Kamala Puligandla on Imagining What it’s Like to Be Entirely Different People
Kamala Puligandla lives in Oakland, CA and received her MFA from the University of California, Riverside. She is currently enmeshed in a heavily autobiographical novel about the pains of growing into adulthood. She has a forthcoming story in The James Franco Review and, this January, is a contestant in the fine, erotic fanfic contest, Shipwreck SF.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I like to be honest, so I’ll say I eat, drink, sleep and wear sweats at home. Upon occasion, I’ll tell people that I’m a writer and that one day I hope to call myself a novelist. I say ‘novelist’ with a touch of a British accent.
What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?
Deciding who/how to be and trying to keep up a semblance of consistency.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
I once heard a professor tell her undergrads that you were only a writer on the days when you write. But I firmly believe that you’re a writer because of the way you pay attention to the world, all the time: when you’re peeing and when you’re pretending someone’s baby is cute and particularly when you imagine yourself or somebody else. So I’d say imagine yourself as a writer and then write it all down.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
I think I’m a reasonably successful person in many avenues, like meal production and friend retention, but I don’t consider myself a successful writer. I have a VERY HARD time finishing things and then letting them go, which is necessary for writers who want to be read, published or paid.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
I play the Janet Jackson YouTube mix at work to make me feel alive. I have a problem with most videos, where I get bored 5 seconds in and unless somebody has told me to wait for something specific, I can’t.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
Sherlock Holmes. I think I’ve become him in my own way. We’ve both been known to be a little creepy and to take note of peoples’ shoes.
What’s wrong with society today?
Not enough people have an idea of what it’s like to be entirely different people. If this isn’t a good enough reason to write, I don’t know what is. It’s also why I think all arrays of queer people and people of color ought to write.
Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?
Cheese. Sharp, white cheddar aged 5 years.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
I like to compare my experience of falling in love to the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 in Boston. It happens much faster than one would expect and though it sounds harmless, it’s ends up being thoroughly destructive. So thankfully, it happens around once a year and not each day. Once a year is already too much for me.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
Art is the intentional use of form, style and technique to illuminate or draw attention to an outward manifestation of an idea. I think I may have stolen that from an essay I read. But I do think it’s necessary because it allows people outside of your own head to experience and participate in your ideas, sometimes even see the journey to those concepts. I think it can be a part of the solution to what is wrong with the world.
When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?
A lot of lower lip.
What are you working on right now?
My novel. It’s a second-coming of age, about a woman in her mid-twenties who was/is very much me, and her struggle with creating adultward definition and change in her life, without losing all of her favorite parts. It’s called Zigzags. I just completed a first draft, but if you’ll recall that part about finishing things…
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
I admire all writers who can bring their utmost sincerity to the page. I’m friends with many poets for this reason. They’ll laugh with you around a pitcher of beer and then they go home and carefully unfold their lacey hearts, while I go home and transcribe a semi-wittier version of our beer conversation and try to show the reader that it’s meaningful.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
A cheap, reliable, fast, comprehensive, 24/7 train option that includes the East Bay.
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
The best ones begin with whiskey and end with me calling the Tacos Mi Rancho truck to pre-order my nachos. I love the mystery of the in-between.
What are some of your favorite smells?
Sleep smells on the people I love. Mine included—mine best, in fact. Mint. Wood smoke. Almonds. Chicken pot pies. Turnips. Gasoline.