Fiction Fellow 2021 (Karan Mahajan)

"Thanks to South Asia Speaks, this past year I had the honor of working with the novelist Karan Mahajan on a collection of stories set in Kashmir. Karan read my work closely, offered carefully considered feedback, and helped elevate my writing to a new level. He constantly pushed me to be my best. He was also quite generous with his praise — something I would draw confidence from whenever going got tough. 

Honestly, South Asia Speaks has been the best thing to have happened to my writing so far. I hope to pay forward what Sonia and Karan have done for me soon one day."


Fiction Fellow 2021 (Madhuri Vijay)

"My past year as a South Asia Speaks Fellow has been the most wonderful experience of my writing life. As a young writer, there are few things better than receiving constructive feedback from a published author but what made this program even more rewarding was the opportunity to collaborate with my mentor over a sustained period of time. I saw my manuscript develop over the course of the year and Madhuri Vijay, my mentor, was there every step of the way. She patiently read draft after draft, gently questioned the motivations of my characters, pointed out writing tics I wasn't even aware of, and encouraged me in those moments, common to all writers, when my confidence wavered. I'm a better and more empathetic writer than I was a year ago and I couldn't have asked for more when I signed up for this program."


Fiction Fellow 2021

(Prayaag Akbar)

"Being part of the South Asia Speaks mentorship program has helped me to understand what it means to sit down, write and finish something that I am passionate about. Getting mentored by an established writer helped me gain insight into the process of drafting, writing, re-writing and then writing all over again. I have always known that this is a part of the writing process, but I was yet to encounter the disappointments and frustrations that the process can bring. Conversations with my mentor, Prayaag Akbar, helped me to talk such things over, and understand what works and doesn't work in which context, in a more comprehensive manner. And that, I think, is of immense value to an early-career writer."


Non-fiction Fellow 2021

(Isaac Chotiner)

"I found Isaac at one of the worst phases of my life. Apart from being the best writing mentor there could be, he quickly became a friend and a reluctant therapist who made me believe in myself. I think the best thing a mentor can do is to restore faith in you and your abilities, and that's what Isaac did with in-between his very busy schedule working at The New Yorker. Surprisingly for a man of his achievements, he had no airs, only empathy. In an age where giving offence is seen as a virtue, he was unusually sensitive. Isaac was the best mentor a struggling writer in Aligarh could have ever hoped for. I thank South Asia Speaks and Sonia for pairing me with this gem of a person."


Non-fiction Fellow 2021

(Sanam Maher)

"South Asia Speaks has been an incredible platform to share my writing, and get feedback on how to improve. It's taught me practical things such as to trust the process, to not give up, to be unafraid of groping in the dark, to be patient and gritty. It's taught me technical things about telling a story, setting a scene, and building characters.

The highlight for me though has been the opportunity to interact with Sanam Maher. She's inspiring, kind, and very insightful, and her guidance is helping me make tangible progress on my book. I am so excited for the 2022 class of South Asia Speaks."


Non-Fiction Fellow 2021

(Sonia Faleiro)

"South Asia Speaks has been a great training ground from wanting to write a book to actually beginning the process. The program has been a reality check and gave me a clearer view of all the research and work I needed to put in. Having a published writer read my work and offer perspective is not an opportunity that comes by every day. I benefited greatly from my mentor Sonia’s insightful, encouraging and honest feedback. Interacting with other mentors and fellows provided access to a writing community that helped my morale especially during the pandemic. 

Whether it’s a dream book one wants to start working on or a project one is in the middle of, SAS helps writers make headway and write more and better!"


Fiction Fellow 2021
(Nikita Lalwani)
"The South Asia Speaks fellowship allowed me to revise my novel, "Parlour Girls", under the mentorship of writer Nikita Lalwani. Over the course of the year, my mentor gave me invaluable feedback on my work and we discussed and went over my project in depth. Thanks to the fellowship, I am now completing a second draft of the novel and hope to start sending my work out to agents in the coming year."


Non-fiction Fellow, 2021

(Mira Kamdar)

"What my mentor Mira Kamdar did for me is crucial: she boosted my confidence through personal crises, illnesses and writing conflicts. Each conversation, every text, she chose to remind me of my accomplishments when I was too hard on myself. The criticality of this cannot be undermined. She shared bits of her life with me, read my work, laughed with me, expressed astonishment and wonder, and lit my own curiosity with hers. What's more, she graced the virtual book reading of my recently published co-edited anthology Singapore at Home: Life across Lines at the National Library Singapore. 

     I believe I have made a few friends amongst the fellows, and I hope we cheer each other on as our works are published in the coming years. SAS lifted me through 2021 and gave my writing direction, and for this I am most grateful."


Fiction Fellow 2021
(Fatima Bhutto)
"South Asia Speaks has been a massively transformative experience for me as a writer. My mentor, Fatima Bhutto, gave me so much of her valuable time and truly spent her energy on my story and my journey as a writer. The skills I have picked up on this past year are fantastic and I am pumped to continue writing with these new tools under my belt. When I joined this program, I thought solely in the mode of short story writing, but now I am able to think of the novel, and write with that guiding light too! Moreover, I have also gotten to connect with other creatives and writers like myself, and I truly truly cherish these connections. It makes my writing team feel less alone."