My book is launched!

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The Pune Lit Fest this year was lovely. More so because my book The Gurukul Chronicles was launched by such eminent achievers!

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On Day 2, I was very lucky to have my book’s intro session moderated by the charismatic Dipankar Mukerjee of Readomania, who gave me many valuable tips on book promotion and marketing.

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And here’s the other winner from last year’s contest, Piorre Hart, along with my parents. Her book WHERE THERE IS A WILL is now available at Amazon.

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A big smooch for my best friend Maheshwari Thyagarajan and her daughter Kimaya who made the trip from Mumbai to Pune just to cheer for me as I walked up the stage 🙂

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Last but not the least a big shout out to Pune city for its awesome weather, parks and people! I love it a bit more every time I revisit, and how can one not – just take a look below at one of the fab parks that was near the place I stayed! More pics and details in the next post 🙂

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STORY 4: Stand up and moo

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PLOT: Zena is disgusted that cows inhabit her apartment’s backyard, and the entire place has become a gigantic dust bin for the neighbourhood. But no one seems to do anything about it, until one fine day, she decides to enlist the help of The Environmental Ninjas.

BACKSTORY: This tale is inspired by a true story. Mine. My parents’ home is located adjacent to a huge plot, which now is a marshland into which the local residents have learnt to dump their waste, without any remorse. The place also houses wildlife such as cranes, ducks, crabs and even the occasional snake. But the most important inhabitants are cows, which belong to a local politician (low be it said!) who’s using the marshland as a free cowshed. You can imagine the stench and the mosquitoes that visit my parents every day.

Well! As a common ‘woman’, I have been raised with enough fear to stay away from politics (and politicians), but luckily the God of Creativity has blessed me with skills – thus I have created a fictional world where characters are always braver than their real-life counterparts 🙂

LESSON LEARNT: Those who don’t, write.

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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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MoM of First Meet

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In a previous post, I had announced a children’s writers’ meet I was hosting in my hometown. 

Today evening, a group of writers – some wrote for children, one was an assistant direction and another was an IT engineer who was simply curious – met and talked about our writing aspiration. Eleven RSVP’ed and 5 made it. I am happy with those numbers! (There was once a meet where just one turned up… yes, I am battle-scared and bone-weary 😉 )

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Meetup.com was the origin point. I had posted a call for e children’s writers’ meet up and the five writers answered the call. Venue was Cafe Coffee Day (Sterling Road), that laid-back establishment who couldn’t comprehend why I wanted to book a table for 12 when I was confident only half of that number may turn up!

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Highlight of the meet was when we decided to form a writing group and see where it takes us. Each writer expressed a desire to have a safe and secure community, where we would exchange manuscripts and feedback. So we finalized an online group, with the definite component of a live meet once a month, for a face-to-face session.

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At the end of an enjoyable couple of hours, everyone agreed that it is awesome to meet and synergies with fellow creative minds. I, personally, was delighted – this is what I wanted. Like all INFPs, I live with a quiet horror that whatever I do may not be important enough – but clearly, what I started here definitely wasn’t trivial. It is a potential story birthing group 😉

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If any of you reading this article would like to venture into something similar and need tips, you can contact me any time. Planning your own meet up is also easy – just post a call at Meetup.com. They have a very good membership offer going on, and the pay of is you can meet your next collaborator or publisher in your meet up!

Children’s writers’ meet, Chennai: Jan 18, 5pm

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Let’s meet up and talk about the art, craft and business of children’s writing, over a cup of coffee 🙂

TOPIC: Gear up for 2014!
DATE: Jan 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
VENUE: CCD Lounge, Nungambakkam, Chennai

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Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net / Stuart Miles

The meet up is informal, and anyone with a genuine interest in writing for children is welcome – and I only say this so that I don’t want to attract, um, non-writers to this writing-specific meet up 🙂

You should definitely attend this meet-up, if:

• You want to write a children’s story and don’t know where to start

• You’ve already written a few stories (or even a novel) and looking for ways to proceed to the next level

• You are serious about getting a children’s story or a novel published in 2014

You can bring a work you want to read and critiqued (such as a short story, novel chapter etc.), but it’s not mandatory. You don’t need to be published to attend!

For more details and RSVPing, go to http://www.meetup.com/Childrens-writers-in-Chennai/events/156398642/

Reading at Pegasus

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In my previous post, I had written about Pegasus, a poetry group at Islington, London.

Pegasus consists of more or less 10 long term members and several drop ins through out the year. The oldest member is 90 years old but looked 30 years younger. As with any community project, the group consisted of a medley of interesting minds who were dedicated to the art and craft of poetry. Moderated by Tessa Dummett, the group has been meeting every Monday since 2005.

Pegasus poetry group

Pegasus poetry group

On Nov 18, I was present at Pegasus as a guest speaker and the first poem we read was Anita Nair’s IT HAPPENED ON THE DISTRICT LINE. As soon as Tim Leach in his mesmeric voice finished reading it, there were enthusiastic twitters and the poets gaily started the discussion. Being a “London” poem, it was easy enough for everyone present to enjoy it. Most of them intuitively identified with “Mr. Patel”, who travels back home on the tube after an ordinary work day.

The next poem was a different surprise. On reading Meena Kandawamy’s EATING DIRT, I immediately recognised it as a unique twist on the popular scene from Mahabaratha (where Krishna eats muds and when prompted, opens his mouth and his adoptive mother Yeshoda sees the entire universe in her son’s mouth). However, I did not enlighten them as I wanted to know what these poets, with little knowledge of Indian epics, would think of this poem.

After Tim read EATING DIRT, there was silence while the group processed the poem. Then, viewpoints started pouring in. For one, it was the lament of an impoverished mother who, unable to see him starve, feeds him dirt. Another poet glimpsed shades of the current political situation in the world, with the words “sand, sand everywhere”. Yet another person identified a unique theme in the poem, that of caste and colour, with the imagery presented.

Only after enjoying all these perspectives did I reveal the poem’s roots, which was met with pleased exclamations. One poems, multiple meanings. We then moved on to a light discussion on Indian culture, and finished the meet up with a discussion on the planned anthologies. I am not a poet per se, just an ardent lover of poetry and I was glad to be there that day, being a part of Pegasus’ evening of Indian poetry!

In London

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Last weekend, I arrived at one of my favorite cities on earth.

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London is like second home to me. It was here that I attended my first creative writing class (live one), made the decision to focus on writing for children and met a very important person in my life – Tessa Dummet.

Tessa is a poet and poetry teacher based in Islington. We met during my au pair years in London and became friends – IMO every writer needs to have a poet friend to keep things in perspective! We have collaborated on a few projects, the most notable one being the poetry workshop we facilitated at British Council Library, Chennai.

Tessa is actively involved in teaching poetry at community projects in Islington, and we are currently discussing a possible collaboration to publish an anthology of her poetry group’s (named Pegasus) works over the years, along with creating an online presence for them and she had kindly sponsored me to come to UK and meet the group.

So yesterday, I went to Hill drop Community Center, where I made a short presentation on Julia Cameron’s morning pages. The meet up with Pegasus poetry group was memorable, two hours spent talking and discussing about poetry and creativity. The experience reminded me of what I loved about literary London. The city has great, low cost or free projects for those interested in creative writing and those interested never missed the opportunity to be a part of them. Their dedication will stun you.

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Running a community project is a two way process. I have often been motivated to start one in my hometown but have lost focus because I could not work with a single component. Both the organizer and the participant need to be sincere and passionate in what they want to offer each other. Something I wish more writers/readers understood (which is a gripe that belongs to a different post – stay tuned).

After I introduced myself and talked a bit about my favorite creative writing exercise, Julia Cameron’s Morning pages, we read two Indian poems – Meena Kandaswamy’s EATING DIRT (from Ms. Militancy) and Anita Nair’s IT HAPPENED ON THE DISTRICT LINE (from Malabar Mind). I will write about how the readers perceived both poems in my next post.