Best Books in 2018

I read fewer books this year, but some of them were fantastic. A lot of the best books I read were poetry. I did read some really great children’s books, too.

I’ve decided to keep the list short this year to only those books that stayed with me long after reading them. This does not mean the other books I rated five stars or four stars were any less fantastic.

Without further ado, here’s my list of the best reads from my year in reading:

1. The Hunger by Alma Katsu is my favorite kind of horror book — based in reality, elements of the supernatural, and deep tension.(my review)

2. Crumb-Sized by Marlena Chertock readers will be immersed in the narrator’s life of debilitating daily pain and how to cope and turn negatives in positives. (my review)

3. Nevertheless, We Persisted, with a foreword by Sen. Amy Klobuchar is a phenomenal collection of essays from those who have endured darkness and seen the light at the end of the tunnel. (my review)

4. Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram is fiction that exposes real life dangers that face many of us in the 24/7 social media world we’ve created. From catfishing to abuse, Vikram has developed a multi-layered novel of survival and strength. (my review)

5. Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown is the one children’s book that my daughter reads over and over when she wants to read before bed, during the day, or any time really. Rabbit lead character with an active imagination. (my review)

6. How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is a love letter to the past and the passing of a mother. Told beautifully, Aptowicz examines the anxieties we all feel when loved ones do not assuage our fears that they didn’t arrive home safely and explores the empty spaces in between when we say “see you soon” and when it is too late to see them. (my review)

What books are on your best of 2018 lists?

Curious Iguana Event Recap: Sweta Vikram, author of Louisiana Catch

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Sweta Vikram came to Frederick, Md., to the Curious Iguana bookstore to have a conversation about not only women’s rights and her book, Louisiana Catch, but also about the dangers of social media and human rights.

And, yes, before you ask: I did bring every Sweta Vikram book I own to get signed, since I haven’t seen her in person in so long! She had to sign my books.  I hope I didn’t give her hand a cramp.

Also, since I help establish her blog tour through Poetic Book Tours for her debut U.S. novel, I was happy to provide a Live Facebook Feed for part of the event. Please click and watch the beginning of the event. She’ll make you laugh.

Please also view these two videos from the Q&A and reading portions of the event.

It was a small room and full of people that Sweta, also the owner of NimmiLife, knew and some that those people had brought along with them, including my daughter who did not want to miss the “Poet lady.” Yes, that’s how she refers to Sweta. I never saw her put on her shoes so fast to go to a reading before; it was quite a sight.

The event had it all: discussions of marital rape, surviving sexual assault, women’s rights, the differences between writing poems and writing fiction, and of course the question everyone wants to know — was Rohan Brady based on Bradley Cooper?

Sweta Vikram will be back in the D.C. area in September, and I hope those who couldn’t make it up to Maryland, will see her when she’s in town again.

Louisiana Catch by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Today’s review is not for poetry as expected this month, but rest assured, the author is a poet.

Sweta Vikram’s poetry has appeared on this blog previously, and I’m humbled to call her a friend. She is particularly talented as you can tell from her previous books and this debut novel.

Happy launch day, my friend.

***Mark your calendar DMV residents! Sweta Vikram will be at the Curious Iguana bookstore in Frederick, Md., on May 27 4-5pm***

I’ll be there, but will you!

Source: publisher
Paperback, 268 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Louisiana Catch by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is more than just a novel that captures our current time where the Internet is pervasive and many of us have allowed our walls of privacy to fall. It is a novel in which Ahana Chopra is forced to live her own life and discover on what terms she wants to live that life — a woman no longer under the wing of her mother and no longer under the thumb of her husband in New Delhi, India.

A quote from Socrates — “To find yourself, think for yourself.” — is a perfect summation of a novel in which the protagonist goes on a spiritual, emotional, and physical journey to self discovery, like that of Vikram’s Ahana. Vikram’s main character has a strong voice, even if her convictions waver from time to time as the shroud of mourning gathers about her unexpectedly. But once outside her cloistered world, she has no choice but to examine her world and her place in it. She must make choices that can either lead to her own happiness or force her down the same dark path she walked before.

“At social gatherings, I want to disappear and become invisible.” (pg. 1 ARC)

The dark threads of the novel outline the loneliness of marital abuse and the sinkholes the Internet can disguise when catfishers seek new prey, but the light threads are the inner strength Ahana cultivates as she strives to make a safe place for women who’ve been victims of abuse. She also has solid friendships — with Rohan and others — and family relationships to lean on. As her mother’s wise words come to Ahana, she gains strength and learns to move forward, if cautiously.

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” (pg. 182 ARC)

Vikram’s novel is a tapestry of hope sprung from pain and shines as a beacon for those who need a gentle push away from the darkness in their lives. Fiction can be an escape and showcase an amazing story, but Vikram uses her words and characters to help change lives and give strength to those who need it. Louisiana Catch by Sweta Srivastava Vikram takes readers on a multi-continental and multi-cultural journey that mirrors our own world today, but it begs us to make changes.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a best-selling author of 11 books, a wellness columnist, and a mindfulness writing coach.  Featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” Sweta writes about women, multiculturalism, and identity. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nice countries and three continents. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press 2018) is her debut U.S. novel. Born in India, Sweta grew up between the Indian Himalayas, Northern Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. Exposure to this vast societal spectrum inspired her to become an advocate for social issues and also to get certified as a Holistic Health Counselor. In this avatar, Sweta is the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife through which she helps people elevate their productivity and creativity using Ayurveda and yoga. A certified yoga teacher, Sweta also teaches yoga and mindfulness to female survivors of rape and domestic violence. She lives with her husband in New York City.

Enter to win 1 copy of Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram (Kindle ebook for international entrants or print copy for U.S. residents)

Other Reviews:

#FridayReads: Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram

I feel like my review time has shrunk and the blog has a lot of empty spots during the week.  It has not been intentional. I’ve missed this space.

As I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, people talk about what books they’re reading on Friday.

Today’s read is Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram.

I’m slowing getting to know the main character Ahana, a woman who has lost much in the short time I’ve been with her.  Her mother has been her rock through her divorce, which is virtually unheard of in India. Through her experiences, Ahana has come to realize she must advocate for women’s rights and to end violence against women and help its victims. But she is still grieving.

It’s clear that this book is timely given the current climate in our government and the media reports, as well as the #MeToo movement. Women’s voices have been made silent too long. I hope that Ahana learns to speak for herself in a powerful way, but I suspect she must face more darkness before she gets there.

I wish work was over more quickly, so I can get back to it.

As a disclaimer, I am putting together a blog tour for Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram, so if you are interested, drop me an email.

Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 46 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***I consider Sweta a friend and her book is on tour with Poetic Book Tours.***

Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is highly emotional and raw.  It is clear that her mother’s sudden passing left a void in her life, and she was adrift with anger, despair, and confusion.  She spent time with family in India, people who she viewed as vampires (sucking the life from those around them for gossip), but respected her mother enough not to say anything.  There is a delicate balance in grief — when we want to cry out and shout out despair, we must be respectful that others are grieving in their own way as well.  At the same time, there are those who continue to lack compassion or empathy, making the grieving process even more difficult.

This collection made me cry on more than one occasion as I thought about those who have left my life — some suddenly, some after long illness — and each time the grieving process was different and difficult. My nana passed at a critical time in my life as a college student, and I carried a lot of guilt about her passing before I could make it to the hospital to see her after my classes. I procrastinated that day, wanting to eat dinner and rest after a trying week of classes and wanting to avoid the sadness of seeing her with tubes everywhere in an ICU where germs were kept at bay as much as possible. When I arrived just after she left this world, I was tormented by guilt. I wanted to know why she left before I got there. Sweta’s poem, “Why Didn’t You Wait for Me?” struck a chord. Can they see us after they have passed? Can they send us signs? I think it’s possible, and whenever I see a ladybug, I think of her.

From: JFK: Terminal 4 Airport Lounge (pg. 4)

At first I try to hide the fact,
but any passerby could look inside me
and tell it was fake calm that I was drinking
at the airport lounge in a wine glass.
But, inside that one glass,
I could become invisible.
Inside one sip of wine,
I could whisper my fears.

Like love, grief is an emotion that bonds us. Through these poems and mini essays, Vikram show us the entire grieving process and how it tears us down so we can rebuild ourselves. Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a tribute to a wonderful woman, who may have lived differently than her daughter, and while it comes after her passing, it signals to us to cherish those we have. We need to pay closer attention to our now and less to the past. We need to be better about showing our appreciation in the now, rather than when it is too late.

RATING: Quatrain

Other reviews:

Guest Posts and Interviews:

About the Poet:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Amazon bestselling author of 11 books, writing coach, columnist, marketing consultant, and wellness practitioner who currently lives in New York City. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, & mindful living to female trauma survivors, creative types, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. Sweta is also the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife, which helps you attain your goals by elevating your creativity & productivity while paying attention to your wellness.

The Great Smoky Mountains


When you go on vacation, you need some good reading and a variety.  Fun books, books you can dip into and out of in a pinch, and books that can hold your attention before bed.

I haven’t had a vacation in a long while that wasn’t back to Massachusetts, so I’m really looking forward to seeing a new place — Tennessee — and enjoying some non-review copies…

Here’s a list of what I’m thinking of taking — any suggestions, should I nix any of these? Should I take only 2?

Too many, right?  Some are ebook, so they take up less room. What kinds of books do you take on vacation?  Do you read them?  Am I overly ambitious?

My other option is just to bring 1-2 books and write my own stuff.  What say you?




Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Source: Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Paperback, 72 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, which is on tour tomorrow with Poetic Book Tours, is a stunning collection of poems that give voice to the often solitary lives of Hindu widows.  Whether these women loved their husbands, fell in love with them, or merely stayed out of their way, without them in their lives, these women struggle with the emptiness — a vacancy where desire, love, and affection should be.  These women could wail and weep but it does not negate the fact that they become spectators in their own lives once their husbands are gone.  They become apparitions of themselves, hollowed out and shoved to the background like furniture or paintings on the wall, only as useful as the remaining family allows them to be.

Despite their losses and Hindu traditions, these women are still very much alive.  In “Eulogy” (pg. 39), the narrator says “I am a lady,/but I didn’t promise/to sleep in your shadow.”  Despite their vitality, these women are in the shadows with no way out that would allow them to retain their respect.  “Silence became my lover, that’s why.//Just so you know, my every kiss was real./I wrapped them in turmeric and sandalwood,/left them in your urn wrapped in a white sheet.//” (from “Silence Became My Lover”, pg. 34) In spite of their continued devotion, they must remain silent about it and their feelings and desires — in the eyes of the family, they have become non-entities without an anchor.

Many of these women loved deeply, passionately, but who can they share their memories with, except for their own grief and the silent walls around them.  In “Never Abandoned” (pg. 7), the narrator laments, “we came crashing like a wave./We contained each other.//Even the rain can’t erase/the warm memories of our togetherness/the cold bones others try to break.//”  For those widows who were abused or cuckolded, how do they move on from the death of their husband?  Can they?  They are still expected to wear grief like a devoted wife, honoring a marriage that to them may have been plagued with abuse and disappointment.  These women are trapped in a different way than those who can feel comfort in their loving husband’s memories.  There is no second chances at love or passion without consequence for these women.

Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a collection of eulogies, odes, and laments, but at its heart it is a collection that gives voice to the voiceless.  The women in these pages, though unnamed, are given new life, and their passions are presented to all readers in a way that is open and honest.  In the “wet silence” of their grief, there is no pretense, no hypocrisy; there is only the bare truth.  It is a collection that should be used in schools, read in book clubs, and held up high on the best of poetry lists.

Sweta is someone I call friend, but she stuns me with each new book, and there is nothing less than awe inspiring in this collection.

Other reviews:

Guest Posts and Interviews:






Guest Post: The Magic of Poetry by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a poet and novelist, and dare I say an activist?! Her poetry books have been reviewed on Savvy Verse & Wit, and she’s even visited for a Q&A and a guest post about creativity in the past. I’ve known her for what seems like forever, and after meeting her in person more than once and chatting with her on social media and email, I can say that we are kindred spirits, poets, and friends.  Check out my reviews of No Ocean Here, Because All Is Not Lost, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, and Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors.  Here are her interview and previous creativity guest post.

Today, she’s going to share the magic of poetry for National Poetry Month!

J.D. Salinger once said, “Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.” He’s probably right.

In the first week of April, I got caught in the rain three days in a row. I love the rains and call myself a pluviophile (aside from urban dictionary, is pluviophile even officially considered a word?) While the lover of rain inside me was happy to wash away the unmentionables in the downpour, it wasn’t that simple. The wind mutilated my umbrella. The cold seeped inside my bones. My body collapsed with the onslaught.

For two weeks, I was on bed rest, fighting 103F fever and sinusitis. I had no taste in my mouth. To top it all, the strong antibiotics reacted and I had to be put on a counter dosage. Life came to an un-poetic standstill.

The only thing that soothed me at this time was a stray star that I would spot outside my bedroom window every night. I live in New York City—this was definitely an unusual and poetic occurrence. True to J.D. Salinger’s words, I started to attach a meaning to this mystical happening and wondered about the pleasant surprise.

Right about this time, my sister-in-law (husband’s sister) who lives in Singapore told me that our five and a half-year-old niece, Noyonika, had written a poem in school. It was about a star.

How To Catch A Star (By Noyonika)

I will sit on a broom
And fly to the moon
And catch my star

It is very dark when I fly to the moon
I am scared, it is so dark!

But I am brave and I carry on
To catch my star
Then I see something
Yippee, Yippee!

It’s my star!
It’s golden, pink and purple
It’s beautiful, it’s colossal
And it glows in the dark!

I reach my hand out
And catch my star
And I tell the broom:
‘Take me back to my room.”

Was that Noyonika’s star that I saw outside my window? Yes, you could say my fever-induced delirium made me imagine that. Or was it pure poetry? My niece, thousands of miles away, and I bonding over a remote incandescent body in the sky via the path of verses. The way I look at it, poetry paves way for imagination with a touch of human connection. With all due respect, in this sometimes cold, unpredictable, and impersonal world, attaching emotions in oddest of places is what keeps us sane, Mr. Salinger.

Thanks, Sweta, for sharing the magic of poetry with us and the world.

About the Poet:sweta

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “One of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, Amazon bestselling author, novelist, poet, essayist, columnist, and educator. She is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, two collaborative collections of poetry, a novel, and a nonfiction book. Her work has also appeared in several publications across three continents. Sweta has won three Pushcart Prize nominations, an International Poetry Award, Best of the Net Nomination, Nomination for Asian American Members’ Choice Awards 2011, and writing fellowships. A graduate of Columbia University, she lives in New York City with her husband and teaches creative writing and gives talks on gender studies while managing a career in digital marketing. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

2011 Indie Lit Awards Short List

After all the prodding and poking my team and I did on Facebook, Twitter, and our blogs, the nominations for poetry rolled in with over 200 nominations coming in for a variety of poetry.

But there were some clear favorites in the voting, with one short listed nominee collecting more than 70 votes alone.

I want to take this moment to thank the judging panel — Diary of an Eccentric, Necromancy Never Pays, 1330V, and Regular Rumination — for all of their help.  And as you know, with the announcement of the short list, your jobs are not over.  It is now time to read and discuss the short listed titles below.

  • Beyond Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Vikram (Modern History Press)
  • Catalina by Laurie Soriano (Lummox Press)
  • What Looks Like an Elephant by Edward Nudelman (Lummox Press)
  • Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems by Ramos, Emma Eden (Heavy Hands Ink)
  • Sonics in Warholia by Megan Volpert (Sibling Rivalry Press)

Luckily, the individual presses of these books have kindly offered to send copies of the books to all the panelists.  I wish all of the poets luck.

Please visit the Indie Lit Awards Short List for the nominees in Fiction, Biography/Memoir, Nonfiction, Mystery, Speculative Fiction, and GLBTQ

Interview With Sweta Vikram

Sweta Vikram‘s poetry has been featured more than once on this blog, and you can check out my reviews for Kaleidoscope:  An Asian Journey of Colors and Because All Is Not Lost.  I’m so glad that I discovered her work because it is not only vivid, but multicultural.  Her style is full of child-like imagination and sophistication as she tackles cultural themes pertaining to the human condition and the residual impact of grief.

Today, I’m happy to share with you an interview I conducted with her following my latest review.  Please feel free to leave your comments and questions following the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

Introductions vary depending on the audience. I usually never plan ahead of time. Whatever comes most naturally to me at that instant when I walk inside a crowded room and hold the microphone, I go with it. That said, there is something you should know about me: I am an obsessive-compulsive planner. My definition of spontaneity is telling my husband, “Let’s do something impromptu today.” No kidding. But, when it comes to reading my work, I let the moment take over.

I have an honest, secure, and grounded relationship with words. Frankly, there is a certain vibe to every reading venue. And I rely on that energy to guide me: whether humor would work or a more serious, informal interaction in a given scenario. But the objective is to never pretend to be someone I am not. The audiences are smart; they can sniff out fakes. I have witnessed a poet take that phony-route, and it wasn’t pretty. Every performer should be respectful of those in attending.

I was a radio jockey for a leading South Asian radio station in NYC. Believe me, you could never be ready for some of the questions or compliments or comments. I think it prepared me to not easily get fazed.

Aside from being a poet, I am also a novelist (first fiction novel, “Perfectly Untraditional,” upcoming in April 2011), an essayist, a dancer, an oenophile, and a dedicated-walker. I do love to cook, entertain, and play the piano. My family and friends are an integral part of my life. And yoga and meditation are my mantras for keeping my sanity and creativity intact.

How long have you been writing poetry and what inspired you to first write verse?

I grew up in a family of poets. My father, my aunt, and few others share a special relationship with words. One could say that given my upbringing, words come naturally to me.

I have been consciously writing since I was a pre-teen, if not before that. I spent my formative years in a boarding school in Mussoorie, India. I am a city person, so I didn’t take very well to the placidity of the Queen of Hills. The green mountains, the unassuming fog, the nippy air, and damp weather, though depressing, turned the place into a writer’s paradise. Every free minute that I had, I would scribble poems in my little blue diary. I often isolated myself from my peers, mentally. I could be sitting in a big group but inside my own creative-bubble. It was as if the pen and paper would call out to me, and I would relinquish the entire world.

I feel the solitude of the hills not only pushed me to express my experiences on paper but also disciplined me to write everyday. Now I go away to writing residencies, in desolate locations, in search of inspiration. Look at the irony—what I wanted to run away from, as a teenager, is what I look for as a professional.

Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

Poetry is a deeply embodied form of art and science. It can ignite passion and liberate. Poetry is about discovering yourself both as a human being and a writer.

Sure, performance poetry gives a poet the power of transmission: to add life to what’s written on paper. It’s such a personal method of narrating. But if the content doesn’t resonate with the audience, however evocative the style, it’s immaterial. Similarly, written poetry carries a different onus. The power of reach is dependent on the ink, not the act.

Ultimately, be it spoken word, performance, or written poetry, I feel the candor and fervor in the work shows through. Not too long ago, I was invited, along with half a dozen other poets and artists, to perform at an event’s launch. I was one of the last performers that night. And all other poets were spoken word specialists while I was going to read my written poetry. The pressure was high and unique. However, after my reading, two of the performers walked up to me and said, “Wow, that was awesome! No wonder you have a book deal.” Just like me, they had both assumed that only spoken word could have an impact on the audience. But none of us once considered that even in a crowded room, it’s ultimately the quality of words that hold the power.

I have a simple rule: never underestimate or insult the intelligence and emotional quotient of a reader/listener.

Oh, absolutely. I believe writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant. I think poetry can save lives and cure the world of all its ailments. A little zealous? Perhaps, but I have faith.

Poetry has a therapeutic and healing quality to it. It has the ability to take us into those dark places, which otherwise we might not want to visit or confront.

Robert Frost said succinctly, “Writing a poem is discovering.” I have been in workshops where strangers have revealed personal stories about abuse, illnesses, and personal failures. When we received our writing prompts, I don’t think my fellow poets knew they were going to open up their Pandora’s Box and disclose secrets to a bunch of strangers.

Poetry also makes you empathetic. I remember hugging and crying with my peers in my classes and residencies. And none of it was pretentious. Something inside of me felt moved with their stories. And I too trusted them with my personal, untold tales. Once you have shared your deepest fears with people, they become a part of you. There is a reason many of us suffer from withdrawal symptoms after spending a week at a poetry getaway and continue to stay in touch long after it’s over.

I recently taught a poetry workshop in Kolkata, India, to a group of children between the ages of 6-12. The idea behind the workshop was that poetry could:

(a) Help keep children out of trouble: I was amazed how much I found out about each child and his or her background through that one workshop. The thoughts lurking around the corner of minds were so uninhibitedly printed on paper.

(b) Introduce them to diversity: We, humans, are predisposed to prejudices and stereotypes. A significant amount of chaos in the world today is because there isn’t the right dialogue and awareness. I think “Unfamiliarity breeds contempt.”

Poetry dissipates geographic boundaries and brings together cultures. It doesn’t seek the ethnicity or race or gender of a writer. The written expectations aren’t pigeon-holed. For instance, one of the literary agents (When I was sending out query letters for my fiction novel) said to me that my novel was unlike other “ethnic novels.” In that, it was a happy, immigrant story, which isn’t what the market is used to. I was baffled; in my day job in marketing, I was trained to respect a unique selling proposition. But in the case of my book, given my South Asian background, I was expected to write about the challenges of assimilation and the trauma of being an immigrant. Umm, as if that’s not been written about, innumerable times. And secondly, immigration is such a personal journey. It’s unfair to add all immigrants or their experiences under the bucket of melancholy.

Times have changed and so have attitudes. The world has become global. I mean, my generation moved out of their parent country but not necessarily for money. It was to attain higher education or to experience a new culture or grow as an individual.

While my husband’s aunt, who migrated from India to the United States over forty years ago, told me when they had moved there wasn’t an Indian grocery store in Detroit. She and her husband would drive to Canada to buy their basic supplies. In today’s day and age, my non-South Asian friends cook Indian recipes from scratch at home, and I cook multi-cuisines too.

I believe, poetry makes you more understanding of issues and humanity.

Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth and how do you think it could be accomplished?

I don’t think there is one right or wrong answer. Each poet is different and so are his or her sensibilities.

When I speak with mainstream readers, they often tell me that they don’t like feeling unintelligent and poetry can sometimes intimidate them. But it also excites them. These folks explore “accessible” poetry. Take for example American Poet Laureate Billy Collins. His work is comprehensible and widely read. In my eyes, it makes him an intelligent writer, if non-poetry devotees read his poems too.

But that doesn’t mean ambiguous poets are dimwits. Not at all. It’s their style. And then are mainstream readers who enjoy complex, abstract, and open-ended works.

I have wondered if poets even deliberate how and what their outcome on paper should be. Derek Walcott once said, “If you know what you are going to write when you’re writing a poem, it’s going to be average.”

Some poems just come to you while others have to be manifested by tapping into a certain part of the brain. I write both literal and abstract poems. I can tell you honestly, often times, the poem has its own intent. I don’t even realize which path I am going to choose. It also depends on topics and my sense of comfort with them. All writers face the problem about writing what scares them.

Ultimately, it’s up to the poet to define their sense of purpose in the landscape of writing. There is space for different kinds of works. But I can’t imagine any poet would get upset if their readership increased. And people went crazy buying their books.

Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

Oh, my dentist knows when I have emerged from a pile of crazy deadlines.:-) There are tea stains visible only to her professional-eyes. I drink a lot of organic teas to get my rhythm going. The warm beverage tingles my creative-palate. I also rely on meditation, walking, and yoga to connect with my subconscious mind.

With the demands of day-to-day life, it’s easy for cacophony to enter the place where unused, creative thoughts reside. I set time aside, even if for a few minutes, to connect with myself. Just shut my brains and let go. I rent writing space where, thankfully, there is no tolerance for any kind of noise. But the days I work from home, I always have soft jazz playing in the background. Or any music that connects the mind and body and spirit.

I am extremely disciplined about my work and my schedule. I don’t treat it any differently from my old, day job. I believe, if I don’t respect my schedule, no one else will. And being a freelance writer takes a very different kind of commitment. It’s so easy to prioritize everything else but your work. I never wanted that to happen. This is my bread and butter and my passion.

I believe the only way one can overcome writer’s block is by writing every day. There might be days that I scribble as opposed to write. But that’s better than doing nothing. Ink on paper is better than blank paper. The more you look at empty paper, the more nervous it makes you about those unproductive days. It’s a destroying, self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to train your brain like Pavlov trained the dog: see the clock at a certain time and start to write.

Also, writing involves researching and reading. If words won’t come to you, go looking for them. It’s funny how many ideas come through because of one word you read in a book or magazine or a journal.

But aside from hard work and long hours, I make time for my family and friends. Personal life, social commitments, and a good glass of wine are integral to my existence. Writing is here to stay, so I have to find sustainable ways of nurturing it.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

Off late I have been obsessed with hot chocolate with marshmallow at City Bakery in New York City. Of course I drink that and then walk for a ridiculous distance to burn those calories. But I find my muse in that blob of porous goodness.

Ha, another one:  I don’t allow anyone to touch my laptop. My husband, my father, and my eight-year-old niece, Sana, poke my laptop, just to bother me, and say, ‘Oh, I just touched it.”

Other than that, I can’t work (or breathe?) if there is any sort of mess around me. Cluttered space clutters my brain. Did I mention that I literally worship words?

What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

If all goes well, I have three books scheduled for release this year: One chapbook, one collaborative poetry collection (along with a visual artist), and a fiction novel.

I recently finished editing my upcoming fiction novel (“Perfectly Untraditional”). Given this is my first fiction novel; this book is incredibly close to my heart.

The novel, set in both India and the United States, is the story of one such immigrant who realizes the truth about her universe after she moves away. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a happy immigrant story about a modern, Indian family with all its spice galore. Women, families, youngsters, and others will be able to relate to this book.

I met an Australian artist at an artist-in-residence program. She and I became friends and took to each other’s work. To cut the long story short, we both decided to work on a project together: poetry speaks to art responds to poetry. A publishing house liked our concept and made an offer. Our collaborative book (“Not all birds sing”) is scheduled for a February 2011 release.

Just last week, I signed a book contract for another poetry collection tentatively titled “Clearing the fog.” I conceptualized this book while in Portugal. It’s unique in how it uses landscape to narrate the content of the book.

I hope your fine readers will grab a copy of each. And if they’d like to stay updated, they can always visit my website or follow me on Twitter (@ssvik) or join my author page on Facebook.

Thank you, Sweta, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. I wish you luck with all of your projects and look forward to reading your novel, Perfectly Untraditional.