Afshan’s Plans to Take Over the World
Twenty one year-old Afshan Lodhi describes herself as a writer, poet and creative artist. If Afshan were a musician I feel like she’d have quite an impressive set list; she’s already the Deputy Director of Publishing at Dog Horn Publishing, has worked on the National Black and Asian Writers Conference and has received awards for Community Cohesion from V-Inspired and an Outsider’s Award from The Big Issue. She also happens to be a member of the Young Inscribe programme! I spoke to the young writer about her burgeoning – but already admirable – career.
When did you first begin writing and why did you keep at it?
I began writing poetry from the age of 11, but didn’t do much with it. I guess my first step into the writing world was when I started work with the Greater Manchester Police Authority (aged 16) on a Counter Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism project writing film scripts for a teacher’s resource pack that would be used in schools. This boosted my confidence and I just kept on applying for residencies, competitions and bursaries. Writing became a release for me, a way for me to voice my ideas and thoughts. It was a way I worked through any problems in my life. Some people dance or sing, I write.
Do you have any major influences in your writing?
I like murder. Horror, creepy, bizarro fiction, anything weird really inspires me. I often write things that may shock people into actually thinking! I have just completed a degree in Philosophy or as I like to call it ‘a degree in thinking’,so I often write to explore the ideas of roles in a society, be it gender roles, or otherwise. I question the meaning of life, whether we exist or not and to what extent we should be responsible morally for what we do (or at least I like to think I do.)
What does it mean to you to be a Young Inscribe Writer?
Young Inscribe helped me get my first paid commissioned work as a writer as a writer-in-residence for Leeds Kirkgate Market. I’ve been able to go to an Arvon residential. I’ve had opportunities to go to various workshops – I’ll be going to a fiction masterclass with Bernardine Evaristo – which I’m really excited about. Being a part of Young Inscribe is like being part of one big writing family.
So you’re the Deputy Director of Publishing at Dog Horn Publishing – what are the best things about your role there?
I started work at Dog Horn many years ago and have loved it. There are many things I love but the best thing about being Deputy Director of Publishing, at Dog Horn publishing? The title. To have a position like I do, in a niche company like Dog Horn, gives me the platform I need to be taken seriously in a world where my young age is looked down upon. Titles aside, the feeling you get when a person sees their book printed and published with an ISBN and cover, is just brilliant. I love the arts a lot and working with Dog Horn, gives me an opportunity to work on a variety of creative projects. I work with Adam Lowe, editor in chief of Dog Horn on a lot of different projects including writing groups, performance troupes and literary salons. One day, Adam and I are going to take over the world!
You’ve worked with Commonword & Cultureword – what does that involve? Are you working on anything in particular at the moment?
I currently work as a freelancer at Commonword, a writer development organisation based in Manchester. I started working on the National Black and Asian Writers Conference which was held in October. I have to say, as hectic as it was helping to organise it, I loved every moment. I got to meet amazing authors like Malorie Blackman, Bali Rai, Melvin Burgess and Desiree Reynolds (who has just published her new novel Seduce) as well as hear beautiful poetry by Malika Booker and Sujata Bhatt. I had a chance to take part in insightful discussions surrounding women’s roles in poetry on stage and the overlap of difficulties faced by both LGBT and Black writers. Events like this help emerging writers to not only network with other writers and publishers but to also learn and partake in discussions relating to themselves and the writing industry.
What advice would you give to other young, aspiring writers?
To all the young aspiring writers, keep at it. Don’t let one bad comment or one rejection let you down. Go to all the workshops and poetry slams/book launches/literary salons you can – even if you find some boring or useless, you may find some interesting writers or get inspired. Join writing groups – feedback from fellow writers is always useful. A good tip for budding writers: morning pages. This is where you take out 20mins in the morning to just free write. Do this every day, before you have your morning cuppa, or brush your teeth or talk to anyone. It’s tough to start with, but the more you do it the more it helps to clear your head so that when you sit down to actually write something, your writing isn’t clogged up.
Here are some useful links: Commonword – run workshops and events like the Black and Asian Writers Conference & Young Enigma – a group for writers who identify as LGBT+ and are between the ages of 16-30
Where do you hope to be in the future and how will you get there?
This is one question I have been asked time and time again and still have no real answer for. In 10 years time, I hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing now – except with more money, improved writing skills and lots of cake. And I guess the way I’ll get there is to continue working with the people I do, and find more organisations to work with (especially those who give me cake!)