Scottish BAME Writers Network is excited to announce that writer, Bhavika Govil, is joining our team as Admin & Media Support!
We can’t wait to work with Bhavika, whose experience in publishing and writing across genres will be a wonderful asset to SBWN! We’ve enjoyed seeing her work flourish on the Scottish literary scene, and we really value her passion and advocacy work for equity in publishing.
To celebrate our new team member, we caught up with Bhavika and asked her a few questions! Below, we share some literary-esque photos (check out her beautiful Instagram page!), as well as her insights and achievements.
What does your writing routine or process look like?
Let me begin by saying that I’ve always wanted to answer this question. Thanks for asking! My writing routine begins always at a desk near a window, after a morning of procrastinating with chores about as necessary as adding butter to a croissant. Before starting, I try to read either a short story or a novel as a warm-up to my own writing. Others’ stunning words, similar or dissimilar to my style, stir up excitement and even, sometimes, envy and help me start writing. These days, I’m working on my first novel. I’m a slower writer than some others and I write about 500 words before pushing my chair away from the desk. Snacks make the entire process more bearable.
Why is it important for writers to see titles by authors who resemble them on bookshelves and reading lists?
When I first visited a bookstore in the UK last year, I was taken aback at not spotting books by Indian writers apart from the stray copies by Vikram Seth or Arundhati Roy. It took me a couple more strolls to realise that this was the case with other writers of colour as well. As a writer and a student of creative writing degree, I felt disappointed. When there are so many brilliant writers in the world, published and unpublished, where were their stories going? Was there a place for writers that looked and spoke like me on these bookshelves?
It’s so important for the publishing industry to represent stories of all experiences and lives—and not expect a single author of colour to canvas every facet of their country in a single book.
It’s through Chimamanda Adichie that I’d first learnt about the ‘danger of a single story’. Like her, the books I read while growing up in India were from Britain and North America. The children ate foods glorious and wonderful—like scones and shortbread; the teenagers called things ‘rad’. The first few times that I ever wrote fiction, I gave the characters white names. Brown ones sounded and looked so odd to me on paper. Thankfully, that tendency wore off the more I read Indian writers. I began to tell truer stories. It’s so important for the publishing industry to represent stories of all experiences and lives—and not expect a single author of colour to canvas every facet of their country in a single book. As a reader too, I want to read more stories about places I haven’t been to. I’d love to hear characters call their mother Ma or Maman or Ammi—not just Mum or Mom. I want my mouth to water at descriptions of food—like samosas bobbing in a sea of oil—not just scones. No offence to scones; they’re lovely.
What are some of your favourite books and what do you love about them?
There are so many—including The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Room by Emma Donoghue. My favourite short story collection is The Thing Around Your Neck by Adichie. All these books are inventive and creative in their own way, character-driven, and incredibly immersive. They change perspectives in ways even a headstand can’t.
Read an excerpt of Govil’s “Curdled,” winner of the Bound Short Story Contest 2019
“The dead are so much stronger than the living. This one fills up each breathing space and spills out from the underside of the can of chickpeas you were meant to throw out ‘two days within opening’. Then she drips chokily from the cold water tap and on to the sink piled up with dishes. Drip, drip, miss. She sits playfully atop the pile of laundry that you just can’t bear to look at. She rises up with the steam of boiling water when you cook rice and then, just like that, when the bell rings and a neighbour comes to offer you yet another casserole, she gets sucked back into the ventilator. And finally, she peeks out and stares at Sandeep and you from the handmade stuck-with-pasta photo frame—at first, with love, and then, blame.
You weren’t even supposed to be here. You weren’t ever going to get married, settle abroad, have a child, make paneer for your husband, have it curdled and turn too sour, leaving the two of you to spend Monday in bed, your stomachs clutched in agony.
You were never going to be your mother—who cooked with one hand, cleaned with another, balanced her life on the chaotic schedules of three lives (hers not included) with the ease of a trapeze artist. You weren’t going to be married at all.” (Full story)
You’ve been involved with the Scottish literary scene for some time now. What are some of the positive experiences you’ve had here as a writer?
I’ve really loved my time during my creative writing degree at the University of Edinburgh. It’s been an extremely encouraging atmosphere to grow as a new writer. I’ve also been part of the Reading Round by the Royal Literary Fund, hosted by the lovely writer Ruth Thomas in Edinburgh. Every Monday, in pre-pandemic times, we met to discuss a short story and a poem, and picked apart what we loved and hated about it. I discovered so many new (to me) writers because of it. I also enjoyed being on the shadow panel for the Scottish Saltire Literary Awards 2019, thanks to SYP Scotland. I’m in awe of the amazing work done by Scottish literary magazines—including Gutter, in which I recently published a short story, Extra Teeth, New Writing Scotland, The Selkie, The Olgilvie, to name only a few. Throughout the lockdown, I felt connected to a larger writing community in Scotland with the wonderful craft workshops and industry Q&A sessions hosted by SBWN. Moreover, as both a reader and a writer, I absolutely love that no matter where I go in Edinburgh—a café, a park, the bus—I’ll always find someone else reading too.
Welcome, Bhavika! We’re so excited to work with you! ✸
Bhavika Govil is a writer, journalist and editor born in New Delhi, India. Her stories are published or forthcoming in Vogue, Gutter Magazine, Outlook Traveller, among others. She likes to read and (here, she hopes) write the kind of stories that quietly sharpen one’s breath. She also loves novels that make her fling the book across the room.
… But, she will also immediately sprint to pick it up.