“Vegetarian Burgers,” one of Bharti Kirchner’s cookbook, was published in 1996.
Photo by Rob Rose
By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
She started off as an engineer but later realized her true passion was in writing. She is now considered a pioneer in her field but more importantly, Bharti Kirchner is a believer in pursuing dreams.
The renowned author was born and raised in India. Being a bit of a travel guru, she has also lived in France and Holland before finally settling down in Seattle in 1984.
She was first inspired by other published writers, often times after reading a great book. However, she has come to realize that “inspiration really has to come from within.”
Kirchner explained that an outsider could not inspire one to write a book. For example, with her latest novel, about pastry set in both Seattle and Japan, she conducted research and studied Japanese culture because she wanted to understand and experience it for herself.
She has loved writing since she was a child. Growing up in India, she lived with three generations of her family in the same house. Her grandfather would pick an Indian classic and read to the younger generations. She remembers being five years old, too young to participate in discussions, but still able to absorb the stories. Everything stayed with her and she continues to love reading. “Reading is what got me into writing,” she said.
What is surprising to some is that Kirchner started off her career in technology. She was a systems engineer for IBM and a systems manager for Bank of America. Her transition into writing took off when one day she realized that she got tired of the technical world.
She made a bold move of quitting her job. She was apprehensive at first but quickly snapped into gear after taking some writing classes. It didn’t take long until she started publishing her own work. During the transition, Kirchner continued to work in order to support herself.
“Sometimes you can’t get into the field you want and may have to wait a little but it is possible,” she said.
Kirchner is constantly striving to produce her finest work. She feels that writing is limitless and therefore “there’s always room for improvement as a writer.” There are always new genres to try which is what she finds fascinating about writing.
She has already published four novels, four cookbooks, hundreds of magazine articles and is working on a children’s novel. Kirchner always has works in progress and ideas ruminating in her head. Currently, she has a few ideas for a new novel and several feature story ideas waiting to be pitched to editors. She remains — to this day — an avid reader.
On top of interacting with the literary world, she also enjoys interacting with the community and attends panel discussions where writers unite to inspire one another with one another’s creative ideas. Kirchner wants to encourage them to pursue their dreams.
Another important extracurricular activity of hers is her commitment to volunteer work. “It has nothing to do with writing but I always have something going on,” she said. “These projects help me connect to the bigger world, and it helps to always have a perspective of something bigger than what I am currently working on.”
Among her various activities is the UW’s South Asia Department’s Oral History Project where she has served in their advisory committee for a number of years and has been quite involved.
To Kirchner, it is a tremendous honor to be considered a pioneer by her peers. She could not imagine in her wildest dreams that she would be given such a worthy title. ♦
For more information about Bharti Kirchner and her work, please visit www.bhartikirchner.com.
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.