"My mission as a writer is to empower people of color to write their own stories."
I’m Ananya Vahal and I’m an Indian-American writer. I'm also the President of The Sid Foundation Inc., the writer/creator of Lung Girl Comics, and writer/content editor here at Prime Vice Studios. I have an MFA in Writing. My genres include creative nonfiction, digital content creation, and comics. I like reading and writing funny stuff.
Where are your from?
I was born in New Delhi, India. I grew up all around the world and have been living in the Atlanta area for over 15 years.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Delhi, India, Dubai, U.A.E., Charlotte, NC, and Kennesaw, GA.
How did your experiences affect your writing?
The purpose of my writing is to tell the stories that have been historically ignored or suppressed in our country. My purpose came about because of my experience growing up in a country where the only signs of existence of my culture were a funny accent and a smelly bowl of curry.
I didn’t know any writers that looked like me growing up and no one was telling the stories of my family. I want little brown girls today to be able to see themselves in books, movies, and all forms of media because it was denied to me.
You’ve created an original intellectual property: Lung Girl. How did this character & story come about?
Lung Girl came about because of a necessity on many levels. In 2014, my brother Sid died due to complications from his double lung transplant. My parents and I wanted to start a charity in his name to help other people going through the same situation.
We establishedThe Sid Foundation in 2015 to raise funds and awareness for lung transplant research and assist lung transplant patients with funding and resources. I always knew The Sid Foundation would have a heavy art aspect to it because Sid was an artist and an avid comic book reader. I also found that lung transplant was a complex and often gruesome topic to talk about with people in the community. The best way to tackle this issue was to create a comic book character who could represent the nonprofit and help us tell our story. Therefore, Lung Girl was born.
Lung Girl is a twelve-year-old Indian superhero who fights bad guys and lung health issues in her city. She has super lung powers which give her super strength and allow her to fight. She makes the perfect mascot for The Sid Foundation and helps us attract an audience that we normally would have missed.
Available for purchase now. Click on pics.
You have published two Lung Girl comics. How was that experience?
The Lung Girl comics are published annually through The Sid Foundation. It has been an interesting experience.
First, I had to raise funds for the project.
Then, I learned how to write comic book scripts. I have an MFA in writing, but they don’t teach you how to write comic book scripts in a writing program, so I had to learn the process of turning my story into panels and pages.
Finally, I hired a sequential artist to illustrate it. That process took a couple of months. I have been working in-house with Prime Vice Studios since the second issue published in 2017.
Once the comic book was fully illustrated, I sent it to the print shop. I also uploaded it on Amazon for a digital version.
Also, before I got them printed or turned into a digital comic, I had to purchase an ISBN number for them and get a copyright on them, so they could be protected.
It’s a process that takes time, effort, and constant learning which is why we only produce one comic a year for the time being. Once I have more staff and more funding, we plan to publish more comics annually.
You have recently graduated with your MFA in Writing. What drove you to pursue a Masters degree?
I graduated with my MFA in writing from SCAD in June 2018. I have been writing since I was nine years old. I picked up writing as soon as my family moved to the United States. It was my way of making sense of my new life in a completely new country.
I wrote journal entries, poems, and songs until I was in high school. However, since I didn’t know any writers in real life, especially ones that looked like me, I didn’t know that it was a profession I could pursue.
For some reason, I couldn’t stay away from writing. Once I got to college, I tried several different majors before settling into English with a minor in Spanish. I graduated from the University of Georgia in 2010 with my bachelor’s degree.
Even with an English degree, I didn’t know what I should do as a profession. The only options I was exposed to were Law School or Journalism and I didn’t find myself drawn to either one. I decided to take a break after graduating to figure things out and during that time I took the GRE and the LSAT so I could keep my options open for grad school.
During my break year, my life took a complete turn when my brother became ill and was hospitalized. I spent almost a year in the hospital with my brother as he fought for his life and received a double lung transplant. After that, I became interested in the health care industry, specifically, physical therapy. So I changed my course and began pursuing physical therapy.
After about two and a half years of working in physical therapy and applying to schools, we got a call that my brother was hospitalized again. This time he didn’t survive.
After my brother’s death, I once again evaluated my course in life and after making peace with the fact that I was not getting into physical therapy school, I decided to go back to my original calling, writing.
I definitely took the long and winding road. I had a lot of life experience under my belt to write about. I began researching the writing programs at several universities. Once I was introduced to SCAD, I decided that was the program for me. Their program focused on digital media and creative nonfiction. I learned ways to write my story effectively and share it with the world digitally.
What type of stories do you like to write about?
My mission as a writer is to empower people of color to write their own stories. Today, there are more stories published about people of color than by people of color. This means that we are being written about in ways that we do not control.
We are being written about from the White perspective which often includes stereotypes and oppressive narratives. We need to control our own narrative.
I think words are the most powerful tool against oppression. So, to make a long answer short, I write my stories. Stories that are highly underrepresented in the literary world and in today’s media. Stories about what it’s like to be a South Asian immigrant growing up and living in the United States. Stories about my family and my culture.
Top 5 favorite writers.
Roxanne Gay, Scaachi Koul, Issa Rae, Lilly Singh, and Sherman Alexie
Favorite comic characters.
Obviously, I love the new Ms. Marvel (representing the Desis), Black Panther (duh), Batman (he’s always been my favorite superhero), and Lung Girl! (yup, that’s a plug).
Top 5 favorite comics & graphic novels.
The new Ms. Marvel series, Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Avatar: The Last Airbender series, Tales for La Vida: A Latinx Comics Anthology, and Saint Love City Funk: Boogie Down Blues.
Saint Love City Funk: Boogie Down Blues
What type of work are you interested in doing? Now? In the future?
I am already doing the type of work I want to do which is write, build community, and educate. I hope to continue doing this work at a larger scale in the future.
How can others find or purchase your work? Website, social media link, etc.
You can find my work, my services, and my #browngirlwrites blog on www.ananyavahal.com.
Twitter and Instagram: @ananyavahal
Facebook: Ananya Vahal
Medium: Ananya Vahal
Works Available by Ananya Vahal