April Anniversary: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar

Celebrating a milestone and baring my heart to reveal the delights and fears of being a writer in a rapidly changing world

April Anniversary: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar
Photo by Esther Gorlee on Unsplash

Hello, Dreamer!

Monthly Missives turns a year old this month! Yay! 🥳

A year ago, the first edition of Monthly Missives, titled April Alchemy, went out to a group of people who trusted and loved me enough to sign up without quite knowing what was about to turn up in their mailboxes on the last Sunday of every month.

I'm thrilled to report that all of the original members have stayed with me and more of you have joined along the way. And for that I thank you!

I thank you for reading and responding, for understanding and connecting, and for taking such loving care of the pieces of my heart and soul I share with you and for reciprocating by sharing valuable parts of you too in return.

May I please ask you for a gift on this special day?

If the Monthly Missives has touched you in any way over these past twelve editions, would you please refer it to someone you know would enjoy them?
a meerkat whispering into another's ear
Please spread the word on Monthly Missives! / Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

The more widely I know my writings are read, the more motivated I am to keep at it!

The self-publishing industry is still largely driven by word-of-mouth. So when you let even one other person know I'm a writer worth reading, they'd be more likely to sign up.

Your support is valuable to me, and I can't thank you enough!

Now, in this month's edition, lucky missive number 13, I have some stellar book news and some sobering (but in a good way) realizations to share. Quite a mixed bag. So grab yourself a cuppa and read on!

Dying Wishes in the running for an award!

In what is probably among the most exciting news I've received so far in my writing journey, Dying Wishes is now one of six finalists in the 2023 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in the Speculative Fiction category!!!

ebook cover of Dying Wishes by Anitha Krishnan featuring a full moon behind a silhouette of leafless branches of trees

Doesn't that sticker look cool?! The awesome folks at Kobo sent it over when they announced the shortlist, and they've also lined up some cool stuff like author interviews and such! I feel all grown-up now!

So now, dear Dreamer, what you need to do is send loads of good vibes my way and cast whatever bewitching spells you can (kind ones only, please) on the judge, Robert J. Wiersema, author and Professor of Creative Writing at Vancouver Island University, so that he picks my book as the winner without any doubt whatsoever!

Grab Dying Wishes from Kobo here and from other retailer platforms here! Available in both ebook and paperback formats!

Latest edition of A Benevolent Goddess now available!

A year ago, I published a longish short story titled A Benevolent Goddess. That version ended on a somewhat tragic note, and my dear friend, Shreyasi, wrote to me asking if there was truly no hope left for the goddess.

I set out to write an additional chapter for Shreyasi and posted it on my website as a bonus chapter that readers of the book could access when they signed up to the Monthly Missives.

(As subscribers to this newsletter, you have access to the bonus chapter too. It might make for a fun read on its own, but it's even better when you've read the six chapters that precede it.)

Anyhoo, I put up the bonus chapter and that should have been it, right? No! Because now the book that was up for sale began to feel somewhat unfinished to me, for the bonus chapter was clearly an extension of the original story. So I set out to publish a new edition including the bonus chapter.

Et voilà! The ebook is up on Amazon and Kobo, the paperback is available on Amazon. Grab your copy here! I'm working to put it up on other retailer platforms too.

If you already own a copy of the earlier edition of A Benevolent Goddess, please write to me and I'd be happy to send you the updated ebook version for free!
ebook cover of A Benevolent Goddess by Anitha Krishnan featuring a woman with arms outstretched and a red ribbon swirling around her

So thank you, Shreyasi, for reminding me to believe in happy endings! Life is too short for anything else, especially in fiction! ❤️

Musings on The Creative Life

Despite the spectacular news I've shared with you above, April has in fact been a slow and deeply uncertain month for me on the fiction writing front.

For one thing, these bright, warm days of spring have been the perfect excuse to spend more time outdoors and, consequently, less time at the writing desk. But the real reason I wasn't writing was because my attention was taken up by all the changes happening in the industry.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quite mainstream now, and many authors, as well as those who were previously not authors, have been experimenting with writing stories using ChatGPT or its more premium counterpart, GPT-4.

I myself have used ChatGPT as a starting point for blurbs/marketing material. Owing to the conversational nature of the interface, it's quite like bouncing ideas off a colleague, then going back to work with renewed enthusiasm and armed with a slew of new ideas.

I'm not at all anti-AI; it's a wave of change that's happening and my stance is to approach it with curiosity, rather than trepidation, even though I alternately feel nervous and optimistic about what it means for authors and artists, for the entire world even.

What drove home the point of this irreversible change, however, was plans announced by an independent publisher to publish 10,000 titles this year alone with the aid of AI tools.

No typo there! 10,000 titles! In a single year!

Of course, they have a huge team of writers working for them, 50+ by some accounts, so it's not the ambition of a lone wolf.

Still, the instant I heard that news was the instant a phenomenon that had hitherto been a mere harbinger of change in some distant future transformed instantly into a reality shaping and influencing the business plans of operators at the street level.

It became very real and very present, a force to be reckoned with or befriended or rolled over by, but certainly not something to be ignored.

person wearing a helmet visor in a glass-panelled room full of blue and red streaks of light
Photo by Drew Dizzy Graham on Unsplash

I went down the dangerous rabbit hole of 'What's the point?' What's the point of writing when a program can do it for you? What's the point of trying to sell books in a saturated market when it's only going to be even more so?

Truth be told, it's not as if this was the first time I was grappling with these questions. Even as a beginning writer, first putting words to paper several years ago, thoughts and questions of this nature troubled me.

A little introspection led me to the big yet unsurprising question that lay at the root of all this anxiety: what is the point of me being a writer if I cannot make a living from my writing?

Luckily, I didn't have to look too far for an answer. Another writer had been grappling with an almost identical question a few years ago in a slightly different but pretty similar context. Only, she set out to answer this question and wrote a book on her findings.

And Then We Grew Up by Rachel Friedman is one of the wisest, funniest and truest books I've ever read on how there can be as many ways to live an artistic life as there are artists.

With great panache, Friedman calls BS on many of the cultural myths I had bought into on what it means to be a creative artist (writer) trying to make a living from her creative works (books and writings).

In short, the fantasy of an artist's life is often vastly different than its messy and complicated reality.

Obviously, I've written an entire post on the insights Friedman shares in this book. Give it a read if you need a little more persuasion to read the book itself!

And Then We Grew Up by Rachel Friedman
I had now been on this earth long enough to realize that if I was to sacrifice other parts of my life to writing, it guaranteed nothing other than the sacrifice. ~ And Then We Grew Up by Rachel Friedman

But there's one passage I wish to share here today, a few lines that funnily didn't make it to the blog post above for reasons unknown and unexplored.

At one point, Friedman questions the contemporary wisdom on grit, perseverance, and hard work that experts have been feeding us as non-negotiable factors en route to success.

When we're told success is as simple as gritty perseverance or putting in ten thousand hours, it's a short walk to believing that failure must be all your own fault.
Part of what nagged at me when I thought about the idea of my failed potential was having been given so many opportunities—music lessons, camp, youth orchestras, supportive parents, an instrument to practice on—yet I still didn't make it.
Thus the only explanation for not making it was, well, me.
If I just worked harder (or more deliberately) or had more ambition, first with music and now with writing, I'd be more successful.
I just needed to push myself harder, longer, and smarter. I just needed more positive affirmations, more discipline, more optimizing.
We are taught that the heroic thing to do in the face of personal or professional adversity is to persevere. Persist hard enough with the right attitude and the universe will provide, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not. In the meantime, how much psychological and financial uncertainty can you tolerate?
Everyone I know who makes any kind of art battles an inner critic telling her the work is no good. We struggle with envy. We struggle with fear. We struggle with self-doubt. We struggle with indecisiveness and disappointment and the pressure of what we think our lives and careers should look like.
We are human beings, not robots, no matter how much internet clickbait tells us we can hack who we are and what we can accomplish. To endure, you must be able to bear hearing these voices or block them out, as well as bear maybe touching it, then maybe losing it, then maybe touching it again.
~ And Then We Grew Up by Rachel Friedman

So this was the messy complicated reality of my life this month: being nominated for an award one day only to get caught up the very next day in overwhelming anxiety about all the factors that are not in my control.

The reason I share all this is because the world loves success stories. Nothing wrong with that; they can be quite motivating and inspiring, even if they also tend to kindle envy alongside (or maybe that's just me!).

The trouble crops up when we romanticize obstacles and failure in hindsight, looking back from the vantage point of success.

That's the beauty of story-telling, isn't it? We all want to be assured of success and happy endings or at least some satisfying conclusion that would make all the hardships 'worth it'. That's why fiction exists. That's why Hollywood exists. That's why all the myths surrounding art and artists exist!

I've come across this phrase, 'it is/was all worth it', very often in the contexts of both writing and parenting, and perhaps on my deathbed I'd really feel that way, who knows?

But right now, in the trenches, frequently tottering between elation and uncertainty, it certainly doesn't feel that way. The world is constantly shifting beneath my feet and I have to keep trying to regain my balance, until the next judder comes along and threatens to topple me once more.

Unless I begin to see that life is full of contradictions.

Because I can feel fulfilled yet insecure at the same time. I can feel lost even if I am on the right path. Gratitude can co-exist with longing. Life can be messy and wonderful at the same time.

Which means I can continue to write, because I love it so much, without trying so hard to wrestle it into providing a means of livelihood for me, so much so that all joy is lost in the process.

And for now, that sounds like an excellent path to set out on. Maybe my plans will change tomorrow, but that too is a contradiction I can handle.

It [balance] happens through some combination of learning to relax where you already are and, at the same time, keeping the possibility open that your capacity, my capacity, the capacity of all beings, is limitless ... This is the potential of a human being.
~ Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart, as quoted in And Then We Grew Up

And when it all gets too much, I head over The Cornell Lab's live bird cams and watch a pair of barred owls and a pair of red-tailed hawks lay eggs and hatch them, then feed their young until they fledge and fly away.

The Lab also monitors and live-streams the activities of several other birds in different parts of the world, and posts clips of interesting turns of events and important milestones over on their YouTube channel.

D and I have been checking on these cams for the last four years now. Sometimes eggs fail to hatch. Not all the young survive. Yet, the birds come back to their nests every spring to lay more eggs and repeat the entire cycle all over again.

duck leading ducklings across a rain-soaked street
Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

There is something reassuring in witnessing and observing this seasonal, reptitive cycle of life in a world that is constantly shifting and changing.

And it also helps to remember that in life, luck and time play a far greater role than we care to admit. So when things go badly, it's not so much our fault as we tend to believe. And when they go well, it's not entirely our doing either, something we tend to forget.

I'd love to hear from you on a time when you faced a conundrum in your life — there must have been many a time, I'm sure! What was going on in your head at the time? Now, whether or not you are where you wanted to be in your journey, what kind of light does hindsight shed on that period of confusion?

Write to me about all of your contradictions and conundrums, your confusions and crises. At least then we'd know it's all part of the ordinary human experience and not try to fight or flee from it.


Sometimes writing sits in you

like a wild animal. Maybe

you see its eyes.

Maybe you don’t see it at all,

but the hair on the back of your neck

knows it is there

where the deepest shadows lie.

Often the shadows lie

about what’s hiding in them.

The panther that has stalked you

since you were a child

is old now. No longer wild,

and tired of guarding the treasure

you yourself left behind—

blind and deaf, she will give it all to you

if you just let her go.

But how are you to know

whether the fox on the hill

in the cemetery carries your mother’s name

or is the same fox you saw

crossing your back yard in the snow

unless you put your pen to paper

and use it to release the animal

that hides in the shadow of your hand?

Tales for Dreamers

morning secrets

As much as I'm loving the warm sunshine and the evening light, I've also been loving the sparkle of dew on the green grass in the mornings. The dandelions haven't flowered yet, but the morning dew reminded me of this tale I had written in what feels like another lifetime altogether.

tales for dreamers: morning secrets
Even dandelions have their secrets although they won’t tell you what they are.

Books You May Love

Ooh! I have quite the bundle for you this month, in addition to Rachel Friedman's And Then We Grew Up, of course, which I've already read thrice in as many weeks!

First, there was The Stolen Book of Evelyn Audrey by Serena Burdick, a historical mystery being unravelled in the present day.

One of my favourite lines from the book is the following.

"It's frightening to come right up to the thing you've spent your life desiring. What if it doesn't solve all the problems you thought it would?"
books you may love: The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey by Serena Burdick
“Who says you have to do something with your life? Isn’t living it enough?” - Sally, in The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey by Serena Burdick

And then I managed to read the first book in the Malabar House series by Vaseem Khan featuring India's first policewoman, Inspector Persis Wadia, and set in 1950s Bombay coming to terms with India's newfound independence and its ensuing chaos.

Midnight at Malabar House marks the beginning of an exciting series; I've already sung the praises of books 2 and 3 in the series to you. So it was exciting to go back and see how it all began. Khan tackles some very sensitive issues pertaining to India's fight for independence with much deft honesty.

I also returned to an old favourite, the Inspector Rutledge series by Charles Todd, set around the World War I years and featuring a detective suffering from PTSD and hearing his dead corporal's voice in his head. A Divided Loyalty kept me good company for a few nights.

books you may love: Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan, and A Divided Loyalty by Charles Todd
Reaching for the comfort of the familiar: historical mystery books in the Malabar House and Inspector Ian Rutledge series

And I'm still in love with the 5,000-year-old vampire, Sita, of Christopher Pike's Thirst series. I finished reading Thirst No. 4 this month and then dear friend and bringer-of-all-good-things-in-my-life, Helen, sent me the most wonderful surprise.

paperback copy of Thirst No. 5 by Christopher Pike featuring a white woman with pale blonde hair, blue eyes, and blood-red lips

My very own copy of Thirst No. 5! I can't wait to read it, yet I also don't wish to start reading it anytime soon, because then Sita's story will be over and I'll miss her and her friends a great, great deal!

Sita's encounter with Krishna turns me inside out every time!

... wondering if I really want to ask if I should go back or not. To leave him feels like an impossibility.
Before I can speak the question aloud, Krishna smiles.
"It matters not, Sita. Stay or go, you will always be with me."
His words heal my last shred of doubt.
I have faith. It doesn't matter what I decide.
~ Thirst No. 4 by Christopher Pike

Many of my favourite authors have been releasing new books, so I've been in book paradise! I'm currently reading Kate Morton's Homecoming, and I also have Alka Joshi's The Perfumist of Paris to look forward to, so you'll hear me gush about these two books next month.

May is already on our doorsteps! The tulips are blooming. A robin has built a nest in a weeping mulberry tree right in front of our home, and I can see it from the living room window.

And there are still many, many amazing books to be read and many more wonderful stories to be written. All is well.

And so, what I wish for you, dear Dreamer, is that amid all the contradictions and chaos of our lives, may we find calm and compassion for our very human selves in this very random world.

Much love,

~ Anitha