White Piping

Hola, folks! If you’re wondering why everything looks new around here, it’s because I decided my blog needed a change of scene, or should I say, a change of theme. Yep, that’s the best joke I can crack early on a Sunday morning before my cuppa. 

Also I thought what better way to declare a short story win? 

If you haven’t heard of the literary journal On The Premises, do head over there straight away! They hold nifty theme-based contests every few months. These are free to enter and offer excellent prize money. If your story becomes a finalist then they even offer a critique! 

Their last themed contest that ended in March centred on clothing, titled ‘It’s on you.’ 

I am more than thrilled to report that my story earned 2nd place in the contest! This story was particularly important to me, with all the conversations around #MeToo and #TimesUp entering the mainstream. 

This is one of the fastest acceptances I’ve ever received. I sneaked in my entry minutes before the deadline as I usually do, and a week later came to know I’d been shortlisted. Fast forward, another week and I received the fabulous news that I had placed second! 

I’d love it if you popped over to read the story and let me know what you think!

Please note: Opinions expressed in the story belong to the characters only!

Image Credit and Rights: Rare Vintage

F or NF?

Ever since I picked up creative writing, I have written a mix of fiction and nonfiction. I launched my writing career with a nonfiction humour piece that found publication in a major Indian women’s magazine called Femina. I followed it up with several more pieces of humorous nonfiction, but I tried my hand at writing fiction alongside as well. In this endeavour, my efforts met with less success. My critique group rightly ripped my stories apart, but I persevered and managed to get a few shorter pieces published to begin with.

In the years since, I find myself equally divided between fiction and creative nonfiction. Some days I pick up my laptop determined to write a short story but it doesn’t flow and a nonfiction piece comes quite easily instead. On other days when I begin an essay, the muse doesn’t cooperate and prods me towards a short story instead.

I’m at the stage now where I go with the flow. Earlier I used to stress about it, mistakenly believing that I should stick to one and master it rather than dabble in different genres and fail spectacularly in all of them.

However, when I researched this problem a little, I found that most writing websites advising trying genres to test one’s mettle and also one’s interest. I have not found myself gravitating to any one particular field yet. Even within fiction, I write a mix of YA, contemporary realist, speculative and magical realism stories.

To add to this heady mix of fiction and creative nonfiction is poetry. I find it tough to write poetry, even though I have had poems published but those are more on the humorous side. My muse often pushes me towards poetry as well. I have written a few serious poems but so far I haven’t tried to get them published, convinced as I am that they are spectacularly poor and don’t deserve publication. However I haven’t got them critiqued either. Poetry is something I plan to tackle later, when I have wrapped up penning the stories and essays that I have already ideated first.

A number of classic novelists were excellent essayists as well. You can read them on Project Gutenberg, like this collection by George Eliot.

A few of my writer friends do attempt to write both, but some are devoted to one particular form of writing – say science fiction or perhaps children’s stories, or even journalistic pieces that involve research and reporting. I admire and envy their single-minded focus, considering my writing is nowadays all over the place.

But after years of experimenting with different types of writing, I realized my attempts would never go to waste. I count all of it towards practice.

And as the old adage goes which we learnt when we were children, practice makes perfect.

At least, that’s what I have pinned my hopes on.

What is your favourite genre of writing? Do you feel moved to experiment in different modes of writing as well? Do let me know in the comments below!

The Prodigal Daughter

I am thrilled to report that my story The Prodigal Daughter was published in Reedsy as a winner of their previous week’s writing prompt. Do take a look and like/share/comment on it!

If you haven’t come across Reedsy before, I highly recommend you subscribe to their writing prompts. They offer editorial consultation and they also host a variety of free courses. I took the course for YA novels and writing short stories, both of which I found extremely useful.

What’s happening on the writing front for you?

Mini-Update

I have been light on writing-related work this year. No Short Story Challenge, and definitely no other brand new work. I’ve spent most of my available free time on editing and whipping older pieces into shape. Per my records, I have about 28 of these essays and short stories that I need to whittle and carve to perfection, or at least start submitting them if I find I cannot revise and edit them any more.

Despite that I have a couple of acceptances to report. One was my short story targeted for a YA audience, titled Miss Quit which found a home in the lit mag Youth Imagination. I wrote this as part of the Short Story Challenge 2014, and it had been simmering ever since. When I did finally send it out I got a fairly quick acceptance.

The second was my article for writers, titled The Maturation of a Writer at Walrus Publishing. I wrote this last year on the spur of the moment one day, while reflecting on the differences I felt as a more experienced writer now compared to when I had started out.

Do read them and tell me what you think! Feel free to post links to your own recently published work in the comments below!

The Power of Apps

I am thrilled to report that Distant Echoes is doing well and is listed on Amazon as a free download today! Do pick up a copy and post a review! The official Facebook page is here. If you like the collection, spread the word and get your friends to buy it. If you don’t like it, spread the word and get your friends to buy it anyway, because really, what better way to make them suffer?

This experience of self-publishing had me thinking about the Kindle App and the power of apps in general. Here’s a fun fact about me – I didn’t own a smartphone until a year ago. Gulp! Go ahead and ask the question that’s churning in your mind – how did I survive? The truth is I had a nifty iPod Touch for all my smartphone needs, and I cruised along reasonably well with it. However at some point I caved in to the hype and purchased the iPhone 5S, which is now my constant companion and partner-in-crime.

Over a period of one year I added and discarded a vast number of apps from my collection. I generally don’t overload my phone and keep only the apps that I really need and actually use on a daily basis.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share with you the five free apps that I use the most: 

What would writers do without this Dictionary and thesaurus?  Their Word of the Day adds to my vocabulary, and the blog too posts interesting articles on a regular basis.

 

A friend recently introduced me to this app and it’s amazing! Choose your workout and follow the exercises given. It provides YouTube videos to guide you on the right way to perform each exercise. The pro version offers customizable workouts and full workout logs, but the lite version should be sufficient for most people.

 

This is a calorie tracker app which I use, though not as religiously as it’s meant to be used. MyFitnessPal is the best calorie tracker app out there, but I was already a registered LiveStrong user so I continued on it. MyPlate has a great collection of food items that can be logged, including common Indian food items.

Because a girl needs to play! Does this need any other explanation? For some reason this is one game that I turn to whenever I feel stressed. It’s my equivalent of doing meditation.

An awesome app for storytellers. I resort to it whenever I’m stuck for ideas, and it always gets the creative juices flowing. It suggests a character, a setting and a plot, which you’re supposed to use in combination to write a story. I use this to generate ideas for my writing practice, and if the practice turns into a workable sellable story then what could be better?

In other writing news, I am a proud mamma this week, as my post Jill of All Trades was published in Literary Mama. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Do share your favourite apps as I’m always looking to add to my collection!

Distant Echoes

At the beginning of 2014 I joined a group of eclectic writers for the Short Story Challenge, in which we committed to writing one short story for the month. We shared stories, exchanged critiques and reveled in each other’s successes. Nine writers emerged victorious, successfully completing the challenge.

The result is an amazing collection of stories called Distant Echoes, published this month on Amazon. It features my story as well as those of the eight other writers, which includes debut novelists and award winners among them.

This is very exciting for me. Though I am part of other collections available on Amazon such as the Bartleby Snopes Issue 8, eFiction and BookMuse Reader’s Journal, this qualifies as my first foray into self-publishing, albeit not with a book that has my name on the cover. But there is time enough for that. Do check out the collection and help spread the word. I hope you enjoy the stories.

In other news, I am striving hard to write regularly. A sprinkling of successes here and there keeps my spirits buoyed up.

If you feel funny, i.e. if you want to write funny and inject a little humour into your stories, take a look at my article A Shot of Humor on FreelanceWriting.com.

My personal essay Digital Devotion is up on Cecile’s Writers magazine. It’s one of my favourite pieces and I’m glad that it found such a good home.

As always, I continue to write one story per month for Short Story Challenge 2015.

What news on the reading/writing front for you?

The Interpreter of Stories

I was 19 when I first read the Interpreter of Maladies, shortly after it was published. At the time I did not properly understand, or indeed appreciate, many of the stories. The two that stayed with me, but didn’t receive much attention in reviews and discussions of the book, were ‘The Real Durwan’ and ‘Sexy’.

I remember reading ‘A Temporary Matter,’ the first story in the book, and feeling a touch of gloom, but overall it left me underwhelmed. My family and I were all crammed into a car, on a four-hour road trip. My sister was expecting at the time. The discussion turned to Jhumpa Lahiri and her book. I mentioned that I had started reading it, and had finished the first story. My father had read the book before me. When my sister asked what the story was about, I slipped her the one-line premise. My father, unseen by my sister, and strongly suspecting that I possessed the emotional intelligence of a raccoon, gripped my elbow, to stop me blurting out the underlying subject at the core of the story – a miscarriage. He needn’t have worried. I was 19 but not foolish.

As I prepare to write seven more short stories during the year, I am reading the masters to study what works and what doesn’t. I am especially dissecting the stories that resonated with me, made sense to me, and left me thinking about the characters long after I’d turned the last page.

In short, to become a better short-story writer, I have to become an Interpreter of Stories.

Most of Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories fall into this category. Somehow her novels never tempted me, though Mira Nair made an amazing film out of her novel The Namesake. An excerpt of her latest novel The Lowland looks promising, but I haven’t got around to reading it yet.

In her second collection, Unaccustomed Earth, I enjoyed the stories of Hema and Kaushik that form the second half of the book, more than the unconnected stories in the first half.

The other story collections I’ve read recently are:

The Red Carpet by Lavanya Sankaran

Revolt of the Fish-eaters by Lopa Ghosh

Have you read any short-story collections lately?