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Shyama Laxman - The Nudes Editor

Delighted to share this with you. Two things. First a video reading of Shyama Laxman's poem

'The Nudes Editor' to be published in our Sending Nudes anthology. The reading is more like a little movie. You'll see. And below the video is our interview with Shyama. Enjoy.

Sending Nudes is an intimate collection of fiction, nonfiction and poetry that uncovers the various reasons people send nudes. Release date is 15 January 2021. Pre-orders are available here:

Your poem ‘The Nudes Editor’ is brilliant. It touches on some interesting subjects, on body image, reversing the gaze… what inspired you to write this?

Thank you so much. This poem came to me without much struggle and perhaps the only piece of mine that I loved right after the first draft.

Concepts such as body image and reversing the gaze are important to me. All of us have been victims as well as upholders of a stereotypical idea of body and beauty. In the film The Danish Girl, Alicia Vikander’s character (she plays a painter) says to her male model ‘surrender to the gaze’. That line struck me as interesting because conventionally, men have been the ones to look at women’s bodies and appreciate it or establish standards. ‘Objectification’ has mainly been used in the context of women. However, that discourse is now changing. I think it’s also in part due to social media which has made it so easy to create and consume images.

For the poem, I was thinking along the conventional trope of a) lovers sending each other nudes and b) our obsession with filters and perfecting our pictures before sharing. And then I thought what if years down the line, we are paying professionals to perfect our nudes because that has become our reality?

‘Selfie’ wasn’t a thing up until 20 years ago. Now we can’t have enough of it. In the highly digitised era that we live in, anything is possible and most things are acceptable.

That is what led to the creation of ‘The Nudes Editor’. I am thinking of a dystopic reality, say twenty years from now, where professional nudes editors becomes the new normal because that’s how obsessed we will be with the idea of the perfect body. It’s a scary thought but possible, no?

Your bio says you enjoy writing about gender, sexuality and LGBTQ topics. Can you give us some examples of pieces you have previously written? Or currently are working on?

I am a freelance contributor to Indian media houses, The Quint and Gaysi. I have written about what the abolishment of the Indian anti-gay law section 377 in 2018 meant to me, growing up in India in the 90s and learning about sex and sexuality, discovering masturbation, realising I am bisexual and the women who helped me understand this about myself.

All the pieces that I have published so far are derived from personal experiences though I try to situate it within a social or political context as best as I can.

In your bio it also says you have ‘written a rubbish draft of her first novel and wonders if she is even cut out to write fiction.’ Would you like to tell us more about the experience of writing your first novel?

It was painful. I wrote it as part of my MA Creative Writing course at City, University of London. I am rubbish at plotting so had to scrap my first plot, bin around 10k words and begin from scratch. While my classmates had almost a year to finish their novels, I had to rework the plot and finish mine in 6 months (I only blame myself for it), and make it decent enough to pass the course. It was a very lonely experience. There were days when I didn’t feel like writing but had to anyway because time was at a premium.

I did pass the course but the comments from my tutor were extremely harsh. It helps though if you don’t hold your work too close to your heart—becomes easier to deal with criticism and look at things objectively and improve.

There are bits of the novel that I do like but mostly, I cringe when I read it now. But I owe it to myself to perfect it and find an agent who will get me a book deal. So far, the few agents that I reached out to said they liked it but didn’t love it. Need to make it good enough for them to fall in love with it.

In terms of whether or not you are cut out to write fiction, do you think this feeling is prevalent in the poetry community?

To be honest I am such a novice with respect to poetry that I am yet to become part of the larger poetry community. Hopefully that changes soon.

What I have seen among my poet friends in the past though is frustration that there aren’t enough takers for poetry. Most publishers are interested in fiction or non-fiction though research also shows that the number of people reading poetry has gone up in the past 2-3 years.

I still feel (and apologies if I am wrong) that poets have to struggle harder to get a market for their work. So to be honest, I am not sure if a poet is even looking to write fiction instead of sticking to what they know best.

Has lockdown had any effect on your writing?

Yes, it made me realise that I can write something akin to poetry though I am miles away from calling myself a poet without any doubt.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Not bad writer (I am aching to put an ‘a’ before bad)

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Shyama Laxman has an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London. Her areas of interest include gender, sexuality and LGBTQ. Her work has been published in The Quint, Huffington Post, Muse India, Gaysi and ShethePeople TV. She has written a rubbish draft of her first novel and wonders if she is even cut out to write fiction. She lives in London with her husband, two cats and 31 house plants. She loves the cats and tolerates the plants. If ever she is on death row, then she’d want Rice and Dal as her last meal. And the one thing in her handbag that she ‘cannot live without’ is a lip balm, like those famous women out there.

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