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Cakes and candles: The 2017 version

24 January 2017
Posted in: Gaming, Scratchpad, Web design, Writeside, Writing | No Comments


Here we go again, time to get excited about turning yet another year older. I’ll be honest: my favourite part about birthdays is cake (chocolate) and presents (many), not necessarily in that order. But because I don’t want to appear shallow, it helps to also make it about reflecting on the year gone by and think about what to expect in the next 365 days.

Here’s what I’d hoped to fill 2016 with:

  1. Implement the new design for Writeside.net. (It got a bit complicated. Long story.)
  2. Finish writing a book. (DONE, DONE and DONE! Yep, got two coming out this year, one an MG novel and the other a collaborative effort with another author. The US edition of Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean is also out this year.)
  3. Stay healthier than I managed in 2015. (Oops, that one might have come undone a bit.)
  4. Travel somewhere fun. (Done. Spent two weeks in the UK)
  5. Work on the workshops.(Done! Devika Rangachari and I started Royal Blue. We did three independent workshops, and have just wrapped up a 15-session creative writing programme in Amity International School, Saket, New Delhi.)
  6. Play more games. (Done! Would have been nice to get a bit more time for gaming, but shouldn’t complain.)

So, all in all, not as bad as it could have been.

But it’s that day again, so time for a brand new list, with new resolutions and aims. Here goes:

  1. Write (and/or finish) a fantasy novel: At the moment I don’t care if it’s one of my unfinished projects or series, or a new standalone novel. I just want to get back into fantasy.
  2. Start running again: Okay, I know realistically there isn’t a chance in hell of this happening if I continue to live in Delhi and if my knees don’t magically regenerate, so let’s downgrade this to “get fit enough so I can theoretically start running again”.
  3. Redo Writeside.net: Not just a new design, but maybe rethink what I’m doing with the site.
  4. Blog regularly: Plan in place.
  5. Keep playing games: My huge gaming backlog is getting huger as I keep buying games but not playing quite so much. But I’m going to do my best.
  6. Try self-publishing: Stay tuned for more on this.
  7. Travel somewhere interesting: As usual.

That’s all folks. Let’s see where we are 365 days from now.



Introducing: 52 stories of 2017

7 January 2017
Posted in: 52 stories, Workshops, Writeside, Writing | No Comments

52 Stories 2017It turns out that the only tried and tested method of regular blogging is to give myself a goal. And so, the theme for this year is “52 stories”.

Posts will be about about books, games, TV or anything else that has a story in it, mostly reviews, but maybe a bit about writing, and perhaps teaching writing (fiction) as well. The magic number is 52—in other words, there will (should) be a post every week (or so).

The inspiration for this year’s blogging theme comes from having spent 10 days at the “Children Understand More…” residency organized by the the Goethe-Institut India/Max Mueller Bhavan and Zubaan in Shantiniketan. Seventeen writers and illustrators came together at the idyllic Mitali Homestay in the land of Rabindranath Tagore to brainstorm and work on creating some quality children’s literature. All constraints, perceived or real, were removed, and the participants were free to explore themes and ideas that one customarily baulks from introducting to children. Along with Nadia Budde, Ben Dammers and Devika Rangachari, I was one of the mentors at the residency, tasked with helping the participants tease out workable ideas and shape them into works-in-progess that would eventually—hopefully—end up as published books.

Ben, Nadia, Payal, Devika: The tutors

This mentoring business is hard work…

Most of the participants rose to the challenge and a variety of fantastic books-in-the-making resulted. Some new talents were discovered, such as one writer discovering she was an artist too, and another writer finding a superbly edgy YA voice. Divested of the hindrance of thinking about the feasibility of being “publishable” and marketable, it created an atmosphere in which only the stories mattered. Among the themes that were batted around were religion and fear; identity; family, society and relationships; death; body image; mental illness; puberty; and climate change. Some worked individually, others collaborated, and most brainstormed and sought out critiques on their works-in-progress.*

Needless to say, it is impossible to come back from such an experience unmoved. The possibility of some or all of these ideas turning into books in the not-so-far future was exciting enough, but more than that, spending almost two weeks in the company of a group of talented artists, writers and storytellers was super-inspiring. And not insignificant was the fact that being cut off from the mundanities of one’s daily life, talking and thinking only about creating fiction for children, did inject a good dose of reassurance regarding the work one has been doing (or attempting to).

Which brings me back to the blogging theme of 2017. Yes, stories are important, critically important, in our understanding of our world, whether we’re writing them, reading them, watching them, taking part in them. And reading is not the only way in which we engage with stories.

So, strap on your seatbelt.


*To know more about the Children Understand More residency, read Bijal Vachharajani’s write-up.


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.



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