Interview with Musfira Shaffi, 2017 Montegrappa Writing Prize runner-up


What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve been writing since as far as I remember; writing in journals when I was a teenager, writing fan fiction on planes. Writing calms me down so it’s just something I’ve always done. I started writing the book that became my Montegrappa entry two years ago.

Who are your favourite authors?

I still remember reading Matilda for the first time when I was 6, and wanting to eat margarine on toast with her in Miss Honey’s bare apartment – a testament to the lasting effects of Roald Dahl’s work. I can always revisit the emotion and movement in Virginia Woolf’s writing: Mrs Dalloway is a sensory journey across London that I take over and over. I am currently reading George Saunders. He is wildly inventive and very funny.

Could you tell us a little bit about your winning entry?

My entry is about a twenty-something Pakistani girl who is on the cusp of entering an arranged marriage when she discovers a dating app called Tinder instead. I wanted to write about the coexistence of the traditional practice of arranged marriage and the prevalence of dating apps in the lives of many South Asian millennials today, and the way they might deal with the inevitable clash of these opposing forces. 

What was it like winning the Montegrappa Writing Prize 2017?

 It was unreal, my heart was pumping so loudly I couldn’t hear any of what Luigi said after he started talking about the winning entries. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I wish I could frame that moment and hang it forever. 

What’s next for you and your writing?

I am polishing up the final draft and getting this book ready for publishing. Then, to quote Jay Z, it’s ‘on to the next one!’.