After launching the Hummingbird Global Writers’ Circle, Debotri Dhar had clear expectations for early meetings.
She was quite ready to be the only participant.
But people showed up, listened intently to her and other authors reading their books, and shared meaningful conversations that informed Dhar that her vision for the circle was achievable.
“For the first two years, I always traveled with the idea that no one would show up,” said Dhar, senior lecturer II in women’s and gender studies at LSA. “I’ll just be this Indian woman standing there saying, ‘Hello, is anyone here?’ And that never happened.
Dhar pitched the idea for a writers’ circle in December 2016, during a visit with other writers to his PhD’s New York home. supervisor at Rutgers University. Dhar loves to travel and wondered if the residents of the Tribeca Heritage House thought a transnational, traveling literary initiative was plausible.
“The idea was to go to these different places and find independent bookstores, nonprofits, and other local places that are hubs for writers,” she said. “Invite the community to come and read their work, and we would have a theme and everyone would read around it. We would have a mix of established and emerging writers and also welcome those who only think about writing.
Dhar said she centered the idea on the hummingbird, a small but determined bird that is “a model of strength and resilience.”
While the first Hummingbird Global Writers’ Circle meeting and book reading took place in New York, Dhar planned and organized literary gatherings in California, Oregon, Wisconsin and Texas. She also hosted one in Michigan, at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender on the UM campus.
Each event has a theme, sometimes location-centric and sometimes unrelated. Past themes have included the writing of genre, myth, labor, homes and rugged hills – the latter of which align perfectly with one of the settings, in the shadow of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains in 2017.
Dhar promotes upcoming tours on the Hummingbird Global Writers’ Circle Facebook page. The page started with a modest four followers – Dhar, his parents and his sister – but has since grown to over 600 followers.
“My heart feels full just thinking about it. There was such warmth among people who didn’t know me and I didn’t know them,” she said of the competitions. , what I remember are these wonderful friendships. Many of those who attended a Hummingbird meet are on my Facebook. We keep in touch and often share our work with each other.
That’s not to say Dhar wants to see hundreds of people at the next in-person meeting. She said the ideal size for a gathering is around 20 people, but as travel has been scrambled by the COVID-19 pandemic, two virtual get-togethers allowed audiences of up to 200 to attend. .
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The last in-person meet was in Dallas, TX at the Dallas Fairmont in May 2019. Hummingbird’s first virtual meet was in April 2020, with the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also hosted a virtual get-together in October 2020 that included one of her literature classes with David James Poissant, author of “Lake Life,” a New York Times Editors’ Choice pick.
“We have aspiring writers in this class, so I’ve had students reading alongside and being heard by this award-winning author,” Dhar said. “He was very encouraging and the students told me afterwards that it was great and that they loved it.”
As successful as virtual dating is, a hummingbird is not a bird in a cage, and Dhar is looking forward to taking the Writers Circle across the country once again. A love-themed get-together, scheduled for Atlanta in January, has been postponed to April and will take place in person.
Dhar hopes to visit Seattle for another meeting later this summer. She has received invitations to visit 11 countries to host get-togethers, including her native India, she said.
At the heart of the encounters – along with the theme, venue, and food – are the discussions and conversations that result from the readings. Dhar said disagreements are encouraged, as long as they are communicated in a warm and welcoming manner.
“We’re going to do it in a way that encourages dialogue and nurtures friendships,” she said. “It’s harder than it looks, but we’ve managed it in literary encounters so far. I’m extremely grateful and humbled and frankly amazed that it’s worked out as well as it did. has done for so many competitions.
Questions and answers
What memorable workplace moment stands out?
One such moment was when a student wanted to write a blog about my work and my travels from India to the UK to the US, for Women’s History Month. As an author who writes in all genres – scholarly, creative nonfiction, fiction – my work is covered by newspapers and magazines, even around the world, but that’s a whole different area of enjoyment.
What can’t you live without?
Good books, good work, good friends, good food (spicy!). More creativity, growth and a strong sense of adventure, challenging my own limits and exploring new horizons. The destination does not matter; it’s more about the journey, its risks and rewards.
Name your favorite place on campus.
So much. Michigan League, the fountains, Hill Auditorium for cultural events, the Diag where I sometimes stand and gaze at Central Campus, the steps of Angell Hall and the library, the green canopy of trees under which we read in the spring and in summer.
What inspires you?
The life stories of talented people from modest backgrounds, with no inherited wealth or family ties, who achieve remarkable things for themselves and for society. I grew up in houses with leaky ceilings, long power cuts (we called it load shedding) and an apartment so small my dad had to bend over. New books were a luxury, and yet I was still privileged. Humanitarian leadership from modest backgrounds, with a global and innovative vision, inspires me.
What are you currently reading?
“Autotheory as Feminist Practice” by Lauren Fournier, “Blue Horses” and other poems by Mary Oliver, “Silence is my Mother Tongue” by Sulaiman Addonia.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career path?
My master’s supervisor at Oxford, Colin Brock, and my PhD. supervisor at Rutgers, Mr. Josephine Diamond, who strongly supported my work and my need for independent judgment. Here at UM, I must mention Gloria Thomas, then director of the Center for Women’s Education. I was only a visiting scholar, but always formally introduced and welcomed, and never belittled or belittled. She gave me a winter coat when I was cold, invited me into her home and her big, beautiful kitchen where I could cook to my heart’s content, and always continues to support my career goals and accomplishments.