Across the Ages Finalist Announcement

Good news! We can finally announce the successful entrants to this 2013’s international anthology Across the Ages. Congratulations to all who made the shortlist – the quality of submissions this year has been absolutely fantastic and it’s only a shame we cannot include more. Please support the project and your fellow authors by spreading the word and buying a copy of the book when it is released later this year.

The below authors are listed in alphabetical order – not the order that they will appear in the anthology.

ACROSS THE AGES 2013 WINNERS
Author Title
Akanksha Sharma Twenty One
Amie Simons Dream A Little Dream of Me
Andrew Ilagan Borderline
Anindita Deo My angry fix, not
Anita Sangwan On wrinkle creams’
Audrey Lee Counterpoint
Chandni Singh three generations
Gowri Kishore a matter of opinion
Jamie Thunder bear
Jessu John some fountains run forever
Jessu John warm the stoves and stone grinders
John Allison Old/bored/trouble/dead
John Leo Sevilla Flashbacks
Jonathan Macho Scholomance Reunion
Joy Donnell any one kind of magic
Joy Donnell of vegas luck and breaks
Joy Donnell clinging until
latika deo missing days
Liam Hogan Time, The Devourer
Merlin Flower single at 29
Michael Wallace daily routine
Naghma Sadique Rage
Nidhi Zakaria Eipe The ordinary pathos of things
Prarthana Banikya Colours of a childhood
Prarthana Banikya 1999
Priscilla Jolly holiday
Raja Karthikeya parliament of ages
Rinkoo Wadhera the final d(ist)ance
Shalini Jagadish of love and loss
Shruthi Rao hardly a walk in the park
Simi Kamboj starry summer nights
Tara Bose the journey inward
Vijayender Ch shadow
Vinaya Bhagat lost penguin
Vinaya Bhagat the migratory birds
Vrinda Baliga message history
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Across the Ages Shortlist Announcement!

As you may have seen on our facebook page our call for submissions is out!

Our review team has been working tirelessly over the last few weeks to whittle down the many-many submissions we received to a list around twice the length that we can include in this year’s anthology. It is quite long for a ‘short’ list but we believe that the writers included here all deserve real recognition for getting to this stage before we decide who will be ultimately included.

The authors are listed in alphabetical order and if we are still considering multiple submissions from any one entrant they are included in separate rows (please bear in mind that, aside from short poems, we are unlikely to include more than one submission per author).

Congratulations if you have made it – it’s a real achievement to come so far. If you or your work is not listed, we hope that you are not too disheartened and will keep an eye out for any future calls for submissions.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their contributions and enthusiasm – it’s only going to get more exciting from here. Whether you are shortlisted or not, please buy the anthology when it is printed to support your fellow entrants. Questions and problems can be directed to robin@sipbooks.com. Without further ado – here is the Across the Ages official shortlist! 

 

A.J. Simons Dream A Little Dream of Me
John Sevilla Flashbacks
Eve Elliot Grant You are never too old
John Allison Old/Bored/Trouble/Dead
Liam Hogan Time, The Devoure
Akanksha Sharma Twenty One
Alexander Aloi For Rita
Amlan Basu Age
Anand Raghav The matchless matchmaker
Andrew Ilagan Borderline
anindita deo My angry fix, not
Anirban Sengupta Two poems
Anita Kurup Poems 3
Anjumon Sahin letters
Ankita Poddar unsaid last words
Ankita Poddar young love
Anu Sangwan Knees
Anu Sangwan On wrinkle creams’
Audrey Lee Counterpoint
Chandni Singh three generations
Chandrakant Kaluram Mhatre sailing the paper boat
Chitra Ghosh hair & age
Claire Louise Travers Aral
Danish Shafi Dear Father
Gargi Mehra Powder and paint
Gitanjali Maria Battling the crisis
Gouri Sattigeri A daughter’s talk
Gowri N Kishore a matter of opinion
Jamie Thunder bear
Jessu John Well
Jessu John some fountains run forever
Jessu John warm the stoves and stone grinders
Jonathan Macho Scholomance Reunion
JOY DONNELL any one kind of magic
JOY DONNELL of vegas luck and breaks
JOY DONNELL clinging until
Junaid Asad setting precendents
Kyle Subido conversation
latika deo missing days
Lucia Gagliese rough patch in the middle
Merlin Flower single at 29
Michael Wallace daily routine
Monika Pant my grandma’s house
nagma sadique Rage
nagma sadique The Joy Club
Nanda Kishore the teddy bear
Nandita Dutta Rachel
Neelima discussion
Nidhi Zakaria Eipe The ordinary pathos of things
Nitish Nair dye another day
Nivedita N my maid lakshmi
Prarthana Banikya Two poems
Prathiba Wilson The funambulist
Prerna Maynil every end has a new beginning
Priscilla Jolly holiday
Raja Karthikeya parliament of ages
Rashmi Krishna the cocoa connect
Rinkoo Wadhera the final d(ist)ance
Rochelle Potkar twilight
S. Govindaraj my old age
Sebastien Orlande happily ten years ago
Shalini Jagadish of love and loss
Shloka Shankar beginnings
Shruthi Rao hardly a walk in the park
Simi Kamboj starry summer nights
Stanley Nazareth young at heart
Stanley Nazareth if young and racing past thirty
Stanley Nazareth more to life than body parts
Tara Bose sufficient unto the day
Tara Bose the journey inward
Veena Prasad note to self
Vibha Batra happy birthday
Vibha Batra college days
Vibha Batra the pull
Vijayender Ch shadow
Vinaya Bhagat lost penguin
Vinaya Bhagat the migratory birds
Vrinda Baliga message history
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Books that I wish had changed my life

Literary columns, blogs and periodicals seem to be full of articles espousing the “50 books to change your life”. While I often very much enjoy the books listed, it seems like my life isn’t as easily changed as some people might think. Here is a rather more conservative kind of list – books that, for one reason or another, I wish could change my life as a writer, reader or day-to-day grumbling self-centred avoider of work. There is an order to this list but it is not in decreasing importance, it corresponds exactly to the order in which I found the books I’m talking about.

  1. Go tell it to the mountain – my current read (and therefore the easiest to find) one that I have luckily been able to dedicate a four-hour commute to despite its short length. James Baldwin has written a book wholly deserving of its position in the Penguin Classics, without falling into the trap of high-brow overstated messages. His story centres mainly around a black family of a preacher in 1930s Harlem and its themes of redemption and sin, self-righteousness, secrecy and human failing are played out with perfect subtlety. Baldwin exemplifies writing simply about something known as opposed to forcing deeper issues. I hope that I somehow hold on to the sense he gives of forgivable human imperfection as well as his nuance as a writer.
  2. Catch22­ – I probably found this second purely because of its size but Joseph Heller’s five hundred and forty page tome somehow wouldn’t be the same if any of its all-important irrelevance was dropped. Catch-22 is more often ridiculous than anything else which, surprisingly often, is one of the best ways to represent war. Heller simultaneously belittles and highlights the importance of lives and his narrator, Yossarian, provides suspense and a perspective just removed enough to throw everything around him into stark relief. Catch should be viewed as the equivalent of an impressionist painting of the war and it’s dark optimism and insight are something I would have liked to hold on to for more than a few days.
  3. The reluctant fundamentalist – considerably shorter than Catch but no less accomplished for it. Moshin Hamid creates a multi-layered story which interests you in events of its protagonist’s life, large and small, while describing the post 9-11 world. The politics and fear of the times are mirrored and magnified by personal loves and trials and this main tale is framed in a structure that, while short and intermittent, possesses a permanent sense of tension and importance. Hamid’s writing describes both the virtues and pitfalls of complete commitment to a cause, whether it be an ideal or ideal partner, in a way that makes you feel that his message cannot be ignored.
  4. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby is almost always a sure-fire bet when it comes to studying life. While his male characters can have slightly repetitive flaws and story arks, high fidelity is a tale of redemption that doesn’t take itself, or anything else, too seriously. Just as Heller’s Catch- 22 shows the truth of the war through topical application of the ridiculous, Hornby highlights a coming-of-age using his terminally childish main: Rob Flemming. There are certainly portions of the book in which Rob’s mistakes can elicit groans of despair but his position is always relatable to some extent and the lessons Hornby takes us through are important and everyday.
  5. Noughties  was printed by the “Hamish Hamilton” wing of Penguin which, to those knowledgeable of the company, focuses more on the literary accomplishment of their novels than mainstream success. In many ways, Noughties can be compared to High Fidelity in respect of its depiction of young life as well as its dedication to a form of creative expression (here literature over music, although there is no shortage of appreciation for other art forms). Noughties is steeped in past and present culture, Masters picks up on phrases and habits that somehow speak volumes and he splits the novel into the chapters of a night out in a way that is surprisingly entertaining (as entertaining as you can find chapter headings). As with many of these books, Noughties tracks the personal growth of its focal group over a chaotic time in their lives and without forcing a particular message down the reader’s throat, the Masters knows where he wants to go and makes it there successfully.
  6. It’s raining in maya – a book that I have already reviewed in this blog. It’s raining captures small-town hopelessness and lack of momentum in a network of spirituality and magic-realism. I find it hard to believe that it was author Raam Reddy’s first published novel but I’ve already said my piece here and if anyone wants to read more, I’ve hyperlinked to the original review above.
  7. Light Boxes ­– I became interested in Shane Jones magic realism book hot on the heels of finishing Reddy’s. It’s difficult to define exactly what part of the contradictory, allusive and spiritual novella makes it so great but Jones’ loose and accommodating reality allows him to touch on war, prejudice, family ties and personal strength in a story that takes only a couple of hours to read.
  8. The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ – from Philip Pullman, a great new take on one of the most widely-known stories in the world. Pullman has taken the New Testament and pried it apart in a genuine attempt to make sense of the story. Some may see the retelling as blasphemous but it can be best read as a tale all of its own, something highly referential of the religious text that was apparently central to Pullman’s early life and all the more enjoyable when read in the context of a knowledge of the original.
  9. Steal like an artist – Austin Kleon’s short bestseller isn’t comprised of narrative at all, it’s simply an exploration of creativity, a return to roots and the wisdom of experience passed on (in a pleasant break from the norm) without judgement, superiority or  dogmatism. Two of the best messages concern not being afraid to use others work as a springboard for your own and the benefits of returning to tactile materials
  10. Mahabharata – packed with family politics, power, war, love and much else besides, the Mahabharata is the longest on this list (far longer than Catch-22) but by no means boring, one thing it is, is near-immune to being described in a four-page blurb.
  11. The Collector – John Fowles’ The Collector is mentioned in some form in most every literary degree I have come across. Apart from the superb tension running throughout and the ability to basically recount the same events twice without making them seem in any way rehashed, Fowles introduces us to two, very conflicting, points of view and, for the most part, leaves us unsure of our ultimate position.
  12. Of mice and men – John Steinbeck’s novel was not set for me as I was making my way through government education – a fact that I am very conflicted about. On the one hand, the book’s understated yet inexorable movement towards tragedy is something I found far more effective than the heavy symbolism of Lord of the flies (the text I was set instead). On the other, it could just be that I read Steinbeck’s work later in life than Golding’s and with far less belaboured analysis. Either way, Of mice and men is a fantastic example of a light touch communicating volumes about relationships, tension and class politics in a complicated time.

Of course this list bears adding to – there are likely thousands of books that deserve attention and so I could well be updating this periodically (or creating parts 2, 3, 4, n). If you have books that you think should be added or even if you think I’ve missed something in the books I did look at (or misinterpreted them entirely) – sound off in the comments below.

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Novel Novel Writing Tools

The combination of technology and the written word (much like the combination of technology and everything else) is a point of contention. It’s a subject we’ve touched on a few times in this blog and one that promises to keep supplying us with new material in case we ever run out. What isn’t contentious, however, is that we have more options now than ever – whether it’s reading, researching or writing, most things have been brought inside the scope of a trackpad. Today we’ll talk about that last category, a lot of readers are writers and for a lot of writers “that big project” is something very close to their heart so the idea of giving it to some new ethereal caretaker is something fraught with worry. Here’s a quick lowdown on a selection of the systems, their pros & cons.

  1. Word – an obvious choice to start with. While Microsoft’s word processing package is incredibly useful in terms of autosaving and recovering lost work as well as some formatting and review capabilities, it really provides little in terms of storyboarding, scene splits and generally keeping track of the elements within a story. It can import many formats and export to PDF which are huge bonuses but in many ways it’s the common denominator – partially suited to many tasks and as a result, not terribly specialised. While it may work for some, it is not necessarily always the best tool for the job.
  2. Scrivener – Much more specialised than Microsoft’s ‘jack of all’, Scrivener is marketed as an application specifically for long writing projects. It comes with idea boards and ways to link those plans together – the main idea being to jot your ideas down in their natural disjointed, chaotic, form and use the tools it provides to draw them together. It also has places to keep your research and boasts that it is already used by a number of different writers. Some have argued that this application tries too hard and as a result ends up distracting them from actually writing, in addition, there’s little in the way of free trials so testing the program to see whether it works for you requires a $40 investment before you even start.
  3. Storybook – many of the same features of Scrivener but with the optional extra of a free trial. The ‘character’, ‘scene’, ‘chapter’, ‘part’ ,‘object’ and  ‘location’ tabs (to name but a few) are great for putting all the elements of a story together and steadily fleshing them out but unfortunately, in the unpaid version , you cannot export the full formatted document straight to other programs. The good news is that, if you try Storybook and decide it’s the program for you, you can easily upgrade your unlimited time trial to the full version and also access items like Memoria – a host of timeline features that are all designed to visualise your project and help you slot everything  into place. Unfortunately a painful lack of autosave and the fact that you have to ‘save’ each scene, chapter or character as well as saving the file as a whole can result in infuriating losses to start with. If you’re using it mainly as a storyboard or if you’re in the habit of frequently saving your work it’s a minor issue but something that should be borne in mind.
  4. Blog posts / Readwave / Campus Diaries – I lump these options together not because there are no differences between them but rather that there’s so much choice in the online arena, I couldn’t possibly cover it all. The important bonuses of putting scenes or chapters of your work up online is that  you’re protected from hardware failure, you can   use individual posts to cut your story into manageable portions and you can have much more immediate feedback on characters, events and other narrative elements. Apart from these factors, the opportunity to build up an online audience is a huge advantage – one that the dedicated sites such as Reawave and Campus diaries know very well. Obviously downsides exist in terms of needing an internet connection to update your project and having the added distraction of opening a web browser while you work. All in all – far better as a platform for transmission than one for creation.
  5. Focuswriter –apparently a reaction to the problem of distracting word processors, Focus writer swings in the opposite direction to Scrivener in that it aims to be as simple as possible.  When you open it, it fills the screen with a plain grey background, obscuring all other desktop items. It does allow you to create multiple document tabs (invisible until you scroll over them) and has a ‘daily goals’ function – both very useful features. Apart from this, Focuswriter is almost an homage to no frills oldschool writing (it even has the option to include typewriter sound effects) but doesn’t have the interesting element options of Storybook and Scrivener.
  6. Pencil and paper – in line with the ‘focused’ and pared down line of writing styles, writers such as Austin Kleon swear by using tactile tools to keep the imagination working. In his book How to Steal like an Artist he makes a pretty convincing argument for why  we all (as writers) can benefit from doing a lot more writing with our hands. You know the cons, it’s hard to ‘save’ without scanning each page individually, there’s no spell check and it can take a lot longer than touch typing but the pros can be unexpectedly many, particularly because things like ‘increased creativity’ couldn’t be included in the specs and adverts that nobody makes. One thing I can tell you is that you’re bound to look artistic and mysterious if you whip out a notebook in public and start writing. Either that or like someone who’s trying to look artistic and mysterious -an effect worsened when it starts raining and you have to whip out that wrinkled old sandwich bag you’ve started bringing around with you since your last epic was reduced to blurred mulch.
  7. Dictation – easily the least conventional of the options. If this were a historical drama someone would most likely mutter a disparaging ‘hockum’ under their breath but in the year 2013 we can rest assured that most people who use that word don’t read blogs. Speech recognition software is coming forward in leaps and bounds but I would find it difficult to place my trust in such systems. To me they would turn something that is supposed to remove hassle and into an exercise in creating a manuscript that runs: “he’ll looked into the right loo kai, tie, try, sai, suck-kai. SKY. He. LOOKED. INTO. THE. RIGHT. BLUE. SKY. I sieve up, I’m turning his of-” Then again, I think there is an immediate danger of me being that kind of person that says ‘hockum’ – time will tell.

What did you think of the options here? Have you heard about better systems? Let us know in the comments below.

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Across the Ages

Following the success of “Traversal of Lines”, our cross-cultural anthology, we’re putting together another book! We’re including the call for submissions below with all the rules and details of how to enter – you don’t have to be published, just write! For everyone who contributed to the first, thank you very much, we hope you’re as excited by this new project as we are. For anyone who is unfamiliar with our last project, feel free to read earlier posts, they’ll tell you all about it.

Call for Submissions

Call for Short Stories, Poetry, Flash Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction on the theme of ‘age’


PageTurners is a publishing house located in Bangalore – most famous for our book-store collaboration with Penguin India. We exist for the appreciation of the written word and community interaction in all media. This is why we created The Traversal of Lines – a collaborative printed anthology that is being sold to raise money for The Gosports Foundation.
The cross cultural perspective created in The Traversal of Lines was fascinating to everyone involved. Twenty nine talented authors were told us tales from across the globe and, following the success of this international, culturally focussed creative writing anthology, we at PageTurners are looking to create another. We want to move into new territories while maintaining our focus on interaction, collaboration and shared perspectives as well as the love of literature – both to read and write.
This book will be bigger and better with more time and space to dedicate to each of the fantastic submissions but we won’t be compromising on the quality and principles of our last literary project.
To be included, submit a short story, poem, flash fiction or creative non-fiction following the below guidelines to pageturnersanthology@gmail.com

  1. All submissions must be on the topic of ‘age’ – this may be what it is like to be the age you are now, what it was like to be another age, how you perceive another age group or how your perspective has changed on an experience you had at another time of your life.


  1. Submit to the above email address with the subject line “PageTurners cross-generational anthology”.


  1. In the body of the email, write your name (or pen-name) the age band you are in now (five year blocks are fine) and the age of you or the main protagonist when your submission is set.


  1. Attach the submission as a Word, Wordpad or Notepad file. Preferably word if you have a layout you want maintained.


  1. All submissions apart from poems should follow some kind of narrative structure – academic-style essays or non-poetry pieces that simply describe a perspective without some kind of narrative (even if it is just a framing narrative) will not be automatically discounted but are less likely to be included.


  1. All submissions must be the writer’s own work and available to be published in the anthology – we also cannot publish submissions which require a note stating that they are also published elsewhere. If you have previously included your work in a personal blog or a magazine, you can submit the piece as long as there are no ongoing legal agreements.


  1. We cannot publish submissions which are part of a larger work – all pieces must stand alone and carry their full meaning by themselves.


  1. Submissions should be within the following limits


  • Short Stories: 2,000 words
  • Creative Non-fiction: 2,000 words
  • Flash Fiction: 250 words
  • Poetry: 3 poems max


  1. Submit before 1st May

We are also offering an impartial critiquing service – send in your submissions before 5th April to receive it back with comments from a member of our editorial team on how it might be improved. This will not harm your chances of being included in the anthology and could give you the edge over other entrants.
For more information, contact robin@sipbooks.com or pageturnersanthology@gmail.com. To buy The Traversal of Lines, go to www.pageturners.in. Alternatively ‘like’ our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pageturnersbookstores or follow us on Twitter: @PageTurnersSIP

 

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“Banquet on the Dead” a book by Sharath Komarraju

Here are three things I must lay out before starting to review Sharath Komarraju’s latest murder mystery Banquet on the Dead.

  1. Writing is a continuous learning curve – there are some features of great writing that many otherwise-talented authors do not exhibit in their first few published books
  2. Gratuitous violence, gore or sex is often a sign of a poorly constructed narrative and can usually be explained as an attempt to hide deficiencies.
  3. There is currently a high proportion of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ knockoff characters in crime dramas – incredibly intelligent yet arrogant and quite inconsiderate. This is perhaps a side effect of exaggerating the original Holmes persona for the modern day and is exemplified in Hugh Laurie’s “House”, Robert Downey Junior’s “Sherlock”, Tim Roth’s “Cal Lightman” (Lie to Me) and Simon Baker’s “Patrick Jane” (The Mentalist) to name a few. While this technique initially resulted in characters that seemed more memorable and gave them a greater sense of depth, this wide usage has resulted in a kind of homogeneity and reversed, to some extent, the initial effect.

These are three premises I shall assume in this review – they seem quite uncontentious but if you find you are in disagreement with them then you may stop reading now, or you could settle in and prepare to loathe everything from now on. Either choice would be a shame from my perspective but without the freedom to stop reading or disagree, gossip magazines would be a far more insidious presence in our modern world.

The premises I have laid out may suggest a particular view of Sharath Komarraju’s Banquet on the Dead and so I will begin by saying that what is immediately obvious throughout the book is confidence.

This is where premise one comes into play – many newly published authors exhibit a wide range of commendable attributes but are still quite obvious as a narrator. Reading the book is enjoyable but never as truly absorbing as it could be because the writer doesn’t have the confidence necessary to truly fade into the background.  It has often been said (outside of modernist and postmodernist works) that the work of the writer is to create a story that doesn’t seem ‘written’ and this is something Komarraju accomplishes well throughout the book.

In addition to this success, Komarraju avoids two of what I see as the major pitfalls of modern crime stories. The first of these relates to my second premise  – many murder stories resort to graphic descriptions of the body and crime scene in the attempt to increase the vividity of the tale or introduce importance or grit to the investigation. Some may prefer this style of storytelling, however, overly explicit descriptions of any kind are often a sign of the inability to produce the same effect in a subtler manner and here the writer manages to include depth and grit without such clumsy devices.

The second avoided pitfall relates to premise number three – Komarraju’s mastermind is named Hamid Pasha and is by far one of the better re-imaginings of Conan Doyle’s most famous character. He retains Holmes’ understated, razor sharp intelligence and preserves his calm polite sensibility without including any of the brazen, childish, admittedly entertaining superiority that is so common in other incarnations.

Komarraju also refrains from including needlessly complex backstories and specialities, another common feature of modern crime series. Hamid Pasha is not a maths genius sequestered by the local police department, a gardening expert that happens to stumble across a fresh crime or a psychic that reads the minds of unholstery to gain glimpses into the minds of killers. Hamid Pasha is a man that has gained a reputation for solving crimes – he is a twist on the great detective that keeps his essence without overcomplicating it.

Unfortunately, where this simplicity is a strength in the novel’s basic scaffolding, it introduces problems in more superficial aspects. There are times where Hamid Pasha directs the investigation and follows leads in a manner that seems a little incongruous with his status as someone in an informal consultants role. His involvement in the investigation also seems to disregard, to a certain extent, any ‘fruit from the poisoned tree’ rulings which prevent those with criminal pasts handling evidence in ongoing investigations. These issues, however, have minimal impact on enjoyment of the story and Komarraju crafts the mystery well – a fact that would count for nothing if it was not so well explained by his Hamid Pasha.

“Banquet on the Dead” is an absorbing, enjoyable and finely tuned puzzle. In this, his second book, Komarraju avoids much of the gratuity and formula of many murder mysteries and has the maturity to retain the aspects of the genre that are worth keeping. You can find Sharath Komarraju at http://sharathkomarraju.com/ or his first book under the title of “Murder in Amaravati”.

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The PageTurners Cross Cultural Anthology – author bios

As you may know – here at PageTurners we are producing an anthology of writings on the topic of culture. You may or may not have been beaten around the head with this information, if not: I hope you feel more informed, if so: hopefully these blows don’t land too hard.

We have been working on the PageTurners anthology since mid September (and planning it a fair while before that) now the project is really speeding up; we have selected the successful entries, the compilation and formatting is well under way and our final file is waiting to be sent to the printers. In less than a fortnight our one-hundred-and-forty debut work will be sitting in the PageTurners store ready to be picked up by anyone who is interested.

Due to to the strict limit in length we are imposing on the work (to achieve the best quality) and a tight focus on the stories rather than the authors, we will only be including the names of the people who have written our included entries. And hey, who cares about the author? Who cares about the background to the story? You do? Excellent – read on for a post dedicated to the authors and their motivations (not to mention tantalizing snippets from the book itself!).

 

The City of Lights

 

This is not a city
that does not sleep.
Drive by its boulevard
and you can listen to it slumbering
under midnight blue skies.

Prarthana Banikya

Prarthana Banikya is a content writer based in Bangalore and is the founder of Poets’ Nook, a community of poetry aficionados. She studied Sociology in Miranda House and her works have appeared in Songbook Circa, Asia Writes, Danse Macabre, The Nether Magazine, and Pratilipi. Currently, she is working on her collection of poems and short stories.

 “The City of Lights” was inspired from sundry experiences in Bangalore, which the author now calls home. It was written one breezy summer evening from the top floor of a terrace apartment.

 

Days of Being Wild

…In my country, summer is the season of dreams. As the languid afternoon shudders to a halt, just before it morphs into the sweltering heat of the grey evenings, time passes by in slow motion and one cannot but dream with open eyes…

Siddhartha Lal

Siddhartha is a writer, a quizzer, and a student, and someone whose solution to the entire world’s — and his own — problems is a cot, a mattress, a blanket, and silence. He lives and studies in Bangalore. However, if you catch him unaware, you will always find him referring to Lucknow as his real home.

Days of Being Wild started off as a single sentence — In my country, summer is the season of dreams — and the rest of it just tumbled out in one jumbled bunch. The piece is a rather dreamy take on the summers in North India. It is an album of several of the author’s fond memories — mostly fact, but a few fictional — from countless summer afternoons that he spent on the plains, growing up and learning.

Siddhartha moonlights as a contributing writer at Helter Skelter, an online journal focusing on independent and alternative culture in India. “Shelf Life” was one of the top ten entries in a short story competition organised by the Desi Writer’s Lounge — an organization committed to furthering literary awareness and growth in South Asia — in August, 2012. These ten stories will be published as an anthology. “You’re Mine”, a short story, was published in February, 2012 by Grey Oak Publishers in Urban Shots – The Love Collection, an anthology of urban love stories.

Siddhartha hopes to be able to continue writing for it is one of the few things that gives him happiness. On more gallant days, when he is feeling exceedingly confident, he thinks about doing a PhD.

 

Carousel

…’Tis true that home has a glow
that the unhinged may never know,
No matter the smut
or dirt-ridden glut,
The carousel’s a cyclical show….

 

 

Nitish Nair

 

Nitish Nair currently lives in Bangalore. His poem: “Carousel” is about the yearning for all things Indian that popped up after he spent 6 years in America. While the US provided the opportunity for a job, being away from home and its idiosyncrasies left him dreaming about could-have-beens. Now, he is working on becoming a published poet in the gothic genre.

 

 

On Going to the Dogs

Night is still the best time to court a city which has seemingly fallen out of love with itself…. if I have one bit of advice for you from my experiences, it is this: look for beauty. Look for beauty so that you may still find it. Because beauty, like anything else, will be lost if it isn’t engaged, if it isn’t looked for. It’s still out there; you just have to train yourself to look for it…

R. Rajkumar

 

R. Rajkumar is a British-born writer and photographer who currently divides his time between Bangalore and Coimbatore.  His short piece “On going to the dogs” was inspired by his late-night walks around south Bangalore, when he is invariably befriended, after a short customary interrogation, by the stray dog communities which rule and manage over the streets at that time. He has an abiding desire to observe and document their lives, even if never quite able to shake the feeling that it is he who is being followed, observed and, ultimately, judged by them.

 

His work has appeared in a number of journals and magazines, and he is a regular contributor of satire to ESPNCricinfo. He is working on his first novel.

 

Jaggery and Tamarind

 

…Will someone tell the Railway administration that Chennai’ites will not accept any worldly happenings unless and until it is reported by “The Hindu”? It is imprinted in their DNA and hence do not brandish alien newspapers in their midst…

Anand Raghav

Currently employed as CFO  in a Creative Technology Company in Bangalore. Lived in Europe and  Far East  for 15 years before returning to India.

Jaggery and Tamarind is a humorous take on the ‘travel culture’ of travelers.  As a frequent traveler,  between Bangalore and Chennai , his story is an attempt to share  his experiences in the lighter vein.

Anand Raghav is a short story writer, playwright, director and actor. He has published over sixty short stories in leading Chennai based magazines and has won several prizes.   His story “Chaturangam” was adjudged the best story of 2010 by a prestigious Chennai based literary association. He was also long listed for the Hindu Metro Plus Playwright award for 2012. He has written and staged 4 plays.

He has two books to his credit– The first, a collection of his short stories and the second, titled “Ramakien”  is a comparative study of  Indian Ramayanas with  South East Asian Ramayanas.

 

 

The Boy in the Blue Bucket

 

…His heart beats louder. Alarmed, he looks around,
He shuts his eyes, to open his heart,
He lives in his memories, his life’s most lucent part.
He learns to unlearn, he finds to lose,
The sweetness of permanence, the thrill of stillness…

Monisha Madhumita  

“Holding on to a blue bucket, a little boy smiled a toothless grin at me one day. Wherever he went, he never failed to take that blue bucket with him. People may come and people may go but blue buckets stay forever. This was how he reasoned it. He changes his home, his ways and his life as he goes from one city to another, one life to another ever few months. He watches his mother life stones that could break her back and his father break them all day long, in order to build homes for strangers to love, to learn and to live in. Yet he will never taste the sweetness of rising up to the gentle whisper of the same trees, the impatient bark of the same hungry dog, the friendly call of the same friend or even the same roof above his head.

This little boy represents the children of construction workers in our community. Each moment of their life is so transient and every step ahead so unpredictable that they begin to fear familiarity. Even so, the sense of joy and wonder with which they live their lives is truly admirable. Expect nothing and accept everything seems to be their way of living. However, children regardless of who they are or where they come from deserve a childhood of relative permanence by which they can derive strength to face life and her pranks with boldness.  They deserve more, more than a blue bucket. This poem attempts to delve into what runs in that little boy’s mind as he rests in his blue bucket.

And yes, the toothless grin was the inspiration.”

Monisha read this poem out to the little boy; he didn’t understand a word but continued to give her his toothless grin. Eventually she got him to come out of his bucket and treated him to a game of football and vanilla ice cream. It turns out that he prefers chocolate flavor. I intend to get him chocolate ice cream and to help him live in the present and make the present a worthwhile present.

 

The God Electric
… Although most of Bangalore remains dark at night, lit only by hearth fires and flickering oil lamps, this is my first taste of life here: the voices of men and women, babbling in a torrent through the city like a river freshly burst through a dam. I will have to wait yet, but this is a beginning…

Freddy Rochez

Freddy Rochez is originally from Chichester, West Sussex but has since moved to Cardiff

‘The God Electric’. was inspired both by the history of India in general as a country of numerous and vastly different deities and religions, and the association with Bangalore in particular with the growth of the Information and Technology industries.  The more he thought about it, the more he realised that, from an external point of view, the global obsession with technology could be viewed as a kind of religion, with the newest, most expensive pieces of equipment gaining a kind of cult status in society.

This is the first time his work has been published internationally. He is currently in his second year at Cardiff university, studying English Lit. And an active member of both the university’s creative writing society and student media.

 

Unseen Singer
…Who watches actions

Warns Reactions

Who waits

Who whispers whistles tune in air

Who is watching there,..

Sri Ramesh

Sri Ramesh submitted his poetry by hand, written out and stapled to a covering letter thanking PageTurners for the opportunity to submit and mentioning that he is regularly published in some local newspapers and literary magazines.

As far as we are aware, Ramesh is reachable only by post and has not given many details of his earlier life but he is now retired and says that it is his dream for his writings to be published in anthologies.

 

Three Days in a Week

… What strikes me as the most compelling thought of my new year is how self-absorbed we all seem to be in this first week. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s ideally supposed to be a flag, this first week; a brochure that outlines everything that’s going to happen this year….

Shomprakash Sinha Roy

Shomprakash Sinha Roy is  currently Residing in Bangalore. Three Days in a Week  revolves around the thoughts in the author’s mind right after the onset of the new year. He has just gone through a breakup and staying alone appears scary.

He has tried to put those thoughts together as an expression of mixed emotions. Bangalore- the city in itself is a beautiful, yet mysterious place- a huge contrast to the small town of Bhilai, where he spent his adolescent years. If explored at the right length, the city of Bangalore offers a glimpse into many nocturnal wonders. What happens to an observer, is recorded in “Three days in a week”

Shomprakash is a Technical Consultant at Dell International- who enjoys writing more than any other finer pleasure. Besides this anthology, he has been published in “The Youth Express” and is an aspiring novelist with two manuscripts in the pipeline. He blogs regularly atwww.roykiduniya.com . His objective is to showcase his work across platforms and improvise through feedback.

Any concerns/feedback can be mailed to him – mail@roykiduniya.com

 

Where My Heart Lies 

I stand at the brink of three cities,
Waiting to belong somewhere, someday.
The place where I am is home;
The place where I wish to be is not…

Shloka Shankar

Shloka was born in Mumbai, currently lives in Bangalore, and completed her graduation and post graduation from Madras Christian College, Chennai.

Her poem is titled ‘Where My Heart Lies’, and focuses on the three cities that are closest to her heart; Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. The poem was inspired from a sort of cultural angst that she found herself going through, and a search for the place she can finally call her own.

Shloka’s poems have been published in tjells.com, ‘Cornucopia’ – literary magazine, and the writer’s blog of Kalyani Magazine. Shloka also won second place in the Ekphrasis India Poetry Contest 2.

She works as a freelance content/creative writer in Bangalore, and hopes to study further by pursuing her Ph.d in English Literature, sometime in the near future.

 

How We Used to be

…I remember jumping over school walls and running to Gangarams. There were no malls then. Bookstores were our hideout. What is now ‘Bangalore Central’ used to be the grand Victoria Hotel. Built in the 1950’s, the hotel was broken down back in 2000 to pave way for change…

Punished for no crime

 

… Mumbai had been hit again. The city had been torn apart repeatedly only to emerge from ashes and rebuild itself. Resilience had weaved itself into the culture of the city; not by choice but rather the lack of it…

Ankita Poddar

 

Writing since the age of 5 for various children’s magazines, Ankita is an engineer with a management degree who fills up her spare time exploring the amazing world of words. Ankita currently lives in Bangalore but has led a nomadic life thanks to her father’s career in the Indian Army.  Living in various parts of the country has not erased the special place Bangalore holds in her heart. Returning to the city after a long time, she observed the changes in her favorite city. This inspired her to write the piece – How we used to be.

Being the daughter of an army officer, terrorism and war have left a deep impact on her. Infuriated and saddened by the constant news of terrorism she was inspired the pen her second piece.

She hopes to continue her affair with words and someday write a novel.

 

An Accidental Death

… A happy procession, stood in ruin.

The day was auspicious,

The death; calamitous,

“Can this even happen?”

Blew indignant whispers…
Nanda Kishore

Nanda Kishore is a 25 year old true-blue Bangalorean, a software engineer by profession, and a part-time Math tutor as well. He has been a regular writer who blogs his works at anduwantedto.blogspot.in since 2008. He writes mainly in verse, though a few short fiction stories, sketches and animations too appear occasionally. In his works, he focuses on “seeing” the extra-ordinary in the ordinary. He is also a marathoner and a mountaineer.

His poem “An Accidental Death” featured in the anthology is a take on the Indian Hindu culture in general. Though the poem was inspired by scenes experienced on a visit to Hyderabad, it could easily have happened anywhere else in the country.

Apart from awards in creative writing and publications in school/college magazines, this is his first major debut.

The Brown Sahib

…He was an “angrez” which meant “English”; a British educated doctor who spoke accented English like a toff. Now that I look back I find his exclamation about the British ironic, “they stole everything, our Koh-i-Noor diamond, our cotton, they collected taxes for nothing in return,” went his grumbling as he tapped the Meerschaum pipe with Cavendish tobacco, and sipped on his “Chota Peg”…

Balaji Iyengar

 

Balay Iyengar lives and work in Toronto/ Bangalore/San Francisco Bay Area

 

He has been a part of the eternal rat race the world over. Born in Bangalore he carries it as a giant chip on my shoulder. He is not a writer but a novice who has found a suitable perch in the Write Club’s lofty literary crags.I am yet to discover my muse but I thought I should make a foray into the land of Wordsmiths and seek inspiration.

 

Her Culture

 

Abruptly, the series of floor tiles were broken by a pair of stiletto heels.

She looked up—past the expensive designer clothing she’d ogled in fancy boutiques—catching startling blue eyes.

It was a girl two years her senior; she sported thick mahogany curls, highlighted by golden blonde strands. And on her tanned face lay a glossy smile…

Phoebe O. Morakinyo

Phoebe moved from Nigeria to a small commercial-centered town in the UK at the age of 5-6.

The piece published in the cultural anthology was ‘Her Culture’, which deals with social pressure after immigration. Unlike Phoebe and many others, some people get the brunt of discrimination against their race, their accent and anything that marks them as different. However, pulling through is greater than giving up. She believes that you can’t compromise yourself and who you are for the shallow wishes of others. Onto lighter subjects, she had an image in her head all throughout writing this, before mixing it with her most-read genre (YA fiction–which shines through in the icily glamarous bully) and her Christian faith.

Phoebe has had short stories and poems picked out in both competitions and anthologies, ranging all around the world in online and print format. She also blogs, reviews books and she is an avid reader. As for her future in creative writing, She is aiming to publish a teenage fiction novel, a dream that she is supernaturally bound to make reality.

Battleship Grey

… Inside her a frozen sea traps furtive sunshine,

It’s always this way in the kingdom of promise,

It’s always raining grey.

Swathed around her shoulders

Heavy wraps of battleship-grey,…


Jessu John    

Jessu John lives in Bangalore, India and has spent some time in the UK and Germany. Her poem ‘Battleship-Grey’ focuses on a very European experience – grey weather for most parts of the year. The title of the poem sprung out at her from the pages of J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Dusklands’. She borrows a little from his descriptions of all the grey in the life of one of his lead characters. The weather and a few elements of ‘developed country’ culture as some Asians around her experienced them is reflected here. Jessu is currently working on her first collection of poetry. She also writes for the mainstream Indian daily ‘The Hindu’ and is an amateur long distance runner.               

A Cold December Night                     

… He walks the streets, a tear in his eye

Much changes, much remains the same

London on a cold December night

Noise fills the air, he smells smoke

People cry out in wonder, in joy

He remembers that other December night…

 

Nicholas McDermott

Nicholas McDermott grew up in Gloucestershire and currently studies at Cardiff university
‘A Cold December Night’ is written about London and London’s past. It tells the story of an old solider that has lived through the Blitz and seen the millennium and is considering the cold December nights of the future. The idea of the similarity in some ways between celebration and war came to him while writing the poem, resulting in the comparison between different kinds of ‘fire in the sky’; bombs and fireworks. The two couldn’t be further apart but crying in joy or crying in pain, both can seem the same. The poem is about these similarities and ends with thoughts of the future.

Nicholas has had poems read out in Gloucester Cathedral remembrance service, poems printed in the Cardiff University news paper and a children’s tv show concept contracted. He is currently the the president of the Cardiff Creative Writing Society and has plans to expand the society, making it more active in events and competitions on a local and national level.

 

A Leap Year                                       
…We left our familiar town, stomachs tumbling.
But, you found the city too green, too similar to home.
Shortly afterwards, you crossed the border,
and we spent our time on rickety trains,
reminiscing, dreaming and wishing…

Natalie Louise Moore

Natalie Louise Moore lived in Cardiff while studying for my undergraduate degree and have now moved back home to West Wales.

‘A Leap Year’ was written in response to Ezra Pound’s poem, ‘The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter’, where long-lasting relationship is depicted. In a different way, my poem describes a deteriorating relationship, which struggles to survive the test of time. The vibrancy of Asian culture is contrasted with the slow pace of the Welsh countryside and presents Bangalore as an enticing city, full of potential, far away from the couple’s familiar hometown.

This will be the first time Natalie’s work will have been published on an international level but creative writing has always been a hobby of hers, although, she intends to focus on poetry more specifically over the next few years. She is aware that writing is a craft, which can only be fine-tuned with hard work and determination. At this moment in time, her writing is very much a work in progress!

 

Different

 

My morning routine – wake and wonder where I am, drag on clothes that seem out of place and appropriate at the same time, then, plunge into a place where thirty-foot light-up billboards pale in comparison to the casually painted…

Robin Lord

Robin Lord has spent most of his life in England and the last three years studying in Wales. He came to India as part of a publishing internship with PageTurners; two months – he wishes it could have been more.

“Different” was the result of attempting to properly understand his experience of India in a way that meant more than simply listing the things that stick out immediately. The fact that he was trying to avoid something similar to the “Royale with cheese” conversation at the start of Pulp Fiction may be why he makes a slight reference to that film half way through the piece.

Robin’s work has been published in two consecutive issues of the Cardiff University annual creative writing anthology but aside from that, his work has been mostly private so far.

He plans to find an agent for his third novel (the first that he is happy to send) and pursue a continuing career in publishing having found this experience particularly interesting and encouraging.

Kallidaikurichi Memories

… Rarely did anyone take a bath at home, even though my grandfather had installed pipes for the river water supply; how could a bathroom tap ever replace the cool, refreshingly sweet water of the Tambiraparani, or its irrigation anicut – the Kannadiyin kaalvaai, which snaked through Kallidai?

Vasanthi Natarajan     

A Post-graduate in English Literature, Vasanthi Natarajan lives in Bangalore. A homemaker, her interests are varied, ranging from classical music to  reading and creative writing.  She likes writing  short stories for children and humour pieces. Her features and stories have been published in Deccan Herald and the Chennai based magazine Eves Touch. Her pet dog Betsy has been the protagonist of most of her stories but a recent visit to her native village triggered nostalgic memories which resulted in this piece. The village was dying  and Vasanthi decided to pen down her feelings before the culture and traditions associated with the place became extinct. About the piece, Vasanthi has this to say, “ An elderly  and eminent person belonging to  Kallidaikurichi who passed away recently, read this feature shortly before his death. He conveyed to me the pleasure and thrill he had experienced on reading it. This is something which I shall always cherish”.

“Reading and writing are very satisfying pastimes. They keep me going”, Vasanthi concludes.

 

Poems                                                  
Shikha Malaviya

… phonetic tricks
uh aa, e ee, oo ooo
ka, kha, ga, gha, na
our tongues performing
calisthenics
all of us partaking
in this linguistic
Olympics
going for the gold…

Shikha Malaviya

 

Poems: LINGUA FRANCA, DADAJI & PINEAPPLE PASTRY FLASHBACK

These poems are autobiographical snapshots of my life as an immigrant. They are about family legacy, assimilation and exploring culture through language and experience. Duality in words and worlds become part of a larger whole, making the personal more universal.

Shikha Malaviya is a poet, writer and teacher. She is director of  The (Great) Indian Poetry Project, an ongoing online initiative of Modern Indian Poetry. She was born in the U.K., and raised in the U.S. and India. Shikha holds degrees in Creative Writing and Mass Communications from the University of Minnesota, USA. Her work has been featured in the24project, Drunken Boat, Water~stone Review, Switched on Gutenberg, Riding the Meridian, In Posse Review and other fine journals.  Shikha’s poetry was also included in the anthology Bolo! Bolo! and is upcoming in Paint It Brown (Cognella Press). She founded Monsoon Magazine, one of the first South Asian literary magazines on the web. She also organized the ‘100 Thousand Poets for Change-Bangalore, 2012’ event. Her first book of poems is forthcoming in 2013. She currently lives in Bangalore with her husband and two children.

Notes From Our Balcony

…A sense of peace filled me, replacing the loneliness that was there about half an hour back.

A ‘home’ can be built anywhere in the whole wide world. It is all about finding your place in your surroundings, and your peace. Isn’t it?

  Priya Iyer

 

Priya Iyer is a passionate lover of books and travel, music and cooking. A big-time foodie, she works as a content writer and editor. Perpetually enchanted by the world around her, Priya is a dreamer. She lives with her beloved husband in Bangalore, and is loving learning about the nooks and crannies of the city.

Priya moved to Bangalore 3 years ago from Ahmedabad, after marriage

Notes from our balcony focuses on the spirit of home and finding it in a place that is relatively new. The thought struck her one morning as she was just relaxing on her balcony while her husband was away on work – she realized how much Bangalore and her house had become ‘home’ (she had always thought Ahmedabad would be home for her, and nowhere else!)

Priya has been been working as a content writer and editor since 2005. She is a regular blogger and loves writing fiction and non-fiction.

Priya can be contacted at priyaiyer0@gmail.com

PageTurners

PageTurners was established in 2009 on the principle of cultivating a love for literature. Since then the store has been host to many events and a number of books have been published under the PageTurners name. However, this anthology is the first Creative writing project for PageTurners to publish and hopefully represents the first in a long line of similar such projects. Almost every member of the PageTurners team has been extensively involved in producing this anthology and we couldn’t be happier about it. To see more of the store click the link below for a look at the Facebook page and the quick tour film that we’ve put together!

http://www.facebook.com/pageturnersbookstores

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Tso and La: A Journey in Ladakh

The genesis of Tso and La, as both the blurb and inner-pages will inform you, occurred when Vikramajit Ram, struggling with “a novel that has hit an impasse” was fortuitously invited by a friend, Manoj, on a driven trip through Ladakh (which, for your information, is a region lying between the Himalayas and the Kunlun mountain range). “Tso” as you will also read between the scenic covers (photographed and composed by Ram himself – a taste of the images within) is the “Tibetan-Ladakhi word for ‘lake'” with “La” being mountain pass in the same language. This is just a couple of the facts you will pick up during reading, or rather, that you will have snuck into your head without the feeling that you are at all being lectured – notable favorites include the Latin name for ‘plum’, a brief introduction to the Bactrian Camel and regional words for everything from dog to grandad.

Vikramajit begins with a description of viewing Manoj’s father’s photo album; the elder having visited the area in his time in the military during that, slightly hairy, altercation between Indian forces and those of the People’s Republic of China in late 1950s-early 60s. This introduction is interspersed with details about the main trip of the book and sets up a pleasant juxtaposition, seeming to locate the story quite firmly in the here-and-now: a fundamental necessity when telling a tale that, on occasion, describes events that seem impossibly coordinated or serendipitous for a factual description of something so haphazard as a real-life trip.

The blurb’s description of Ram’s journey as “the perfect fix for his jaded senses” unfortunately, goes severely against the grain – either his post-trip recollections succeed in unearthing experiences completely untainted with cynicism or the definition of ‘jaded’ which the blurb writer is using for reference has little or nothing to do with the actual use. At times the ‘work’ Raam is escaping is mentioned, usually in passing and always as part of some insight to one interaction or another, yet, apart from moments of exasperation and mis-translation, our narrator’s default attitude to what he documents seems to be one of absorption and awe from the off. This perspective, thankfully, is in stark contrast with the slow, sullen, teenagerly ‘coming around’ that the small yet important portion of descriptive text suggests (for anything other than persistent enthusiasm would have prevented such a deep an vibrant account ever being experienced, never mind retold). In fact if anything, Ram’s companion, Manoj, occasionally occupies the role of lovable curmudgeon, as exhibited by the interactions that are very familiar by the book’s end:

”  ‘And you saw all that in less than a second.’ [Manoj]
  ‘Yep. You  know, it’s a curse. I try so hard not to look at unsightly sights and see what happens. Which reminds me, what’s the word for dog? Zip-something? Zorry?’
  Man frowns, , negotiating a gentle curve. Khardung La doesn’t seem at all as treacherous as it is made out to be. Not yet, at least. We’re gaining altitude at a steady pace, leaving Leh-valley behind in a smog-like haze.
  ‘Zhankey’ [again, Manoj]
  ‘That’s right. Zhankey. Even those bloody zhankey were caked in dried blood and bits of dead meat. Awful. Have you noticed how the zhankey in these parts have dreadlocks and yellow eyes? Yolk yellow to be precise. Fine in an egg but evil in-‘
  ‘Please shut up.’
  ‘Zhankey’  ”

Although do not misunderstand, ‘Man’ certainly has his own moments of puckishness and rapture along the way.

Ram’s experience as an author (this is his third published book) certainly shows through both in his telling of the tale and his poetic, occasionally whimsical, often self-aware, take on beautiful and extreme world of Ladakh. In some ways it seems like he was always going to write up his experiences, considering the diligence with which he frequently records their adventures, however, certain parts of the tale truly exhibit the unique quality of the area: leaving you inclined to believe in the sincerity of his epiphany around half-way through expressing a sentiment along the lines of: “how could I not write about this?” What is most effective however, is the dedication with which the memoir is truthfully told. Ram seems to take great pride in recounting the experiences as they occurred, including, without reservation, descriptions of human error, prejudice and fickle moods. He applies the same powerful lens which picks out such vivid details of the surroundings to those that he meets, to his  travelling companion and, most importantly, to himself: quite deliberately including all of the color and drama of a two-man expedition to some of the highest peaks of the world. He conquers what would be, for some, a fierce temptation to edit life into a kind of personal propaganda or a bland and soulless exercise in “everything’s fine”: as a result producing a  story that can be read and enjoyed for the very same elements that fictional novelists grit teeth and pull hair to create.

Tso and La can be found in most reputable Indian bookstores and online. For more information about the author and his other books, Elephant Kingdom and Dreaming Vishnus go to his agent’s website http://www.tnq.in/vikramajitram.html or his Facebook pages

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elephant-Kingdom-by-Vikramajit-Ram/253355058107368

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dreaming-Vishnus-by-Vikramajit-Ram/314548305302268

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tso-and-La-by-Vikramajit-Ram/326721687411096

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Free speech or “loose canon”?

It seems that recently the www is alive with a string of incidents relating to the increasing ease with which each one of us can produce and distribute content worldwide. This effect is widely cross-medium, however, the issues it raises are obviously of great importance to the literary community. While previous generations fought and won ‘free speech’ for various causes, we have entered a time when the very nature of the term has begun to be contested.

A pertinent example of this growing ability to broadcast ourselves comes in the form of self-publishing. Without again recapping the recent racism row I spoke of in an earlier article, it is safe to say that many would rather that there were more checks in place for self-publishing authors. On the other hand, part of the very nature of self-publishing is that you are paying, in part, to circumvent the rigorous screening process that many big publishers have in place, so erecting similar barriers would only be detrimental to profit for the growing number vanity presses. While some can hope for more rigorous testing – it is simply unreasonable to expect that it will happen.

 

In addition, mainstream publishing houses certainly will not prevent from being published items that anybody finds offensive – only those that the market majority would. They are, of course, primarily businesses and as the recent ’50 shades’ boom has shown us, if something will sell, they will publish it. It is no secret that E.L. James’ erotic novels have divided opinion but you may also have heard that a women’s group in the UK attempted to organize a book burning in protest of the abusive relationship 50 Shades exhibited. Of course, this was met with objections from many quarters and in particular a few reminders as to the frequent link between the practice of burning books and totalitarian regimes. In particular, the issue of freedom of expression was brought to the fore on the side of James and, aside from those that pointed out, somewhat flippantly, that burning the books could actually increase 50’s sales, very few supported the proposed literary bonfire.

 

Wearside Women in Need (the attempted book burners) were protesting in particular because they did not want young women reading the book, they wanted to constrain and if possible, halt all sales of the ‘vile’ and ‘dangerous’ work. It is interesting that they did not perform a similar protest over the wildly popular Twilight series of which 50 shades was originally a fanfiction spinoff – particularly considering that Stephanie Meyer’s books are marketed predominantly to a far younger audience. However what is really at issue is whether the Wearside Women were right to attempt to stop people from reading the book. One of the group’s goals was to have 50 Shades removed from the local library – does this constitute a more stringent application of the age-ratings system employed to prevent impressionable children from watching a film that might be damaging to them? WW believed that the message in the book was damaging to readers of all ages and, considering how insidious they perceived the book to be, some could argue that these attempted actions are similar to governments’ continued efforts to curtail the distribution of non-prescription drugs. Are the protests to the WW’s actions because they are trying to infringe upon free speech or because we don’t believe that the books pose as much of a threat as they say?

 

Far more political is the news of Sam Bacile’s film ‘Innocence of the Muslims’ – which not only depicted the prophet Muhammad (pboh) but consisted of insulting him and the Islamic religion in the form of a list of what Bacile referred to as ‘revelations’. As is often the case with offensive material – Bacile’s small production was slingshot to the top of internet view lists and quickly raced around the world. Unfortunately, in this instance, the film’s infamy resulted in a fatal attack on the US embassy in Libya; however this only occurred when someone found the video and dubbed it into Egyptian Arabic.

While freedom of speech seems paramount, Bacile is now the indirect cause of a death half a world away from where he made his small yet passionate reel. Who is more to blame? The man who made the offensive film or the person who translated it so that those who could be offended would understand?

 

An obvious response to these situations is to say that people should simply exercise more judgment when publishing their ideas, an old piece of advice that is perhaps unrealistic in application. Further is the issue of whether we would place the onus on Bacile and the translator as much if there was not large amounts of evidence of bloodshed resulting from a religious group being insulted. Perhaps we might be more in favour of censoring EL James’ erotic read if there was a group that were liable to kill someone in reaction to its contents.

 

Overall, I cannot condone this attitude. Encouraging everyone to attribute a special level of importance to issues that groups are willing to kill over would only increase aggressive outbursts and penalize non-violent protests. While it seems that Bacile’s production lacked foresight and a proper respect for other’s closely-held beliefs, it was his right to speak freely. A right that he retained regardless of the fact that he aimed to curtail or disparage other’s free speech. For there is the rub – to a certain extent, free speech is lawless: to be truly free, someone must be capable of trying to interfere with others. Words have great potency, even aside from the possibility of causing attacks and riots in other time zones. This is something that strong objectors to Foyt’s allegedly racist novel have come up against now that they are being contacted by anti-bullying groups. This is something that is highlighted beautifully in a recent article speaking out against twitter-bullying. This is something that anyone who has read this far down has been aware of long before I came along. With increasing ease we find we can publish our thoughts worldwide and as a lover of literature and ideas I think this is a good thing – we can never tap out the pool of ideas covering the globe. However, as my poorly-punned title suggests, there is danger associated with that. People should not be confined in what they say or write but not because of some sanctified and inviolable “right to free speech”. Rather, because there should be no question that each of us is responsible for what we produce and put out into the world. The moment we suggest that someone else should be censoring us, some of that responsibility is subtly shifted. For the sake of all that we might miss we must keep the “loose canon” but for the sake of all that we might lose we must each aim our own, and aim wisely.

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A start in becoming a professional book reviewer

Having realized that you are a victim of readaholism, one solution is to go to a help group and be cured– another, far better, solution would be to become a professional book reviewer.

Book reviewing (as if you did not already know) involves giving a concise, informed, clear and truthful opinion about a book you have read. For that, if you play your cards right, you can have a steady stream of free books and perhaps a paycheck as well as the opportunity to gain exposure for your own writing and opinions. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to start as a book reviewer, here are some guidelines to becoming a published book critic.

This article is supported by the output of many informed advisors from around the world. For all original sources, see end.

First – the most common of the common sense wisdoms: read.

Obvious, it may be, but false it is not. Once you have the opportunity to pick and choose what you review: read widely in any genre you plan to focus on and be capable of charting, to some extent, the growth of that genre. The simplest way to do this is to start with the oldest classic of that type that you can find then move forward in jumps of about ten years stopping off at the ones that everyone seems to talk about. As you reach the modern day and hone in on the current most popular and critically acclaimed (or even just your personal favorite), work backwards along that writer’s career so you can really get a sense of their progression, find out who their influences are and move back to them. Apart from this, a general awareness of pertinent culture is a bonus as is knowledge of news related to your chosen genre and instances of your genre in other mediums. [This is suggested as a minimum, in the current culture of increasingly cross-referential productions, the more you know the more you can contribute]

Second – social networking is your ‘friend’

Twitter. Facebook. Google groups. Any medium through which people can update you on the inane and the insane, the mediocre and the massive – it is important that you are up to speed. You may argue that book reviews should occur without prejudice: to that I will respond that whether you stay up-to-date or not, you have no option to be unprejudiced, only uninformed.

Staying up to date will also allow you to write more interesting and relevant interpretations, to make connections with other current works and news and to show off your immersion in the industry – further, following on twitter the editor of a literary magazine may give you the opportunity to expose them to your work, a potential boon to your review-writing career.

 

 

Third- Write

Write on your laptop

Write on pads of paper

Write in the margins of the book you’re reading

Write while you eat breakfast

Write while you eat dinner

Write in the shower

Buy a new pad of paper because the last one was destroyed from writing in the shower

Some say that quality is better than quantity. This is certainly true when you are submitting a review for consideration or if (hallelujah) someone actually requests one. In fact in those situations, no matter the quality, someone will often require half of the quantity to be cut out. However, when you are not submitting a review you should write as much as you can, in as much detail as you can with as many connections as you can. If you decide to polish what you’ve written into something you send off – then start cutting it down. Obviously as time goes on this will become less and less necessary but never stop yourself from writing, as Cory Doctorow has said recently – Write even when the mood isn’t right. You can’t tell if what you’re writing is good or bad while you’re writing it.

Fourth- post on forums and Amazon

This gives you a great chance to practice and means that others are reading your reviews with minimal work from yourself. If you’re feeling particularly brave, find a forum that seems to be filled either with the most garrulous and self-important or the most angry members of the literary community. Post your review there and develop a thick skin – once you have sifted through the expletives and obviously irrelevant references to world war two you could receive some very astute criticism.

A more hospitable environment can be found in places like Helium http://writing.helium.com/how-to/3106-how-to-become-a-book-reviewer ). These sites provide the opportunity for your hard work to be rewarded with a per-review paycheck and are one of the thankfully many routes you can take to getting your reviews looked at seriously.

If you want something even less burdened with structure, you can start a Blog or even post video reviews on Youtube. If you are only interested in the free books and less in being paid for the review then magazines like RealSimple provide a great opportunity through their ‘user reviews’ programs to slip into a free and steady stream of literature that admittedly expects you to swim with a current of one book (fully read) and one review every two or three weeks – it’s up to you whether you think that is within your capability.

The following links are good places to look:

http://www.nightowlreviews.com/nor/pages/ReviewerForm.aspx

http://writing.helium.com/how-to/3106-how-to-become-a-book-reviewer

http://www.complete-review.com/links/links.html

http://www.allreaders.com/

http://www.bookreporter.com/

http://www.booksneeze.com/join/

Fifth – don’t cut corners

You may have read in one of my earlier posts about the GettingBooksReviewed.com outrage. Some say that wildly misinterpreting a work or supporting an offensive work are the best ways to be reviled on every blog and forum from here to Timbuktu. An even better way is to be found fraudulently selling positive reviews to authors. You could go down this route for some quick cash – wouldn’t recommend it.

Sixth – To be positive or critical?

Some believe that, once you reach a certain stage in your career as a book reviewer you should not be reviewing books you dislike and that those who enjoy taking artist’s ‘down a peg’ are not good reviewers. Others argue that being negatively critical about the work, when warranted, is a responsibility to your audience. That said: none posit that Simon Cowelesque displays of intentional cattiness or outrageous criticism is a mark of good writing. In fact, the ‘others argue’ article gives an excellent argument for the criticism itself being criticized. While the position that you should focus on what you enjoy is understandable, a recent Times piece by Jacob Silverman, which despairs over the almost homogenizing effect of ceaselessly positive reviews, is pretty hard to refute conclusively.

Up to a point, whether you focus on positivity or an objective attitude is up to you, but you will be hard pressed to find support for a policy of unwavering negativity or positivity

Finally

PageTurners posts book reviews! If you are interested in submitting a review for our blog, contact our Blog admin (my own ‘umble self) at robin@sipbooks.com  while we cannot pay you or give away books for reviews it could be a great chance to have your writing publishing on a literary company’s website!

Sources

Helium site, admittedly probably a little biased in their own favor but a brief overview of what you can do with the bonus of linking to helium’s submissions page

http://writing.helium.com/how-to/3106-how-to-become-a-book-reviewer

A brief video tutorial from e-how, mostly supporting the ‘read widely’ attitude

http://www.ehow.com/video_4872234_become-book-reviewer.html

A written tutorial, again from e-how, but with a slightly different perspective

http://www.ehow.com/how_2050597_become-book-reviewer.html

An article on the benefits of being a reviewer particularly from a writer’s standpoint, also the source for ‘only review books you like’

http://www.businessknowhow.com/Writers/Perceptions/pbecomecritic.htm

Some more in depth tips on what it takes to be a reviewer for a publishing house

http://www.essortment.com/job-book-reviewer-58222.html

A ‘how to’ article focusing on book reviewing specifically as a way of saving and making money

http://www.savingadvice.com/articles/2010/08/18/106426_become-a-book-reviewer-ways-to-save-and-make-money.html

Finally, someone who reviews for the love of the books sent to them

http://www.freelancehomeschoolmom.com/becoming-a-book-review-blogger/

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