A: I don’t remember exactly when I started writing, but it was a long time ago. I wrote for myself, and at most times I didn’t even bother to save my writing. Later on, after I felt more confident in my writing I began saving them in files, returning to them infrequently to edit.
I started publishing in 2011 after my debut collection of short stories “Breaking News” was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award in 2010 in manuscript. It was published by a small press in Sri Lanka and following the publication I began submitting and being published by literary journals around the world. Last year I self published my poetry collection, “Chant of a Million Women”.
A: I think my biggest inspiration was Enid Blyton as I read a lot of her stories as a child. Growing up, her books along with the Nancy Drew series influenced my love for reading, as well as the classics like Austen and Bronte.
I don’t have a particular favorite writer as I’ve had many favorites at different stages of my life. As a teen I liked to read detectives and books about espionage and thrillers. When I was an undergrad studying literature I liked some of the writers I was introduced to such as Forster and Hardy, even though I would not have read them if not for being ‘forced’ to read them as they were in the syllabus.
I think I tend to read and/or like a particular genre or author at a particular time in my life, but soon outgrown them after a while. It’s not to say I don’t like those writers or would never read them. I think it’s more about identifying with something at that moment in time and enjoying the writing for what it is.
A: That’s hard to explain. Sometimes it’s because I see or hear something happening around me, maybe in my immediate vicinity or even somewhere far away that I have not even visited but feel inspired to write about what I’ve just experienced. At other times I find inspiration churning in my mind and I want to bring it out; give it life.
A: Write your story the way you want to tell it. Not the way other people want you to. Don’t be afraid to fail, but also don’t publish work until you are very sure of it as you can’t take it back once it has gone public.
Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and author. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories, Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her poetry collection, Chant of a Million Women was self published in August 2017.
Rajapakse’s work appears in many literary journals and anthologies around the world. Rajapakse read for a BA in English Literature from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and has a MA in International Relations from JNU, India.