Anuja Varghese is a Pushcart-nominated QWOC writer based in Hamilton, ON. Her work appears in The Malahat Review, Humber Literary Review, Corvid Queen: A Journal of Feminist Folklore & Fairy Tales, Dirty Girls Magazine, Hamilton Review of Books and others. In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Pigeon Pages Fiction Contest and took third prize in the Alice Munro Festival Short Story Competition. Anuja holds a degree in English Literature from McGill University and is currently pursuing a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Toronto while working on a collection of short stories. She can be found on Instagram (@anuja_v) and Twitter (@Anuja_V) or by visiting her website www.anujavarghese.com.
Ahead of her appearance at our next event on March 11, Anuja shares an excerpt from her short story “A Very Small Woman & A Silver Looking Glass.” This piece was first published in Corvid Queen: A Journal of Feminist Fairy Tales, Folklore & Myths in May 2019. Click here to see Anuja’s reading.
About this piece, Anuja says, “This was a departure from the fiction I usually write which tends to be based in realistic, contemporary settings. Even though I have always been drawn to fantasy and fairy tale, and there are the occasional elements of magical realism in my work, the collection I’m currently working on is very much set in real–world Toronto. This piece sort of poured out in response to a writing prompt at a workshop I attended, and instead of shutting it down because it wasn’t what I had planned to write, I followed the thread and ended up knitting together something I really love.”
Want to read the whole story? Find it here!
Last fall, Anuja spoke to Kelsie Tan at The Malahat Review about the value of writing workshops and other learning opportunities outside of the university setting. Here, she shares an excerpt from that interview.
Kelsie: You hold a BA in English Literature from McGill University and you’re currently pursuing Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. How has your educational journey shaped your current writing interests?
Anuja: When I came out of McGill, I could write the hell out of a critical essay on Chaucer, but I had become extremely self-conscious of writing creatively. As a young Anglophone woman of colour, either I wasn’t ready for the Montreal literary scene, or it wasn’t ready for me. That being said, I still have great affection for the city and I’m sure things have changed considerably since I was at McGill. More than my academic pursuits, it was my experience of the city itself and the relationships I developed during my time there that have most directly shaped my current writing.
My day job in the non-profit sector has always required me to write, but it wasn’t until I moved to Toronto that the ideas for the collection I’m currently working on started to percolate. And it was almost a full decade later, after moving to Hamilton, that I actually started writing it! Between the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto, where I have found wonderful, supportive instructors like Grace O’Connell, and the wider, diverse community of Toronto writers and literary events, I still feel connected to Toronto in many ways and am so grateful for the learning opportunities that the city continues to offer.
I also recognize that universities are privileged spaces and that there is much to be learned from perspectives and experiences outside of academia. In Hamilton, I have discovered a thriving literary community, and whether through festivals like gritLIT or groups like Jaclyn Desforges’ writing workshops, there are a great many meaningful ways to continue my education outside of a school setting. As I continue growing as a writer and a mother and a feminist and a human, my hope is that my personal journey and my educational journey will work in tandem to reveal the stories I need to tell and help me hone the voice in which I can make them heard.
For more of this interview, click here.
A note from Anuja: I’m so excited to return to Glad Day Bookshop for the March 2020 Brockton Writers Reading Series event! I will be reading from her short story “Bhupati” which took third place in the 2019 Alice Munro Short Story Festival Competition. It’s a story about good intentions, bad weather, and a marriage (literally) going down in flames. I hope to see you there!
Anuja Varghese visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Armand Garnet Ruffo, Cristina Rizzuto, Nora Gold, and guest speaker Marina Ferreira, who will give us tips on “How to Independently Publish your Book Using Kobo Writing Life.”