The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

MUST READ.

11

‘Mrs. Guinea answered my letter and invited me to lunch at her home. That was where I saw my first finger bowl.

The water had a few cherry blossoms floating in it, and I thought it must be some clear sort of Japanese after-dinner soup and ate every bit of it, including the crisp little blossoms.

Mrs. Guinea never said anything, and it was only much later,when I told a debutante I knew at college about the dinner, that I learned what I had done.’


 

‘Remember how you asked me where would I like to live best, the country or the city?’

‘And you said…’

‘And I said I wanted to live in the country and in the city both?’

Buddy nodded.

‘And you,’ I continued with sudden force, ‘laughed and said I had the perfect setup of a true neurotic and that that question came from some questionnaire you’d had in psychology class that week?’

Buddy’s smile dimmed.

‘Well, you were right. I am neurotic. I could never settle down in either the country or the city.’

‘You could live between them,’ Buddy suggested helpfully. ‘Then you could go to the city sometimes and to the country sometimes.’

‘Well, what’s so neurotic about that?’

Buddy didn’t answer.

 

-The Bell Jar, Plath

Jaggery contributor Namrata Poddar writes an interesting article on ‘Show don’t tell’

As Maggie Awadalla and Paul March-Russell suggest in the introduction to their anthology The Postcolonial Short Story (2012), many non-Western countries did not transition “organically” from oral to written storytelling with a rise in capitalism.

For many formerly or currently colonized spaces like South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, American South and Native America, there has always existed a rich, vibrant tradition of oral storytelling, one that was marginalized, often violently, through an imposition of an allegedly modern, white Western language and culture.

Read more here.

Review of Tendai Huchu’s novel ‘The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician’

A review of Tendai Huchu’s novel ‘The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician’ has included a question from my interview with him:

In an interview Huchu was asked how immigration affected his writing and his response was caustic: “The funny thing is that when some white dude writes a novel set anywhere in Africa or Asia, it’s never referred to as an immigrant novel. They just have the right to be where they want to be and to write what they want.” That’s exactly what Huchu did with this piece of work – he wrote the story that he wanted to write. If our assumptions and myopia created a certain set of expectations, then that was our mistake, not his.

Read the review hereRead my interview with him here.

 

Two very useful articles on ‘Getting Published In A Literary Magazine’

This article titled ‘The Ultimate Guide To Getting Published In A Literary Magazine‘ by Lincoln Michel is very useful for new writers.

Lincoln is the editor-in-chief of Electric Literature, an awesome literary website.

Highlights of the article:

  • Emerging writers should keep in mind that online is forever. If you publish your early work in a print magazine, a few years down the line it will basically disappear unless you choose to include it in a future collection. If you get to be an established writer, only someone willing to go plough through the stacks of a university’s library archives is going to see it.

 

  • It’s nice to get a lot of publishing credits, but honestly, after a couple, they don’t really matter unless the work is good. I’ve seen some writers who published seemingly 50 pieces a year in decent journals, yet who took forever to sell a book because the work was rushed and uneven. 

 

Another article is ‘How to Submit Your Writing to Literary Magazines’  by the editorial team of Neon literary magazine is amazing.

Highlights of the article:

  • The first step is to find a magazine that you’d like to be published in, and which publishes the kind of thing you write.

 

  • If, however, the guidelines provided by the magazine have nothing to say about how you should format your work, you can use standard manuscript format. Rather than providing a long description of standard manuscript format, I’ll instead refer you to the expert. William Shunn is the definitive source on manuscript preparation, and on his site you’ll find easy-to-follow instructions on how to format your work.

 

  • A few magazines will ask you to paste your work into the main body of the email, rather than sending it as an attachment. This is easy to do, but can cause problems. Your perfectly formatted manuscript can end up looking a mess once you’ve transferred it to an email.To prevent this, copy and paste the text from your manuscript into Notepad (or another basic text editor). Then copy and paste it again from there into the email. This strips away unnecessary formatting, and ensures a clean and tidy result. You might need to play around with the spacing while you have the text in Notepad, but this little extra effort is very much worth the result.

Indian writing in English, Literary Magazines and Lessons Learnt

A note on Indian writing in English, Literary Magazines and Lessons Learnt

This blog post, I hope, will have some takeaways for aspiring writers and readers from India.

It contains my recommendations of books by contemporary Anglophone Indian writers, the role of literary magazines in shaping the careers of new writers in India and lessons I have learnt.

(i) Books by Indian writers in English- Recommendations

I am 24 now.

My reading was restricted to contemporary popular American and British fiction for most of my life. But I did read The Namesake by Indian-American literary author Jhumpa Lahiri and I aspired to be like her. To be able to move NRIs like I had been on reading her work.

I am an Indian, born and raised in Bahrain.

I was in Bangalore for a few years, for higher studies. There I attended many literature fests, panel discussions etc. If not anything else it made me aware of the pulse of Indian writing in English.

India has Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Dutta, Nikita Singh and others who are famous for their love stories. India has also witnessed many good literary writers in the recent years.

Since I did not study literature formally I decided to read contemporary literary fiction by Anglophone Indian writers to learn from their books first-hand.


Some literary Anglophone Indian writing I have read in these past few years:

Window Seat, Janhavi Acharekar

Rebirth, Jahnavi Barua

Next Door: Stories, Jahnavi Barua

No Direction Rome, Kaushik Barua

First Love, Brinda Charry

Lunatic in my head by Anjum Hasan

Neti, neti by Anjum Hasan

If you are afraid of heights, Raj Kamal Jha

The Blue Bedspread, Raj Kamal Jha

Manan, Mohit Parikh

Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Kiran Desai

Transit For Beginners, Rheea Mukherjee

Family Life, Akhil Sharma (Indian-American)

Ghachar Ghochar, Vivek Shanbhag (Translation)


Outstanding books from all:

  • Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto-

This was a random pick from the Indian fiction section at Blossoms Bookstore, Bangalore. Blossoms sells second hand books of different genres. The cover did play some role in my purchase decision. Loved the novel.

Readers: Do Read for the exquisite prose and throbbing pain of the protagonist who has a mother suffering from mental illness. It is an autobiographical novel.

Writers: The author took many years to arrive at this. This is a lesson for writers who are impatient. If you want to write a novel that matters, do take your time with it. Do not rush into self-publishing your manuscript which is hurriedly written and barely edited.


  • Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph

Again, this was a random pick at Blossoms. Loved it.

Readers: Do Read for the humour, suspense, for the character Ousep Chacko’s pain of losing a child to suicide, brilliant prose and plot. It is a semi-autobiographical novel.

Writers: Want to write a book that has well-written prose and will keep your readers hooked to the plot? This is it.


  •  Rebirth by Jahnavi Barua

Again, this was a random pick at Blossoms. Loved it.

Readers: Read for the voice of the narrator/mother, smooth prose, for a glimpse of the life of a North East Indian in Bangalore. Barua is Assamese and so is her protagonist.

Writers: Want to write a story that will make your readers take a breath of relief from this hyperlinked, distracted, impatient world? This is it.


  •  Family Life by Akhil Sharma

This I read thanks to all the amazing reviews online and a writer friend’s Goodreads 5 star rating.

Readers:  Read for excellent prose, for the protagonist’s pain of having a sibling whose brain damaged. It is an autobiographical novel. It was disturbing for me but the book is worth the pain.

Writers:  This book does everything right so you will know what you should never do.


  • Manan by Mohit Parikh

I had attended Toto Funds the Arts 2015 in Bangalore. Mohit won Creative writing in English for his story The stroller in the supermarket. Amazing story. It is published in The Identity Theory.

Readers:  Read Manan for the refreshing prose, for an intriguing commentary of growing up in 1990s in India.

Writers: Write what you know.


  • No Direction Rome by Kaushik Barua

Readers: Read for the sheer freshness, humour, experimental prose.

Writers: Risk it and rock it.


  • Transit For Beginners  by Rheea Mukherjee

Will discuss in detail below.


  • Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

This is a translation from Kannada by Srinath Perur.

Readers:  Must read for the gripping story about a joint family who doesn’t know how to deal with sudden prosperity, for characters, for smooth prose.

Writers: Awesome prose. You will learn a lot from Shanbhag’s storytelling abilities and Perur’s translation skills.


(ii) Literary Magazines

There a lot of literary magazines in India like Out of Print Magazine, Vayavya, Nether, Antiserious and more. You will find more on Helter Skelter’s list of 20 Places to Submit Creative Writing in India.


The benefits of submitting to literary magazines:

-You can create a network of writer friends who will help you push your limits.

– You will be noticed among the lot of emerging writers but of course that depends on your work also.

– You will learn from the editorial process.

Rejections help.

-They will keep you going till you have your debut book published.


The writers whose stories I have read online that make me want to buy their books are Annie Zaidi, Manu Bhattathiri, Jigar Brahmabhatt, Aravind Jayan, Prashila Naik, Arjun Rajendran, Sumana Roy, Nabina Das, Nandini Dhar and more.

The two writers I’m going to discuss in detail today have just published their debut books. Had it not been for literary magazines, I would not have been privy to their awesome prose.


Rheea Mukherjee’s debut short story collection Transit for Beginners was published by Singapore publisher Kitaab recently and Tanuj Solanki’s debut novel Neon Noon was published by Harper Collins India recently.


Rheea:

I had stumbled across Rheea’s short stories online in 2012. I had subscribed to Every Day Fiction. I had liked a few of the stories that I had read on their website so I decided to subscribe. I could unsubscribe anytime, right? Gladly I didn’t before I could read Rheea’s short story Small adjustments. It landed in my inbox on Nov 3, 2012. I loved it. I began tracking the writer’s stories online and each story kept me hooked.

The writer now has her debut collection published. Every story has characters so intriguing that you just cannot put the book down. Favourite stories from the collection are Hungry and Reckless though it is very tough to pick as all are good.

As a writer what I have learnt from her is that one must be patient and always aim higher. With every new piece, one must challenge themselves and never ever give up.

Highlight: She is an MFA graduate but you will find her voice unique, it is not dry at all. Her characters are very Indian and will stay with you for a long time.

The literary magazines she has been published in are Cha, QLRS, Bengal Lights etc.


Tanuj:

He has founded The Bombay Literary Magazine. I liked the work he had published so I decided to submit to the magazine. Until then I had only submitted to magazines which have almost 100% acceptance rate. So the editorial process at TBLM helped me a lot as a writer. He provides feedback with rejections.

The first story of his that I came across online was The Bachelor in The Burrow Press Review in 2014. It is now the first chapter of his novel. I could not appreciate it then as my reading had not evolved yet. A year later I read his story The Other Room in One Throne Magazine. It is a long story and I read it without a pause which you know is difficult online with distractions on the Internet and all. It was that interesting, yes. Amazing prose. I later got to know that One Throne has an acceptance rate of under 1%.

Since then I have read most of his stories online and what I have learnt as a writer is that write what you know, be true to yourself and your prose. Quality matters, not quantity.

His novel Neon Noon was recently published.

Highlight: His prose is arresting. His writing is experimental. He has learnt everything by autodidacticism. 

The literary magazines he has been published in are The Caravan, The Atticus Review, Identity Theory etc.


These two writers are not just awesome writers but great mentors too. They have contributed a lot to my writing journey. If I ever do publish something worthwhile I owe it to them.

And of course to my friends (writers, non-writers, editors) who beta read my work and make my life so much easier.


(iii) Lessons learnt

– Submit to magazines whose content you like. Where you think your piece might fit.

Learn from rejections. Being defensive doesn’t help.

Interact with the writers who have been published in magazines as you. Swap stories and beta read them. Win-win.

Read a lot. Read analytically. Read for pleasure.

-Write what truly moves you and not what you think might please the reader.

-Always aim to outdo your previous piece. Edit. Edit. Edit.

Quality is essential. Not quantity. Have I said this enough?

Do not get carried away by praise. Reserve them for low times but keep the constructive feedback in mind. Always.

-Above all, be patient. 

Hope this post helps!

Happy writing and reading!

Neon Noon by Tanuj Solanki

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They say don’t judge a book by its cover but when it is this awesome, you can’t help it.

Tanuj Solanki’s novel is published by Harper Collins India.

This is a recommendation to all bookworms who love to read awesome Indian lit.

Look out for this. You will not regret it.

You can buy it here.

 

Reviews of Neon Noon:

1- Firstpost

2- Hindustan Times

3- Scroll.in

4- The Book Track

5- Bayside Journal

Look out for this short story collection!

Super excited to share this book cover of Rheea Rodrigues Mukherjee’s short story collection ‘Transit for Beginners’ from Singapore based publishing house Kitaab (Recently my short story was published by them!).

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Rheea Mukherjee received her MFA in creative writing from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Her work has been published in Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, Cleaver Magazine, CHA: An Asian Literary Magazine, QLRS, The Bombay Literary  Magazine, A Gathering of Tribes, Everyday Fiction, Bengal Lights and Out Of Print Magazine. Her book, a collection of short stories, Transit For Beginners, is forthcoming from Kitaab International in 2016. She co-founded Bangalore Writers Workshop in 2012 and presently co-runs Write Leela Write, a Design and Content Laboratory in Bangalore.

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This awesome cover is designed by Kalabati Majumdar.

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Kalabati is a visual artist raised in Calcutta and co-runs Write Leela Write with Rheea Mukherjee in Bangalore. You can learn more about her here.

Read the story Transit for Beginners’  published in The Bombay Literary Magazine (edited by the very talented Tanuj Solanki whose first novel ‘Neon Noon’ will be out by Harper Collins India this month.)

Been following Rheea’s work for years.

Her short stories are amazing to say the least.

You can buy it on Flipkart or Amazon.