Posts by Gargi Mehra

Software Engineer by day, Freelance Writer by night

This Week in Writing and Publishing News

The last few weeks have seen have quite some excitement in the world of books and publishing. Each of the news pieces I’ve mentioned below are fascinating to read about.

A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions

AJ Finn’s novel Woman in the Window became a huge bestseller last year. It followed the trend of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. But how much do you know about the author? This article on the New Yorker tells a long and absorbing tale of a writer whose personal life offers more drama than his books. Don’t miss this – worth a read despite the length.

YA author pulls debut novel due to accusations of racism

Author Amélie Wen Zhao had to pull her YA Fantasy novel after early reviewers dismissed the book as racist. This and other instances has created the need for sensitivity readers, though their impact on books and publishing is something we’ll observe in the years to come.

Jeff Bezos exposes Dan Pecker before he exposes him

I think everyone must have read about this one by now. The news was hardly out when McSweeney’s had a riposte ready. Check out I Am Jeff Bezos: Man Of Principle, Champion of the Exploited

Using Literary Techniques in Narrative Journalism

Not a news-related piece, but an excellent one nevertheless on livening up your nonfiction using storytelling techniques.

If all that wasn’t enough, here’s something to tickle your funny bone:

Eat Your Feelings at These New Restaurants for Writers“From the Memoir Bistro to the Rejection Café, we’ve invented 8 dining establishments for the literary”

All these articles gave me more than enough food for thought over the last few days. Anything else that caught your eye but missed mine? Let me know in the comments! ac

Science Fiction in India

I joined a readers group on Facebook last year. It’s a very active group that has a vast number of well-read and articulate readers. A recent post on this group lamenting the lack of good science fiction in India inspired this post today. Allow me to present the science fiction books I have read that have come out of India:

  1. Satyajit Ray’s Professor Shonku series
  2. Anil Menon’s The Beast with Nine Billion Feet
  3. Samit Basu’s Turbulence
  4. Vandana Singh’s books

There are a few literary journals too that publish SF with an Indian or Asian influence.

  1. Indian SF

Sadly this site has gone defunct but the quality of stories published was quite high and the archives are worth browsing through.

This is an international science fiction and fantasy magazine that often features stories with an Asian influence.

Papercuts by Desi Writers’ Lounge is not focused primarily on science fiction/fantasy

Published by the renowned Kitaab Publishers, and featuring a story by (ahem!) yours truly!

Science fiction and fantasy is picking up in India in a big way. Here are a couple of links I found interesting:

The unbelievable meteoric rise of Indian SFF

3 Indian works of Science Fiction

Have you read Indian science fiction? Please do recommend some of your favourite stories/books in that genre! �0

Marie Kondo and the 30-Book Challenge

The internet has been abuzz with Marie Kondo and her Tidying up, and especially the part most relevant to writers and book lovers all over the world has them in a tizzy.

Her philosophy of ‘spark joy’, i.e. pick up an item (in our case we will consider a book) and if it doesn’t spark joy, then dispose of it.

The suggestion to throw away books that we will cherish forever even if they don’t tantalize us in the moment is what caused the controversy. Twitter, the blogosphere and a number of thinkpieces have erupted on it, essentially outraged at the seemingly sensible advice.

She clarified later that you don’t really need to toss your books, you can also donate the ones you don’t want to keep anymore.

Over on Writers Digest, Robert Lee Brewer has issued the “30-book challenge” in response to Marie Kondo’s tidying up advice.

I already declutter as much as possible and have, several times a month, stood facing my bookshelf with a critical eye, trying but failing to home in on titles I don’t mind disposing. I don’t ever throw away my books – I don’t know any reader who would do that – but I donate them to the library near my house who always accept the bounty gratefully.

Even if I tried to keep only 30 books and give away the rest, I don’t know how I would go about it.

Here’s just a tiny snippet of the books that sit on my shelf:

Harry Potter – 7 books

Artemis Fowl – 7

Agatha Christie – 14

Georgette Heyer – 12

Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series – 9 books

Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street Series – 9 books

Alexander McCall Smith’s Corduroy Mansions Series – 3 books

Jasper Fforde – 3 books

As you can see, that totals to way more than 30 (64 if you’re counting), and this is apart from the all standalone books I’ve acquired, and the nonfiction titles I cherish like Houdini’s biography, Eat Pray Love, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, and even Capote for that matter. This also doesn’t take into account the 100-odd books lying on my Kindle, some read, some (ahem!) unread.

So, 30 books? Make that 300 and I’d still be wringing my hands about how many you’re making me throw away. Make it 3000 and then maybe I could consider the matter.

What’s your take on Marie Kondo’s “30 books” advice?

2018 Year in Review

Happy New Year everyone! I generally write a “Year in Review” post for my blog earlier than this but I got late this time due to vacation hangover.

You can read my past year-end reviews here:

2018

2017

2016

2015

Here are some of my stats from the year for you to gorge on:

  1. 175 submissions (including F/NF/poetry)
  2. 12 acceptances (6 NF, 5 F, 1 poem) (7.4% acceptance rate)
  3. Total Earnings: $443
  4. Further Income Expected: $165 (promised but will pay on publication)
  5. 17 personal rejections from higher-tier literary journals*
  6. 70k words written
  7. 10 short stories completed, 2 drafted
  8. 2 essays written

*Some might feel this is an odd thing to brag about but anyone who’s been submitting long enough knows how nice it feels to get a rejection that’s clearly NOT a stock form letter.

Some of my major successes:

  1. My story in Kitaab’s Best Asian Speculative Fiction
  2. 2nd place in On The Premises themed story contest
  3. My essay in The Writer magazine
  4. My humor piece in The Offing

I usually beat myself up for my stats but I’ve learned to put it in perspective. For now it’s the best I can do with a full-time job and kids. At some point I really have to pull up my socks and do something about the novels in my virtual drawer, because long fiction is where it’s at. All the same I immensely enjoy writing and publishing short fiction and essays.

In any case I hope to focus on my novels in 2019.

What are your plans and hopes for the New Year? Please share so I know I’m not alone in forging crazy plans!

My Humor Piece in The Offing!

This happened a month ago, which equates to probably a decade in Internet terms, but better late than never so I thought I’d share it anyway!

My humor piece An Open Letter to the Stranger Who Sent Me a Friend Request appeared in The Offing’s humor section Wit Tea. I’m so happy this piece found such an excellent home!

Do have a read and let me know what you think!

WordPress Anniversary

A few weeks back WordPress alerted me to my ten-year anniversary with them. It jolted me from what seemed like a decade-long slumber. 

When I made the decision all those years ago to create a blog/portfolio website, I had the choice between BlogSpot and WordPress. WordPress always seemed like the easier option to me. I found it simple to navigate and set up. It had the bonus advantage of not being blocked by my office network! (In case you don’t get this bit – most Indian firms deploy site-blocking software to prevent their worker ants from goofing off at their desk) 

I always intended for the site to showcase my portfolio of published work, though at the time I set it up I had very little to show for my years of (sporadic) work! 

I recently upgraded to a ‘.com’ domain and regret not having done it earlier, but as they say, better late than never. 

Now my plan is to build it up and make it even better. Though blogging has been sporadic due to work pressures, I still hope to post at least once per month. I generally blog about my writing – successes, failures and everything in between. Since my writing and submitting has stalled somewhat, I don’t have much to report on this front. However my reading has picked up instead, and I have posts lined up for a few books and writers that have played on my mind. 

What’s happening in your life lately? Any books or articles you would like to recommend to add to my ever-growing TBR pile?

Feet in Two Boats

In January this year the venerated magazine The Writer held an essay contest on the theme ‘Your Writing Life’. I sent in my essay with hope in my heart and a prayer on my lips.  

When the inevitable rejection popped up in my inbox a few days later, I had a tough time reading the email. But I was glad I did, because at the end were the words that gladdened my heart. Though I had not placed in the competition, they wanted to publish my essay anyway! 

It was scheduled for the September issue which is out now.  

You can read my essay Feet in Two Boats here and do let me know what you think!