By Jody DiPerna
Pittsburgh Current Lit Writer
The National Endowment for the Arts announced its Creative Writing grants for fiscal year 2020 today and among the 36 recipients is Anjali Sachdeva. A Pittsburgh native, Sachdeva teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh English Department’s Composition Program.
Her short-story collection, ‘All the Names They Used for God’ (Spiegel & Grau, 2018) received rave reviews pretty much everywhere, including literary powerhouses like The Rumpus and Tin House, as well as being named as one of the year’s best by NPR.
Sachdeva found out about the grant a while back, but was prohibited from telling anybody until the NEA made the announcement today. These grants are awarded only to previously published writers — those who have published a book or had multiple stories published in literary magazines and journals over a certain period of time.
“I am working on some linked stories which may or may not turn into a novel. I guess I’m going to use this year to figure that out,” she told the Current via telephone when speaking about what the grant means for a working fiction writer. The thing to know about Sachdeva is that she is always working on something. Always.
One of the things the grant will permit is for her to let her mind wander. She never knows where she might find inspiration — from the creation of desert glass to John Milton. “I should say, I do a lot of noodling around on the internet which is sometimes a huge waste of time, but sometimes it leads me to something interesting in terms of writing stories,” she admitted last summer when we last spoke.
Some time away from the grind of work and of parenting two young children may be in her future with the receipt of this grant. When Sachdeva was in the final push to finish ‘All the Names They Used for God,’ she spent a weekend away in a cabin in a state park. The distractions of home or the office are tough and other options are limited.
“I have learned that almost every coffee shop in Pittsburgh closes by 10 pm. There are some exceptions that aren’t close to me,” she said.
What a grant like this one gives to a writer is the best gift of all — time. Creating anything of value, writing anything that can make a mark is hard work, and the one element for which there is absolutely no substitute is time.
“There are always so many other things that need to be done,” Sachdeva said. “Just to have a period of uninterrupted thought is really helpful.”