Rejection Slips

They give me more than one kind of feeling when I get them. Before anything the first thing that my mind tells me is: Someone actually read your work. That was the point of writing after all; to get at least one other living being to see your work. The sadness dwells in another core of me, a place which actually steers the day-to-day activities of my life. So such slips do affect my life in a way.

So if there was some small positive part to rejection slips in my view, it was that. Now the larger part of the story deals with the traumatic side. Naturally.

With every rejection slip comes the feeling that the day of being published will perhaps, never come. That one dream which struggles to sustain itself despite all the other things in life that don’t actually matter might just stay unrealised.

Even though positivity is something I try to keep a good stock of, it just doesn’t help beyond a point; it falls flat in the desert of discouragement where one is thirsty for reassurance. Now that is something harder to come by than the goal itself. While two close family members really believe the day will come, and a few friends who don’t know the intensity of despair try to cajole you and even pull you to a bad movie, no Angel is out there waiting to bestow kindness and reassurance. If there is one that’s got to be me and I’m only a novice Angel!

Writing is a lonely process despite the fact that I love it more than anything. What with the other hundred issues that can bog me down I have to handle the solitary feeling too. Sometimes being alone is a great comfort but at times when I sit staring at rejection slips in my hand it is pure hell. It even stalls the WIP which clamours for attention and polishing. It’s a sad state.

But there’s one other thing that rejection slips can do. A positive one too (I really didn’t see this coming when I began writing this post). It makes one brave. If I’m writing about my rejection slips with an intention of sharing it with the world, when the rest of world is proclaiming slogans like “My First book is in print” or “I sold my recent novel” or “I signed a three book deal”, then that’s something to feel happy about.

While sailing through one of my rejections I happened upon writer Ellen Jackson’s website. And these priceless words really did some good healing work.

Rejection-proof your manuscript. Write from your heart. Everyone is looking for a little bit of wisdom to help them get through life with courage and grace. Do you have wisdom to share? Is your gift humor? Can you make a child laugh? Can you tell the truth in a new way? What was important to you when your were a child? Make the clear expression of your passion your primary goal. Then show your writing to friends who know you and will understand what you’re trying to say. If one person “gets” it, you’ve planted a seed. Your writing is successful–no matter how the rest of the world judges you. The rest is just ego.

And this piece, Rejection Slips: A balm for Writers and as certain as Death by Gerald. W. Haslam is by far the most wise and sensible take on this sensitive ailment facing writers. In the essay Poet Donna Champion is quoted to have said, “I wouldn’t mind rejection so much if editors would just take the time to send a personal note” and I couldn’t agree more. This is greatest form of reassurance in my opinion. Being replied to with a little note that’s personal gives that feeling of the all important “belongingness” which is so valuable to writers.

This particular line, I felt, was the keystone point of the whole piece:

It is important to recognize that there is no sham in receiving rejection letters. For someone who wants to be published there may actually be shame in not receiving some, since that often means a writer is not really trying. Jack London once claimed to have received 400 in a single year, but he hung in there and eventually saw a great deal of his material in print.

So the deal here is to try, and try, and get there! And even if I don’t exactly wear shirts like these I’ve learnt to accept them just as any other  felicitous news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The month in books #2

The month gone by was a long one for me. Funny: considering it was a February. Anyway the really strange aspect was when it came to what I read and watched. I hadn’t planned out anything in particular but strangely the general theme seemed to be- touchy. So…

There are very few things in the outside world that actually affect me in a sentimental way. Even though kindness and compassion is a part of me I’m as strong as steel when it comes to being moved by a touchy scene/story. People have often thought me hard-hearted at farewells and re-unions when I return home dry and composed as always.

But in everyone’s life, at sometime, a thing deeply shatters you and brings an outpour without any notice. The first time it happened was when I watched ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch. My eyes were all weepy and I kept shaking and nodding at the end of the speech and a family member who entered the room was quite appalled at the sight. All through the speech only one thing went through my mind- This guy is freaking divine! He knows he’s going to die and there he gives an awe-inspiring talk to a hall filled with the grim auras of the gathering. Despite everything he forges ahead, with his ‘dark humour’ and left me crying. I was hollering in my head when he so coolly acknowledged that he had only about six months of “healthy life” left. And man did I clamour for one of those adorable bears!

The other thing that left me all teary was this book- ‘To Sir With Love’ by E.R.Braithwaite which I read this month. This racial thing has always put me to distress. I don’t really know if it exists even today but if it does then God save the man who supposedly is in the ‘information’ era. If there’s one word in the whole of the English Language that I hate, it has to be- coloured. Whatever million other meanings a vocabulary may render it invariably reminds of the atrocities that faultless human beings with a lot of melanin on their dermis faced.

This book is a straight ticket into the hearts of millions of people with dark skins. Braithwaite’s writing is so exact in setting the scene before the reader that only imbibing the emotions is left to do. And that is pretty easy to do for anyone who can empathise with the grave injustices faced by another human being. One minute he is happy with the way life has showered something upon him and the other minute, that which was in sight sometime back quite disappears. When Braithwaite finds a place to get accommodation he is more than delighted at the prospect but all the delight is sucked into a black hole the moment he hears that ‘kind refusal’ masking the prejudice beneath. The stark reality glares into his eyes whisking away the temporary mists of joy.

Then a couple of days after reading Braithwaite I took up John Green’s latest novel, The Fault in our Stars after reading much in praise about it. I’m yet to categorize the book personally whatever the world may say. I still cannot decide about what aspect of the book pulled the strings but that is because every time I even try to probe I find myself breaking down internally. I read a lot of contemporary novels and love them too. But never was I totally convinced that they would create impacts like the classics, which had the masses hooked to them. And John Green demystified every such notion and I’m so happy about it. I cannot further elaborate on the whys and whats for the same reason stated a few lines back.

‘The mysterious affairs at Styles’ touted to be Agatha Christie’s finest novel was one which I never got to read until now. Mysteriously. A die-hard fan of hers that I am. So I loved it and took in the atmosphere completely and for once my guess was almost right!

Finally I managed to squeeze in ‘Revolution 2020’ by Chetan Bhagat, the writer who revolutionised book reading in the India. And well, it was an average book with witty bits sandwiched between some mediocre bits.

Somewhere in between I also picked up ‘The Return of the Native’ by Thomas Hardy but sadly it was a failed attempt. Again.

And on the day before Leap Day I started ‘Charming Billy’ by Alice McDermott and boy was I shocked to find myself reading about a funeral! Well, I couldn’t pull myself to read it in a day and I suppose I’ll finish it now. Or maybe not. Maybe I need something more cheerful.

So, that was that. How was your February?

 

On Travel Aspirations

The time seems near, if it has not actually arrived, when the chastened sublimity of a moor, a sea, or a mountain will be all nature that is absolutely in keeping with moods of the more thinking among mankind. And ultimately, to the commonest tourist, spots like Iceland may become what the vineyards and myrtle-gardens of South England are to him now; and Heildelberg and Baden be passed unheeded as he hastens from the Alps to the sand-dunes of Scheveningen. – Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native.

Certainly Hardy’s foresight ran clear and the whole world is abuzz with travelling to exotic places on the planet. The latest issue of my Traveller magazine tells me in glossy enticing pages all that I can maybe see in ten lives. It is exciting for me to merely pick up an issue of the magazine from the stands. The travel bug bit me when I was busy talking to the stars and having dinners with the moon.

I didn’t quite realise how fortunate I’ve been to have travelled far across the planet in my own small way. Until recently I actually took the time out to mark out the places on the planet I’ve been to. That is always the easier thing to do when it comes to journaling your travel aspirations. But nevertheless I did go a bit further, ambitious that I am in these sorts of things, and listed down places I’ve got to go before…

Well, the city of lights, the city of my favourite bookstore, the city of history , the city of fashion and French still tops in my list. But that was that until I read- I, Literary Tourist by Daniel Nester. The writer talks about his wonderful experiences at a Bed & Breakfast. After reading it I just thought, “How sublime woulds’t that be?” There’s very little in today’s world where book lovers can experience the thrill of fiction in real life. Though author talks, book clubs, other little ventures are garbled here and there, there’s a lacking in terms of wholesomeness in the experience for it comes under the drone of everyday life, though the general definition of a ‘Literary Tourist’ as given in Daniel’s piece includes these activities. You have to munch on a granola bar while steering your way to the book club. You have to tackle that pending office work before you fizz out.

And the idea of Bed and Breakfasts themed on a book or a writer is very appetising to me personally. Though the commercial aspect of it might repel some people away from it, it must be noted that all that is unbelievably exciting is not bad. I wouldn’t mind saving up a few months for it. If it’s easy and worth the while to do that for an Audi it certainly applies here as well if you’re one of the happy dreamers like me. And the title of ‘Literary Tourist’ comes along with it too! Any new tags to my little literary cap rather my Literary Shack is very welcome.

Daniel discusses about a few places that are popular like ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ and Dickens World in Kent. As a prospective literary tourist my itinerary looks something like this:

~ The Poetry Ridge Bed and Breakfast

~ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

~ The Anne Frank Museum

~ Jane Austen’s House and Museum

~ Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

~ Robert Frost Farm

~ Stratford-upon-Avon

~ Brook Farm Inn

I solely relied on this marvellous website, LiteraryTourist.com to make up my list though they didn’t actually let me get to the details without registration but its listing is almost exhaustive. Now step two in my attempt to become a fancy Literary Tourist is about getting there and with enough dough too.

Jane Austen January: The Final Chapter

Jane Austen SOURCE: Google

It feels a bit disheartening not to be able to complete the fourth book in my attempt to read four of Austen’s fantastic novels this January. But what with tight writing schedules, other readings to get done, a bit of health issues too I’m happy to have experienced three delightful books by ‘The Lady’- Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

What I learn from Austen every time I read is the credibility of characters more than anything. The stories just seem like normal love stories but beneath them lies the world that I so take pleasure in knowing and understanding. I love the bows, the dinners, the manners, the ribbons, the dresses, the manners, not to mention the wonderful suitors. Though live back then is touted to have been boring by the children of technology of today’s world, in my view it is quite the contrary. With grand and elegant pianoforte’s to be mastered, room full of books by the masters of English Literature to be devoured, long and insightful letters to be written to the dear, courteous notes and calls to be given to neighbours, breathtaking parks and mansions to visit where was the time to be idle? Living like that has always been one of my many utopian dreams.

But Austen more than sufficiently provides for my fancies. Whatever views literary critics may take I for one will always admire the novels and turn to them for comfort and camaraderie.

Now I thought I might share some of my favourites out of her six popular novels.

Favourite Setting: Barton Park from Sense and Sensibility

Enjoyably Annoying character: Mrs. Jennings from Sense and Sensilibity

Favourite Non-heroine Sibling: Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Favourite Notorious Character: Frank Churchill from Emma and Lydia from Pride and Prejudice

Favourite Stately character: Sir Thomas Bertram from Mansfield Park

The character(s) I laughed my off reading: Collins and Catherine De Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice

Favourite hero: Fitzwilliam Darcy( I know, very typical, but that’s that)

Favourite heroine: I just cannot zero in on one. It would be pointless to cherry pick for the Austen fan that I am.

Favourite lucky character(s): Fanny Price from Mansfield Park and Wickam from Pride and Prejudice.

Favourite Parent/ Parents: The Morlands and Mr. Woodhouse

Favourite Saint: Anne Elliot from Persuasion

Favourite kids: The Musgroves pack from Persuasion

And the list is endless I think, so it would be best if I just let it be.

And now it feels like I have come to the end of something so enjoyable and invigorating. Nonetheless, I will continue to read them in the future. And it was a bang-up start for the year and thanks to all of you who joined in to make it an even more pleasant experience.

Jane Austen January: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favourites. Yeah, I know. But come on liking a book must not become a cliché and talking about it too. So to establish the practise I’m going try to pontificate now. Whenever I ponder about its universal popularity only one fact resurfaces over and again- we are all human beings who pull through the hardships of life sustained by love and a happy ending.

For those of you looking for a review of the book, new-timers, this is what I can say. It’s a beautiful story and you must go read it. It wouldn’t do justice to the book to describe it as a ‘timeless classic’, ‘immortal piece’, etc. Go read it and experience it.

Now, Elizabeth Bennet according to me is the perfect girl that every noble man on earth should lust for. Elizabeth is quick witted, loyal, sensible and altogether so endearing that no scene can do without her. If the people and places came to life, it would feel completely exanimate without her presence. She is one lady whose very flaw extols her beauty more than her virtues. So it’s not just the friction factor here that makes Darcy and Lizzie the most sensible pair. And there obviously lies the ingenius Austen touch.

If I have to say I love something more than the rest then that would be Wickam. Yes the infamous cad who is so impossibly smooth. When I imagine a fictitious scene set in the Regency period I can’t conjure up anything but ‘handsome mansions’, elegant young women, wealthy noble suitors and balls(of course). It’s just so incredible to encounter a person like Wickam. I can never think about him without remembering Maugham’s Tom Ramsay. They are two characters from fiction that I adulate despite their notoriety. You’ve got to be smart to be bad too. I mean one cannot possibly reject “a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address” unless of course the post-conflict Darcy comes around with his ‘bewitched’ heart.Collins, the annoying puny fellow, is the core spice of the story according to me. Where else would Lizzie go to but his humble dwelling(with its benefactress the Lady Catherine de Bourgh) and how else can Darcy do what he does?

It’s all too perfect, just there for the reader to revel in. Austen certainly poured out all the passion she had into this novel. How else can it survive the vagaries of fads over two centuries?

And I’m seeing stars now because as I was typing this post I also took this quiz and voila!

I resemble Elizabeth Bennet! Strangegirl.com you totally made my day! And why not take the quiz yourself and post your results. I’m more than eager to know.

 

 

 

 

 

South Asian Writers Challenge: Gently Falls the Bakula by Sudha Murthy

I’m so happy to have started off with my reading for the South Asian Writers Challenge hosted by S.Krishna’s Books. Before I get to the book here’s a bit about the author.

Sudha Murthy

Sudha Murty was born in 1950 in Shiggaon in north Karnataka. She did her MTech in computer science, and is now the chairperson of theInfosys Foundation. A prolific writer in English and Kannada, she has written nine novels, four technical books, three travelogues, one collection of short stories, three collections of non-fiction pieces and two books for children.
Her books have been translated into all the major Indian languages and have sold over three lakh copies around the country. She was the recipient of the R.K. Narayan’s Award for Literature and the Padma Shri in 2006.

SOURCE: PENGUIN INDIA

The book is a short read but a very impactful one. It’s simple in tone and took me very less time to get into its core though the settings are quite unkown to me. The story parodies the life of a couple, both of who are talented and ambitious in their own ways. It starts off with their early conflicts in schools and flows through the subsequent years where Shrikanth and Shrimathi, the hero and heroine, fall in love and feel they are entangled for life. The domestic disputes between their families, which had lasted for years as far as they remembered, shadows their relationship throughout passively. Though their differences don’t enter directly into their combined happiness, it still penetrates into their personal peace. Life and strife gets the better of them as years progress and Shrimathi feels the pinch of the sacrifices she blindly made for the man she loved. Despite the advice of her mentor, an old Professor from the United States, to pursue her passion for history she goes on to give up all her personal goals for the good of her husband. But even after ten years of unfaltering devotion to her family she finds all her sacrifices being neglected and even worthless. The pain unrequited love is felt clearly through the lens of Shrimathi’s character.

The book deals with a heavy, multi-layered topic of complicated family matters very typical of the Indian society almost thirty years ago. It shows in

crystalclear terms the impact of the IT boom in a conventional gild. A strong feminist voice speaks throughout which is the aspect I most loved about the book. Thetenderness and sensibility of a woman, her sacrifices, her fortitiude, her aspirations and her suppression is all set on a platter for the reader to assimilate. Over and above everything is the beautiful metaphorical allusion to the fragrant Bakula flowers, from a variety of ornamental tree that grows in India.

Shrikant was restless . . . Holding a bakula flower in his palm, he was wondering why he was fascinated by this tiny flower, that was neither as beautiful as a rose nor had the fragrance of a jasmine or a champaka. And yet, it was very special to him. It held an inexplicable attraction for him.’

The book is also pretty informative for a short novel that it is. There’s plenty of love professed generously for the poignant Indian king Ashoka the Great , even more admiration for the artistic ancient cities and marvellous monuments of Western and South India. In tiny little bits in between the flow of the story there’s much beauty to discover in the form of facts and little characters.

I completed the reading in about four hours but the story left me with a considerable impact. As a self-professed student of Hemingway in matters of writing and reading, I say the book was a good one because it ‘hurt‘ me. It left me thinking way after I was done reading about women and life.

From the Writing Desk: The Chills

It’s the fag end of the year with hardly three days left to do everything I had taken on to complete in 2011. And the productivity in terms of actual writing done isn’t bad; in fact it has turned out to be better than I imagined. I’ve written about a dozen short pieces which are arguably better than my juvenile attempts from earlier years. My WIP is growing optimistically in the spheres of plot, characters, settings and all. Where is the boulder then?

Here. Now.

With hardly two days left to say good bye to this year, the eleventh year of the millenium, I can feel my hands being numbed by the cold(literally also). There’s a huge block of bricks sitting right in front of me hindering my progress. The much awaited smooth transition from this year to the next won’t materialise after all. There has to be some blobs of ink-shed now, I suppose. How else can the flow occur? I fear that something is lost. It’s certainly not a wanting for words or coherence. All the key elements remain while I’m afraid the spark of interest is wavering in the cold winds. The splinter in me suffers the danger being snuffed out.

It’s true- I have been way too hard on me. But the goal is so near me always and I don’t want to let it slip while I can help it. The harsh hours of straining, brainstorming and typing has certainly made the fountain of fuel in me go dry. When the rest of the world prepares to welcome the new year, the beginning, I sit by my desk thinking of a way to bid adieu to this eventful year in a decent manner.

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(From the Writing Desk will be regular feature on theliteraryshack that will discuss and share thoughts that pop up right from my writing place)

Book Review: A Room with a view by E.M.Forster

A Room with a view

It’s not every day that I come across a book as profound and Edwardian as this one. Almost everything that is lovely and sensible features in this compact novel about a girl Lucy Honeychurch. The story starts off in a pension room in grand Italy. Lucy and her chaperon have come to tour Italy and take in its beauty to the most. Their place of stay, the interesting Bertolini brims with vivid characters who take the plot forward. After an untoward experience with a young man George Emerson the two girls leave for Rome abruptly ending their Italian trip. Then the story shifts to the household of the Honeychurches. Lucy who returns from Rome gets engaged to one typical English man Cecil. But something inside her disturbs her keeping her in perpetual disquiet. The memories of George keep returning and finally fate contrives in bringing George to Lucy’s very neighbourhood. Stuck in this tumultuous mess Lucy tries to disentangle herself and this forms the rest of the story.

This is the first book Forster’s that I read and I have certainly fallen in love with his writing. The narration throws such beautiful words of wisdom that I was wonderstruck even as I read it. People and places are so lively even in the most serious of times. There is every possible kind of character in the story, from clergymen to novel writers. The two characters out of the bunch that interested me were Lucy and old Mr.Emerson, the father of George Emerson. This old man is crude in manners, loud and asserting. Yet his kindness which is celebrated by the author himself shines forth rendering a hero image to him. This I think is justified also because he is instrumental in clearing things up in the end. His character is consistently shown to be good and eccentric in equal measure. The old man can be rightly described to be strangely intellectual for one with many weird idiosyncrasies.

But Lucy, the female protagonist whose life the author tells, is only constantly changing. It feels like you’re being shown different facets of her through a kaleidoscope. And I love dynamic characters like her.

It’s not just the characters that make this a classic. No book can become a classic without originality in perspective. And Forster is simply wonderful in this aspect. He tells: Do you suppose there’s any difference between Spring in nature and Spring in man? But there we go, praising the one and condemning the other as improper, ashamed that the same laws work eternally through both. This one dialogue speaks much in its depth. We come to know clearly that the society and its mindset weren’t much different from the present. Love was seen with equal disgust as it’s seen today in some societies.

There were moments while I read when I was astounded by the little commentaries on life and nature in general. Imageries are found aplenty in this one and my favourite was that of the little pool of water that Lucy calls a Lake. Some of the deepest insights on her character that is perceivable derives its core from this particular image. A side so naive yet so earthy comes to light every now and then in the presence of this symbolic Lake. It stands for memories, the lighter and more enjoyable side of life and the most mystical period of life too- childhood.

The book also is idyllic because of the realism in the settings. The Italian paintings, galleries, dark alleys and Piazza’s, hills and picnic spots, quiet English neighbourhoods are strikingly tangible and it’s not hard to make peace with the surroundings. Forster must have had a real thing for Violets because they so powerfully render a transcendental quality to the atmosphere, at the right time, where love happens.

…,and violets ran down in rivulets and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree stems, collecting into pools in the hollows, covering the grass with spots of azure foam…

The chapters are so aptly named, without any unnecessary sophistication and that adds beauty too. With so much of beauty packed into one small novel it is just on overpowering experience to read it. This is by far one of the finest books I have ever read and is certainly one of the best books I’ve read this year too.

 

 

 

Book Review: Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

Via Google

A rich Chekovian novel by one of the most gifted of contemporary Indian writers.’- THE NEW YORKER

And I couldn’t have agreed more on this one. This is one novel which picked up from my local library by falling in love with its title at first sight. I also happen to be a fan of Anita’s rustic A Village by the Sea. So, I only had to walk up to the librarian and get the book issued.

Anita’s delicate yarn of a tale excited me with its characteristic slow and observant attitude. The plot in simple terms is about the awakening of reality for the characters and a subtle reunion or rather peace-making. The book has powerful core of nostalgia which steers the story forward. It is essentially a family tale- about a lonely, crude woman Bimala, her sensitive and delicate sister Tara, their romantic hero of a brother Raja and Baba, an autistic sibling. Bimala resides alone in their home since childhood taking care of the autistic brother while Tara is married off happily to an NRI and Raja leaves home to pursue his passions. When the family reunites there’s much disconnect between the characters and how everything becomes one again makes the whole story.

Now what makes for the beauty of the novel though is Anita’s sharp eye and eloquent pen. I couldn’t help loving those light crisps of witty comments on nature, people, society and the like. This extract can well acquaint you with the point:

…Bim had never seen anyone so dressed. So bathed, so powdered. She seemed to be dusted all over with flour. Perhaps she had fallen into a flour bin, like a large bun. But she smelt so powerfully of synthetic flowers, it must be powder after all. And her white sari crackled with starch, like a biscuit. And her hair gleamed with coconut oil, and flecks of gold glinted at the lobes of her ear and in the ringed folds of her neck. Altogether a piece of confectionery, thought Bim.

A human being called ‘a piece of confectionery’ is something so out of the realm and undeniably original. This sense of freshness that is garnered to every mundane aspect of life drew me deeper into the book. Honesty is another parameter that keeps throbbing in me to be ticked off while I read any book. And the truthfulness with which the identity crises and the unsettled pasts of the NRI’s is handled really appeased my anger from reading several other poorly presented soups on the same issue.

The several quotes of peotry from Lord Byron’s collections, Iqbal’s royally enchanting verses provided more insight and food for thought. When I read a book it is these extra things that add richness to it. Anita seems to have a natural way of adding richness and elegance to her works. The book is Chekovian in the sense that it subtly brings to terms the reader with the tale and the tale with its proceedings. This added to the typical flavours of the Indian sub-continent made the book one idyllic read.

This is my one other favourite line from the book: An invisible cricket by her feet at that moment began to weep inconsolably.