In conversation with Sumitra Singam

Our readers would like to know your inspiration (or story, if any) behind I’m in the Kitchen at My Brother’s Party.

I Am In The Kitchen At My Brother’s Party began as a response to a prompt at Writers’ HQ Flash Face Off — do versus don’t. I had been thinking about how I am the sort of person who hides in the kitchen at parties, and that combined with the prompt basically gave me the story. I think I had been working on trying to add sensory details into my work, and this piece was one where I edited a fair bit to try to incorporate that. 

Tell us more about your creative process in general.

Chaotic would be the best descriptor! In my non-writing life I am highly organised and efficient, and it is like some other part of me comes out in writing! I have bursts of extreme generativity, and long fallow periods. In the past, I used to try to make myself write everyday, but that only led to frustration. I’ve learned to expand the definition of “writing” to include things like being in nature, playing, people-watching, shameless eavesdropping and exploring other creative outlets (that came from Melissa Llanes Brownlee’s Flex Your Creativity workshop with Crow Collective — I highly recommend it!). When a story comes to me, I will often play around with it in my head — sometimes for weeks or months. I will play around with the characters, with the plot, with certain phrases or word choices. I’ll often go to my store of unused lines to see if one might fit in that particular story. I’ll actually write the thing only after I have a strong sense of the characters and the meaning of the story. I’ll send it out to beta-readers (find your writing family, everyone! I am truly blessed with amazing writing friends), and adjust the story according to feedback, but to be honest I don’t do much editing after I’ve written the piece. But of course, because my writing is chaos, sometimes I just vomit out a story. I find prompts and generative writing workshops really great for that (Art and Flash at The Flash Cabin is truly brilliant). With those pieces, I might tinker in written form for a while. I often combine fragments from different generative writing sessions. I tend to submit fairly quickly as well — while I am tinkering with a piece, one of the things I think about is which lit mag the piece might be a good fit for. I usually do a bit of research for venues by reading similar pieces — Twitter (that’s what it’s called, I don’t care) is the best place for that.

Do you have any creative influences? What do you like the most about their work? Does it have a discernible effect on your writing?

I have several writers that I deeply admire and if they ever publish anything, I’ll devour it straight away. What I like best about their writing is lyricism, deep truth, beautiful word choices, banging openings and endings. But I also read very widely and indiscriminately. I’ve found many beautiful pieces of writing that have touched me deeply that way. I think it’s a fine line between learning from someone’s work, and staying true to your authentic style. I have tried to “write like” a writer I admire, and it hasn’t worked well either for the piece, or for my confidence. I do think reading writers I admire has helped me to hone my skill of knowing whether a piece is “done” or not, and to understand what a piece that isn’t working is lacking. 

Are there any creative genres, forms, themes, techniques etc. you wish you could employ in your writing which you haven’t yet?

I have been playing with poetry and visual art a little. I have no proficiency with either, but it has opened up creative space to try something new. I won’t inflict my poetry or doodlings on the world just yet, but I would like to learn more about them! 

What are you looking forward to in your creative career?

In general, I am just looking forward to more writing, more collaborating, more of our stories out in the world. For 2024, I have a couple of specific goals — I have a novella-in-flash and flash collection that I am hoping to find a publisher for. I’m also hoping to run a workshop for writers on writing trauma without traumatising yourself — in my professional life, I am a trauma therapist and I want to combine my worlds. Look out for an announcement about this on Twitter. 

The main thing I am looking forward to in my creative career is more wonderful connections. The writing community is so wonderful, warm and welcoming. It’s such a privilege to be part of it. If we have ever interacted, know that I appreciate you. If we haven’t yet, know that I am looking forward to it! Reach out to me on Twitter @pleomorphic2.

Thank you Tejaswinee and Ankit for being a part of this wonderful community. Thanks for your support of writers and for your amazing litmag. It’s an honour to be published by you, and an even bigger honour to be nominated for Best Microfiction 2024. 

Sumitra writes in Naarm/Melbourne. She travelled through many spaces to get there and likes to write about it, pretending it’s fiction. She’ll be the one in the kitchen making chai (where’s your cardamom?). She works in mental health.

X (formerly Twitter): @pleomorphic2