Book 3 of CBC 12X12: DONE!

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title: The Diary of DDLJ

plot: Can DDLJ the dog ever come to trust a transit owner, a deceitful one at that?

words: 5950

status: THE END! For CBC 12×12, three books completed, 9 to go!

Lessons learnt from this month’s chapter book:

1. I bought Scrivener for $20 on a special promo, then discovered a free outlining system called LitLift. Together, they have made my projects so much easier (and my desktop so much cleaner). Even if you are not interested in the former, try getting a free m’ship at LitLift. It’s fantastic for keeping all your WIP info and outlines in one place.


2. Even though nobody else is on CBC 12×12 challenge with me (NO SURPRISE!), I found that the participants’ posts and guest articles at ChaBooCha really pepped me up. No matter how disciplined or strong (you think) you are, you always need some extra cheery and I’m glad I signed up ChaBooCha’s FB support group. There was a sluggish slump mid-month, and the daily word count reminders on the FB group kept me from slacking too much!

3. I was highly reluctant to write the story of DDLJ, because while I like dogs well enough, I’m a dedicated cat lover. So, I was very surprised when I discovered that I had no problem writing from a dog’s perspective. I understood that I don’t have to be dog expert to write a doggy story – a dog manual, yes, it requires a certain expertise, but to write a story with a dog in it, all I need is the willingness to do some research.

Moral: Don’t keep feeling afraid. Just dive in and learn to swim!


Credit: alikins /



My interview up at Stitch Says :)

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Author Ashley Howland interviews this writer!

I am not big enough to give interviews, but this one is special because it’s by a fellow ChaBooCha participant, and it allows me to talk non-stop about myself ;). Here’s the link –



Credit: Darwin Bell /


The Writer’s Creative Cave vs. The Big, Wide World

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I love to write. It is all I have ever been good at, so I keep doing it, if only to prove that I am not a complete waste of a human body (cooking, housekeeping, swimming, sitting still, nothing works, sigh).

Sometimes, I get so sucked into my passion that I resent intrusion in any form. I am such an intense (boring) writer that I can’t even listen to music while I am writing. Family, friends, the inquisitive squirrel outside my window… at one point, it feels like they are conspiring against me, by trying to seduce me away from my writing, in the name of companionship, obligations or cuteness (Squirrel, you won’t get me yet!).

Naturally, one of my favorite daydreams is to escape to a deserted island and live in a shack, which miraculously has wifi and my entire writer’s almanac. No view, though, which could be seriously distracting. So, just me and a windowless shack, and from morning till night I can hunch over my darling PC and just write and write and write….

But wait a minute, if I am in a deserted island, then who I do write about? Who’s going to be inspire me and amuse me and hurt me and bless me and serve as catalysts that change an idea into a story? Darn, I need my humans after all!

Just like how JAMIE LEE WALLACE illustrates in this article 🙂

Live to Write - Write to Live

groundhog It’s ok. Come on out!

Most of the aspiring writers I know wish they had more time to write. Their lives are busy, full of obligations and responsibilities. Practicing the writing craft is a luxury that gets tucked into the odd corner of the day, early or late and most often stolen.

My life is much the same and I bet yours is, too.

I make my living as a freelance writer, but my creative writing lives the life of a small, tenacious beast – always hustling and hoarding minutes, fiercely defending the small oases of available time like the precious territory they are. This clever little critter knows that sometimes you have to go underground to get things done, make yourself a hidden haven where you can do your work without interruption from the siren call of worldly duties.

But, sometimes, your creative creature needs to come up into…

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March’s Short Story: PROPHET

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This month’s Short Story 12×12 involved a blind review, i.e., participants submitted their stories without a byline.

So, during the critique process, each one will review stories without any preconceived opinion about the author’s style or mastery over her craft. I had advised everyone to write something different and make it tough for others to guess.

It’s a brilliant idea, because this link says so. And also because I had participated in a similar experiment a few years back at IIT Kanpur, and it was so much fun … what other way to flabbergast your fellow writers!

You thought you knew me? Ha!

Here’s a sneak preview on how I ended up writing Angel – my March story for SHORT STORY 12×12:

1. I had a clear plan – I wanted to write a proper fantasy story, because until now my co-challengers (is that a proper term?) had only sampled my contemporary stories for young adults. So I was determined to write an “adult” and surprise them.

2. Mahaaaaaaaaa…….baaaaarat (that’s how the title song went, you’d know if you woke up every sunday morning hearing that from the idiot box). It all starts with Sage Vyasa. I was not in the mood to write titillating stuff (all you who know the real role Vyasa plays in the epic, you will understand my apathy), so how about… Bheeshma? THE Bachelor. Long white beard. Mukesh Khanna. Kids love Shakthimaan. Arrrrggggghhhhhh. Must. Not. Write. Children’s. Story.

3. Hmm,  a different angle. King Santhanu, that old geezer who was always falling in love with stipulating women… Ganga, especially, you know, the women drowns her own children? Darn it – I am back to “children” again!


But no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach. – OOGWAY

4. But Ganga’s story… hmm, let’s see, can a woman do that today? Even the most besotted might not agree to be quiet while his wife murdered theirchildren! But perhaps, “murder by drowning” should not be so literally interpreted in 2014. It may be an act like.. an abortion. Or even birth control (yes, really, if you think about….!!!). So how about a case where the husband wants a baby and the wife does not and he can do nothing about it, since he agreed to respect her wishes?

5. Now where is the fun if the story ended there? In the myth, Santhanu was a mortal and Ganga was a river goddess. So I made my heroine a supernatural and the hero, a muggle who works in an IT company. Can anyone be more mortal than a software engineer?

So there you go. The genesis of a short story. The guy’s lurrrvvveees the girl, but the girl says no can do unless he agrees to zero kids, guy says yes without thinking, only to change his mind later; meanwhile, he also discovers that his wife is a clairvoyant.  But still, he loves her but he loves to have a child more, he wants one RIGHT now, and he is willing to go to any lengths to have one…

Want to know more? I will send you a link when it gets published 🙂

Poynter’s Journalism workshop

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Why should a children’s writer attend a workshop on journalism & ethics?

Because she might:

1. Need guidelines / parameters. Though I write fiction, my research for the novels I write are based on often anonymous interviews and confidential confessions. I also maintain a craft blog, which is largely non-fiction and while I am no journalist, I do want to follow proper protocol while handling sensitive facts..

2. Learn e-techniques for better blogging. My blogger prowess stops with uploading content and video on WordPress – my goodness, there is so much more to learn, if I don’t want to become ‘e’xtinct soon!

3. Was SELECTED! I was one of the few selected to attend these workshops, sponsored by the awesome Poynter Institute of USA. When I started writing in 2004, I used their free website to learn the intricacies of writing and reporting, so it was particularly nostalgic for me to attend their pilot workshops in India.

Not yet full circle, but half way there I guess :). And no harm in having a personal chat with a professor from University of South Florida or attending a feature writing session by the Sunday Editor of Dallas Morning News!

I attended only the first day, since the second day was for newsroom journalists (not me) and the third day for journalism educators (not me, again). but the first day, zoning on digital journalism, was more than enough for me.  Casey’s presentation on digital journalism and Vidisha’s presentation on content dispersion online were the most info useful this blogger took away from the workshop. Here are some pics!

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Workshop for one

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The Picture Book Writing Workshop did not happen. I am no stranger to last minute cancellations; I always knew when people don’t pay upfront, they never really were interested in the first place. So I was content to push the workshop to a later date.

Yet one person, an artist and a storyteller, would not take no for an answer; he had arranged for transport (from Kancheepuram) and was eager to take part in the workshop. And I was glad to share my craft with him.

It’s not quantity, but quality that matters. I prefer to teach one passionate soul than ten curious ones.


Credit: Silvia Viñuales /

Mr. Shafi, thank you for making it and addressing me as guru, even though you are decades older than me. And thanks for the gift of a pen, as your guru dhakshina… nobody has ever honoured me that way. I’ll always treasure it.

“How could I?” and other fan mail

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I never thought a WIP excerpt would offend anyone. But it has.

Some feathers were ruffled and questions have been raised. Apparently I can’t term myself as a children’s writer if I write stories about boyfriends who bite.

Technically that is right – a Young Adult (YA) writer is not a children’s writer. But a children’s writer can be a Young Adult writer.

I write stories for toddlers, 10 year olds, tweens and Young adults. Now do I write them well – only my readers can be the judge of it! I only know that I like writing for various age groups and I’m not going to stop it for anyone (I am having too much fun!).

Of course, I’m well aware of the danger of possible reader alienation, so I write cute, child-friendly stories under my real name and gritty YA stories using the pseudonym Smara. So I can assure you – no danger of a pre-schooler reading a PG 13 rated story 🙂


Credit: Imkelsi /

Teenage is like the twilight zone – everybody is a scared of it and most hardly know how to deal with it, including the person living it. A lot of parents (I know) have willfully suppressed the fact that teenagers, like children, do need unconditional acceptance along with guidance and support, in a different dosage, in a far subtle package. That’s why YA is and will always come under the umbrella term “Children’s writing”

Censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them. – Laurie Halse Anderson, author of SPEAK

So for the gentle reader who wondered how I could write “sexy” stories for teens and distract them when they are at such an impressionable age, three things:

1. Teen novels dealing with sensitive issues need NOT to be a negative influence. SPEAK has been credited as having influenced many teens, i.e., school girls, to come forward and report their rape / abuse by their boyfriends. Teach one to fight rather than hide, I say. Remember what that wise fish said?

2. Edgy YA is so saturated in the West that it has become the norm. At least such an extensive collection like that exists there – where’s ours? Indian teens face the same temptations and dilemmas as any average western teen, so why shy away from writing about it? It’s high time Indian kidlit had its own contemporary YA line.

3. Please wait till the book is finished and I will send you a free copy. “Sexy” is the last adjective you’d use to describe that series!