Why Reema Patel’s Such Big Dreams Isn’t ‘A Boring Law Story’ – The Varsity

In early 2012, Reema Patel enrolled in a Certificate Program in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. At the time, Patel, a 2011 graduate of the University of Windsor’s Juris Doctor program, was articled at a law firm. She was waiting to be called to the Bar of Ontario, where she would receive a Qualification certificate, be take an oath and register as a lawyer.

“I was kind of at the point where I was like, ‘This can’t be it. I don’t feel stimulated,” Patel explained in an interview with the university. “’I don’t feel like I made the right career choice. I need to do something to make me feel whole again. ”

Ten years after enrolling in this creative writing program, Patel’s first novel, Dreams so big, will be released on May 10 by McClelland & Stewart. The lawyer and author discussed the inspiration for her novel, navigating the publishing industry and the themes of her novel in an interview with the university.

U of T and Penguin Random House Competition

Patel didn’t enroll at U of T with the goal of writing a novel — instead, her only goal was to “do something creative.” On a whim, Patel signed up for an introductory novel course, where she built the character of Rakhi, the protagonist of Dreams so big. This class also inspired Patel to enroll in additional creative writing classes – “Because I was doing work that I ended up really enjoying,” she said.

Although Patel did not complete his certificate – she took about five courses – she attributes the “motivation” that drove her to finish her novel to her time at U of T. She also praised the “strong element” of peer review and workshop in the creative writing classes, which she says have helped her better understand her work.

“[It] is a valuable tool for a writer, because not only experts but everyday people read and comment on your work, so you know how it is received and consumed by people,” Patel explained.

While at U of T, Patel also entered the second chapter of her novel into an annual school-wide creative writing award sponsored by Penguin Random House. The first time Patel entered, she was shortlisted. The second time she entered, she won.

“I was thinking, might [Such Big Dreams] actually be a complete novel? Patel said.

The publishing industry

Once Patel had finished writing the first draft of Dreams so big she created a spreadsheet of the various agencies in the Canadian literary scene. “I went through their agents, and I noted who was looking for what kind of books and [then I] tailored my query to those that…were most relevant,” Patel explained, noting that she submitted to about 20 agents.

Patel ended up hiring editor Anita Chong, whom the author described as his “hands down favorite editor”, due to her vision and enthusiasm for Dreams so big. In the end, it took Patel and Chong four years to edit the novel – “Because [we] wanted the book to be the best version of itself, and sometimes you have to give the art time,” Patel said.

“I was so lucky to have signed with a literary agent who really saw the value in the story,” she added. “And who recognized that it was not just a story about India, but a very human story that everyone could relate to.”

Patel also described herself as “lucky” because her editor also recognized these themes when her agent submitted them to her. “They were like, ‘This is a book that we want to publish, a book that … a lot of people can relate to,’” Patel said.

“Not a boring law story”

Dreams so big explores the story of its protagonist, Rakhi, who lives in Mumbai and works for the human rights organization Justice For All. Rakhi is affected by the sudden presence of Rubina, a former Bollywood starlet who seeks to become a celebrity ambassador for Rakhi’s workplace. Rubina requests an internship for her family friend Alex, who soon persuades Rakhi to show her “the real India” in exchange for him pursuing Rakhi’s dreams. Much of its plot was “loosely based” on Patel’s experiences living abroad during his undergraduate studies.

“They don’t do them anymore – the International Development Agency has sponsored internships for Canadians to go overseas and work in organizations that have done international development in different ‘developing countries’,” Patel explained. “I asked for one and got one in Mumbai.”

Patel, who lived overseas for about a year, said that during the program she “basically funded and programmed children and young people living on the streets”. After completing her undergraduate degree, Patel returned to Mumbai, where she had received a scholarship.

“[I] was exposed to the workings of human rights law in India, which is very different from how it is in Canada,” Patel explained. “Just like in my book, the organization relied on foreign funding, for example, to survive. So it also contributed to my general knowledge of a topic that I ended up wanting to write about.

Although much of her book’s plot revolves around the legal world, Patel explains that she “didn’t want it to be like a boring legal story”.

“It’s not fun for a lot of people,” she said. Instead, Patel wanted his readers to understand human rights law and public interest litigation procedure. “it was not [rammed] down people’s throats. »

“I think the main character’s experiences are universal in terms of…we want things, but people tell us [that] we can’t have them because of who we are or where we come from,” Patel said. “I know, especially for young women, the whole impostor syndrome is really real.

“I think [Such Big Dreams] is super relevant today,” Patel concluded. “But it’s also a bit persistent, I think. I mean, who knows where we’ll be in 10 years.

Dreams so big will be published on May 10 by McClelland & Stewart.

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