My main advice is to trust your voice
Everyone Has a Story Worth Telling
The world needs yours. For the longest time, that was my biggest struggle, “Who will want to listen to me?”
Hello! I’m Annika and I’m a coffee-loving, work-addicted, laughter-obsessed, wanderlusting girl who often finds (mis)adventures in New York City while on my dreamchasing quest.
Words have been my passion for my entire life — and I’ve built a career on it. By day, I am a Communications Project Manager at an Ivy League medical institution. By night, my life comes alive — I’m an agented and published writer — my next book, a romcom called Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words, comes out on September 21, 2021, as the first in a series. I’m also the host of a podcast called The Woke Desi, which explores stigmatized social issues from a South Asian, first-generation, millennial lens.
A health communications manager by day and a fledgling podcaster and author by night — how have you managed to have such a successful fluid career?
I cry a lot. (I’m kidding.) It’s an incredible feat to balance time, and I haven’t managed it. I do think what’s driven me throughout my career from education, to writing, to healthcare, to then adding podcasting to it all, was following my strengths, which in my case was writing, words, connecting with people, and creating conversations. And being willing to step outside the box. As you push your boundaries, you find they expand more…soon, you’re looking to chase the horizon and hoping it gets further away rather than boxing you in.
On a more practical level, time management and prioritization (the two most hype, overused concepts ever!) are key. I try to schedule weekends off. I have blocks on my calendar. I use my planner. I know I’ll be dropping balls at some point and I try to be gentle with myself when that does happen…which is often. I also think you have to have a healthy relationship with the saying, “I can do anything but I can’t do everything.”
What inspired you to write, “Love, Chai and Other Four Letter Words”?
My publisher, who is a little ahead of the game with diverse reads, requested a series from me after they read another work I’d written. My editor at the time was super chilled out about what direction I wanted to go, as long as it had South Asians at the helm. I decided to focus on four friendships from varying backgrounds, with different love stories, with a range of issues, to show that South Asians aren’t a monolithic population. I pull a lot from my experiences and my friends’ stories, struggles, wins, and balances regarding being South Asian in the US.
Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words: A Sweet Multicultural Contemporary Romance (Chai Masala…
Amazon.com: Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words: A Sweet Multicultural Contemporary Romance (Chai Masala Club, 1)…
Congratulations on all the success you’ve received so far for The Woke Desi — what is some advice you’d like to give aspiring podcasters?
Thank you! It’s been extraordinary. My main advice is to trust your voice — everyone has a story worth telling. The world needs yours. For the longest time, that was my biggest struggle, “Who will want to listen to me?” The answer was a whole lot more people than I’d anticipated. Another is to do your research…you don’t have to become an expert; you can always outsource tech, production, or even some content to experts. But you do have to do your best to sound educated, respectful, and intelligent on the topics you choose to discuss. Which brings me to another point: figure out whether you want to be the expert, interviewer, facilitator of information, or if it’s more casual than that.
The Woke Desi on Apple Podcasts
With lives in New York and San Francisco, the ladies of The Woke Desi came together for one reason: to give South…
A milestone/achievement you are most proud of?
Oh, what a fun question! I’ve received a few starred reviews from major publications in publishing (Library Journal and Booklist) and been named one of Amazon’s Best Books in Romance for September. Forbes this past May for the podcast was very cool. On a personal level, I think my biggest achievement is living life feeling happy with who I am.
Fun and interesting fact(s) about you?
When I was 15, I had a boyband phase (as many millennials will cop to…) and I entered a contest to meet my favorite boyband singer, who had just starred in a movie where he played himself falling in love with a fan (I thought it would win an Oscar. Spoiler: it did not.) I had to write 100 words to win. I won. They asked if I could be in Chicago tomorrow, and I lived in central PA. My parents obviously said no…and then my dad, who was on tenure track and working 100-hour weeks, came home from work early and told me, “Pack a bag, we’re going to Chicago.” We had a family trip to Chicago for four days and it was a super memorable trip.
Other random facts include that I don’t like mangos in fruit form or whipped cream.
How do you usually unplug?
I usually go for a run. I love listening to music and pounding it out on a treadmill. I love watching football and tennis on television. I also try not to have my phone out with friends (Instagram be damned!) so I can be present and enjoy.
I have a writer’s group with Nisha Sharma, Sonali Dev, Farah Heron, Sona Charaipotra, Suleikha Snyder, and so many more — we are all close friends and I think I get a lot of mentorship from them on writing careers and ideas. My boss is also a good one. She’s female, black, and the Dean at an Ivy League medical institution — she has a great perspective on leadership.
A quote that you live by?
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” — Mother Theresa. I love letting compassion and love drive what I do. I don’t always say yes to everyone — but there is something to be said about treating everyone with kindness so they never leave feeling worse than they did when they showed up.
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