The musings of a (not-so) single chick in the city. (Don't think that the term chick is derogoratory. We refer to boys by a number of terms). The travails in the life of an ex-miss-goody-two-shoes, ex-journalist, ex-small time model, ex-television actress, of being female in Chennai/ Pune/Bangalore, of ideas old and ideas new....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Love, life and ...

Love, life and all that jazz.
Love, life and the beer can!
Love, life and dream on...

These are all titles of desi english novels or 'Indian Writing' published in the last couple of years. Why this fixation on naming their books with 'love, life ...' (Duh, that is what most 'serious' Indian authors do, we are adamant about being literary, which is writing about love and life, at least a part of us thinks that is the best kind of writing there is...about life....that is not the issue here, I love Ghosh, Roy, Verma,Bagchi, you name them) when other authors have done just that, that too recently enough to stay in people's memories.

Ideally, you'd want your book's title to stand out! grab attention! etc etc, and if you really really want the title to resemble something familiar to hook the reader browing at the book shop, which might entice them to pick it up - you call it 'Non-twilight', or an 'Unsuitable boy'. But why this fixation on "love, life...and three more words', I just dont understand.

Okay, will tell you why I'm ranting about this - I was at Crossword, Chennai two days ago, minding my own business and looking sadly at all the books I cant really afford to buy, and accidentally was recruited to attend a book launch thing that they were doing in the cafe they have on the upper level.

It was for 'Love, life & all that jazz' by Ahmed Faiyaz. Now, I have attended book launches as a reporter and enjoyed the experiences. But now I saw them from the author's perspective, given that it might be me doing the same thing at some point.(Fingers still crossed about being accepted for publication, signing contracts etc, but gasp, gasp).

And when the event began, the room was quite empty and it was really sad to see the plight of the organiser lady and the young author (relatively young among authors, probably a few years older than me) looked a bit lost as he scanned the empty seats. (I'm already dreading the situation, I'd probably go and hide if it was me- if I didnt have an obligation to myself and the publisher to sell as many copies as I could :-( which was what was making Faiyaz sit and continue. (reluctantly, you can conclude.)

The event began 45 minutes after it was scheduled, with about 10 poeple, but thankfully the seats filled up a little by little, and by the end of the event 3/4ths of the seats were occupied. I could actually see the author get more confident when people started arriving randomly from the floor below after hearing bits of reading he did.

I liked what I heard, and the book was reasonably priced, but I hadnt carried cash in hand that day, so stopped by landmark today to see if I could grab a copy. That was when I figured there were three books with similar names, all published in the last coupla years.

And hence the ranting. Can't we be a little creative? Atleast google titles we like to see if there are matches, and if there were some, whether they were recently published, things like that. I'm still going to read the book, but this is just making me think of why we find titles and want to stick to them, though they might work against us. I mean, if there was Swarchkopf, and Schwarzkopf, some people might buy the wrong one. Okay, that was a bad example, but you get the drift.

So long...

It has been a while since I put finger to keyboard to write a post here, because I have been well, pre-occupied. I have, in the past year and a half, been acting in ads,a television show and anchoring news at a private channel based here in Chennai, the latter of which basically means party propaganda in the guise of news, and most importantly, I have managed to get around to writing my first novel. (This is where there is drumroll in my head:-)

While I actually finished the writing between Sep '08-Dec '08, I had been languishing and feeling sorry for myself at the lack of response from any publisher I wrote to all through last year. (Now, I'd been sending in the manuscript to the editorial offices of the major publishers in India, as instructed in the submission guidelines each of them specify on their websites. Turns out thats not how you go about it(!) and Im not talking about getting it to a publisher through an agent, but that is another story.)

Here goes- you have a m.s that you think can be published (not talking about vanity publishing here- dunno whether it was intentionally named thus - anyway -the term is self explanatory- talking about proper publishing house that publishes your work and pays you money for it.), this is what you do :

You have to find out the name of the editor who deals with the genre of fiction your book falls under in whichever publishing house you are targetting and send your manuscript to him/her. Now, it seems simple enough when it is put that way. Except Publishing companies in India just do not give that kind of information clearly on their websites, and you just send it to the editorial department, it is put into the dreaded 'slush pile' and doesnt see the light o' day. And if at all someone there notices that you took the trouble to print it beautifully on bonded paper, with double spaces, send it and all, you get a even more dreaded 'form' letter, where your name is just inserted into the 'to' space and tell you 'sorry , we cant publish your book. good luck.' and usually dont even mention the name of your m.s.

Let's say you do call a publisher up and ask for info about who is the editor in charge of the genre you are writing for, and some kind soul takes pity on you, and gives you info without slamming down the phone on yet another 'wanna be' writer, you have to verify that info, because folks at publishing companies seem to be a very mobile population. Children and teen books editor at Company A one week is at the same position at a rival company the next.So your addressee not there, THUD, one more m.s hits the ever growing slush pile.

Now, once you find out and play the game, i.e, you manage to identify the editors you want to send it to - then the rejection game probably continues. So, you think maybe an agent is a good idea. Tringggggg. Wrong. They are even more beseiged with they want to read, but their reading lists are longer than editors.

And on top of all this, normal response time, if at all there is one, is approximately 3-6 months, leaning more towards the higher limit of the range.

So, all the bad things have been said. But there are some good things. You send it to the proper people and then good things could happen. For eg: I got a reply from an editor who told me how I could make the manuscript better, and also just because they said no- I shouldn't lose heart. And another editor responded within three days of my sending the sample chapters of the m.s to her to send the entire thing. Fingers crossed!

(Note : I know I have said more negative things here than positive for people who want to write - but so have a bunch of other writers- in fact there are books on 'why not to be a writer' and I found two such tomes at the BCL, Chennai. Seems writer angst funds a huge industry by itself :-)

I have also been experimenting with cooking along the way. I had a soup fixation for a while, and so roasted red peppers, roasted pumpkin, french onion, wild mushrooms, spinach, zuccinni, carrots and celery, and all types of quash were made into soups, and my family got bored after a while :D

The croissant bug arrived recently, and its all about controlling the melting butter sheets that envelope thin dough sheets and preventing it from frying the bottom of the dough instead of cooking it. And as Merryl Streep's Julie says, 'Is there anything better than butter?'