In the Spotlight

An open mic; bare it all interview with today’s guest — Dazzling Shene

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Coffee Times: The Interview Series

Hi, friends! How are you? I hope you are having an amazing day! Welcome to the weekend interview series with Coffee Times. Today’s special is served with a lot of sparkles; a drizzle of honey and a dollop of cream with me; your Cinammony guest from the Southeast; Dazzling Shene.

I know what you are thinking; shouldn’t the host introduce me? Well, this is a different interview; I’m your Medium of truth; the lovely host Drashti Shroff has given me the stage to contemplate my introduction.

I get to introduce myself and then Drashti Shroff will join in shortly and ask me questions that I will answer earnestly. Since, when have I ever done anything the traditional way? :)

To be a poet or not be; An Introduction

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I am currently number 4th on the Medium top writer’s list in Poetry with 274 stories published in just 6 months. I started my journey in April 2021 and started writing poetry seriously from June 2021.

I didn't even know I was a top writer in poetry until a friend congratulated me. It was never about making it to the top of the list but about writing my heart and soul. Thank you to all my followers for all your kind support.

I’m known for my thought-provoking poetry on a diverse range of subjects from love to war, injustice to discrimination, short fiction storytelling poetry to life lessons, spiritual poetry, and haikus; you name it and I will write a poem for you.

I have participated in many poetry prompts and learned many forms and styles of poetry along the way on my Medium journey. I had no formal training to write poetry.

I’m also known for my strong, honest opinions on Medium. I am currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Management Sciences. I have a bachelor's in business administration and an MBA as well.

A Cuppa with Dazzling Shene

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Is blogging a sacred experience for you? What is your major inspiration behind writing?

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Blogging is not a hobby for me; it is my soul etched on a white blank canvas; a few keyboard strokes later; Abracadabra and magic happens. Writing is like painting, you never know what the end outcome will be like. I go with the flow, where ever my emotions take me and I have many of them brimming up for a chance to get away. It comes easily now.

In the beginning, I had to spend hours researching the concept and finding the perfect synonym; now with experience, it takes less time.

I never blogged before Medium. As a matter of fact, I never even kept journals or diaries but I always wrote for those I love. My inspiration is to be just me and get it all out of my system. Writing heals faster than waiting for ethers of time.

I want to inspire people to think for themselves and motivate them that no situation is too difficult to get out of; we all have it tough in one way or another; you have to fight through it. I try my best to write self-help poems.

When and how did you come across Medium and found it a fit platform to share your beautiful poetry?

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Thank You, for appreciating my poetry. I first came across Medium in February when I saw a friend's stories. Unfortunately, she has ghosted Medium and opted for her own blog. I thought: “ This looks easy, I don’t have to go through the hassle of purchasing a domain name, maintaining, and promoting my blog”. It takes time and effort and the marketing plan just put me off from writing for so long.

Medium has an established writer’s community and you get instant feedback unlike on your blogs. It is instant gratification if that’s what you are looking for. A direct, prompt response to your stories; other people's highlights on your poetry, helps you see your poem in a different light.

Reading other writers' work, expands your mind and helps the creativity rivers, circuit freely.

Purchasing a good domain name is not that cheap either. Promoting the blog so that the algorithm recognizes you would require you to learn everything about SEO optimization. It was a lot of effort that I was not willing to invest in at that time. Now, I realize maybe, it’s not that difficult.

If you put your mind to something, you can achieve anything.

Do you feel that only a few among the readers can understand, appreciate and acknowledge the creativity behind poetry? In other words, does writing poems restrict the audience for you?

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I write short-form, Op-Ed, short fiction stories, and essays as well but poetry is my niche and I’m recognized most by it. It takes time to come up with a good essay piece. I’m a meticulous editor but in poetry, I can create my own words, make my own story so it is less hassle. And poetry comes naturally to me, it is easier for me to express myself in poetry than in long essays.

In my experience on Medium I realized; people like poetry under 5 minutes, the most reads are for poetry’s duration of 3 minutes; at least that’s the case for my poetry. I can only write what works for me. What works for me, might not work for you. Check your stats and observe carefully the trends and you will get the answers.

The longer pieces get likes if it is a new concept or a different approach or a new take on an old concept but usually short poetry and haikus do well with all audiences.

Most people who follow me are writers of essays and not all of them are poets. There are a limited number of poetry writers on Medium and they have a tight circle. I remember that I was unwelcome at the start and I still am at some of the publications due to my faith.

You offend one with your opinion; you risk offending their friend's circle. So, if you are a poet, don’t look for followers who are only poets, always diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Sometimes competition can be too unhealthy. Medium is not a school; there are no trophies for the first, second, and third positions; so don’t make your life hell by competing with each other and pulling each other's legs. Here, I would like to remind everyone; life is not a competition or a Nike race; Just Do it; just be you and do you!

People look for variety and are seeking diversity and new perspectives; stories that touch them and make them feel will do well. Poetry boosts your audience, it does not restrict your followers.

It makes the writer feel, whatever emotions the author wants the audience to feel. It is a beautiful connection between souls.

Can you share something about your journey towards gaining 1.2 K followers? Which message/piece of advice would you like to give to new, aspiring poets for building a community on Medium?

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To be honest, my followers were much more than that; I check my followers' list quite often. If I feel that the account is fake, spam, or has malicious intentions, or is just made to target me or other fellow writers; I remove it.

This is not to discourage anyone. I love and am grateful to all my followers. It is to be authentic, responsible, and credible. Having been an avid social media user for ages; I can now spot out inconsistencies easily.

Never write for gaining followers. Write for yourself, write from your soul, write without fear of judgment or backlash. No one likes copies; don’t imitate, create.

This is the best advice I can give to new writers. People will follow you if you are genuine and true to yourself. Plagiarism also involves stealing ideas whether you do it on purpose or due to your ignorance. Always credit the original source. Each one of us has something unique to share, to gift to the world; don’t worry about your writing; practice makes perfect.

Use your talents to share your perspective; use your voice to enlighten, uplift others and yourself, and create awareness. Also, stay out of politics and religious debates. I learned the hard way; it costs you — your peace of mind.

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Use tags properly. The ones most used are with the most count and are often shown in brackets; use them. Your top writer tag will be picked by the algorithm with the tags you use in stories. Clap, comment, and respond to your followers and other writers on Medium. Follow people for follow-backs. The best way is to go to your niche circle (for instance your favorite poet's followers — check who they follow and who follows them and follow them; you are likely to get a follow back). Write every day and be consistent.

For new writers, check who inspires you, check where they publish, if you like the publications, become a writer, this will give you exposure. Go for niche publications instead of a general one. For instance, write for a poetry publication instead of a large publication that has a poetry tag.

The smaller publications will have a more regular and loyal fan base. Write for a variety of publications to increase your reach but make sure your values align with that publication's editor and the publication guidelines. For me, my patience runs thin if my story is ghosted in the draft for two days. It’s a fast pace world. Know yourself well enough to know what is acceptable and what is not. Set your own standards; whether you want a quick published work or you can wait for days; the choice is all yours. You have a right to have your say. Choose wisely at the start to avoid regrets later on.

I have also realized to limit the story to a maximum of two pictures; anything more than that, takes time to upload on mobiles and people get irritated and don’t read your story. I came to know about a month ago that a full-sized image takes more time to upload; so you are good with a medium-sized image.

The last thing is to support your fellow writers, those not on the Medium membership. Clap and comment on their stories as well. You will get loyal fans.

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Always be kind. Highlight other writers' stories so they can get exposure and organize your reading list. Good luck. I hope this helped. And never unclap for a story; I had people who did that. It is considered rude. Either don’t applaud at all or don’t unclap later on. You get a notification for each clap. It looks awkward when the claps suddenly disappear.

If someone is bothering and targeting you for no reason, don’t waste your time and reason with them; you can’t remove them from your followers, so block them first and then unblock them. You can keep them blocked if you wish. You can also report them as targeting anyone is against Medium policies. Acquaint yourself with Medium rules and policies. No one is worth disrespecting you for a few bucks that you will earn on your stories. Always remember your worth.

I have seen other writers tag other fellow writers at the end of their stories. Although, a shout out is different but tagging a dozen or so writers might bring more eyes to your story; the tagged person is atleast obligated to respond but the person might feel they are dragged into something they
never asked to be a part in.

You will get claps and comments but too much of this tactic and it quickly gets annoying. Too much self promotion is also against the Medium Rules. Respect other person’s space and comfort zones.

The last advice, for new writers I want to reiterate is, that use your claps generously; unlike other social media handles, you can clap up to 50 times, just press the button till the times you want to clap and then release. One clap is considered rude; it is like leaving a penny for wait staff in a restaurant. There was a time when people were paid on Medium on the number of claps they received so it still itches for a few.

For the editors I would advise leaving no claps at all is absolutely rude and disrespectful; if you don’t like the piece, don’t publish it. Don’t leave the piece unattended like that. It shows you haven’t read it and skimmed through it. Be kind. Writers work hard on their stories, respect their art.

What do you do in your free time, other than writing?

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All I do is write and writing is not what I do in my free time 😁I do it all the time🥱😴 If I have free time apart from writing, I’m still glued to my laptop, watching seasons or movies. I love to cook 🍔🍳🌮🍜🍟🥚🌯🍚🍗🥩too, occasionally though. I have decided to be more productive and restart my painting🎨 and join some fun aerobics 🏋🏻‍♀️💃🏻classes. I love the late-night walks on my rooftop and I love to stargaze 🌟and watch the moon🌖🌛🌚🌜🌕🌓 walk (it follows you every where); it’s amazing to see it change its size and color as the days go by.

I also love going out with my family. I have a confession to make here; when I’m not on Medium or watching movies, I do online shopping. I have done it way before COVID, since 2014. Guilty! I occasionally read a book too; I have downloaded hundreds of soft copies and they are on my to-do list. Somehow; I procrastinate and watch a movie instead 😋Guilty again! In my free time, as you can see, I play with emojis !!! I used to play Candy Crush, a lot on my cell when it first came out, now I have deleted that addicting game. I also took selfies when I was younger :) Fun days! I used also stream all my social media handles; I was a social media addict; FB mainly, and YouTube as well.

I love to dance too when no one is watching in my room. I am pretty good at it and can choreograph my own steps ever since I was very little. I can groove , especially to Bollywood songs. Dancing and high intensity work outs are good for your health. I had a yoga mat and yoga block for years; laying dormant that I intend to use now. I’m planning to start yoga again. I have taken power yoga, Zumba and aerobics classes on and off since 2011. I loved to play badminton and swim but I have given those activities up; I intend to retake those lost activities and also finally be a hiking enthusiast. I having being wanting to explore the mountains for ages now.

Do you plan to reveal your true identity anytime soon? How is/was your experience of being anonymous?

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I’m not anonymous. Dazzling Shene is my nom de plume; my pen name. There is a bit of me in every piece I write. You will find my real name in one of my stories; if you closely search for it. What’s the fun if I highlight it for you (I actually did😉) . I intend to remain a mystery for those who want me to stay that way. For those who intend to find me, you’ll find me, eventually, if you look deep enough:)

The question is do you have the time and are you interested?

All jokes apart, I had used my real name in one of the poems I wrote early on in my journey. I also put up my own picture for a few hours but I changed it as I feel more comfortable this way. I do have a large following on other social media handles but I’m invisible on Instagram and Youtube. I intend to keep it that way as I’m a private person. My accounts are private. None of my followers are from any of my other social media handles.

The pen name gives me the freedom to express what I want to say without the fear of judgment and gets the creative juices flowing. My family has never judged me in my life and they are very supportive.

It is a great experience but I have revealed enough about myself, lately, in my stories and when I did; I did experience discrimination, that was not fun. So, I have seen both sides of the coin now.

What do you have to say about Medium statistics for poetry? How does it differ from conventional writing?

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I don’t know about other stats but I think my stats are doing pretty well. The other writing pieces apart from poetry if under 7 minutes, do well; anything above 10 minutes and you have views but fewer reads. I had 100% read ratios on quite a few poems. I once wrote an essay that was 19 minutes long; it had views but few reads.

Always divide long stories into two or more pieces. I read somewhere that stories up to or longer than 7 minutes get you the big bucks.

What matters the most for me is all the love I receive from my followers and other beautiful writers. So, keep sending your love; I see you, I value you :)

Do you have a favorite writer on Medium? If, yes would you like to give a name?

My favorite writer is a fellow poet, David Rudder. He’s the first name you will see when you search for top writers in poetry. It is a well earned and well deserved spot. He writes and reads consistently and his poetry is exquisite. I have archived a few of his poems. They all are beautiful pieces. He’s also a kind, down to earth and humble person who stays away from controversy. So, I like him as a person, as a friend and I respect and admire his craft as a poet.

I love all forms and styles of poetry whether it is written by a professional or an amateur. They all deserve a standing ovation, as do many other, beautiful writers on this platform.

To all my fellow writers and poets: I value you and your support and appreciate you.

What was the happiest moment of your life so far? An experience you would want to live again and why.

My best memories were on a trip to Swat; the river — azure; the air, fresh; Swat, paradise on earth; with my family and my late Mamu (My mum’s youngest brother). It was a beautiful, serene and glorious trip. It was my last trip with him. A few years later, he had an accident and passed away while still in his late twenties; everyone was shocked. He died too young.

He was the funniest, the most popular in his friends circle, and beloved by his family and friends alike; one of the smartest and kindest people you’ll ever meet. I have not met anyone close to him yet. It’s been 18 years and I still miss him. People like him come once in a century.

My best moments are yet to come. For most people; it is the sight and the touch of their first newborn. I don’t have that experience yet. That day somewhere in the future might as well be my happiest moment too. InshAllah!

What do you value more: Money, Intelligence, or kindness? What advice will you give to your followers before leaving?

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More than the money I value: Integrity, good character, and honesty.

There was a time when I was younger, I valued intelligence; now, I value kindness. There are a lot of smart people but they are not very kind. They are a lot of kind people but they are not very smart.

I will choose the kind person over smarty-pants, any day.

My advice for all of you beautiful souls is simple — Be you!

Leaving you all with a few lines from my soul to yours:

If you want respect you need to give respect too. Respect is earned, not demanded.

The only competition you should ever have should be with yourself!

Strive to be better today than you were yesterday; so you will raise a better tomorrow!

Never compare yourself with anyone else’s highlight reels!

I am grateful for each clap and comment on my stories. Thank you my lovelies :) ☕⚡🌞♨🔥🌊🌠⭐

© Dazzling Shene 2021

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Thank you so much, Drashti Shroff, for giving me the exciting opportunity to be part of the Coffee Times Interview series. I enjoyed answering the questions; all questions were prepared by Drashti except the last. The questions cover all aspects and I couldn’t have asked for a better host. Thank you for giving me space to improvise :)

I would also like to thank Winston; the editor and creator of Coffee Times for giving my voice a medium for projection.

Message from Drashti Shroff: I extend my heartiest thanks to Dazzling Shene for doing the interview with us. I hope you enjoyed reading her responses and gained something out of it. If you wish to know more about her, you can check out her About Me story shared below:

Drop in a response to engage. Don’t forget to show your support through the claps. Thanks to all for reading :)



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Dazzling Shene

A dreamer, a believer, a visionary, serpenting my way through the whirlwinds of life. Here to Razzle and bedazzle You~2 X Top writer in Poetry