you…

Electronica artist Krow is also spreading her creative wings and while live performances will remain elusively rare, brace yourself for the second studio album which is currently under construction. Pagan female rawness at its finest.

(Photo taken at PandoraFest 2016 by Boudicca Records)

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As usual, I will be as active as I can furthering equality/normality in the Creative Industries across the disciplines I work in. Plans are forming for a second edition of female-positive music festival PandoraFest which saw its successful launch in July last year. Please keep an eye on any and all channels mentioned above for updates on publication dates, album release dates, gig dates, writing announcements and more!

May you year be filled with creative ways forward towards the horizon of your choice,

Suna Dasi

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Steampunk India Interview in DESIblitz Magazine

The Steampunk Universe anthology, edited by Sarah Hans, is gaining momentum; more news to follow very soon!

Meanwhile, I spoke to Fatima Farah of Indian magazine DESIblitz about my background and what inspires me when writing inclusive Victoriana fiction: Suna Dasi Talks Short Stories and Steampunk India 

 

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Pandora Fest: An Inspiration To Other Girls

Ana Hine of Artificial Womb Zine covers PandoraFest’s Launch Year! Steampunk news to follow hot on the heels of this beautifully supportive piece on my other endeavours.

Artificial Womb

IMG_7792Well, Pandora Fest needs to happen again next year. The eclectic festival, which aims to celebrate women-led music, took place last month at Duncarron Medieval Village near Stirling. Although the amount of festival attendees was small, the line-up was impressively varied and the whole event had a cozy, friendly vibe.

Many of the artists were passionate about the politics behind the event. Vodun front-woman Chantal Brown explained: “It’s needed, it’s necessary. Until things are equal, either take a seat or support it.”

The London-based three-piece have just released their first album Possession and their live set demonstrated the power of their heavy rock, afro-centric sound. “It’s a celebration of the religion of voodoo, the people who practice it and its history,” says Chantal. “The last few weeks have been really, politically, horrible – with people feeling disconnected and turning against each other. We’re trying to take it back. Saying that…

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August 8, 2016 · 16:29

Other Projects: PandoraFest!

Beside Steampunk India and singing with Erin Bennett (my ‘day job’) , I am a founder of female positive music festival Pandora Fest. In the spirit of signal boosting on all frequencies, here is a recent article on the event by music blog Drunken Werewolf.

(Image: Erin Bennett & The EB Band (ft. Anna Fraser on drums and myslf on backing vox)

The festival has its inaugural launch next month, on July 16th in Scotland and features a great variety of artists and genres. There is opportunity to camp, glamp, browse the market stall, eat, drink and be merry! Everyone is welcome!

Though not strictly Steampunk related, the event certainly hits the independently minded, DIY button…And of course, if you are based in UK, perhaps you might like to attend..

Coming soon: news on the two publications that will feature Steampunk India short stories this year.

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