Here is another email from my field study faculty mentor giving me more direction for my project.
I'm somewhere in the middle of Illinois driving home right now. This morning, stopping at a tiny town in Indiana for gas, the store smelled of curry and I guessed the family of Indians behind the counter were from Gujarat. "Are you speaking Gujarati?" I asked. Stunned, they said yes.
India stays with you.
I've read all your recent blog posts, and I am very happy with how you have been writing and processing things. The visit from Ashley sounded very timely, and I second her advice about drafting. You seem nervous about this, and I don't want you to fall prey to this idea that you need months to process things first. Think of it this way: There are some things you can write or draft only while in the field, only while your legs are bunched up in that sari or you are wondering whether that bottle of water you bought had its seal broken. There is an authenticity to "in situ" composing. The press of time you feel in the field can be a great benefit to someone like you who has too many threads to weave.
I was glad to read that you are already getting to specific themes and that at least one of these will be anchored in that episode of the bus breaking down. My best advice to you about drafting in the field is not to think that you are starting fresh. Your avatars, your selves of the past that have already recorded impressions or taken notes or photos - they have provided you with gifts that you simply need to accept. You think that you don't know where you are going to go with your writing, but that isn't true. What you need to do is 1) reread and review your past posts, pictures, and field notes; 2) expand upon, revise, and extend existing material. Do not forget to review your Ghana writing. That was rich and dense, and my feeling is you know you are simply carrying forward many of the same ideas you developed so well there.
Also, please remember that your writing should respond to your whole life, not just to time, events, or people in India. Don't segment India from the whole of Rachel. Also one of your strengths has been to read a lot of relevant works and to review books on your blog. Go back to some of those books or reviews, including those from before you left, or even from the Africa experience. I like how Kristen has been doing such a good job of integrating quotes and concepts from her readings into her posts. You could do more of that (as you began to do with the train to Pakistan post -- though I felt that post didn't really get off the ground. Maybe you didn't personalize it enough?). Anyway, my larger point is that you have oodles to draw from given your reading, writing, and notes/photos. Put that to use by looking for patterns and attempting some synthesis. That synthesis could be as simple as "How could I combine my three favorite posts?"
Remember A Passage to India, and the theme there about India being a muddle? There's some truth to that. But there was no muddle to Forster's prose about the muddle. You feel confused? Great. Welcome to life. Now frame that confusion, express it, name its pieces and flavors. Be as true to that confusion's shape and feel as you can. Then step back and see how the miracle of such authentic prose bootstraps you from the muck. The distance you have to go from confusion to clarity evaporates this way.
Now, as for the issue you asked me about regarding audiences and publishing format -- that is something I don't expect you to fully solve prior to returning. But you should, as you are able, continue to cultivate connections. Here, I suggest that you write a blog post in which you list your prospective readers (by name) and annotate your reasons for their potential interest. Can you guess why I'd ask you to do that?
There are some writing sites I will want you to submit some drafts to. This is somewhat new to me, too, but take a look at wattpad.com. This is really set up more for fiction writers, but it's their whole set up for sharing and clubs and community building you might explore (if you have time while in field). You stand a better chance of getting readers by being a reader (of other current writers). This is not ad easy as merely posting to your blog, but it is very important that you find ways of sharing your work in progress within writing communities and not simply on your blog. You should also start checking out eBook / online book outlets (again, if you have time). Take a look at smashwords.com and lulu.com and start trying to find anything comparable to what you are envisioning for your own writing.
Well, that's a lot for now, but this is what you really need to attend to next, in my opinion. You should also get Dr. Bennion's opinion. By the way, he is the one to ask about arranging for Geshe Yonten's visit. He has arranged many campus visits for authors and knows the drill.
You looked happy and well in your McDonald's picture. Hope you stay well.