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September 8, 2021

Member Spotlight: Shankari Chandran

Our September 2021 Member Spotlight features Shankari Chandran! Shankari was highly commended for a CA/ASA Award Mentorship, and then became the inaugural winner of the Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship, a $20,000 award offered annually to an Australian author to provide them with valuable time to work on a current manuscript. Now, that manuscript, Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens, will be published by Ultimo Press in January 2022!

Shankari Chandran is a lawyer, and author of Song of the Sun God (Perera-Hussein Publishing, 2017), The Barrier (Pan Macmillan Australia, 2017). Song of the Sun God is being adapted for a six-part TV series. Her work has been long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award (2019), and short-listed for the Fairway National Literary Award (2018) and the Norma K Hemming Award for Speculative Fiction (2018). She won the Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship (2019) and the Create NSW Writers’ Fellowship (2018/2019), essential support that enabled her to write Chai Time. Her current project, Sita, is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. She has also been published in the Sweatshop Anthology Women (Vol 2). Her stories reflect her ancestral Tamil background and its impact on contemporary Australia.   


What inspired you to begin a career in writing?

I’ve loved writing since I was a child. It gives me a deep joy and calm, a sense of purpose and achievement. Arranging words on a page, refining them to be their best selves, locking into a character or an idea that urgently pushes me to help it exist and express itself – these things make me really happy. Writing draws me inside my mind but on the days when I’ve written, I see the outside world with greater clarity and a stronger connection to everything around me, because to write you have to be attentive to the world.

Cover image of Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran

What did winning the Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship mean to you? How has it helped you in pursuing your writing goals?

Wendy Beckett talks about wanting to give writers time with her scholarship. That’s exactly what she did – she gave me writing time that I could own and assert against all the other pressures of life. Her confidence in me, that I had a novel worth writing, helped motivate me at a time of great self-doubt (more self-doubt than usual). With the support of the Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship, I completed Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens, which will be published by Ultimo Press in January 2022.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing journey?

I now know that I can only write a novel, one word at a time – no faster than that. I know there’s such beauty and achievement in the simple process of putting those words on a page. If I sit in the words and spend time with my characters, instead of worrying about the book I think I want to write, then a better book will emerge. If I give myself permission to write imperfect words, and trust that I can do better when I write the next draft and the next draft, then the book will come.

Which Australian authors or illustrators have been influential for your writing practice and career?

Great books are the best teachers. I reach for Emily Maguire when I want to channel a woman’s rage and reclamation of power, her courage as a writer makes me braver. Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North was a masterclass that changed how I write war. I read Roanna Gonsalves’ work because she holds space for others with such grace, intelligence and wit. Sweatshop and Maxine Beneba Clarke teach me to trust my own voice. Aravinda Adiga uses fiction like a scalpel to cut open life’s veneers and reveal its terrible inequalities. Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore made me work harder at saying more with less. Claire G Coleman should be mandatory reading for all Australians.

Learn more about Shankari Chandran at