Monday, November 23, 2015

Jaya Kamlani, Garden of Life

AUTHOR/POET: Jaya Kamlani
BOOK TITLE: Garden of Life
GENRE: Poetry
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace, Amazon’s Publishing Division

Please tell us about yourself:

Jaya Kamlani is an Indian-American author, poet, a former Silicon Valley information technology consultant, and a graduate of St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, India. She has been living in the USA since 1969 and presently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jaya is the author of the non-fiction book “To India, with Tough Love,” (2013), memoir “Scent of Yesterday” (2014), and a poetry collection “Garden of Life” (2015). She wrote the books with the intent to bring awareness and change to the world.

Please tell us your latest news:

September 2015:  Participated in a reading event on peace and justice poems at Agnes Scott College in Georgia. On this day, poets across the world read poems on peace at over 500 institutions worldwide. Recordings are to be archived at Stanford University.

October 2015:  Panelist to discuss “self-publishing” at a literary festival held at Hunter College, New York.  I have self-published all my three books through CreateSpace in the last three years. Self-publishing is the new trend in America to get books published. Traditional publishers have not been taking on new clients in the last few years. They are primarily handling imprints. Many authors who have used the traditional route in the past, are now distributing books via Amazon because of higher royalties. However, book marketing is the responsibility of the author.

October 2015:  I have been selected to receive the HIND RATTAN AWARD by the Government of India. The award will be presented in January 2016 in New Delhi. The letter I received from Delhi stated the award is for  "outstanding services, contributions and achievements."
Every year, NRI Society of India selects 25 to 30 recipients from across the world for this award. Some 5 or 6 are presented to those of Indian origin living in America, usually to entrepreneurs and researchers in the fields of science, technology and medicine. The award ceremony is attended by top government officials – Parliament ministers, Supreme Court judges, and other dignitaries. Here is the link to the Hind Rattan award...
There are a few who believe I should not accept the award, following the killing of Indian writer and scholar. They believe I should join the solidarity movement with dozens of other authors, poets and journalists of India who have returned their awards as a result of his assassination and rising intolerance in the country. Reference: “Secular scholar in India fatally shot,” August 31, 2015, and Indian Writers Return Awards to Protest Government Silence on Violence,” October 17, 2015,
Although I respect their views, I believe as an award winner I can have more influence to help bring the change I want to see in the country. One of the big benefits a democracy offers is freedom of expression and press. 

This award began with the publication of my book “To India, with Tough Love” in 2013, which was written to bring change to the country in many ways. It addresses India’s many social ills and corruption in politics and the upper echelons of society. An Indian-American scientist from California, who read my book, sent 30 copies of the book to the Supreme Court judges of India. He believed that if there are to be any changes in the country, the Supreme Court judges have the power to do so. Incidentally, these judges will also be present at the Hind Rattan award ceremony this January 2016.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Upon retirement from my two-decade technology career, I started to write my books. I had long dreamt of doing so in my retirement years. Over the last fifteen years, I wrote my three books that required much research.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment? Did those change how or what you did in your novel?

As writers, we should never be afraid to expose the truth or express our views. When I wrote my non-fiction book “To India, with Tough Love,” there were men from India who left comments on my Facebook public postings asking me not to sell my book in India or visit the country. I understood their reaction for I had exposed the ugly truth – the social ills of society, the toxic environment in the country, and corruption at the upper echelon. Today, however, all Supreme Court judges of India have a copy of the book, as does the Prime Minister of India.

When I read my poetry to a writer’s critique group that I have attended for a dozen years, two older male members told me I should not write ill about America. In fact, they were down right nasty about it. But that did not deter me, as I had been down that path before when I wrote my book on India. If we want a better America, then we must expose its weaknesses as well as its strengths. One of our strengths is that in America we are not afraid to speak the truth or voice our opinions. The freedom of speech and expression is alive and well in our democracy.

On the other hand, many readers of my books have confessed to me they have been touched and even got teary-eyed reading them.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them? 

My publisher is CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing division. I saw their ad on Facebook and got in touch with them. It has published all my three books.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

You can find me on Facebook and on my website

Tell me a little about your book. When did you first know you wanted to be a poet?

Although many of my poems have been written in the last two years, some of them were written in the early part of the millennium. When I had to write some tightly woven scenes for my memoir, I found that writing it first in poetry format helped. Then I took the verse, inserted it in my manuscript and edited as needed. Worked beautifully.

What do you hope readers will take from your poetry?

I believe readers will gather that I am trying to confront America’s issues, with the hope of bringing peace and unity to this great land of ours. We cannot have corporations running our country. We cannot have other countries urging us to get engaged in their wars. We must address gun control, as guns have taken the lives of many children. We must no longer be a war-based economy. We must protect our environment. Climate Change is real. Deal making by the multi-millionaires, the corporate CEOs, and bankers with our politicians has led to much greed, corruption and cronyism in the country. My poetry is bold and thought provoking, and addresses all these issues. The book also includes some beautiful nature poems and story poems set in different parts of the world that will inspire and touch the readers.

Why are you drawn to poetry?

Poetry is the elixir for our souls. Poetry can be so sublime it can lift our spirits and carry us to a world of dreams. It can even illuminate the truth of life. Through poetry, we can confront the harshest realities of life, with softer tones that appeal to the heart.

Would you say poetry is easier or harder to write than fiction and why?

Both genres have their own challenges. When writing a novel, the story must have a plot, set of characters, scenes, and a logical thread woven through the story. It must evoke a whole range of emotions, and show the protagonist’s internal conflicts.

On the other hand, poems can be grouped by themes.  Each poem must either be thought provoking, inspiring, emotive, or tell a story, even a story with a moral. Most of all, poetry is compact compared to prose. Much can be conveyed in just a few verses.

Is there anything in your poetry based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.

True life story poems include: wars of America (Vietnam War, 9/11, Iraq War), poverty and homelessness, corporate war on America, a young American girl in foster care sold into sex slavery, life and teachings of the first Buddha, story of King Tut of Egypt, Blood Diamonds, and my personal life stories.

Fiction stories woven around real life events include: the Great Recession of America, a prisoner on death row in Texas, rampant farmer suicides in India, and African diamond mining companies using child labor.

What about your poetry makes it special?

Through this poetry collection, I have helped raise awareness to America’s issues, with the hope it can bring change to our country and peace in the world.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

They can learn more about me and my books from:
- my postings and discussions on Facebook,
- my website, and
- my author page on

Would you give us an example of your poetry?

“Jaws of Hell” is a true poem. The victim’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Poem:  “Jaws of Hell” from the book “Garden of Life”
Copyright:  Jaya Kamlani

Born into a poor southern family, who could ill-afford to care,
tossed from one foster home to another, Cecelia’s nightmare;
many who sheltered her were hungry for a government check,
trafficked her, without caring her life was an emotional wreck.

No time to play, night after night, like a caged bird she wept,
sometimes abused by surrogates in whose care she was kept;
sold into sex slavery, at thirteen gave birth to a biracial son,
but identity of her child’s father, sadly she would never learn.

The little girl’s childhood was so mercilessly stolen from her,
by man’s irresponsible behavior for his momentary pleasure;
an angel heard her cries and freed her from the caged shell,
a foster couple took her home, away from fiery jaws of hell.

Cecelia loved her new parents, was tucked in bed with kisses,
she vacuumed, dusted home, gladly helped with the dishes;
though she loved her son dearly, gave him up for adoption,
now married, mother of two girls, gives them her attention.

Many like Cecelia have suffered far worse, contracted AIDS,
even died young, caught in a trap of cruel sex slave trades.

Any tips for new writers hoping to write poetry?

Write poems on subjects you are passionate about. Not all of your poems have to rhyme. Write short and long poems. Poetry does not always have to be soft; it can also be bold to make a statement. It can appeal to both the heart and mind. Play with different creative layouts, as I have done in my poetry book. Take your readers to different places and do a bit of research of that city or country.

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