Introducing our featured Womxn Writer of Colour, Neha Vashist. Neha’s poetry caught me with its subtlety and beauty. She is full of wisdom as well, read ahead for some wonderful insight by her!
And check out her short story, Colouring Outside the Lines: A Life Lesson by a 4-Year-Old Boy, and poem Love, featured on our website.
Neha is a fourth- year Psychology student at the University of Alberta. Her poetry has been featured in anthologies for the National Poetry Institute of Canada, Polar Express Publishing, the City of Edmonton Poetry Moves on Transit and many others. In her free time, you can find her watching movies with family, curling up with a good book and cup of chai, or dancing in the kitchen.
Follow Neha on Instagram: @nvwrites_https://www.instagram.com/nvwrites_/?hl=en
Words of Wisdom from Neha
- What does being a womxn writer of colour mean to you?
The generations of Indian women who lived and breathed stories years before I was even a concept- have a chance to be heard. I am the accumulation of their struggles and triumphs. My freedom to speak my mind through my writing is a luxury they only dreamed of. I will not speak on their behalf, but I will speak about the impact of their sacrifices through my writing. Not only am I a womxn of colour, I am also a first-generation immigrant. For me, being a womxn of colour writer means that my art is multidimensional. My works dances between the lines of not fully belonging to the country I immigrated from and not completely belonging to the country I immigrated to. My identity is a blend of these two beautiful cultures. I am so thankful to be Canadian and also have the freedom to embrace my Indian identity.
- What words of wisdom do you have for aspiring writers?
If writing makes you feel alive, you’re a writer. If writing helps you heal, transform, express or vent, you are a writer. We hold back from calling ourselves writers because we believe we must conform to the socially acceptable definition of a writer before self-identifying as one. Most people think you need to be published or have a best-selling book in order to “be” a writer. The truth is if you’re work is turned away from one person, that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, it just means it wasn’t for them. If you believe you are only worthy of being called a writer when you’re being published, you risk discrediting your authenticity because rejection might convince you to write what they want to hear so that they pick you instead of writing your truth.
- When did you realize you had something important to say? (Or) When did you realize your work matters? There was a tragic death in my community, and I reached out to the family with a poem I had written as a way to honour their lost son. I felt a lot disenfranchised grief despite not knowing him personally. I didn’t expect a response and regretted sending this to them at such a sensitive time. A few days later they replied saying they wanted to frame my poem and hang it up. That’s when I realized that my words aren’t just letters strung together, they are tools to make the world a better place. I realized that my writing has the power to diffuse into the lives of strangers to leave a lasting fragrance when their world seems putrescent.
- Share with us how your work has impacted your community or broken barriers for you and those around you.
A couple years ago, I wrote and directed “It Takes a Woman”. This was a one act play that provided a first-hand look at the repercussions of acid attacks, dowry demands and domestic violence against women. The goal of this project was to spark conversations to spread awareness about several topics that are considered “taboo” to discuss.
A major obstacle for ending violence against women is the persistence of discriminatory attitudes and social norms that normalize and permit violence! The main character in the play demonstrates resilience by not only being an acid attack survivor but also a lawyer defending her own case in court. I wanted to use my passion for writing to highlight inacceptable social norms that exist globally such as the expectation of dowry while also showcasing the strength women can embody by speaking out against the perpetrator. I had goosebumps seeing the audience cry- especially the men present- because it really proved that the awareness and impact I was trying to cultivate permeated through my art.