Tanya Aydelott is Pakistani American and spent most of her childhood in the Middle East. Since then, she has followed stories as though they were a ley line: she wrote her first fairy tale in 3rd grade, centered her undergraduate thesis on the uses of fairy tales in poetry, pursued an MA in anthropology and education (tracing stories and storytelling as an academic exercise), and finally decided to make time for her own creative writing. She earned an MFA in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her short fiction has been published in FORESHADOW: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA and Dark Moon Digest.
When not writing, she busies herself with making jam, recommending books to friends, abandoning jigsaw puzzles, and tending to her sansevieria and ZZ plants
My Writing Journey
When did you start writing?
What makes a good story?
I tend to come to story first by way of character and setting. Who is this character and why should I care about them? Who are they in their particular setting?
I use setting very loosely—I mean the physical space they inhabit, which might be a home or a town or a classroom or a continent. It might be their physical landscape, or their cultural landscape, or even their artistic one. What fears do they carry, and how have those fears been inspired by the sound of rain beating against the walls of their house? What are their hopes, and how has the landscape around them expanded or constrained those hopes? What dreams do they dream when they are among other people, and what dreams do they dream when they are alone?
I delight in discovering how characters make sense of their world, and how that world functions as both a hindrance and a guide. That duality—things that are one thing and simultaneously another thing—calls to me and makes me want to return again and again to my favorite stories.
What advice do you have for young writers?
Read! Read read read read read. Read widely. Read deeply. Read for pleasure, and sometimes read to pick apart how the author did the things that they did. If you felt tension in a scene, go back (wait until you’ve finished the entire story!) and try to figure out what made you so tense. If you felt protective of one character or frustrated by another, reread to figure out why.
Read books that have been recommended to you, or that you find sitting among other favorites on a bookshelf. Read books that no one has told you about (you can be the person who tells others about that book!). Read books with ugly covers, brilliant covers, tattered covers, price-tag-covered covers. Read books that sound familiar. Read books about characters who have nothing in common with your own life. Read books where the characters resemble you; read books where they don’t. Read books that are on shelves higher than your head. Read books you have to reach for and demand. Read books you aren’t sure you’ll like.
It’s fine not to finish a book—but I always ask myself, in those instances, what is the reason I am putting this down? Sometimes, the reason helps me make better choices about choosing books the next time around. Sometimes, the reason helps me decide what kind of writer I want to be. And sometimes the reason is simply that I wanted to read something else. And so I do.
Have you written anything else?
Yes! I wrote a personal review of Adib Khorram's Darius the Great is Not Okay for Nerdy Book Club.