Alka Joshi on writing

WAG News

Alka Joshi, a New York Times Bestselling author, was a guest presenter at the September WAG meeting. She was outstanding!

Alka Joshi is the author of two NY Times bestsellers, The Henna Artist and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, books based on the society and culture of India’s Rajasthan region, the capital of which is Jaipur.

Joshi was born in India but was raised in the United States. In her 50’s, after a series of fortuitous events and interactions, she began writing with seriousness and dedication. This literary commitment involved post-graduate studies in California as well as numerous research trips back to India, accompanied by her mother upon whom she based a leading character in her books.

An author with a different mind
A number of personal aspects make Joshi a unique writer: she has a near-perfect recall of everything she has seen; more unusual, she lives in two worlds, the real one in which we all live and a parallel one which is her imaginary literary one. Her parallel world is imaginary but so vivid and detailed that it is real in her mind. She walks about in the scenes and settings there; she talks to the people there. Even more importantly, the characters of her books live, breathe and interact with her in that mirror universe. Imaginary conversations there created the book characters, Malik and Lakshmi.

More importantly, like a painter, Joshi constantly modifies the canvas of her imaginary world, embellishing, changing, colouring, and adding detail to the painting. She works the canvas so often and so much, it becomes a reality for her. Then, she uses that painting as the basis for her writing.

As WAG presenter
Joshi was an energetic and dynamic presenter, painting her presentation canvas for us with lively recollections and useful pieces of advice for writers.

Foremost among her suggestions was that a writer should hire a developmental editor once they envision the publication of their endeavours.

The writing process according to Joshi is a very repetitive process, draft after draft after draft. The character development never stops, nor does the focus of the writing which is to streamline, refine and polish and then repeat. The developmental editor plays a crucial role in this process. Reaching the goal of the work being ready for publication can be a lengthy process taking years. Joshi feels her first book likely took a decade from germination to final publishing.

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the release of The Henna Artist: all her book launch events were cancelled, book stores shut down, libraries closed. All the usual venues for book launching disintegrated. However, besides being an optimist and a creative opportunist, Joshi was lucky as well. Luck may be the result of hard work. Joshi renewed he effort to promote her book. She networked endlessly, interacted with anyone and everyone who could open a new door of assistance. Her lucky charms of black chirmi beans proved themselves: the actor Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club acclaimed her book. The popularity soared now.

Traditional vs self-publishing
Joshi maintains traditional publishing in the highest regard, understandable because her publisher Harper Collins proved to be outstanding in the work it did for her. She maintains a traditional publisher offers writers many concrete and positive benefits: the ready expertise and organizations to promote, market and help launch a new writer; the experience and skilled professionals who know the market and how to navigate a noviciate’s book through the high seas of being published.

The corollary to publishing via a traditional publishing company is to hire a good literary agent. Joshi underlined the process of finding a good agent is challenging but an essential task so a writer is freed to concentrate on their craft while all the ancillary work related to the book’s sales is left to a capable professional.

One writing tool Joshi touted is that a thesaurus becomes the writer’s best friend as it helps the writer to avoid repetition and to elevate the quality of the style.

The next phase, great expectations,
Alka Joshi is a non-stop whirling dervish of self-promotion and marketing. She has reached out to over six hundred book clubs and book groups as a speaker and presenter talking about her books and about writing in general. She is a dynamo of willingness offering her services to any group that will underwrite her expenses in exchange for her appearance and workshops.

The Henna Artist was the foundation of a planned trilogy. Joshi is currently researching her material for the third part. The book will be about the perfume industry in France and the characters from her early books will blend with the colours of the new work as soon as she feels she has enough researched information.

We look forward to this new literary canvas with all its colourful scenes, settings and characters.

Rev. 2

VIDEO was started after the meeting had begun but much of Alka’s presentation is recorded.

The ZOOM group photo is available if you contact me at

For privacy reasons, the ZOOM group photo has not been posted.

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