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Chatting with Pooja Joshi

Pooja shares her query journey and how she became represented by a literary agent, the importance of cardamom in bringing back memories of Mumbai, and her writer-in-residence at Weymouth Center.

Chatting with Pooja Joshi

Pooja Joshi is a Desi writer from North Carolina. She is currently based in Boston, where she is pursuing an MBA and MPP at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Previously, she has worked in health tech strategy and management consulting. Her work has been published in several outlets, including The Hooghly Review, The Ilanot Review, and in the upcoming Best Microfiction 2024. You can find her at or on Twitter @poojajoshitalks.

Pooja is the author of “Cardamom and Other Such Forbidden Thoughts” from Radon Issue 7.

Q: A bulb of cardamom plays a central role in your Radon story. What is the significance of cardamom to you?

Growing up in a Desi family in the United States, food has always been a means of connection with my roots. The aroma of cardamom chai doesn’t just bring me a rush of comfort, but is also intricately woven with memories of my grandmother’s stories and visits with family in Mumbai during the monsoons. Like G-117, we all sort of exist in a hyperactive world, siloed into our individual capitalist hamster wheels. And as G-117 experiences, little things like the aroma of cardamom are what yank us off that hamster wheel and remind us of what truly matters. In the story, cardamom is quite literally a symbol of G-117’s humanity, and I think it holds that kind of transformative power in my heart as well.

Q: What brought you into existing in both the writing and business worlds?

Writing has always been a source of joy and respite for me, you could say. For most of my career thus far, it has been only a hobby, but when I started graduate school, I decided to have a real go at being intentional about the possibilities of publishing my work. So far, I’m grateful to report that things are going pretty well—I’ve published several short stories in the past year and signed with my wonderful agent for my novel!

I’m honestly not sure how I’ll balance things in the future, but both branches of my career are extremely important to me. If other writers have advice on this, I’m always all ears!

Q: What was your experience in being a writer-in-residence at Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities?

Doing a residency at Weymouth was a highlight of 2023 for me as a native North Carolinian—James and Katharine Boyd were stalwarts of North Carolina’s literary history, so the sheer wonder of residing in their former home gave me so much momentum while working on my novel. I could just wake up and go write in the NC Literary Hall of Fame in the middle of the night—what a treat (but also . . . the ghosts of NC’s literary greats were definitely watching me)! My residency also happened to coincide with the Sandhills Pride event on Weymouth’s grounds. I really enjoyed hanging out with folks and celebrating the resilience of queer communities in the South.

Q: How did you come to be represented by Jacqui Lipton of Tobias Literary Agency?

To all my #amquerying authors out there, I see you and feel you—keep going! I had no connections to the publishing industry previously, so I definitely did my time in the trenches cold-querying agents. I started querying my novel in June 2023 and after the many ups and downs of full requests, rejections, R&Rs and a LOT of waiting, I got an offer this past March. Jacqui was actually the second agent to offer on this novel, and I’m so thrilled I decided to sign with her. She’s got an incredible editorial eye and I’m excited to continue the publishing journey with her!

Q: Tell us about Project Nightingale, which you successfully queried for representation?

I’m a bit tight-lipped on this at the moment, but this story is incredibly close to my heart. It’s a sapphic love story full of yearning and heartbreak that takes place in a newly independent India against the backdrop of the Bollywood music industry. It ties together several facets of my identity in a way that feels very me, so I’m very excited to one day share the story and characters with the world.

Q: How do you approach self-promotion as a writer?

To be honest, I’m terrible at it. There’s a lot I have to learn in the realm of writing, so promoting my own work doesn’t come naturally to me at all. That said, I put a lot of heart into all the writing I do—I’ll only send a piece out for publication if I really feel like I’m saying something that I feel could move others in a unique way. So when any of my stories have been published, I am extremely proud of sharing them with the world.

Q: What was your experience reading for Five Minutes?

Five Minutes is a fantastic outlet! I originally had a piece published with them last year and then ended up being a reader for several rounds of submission. Being a reader takes a lot of time and commitment – you have to give your full attention and consideration to lots of pieces one after another. That said, I actually learned quite a lot from the reading process—I started to pick up on techniques that pulled me in as a reader and styles that didn’t quite work for me, which helped a lot in developing my own authorial process. I also just appreciated the opportunity to be exposed to so many incredible writers—there is seriously so much talent out there!

Q: What is next for you in 2024?

I’ve got a few more short stories in the works, but the big thing ahead is putting my novel out on submission! Super excited (but equally nervous) about that process, so here’s to hoping it ends up on your bookshelf one day!

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