Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Am Off for a Week's Holiday in Kerala, South India

Well, it's nice to know that a week from now I will be in Kerala, my home state in the south of India. As before, I will be spending nostalgia-filled evenings in the tropical climate, with a symphony of insect sounds playing in my ears. I will be posting less and enjoying myself, a deserved break, so to speak. I will be carrying my laptop on which I will try to write, but my schedule is so tight that I don't think I would be able to. There a housewarming, a wedding, a meeting of the disasporic family units (from my mother's side) spread in the U.A.E., South Africa, U.S.A., etc. So I will be meeting cousins whom I haven't met in my whole life, nephews and nieces of whose existence I was unaware till now. A lot of good food will be served to which I look forward, and fresh coconut water  and coconut chutney made from burnt coconut flesh too. This latter chutney a favourite cuisine of my brother-in-law T.V. Philip makes my mouth water as I write this. Hehe. So see you soon! Have a great Christmas!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Finished an extensive re-write on the novel

Hmmmmppppff! Finished another round of editing on the novel. Did that sitting in the nearby Cafe Coffee Day (CCD), as I was being interrupted a lot at home. There are the usual callers: courier boys, postmen, fund-seekers for causes I didn't know exist, fishwoman, etc.I think I can work better in CCD. There was the 12.12.12. concert playing on the television. I could see my heroes: Bruce Springstein, Roger Daltry, Mike Jagger, Eric Clapton and the lot, but I couldn't hear them because the Cafe has some rule against putting on the sound. So you can see what is going on but can't hear. May be,that's to scare away people like me who buy a coffee, or, tea, and sit for hours. Hm. They didn't mind me, though. I could work seamlessly, somehow, and was not the least bit distracted. The results are here on this blog, do pay it a visit, friend, critic, well wisher. I am sure there's something for all of you in it.

Click on the above links. Be sure to leave a comment, which will be very much appreciated. Comments are back on my blog.Yes, because of a glitch the link wasn't visible for some time. But, everything is forgiven and back to normal again. So, do comment!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book Preview: Bitch Goddess for Dummies and Love Stories 1-14

Feverish editing is going on on my novel Mr.Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard seeing that my friend Maya Sharma Shriram has completed her novel and has also signed up with a publisher. (Like her book Bitch Goddess for Dummies here.) Thanks Maya for showing me the way and giving me encouragement to go on. She came to the launch of my book Bright Lights and was the first to get an autograph from author me. Hehe. It felt nice.

Meanwhile Annie Zaidi's Love Stories 1-14 is also out and it looks to be a good volume. I had heard her read some the stories in Caferati readings and I think she has a wonderful style of writing.

Both the above writers are close to my heart, and being women, they write well and sensitively. So buy their books read them and pass them on. After all, literature is to be savoured and spread around, isn't it?

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another Disappointment - Collection of Short Stories

Disappointments are a part of a writer's life. We have taken rejection badly in the past. But this once I was hoping for something better. Tch Tch. We shouldn't be too optimistic. Why can't some positive news bunch itself together and schlepp us out of this morass of despondency? We don't know. We are sharing it here so that you there know how tedious the process of writing is.

Submitted our short story collection to a publisher (as a friend recommended, an up-and-coming one) and got an email saying, "the reviewer has not approved," blah blah. Do you know how much effort we put into editing and sending you the bloody submission? Do you know how much time is required to even think of the plot and write the stories? Do you know how much creative juices have flowed?

Well, hm, nobody knows the inside of a submitting writer. It's all hope and despondency when a rejection comes. But we are sort of inured by now to these vicissitudes, these ups and downs. (we had to spend a minute looking up "vicissitudes.) Writing is not easy folks. As Hemingway said, "Writing is easy. Just sit in front of the typewriter and bleed."

He got that right. But, then, now it's the laptop you sit before.

By the way, today we retrieved some data from an old laptop, which is no irreparable, or, so my computerwala friend informs me. The data is important to us as it contains the manuscript of the book we were writing on Kerala. So the cycle now restarts, buy new laptop, write novel, book (whatever) and then junk the laptop and move your book to another laptop. When will this process end. Sigh!

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Jerry Pinto on Writing: Begin Again If You Fail

We read this excellent piece by Jerry Pinto on writing on Facebook. Especially read the exhortations to writers he has written with such sensitivity, care and concern. That's because he is a teacher too and who better than a teacher to teach you about writing. There is a honesty and selflessness about the writing, a sense of sharing without asking "What's in it for me? Why should I do it." Not for nothing is Jerry such a writer and poet with a mass following.

We agree some of the pitfalls of being a writer has been amply covered. But here we add a new spin to it as is our wont. Some of the practical aspects you might find when you let it be known you want to be a writer. All these people pretend to sit in ivory towers and pontificate and not write anything. Know why? Because if they write they would be found out. Simple. The greatest effort an aspiring writer can make is to sit in front of his desk and write. Get inspired by life, get inspired by what you read and then write, write, write.

"He/she can't write to save his life."

"He/she is a bad writer."

"He/she doesn't have a voice."

"He/she hasn't read much."

"He/she doesn't know grammar from farmer."

Yes, all these we have heard before and are repeating here. The first was said to us by a vanity publisher who drank himself to his grave. He was our boss for some time and a mean boss at that. Such mean people exist, we can't do anything about them. They destroy themselves and in the process try to destroy others.

So, follow Jerry's advise and do the following:

Keep at it.

Keep going when it's not working. It won't start working on its own, you have to make.

Keep going when it's not coming out right. It may be right, you may not be able to see it.

Keep going when you're feeling low. That's when Dylan Thomas did his best work.

Keep going when you're blazing like a comet. That's when Alan Ginsberg did his best work.

Keep going when you're rejected. J K Rowling was rejected too.

Keep writing. But don't be in a hurry to publish. That should happen organically and too many writers are mainlining steroids. Wait. It will happen. Naturally.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Progress on the Novel

Sorry, for not updating here about the novel for so long. Things have been crazily spinning all around us, meaning Mr. Bandookwala and myself, the author. We decided, after a 100-page printout of the novel was printed and spiral bound that the first chapter required some more tweaking. That's because when we read the first chapter - in the printed form - we went, "eek." That's one disadvantage of being a writer. An artists can standback and know immediately what needs to be corrected, a shade here, a deeper stroke of paint there, but for a writer? It's only when he/she prints the output and holds it before him/her that he shakes his/her head and says, "No, this won't do." So it's better late than be imperfect. We are back to the laptop writing, re-writing, editing, striking out whole paragraphs.

After all, that's what a writer's life is about. Isn't it.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Social Media and the North-East Crisis

This article in the Hoot says that when miscreants misused the social media to spread rumours (about the North-East India crisis) the mainstream media - print and electronic - did nothing to quell it. A protest in Bombay got out of hand with protesters snatching weapons from police and firing them in the air.  

Social media has not matured enough and there are all sorts of people using it to achieve their ends, including corporates. However, it is a potent medium of communication for sending: recycled jokes, sexist observations, wild and biased rumours about communities. But is gagging the social media the option? As has been seen in the banning of bulk SMSes? 

Social media can do a lot of good as the good work done by bloggers like Dina Mehta (cloudburst Mumbai) has shown. However, when it is put to bad use, it can be equally pernicious. 

So who was supposed to rein in the social media? Agreed, most social media practitioners base their arguments on some or the other printed fact or material. Not so the lumpen elements. The rampant use of social media to upset, riot, and disturb peace is what is not pardonable. 

We guess traditional media failed to counter the spread of rumours and only succeeded in raising the fear factor by a degree. They have also not stopped attacking the police, who, in our opinion did a commendable job. We think the traditional media should also do an analysis of social media to point out what is fact and what is rumour, sort of, sifting the chaff from the grain.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page. Read about my novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Finished a Third-time Edit of Novel

We finished a third edit of my novel. Now we have to get it bound in a book form and give it a once over and decide what to keep and what to discard. 

One drawback of writing on the computer is that we can't look  back and forth as we do when writing in a book or on sheets of paper. This is a big disadvantage when you are picking up the trend and the storyline from the previous burst of writing. Sometimes continuity is lost and we have to scroll back and forth - which is difficult, but which is easier on a piece of paper. Hm, have to take the bad with the good.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page. Read about my novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Progress on My Novel, and, Publishing Prognostications of a Weary and Bored Writer

After a recent bout of illness, dear friends, not to talk about many doubts about the novel, I am back to editing Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard. I have made good progress in the past few days. When doubts assail me and I want to flop in front of the television, I think of what I have achieved all these years. Nothing much, except, perhaps, a house of my own and completing my son's engineering studies. I want the novel to be something about me and the way I was.

Is it worth it to write a novel in the environment of today? Is there hope for the novel. Today I observed a man reading a novel in train - an Indian novel - and after two or three minutes he closed the book and put it back in his bag. Are Indian novels that boring? Why don't Indian Writing in English (IWE) grip readers? Why doesn't the reader base grow except for Mr. Bhagat's books? Where are we going wrong?

I will examine some of the issues here:

The Agent Publisher Nexus
Today publishers don't have the time to sift through the thousands of book manuscripts they receive. So they depend of agents to spot talent and recommend their work. Actually, some of these agents aren't great literary scouts. They have either been at the bottom of the corporate pile with a publisher, or, even worse are copyright lawyers who think the money is in 'agenting'. (There may be exceptions, of course, I know of many.) So if you send your hard-worked manuscript to an agent you will be rejected outright because you don't have the standing among your peers, you aren't a pretty woman with drop-dead-picture-perfect looks, you don't have the public relations pizzazz, or worse, you aren't presentable. I once read that if you submit to a foreign agent, the agent checks with friends back in India about you. It's normal for the literary scene to be a bit vitiated in India and, if, suppose, something negative is said by this friend (out of spite, revenge, getting back, backstabbing, all common occurrences), you find no chance of being published.

The Literary Merit Versus Cheap Sensationalism Issue
I have seen lavish coffee table books published on actors. Hagiographies mostly, these are sold to a select audience at a sky-is-the-limit price and the publisher makes a good profit. Nothing about the actor or the social milieu in which he/she worked comes out. Everything is dipped in rose-tinted nostalgia. Do these books serve a purpose? Are they valid as works of literature?

Again a man/woman can sleep with a celebrity and write about it. Publishers will jump at the opportunity to publish it. In fact, I hear, they will even auction for it, promising to pay impossible amounts a la a certain Levinsky. These are the days of "use and throw." These are also the days of "read and throw." Books used to be read and displayed in drawing rooms in my times. They no longer find a place in the glass and chrome houses of today. In fact, a bookshelf doesn't even exist. If this goes on, serious writers of literature would find it hard to be accepted by publishers. And, much of the human condition you would find in Dickens, Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Steinbeck, Hemmingway would be lost to the world. Their loss, not ours (writers').

Self-publishing and E-book Publishing
Well, well, what do we have here? I was offered the option of self-publishing. I will have to buy back around 100 copies of my own book. Why should I buy my own book? It's so humiliating. What will my friends think?

E-book readership has been growing, I hear. But, that's because it is cheap and people do it on impulse. I have seen people with kindle readers and e-book readers in train during the commute. They hold their devices at odd angles and then after a few minutes, close them. Are they too tired? Are their eyes aching? I can read fifty pages of a novel for an hour of commuting time, even if the said book is boring. But these hand-held-device readers can't even go beyond the first few pages. A book is a book, is a book. It can be held any way you like, and still you can read. It can be dog-eared (how can you do that to your e-book). It doesn't need to be plugged and re-charged. It has a sense of wholeness, which e-books can't give. It can be thrown out of the window if it is revolting. Try doing that to you e-book devices. 

I don't mean to be pessimistic, but that's how I view the publishing situation. It's something we have brought on ourselves, so we better deal with it.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page. Read about my novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Sadness of Parting

Some things have to come to an end. And therefore comes the parting, the taking leave from friends with whom you have worked for three and a half years. The solution to this possibly tearing and mentally unhinging problem is that you have to see things as being finite, which runs it course when your association has reached a plateau of sorts and neither benefits from the linkage. When that happens - especially in the corporate world - it's better to pack up and leave, not that you have an option.

Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together?  I guess that wouldn't work.  Someone would leave.  Someone always leaves.  Then we would have to say good-bye.  I hate good-byes.  I know what I need.  I need more hellos. 

~Charles M. Schulz

In the characters I have created in fiction Mr. PK Koshy says goodbye to a government department he has worked for more than thirty years in the story "PK Koshy's Daily Routine." This short story is being published by Grey Oaks in their anthology titled "Bright Lights" soon. There's a book launch at Infinity Mall, Andheri, Bombay, on 19th at 6.30 p.m. Do come there if you can. Let's say hello. Another character Dinshaw Bandookwala is immeasurably sad when he leaves Pinnacle Constructions, a company he had sought to change and failed. Well, I mention these in passing.

So in the finiteness of things, goodbyes have to be said at one place and hellos have to be said in another. But friendships and associations will remain.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

Progress on Novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard

I often wonder why this hesitation, this holding back about my writing. I guess, it's my self consciousness, my diffidence which is to blame. I don't know if it is such a big debility, however, it does affect me. Four years after several drafts of Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard - my novel - I am a still reticent about it. How to bring it before the public, how to put it there so everyone can see.

I have done a reading to an intimate group of friends consisting of Caferati members. It went off well. I am glad. There were not many criticism, at least, not major ones. So what's holding me back? Also the recent affliction about which I wrote in this blog put a brake on my editing, which is lagging. Then I took up guitar lessons and since I am quite passionate about guitar music that has been consuming a lot of my time. I have progressed to chord progressions and hope I can accompany myself soon, I mean, singing songs composed by me, on my guitar.

Be that as it may. I bought myself a new desk from Central, Vashi. I will post a photo here soon. I bought it last week and still the guys haven't come to fix it, or fit it, or whatever they do. This desk I have been eyeing for a long time, wanting to sit before it's wide fold-down plank, spread my computer and my books, and my files around. The other one became too constricted and my copyholder just juts out of the table and I have absolutely no elbow room to speak about. In this there's enough space for my reference books, dictionaries, atlases and all the writers' paraphernalia I have accumulated over the years. So, in effect, I don't have to run a floor up to fetch that Malayalam dictionary, or the Hindi-English dictionary. Yeah, I still use my reference books a lot though I have a high-speed internet connection. Something to do with being old fashioned, methinks.

There's the launch next week (19th) of Grey Oaks' anthology "Bright Lights" which features my short story "PK Koshy's Daily Routine." The publishers have done a great job and I am heartened to see them promoting the book, actually a contest. More of this later. Adios Amigos, meanwhile.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.