Writers Talk Shop, Novel, and Pitch Conference
Commentary by conference attendees
A Conversation With Madhushree Ghosh
Madhushree Ghosh is a South Asian literary fiction writer with a Ph.D. in molecular
biology. She works on infectious diseases diagnostics in San Diego and considers New Delhi
home, much like her protagonist in her fourth literary novel, RUNNING WITH WINGS.
Her short stories were finalists or published in various magazines such as Glimmer Train,
Cerebration, The Times of India and others. Her non-fiction has appeared in various
international and US magazines like The San Diego Jewish Times, The Pioneer, Sulekha,
Nirvana Woman, Mantram, and others. Madhushree is the founding member of the
international theater company, OliveUs Productions and the well-respected literary forum,
The La Jolla Writing Series.
Most multicultural novels deal with immigrant identity, search for a place called home and a yearning for what was lost, and I wanted combine that with the fact that most South Asian immigrants in my town in California also have a strong sense of belonging with the land that has accepted them.
NYC: How would you compare New York Pitch Conference to other writer conferences?
MG: While there are no guarantees or promises, you do come away with a better novel, a polished pitch, a great experience interacting with writers of different genres and
hopefully, a few editors interested in your manuscript. Overall though, this conference is very different from others in that it is what it says it is. Most conferences
try to cram in craft lectures with readings and then interviews with editors and agents, which can get chaotic and confusing. Other literary workshops focus on craft. There are
very few that simply focus on getting your work out to the editors. New York Pitch Conference is one of them.
NYC: What inspired you to write RUNNING WITH WINGS?
MG: RUNNING WITH WINGS is my fourth South Asian literary novel that combines an
immigrant’s search for self when faced with the biggest loss in her life in two of my favorite
cities, Delhi,and Del Mar (San Diego). The inspiration came from a simple question—how
do you go on when you lose your city for love, and then, your family? Most multicultural
novels deal with immigrant identity, search for a place called home and a yearning for what
was lost, and I wanted combine that with the fact that most South Asian immigrants in my
town in California also have a strong sense of belonging with the land that has accepted
them. So, is that a ‘normal immigrant experience’? RUNNING WITH WINGS explores
those issues where the protagonist finds out where home is in the midst of an
NYC: How has the story evolved?
MG: Thirty-seven year old Bela Guha leaves Delhi for Del Mar following the love of her life,
Jeet, a scientist in San Diego biotech. When she leaves, she’s accompanied by a curse that
her father blessed her with—No good will come to you if you leave. Now, nearly two
decades later, Bela loses her husband in a tragic hit and run. Alone, with only her
Rottweiler, Maximus for company, she tries to make sense of her life in a city that was
always foreign to her. She turns to watching wild birds in her San Diego backyard, a passion
she shared with Jeet. But even as she watches them, they fall from the skies, unable to
breathe, dying. Faced with this impending feeling of doom, Bela now has to save the birds
even though she couldn’t save her family. But in the process of helping her birds, Bela
stumbles upon a Del Mar secret so hidden and yet so blatant, a secret more addictive than
cocaine. It is that secret that connects her back to her husband and helps her be at peace.
NYC: What made you choose to attend the New York Pitch Conference?
MG: I attended the Sewanee Fiction Writers’ Workshop in 2007 where literary authors like Diane
Johnson (Le Divorce, Le Marriage etc.), Mary Helen Stefaniak (The Turk and my Mother)
and Claire Messud (The Last Life) helped me shape the story and became champions of my
work. After an overhaul of the entire manuscript, I realized that RUNNING WITH WINGS
was ready for editors to evaluate and hence looked for a conference that focused entirely on
editors interacting with authors. I found New York Pitch Conference via Algonkian conferences and
was pleasantly surprised to see that it fit my needs to show RUNNING WITH WINGS to
editors in literary publishing houses.
NYC: Do you feel the novel is improved as a result?
MG: RUNNING WITH WINGS is a constant work in progress. However,
with New York Pitch Conference, the basic premise of the novel was fleshed out in the pitch and
that correlated to with the storyline. New York Pitch Conference reconfirmed that RUNNING
WITH WINGS was a story that was compelling, interesting and worth reading.
NYC: What did you find most effective about the New York experience?
MG: You mean, New York City? If so, come on, what’s to complain about NYC? I came to
Stony Brook 15 years ago for a Ph.D. and would trek to NYC each weekend just to be here,
so, it has been wonderful to come back to the place that has always fascinated me. On the
other hand, the New York Pitch Conference was most effective in honing my pitch. Tim
Tomlinson, my workshop leader, was very astute, a tremendous teacher, and a great help.
When you are so close to your novel, it’s difficult to pick the right points to pitch to editors
who will spend maybe 60 seconds to decide whether they’d like to see your work. Tim was
wonderful in understanding the story, communicating the core and helping me fix my pitch
effectively. And it worked that way for the rest of the group too, which was fascinating
since we were a combination of literary, women’s fiction, paranormal and creative
non-fiction authors in the same group!
NYC: Where does RUNNING WITH WINGS go from here?
MG: Three editors as a result of my pitch at New York Pitch Conference requested RUNNING WITH
WINGS. So it is heading to those publishing houses while I am also actively looking at other
publishing houses. Meanwhile, I am working on my next novel and a creative
non-fiction manuscript on my mother who passed away about two months ago.
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