Interview: Ami Sanghvi
This week I’m excited to be interviewing Ami Sanghvi, a poet with a mean right hook. We sat down and discussed the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing as well as her plans for the future. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and join us as we spend some time with this amazing woman. You will find all of her links at the end of the interview.
CJ: Hi Ami, thanks for being here! So why don’t you start by telling me a little about yourself? What does a typical day look like for you?
Ami: I’m 25 years old and a first-generation, Indian-American, queer author. All of my currently published work is poetry, though I write in other genres as well, like satire, critical theory, memoir, magical realism, etc. I’m a visual artist, mostly in the areas of photography and digital art, but I’m currently branching out. I’m also pursuing my M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing. A regular day for me… Well, I wake up around 7 o’clock in the morning, make a cup of coffee [or tea, if I’m feeling brave enough to go with less caffeine]. I do some reading for the day, check out my calendar, etc. The rest of the day goes by in meetings, writing, planning, etc. In the evening time, I do some boxing and exercise (I’m an amateur MMA fighter), and then I make dinner, watch some TV, catch up on my texts and emails, and prepare for bed!
CJ: Wow! That’s a lot! And I thought I was busy. The first thing I’d like to ask is do you have your writing up somewhere? Can interested readers find anything on your website?
Ami: Absolutely! I have a newly-vamped website and blog at bloodinkandroses.org! I’m working on new things for it every day, but there’s usually a poem up from one of my books on the homepage and a few are already sitting in the blog area, mainly from books 5 and 6 right now. I also very, very occasionally post my work on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. I’m hoping to start posting some of the other writing on my website once I get a few more of the kinks worked out.
CJ: I’ve seen a couple of your YouTube videos and they are satire, right?
Ami: Ha! Yes, yes, they absolutely are. They’re a nice switch from all the serious stuff I usually write, a fun way to blow off steam, and a productive way to shift my brain into satire mode on days I want to write in that genre.
CJ: I loved what I saw. How did you come up with that character and where do you get your video ideas from?
Ami: I’m so glad to hear that, and thank you! Well, one night last fall I was goofing off making silly videos about waiting for my vegan pizza to come. I posted them to Twitter for fun, and was surprised by the way people reacted to them! Next thing I knew one of my friends, Jordan (who Twitter knows better as @AncientLitDude), started encouraging me to take it a few steps further. I do a weird “celebrity”/”peasant” gimmick with my parents and brother, so I just went for it and fully embraced the celebrity thing! And then… it grew. Jordan definitely gives me ideas of what people want to see, and I also take things from the comment section. Something else I do is study celebrities on Instagram, and then amp up their personas to ridiculous amounts for my celebrity character!
CJ: Well, it works out wonderful. I’ve loved every single one I’ve seen.
Ami: I love to hear that. It makes me feel like it’s worth it if I manage to entertain at least one person during these weird times. Thank you so much for sharing that with me.
CJ: Absolutely! Now, let’s talk about your poetry. You’ve got 6 books published now. When did you publish your first one and how long has it been between books?
Ami: Yes, poetry! I didn’t go on TOO much about book number 6 since book number 5 came out just a few weeks before. I published my first one back in December 2018. It was supposed to be the one and only self-published one, but I fell in love with the indie community. That was Amaranthine. After that, as I started spending more time on Twitter with the #WritingCommunity, I decided to keep going. After that, it became one book every 4-6 months EXCEPT during that #IndieApril time, during which I put out two that share similar themes. Starting on my 26th birthday, I’m thinking it’ll be one book every 3-4 months for a while.
Ami: To be honest, I’m inspired by so much of the world around me, and my brain tends to get pretty obsessed with a few topics at a time for a period of 3 weeks to 2 months. It’s a weird thing for sure. It definitely got more intense once I started my M.F.A. degree and was surrounded by an artistic environment and artists for the first time in my life (can you believe I used to attend law school?!). I just love reading critical theory and old literature: both in the same place tend to be a recipe for excessive poetry writing. There are weeks when I’ll be trying to eat dinner, but I’m just overcome by poetry and end up writing multiple poems in that one sitting. It’s a little ridiculous sometimes because I just want to eat my food! But most of my poetry for each book is actually written in a few impromptu sittings. It’s definitely a lot of word vomit and surge of thoughts I clean up and expand upon later on in the editing phase.
CJ: I’ve experienced a bit of that insanity when I’m writing a story. The characters just won’t shut up until I’ve gotten everything out. I assume it’s the same for you?
Ami: Absolutely! I have tried to write a novel one or two times [and failed], but then last summer, I was so fueled by a recent injustice and anger in my life that most of what I did for three straight months was write and write and write in this whole new genre. By the time I headed off for grad school, I’d not only written my first novel but my first satire as well! When inspiration knocks, it really comes barreling in and sometimes we just have to succumb to that momentum and see where it takes us.
CJ: Without a doubt. Are we going to get to read this novel of yours anytime soon?
Ami: I really hope so! I’m officially putting this in the hands of the traditional publishing world. Long-form fiction is not my primary area, and so I don’t feel fully equipped to handle this one by myself, especially with some of the very delicate material in it. I’m planning to start querying it before the end of this month. I have a letter template drafted and a list of agents all ready to go. I just need to take a deep breath and press the send button!
CJ: There’s a big difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing. What are some things that you noticed so far that are different and what have your feelings been about the process up to this point?
Ami: That’s a great question, and it’s one I could converse about all day! I am working on a blog post about my decision to move into traditional publishing for my work in other genres (though I plan to keep most of my poetry as an independent process). One of the major draws of self-publishing for me is the complete power I have throughout every step of the process. Designing a cover, formatting, writing the description, etc. is all so much fun for me. However, I don’t feel the same need to do that with my work in other genres. There’s also the fact that all my royalties are my own with self-publishing and a major level of transparency I get to enjoy with my readership right now. Traditional publishing, however, has its perks. For one, I get help from the experts instead of having to learn everything myself (a book in the making). Marketing, designing, etc. taken out of my hands.
Another major draw of it for me is the reputation aspect. I plan to shift into major academia in the next few years, earning my doctorate and making my move into the research components of the art world. It’s a whole other way to establish yourself, and also, to bring more legitimacy to indie publishing as a hybrid author. I don’t enjoy the stigma regarding self-publishing at all, especially because so much of the best stuff I’ve read in the past year has been indie! Traditional publishing is definitely more rigid; there’s a marketing aspect to it that we can’t avoid. This means that niche/quirky work is often more difficult to find a home for, and that’s something that’s going to get very complicated for me when I start querying my cross-genre/experimental work someday. There’s also a certain amount of gatekeeping I’ve found regarding new authors and marginalized people. I’ve recently been getting published in journals, magazines, anthologies, and my art has made its way into a few exhibitions. Something alarming I’ve discovered is how the bigger my resume gets, the higher my success rate is with submissions. This is definitely a strange and scary thing with traditional publishing. I’m hoping to bring all my newfound credentials with me over to the indie arena, though.
CJ: So, to say you have an opinion on the matter would be accurate?
Ami: Haha, absolutely! I think there are pros and cons to both avenues.
CJ: I’d love to have you write a guest post for us about your thoughts on each avenue.
Ami: I’d be honored. Even though I don’t have anything against traditional publishing, especially since that’s where I plan to go with my work in other genres, I also feel I have a responsibility to be vocal about many of the glass-ceilings that we’ll find present in any old institution, like Western publishing.
CJ: It’s definitely a whole different world. I’ve had many people say to me that it was “nice” that I was able to publish my 4 books but it’s just not the same…not “real” enough unless it’s been traditionally published.
Ami: I definitely got that vibe from people in the beginning, too. I have my readers to thank for adding to my “credentials” and I love them all so much for that. The reviews, the sharing on their social media, etc. I’ve been very nervous about all this in my grad school, especially when I find myself meeting best-selling authors and experts on a weekly basis, but my classmates have recently expressed to me that they think indie publishing is amazing. They’re beautiful writers, and it’s great to see that kind of support coming from the art world itself. I think there’s hope yet!
CJ: There’s always hope as long as there are authors! So after talking about the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing, what does success look like to you? At what point do you feel you can look back on your life and say you’ve “made it” as an author?
Ami: It’s funny you ask that for sure because that’s been a major thing I’ve been grappling with lately. I haven’t officially announced it yet, and I probably should, but book number 2, Armageddon, was just announced as an Eric Hoffer Book Award finalist. I’ve also been seeing success in my other writing and art ventures. My thesis projects (still deciding between two) are going to be fun and explorative. I’m currently aiming for my “10 by 27” (10 books by my 27th birthday). But family tragedies and this pandemic situation have really put a lot of things into the light for me, and I’m cycling back to who I was when I was a teenager. Success right now… I’m starting to see it clearly again. Financial security, that’s for sure. Entrepreneurship and the life of an author-artist is definitely a tricky one. However, I think a lot of it comes down to living somewhere I love (I’m 25 years old and have moved close to 20 times in my life, so settling down somewhere that makes me happy is a big thing for me), pursuing my passions, and going on to earn my Ph.D. sooner rather than later. I’ve been saying since I was 7 that I wanted my doctorate, and I still do. I want to be an author, an artist, and an academic. Happiness looks like contributing beauty, art, and knowledge to the world, reading all the books, and becoming stable enough in my own financial ventures that I’m able to sit back and do more of this, spend so much time with my parents, and hopefully even start a non-profit so I can help out on an even grander and more specific scale.
CJ: Sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought and I have to say, hearing you talk about it makes me excited for you to accomplish all of this.
Ami: I appreciate that so much. I’ve been reading a lot that one of the major obstacles in the road to success, especially for women since we’re programmed by society to not believe in ourselves to the extent that we should, is doubt. That’s a major thing I’m working on overcoming, and your kind words mean a lot in that context as well.
CJ: Absolutely. I love to support the writing community on Twitter. There are so many wonderful authors, and people in general, there. Now, before we wrap this up I know our readers are dying to know about this MMA thing. How did you get started in it?
Ami: I think that, despite what my twisting and winding journey up till now may otherwise indicate, I’ve known most of the things I wanted out of my life before I was even ten years old. Boxing, for me, is no exception to this rule. I started begging my dad for my own punching bag when I was 4 years old (21 years later and I finally bought one a few weeks ago!). After being denied by my parents on all things boxing, my brother and I found excitement watching the WWE. I didn’t realize at the time that I was nurturing the other half that would later come to exist within me. In law school, things got bad for a while, and I knew I needed to take some kind of action to make that time bearable for me so I took up boxing. It started as a fitness thing because I couldn’t make the actual skill classes with my schedule. Then, I moved, and boxing quickly became jiu-jitsu, jiu-jitsu became judo, judo became wrestling, rings became cages… and the rest is history. I’m not training with any fight team right now since I moved again, and I imagine that any matches I’ll have in the future will only be grappling-based (obviously can’t risk any head injuries based on my future plans), but GOD I love every moment of it. I’m hoping to start sharing more of that with the #WritingCommunity, especially since that first novel is, indeed, about MMA! In fact, the thing I’m doing right after this is a few rounds on the punching bag!
CJ: Now that does sound exciting! Thank you so very much for sitting with me today, Ami. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and I hope that our readers rush out to buy one of your many books!!
Ami: Thank YOU so much for coming up with the idea to interview me! It’s truly an honor. In fact, I think I speak on behalf of Indie authors all over Twitter when I say that we all appreciate the amount of work you put into boosting us up and getting our writing out there. Indie authors lifting indie authors is one of my favorite things. It’s really been a pleasure doing this interview!
CJ: Thank you for that thought. I really am grateful that I have been able to put this site together for everyone so that we can all support each other. I know we’re going to be excited to read your guest post once it’s available!
Ami: And I can’t wait to write it!
You can connect with Ami via these avenues:
Ami J Sanghvi
Ami J Sanghvi