Sindya Bhanoo speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her story “Tsunami Bride,” which appears in The Common’s new fall issue. Sindya talks about her experience reporting from India after the 2004 tsunami, and how that experience eventually became a story about a journalist in the same position, told from a local’s perspective. She also discusses how the training and techniques she developed as a journalist have shaped her drafting and revision process for fiction, how food often makes its way into her stories, and how her 2022 story collection Seeking Fortune Elsewhere came together.
On food in fiction:
“Food makes its way into many of my stories. I don’t do it consciously. But I am always trying to catch my characters during moments when they’re letting their guard down or letting me get a glimpse of who they really are, and that often happens during mealtimes, when people are enjoying good food in the company of others. Food is so intoxicating, and I think it lets people—fictional and real—relax a little bit when they come together.”
On her journalistic approach to writing and revising:
“My writing and revision process comes from my training as a journalist, and that’s how I talk about revision with students, too. When I’m doing the initial work on the story, I think about being very present in that fictional world, and essentially taking a lot of notes as if I’m out in the field doing reporting work. Then I return to my desk with all of those notes. And I have seen something in this fictional world, and my goal is to share it with an audience. So looking at what I have, I piece together that first very messy draft of the story, and then I go back and read it, and that gives me a sense of what the story might be. I want to present through revision the best version, and the clearest version, of that story.”
Sindya Bhanoo is the author of the story collection Seeking Fortune Elsewhere. She is the recipient of an O. Henry Award, the DISQUIET Literary Prize, and an Elizabeth George Foundation grant. Her fiction has appeared in Granta, New England Review, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere. A longtime newspaper reporter, she has worked for The New York Times and The Washington Post. She teaches at Oregon State University.
Read Sindya’s story in The Common at thecommononline.org/tsunami-bride.
Read more from Sindya at sindyabhanoo.com.
The Common is a print and online literary magazine publishing stories, essays, and poems that deepen our collective sense of place. On our podcast and in our pages, The Common features established and emerging writers from around the world. Read more and subscribe to the magazine at thecommononline.org, and follow us on Twitter @CommonMag.
Emily Everett is managing editor of the magazine and host of the podcast. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Putnam Books. Her stories appear in the Kenyon Review, Electric Literature, Tin House Online, and Mississippi Review. She is a 2022 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow. Say hello on Twitter @Public_Emily.