Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing the Dark, the Funny, and the Darkly Funny with Kritika Pandey
by Writing Workshops Staff
3 months ago
Kritika Pandey is joining us as a teaching artist, bringing her extensive experience in short story writing. She won the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and graduated from the MFA for Poets and Writers program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her writing journey includes a residency at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico; along with the support of a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, her work has been featured in Granta, Kenyon Review, BBC Radio 4, and The Common.
If you're interested in improving your short story skills Kritika's new course at WritingWorkshops.com might be what you're looking for. Writing the Dark, the Funny, and the Darkly Funny: 4-Week Short Story Intensive aims to address the challenges of capturing human emotions in writing and understanding the balance between depicting personal stories and broader societal themes. Writers of all stages are welcome, whether you have a few notes or a finished story under 5000 words. The course will provide feedback on your work and connect you with a community of writers. It's a chance to refine your storytelling and develop a distinctive voice in your writing.
Hi, Kritika. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
Hi! I'm Kritika. I write because stories transcend the binaries of good/bad, right/left pretty/ugly, funny/sad to show us the subliminal truths of being human. I believe that people love stories for the simple reason that life is hard. Therefore, the job of fiction is not to educate or provoke but to entertain and endure. When I was 13, I read Great Expectations (1861), and was struck by how the character of Miss Havisham, simultaneously cruel and heartbroken, reminded me of everyone I knew, including myself. And that's when I started writing.
Apart from fiction, I'm also interested in philosophy, psychoanalysis, gender & sexuality, AI, theology, and political economy.
What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?
Short stories are about events, while novels are about characters. At this stage of my writing life, I have read and written more short stories than novels and believe I'm equipped with the tools to teach this workshop. Besides, I'm halfway through my novel-in-progress (been a wild trip!), which means that I'm intellectually restless and constantly evolving as a writer, reader, teacher, thinker, and mentor. And I am interested in building long-term relationships with my mentees so it's not just me who gets to watch you grow and learn, but also the other way around.
Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?
The course will involve a bit of reading and lots of thinking and writing. The idea is to analyze 1-2 important elements of fiction (time, dialogue, causality, repetition. etc.) and workshop 2-3 short stories during the course of each session.
By listening carefully to the comments and questions of your fellow writers, you will hone your critical faculty. By reading deeply the works of great writers, you will develop new techniques for bettering your craft. And gradually, you will learn to incorporate these new tools into your regular writing practice. Because the only way to become a writer is to keep writing.
My end goal is to get all my students one step closer to writing that which only they can write.What was your first literary crush?
Philip Pirrip (Pip) the protagonist and narrator in Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations.
What are you currently reading?
I'm a Fan, by Sheena Patel. She departs from the stereotypical brown girl victim-of-the-patriarchy narrative to tell a story that's about a complicated woman obsessed with the beige-themed Instagram account of the girlfriend of the man she's in love with! It's a world where the patriarchy is so insidious, you don't need unreasonable men to perpetuate it. Unreasonable women are quite enough (a bit like how Moonlight is a movie about white supremacy, among other things, but accomplishes that with an almost entirely black cast).
How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?
I try to answer the question Ottessa Moshfegh suggests we ask ourselves when figuring out what to write: "What's your problem?" And as for how I know it's the next thing I want to write all the way to the end, it's just this almost embarrassing inability to stop working on it until I can't bear to look at it anymore, haha.
Where do you find inspiration?
In other people. I am endlessly fascinated by people, and all the things that move them, anger them, sadden them, confuse them, make them wonder if life has meaning and what on earth they're supposed to do if it doesn't.
What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?
I may be a writer but I'm not a romantic. In fact, my approach to writing is so practical it's essentially gritty, and I believe James Baldwin was on point when he said, "Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance."
This advice stuck with me because, in my experience, it's the only verifiable truth about this whole thing. I grew up in a conservative family in an obscure town in India, with no books in our house except my textbooks and the Hindu scriptures. I went to college for engineering. I write slowly. I have infinite self-doubt. And although I never thought I'd get any where as a writer, I never stopped writing either.
What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?
The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. He understands that one cannot "teach the art of fiction by shrinking the art, making it something more manageable but no longer art" and thus encourages new writers to not go after rules but mastery, "mastery of the art of breaking so-called rules". He is thorough and precise and very, very astute.
Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?
I'm straightforward but kind, and serious about all things writing, including humor and absurdity :)
Learn More About Working with Kritika:
You can learn more about Kritika's upcoming class, Writing the Dark, the Funny, and the Darkly Funny: 4-Week Short Story Intensive (Zoom), and sign up now.
Join Kritika in this journey to explore new dimensions in writing and enhance your craft!
Instructor Kritika Pandey is the global winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and was on the shortlist in 2018 and 2016. A graduate of the MFA for Poets and Writers, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she was a resident writer at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico in 2021. Her writing has been generously supported by a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation and appeared in Granta, Kenyon Review, BBC Radio 4, and The Common, among others.