Meet the Author: 8 Questions with Jai Chakrabarti
September 3, 2021
“What I didn’t know is that you then go on to become part of a vibrant literary community, which meant I had mentors and new friends I could reach out to; in the many lonely hours of revising a book, this meant the world to me.”
Jai Chakrabarti's short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Short Stories, and awarded a Pushcart Prize. Chakrabarti was an Emerging Writer Fellow with A Public Space and received his MFA from Brooklyn College. He was born in Kolkata, India, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his family. A Play for the End of the World is his first novel.
For which book do you wish you could write the introduction?
Orhan Pamuk’s Snow
What is a book that changed your view of a subject?
“The Mind’s I” by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett for its essays about machine and human intelligence.
What is the first section you visit in a bookstore?
Who are some writers whose words you strive to never miss, whether they be in book, article, or social media post form?
Colm Tóibín, Carolyn Ferrell, George Saunders, Lorrie Moore, Jhumpa Lahiri
Which author’s editing process would you have loved to see?
I wish I could’ve taken a craft class with Bette Howland. I think her stories are incredibly sharp and her characters so vividly drawn, and I would’ve loved to have witnessed how she went from draft to finished form.
Do you recall what made you decide to apply to the A Public Space Fellowship program? Was there a difference in how you thought about your career before your A Public Space Fellowship versus after?
I’d finished my MFA a couple of years before and was longing for support and mentorship to continue growing my craft and to finish my novel. What stood out about the APS Fellowship was being able to work closely with established writers. What I didn’t know is that you then go on to become part of a vibrant literary community, which meant I had mentors and new friends I could reach out to; in the many lonely hours of revising a book, this meant the world to me.
Can you give us a glimpse of the journey from when you first began your novel to the final draft? Triumphs or moments of doubt?
I began the novel almost ten years ago, and there have been so many moments of doubt but also joy and fulfillment. A long period of doubt was after I became a new parent. My writing time has typically been early in the morning, but for many months after my son was born, I was too tired to write a single sentence. This meant taking a long pause, focusing instead on reading poems and stories until I was able to write again.
A moment that resembles triumph: early on, getting eight single spaced pages of structural feedback from a reader and teacher I deeply admired, feeling nauseous for twenty-four hours, and then afterward beginning the good work to go through and make the novel better, one sentence at a time.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an emerging writer who is thinking about applying to the A Public Space Fellowships?
Apply! Take risks with your art. Think of the Fellowship as a lab to try a new style, explore another shape to your story, or write the kind of character you’ve never dared to.