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Interview with Thanisha Chowdhury (Author of "Confessional")

Art by Yuchen Shi

Introduction by Julian Riccobon

Interview Questions by Grace Marie Liu

Interview Answers by Thanisha Chowdhury


Polyphony Lit's Volume 19 Spring Issue is now live, and for this issue, we're offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes look! Join our Editor-in-Chief Grace Marie Liu for a conversation with Thanisha Chowdhury, the author of "Confessional."


Interview with Thanisha Chowdhury

Grace Marie Liu (GML): Tell us about your start in writing. How did you become interested in the written word? What was the first piece you remember creating?

Thanisha Chowdhury (TC): Ever since I was a little kid, I just told random, completely nonsensical stories that bordered on straight-up lies about my own life. For example, I remember telling everyone that I was a real life Cabbage Patch Kid that grew in a field and my parents found me and took me home. Obviously no one actually believed me, and I didn’t expect them to, but it was fun to come up with the stories. Later on, I started reading on my own and then writing fiction in school. I also think I’m just someone who talks a lot, so doing that on a page that can’t tell me to shut up is kind of nice.

As for the first piece I remember creating, the first one I can distinctly recall was a “series” I wrote in about second or third grade called “The Most Boring Summer Ever”. It was about these two best friends named Layla and Makayla (Shakespearean, I know) who get themselves into the craziest of situations. I wrote a few of these stories, but the one I remember most clearly was one where the two of them built a drill to the other side of the world and visited The Great Wall of China. There may have been another one where they built a submarine and went to the Mariana Trench. The punchline of the whole series was that after doing all of this incredible stuff, they would come back and sit on their front doorstep, sigh, and say, “This is the most boring summer ever!”

GML: Your short story “Confessional” is told through a series of vignettes, a format similar to that of Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. I’m curious as to what your thought process was in structuring this piece in this way, where the reader is zigzagging between different scenes and points in time. How did the construction of these fragments come about? 

TC: Honestly, I don’t know that the vignette style was as much of a stylistic choice as it was just the form in which the story came to me. The idea actually originated while I was listening to the song “Pool House” by The Backseat Lovers (incredible band, by the way), and the image of a swimming pool outside a house party glowing blue in the night popped into my head. From there, more fragments just periodically came up. The first and probably most notable was the image of someone’s head being held under the surface of the pool, but willingly. Then, I think it was the opening at the convenience store. Each time I got an idea, I’d scribble it down into the same Google Doc. At one point I decided it was time to actually make a story out of it, but I couldn’t see it fitting into the traditional narrative style, so I kept the fragments the way they were and filled in the blanks on the way. 

GML: “Confessional” is teeming with antitheses: light and dark, hot and cold, depth and vacancy. Are there particular themes or ideas, listed or not, that you find yourself continuously returning to in your writing? If so, what are they? 

TC: Definitely! I was really fascinated by the juxtaposition of fire and water, how they can be dangerous in different ways. Building on this, one theme that has kind of permeated every piece I’ve written, prose or poetry, in the past couple of years is the co-dependent relationship (twin flame, if you will), whether that’s a relationship through family, friendship, or romance. There’s a Richard Siken quote about being so close to someone you end up on the other side of them, and I think that’s sort of what I’ve been trying to explore. Giving the keys of yourself to someone else, as the narrator of this piece does, can be disastrous.

GML: You serve as an Editor-in-Chief for Paper Crane Journal, a literary magazine “by teens, for teens.” How do you find a balance between being a writer and an editor? Does one role inform the other? 

TC: Working with young writers through the Paper Crane has improved my writing more than anything else I’ve done throughout the past years, no exaggeration. I have had the privilege of reading and considering so many incredible pieces from people in my generation, and seeing all of these unique perspectives and styles has been really enlightening. Paper Crane was also my introduction into the submitting and publishing world, and I’ve made a lot of great friends on the way!

On the other hand, having a background as a writer (even if I was just a baby when I started with the journal) was really helpful as I considered how to write feedback and communicate with these writers on a regular basis. It was really helpful to consider what I would find helpful from an email from a literary magazine, instead of what I personally thought I should send. It was also fun to fangirl over small things like line breaks over email with someone whose work I loved and I knew was around my age. 

GML: Lastly, if you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring young writers, what would it be? 

TC: Be intentional with your writing style! This is a really important lesson I learned through the Iowa Young Writers Workshop last year under the guidance of the incredible writer Eirill Falck. If there is an author whose writing style you really admire, or even just the way they write dialogue or description, actually sit down with some of their work and study it closely. In our workshop, we actually copied down a passage from a given writer word for word, and then wrote our own passage imitating their style as closely as possible. I think this is an excellent starting point in developing your own voice, and it lets you get out of your comfort zone, because you’ll be writing in ways you never have before. And of course, read often and read widely!


About Polyphony Lit

At Polyphony Lit, we believe that every piece of writing is valuable and every writer shows potential, regardless of whether their work is accepted for publication. Since our founding in 2004, we've received submissions from students in 84 countries and 52 U.S. states / territories. Our student editors have given feedback to every submission, over 21,000 and counting!

With your generous support we are able to:

  • Provide 100s of program scholarships each year to aspiring teen writers and edits from all over the world.

  • Publish 3 print literary magazines annually, featuring writing from our global community of high school students.

  • Offer numerous writing contests each year, designed by students.

  • Place physical copies of our publications in schools and libraries.

  • Feature guest writers selected by our student staff at our bi-annual virtual literary salons.

  • Design and offer engaging curriculum for the next generation of young literary professionals.

If you enjoyed reading the Winter Issue, then we hope you will consider donating to help support our efforts!

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