Up Close With: Shalini

Meet the wonderful writers and patrons behind LWS.

Lauren McMenemy
London Writers’ Salon

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Don’t be fooled by her seemingly quiet and unassuming nature when hosting Writers’ Hour: this week’s patron profilee and volunteer LWS host oozes understated cool. Shalini is enigmatic, a lawyer-turned-screenwriter who has been there done that, who is truly living life to its fullest wherever and whenever she can. She prizes empathy and relationships, and writes to both understand and help others to understand different viewpoints. Here she is, reluctantly committing herself in print for this profile — though she is one of a kind, and we couldn’t do this series without featuring Shalini!

Shalini

  • Based in New York City (though the writer’s view below is from her summer in LA)
  • Volunteer host for LWS writers hours

What do you write?

I’m a screenwriter, and for the past year I’ve mostly worked on television pilots. However, I also love and write poetry.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve been rewriting a television pilot that I’m hoping to use to get into a writer’s room on a television show. Once I finish that, I’m going back to a fun feature-length screenplay that I’ve been working on throughout the pandemic.

Where and when do you write?

I’ll write whenever I can. If I can’t sleep, I’ll get up early in the morning and write. More often, I’ll stay up late to write, and I’ll even hop into the UK Writer’s Hour for a bit of late-night (in NYC) company. I also do a lot of writing away from the page. I’ll think about my stories while showering, cooking, walking or running errands. I work through problems and get a lot of ideas when I’m out engaging with the world, so I try to get away from the page at least a little bit each day. I’ll write all over the place, but my favorite spot is definitely on the balcony in the sun.

How do you write?

My process is a mix of writing and typing. I think about my story for a while before writing anything down. I put a lot of pieces together and make sure everything fits. When it gets to be too much to keep straight, I write everything down in a notebook. I write character profiles, settings, relationships, history, starting and ending points for the first season, sketches for multiple seasons, and more. I will also write out the entire plot point by point, including key dialogue.

The notebook writing is my favorite part because I feel like I have so much freedom. I scribble notes in margins; I write horizontally across a notebook (perpendicular to the lines). I draw arrows and Venn diagrams to make sure it all fits. I just can’t do that on a computer screen.

Once I have the plot planned out, I sit at the computer and type out my script. At this point, I’m able to focus on other elements such setting, direction, camera shots. I’m not caught up in the details of whether the plot or the dialogue is right because I’ve already worked it and reworked it off screen.

Of course, everything gets edited a lot once the script is complete.

Why do you write?

I’m a very empathetic person, and I know not everyone is. I’m constantly wondering how to portray something in a way that others would understand. We use stories as a way of understanding another’s experience; I write both to understand and to help others understand.

What inspires your creativity?

My life, I think! Not that I’ve had a particularly interesting life, but I’ve moved around a lot and as a result I’ve met a lot of different people. I’ve had these amazing friendships and connections with people that were sometimes brief yet beautiful. I’ve also had a lot of really fun experiences and moments where I’ve thought, “Wow. This is living.” Not everyone gets that. So I hope that through my writing, even for a moment, I can show you what that all feels like.

Inspiration comes from her life and travels

What’s your favourite book?

Hands down, my favorite book is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. It was the first time that I ever saw a character like myself in a YA book. It was exhilarating and amazing, and it changed the way I thought about myself and my place in the world.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?

The best advice I ever heard was from Marti Leimbach in her interview with Matt and Parul. She said when you’re writing, that’s your sandbox. You are playing and creating, and there is no one there to judge. Don’t worry about what your editor or the critiques will say. This is your time to play with the story, work at it and get it right without any outside judgment.

Of course she said it much better in her interview, but I think about this all the time. As a television writer, I used to feel a lot of pressure to think about trends and to worry about what was happening in the industry and what was overdone. After hearing Leimbach’s advice, I stopped. I just let myself be creative in my creative space, and it has been very freeing.

What’s the one thing you would tell other/aspiring writers?

Stop trying to be like anyone else, and stop trying to emulate someone else’s journey. It’s easy to see others’ success and feel like that’s what you need to do too, but we all have our own path. Your journey won’t be like anyone else’s. You’re doing a disservice to yourself by trying to be like someone else and by not honouring who you are and what your experiences have been. You are one of a kind, and that’s what we love about you!

How can we discover more about you and your work?

I’m on both Instagram and Twitter as @Shalini_Nina.

TV writer Shalini spent the summer in LA for inspiration; this was her view when writing

✍️ Write with Shalini and hundreds of other writers each weekday at Writers’ Hour (it’s free).

Connect with fellow writers and build a successful, creative career with London Writers’ Salon.

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Lauren McMenemy
London Writers’ Salon

Weird girl in the corner | Gothic & Folk Horror Writer | Writing Coach | Trainer & Facilitator | Mental Health Advocate | wherelaurenwrites.com | 👻🧛‍♀️🔮😈