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Developing a writing career - Shyama Laxman

I'm delighted to share with you this catch up with our Sending Nudes contributor Shyama Laxman. She is an excellent example of how you develop a career as a writer. Branch out. Try new things. Make good use of your lockdown time. Congrats on your success Shyama, and many thanks for this. xx guts

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On 18 November 2020, I got an email from Julianne Ingles, the publisher at Guts Publishing, saying that my submission ‘The Nudes Editor’ had been selected for their new anthology Sending Nudes. After a spate of rejection emails, this was the morale boost that I was desperately seeking, especially at a time that was made harder by lockdown and unemployment. I wrote ‘The Nudes Editor’ with a lot of heart and enjoyed the process, even though I don’t consider myself a poet.

Since January this year, my writing output has been higher than it has ever been. I have also branched into a new direction: writing exhibition reviews. This started when I participated in a two-week bootcamp organised by Hundred Heroines, the UK’s only charity dedicated to promoting women in photography. I was fortunate that I also secured a three-month paid internship at the end of the bootcamp.

During this time, I learnt about women photographers, wrote their profiles, features, exhibition reviews as well as created content for the International Women’s Day campaign. I also got an opportunity to interview British photographer, Anna Fox and Indian photographer, Anita Khemka. Both Anna and Anita deal with issues of representation as well as the bond between a photographer and their muse.

I interviewed Anita in the context of her work with Indian transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and the Hijra community in India. It was for the occasion of International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31 March. As an Indian, Anita’s work resonated with me at a personal level because I understood the context and had some experience of interacting with the Hijras when I lived in India. Sadly, this community is looked upon with fear and revulsion and relegated to the fringes of society with not enough socio-political or economic support. This was my chance to get the real picture from Anita.

The fact that these photographers had broken into an industry that is predominantly dominated by men and established themselves was inspiring. The process of researching the artists and their works, preparing the questions and the coordination required from the date of the interview to its final publication was exhilarating.

Since the end of the internship, I have continued writing for Hundred Heroines. I have also had my work published in Photo Monitor and Aesthetica Magazine. I have been visiting a lot of galleries and thinking of new topics I could write about.

This experience made me realise that writers should open themselves to different possibilities and opportunities to find their voice and style. For a long time I thought I could write fiction. However, looking at my oeuvre, I think I am more suited to writing creative non-fiction, whether a personal essay or an in-depth feature on someone. I enjoy the research that goes into such pieces as well as the challenge of making them engaging.

Also, not every writing gig pays (sadly) but sometimes it’s alright to do unpaid work as it leads to networking and gives your name credibility which will bring in paid work.

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Shyama Laxman has an MA in Creative Writing from City, University of London. She writes mainly about gender, sexuality and LGBTQ theory. Her work has been published in The Quint, Huffington Post, Hundred Heroines, Defenestration, ShethePeopleTV, Muse India and Gaysi. Her new poem ‘The Nudes Editor’ is published by Guts Publishing in their Sending Nudes anthology.

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