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September 2016

“Writing for me is catharsis, an escape into a world of my creation, where my characters do as I tell them, where calamities happen, but I give them tools to deal with them.”- Sunanda J Chatterjee

Today on the Blog Guest Post we have with us the multitalented persona, Sunanda J Chatterjee, the author of Fighting for Tara. A Doctor by profession and a writer by passion, she has two more books in her kitty, The Vision and Shadowed Promise.

Today she would talk about her inspiration and love for writing.

Question: From being a Pathologist professional what inspired you to become an author? Your latest release, Fighting for Tara, has gathered accolades internationally. We would love to hear the story behind this book.

Sunanda J Chatterjee

 

 

 

I grew up in a Bhilai, a central Indian Steel City, where almost all our neighbours worked in the steel plant, and most were engineers or doctors. As such, the pressure to become an engineer or a doctor was immense, even more so than the rest of the country. My father is an engineer and my mother a science teacher. My three siblings became engineers and I became a doctor. I think, if I had grown up anywhere else, I might have gone into fine art or creative writing, my true love. But as a doctor, I joined the Indian Air Force, then came to the US to pursue a PhD in cancer research. Academics and family became the most important drivers of what I did. I completed my residency training, and became a pathologist.

As a pathologist, I make life-changing diagnoses on a daily basis. Many patients get a clean bill of health, but some get chemotherapy or other harsh medications based on what I find in their biopsy. I carry the burden of the words “carcinoma” or “melanoma” or other such deadly diagnoses with me. It is a draining, harsh environment.

When I took this job, on my day off, I found myself alone at home, and after all errands were done, I had a few free hours. For the first time since I was a child, I actually had time to indulge in creative activities. Writing for me is catharsis, an escape into a world of my creation, where my characters do as I tell them, where calamities happen, but I give them tools to deal with them. I took up writing as a hobby, but as a die-hard academic, I took writing courses and read umpteen books on fiction writing. As I learnt more techniques, I kept changing my first book several times, and by the time I published it, ten years had gone by.

The second and third books became easier to write.

Fighting for Tara was conceived while I was waiting in the dentist’s office reading an issue of National Geographic, when an article caught my attention. It was about child brides in Afghanistan, photographed with their often elderly husbands, all smiling into the camera. The idea took root. Child marriage is deplorable, but some of the brides had no idea that it was appalling. They looked happy.

So I created my lead character, Hansa, who is married off at a young age in Rajasthan, and is soon widowed. She has indomitable spirit, even when she is to be wedded to her brother-in-law after her husband’s death. She takes action only when she is asked to drown her baby girl.

As thirteen year old Hansa grew up, I put myself in her shoes and worked within her constraints to create obstacles and opportunities for her. I think I grew up with her. I researched child marriage and female infanticide extensively. I researched sexual assaults on women, and the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I researched a lot of legal aspects, which I won’t disclose for fear of spoilers.

Mental and physical violence against women is a global phenomenon. But there are courageous women who overcome harsh realities in their lives, and go out of their way to help others. That idea created Rani Sahiba and other supporting women in the book.

After I wrote the book, I needed to make sure that I had the facts correct. So I had my book reviewed by a couple of ex-Jehovah Witnesses and a couple of lawyers for the court scenes, to make sure the situations were authentic.

My wish is to create awareness about child marriage and female infanticide. During my research, I discovered a wonderful organization Girls Not Brides, whom I support for their work in preventing child marriages globally.

More about the author

Freelance author, blogger, and ex-Indian Air Force physician Sunanda Joshi Chatterjee completed her graduate studies in Los Angeles, where she is a practicing pathologist. While medicine is her profession, writing is her passion. When she’s not at the microscope making diagnoses, she loves to write fiction. Her life experiences have taught her that no matter how different people are, their desires, fears, and challenges remain the same.
Her themes include romantic sagas, family dramas, immigrant experience, women’s issues, medicine, and spirituality. She loves extraordinary love stories and heartwarming tales of duty and passion. Her short stories have appeared in short-story.net and induswomanwriting.com.
She grew up in Bhilai, India, and lives in Arcadia, California with her husband and two wonderful children. In her free time, she paints, reads, sings, goes on long walks, and binge-watches TV crime dramas.
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FIGHTING FOR TARA
 
 
 
Blurb
How far will a mother go to save her child?
“I have no use for a baby girl. Get rid of her tonight!” He towered over her as she cringed in fear.
But Hansa, a thirteen-year-old child-bride in rural India, refuses to remain a victim of the oppressive society where a female child is an unwanted burden. Instead of drowning her baby, Hansa escapes from her village with three-month-old Tara.
Hansa soon discovers that life as a teenage mother is fraught with danger. But a single lie opens the door to a promising opportunity far from home.
Just seven years later, Hansa finds herself fighting for Tara’s life once more, this time in an American court, with a woman she calls ‘Mother.’
Will the lie upon which Hansa built her life, defeat its own purpose? How can she succeed when no one believes the truth? 
A story of two mothers, two daughters and a fight to save a child, Fighting for Tara explores the depth of love and motherhood.
Read an excerpt of #FFT here:

 

The soft light of the lantern flickered, casting a dim golden glow in the tiny hut, as shadows danced on its windowless mud walls. Thirteen-year-old Hansa squatted on the floor beside a metal bucket and stared at the glimmering water, dreading the task before her. Her baby whimpered on the floor, struggling in the hand-sewn cloth blanket. Beside the door stood the terracotta urn that held the ashes of her husband.
Hansa heard the grating snores of her drunken brother-in-law Baldev, soon to be her husband, as he slept outside on the wood-framed coir cot in the moonless night. She shuddered.
Just an hour ago, Baldev had yelled at her. “I have no use for a baby girl. Get rid of her tonight!” He towered over her as she cringed in fear.
She’d begged him. “I can’t do it!”
That’s when he’d slapped her. No one had ever hit her before… not even her elderly husband.
Hansa touched her cheek, which still stung from the humiliation and fear.
She doubted her courage to extinguish the baby’s life. Squeezing her eyes shut, she took a deep breath, hoping that dawn would bring her luck.
Tomorrow morning Hansa would travel with Baldev and all the goats they could load into his bullock-cart, and leave the village forever. She would go to a distant land, become Baldev’s second wife, learn the household chores from his first wife, and bear him male heirs… Hansa shivered, apprehensive about her future.
But before her new life could begin, she and Baldev would take a detour to the river to disperse her husband’s ashes and discard her beautiful daughter’s body.
Somewhere deep in her heart, Hansa knew none of this was fair. It wasn’t fair that in a country with a rich heritage of brave queens, young girls were still forced into marriage, sometimes to men older than their grandfathers. It wasn’t fair that she’d been born to poor parents in rural Rajasthan, a state rife with archaic traditions. It wasn’t fair that she had matured early and was given to sixty-year old Gyanchand Rathore from the neighboring village of Dharni, whose first wife and child had died in a fire.
She turned her face away from the bucket, her heart refusing to carry out Baldev’s orders just yet. A shiver ran through her body as she tried not to imagine life without her baby. Think of something else! Think about Gyani!
Gyani’s absence filled Hansa with a dark desolation, a sense of doom, as if his death itself was a living, breathing, overbearing entity.
She thought of his kind eyes, his missing teeth and graying beard, the massive orange turban which she’d tied for him every morning, and the long kurta he wore, which never looked clean no matter how many times she washed it…
But Gyani was gone. Two nights ago, his heart had stopped beating in his sleep, while she slept under the same blanket, her baby right beside her. When she awoke at dawn to the rooster’s call, she had found his cold still body. She shuddered to think she had slept with a corpse, oblivious, in the comfort of her own youthful warmth. Her first encounter with death. And if she did as Baldev asked, there would be another. Tonight.
Gyani’s death had stunned her, and grief hadn’t sunk in. She had not wept for his departed soul, and her neighbor warned her that if she didn’t mourn his passing, she would never move on. But did Hansa really want to move on into a future that included Baldev but excluded her baby?
According to the custom of karewa, Hansa knew that a young widow would be married off to her brother-in-law, so that the money remained in the family. Her neighbor had told her it was her kismet, her fate.
Hansa was brought up not to challenge the norms of society, but to follow them. If the combined wisdom of her ancestors had determined that she should move to Baldev’s village and begin a new life, who was she to argue? She had no family left, no other place to go.
Baldev choked on his spit and coughed outside, jarring the stillness of the night, reminding her of the task ahead.
But while it was her duty to follow Baldev’s orders, she would trade the impending task for eternal damnation.
Her neighbor had said that killing a baby was an unforgivable sin, even though she’d herself drowned two of her daughters the day they were born. Women are the form of Goddess, she’d said, crying at the fate of her own rotten soul.
But it was a matter of survival. Produce a male heir or be turned out on the streets to beg. A female child was a burden. Even Hansa knew that; her father had reminded her of that every day of her life.
That prejudice was her reality.
Hansa was terrified for her own soul, but Baldev said, “A mother can’t be a sinner if she takes a life she brought into this world.” And then he had gone and got drunk on tharra.
Gyani had been unlike most men in the village. He had allowed her to keep the baby, to give her a name. The baby’s eyes glittered like stars on a moonless night.
She called her Tara. Star.
Hansa looked at her baby with pride and with remorse, as every fiber of her being protested, and her stomach turned and her throat tightened.
Outside, Baldev stirred.
Time was running out.
Tara whimpered again, and Hansa turned to look at her chubby fists cycling in the still air, throwing outsized shadows on the walls. Hansa’s hands shook and her mouth turned dry. She bit her lip, forcing herself to focus on the imminent task.
The water in the bucket shimmered black and gold, reflecting the dancing flame of the lantern, mesmerizing, inviting. Water, the giver of life…

 

She made up her mind. It was now or never.

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Marriages Made in India

Book #1
THE SMITTEN HUSBAND
by
Sundari Venkatraman

Blurb

Ram Maheshwari is a successful jewellery designer who has a huge showroom on MI Road, Jaipur. He’s tall, dark, handsome and a billionaire to boot. He’s twenty-nine and falls in with his parents’ wishes when they try to arrange his marriage.
The lovely, stormy-eyed Sapna Purohit is from Pushkar. She’s managed to finish school and makes a living by doing mehendi designs during weddings. She’s always dreamt of a Prince on a white horse, sweeping her off her feet.
One look into Sapna’s grey eyes and Ram is lost. Only, Sapna’s unable to see her Prince in Ram. Being from a poor family, she has no choice but to go along with the tide when the Maheshwaris offer to bear all expenses of the wedding. 
Does that mean that the feisty Sapna is all set to accept Ram as her husband? She puts forth a condition, after the wedding. Will The Smitten Husband agree to it?
*MARRIAGES MADE IN INDIA is a five-novella series that revolves around the characters you have met in The Runaway Bridegroom.
Read an excerpt…

“Good morning!” said a sleepy voice. “What are you doing so far away?” called out Ram, before reaching out with a long arm to pull her to him.
A startled Sapna gave him a shocked look that was lost on her husband, whose eyes were still closed. His arms went around her waist like steel bands, his breath hot against her cheek. “Sapna…” he whispered in her ear as his hard lips pressed into her petal soft cheek.
Sapna tried to pull out of his arms, only to have them pull her closer. Her breasts were flattened against his solid chest. Her traitorous body seemed to enjoy the pressure as her nipples perked up. She did her best to hold on to the control that was slipping fast.
“Ram,” she called out loudly, hoping to wake him up. She couldn’t free her arms that were trapped against her own body, as he held her in a crushing grip. His mouth was busy exploring her face, moving inexorably towards her lips. His eyes continued to remain closed, while his hands moved restlessly at her waist. “Ram…” her voice came out in a whisper, as she felt his tongue trace the edge of her lips. Tortured, she made the final move to capture his roving lips, breaking free her hands to hold his face steady.
“Sapna…” sighed Ram, kissing her gently, his tongue first tracing her upper lip and then her lower one. He gently bit the luscious curve. Sapna instinctively opened her mouth to let him explore the velvety cavern with his tongue. Shyly, her tongue reached out to mate with his, making Ram groan with need.
His hands moved restlessly on her body, her nightie bunching up. His muscular legs tangled with her slim ones, making her sigh with pleasure as his hard and hairy skin brushed against her soft and silky one. His hands cupped her lush bottom, caressing it lovingly.
Sapna suddenly became aware of his hardness pressed against her belly. Coming to her senses, she turned her face away, breaking the kiss. “No Ram.”
His wet lips continued to caress her, his tongue exploring her shell-like ear. Even as her heart thudded loudly, Sapna pushed against him. “Ram, please, will you stop it?”
His black eyes opened a slit, desire and slumber at war in them. “Sapna?” If he hadn’t been fully awake before, he was now, as he stared at her lovely face that was so close to his. He slowly recalled what had been occurring over the past few minutes. He had at first thought he was dreaming about kissing the luscious woman in his arms. How had she landed there in the first place?
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About The Author

The Smitten Husband is the eighth book authored by Sundari Venkatraman. This is a hot romance and is Book #1 of the 5-novella series titled Marriages Made in India. Other published novels by the author are The Malhotra Bride, Meghna, The Runaway Bridegroom, The Madras Affair and An Autograph for Anjali—all romances. She also has a collection of romantic short stories called Matches Made in Heaven; and a collection of human interest stories called Tales of Sunshine. All of Sundari Venkatraman’s books have been on Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers in India, USA, UK & Australia many times over.


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“Completing a book in any genre gives you an adrenaline rush equivalent to that of winning a medal.”
– Usha Narayanan.

Today on the Blog Guest Post we have with us the bestselling author, Usha Narayanan whose books have been loved by both adults and young adults alike. With top selling books like The Madras Mangler, Love,Lies and Layoffs, Pradyumna: Son of Krishna in her kitty she has won many hearts. Her latest book,The Secret of God’s Son, published by Penguin, is a sequel of Pradyumna: Son of Krishna and is already a bestseller. Today she is going to reveal her writing secret.

Me : Your first book, ‘The Madras Mangler’ was a thriller. Then you switched to mythology with ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ and ‘The Secret of God’s Son.’ You have also written romcom with ‘Love, Lies and Layoffs.’

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Usha Narayanan

My question, which genre did you enjoy writing the most?

Paromita, I thought I could answer your question by drawing parallels to the Olympic Games that have just concluded. Completing a book in any genre gives you an adrenaline rush equivalent to that of winning a medal. The journey is similar too ― the labour, the breakthrough, the finish line and hopefully the spotlight and applause.  ‘The Madras Mangler’ I would say is like synchronized swimming, an exercise that is both spectacle and sport. Writing a thriller requires perfect timing too and must lead to a finish that sets your heart pounding. Just as this sport demands huge levels of stamina, the thriller too calls for immense staying power as you execute quick moves that tantalize and entertain. The choreography takes place both above and below the water, as you make your victims and suspects tumble and somersault, thereby increasing the suspense and drama.

‘Love, Lies and Layoffs’ is like badminton, the sport made popular in India by our own Sindhu. A romcom, just like the game, features two lively players exchanging quick flurries and exhibiting swift reflexes. The players, both men and women, compete individually and in teams, for we must not forget the families and friends on either side, cheering or heckling from the sidelines! Both make for a spellbinding spectacle. However, in the game, we have only one winner whereas the romcom has two, with the lovers, find their happily ever after.

I think the writing of myth-based fiction such as ‘Pradyumna’ and ‘The Secret of God’s Son’ is similar to running a marathon, a sport that demands immense physical and mental strength. It is a grueling process requiring endurance, focus, skill, flexibility and a nimble mind. And the setting must be massive and spectacular, with huge cheering throngs! The possibility of reaching this pinnacle is what prompts every writer in this genre to take up the challenge.

As you may have inferred, mythology is my current favourite!

 

More about the author

Usha Narayanan had a successful career in advertising, media and corporate communications before becoming a full-time author. She has written several books, including ‘The Madras Mangler’, a suspense thriller, and ‘Love,Lies and Layoffs’, a Harlequin romcom. Her latest is ‘The Secret of God’s Son’, the sequel to her bestselling book,’Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’, both published by Penguin.

When she’s not juggling travelling, writing and interviews, Usha reads everything from thrillers to romances, provided her cat isn’t fast asleep on
her Kindle.

To know more about her, visit www.ushanarayanan.com or email her at author@ushanarayanan.com. Find her also at www.facebook.com/writerusha or tweet @writerusha.

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Media mentions

 
Praise for Pradyumna: Son of Krishna
 
Usha Narayanan has taken a quantum leap . . . to the outright spine-tingling narrative from the leaves of a time before. This book is Indian writing coming of ageFemina
 
Like the best of our mythological tales, this too, is a multilayered one . . .There is valour, there is cowardice, there is glory, there is shame, there is sex, lies and deceptionThe Hindu
 
This engrossing tale takes readers on a mythological sagaTimes of India
 

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 Blurb

 
With this cruel curse on Krishna, Queen Gandhari plunges mankind into the unspeakable evil of the Kali Yuga. 
 
It is up to Pradyumna to try and reverse the dire prediction. To journey into terrifying realms, confront Yama and Shiva, and to vanquish the Kali demon. In order to do so, he must shed all that holds a mortal back—his arrogance, his fears, his baser instincts… He must lead his people out of the swirling vortex of greed, disease and misery. And there is one powerful weapon still…the secret surrounding Pradyumna’s origin.  
 
Will he uncover it in time to fight off the cataclysm? 
In the answer lies the destiny of all humanity! 
 
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Submitting is Not a Dartboard

For all the aspiring writers what rejection means to you?

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

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Allison Williams, Brevity‘s globe-trotting social media editor, writes often for this blog on issues of dedication, endurance, and inspiration for writers. Some of those blog posts, along with plenty of new material, have been assembled into Williams’ first book,Get Published in Literary Magazines: The Indispensable Guide to Preparing, Submitting and Writing Better. Brevity Editor Dinty W. Moore recently asked Allison a few questions:
__

Dinty:  There is so much advice for new writers out there. What are you hoping your book will accomplish?

Allison: I want to reposition the submissions process as a matter of great diligence and skill with a dash of luck and timing, rather than the other way around.

Even for writers with a publication record, submitting is scary—we’re all terrified we’re sending to a magazine that’s actually way out of our league, and we all worry that our ego is telling us…

View original post 906 more words

this book has ignited the ‘KINDNESS’ in me

How have you felt when some fine day you plan to go back from your work on-time but as soon as you are all set to go…you are expected to go through a file which needs your attention? Feeling somewhat irritated? Ok… let’s take a step deeper. Now, you know that this could have been taken care of either tomorrow or maybe you could just continue working as per your office schedule but at least not today; still, your boss (or say your vendor) expects your immediate attention into the matter. Feeling bit frustrated? Accepted… let’s move a step ahead…

Just when you are set into the matter in hand, your junior expects you for some important task in hand. I am sure you would feel like pushing him out of the cabin… but the drama doesn’t ends here… While you are working out a solution within the confines of your neurons you receive a call from your spouse who is waiting for you with kids since past couple of hours….. I understand…at present, you must be feeling to hit me hard…READ MORE IN THE LINK

Source: Book Review: Shamsuddin’s Grave; Author – Paromita Goswami, Publisher: Partridge India

getty_rm_photo_of_little_girl_sleeping_at_school

Teacher’s Day just went by. However, I didn’t get a chance to wish my teachers for their immense contribution in shaping me up for what I am today. I thank you all for your words, discipline and thoughts that will remain with me forever.

Now I want to scream about some issue that has been burning my pocket since I got my child into school. Nothing is familiar to what we had experienced in the name of education. In our times, the emphasis was more on knowledge as in understanding the facts and figures and how it can or has changed our lives. However, now I find the education more like a jack of all trades and master of none. The syllabus is more vast and impractical. Rather it is making the children burdened more with what little they could grasp.

Anyways today I don’t want to talk about this. What I want to know is how much does it cost you per month to enroll your child in one of the best private schools of your locality? And is the education that your child is attaining there worth the amount.

I am sharing an experience here of the school my child goes to. Since he got into middle grade this year, the school curriculum has added self-defense – Karate classes into his syllabus. Well, that is real good for my child is going to learn something good.

I have to add that we live in a city that has very scorching summers wherein the temperature touches about 45 degrees during the daytime. Now my child goes to school at 9:30a.m and after two periods of forty-five minutes each, it is lunch time. Well, so far it is going fine. Now comes the trouble that I want to share.

After the lunch break of half an hour, his class goes for KARATE session once a week.

Now if I understand clearly it is already noon and physical activity like KARATE is right after the lunch. So could anyone please tell me how it benefits my child other than hampering his digestion process?

And as if that’s not all, I have been told that the KARATE session is in the open for fifteen minutes. So what about the heat? And above all, the school wants me to shell out six hundred rupees for his KARATE uniform that will be available from the school. WHY???

I don’t want my child to attend this session. This strains him for the rest of the day. Moreover, he is too young to change his dress all by himself for that matter. At home when he goes to school I and my husband are after him to dress him up properly. The biggest problem he faces is tying his shoe lace. So let’s say I buy the KARATE uniform, and then my concern is how my child will dress up appropriately without any help for the rest of the day.

This is just one scenario that I shared. We have to spend a good amount of money for the education. I know it is pretty expensive nowadays. But then when I am already bearing his transportation and tuitions fees every month why do you keep burdening me with miscellaneous charges like scholarship entrance, horse riding, midbrain activation, magazine purchasing, newsletter purchasing and much more.

If that is not all, you ask me to contribute six hundred rupees towards his annual function participation. Which you mentioned includes his costume charges, refreshments etc. But on the annual function day, I didn’t get a chance to see my child on stage performing because you had forty-five students participating in that song which lasts for merely three minutes. I didn’t know which color costume he was wearing and in which row he was standing to perform. And when I went to collect him after the performance you have already changed his dress and removed his makeup. All I found there was a tired, hungry, exhausted boy waiting to be taken home immediately. Oh yes did I mention that for a performance at 7:30p.m my child was sent to school at reporting time 1:00 pm which means he had boarded the school bus at 12:00p.m. What kind of management is this??

Even after all these mentioned above, I would like to share about the teaching process. Just before the exams, the teachers think of completing her course and for that, she has the authority to call students in double shifts. I would like to mention here that my child’s timetable shows computer classes three times a week. The respective teacher failed to complete the syllabus within that time period for reasons best known to her. Moreover, there is no written notice from the school about this schedule.

My child forgot to inform me about his enrollment in the double shift program for his computer classes. All he said was that he was asked to come in the morning shift and hence left home at 6:45a.m. I waited for him to return after the first shift was over but he eventually returned at 3:30p.m hungry, tired and completely drained of any strength.

 

So what are we trying to make here? A child, who is totally exhausted, burdened with studies pressure, irritated and totally uninterested in activities. Is this what we want when we send our child to these awesome institutes, burning holes in our pocket thinking of their brilliant future?

THE BROKEN HOME
English Translation of 
Rabindranath Tagore’s 
Nastanirh
by
LOPAMUDRA BANERJEE
 
Blurb
 
The Broken Home (Nastanirh), the novella, takes place in late 19th-century Bengal and explores the lives of the aristocratic Bengali gentry who were part of the Indian Renaissance. Within the peripheries of such a distinct, culturally liberal society, the world of Charulata, Bhupati and Amal unfolds. Charu, the dreamy, melancholic young woman dreams of an idyllic literary world where she and her brother-in-law Amal, a budding writer would remain two discreet, indispensable entities. However, Amal’s estrangement destroys her creative passions and creates an ocean of turmoil in her life that turns her marital world upside down. Her husband, Bhupati, despite his liberal ideas, is blind to her loneliness and dissatisfaction. It is only with the appearance of his cousin, Amal, in their lives, who incites passionate feelings in Charu, that Bhupati realizes what he has lost.


Nastanirh is the basis for the noted film, Charulata (1964), by Satyajit Ray. 

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About the Author


 

 

Lopamudra Banerjee is a writer, poet and translator, currently based in Dallas, USA. She is the co-editor of ‘Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas’, published by Readomania in collaboration with Incredible Women of India. Her unpublished memoir Thwarted Escape has been First Place Category Winner at the Journey Awards 2014 hosted by Chanticleer Reviews and Media LLC. She is also the Creative Editor of Incredible Women of India and a resident editor with Readomania.

Her poems, stories and essays have appeared at numerous literary journals and anthologies, both in India and the US.  She is a regular contributor for Café Dissensus, Different Truths, Readomania.com. She has received the Reuel International Award 2016 for translation also a Certificate of Merit as part of the Reuel International Award 2015 for Writing and Literature. 

 

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