March 3, 2020
Mitali Perkins is the author of many books, but most recently “Forward Me Back to You”, the story of two friends who meet on a service trip to Kolkata, and face their trauma together.
Q: Who/what inspired you to become a writer?
A: I read a ton. When I was a kid, I came to the United States, and I was the only Indian person in a high school full of white people. I was reading all kinds of books because I loved the heroics. I could see myself overcoming all those obstacles.
Q: How has writing and being part of this community impacted you?
A: Right now, I’m at the stage where I’m getting to mentor younger writers and judge the prizes—I judged the National Book Award last year. It was really fun being a part of the whole community celebrating all the stories that are being created. So I love that.
Q: What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
A: Twenty-two rejections between book one and book two. Twelve years of waiting, hoping and praying that I could hang in there. But that was when I realized how much I wanted to be a writer. So I didn’t give up and kept going. So I think that was one that was realized that this was what I was intended to do.
Q: Who is your favorite writer at the moment and why?
A: All my favorite writers are dead, and I reread seasonally around the clock. So I read books like “Little Women” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” seasonally. I just love the books that I used to love as a kid. They give me joy, and when I reread them I find all these new layers in them. I change and so I get something out of the story. It’s different every time.
Q: What do you hope to bring to the Los Altos community by participating in Writer’s Week?
A: I never dreamed that, as an Indian American, I could be a writer full-time. I never saw that because the models were all people in tech and STEM. And so I would love to be able to model as an Indian American, a vibrant, fun life. I love being a writer. So it’s giving an option of someone in the arts who’s living as an immigrant.
Q: If you could recommend one book to Los Altos students, what would it be?
A: This is not a popular answer, but I would say to read the Gospel of John from the Bible to see what a great storyteller Jesus was.
Q: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?
A: It’s from Anne Lamott, who says that your first draft is going to suck big time. Just get through it, and then you can always make it better.