My Writing

Shadow

After a gap of few months I have another piece of fiction published. You can read my story Shadow in the latest issue of Halfway Down the Stairs.

I’m rather proud of this story, if I say so myself. I believe every creative person, especially women, should be able to identify in some way with the main character. But that’s just my hope – read it and let me know if that comes across!

This story has spent a while in the making. I’ve been hacking away at it every few months much like the sculptor in my story, tweaking some aspects and chopping off parts that seemed redundant or unnecessary. When I finally got it into a shape I liked best, I sent it out and was rewarded with an acceptance.

I’ve been reading Halfway Down the Stairs for quite a while, since writer Anne Goodwin mentioned she had published a story there. I perused a few issues and liked what I read.

That’s all I have in lieu of a proper blog post today! Watch out for a humor piece of mine that will appear sometime next week!

And before I forget, if you are on Insta (if you aren’t, why aren’t you?), do connect with me at https://www.instagram.com/gargi_mehra/

I’m also on Twitter as @gargimehra, though I tweet less and post more often on Instagram nowadays.

Do check out my story and tell me what you think! Also feel free to drop your other social media handles in the comments so we can connect!

Book Reviews, reading

What day is it? Its Thursday Next!

Are you on the lookout for a series of high-concept books that are very smart, very funny and demand knowledge of the classics like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights? Fear not, because I present you the great Jasper Fforde!

I discovered the books of Jasper Fforde rather late, only after the third in his famous Thursday Next series. Thursday Next, in case you are wondering, is the name of the central character in his metafictional books. She is a literary detective who wades in and out of books to fix literary problems.

His first novel, The Eyre Affair, offers a rather creative explanation of how the ending of Jane Eyre came to be the way it is today. If you have read Jane Eyre and disliked the way it wraps up, you have only Thursday Next to blame!

In The Well of Lost Plots, there are some amazingly funny scenes depicting Heathcliff and the entire cast of Wuthering Heights undergoing rage counselling as a part of group therapy. You can read more about it here.

His latest novel I read was Shades of Grey, a dystopian novel in which a person’s ability to recognize colour determines their social class.

To glean just a little idea of his writing, check out The Locked Room Mystery Mystery – a hilarious whodunit featuring the death of …The Locked Room Mystery!

Have you read any books of Jasper Fforde? Which is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

Writing

Why Do We Cringe When Reading Old Work?

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Quite often I come across writers who read their early work and cringe, in a big way. The language, their skills at plotting, their characterization – all become apparent as woefully underdeveloped. And so the writers hang their head in shame, wondering why they wrote this and published it. Even if it garnered some readership, why did they even think it was good?

Over at Medium, Tom Farr talks about finding it painful to read through a serialized story he had written two years prior. He acknowledges that completing the story was a high point, and it also gave him confidence.

Several writing forums discuss this topic and the advice remains consistent – desensitize yourself when reading old stuff, and be proud of the progress you have made. However, if you are starting new work, best not to read old work

Over at The Verge, a discussion of the psychology and social science of cringe theory offers some insights.

After absorbing all this, here’s my question:

Why cringe when reading old work?

Rather than suffering through it and feeling embarrassed, we should perhaps pride ourselves both on our skills at that point in life, and also take pride in how far we’ve come. Clearly our skills must have improved with regular practice. If nothing else, we can surely excuse ourselves for being a little green around the years. Novice mistakes are expected, and one would never learn if they didn’t write, publish, practice and repeat.

I too read over my early published stories every so often, and I almost never come away thinking it’s perfect, or even remotely satisfied with it. The itch to rewrite or correct large swathes of it strikes me even now, but I have to accept that what’s done is done. Hindsight is great, but its best not to beat up oneself about it. As long as you’re practicing and learning from your mistakes (I hope I am!), things should work out fine.

What is your opinion on this? Do you read the old stories on your hard drive and cringe? Does a previous publication of yours cause you grief when you re-read it?

Book Reviews, reading

What I’m Reading

Remember when I said I had embarked on a reading spree? That’s dwindled just a little. Since I last wrote in, I’ve finished My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and a couple of other books. I loved the dark humour and the lithe female serial killer, though it seemed to me a little like an abrupt end.

A shorter more truncated list this time, but still containing valuable gems that I would urge you to check out!

One Way to Love (Book 1 of the Jasmine Villa series) by Andaleeb Wajid

Andaleeb Wajid has deservedly earned the title of ‘The prolific author you may not have heard of’! She writes easy-to-read books featuring Indian women, primarily romances but she’s dabbled successfully in horror too! This is the first of her books I’ve read, and I loved it! Its simple but absorbing, an enchanting realistic tale of love-cum-arranged marriage.

Arrivals and Departures by Vrinda Baliga

This is the author’s second collection after Name, Place, Animal, Thing. Any short story by Vrinda Baliga is guaranteed to delight, and collection doubly so. The relationships depicted in her stories, the elegant turns of phrase, and the varied settings – what’s not to love?

Less by Andrew Greer

I’m late to the party for this book. I know it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018, but I had bought it and let it languish. Criminal, I know. I’m only about a quarter of the way through and I can tell you to go read it immediately if you haven’t done so already!

What are you reading now? Any book you would like to recommend?

Lit Journals

Market Spotlight: Ilanot Review

In 2017, I had written a story in epistolary form as part of a prompt. Once I’d revised it to my satisfaction, I searched for markets and came across Ilanot Review, a journal from Israel!

Their call for submissions mentioned a ‘Letters’ theme for their upcoming issue. It excited me to find a market that looked a perfect fit, but to be sure I scouted their archives and read a few of the stories and essays available online.

After due diligence, I submitted my story ‘Perils in the Post’. I was quite excited about this story, because it was my first story in letters and also my first story not based in the modern era.

The acceptance mail arrived quite quickly, within a week. I went back-and-forth for edits with the editors as usual. After a few days, things were all set and ready to go. The changes had greatly improved my story, and three months later the issue was published online. You can read my story here.

This is not a paying journal. The quality of stories is quite good and enjoyable.

Fortunately, their submissions window is currently open, until 15th December for their winter issue themed ‘Home/Work’. If you have anything that suits the theme, be sure to send it across right away!

Book Reviews, reading

A Series so Fowl

Many years ago, after I’d consumed the entire Potter series and embarked on the hunt for another series to fill my world, I came across a golden-covered shiny book designed to attract the eyes of passersby. I opened it, and, as I am wont to do in the middle of a crowded bookstore, started reading.

Here’s the first page:

Ho Chi Minh City in the summer. Sweltering by anyone’s standards. Needless to say, Artemis Fowl would not have been willing to put up with such discomfort if something extremely important had not been at stake. Important to the plan.

Sun did not suit Artemis. He did not look well in it. Long hours indoors in front of a computer screen had bleached the glow from his skin. He was white as a vampire and almost as testy in the light of day. “I hope this isn’t another wild-goose chase, Butler,” he said, his voice soft and clipped. “Especially after Cairo.”

It was a gentle rebuke. They had traveled to Egypt on the word of Butler’s informant.

“No, sir. I’m certain this time. Nguyen is a good man.”

“Hmm,” droned Artemis, unconvinced.

Passersby would have been amazed to hear the large Eurasian man refer to the boy as sir. This was, after all, the third millennium. But this was no ordinary relationship, and these were no ordinary tourists.

They were sitting outside a curbside cafe on Dong Khai Street, watching the local teenagers circle the square on mopeds.

Nguyen was late, and the pathetic patch of shade provided by the umbrella was doing little to improve Artemis’s mood. But this was just his daily pessimism. Beneath the sulk was a spark of hope. Could this trip actually yield results? Would they find the Book? It was too much to hope for.

A waiter scurried to their table.

“More tea, sirs?” he asked, head bobbing furiously.

Artemis sighed. “Spare me the theatrics, and sit down.”

The waiter turned instinctively to Butler, who was after all, the adult.

“But, sir, I am the waiter.”

Artemis tapped the table for attention.

“You are wearing handmade loafers, a silk shirt, and three gold signet rings. Your English has a tinge of Oxford about it, and your nails have the soft sheen of the recently manicured. You are not a waiter. You are our contact Nguyen Xuan, and you have adopted this pathetic disguise to discreetly check for weaponry.”

Nguyen’s shoulders sagged. “It is true. Amazing.”

How could I resist? I swooped it up.

The movie version will be out in 2020 so stock up on this and read it before the film releases! Take a sneak peak at the movie trailer here.

If you read one and can’t get enough and you’re looking for more, I have great news for you – Eoin Colfer has a new book out featuring characters of the same family! The Fowl Twins is set for release later this year.

You can bet I’ll be reading the new book as well as rushing to the cinemas when the movie comes out. I sincerely hope the movie retains the humour of the books.

Eoin Colfer is quite prolific and has penned other books as well. The one I’m most fond of is The Half-Moon Investigations.

Have you read Artemis Fowl? Or any of Eoin Colfer’s books? Which is your favourite? Any other YA or MG series you would like to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Humour, My Writing

Happy Boss’s Day… to My Toddler!

A mid-week blog post to share the publication of my humour piece on the special occasion of Boss’ Day in Arre! You know how parents always bow down to the wishes of the littlest one in their family? Not sure about you but that’s me all the way, and here’s my ode to my three-year-old for being a tough taskmaster on his direct reports:

Happy Boss’s Day to My Toddler, the CEO of My Household

Have a read and hope you enjoy it!