Amna Dhanani is an emerging poetess of Pakistan who has recently published her book of poetry ‘My Existence Craves Yours’. She narrates her life’s journey in this exclusive interview with Karvan.
1. Tell us about yourself?
Hi, I’m Amna Dhanani, 26 years old writer and the author of the poetry book ‘My Existence Craves Yours’ from a small town in Sindh, Pakistan. I was 11 years old when I wrote something for the first time without being asked to. It was an article about mothers, inspired by my mother. And that’s how my journey as a writer began.
2. What inspired you to become a writer?
I always saw the world in a different way and when I found out I could write, I started writing my perspective of the world.
3. What is the concept behind the name of the book title, “My Existence Craves Yours?”
My Existence Craves Yours is about how one heart seeks out the other in love, as if you’re drought and they’re rain. It’s a story that contains true love, trauma of a broken heart, mental illness, imprisonment of one’s soul and lessons of life.
I went through my work trying to come up with a theme, I wrecked my brain for weeks until I saw a pattern for a story. I’ve arranged the poems in a way that each poem has a place in the flow, even though the order that I’ve made is fictional, I’ve not only felt but lived every word that is in here, some by me and some by others as I couldn’t stop myself from writing what my eyes saw, what my ears heard and what my heart felt through the pain of those around me. It often made my own existence suffer from their grief. After the story, I’ve shared bits and pieces about my suffering and survival, ending on The Words chapter.
4. Do you write in Urdu as well?
Yes, initially, I started writing in Urdu, gradually my interest developed in writing English poetry. I still sometimes write in Urdu.
5. What challenges did you face when publishing your book?
I published my book’s first edition from India since Pakistan doesn’t have a proper platform to publish your work locally as well as internationally, especially for new writers, it’s quite hard and English poetry is one of the rarest subjects to find a good platform for. Little did I know, the company I chose wasn’t a self-publishing company but a vanity press. You should never have to pay to get your work published, other than getting your cover made, editing and marketing. They had claimed they will take care of all those things for me so it seemed like an easier option but all they did was ruin everything. Somehow, after a few months, I had enough courage to start fixing my book all over again and get it self-published this time, as a second edition.
Since we are on the topic, I would like to mention for whoever is looking to publish their book that there are 3 types of publishing methods.
A. Traditional publishing, which pays you to let them publish your book and as your book starts selling, they pay you some percentage from it as royalty.
B. Self-publishing, you have to do everything on your own and you receive royalty (percentage depends on where you get it published from.)
C. Vanity press, they will claim to be a self-publishing platform but they will take a lot of money to publish your book and you will receive peanuts as royalty.
6. How did you learn English? Your tips for those who want to learn this language?
English is something I always enjoyed learning, even the tests in School, I loved every bit of it, it never felt like work to me. I used to read books like Harry Potter, watch English cartoons, write and speak in English. I’m still learning as I go.
7. Which poets from Pakistan and abroad inspire you?
Rumi, Rupi Kaur and S. H. Kazmi who happens to be my editor as well.
8. Share a few of your personal favorite poems or stanzas from your book:
I watched you stepping backwards
Through the door
Someone pressed the rewind button
On the dance floor.
All of a sudden it felt like
We never had this dance
We never even stood a chance.
We came this close
For having it all and then some
Our bodies became one as we waltzed
On the song we used to hum.
What a beautiful sky
And ground covered with snow
Inside the snow globe
We danced slow.
You and I
A perfect groom and bride
Nothing else mattered
Since you were by my side.
What a perfect night
How sad that’s all it was
The clock ticked and tocked
So we had to pause.
Since the sun is rising
We’ll go back to being dolls
And now on the snow globe
The curtain falls.
But don’t despair
As another night will come
The play button will be pressed
And once again we will become one.
– To be continued…”
Yes, this is a hint for my second book 😉
9. How was your experience of launching the book at the Open Mic session by Pakistan’s Bloggers, Writers, Readers and Poets?
I’m grateful to them for providing me and other artists a platform to bring their talent forward, hats off to the hard working team behind it. It was definitely an experience worth having, I got to learn a lot. We need more platforms and opportunities like this in our country.
10. Your message for the youth?
A. Always, always write what is in your heart. Be true to yourself and your art. Don’t only write things that people can relate to, explore new perspectives and express in your own unique way.
B. Always keep striving to learn with patience and gratefulness not only for your successes but failures as well.
C. Never give up, bad criticism isn’t the end of the world. There will always be someone who won’t like what you give back to the community but there are many more who will. Accept good criticism and don’t take it personally, you cannot do better if you don’t know where there’s room for improvement.
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