We are excited that Sayantani Dasgupta will join us as faculty in fiction for this year’s Fall Conference. Dasgupta will lead one of our Master Classes titled How to Move through a Story—Pacing in Fiction. A description of her course is listed at the end of this interview.
Born in Calcutta and raised in New Delhi, Sayantani Dasgupta received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Idaho. Her most recent book is the short story collection Women Who Misbehave. She is also the author of Fire Girl: Essays on India, America, & the In-Between—a Finalist for the Foreword Indies Awards for Creative Nonfiction—and the chapbook The House of Nails: Memories of a New Delhi Childhood. She serves as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington, and is a contributing editor for Assay: A Journal of Creative Nonfiction. Besides the US, Sayantani has also taught writing in India, Italy, and Mexico.
Communications Director Katherine O’Hara spoke with Dasgupta about literary advocacy, her excitement for Fall Conference, her appreciation for literary arts organizations like NCWN, and how she fosters time outside of writing.
Katherine O’Hara: In light of our current climate and with book bans across the country, what does it feel like to be a writer right now? What are writers’ responsibilities to the wider community?
Sayantani Dasgupta: Prior to coming to the US, if anyone had asked me this question, I wouldn’t have known how to answer. This is because the US is hailed as such a bastion of free speech. However, as the recent attack on Salman Rushdie proves, writers are just as vulnerable here as anywhere else. I don’t think any writer can take on the mantle of changing the world but I’ll extend the same reminder that’s offered by books such as Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, it’s a gift to be able to read, and to find your people even though on the surface at least you may not have anything in common.
KOH: What are you most excited about for the Fall Conference this year?
SD: That I will get to meet writers of varied backgrounds and interests yet they will have North Carolina in common. Having been a Carolinian for the last four years, two of which were spent on Zoom, I have a lot left to learn about the state and its people. That we will all get to be on Wrightsville Beach is an added bonus.
KOH: For conference attendees visiting the Wilmington area for the first time, what favorite local spots would you recommend they visit?
SD: The Museum of the Bizarre. Lots of writing inspiration for sure.
KOH: What do you appreciate about literary arts organization programs like the North Carolina Writers’ Network?
SD: Here, in the US, I’ve seen a tendency to take organizations such as the NCWN for granted. However, they are a rarity in other parts of the world. That you could be a writer and reader of any level and you get to hangout in a picturesque locale for an entire weekend, immersing yourself in your areas of interests with likeminded folks, what a treat that is.
KOH: When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend the weekend? What are books or hobbies you’ve enjoyed lately?
SD: I draw, cook, watch crime shows in languages I don’t speak, and hang out with my husband.
How to Move through a Story—Pacing in Fiction: Fiction Master Class with Sayantani Dasgupta
In this fiction workshop, we will examine the nature and function of pacing in short stories. Pacing determines how swiftly (or slowly) a story develops. It establishes the inherent rhythm of a story. It tells the reader how long they need to stay in a particular moment before moving on to the next one. We will use a short story by Lesley Nneka Arimah, as well as your own submitted work, as our main texts. Arimah is the winner of several awards including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her debut collection of stories, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. (The stories will be shared with you prior to the workshop so please read them before we meet.) We will pay close attention to how Arimah chooses what to include in a story, how long she stays in a given moment and with which character, and how these decisions push the stories to move in unexpected directions.
Please submit up to 1,500 sequential words from a single work, along with your current CV in a separate attachment, on the same day that you register for the conference. Submissions should be saved in an MS Word document, using double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman font, with numbered pages, and sent as an attachment to email@example.com. The Word document’s file name should include your own last name, and the title of the work and your name should appear on the submission itself. If accepted into the Master Class, your submitted work will be shared with other Master Class registrants.
Each registrant should be ready to handle the intensive instruction and atmosphere of the Master Class.
Learn more about Fall Conference 2022, including how to register for Dasgupta’s course and others, here.