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Meet Jenny Bhatt of Desi Books Podcast in North Dallas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenny Bhatt.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jenny. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m a writer, literary critic, and literary translator. I’m also a first-generation immigrant from India. In 2014, I made the switch from the business world to the publishing world by focusing on full-time writing. Slowly, it became clear to me that, aside from a handful of big-name writers of South Asian origin, the literary world hardly knew about the rest of us writers. We just did not get sufficient media coverage at national venues. For me to even get a decent overview of what new books were coming out from my own community of South Asian writers, I had to go hunting high and low. And I had some contacts in the publishing world to be able to do so. Imagine all those readers and writers who have no contacts and rely on the news media for their information about which new books to read.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, writers everywhere suffered. They couldn’t go on physical book tours with their newly-launched books. And, with many media venues shrinking their freelance budgets, these new books did not even get their deserved reviews or interviews at those venues. So I began my podcast called Desi Books (“Desi” refers to people of South Asian origin) in April 2020 to spotlight these amazing new books by writers of South Asian origin. And, by that, I mean writers living in South Asia or in the global diaspora of the US, Europe, Australia, South America, and more.

Today, with 14 episodes in, the podcast has 800+ listeners worldwide, featured over 50 desi (South Asian) writers and their books, and been featured in large media venues in India, the UK, and the US. I’ve applied for funding at a couple of places to grow the podcast so that we can have a literary host to cover each of the five major segments. And, next year, there will be a monthly book club and an annual book award added as well.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Some people wondered if this was a good year or time to be launching a new initiative at all. I countered that this is, in fact, the best time because these writers with new books need all the visibility and attention they can get. The biggest struggle was establishing a regular listener base. That has been, thankfully, growing because I’ve been actively taking on board listener feedback as to what they’d like to see/hear on the podcast.

Another constant struggle is finding the time to do all the prep work for the recording. This involves emailing back and forth with authors, doing interviews with them, editing and transcribing the interviews, and then publicizing and promoting them. This is all unpaid work and a labor of love for me right now. I hope to get regular sponsors down the road but I have to grow the listener base first.

Please tell us about Desi Books Podcast.
Desi Books is a podcast featuring news and views about South Asian literature from the world over. In addition to a biweekly literary news roundup of new and notable books, stories, essays, poems, awards, submission calls, events, giveaways, etc., the Desi Books podcast invites desi writers to read from their books, discuss their own books and their desi favorites, chat about the writing craft, explore issues related to the literary biz, and more.

We have six segments that air on a rotating basis:
1) #DesiBoost: A 10-15 minutes segment where a writer, poet, or translator shares their three favorite reads (short stories, poems, essays, interviews, etc.) by desi (South Asian) writers.

2) #DesiCraftChat: A 20-30 minutes segment to discuss aspects of writing craft, e.g., the short story form, the lyric essay, literary translation, graphic fiction, and more.

3) #DesiLitBiz: A 20-30 minutes segment to discuss business and behind-the-scenes publishing aspects specific to desi (South Asian) literature.

4) #DesiReads: A 10-15 minutes segment where a writer, poet, or translator reads an excerpt from their latest work.

5) #FiveDesiFaves: A 10-15 minutes segment where a writer, poet, or translator shares their five favorite books by desi (South Asian) writers.

6) #DesiBooksGiveaway: This is currently on hiatus. In collaboration with the writer, we will give away ONE copy of a recent book via social media. The typical duration for the giveaway will be ONE MONTH from the episode airing, which will include an author Q&A and a brief excerpt reading.

What I’m most proud of and what sets this podcast apart from others is how much our listeners feel like they’re part of a family. I intend to do more interactive activities with our listeners down the road but it’s great to see how the listeners support the authors featured on the podcast. That’s the whole point of this work.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory from childhood is of reading books. I could lose myself in a book for entire days during the school holidays. It was bliss. Except, of course, when my parents got mad at me for not showing up on time for meals or not answering the door or the phone. Still, they knew and indulged this all-consuming hobby of mine. And, though we did not have access to many books in Bombay, India, during those years, I found creative ways to feed my reading habit.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Praveen Ahuja

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