Kena Shree, is a writer, blogger, spoken word poet, and storyteller who works as a Deputy General Manager in HR at a leading company. Kena Shree has been an all-rounder and excelled in various art forms. She hasn’t stopped learning and dreaming despite receiving dozens of prizes. Kena Shree has also co-curated Asia’s first Feminist Poetry Festival for the prestigious ‘She the People‘ platform.
Here is a delightful conversation with Kena Shree on her life journey as a poet, a writer with Icytales
Q. What writers & poets did you enjoy reading as a child?
Kena Shree: As a growing-up child, I enjoyed reading a lot. I was a voracious reader. I couldn’t live without reading books, and penning down my thoughts secretly into journals. Fortunately, at school, I was under the tutelage of extremely good English and Hindi teachers who helped me understand and appreciate the languages. They took us through reading works of the best English and Hindi writers.
I had a lovely and exciting time as a child. I loved reading Emily Brontë (and also the other Brontë sisters), Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ayn Rand, and unabridged Shakespearean dramas. My love for reading classic authors and poets remains till date. Some of my all-time favorite Hindi writers include Jai Shankar Prasad, Premchand, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Rabindranath Tagore, and Dinkar. Hindi poetry holds a very special place in my heart.
Q. What motivated you to focus on your passion as a writer?
Kena Shree: I started writing at a very young age. The reason was simply that it was very cathartic to me. I didn’t have many places and people I could go and confided to. Therefore I started channelizing my thoughts into writing. My writing was for myself, and it wasn’t meant for anybody else’s consumption. When I grew up, I realized I had more and more things to voice up.
As time went by, I didn’t release when my catharsis writing turned into motivation writing. Now I can not live without writing. I do not know what to do if not to write? Writing has become very important in my life. I can’t even breathe without writing. Writing comes to me as natural as breathing, eating, and waking up in the morning. I need to write or stop living my life without writing.
Q. Between storytelling, writing a book, and doing poetry, what do you think is most difficult, and what do you enjoy the most?
Kena Shree: Out Of the three, the most difficult thing art form is certainly writing a book. Not that the other two are a cakewalk! All three require a lot of hard work, discipline, and practice, however, writing an entire book takes a little more push (for me!).
Unlike short stories, poetry, or a spoken-word piece (which could go up to ten thousand words), writing a novel (or any full-length book) of more than sixty thousand words can be a tedious task. It needs a different level of commitment to self and time management to work on a book.
Out of the three, the most that I enjoy is the process of penning a book Though it is a difficult task and I am still struggling with my first manuscript, it is the space where I truly belong. To build characters, plots, and timelines, and get to stay transported in another world for as long as the process of book writing continues, is a very special feeling. One begins to live with and emotionally invested in the characters.
Q. So there would have been a journey full of ups & downs behind all your success, could you tell us something about your journey?
Kena Shree: It is said that the journey is more important than the destination and mine has been very fulfilling. It has been full of scars, bruises, and failures as well but this roller-coaster ride has been very worthwhile.
After completing my master’s in HRD, I joined the government of India in NTPC Limited. I was very young then and when I had to make a clear choice between going ahead with a Corporate life or living my passion with creative arts, I decided to not quit either, and balance both at the same time. I also understood that due to many commitments, I might have to work harder, go slower and be more patient with results but I was ready to give it a try. Incidentally, I get to live my life only once and I wanted to do it my way.
So, I gave all that I had in HR to learn more about the domain, dusted my hands on the ground, and honed the skills required in the industry. It paid off. It was heartening to receive awards for Corporate Leadership from NHRD, FICCI FLO, Jombay, and other renowned bodies. I am still learning as the Corporate world sustains on the agility to cope in a VUCAS world. It’s been a stupendous journey so far.
Besides having an academics and corporate side to my life, I have been a keen learner that took me to picking up art forms like dance, singing, painting, and dramatics. I was part of several theatre associations, thus, getting opportunities to perform at national level stage shows.
If you ask me about the “ups” in my journey, it would perhaps begin and end with the love I receive from people in my work. I have believed in honest and fearless writing or storytelling and I know, it is not always great, yet their encouragement and support move me to tears. If that is not a motivation, what is!
Talking about the phases of “downs”, I am glad these are short and don’t run deep. Sometimes criticism does pull down one’s spirit for a while. I have been told so many times by so many people, including the ones in my inner circle, that I must quit creative art because it does not yield tangible results, especially when compared to an established corporate career. Often there are unimaginable time management challenges that warrant a lot of juggling between tasks – home, children, office, creative arts, and self. Not brushing aside the umpteen cold stares, laments or allegations put on by society on not being the best mother, the best worker, or the best writer/storyteller around.
But at the end of it all, isn’t this my story? Who else would write it?
Q. You are a senior HR. How do you balance your work, writing, and storytelling?
Kena Shree: All of us have 24-hours. Look around! Even the most brilliant inventors, writers, poets, artists had the same 24-hours with them, didn’t they? But they chose to work it out in their own stride. I couldn’t be half as good.
But I have understood that it’s entirely up to us how we manage time. Unless one has four families and several children to feed simultaneously, we all have enough time on our sleeves.
It is just the art of strategizing, prioritizing, and managing, which needs to be learned. I am also trying my best to learn the art of time management. I am sure everyone can do that.
Q. Do you have any suggestions for upcoming writers for making sure an audience is engaged throughout a story?
Kena Shree: Oh yes! There are two quick tips one could follow that have worked for me and might work for you too.
Firstly, when you write a story, remember the first is a rough draft; always make sure you give it sufficient time to edit. All storytellers will tell you that the stories that we have submitted to brands go through several edits before the final cut.
And secondly, try to build in an “AHA Moment” in your story, which most storytellers miss. A writer can write an amazing piece but if the story doesn’t make the audience snap at high points, it may make the teller lose the connection.
Q. In addition to your poetry, you are working on a novel and numerous works of non-fiction. Is there any form you enjoy writing the most?
Kena Shree: I have written short stories which have got published in various anthologies by renowned publishers. The novel is still to go. My genre of writing form is dark literary fiction. Often my write-ups have an element of satire or tragic moments. I am pretty restless and chaotic at heart
Q. You have written many valuable pieces. Which one will you pick up today to motivate yourself? And the reason for your choice, could you also tell us two lines of the same.
Kena Shree: Apart from all the pieces that have been performed, my go-to piece will be “Kya Tum Khush ho?” which I have performed for “Tape A Tale.” I got a lot of love and appreciation for that piece. I have spoken about a vulnerable point of my life in that story that the audience could connect to. The story isn’t about losing but finding oneself back. It is a story of gratitude and kindness.
If I were to keep myself motivating I would be going back to the same story and say:
“Life ka agla panna black and white ho ya rangeen, isse koi fark nai padta! Agle panne me aap kya likhenge, aap kya padhenge, Aap Kaise jeeyange is all that matters.”
Q. Lastly, amongst your poetry, writeup, and storytelling, which has been your most favorite poetry, a story that you have told on tape a tale page?
Kena Shree: My forever favorite poetry is “Mere Baba,” which I performed for Spill poetry. It is an ode to my father, the greatest person in my life. It is incidentally also the first piece of Hindi-spoken poetry that I have written. On tape a tale, my favorite piece would be “ordinary as Pyaar,”. Again it is a special first for the platform. I recently completed my tenth story with them
Kena Shree, a person who lives her life to the fullest. We wish her all the best for her upcoming debut novel and storytelling.