Being a writer, I am always intrigued by what motivates other writers – particularly those who have penned works for publications I hold in high regard and have also authored a book. Interviewing Tanaïs was a special moment for me because she not only writes but also manages a small business called Hi Wildflower. Many creatives like Tanaïs have diverse interests but struggle to venture into new creative fields (speaking from personal experience) beyond their comfort zones. Here, I discuss writer’s block, burnout, feminism, and why journaling is integral to her creative process with the author and entrepreneur.

Name: Tanaïs, a combination of my birth name Tanwi Nandini Islam
Age: 36
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Current Title/Company: Founder, Hi Wildflower & Author of Bright Lines (Penguin 2015)
Education: BA Women’s Studies, Vassar; MFA Fiction Brooklyn College

What was your first job and how did you land it?

I started out as a community organizer and youth theater director at Make the Road NY, a non-profit organization in NYC. I discovered this opportunity on Craigslist when it was still a reliable job search tool! I was passionate about working with young individuals and staging plays and street performances addressing social justice issues such as incarceration, sexual assault, immigration policies, and detention. It was inspiring to see the innovative ideas these young people brought from their lives – many of whom I still keep in touch with to this day.

Source: @hiwildflower

Tell us a bit about how you discovered your ability to put your thoughts into writing, whether on paper or a computer screen?

I have been writing since I was seven years old, and storytelling and imagination have played significant roles in my development. Like many young individuals who feel like they don’t quite fit in, books became my sanctuary. Growing up with limited financial resources, my father would take my sister and me to the public library for long visits, which always ended with a stack of books. Reading is where a writer’s affinity for language blossoms, and by the time I finished college, I knew I wanted to author novels.

Before embarking on your first novel, Bright Lines, you contributed to publications like Elle, Vice, New York Magazine, and The Feminist Wire. How did you know you were ready to venture into the realm of novel writing?

I realized I was ready while living in India back in 2006-2007. During my stay in a hotel in Srinagar, Kashmir – a beautiful yet tense region between India and Pakistan – I experienced a moment of intense creativity. It was during Ramadan, with everything shutting down by sundown, that I found myself writing late into the night. I remember jotting down 20 pages in a flow, and following that intense burst, I applied to MFA programs the next week, as I believed it would aid my growth as a writer and place me within a literary community.

Like so many young people who never quite feel like they fit in, books were my refuge.

Source: @hiwildflower

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