Name Samita Sarkar
Age 27 (but forever 21)
Where are you from?
I have lived in Canada all my life and I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. After I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing at York University in Toronto, what began as a childhood hobby turned into an adult’s obsession, and I started freelance writing and working on books.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I just released my first book titled I Am the Ocean, a travel memoir. It’s about a solo backpacking trip I took to the United States in my early twenties. Limited by budget, I travelled by bus, slept on couches, and stayed in hostels. All I brought with me were a few clothes, a travel journal, and a copy of The Bhagavad Gita, which is a core spiritual and philosophical book.
More than just a vacation, this trip was also an important time of spiritual growth and personal development for me. I met amazing people, saw wonderful things, and had a lot of time to reflect during a time when I was feeling particularly lost in life.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing all my life. It’s just a natural way that I express myself.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
An introvert by nature, all I’ve ever wanted to do was read or write. I’ve had a writer’s callus for as long as I can remember; my parents tell me that I was born with it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Years after my trip when I was feeling sentimental, I leafed through my travel journal, and I realized that I already had a book. Of course, I spent months honing the manuscript, but I owe it all to my travel journal. Now, I never travel without one.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing style can be very curt. I try to write clearly and concisely. People tell me that I have a distinctive voice.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
In The Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna shows his friend Arjuna his universal form and says “…of bodies of water I am the ocean.” Although Krishna is beautiful, his friend becomes overwhelmed by his presence. This is exactly how I felt about my journey along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the trip was beautiful and pivotal, it was also scary.
Fiona: Is there a message in your memoir that you want readers to grasp?
Before this journey, I had a habit of always wondering what I was going to do next. What kind of job was I going to get? Where would I live? From this trip, I learned that it’s okay to not be in control. Actually, it’s an illusion to think that we have control over our lives. All we can do is our best and leave the rest to God. When something isn’t working out the way that I expected, I remind myself that I’m not in control and that my time in this life is limited and precious. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “smile, breathe and go slowly.” It’s a good way to travel and a good way to live.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Whoever reads this book will get access to my inner thoughts. It’s a very personal book. However, some names and details were changed to protect the privacy of others.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life?
The Bhagavad Gita. It’s a philosophical book spoken by the Lord that teaches us how to live our lives. The main message is to realize that we are souls and not our physical bodies and that the material world is temporary. This book is a good reminder of how important it is to live in the present moment and think positively.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Mark Childress is one of my favorite authors. He has a unique style and likes to write from the perspective of a female anti-hero. His books are also set in the Deep South, which is a place I fell in love with after my trip along the coast.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
God was with me throughout my entire journey along the east coast of the United States, so though it may seem like I did some crazy stuff, I was never scared. I always felt protected.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Writing is all I do. When I’m not working on my next book, I do freelance writing for businesses. I think I would fall apart without writing.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
My writing style will change with time, and I just have to accept that. One thing I may try the next time around is to submit the manuscript to Publishers Weekly before the release date.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
No. I’ve been writing since I could hold a scented marker, so it must have been in a previous life.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Absolutely. I’ll share a little piece from when I first arrived at my final destination, Miami. I had travelled as far along the coast as I could go, and I started to feel lonely because I was having a hard time making friends and the bus driver seemed totally spooked when she saw that I was a solo female traveler, advising me right away to make friends with other girls. (Soon after, thanks to Lord Krishna, I met a group of really cool girlfriends.) Here is how I felt when I first stepped off the bus after a long ride from Georgia:
I walked to the hostel.
Make friends with girls. Take them everywhere.
Make friends with girls. Take them everywhere.
I heeded the bus driver’s words, making them my new mantra.
I checked in to my room, which I was sharing with eight other women. I booked it for three nights. When I went in to drop off my stuff, no one was in the room.
Bags with wet bikinis and sandy clothes were strewn everywhere. Even the floor was full of sand.
I left my stuff in the room and went down to the main floor with just my handbag.
“Can you point me to the beach?” I asked the two Norwegian men behind the counter, who had checked me in just five minutes before.
“Yes. You go outside, and you turn left. Keep going for about thirty seconds.”
I sat on the beach with my journal and my Gita, while people around me sat on the shore with cans of beer and bottles of liquor. Couples kissed in the water. I sat by myself, admiring the wonderful, terrible, beautiful, and deadly ocean.
…Of bodies of water I am the ocean.
—The Bhagavad Gita, 10.24
I had nothing to fear, because the most powerful person in the world, the Supreme Lord Krishna, was my friend. I knew that sooner or later, he’d send along some other companions for me too.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I try to draw a balance between showing and telling. I’m very opinionated, particularly when it comes to animal rights, and my views come through in my writing. I try to describe my experiences more than I state my views outright because I don’t want to come off as preachy. Although, there’s a spiritual element to my book so there’s no doubt that some people will find it preachy.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not at the moment, although I wouldn’t mind it. Travel is what inspired the book!
Fiona: Who designed the cover?
I did. It’s a photograph of the travel journal I took on the road with me.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Making sure that I was descriptive enough. Sometimes my writing style can be terse.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Because it was my first book I learned a lot about the publishing process so that for my next book, I’ll know exactly what to do with no hiccups. The coolest part was that I got to officially register as a publisher with the Canadian government.
Fiona: If any of your books were made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I wouldn’t want to pick the actress. That person would be playing me, and I think I’m too self-aware to make the right choice about something like that. It’s better if someone else with a different perspective chooses her.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Just keep going. If you don’t know what to write about, then keep a journal. Writing isn’t like riding a bicycle; it gets harder if you go a long time without doing it, so it’s important to push through the writer’s block.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want to let them know that it’s okay to not be in control. All we can do is trust God to guide us and enjoy the moment.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman. It’s a travel memoir about a young woman who buys a ticket to Ireland on a whim, and ends up on a year-long travelling journey.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not exactly, but in my childhood I loved J. K. Rowling, Kit Pearson, and C. S. Lewis. Those were some of the authors that really made a mark on me in my early years.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A good book can make me do both!
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you want to meet and why?
I’d love to meet Kurt Cobain. He sang to his own tune during a time when rock music was full of machismo and the other big names were Tommy Lee and Axl Rose. When I was in high school, he was my first feminist role model. His music influenced me so much because I really felt that he was on my side.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I want to be known as someone who made a difference for the animals. I’m a strong supporter of animal rights.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I like being outdoors, reading books, baking, and doing yoga.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Desperate Housewives is a guilty pleasure. I also like sitcoms like Friends, 2 Broke Girls and The Mindy Project.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: rice and dal, popcorn, butternut squash ravioli. But as long as it’s vegetarian, I’m not picky.
Colors: blue and pink.
Music: classic rock and reggaeton.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I can’t imagine. I think I would go insane without writing.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
You can connect with me at my personal blog at samitasarkar.com