We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Bhatt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, how do you think about risk?
I’m actually a pretty risk-averse person. That said, if I look across my close circle of friends and family members, I’ve taken the most personal, financial, and professional risks by taking on new ventures and opportunities. The reason is that I never act on mere impulse. I do a lot of homework. I circle a new project for quite some time before I consider myself ready enough to take it on. This doesn’t mean I always get everything right and know what I’m doing. But I’m better-prepared and, therefore, able to keep my wits about me when things go off the rails. This has been my approach for the longest time. This means I sit on a new project for ages, sometimes. But I do take on more new projects than many people I know.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I had my first book published at the age of 48. As a woman writer of color with a debut book of short stories (which the big publishers tend to avoid), I was already on an uphill struggle. Then, the 2020 pandemic hit and it was tough for debut books everywhere. Worse, my second book came out the very next month in a different country. So I had two back-to-back books out in two different countries and I couldn’t travel even locally to do any book promotion. Many media venues began to freeze their freelance budgets so book coverage also dropped at various book-related venues. In this climate, I did the best I could to get the word out there about my books. There were many nos to every yes I received. So it certainly wasn’t easy. But, if there’s one thing I can do when all around me is falling apart, it’s to put my head down and focus on the work. So that’s what I did. Along the way, I decided to help other writers like me (writers of South Asian descent with new books out) by creating the Desi Books podcast. I wanted to put some positive energy out there instead of anxiety, fear, etc. The biggest lesson from all this that I’d like to share with the world is that no matter how difficult we might think our situation is, there’s always someone who has it harder. And, if we can reach out and help others as we make our own journeys, it can help everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A weeklong trip in the Dallas area. My goodness. There’s so much to do: historical landmarks like the Stockyards National Historic District, Dallas Heritage Village, and JFK Memorial; parks and trails like White Rock, Klyde Warren, Trinity Forest Adventure Park; all the museums in the Dallas Arts District. For food, there are so many great places: Dallas Farmer’s Market, El Fenix, Yolk, Shake Shack, The Rustic, Hypnotic Donuts, El Jordan, Pecan Lodge, and Lockhart Smokehouse. Plenty of shopping to do as well but I’d make Wild Bill’s Western Store a must-do. And you have to go to several live music venues at night like Adair’s Saloon, Granada Theater, Mama Tried Deep Ellum, and more, And, of course, I’d take all my guests to all the amazing local bookstores: Wild Detectives, Deep Vellum, Interabang, and more. I haven’t been to these since the pandemic started, though. So I hope they’ll all still be open when we get back to some kind of normal.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to a writer who’s always inspired me: Toni Morrison. Beyond the amazing books and essays she gave us, she was a fearless advocate for her community of Black women writers and took every opportunity to uplift and spotlight them at a time when the publishing industry did not see them worthy of attention. Morrison herself had a tough road with writing the kinds of works she believed important. She was a single mother at the start of her literary career during a time when it was hard for single mothers to hold down full-time jobs, take care of their families, and write books. From Morrison, I’ve learned to uplift and spotlight my own community of writers. I’ve come to believe that a rising tide lifts all boats.