It's been a busy year for Anjali Bhimani as she's debuted new voices in video games, taken part in Critical Role, and now has a new book on the way. A few weeks ago she revealed her new book I Am Fun Size, And So Are You! was up on Kickstarter trying to get funding. As so when we're writing this, the project has received full funding with just over two weeks to go and stretch goals to achieve. Before it ends, we had a chance to revisit with Anjali to talk about the book and what she's been up to since we last chatted.
AB: Hey Anjali! First thing, how have you been doing during the pandemic?
BC: Hey hey! That's such a tricky question to answer, I think, for everyone. Overall, given the world's circumstances, I'm doing well—my family and friends have mostly been safe and I'm grateful that I've been able to use my work and my voice to help people who have been struggling during this time. It's definitely been challenging, of course, but again, I know I've been very lucky to have my loved ones nearby and to have enough of a sense of safety and security that I've been free to reach out and help others who have been hurting or struggling more.
Aside from work, what have you been doing to keep yourself busy during that time?
Well, for one, I've written a book! (I know we'll talk about it in a minute so I'll leave that for later.) But really a lot of my time has been trying to figure out two main things. One is how to be of better service to the communities I care about—whether local or in person or online or more. Since I was in a safe space during the beginning of lockdown, I focused a lot of my energy on charity work and getting resources to people who weren't so fortunate. And after things were less immediately dire, I wanted to figure out how to make sure I could keep being of service in my day-to-day. The second focus I've had has been how to diversify the creative outlets I have in my life so I can still be creating while certain outlets aren't available. And of course, I've used a lot of the time to enjoy my family more—I think Charley (my dog) has never been happier because he finally has his humans home all day (and I'm enjoying being with Charley's other human a lot too). I've also been doing a ton of reading, which is my favorite "antenna-adjuster". I just love books so much.
Recently you had a chance to play a character in Critical Role's miniseries Exandria Unlimited. How was it for you to play Fy'ra Rai?
Much like doing anything with the gang at Critical Role, it was wonderful. I had such a beautiful experience with them doing Undeadwood a couple of years ago then getting to come back for another campaign—especially after the year we had last year—felt like a huge blessing. The chance to be around dear friends and connect with new ones doing one of my favorite things – and doing it with people that are this talented and kind and fun—it was food for the soul. And Fy'ra Rai is definitely one of my favorite characters I've ever played: I loved stepping into her confidence and bravado while also getting to share her vulnerability at times. I miss her already.
You also got to become the voice of Rampart in Apex Legends last year. How has it been taking on another popular character in a video game franchise?
It's been wonderful—the team at Respawn and the entire Apex cast are very tight and they have been incredibly welcoming from day one. Add to that that the Apex community is so full of excitement and love as well, and it's an embarrassment of riches. I'm also tremendously grateful to be able to be part of another game that is so diverse and inclusive in its storytelling and its characters—I love that the gaming world is continuing to show us complex and unique people and storylines that help more people feel included in the world, both the world of the game and the world at large.
Getting to the book, just so those who don't know have some context, how did the I Am Fun Size series come about?
It was mainly fueled by my desire to give something back to the incredible online community that I had connected with in 2016 and 2017. I knew I wanted to give something back to them because they had been so open and generous with their art, their support, their creativity, and their kindness. A lot of people were DM-ing me and asking for life advice and I realized that the one thing I have to offer that no one else does is my unique set of experiences and the lessons I've learned from them. And while "Fun Size" is usually used for small things, I use the term in a different way—I think we're ALL Fun Size because we are all built to lead fun, huge, wonderful lives. And I want to help people feel as big on the inside as they possibly can.
The timing happened because one night, I randomly asked people to do a Fan Art Friday with me on Twitter and people were so fast and generous that I finally told myself to quit waiting for the perfect time and just get this idea out in the world. So I did a quick video saying what the series would be about, made an email address for people to send in their questions, put it up and that was it—I Am Fun Size was born.
What was it like building that up and making new content all the time with your friends and colleagues?
Wildly satisfying. I've said it before, around the time I started the series it really started to feel like the first time in my life that my career and my personal purpose felt completely in line, and being able to do it with friends who also use their voices for good. I am ridiculously lucky that the people I call friends also happen to be some of the people I admire most in the world, so getting to share their insights with the audience has been fantastic. Being able to use storytelling—whether through my own stories and life lessons or through shows or plays or musicals or role-playing games—as a way to help people see their own strength and be able to connect to their own power is really aligned with how I want to be in the world. It was also so special to receive the feedback that I would get at conventions or online from people who had been touched by the series. I remember speaking to one person in New Orleans who had been experiencing crippling anxiety who said that one episode had encouraged them to reach out and get help, and that now they had gotten a job and were about to take courses to pursue their dream career. To be ANY part of that incredible journey is very humbling, and it's a great reminder that the smallest bit of help or encouragement can change someone's life.
At what point did you look at what you had and thought about turning it into a book?
Early on a few people had mentioned it, and I've always enjoyed writing, but I just needed the circumstances to be a little more aligned for it to happen. With the pandemic it felt like doing more online content would be fine, but I wanted to give people a new way to connect with the message of the series (and frankly, we were all spending so much time on our screens I wanted to offer an alternative). I was reconnecting with my love of reading and of writing so much during those months that it just seemed like a very logical step both for me and for others, to reach a new and potentially different audience through the book.
What was the process like in putting the book together and deciding what worked best?
Putting it together in terms of writing the first draft was pretty smooth—I basically wrote every section I wanted to write on a post-it note, put it on a timeline on my wall, and went through and knocked it out…along with adding new sections that I was inspired to write as I went along. I've had the sense of what I wanted the book to be since before I wrote it, so it was just about the actual act of sitting down to write. I tend to do best with writing when I isolate myself and force myself to focus only on that one task, so I woke up around 4am every day so that I would have time that I knew I would have no interruptions—even Charley Dog wouldn't wake up that early to go out, he just snuggled back into bed—and I could hit my writing fresh before the day's responsibilities took over. As for what works best, we are still in edits of the book and I'm still experimenting with a few things to make sure the structure of it is the most aligned with the message. And now the biggest challenge is not to want to write another 300 pages because the more I write the more I want to write!
Without revealing too much, what are some of your favorite additions to this book?
My favorite additions? Or my favorite sections? If you mean additions, it's a tie. One of my favorites is the glorious illustrations that Vivian Truong has been working on to accompany the sections. She's one of my favorite artists I've met over the last five years, and her style is very much in line with the feeling I want this book to have. The other favorite is the addition of little quotes from my guests on the series—there are things that some of them said in the series that are absolutely worth repeating … in the book and in life! As far as favorite sections, I think so far it's a tie between the section I have about how I learned what it meant to "love yourself" and the two sections I have about two of the most extraordinarily inspirational women I've had a chance to connect with—Arianna Huffington and Sara Bareilles. Both of them have had a huge effect on my life in recent years through very seemingly small actions on their parts, and I love having the chance to honor them in the book.
What made you decide to go through the self-publishing route and fund it through Kickstarter?
Well, this series started as something for the community, and the book as well, so it felt only right to offer it this way before putting it through a traditional publishing process. With Kickstarter, I have the chance to offer people who back the campaign more than just the book—the rewards tiers are largely connected to having more access to me—online and in-person – and other collaborators who have contributed to the series (I'm especially excited about the game night offerings we have with B. Dave Walters…those are going to be so fun to fulfill!) Plus, with Kickstarter, it gives me the freedom to share the book in a special "Kickstarter exclusive" edition to those who support the cause, which makes these early copies I'll be printing up very special. And finally, the more we raise through the Kickstarter the more I can do for the community as well—at the present moment, we're aiming for adding all illustrations in color and, the thing I'm most excited about so far, doing the audiobook. And I'd love to add some personal appearances surrounding the book itself to the mix after I get this out, but again, will depend on how far we fund it whether I can make that happen.
Once the funding is over, what are the next steps for you to getting it published? And about when are you aiming for release?
Once funding is over, the next steps are finishing the layout and final edits, then doing a special print run just for the Kickstarter and making sure those copies get to all the backers by February as I've planned (which will hopefully include recording the audiobook if we get to that stretch goal, along with some more exciting possibilities if we fund further), and then talking with publishers to see if I'm going to continue doing this all on my own or if we can get the book into stores nationwide. While I know most people buy books online these days, I really do want it to be something people can trip on in their local bookstore or at the airport or other places as well. I have a personal affinity for hard copies of a book—the act of reading them, the feel of it—and I want to encourage more people to enjoy that experience. And it would be lovely for the book to find a wider audience because I really do want to be able to bring the message of ALL of us being Fun Size to as many people as possible. As for when I'm aiming for a wider release, that will depend on the feedback from publishers after we finish the run for backers…I'd love to do a book tour surrounding the release, so I'm eager to hear the timeline for wider release as well!
Is there anything else you'd like to chat about before we go?
I think for a lot of people, whether they feel comfortable admitting it or not, it's easier to imagine that they can't have the happiness or success or love or connection that they want than to realize it is absolutely available to them. What I want people to know most of all from this book is that we ALL have challenges, we all have moments of doubt or fear or feeling not good enough or not worthy of a huge life. But the truth is, there is always someone—MANY "someones"—out there willing to help us find the life we want to lead and cheer us on as we stumble our way toward it. We may not always be graceful, but we are always worthy of finding it. So I hope everyone who checks out this book or this series or even just this article can lean into that, can believe me when I say it, and know that they're not alone.