Interview with Shome Dasgupta, MFA alumnus and author of “Mute” and “Pretend I am Someone You Like”
At what time in your life did you discover Antioch?
This was around late 2005 or early 2006 when I was searching for low residency MFA programs for Creative Writing. AULA was my first choice, and I was so elated to receive the phone call from Tara Ison upon my acceptance.
How did the MFA program change you as a writer?
Attending AULA was one of the best decisions I’ve made—I had such a wonderful experience while attending. I was able to meet so many diverse writers, peers, and mentors alike, and I’m happy that I’ve been able to keep in touch with them. They’ve inspired me in so many ways, whether it’s taking risks, opening up and being vulnerable, studying theory and craft, maintaining discipline and routine, it certainly has influenced my writing post-AULA, and I’m definitely grateful for it. I was also exposed to several authors and writers which was a huge plus as far as adding depth to my own writing, as well as reading works I normally wouldn’t have before. The experience, itself, was surreal and amazing, and I still have fond memories of my time there.
What can you tell us about Mute, your latest collection of short stories?
Several of these stories originated from my time at AULA and as a continuation of my time spent there. I had a blast writing them, and I was trying to catch an overall tone of solitude, or loneliness, or a sense of silence and perhaps, humility, and I think that’s why I called the collection Mute. I had taken a break from writing short stories or flash fiction pieces, and then once I went back to it, I felt refreshed and increased my willingness to take more chances with style and so on. Personally, it was fun to break my own boundaries when it came to content and craft.
What can you tell us about your new novel Pretend I Am Someone You Like coming out next month?
Much like Mute, I was able to break my own boundaries of style and content, an attempt to not follow the traditional form as with my previous novels or manuscripts. I always wanted to write a book about my hometown or home-state, too, and I’m so happy that this novel was able to find a place. I’m so thankful to Livingston Press for taking on this work. It was fun to write about crawfish.
Your new novel has been described as “unsettling, endearing, and brilliant.” Do you think that accurately describes your writing style or genre(s)?
It is certainly humbling to see such descriptions for this novel. I’m always trying to further my knowledge of the craft of writing, and I don’t think there is any end to this pursuit—that’s why I love to read and write so much. I love the process; I love the ability to be inspired, in hopes of, perhaps, inspiring others or finding a way to connect to them in some way or another.
What advice would you give prospective and current students in the MFA program at Antioch?
I would say be committed and go full force. It’s one huge whirlwind full of all kinds of energies, and if they go with it with vigor and interest, I would like to think that they will gain much from their experiences at AULA. Whether it’s from their peers, mentors, or guest lecturers, there is so much knowledge to be offered–take it all in as much as possible. And drink a good bit of coffee.