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Why, hello, 2017! Here already?

5 January 2017
Posted in: Scratchpad, Writeside | No Comments

Over the past few years, I find that we (my contemporaries and I, that is) have been talking more and more about how the years are ticking by faster than ever before. As it turns out, this is an obligatory topic of conversation that becomes increasingly important as one gets older (move over, weather). Scientists have even been studying it and coming up with theories on why this is so.

My favourite theory is that the older you get, the years are proportionately smaller. So, when you’re 10, a year is a 10th of your life; when you’re 40, it’s only a 40th. Add to that my personal ability to spend copious amounts of time doing absolutely nothing, this means that 2017 is likely to race by tamely. Thus, am taking the chance here to declare that 2017 will be a year of blogging. Yes, it will!

Back in 2015 I’d promised myself one short story a month. Please feel free to insert an eyeroll here. Alarmingly enough, I’m not even sure what I’d resolved for 2016, and judging by the almost-criminal neglect of the blog, it’s perhaps a subject one should leave aside.

What what’s the plan for 2017? Well, a weekly blogging plan is on the agenda, the subject will be revealed in a day or so.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year, world.



I’ll take the book, thank you

13 August 2016
Posted in: Scratchpad | 1 Comment

(NOTE: This blog post topic is brought to you by Marie: “Least favourite book to movie adaptation”. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to pretend that movie and TV series are the same thing.)

I started reading Stephen King’s Under the Dome after having watched the first few episodes of the TV series. It wasn’t that the TV series was bad—apart from the fact that Julia Shumway and Barbie were super-irritating—but the book dragged me in and swept me away. After that, going back to the series was frustrating and I eventually gave it up.

There may be spoilers below for the book.

So what was so terrible about the series? Hard to say—perhaps without the book, it would have kept me hooked. But if you thought that moving picture is worth tens of thousands of words, you are mistaken. First, there is Stephen King’s writing. In the book, though the cool slicing of the cow in half doesn’t happen, the disaster is so much more palpable; watching it seemed like they were doing things just for the spectacle of it.

Also, the characters. Julia Shumway was dolled up in the series, making her a younger woman, mostly to make her budding romance with Dale Barbara more palatable for sexist idiots. The relationship between them in the book was much more interesting.

I could go on and on, but the TV series was needlessly stretched and spiced up to prolong it, whereas the book is a tightly told, albeit massive, story. As far as I recall, the events in the book happened in the span of a few days or so, and there was something about smoke and heat being trapped inside the dome, slowly killing everyone. Thus, the tension was intense as well. Very few people survived. In all honesty, I can’t say how the series turned out, but even watching just one season made it clear that they were going to milk various inane storylines for all they were worth.

To reiterate, I’ll take the book any day, thank you.



Lessons on turing 10

14 March 2016
Posted in: Books, Scratchpad, Writing | 4 Comments

Writer at workTen years seems like an interminable period of time when you say it. Yet, the years between turning 30 and turning 40 seemed like a will o’ the wisp, slipping out of my grasp even before I felt I had a chance to get a good grip on them. Plenty happened of course, good, bad and ugly, but the most important development for me was that I became an author.

I made my first “book” when I was seven—painstakingly handwritten and illustrated, and stapled together, a gift for my grandparents—and somehow since then always knew that what I really wanted was to write books. It took more than twenty years to eventually write one, and finally, two days before I turned 30, I saw my name on the cover of a book (that I hadn’t put there). It still feels like yesterday.

And while I can now cringe at some of the stuff I’ve written—and had published—I’d have to admit, that it still feels good to see the spines lined up on my shelf. So, this seems like a good time to laugh about what I’d thought the life of an author would be like and contrast it with reality.

The writing life

What I thought: The ideas keep coming thick and fast, and life is a great big adventure writing one book after another.

Reality: Any author who tells you that writing isn’t hard work is lying; and anyone who thinks writing for teens and younger audiences is easy doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I do say that with a sense of perspective—of course, it’s not hard work in the sense of breaking stones at midday in 40-degrees heat to get your next meal. There are always more ideas fighting for space in your head than the ones that get written. And giving shape to them is always a painstaking process of putting one word in front of the other. All of this is made more difficult by the fact that, as Somerset Maugham once said, “There are three rules to writing fiction. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” There are some wonderfully prolific authors out there—and I’m duly jealous of them at times—but the wisdom that you can’t measure yourself by someone else’s yardstick does come with time.

Making a living

What I thought: I will make a decent enough living from writing.

Reality: Yes, you can. If you’re J.K. Rowling. Most authors, and I believe this is true around the world, will encourage anyone aspiring to join their ranks to hang on to their day job or have a backup plan that brings in enough cash to cover essentials. It helps to have a rich significant other, though you’re probably too busy writing to find one. Overall, no, writing books for children is not a sustainable career choice; you do it because you like it and because you have other means of supporting yourself. Because, believe me, the starving author may be a romantic metaphor but it’s a horrible reality.

Publishers and editors

I’m too old to think this, but this is prevailing wisdom in certain circles: Traditional publishing is on its way out and self-publishing is the new order.

Reality: Technology has made it very easy to be your own publisher, but underestimate the importance of the traditional editorial process at your own risk. There are many self-published successes, but the vast majority comprises substandard books that have not had the benefit of a professional editor vetting them. You may not always agree with your editor—indeed, you shouldn’t agree all the time or else it doesn’t seem like either of is are doing much thinking—but they can be the voices of reason that knock your crazy idea into shape and make it palatable for its intended (and hopefully paying) audience. If you’re lucky—and I have been for the most part—you will worship your editor at times and other times you will want to strangle them, but that’s okay (as long as you don’t actually do it).

Walking into bookshops

What I thought: Every bookshop I walk into will have a shelf full of my works and that will make it all worthwhile.

Reality: Some of this is not really the fault of my overactive imagination, but has to do with the strange place that Indian children’s fiction occupies in the literary space, namely, that distribution is a nightmare. This makes homegrown books notoriously hard to find in bookshops. If you’re lucky, you might find one of your books lying disconsolately in one dusty corner on a shelf marked “Indian writing”. If you seek out the store manager and ask about stock, well, let’s say it won’t be good news. Online marketplaces have changed things a bit and, to be fair, things are in flux at the moment. Moreover, as young adult writers in English, we’re competing with world-renowned authors from the West, backed by generous (or at least more generous than ours) marketing budgets. That would be a whole new rant discussion, so let’s drop it for now.

Being an “established” author

What I thought: I don’t know!

Reality: Actually, does this even mean? Especially if your particular dream isn’t to be recognized on the streets or be mobbed for autographs? Most children’s authors in India are relatively unknown entities (except in publishing circles, where our favourite pastime is to meet over our choice of food and drink and talk about this). Another back-to-reality smack is to be aware of the fact that as a writer in English, our audience is extremely limited. (Add to this the fact that if you [oh, all right I] have a reluctance to go out and face your audience, you complicate matters even more.) But, as mentioned earlier, things are changing. Over the past few years, the range, quality and number of books has suddenly shot up, and there is much more visibility of books and their makers. Hopefully, in the near future, when I tell someone I write books for children, they won’t ask if that’s because I haven’t quite managed to write for adults.



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