Mitali Perkins

Grant and Brooke explore the many ways in which writers might cross borders—geographically, creatively, in their life experiences. Guest Mitali Perkins speaks to the experience of crossing borders in life and in fiction, and has inspiring words for listeners about following their inner compass when it comes to writing. This episode touches upon how we use our life experience in our writing, the value of being authentic to yourself and your readers, and reading as another vehicle for crossing borders.


Mitali Perkins was born in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. Mitali lived in India, Ghana, Cameroon, London, New York City, and Mexico City before settling in the San Francisco Bay Area when she was in middle school. She studied political science at Stanford University and public policy at U.C. Berkeley, surviving academia thanks to a steady diet of kids’ books from public libraries and bookstores, and went on to teach middle school, high school, and college students. Mitali’s books include You Bring the Distant Near, Tiger Boy, Rickshaw Girl, and many others. Find Mitali on Twitter @MitaliPerkins.

Writing Action: Get Out of Your Writing Skin

There are many ways to get out of your writing skin, and this exercise suggests three things writers might try:

1) If you write mainly in one genre, try or borrow from another genre. If you’re writing a memoir, see what it feels like to write a romance scene. If you’re writing commercial fiction, maybe you want to move into a personal narrative to connect yourself more deeply to a particular character. These can be simple exercises to shake things up, or you might end up discovering a passion for a new genre.

2) Try on another point of view. A simple change in perspective can really change the way a story is told.

3) Take a look at who your characters are. For instance, if all your protagonists are male, consider writing a female protagonist and see what opens up for you. I was a young writer, most of my stories formed themselves around a male protagonist–to the point that I was embarrassed, so I challenged myself to write from a female protagonist’s point of view. This is one of the benefits of writing–to see the world through another person’s eyes.

Crossing borders is a type of cross-training. You can learn from different approaches to broaden yourself as a writer and person.

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