It’s Going to Press, They Say

December 14, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve wanted to be an author for almost my entire life. As soon as I learnt to read books, I wanted to write. And write I did – from abortive attempts at Enid-Blyton style fairytales, to angst-ridden diaries in my teenage years (zealously protected from falling into the wrong hands; or any hands, actually), to flights of fancy when it came to writing school essays (fun to do, but not so effective for scoring marks) to my early attempts at novel-length fiction, to feature writing for a lifestyle magazine… And finally to blogging – 500 posts in 5 years and counting.

In the two years that I worked as a magazine journalist, I realized that I couldn’t write on demand. I got stuck trying to write what someone else wanted me to write. I’d get the piece done, and I’d meet the deadline too, but the words wouldn’t come on their own, and the piece turned out stilted, boring, and dead. I also hated it when I wrote an article I wanted to write, like a travel story, and sent it to a newspaper for publishing, and some lousy sub-editor did a hack job on it and turned my well-spun story into a grammatical and syntactical mess. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

So I gave up writing to please the market and started writing to please myself. And I decided that if what I wanted to write wouldn’t sell, then I’d die unpublished, but I wouldn’t write what “they” wanted me to write if it wasn’t what I wanted to write.

I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that finding a publisher for my work was no easy job. The first publisher asked to see my completed manuscript back in 2006 and I was walking on air for a few days. When they rejected it with a snort, I was devastated. It took me more than two years to pick myself up, dust myself off, take a long, hard look at my work, re-work it, and begin the ego-battering task of sending it out to publishers again. Altogether, I sent it to 15 publishers. I had just about given up on it, when suddenly… one publisher, and not even one of the last couple of publishers I’d sent it to, but someone I’d sent it to some months earlier and never heard back from, got back to me. They liked it! Could I send the full manuscript?

From that point, it took another several months of delay and despair before I suddenly and altogether unexpectedly got a contract .

But I wasn’t walking on air any more. I’d learnt my lesson. The more you let yourself hope, the harder you fall.

Even now that that book is almost a paper-and-ink reality, I still don’t feel that euphoric joy that I let myself feel the first time. Now, after having almost lost hope altogether, there’s just a faint, cautious optimism, that this firstborn of mine might actually see the light of day. Sometime soon, I hope to be able to walk into a bookshop and see my book on the shelves there – that’s all I want right now.

In the last year-and-a-half, despite – initially – the apparent lack of progress with my first manuscript, I churned out another three manuscripts. One is in cold storage, but the other two are out there now, doing the rounds of the publishers. There are a couple of promising developments. Maybe these two will also become paperback realities some day, but it’s still too early to hope.

It’s not an easy one, this journey to be a writer. So much of your fate rests in other people’s hands. Time crawls by ever so slowly as publishers mull over your work and – too often – just never get back to you. So much of this job is just about following up and waiting, following up and waiting. Writing – that’s just the first step. After that, it’s all about patience and perseverance. And stubborn determination.

The risks are high, and the returns unknown. The most likely outcome of being published is a short shelf life and then… oblivion. The most worrying outcome is that poor distributorship will render your work even more invisible and inconsequential than it might otherwise have been. The least likely outcome is a meteoric and long-lasting ascent to fame and fortune.

I don’t know what outcome lies in store for me and mine. But my first book is hopefully going to press this week. I will soon have a few copies of it tucked away in one corner of my home, so that I can pull it out sometimes and say to myself: At least I got this far.

This Time Last Year…

December 3, 2010

…I was struggling with an Archaeology assignment about the effect of the Roman civilization on the rest of the world. This time, I’m struggling with an Archaeology assignment about the development of writing in various regions of the world.

And that’s where the similarity ends. At this time last year, I was sitting at a daycare, holding my breath, hoping the kids would settle down there in the next few days before I joined work. I suffered considerable angst about them reaching the daycare by school van. Would my babies be scared, worried, or want to go to the toilet while they were in the van? Would they be bullied by the other kids? Would the driver be safe and reliable?

I felt a little guilty about the daycare situation as well. They would leave home at 7.30 a.m. and return only around 6.30 p.m. every week day. Would they be secure and comfortable being away from home all day? Would they suffer from too little of my time and attention? Would I suffer? And how would I ever survive the killer commute through suffocating traffic snarls that took over an hour each way?

Meanwhile, we had to sneak in a quick trip to Pondicherry, so that I wouldn’t have to take time off as soon as I joined my new job.

And there was the job itself – I was worried about that too. Would I be able to manage? It had been two years since I’d left my job. Did I still have what it takes to be on par in the workplace? I felt rusty – would I be able to hone what used to be my skills at work? And, equally importantly, could I manage my work and also continue to give my family and home the attention they needed?

With all these worries weighing me down, I struggled to figure out in 3,000 laborious words what, exactly, had been the process and impact of romanisation in the ancient Roman empire. Apparently, I did a halfway decent job of it.

This time, I should be so lucky.

I have nothing to complain about, though. I’ve not got half the worries I had last year at this time. I know the kids are delighted and thrilled with their daycare. Their van situation is mildly worrying, but nothing to be alarmed about. I don’t think we have any more trips to Pondicherry in the offing. I have rediscovered my tech writing and editing skills and learnt a lot of new things along the way. I have been managing to work and keep things going at home for the last whole year without entirely coming apart at the seams. And, best of all, the commute home is now so comfortable that on a good day I can make it home from office in 40 minutes even though I need to take a short detour to pick up the kids.

Yes, this year, my problems are trifling, trivial: How can I improve at tennis? How can I get enough sleep (and why isn’t seven hours a night enough)? How can I stop myself from completely losing it with the kids, especially when they keep putting stuff in their mouth, spitting, or biting? (And why do they do these disgusting things? Why!?!)

Only one problem remains the same, and just as unanswerable as it was last year: How can or (or, in fact, can I) get my assignment out of the door on time? It’s 3000 words! How am I going to come up with 3,000 words about the development of writing in less than three weeks, I ask you. (And yes, I’m a writer – the irony of that question is not lost on me.)


April 21, 2010

I always liked numbers. As a child, I was fascinated by their properties, by how they worked together. I had a good head for numbers too – I was very quick at arithmetic, both figured and mental. It was with great satisfaction and even greater ease that I got perfect or near-perfect marks in my Math exams all the way through school.

Unfortunately, my daughters have not “inherited” my love of numbers yet. Their counting goes, “one, two, three, lifteen, sixteen, twenty-one, twenty-two, forty-two…” Actually, they both know their numbers up to ten, so I suspect they do this arbitrary counting only for effect. But even if they do really know their numbers, they are hopeless at counting. Their fingers, jabbing at the individual items, move at a different tempo from the actual verbal count. So they will jab eight times, but count ten or eleven. Or maybe six.

And this is really very difficult to do. I tried and I just couldn’t get my jabbing finger to move out of sync with my count. I can do half or double, and if I focus on it, I can perhaps do thirds, but completely at random? Impossible. How do they do it?

Their teacher (or “facilitator” as the Montessori system calls them) also told us that their recognition of numeral symbols from 0 through 10 is not up to speed. She suggested that we “work” on it during the summer holidays, but, irresponsible parent that I am, I have done nothing of the sort. I’m hardly sowing the seed for numerical geniuses here.

None of the above, however, has the remotest connection to what this post is really about. This post is about a specific set of numbers. My vital stats, to be precise.

• Total posts: 441
• Total posts in 2009: 119
• Posts till date in 2010: 35

• Total Views: 29,610
• Total Views in 2009: 16,361
• Views in 2010 till date: 3,845

• Number of posts viewed 100 or more times: 12

Now for some number crunching.

• An overall average of 67 views per post. Hmmmmm!
• An average of 137 views per post in 2009. Hmmmmmmm!!!
• An average of 110 views per post in 2010. Hmmm!?!?!
• An average of 45 page views per day in 2009. 🙂 🙂
• An average of 35 page views per day in 2010. 😦 🙂

Ok, so I was really popular in 2009 and not so much in 2010. Ok. But seriously – 110 views per post!?!? I thought I had a readership of, like, 5. I even know of people who used to read my blog who don’t read it any more – the first name on the list being my own better half. But to think that there are 100+ people reading my blog that I don’t even know about! Highly gratifying.

So like I was saying, I always liked numbers. And with numbers like these, what’s not to like?


April 19, 2010

As you all know, I have harboured ambitions of becoming a published author for the longest time. Ever since I was 5 or so, really. At last, it looks like I might actually get there.

Back in 2005, I went on this long solo trek in the Himalayas. You’ve heard me talk about it, but you’ve never actually heard the full story have you? That’s because the full story forms the basis for my book, which I’ve called “Worth Every Gasp”. My book has been searching for a publisher – sporadically – for an amazingly long time. And now, at last, it has got a nod from a publisher. And in addition to a nod, it has even earned me a publishing contract – which I signed and sent off happily last week.

So, sometime in the next two years, my book will hopefully hit the shelves. Unfortunately, it takes that long… It would of course be so much nicer if it took, say, a couple of weeks or so. Or even a month at most. But the good things in life come slowly, so one must wait patiently, I suppose. Not that patience is a virtue I have acquired yet.

Meanwhile, I brought my second book, about the adoption of our daughters, up to date, and sent it off to the biggest publisher you can think of. Rejection will probably follow… but one must try and one can only hope. Cross your fingers, toes, hair, and eyes for me, pretty please! The adoption book is really a good book and one that really should be out there.

Writer Unblocked

November 6, 2009

Recently, two friends mentioned how my writing here on my blog seems so spontaneous, as though the thoughts are just there and are written without much effort. This pleased me. To a large extent, it is true, but I didn’t know that it showed. Often, when I sit down to write, I do have just a thought – only that much is conscious. The words come on their own. It’s lovely when they do come, and it’s true that writing then is not much of an effort; it’s a pleasure. At those times, it’s not what I have to say that’s important, it’s how I say it. It’s like riding a cycle when you’ve no place to go, just riding around this way and that, wherever the wheels take you; it’s like cooking a dish you’ve never made before, without a recipe, not really sure what you’re making but just throwing things together because it feels like it might work; it’s like watching a bird soar and glide, effortlessly, in the slightest breeze in a clear blue sky.

There are, unfortunately, other kinds of writing that I do, which are less inspired. One that I do quite often is thinking aloud. This is sincere but could be jumbled and directionless. Another is plain reporting. I don’t like doing this – it’s boring to write and I can only imagine that it’s just as boring to read.

In the month or so before I publicly declared myself to have hit a writer’s block, I think I was doing mostly reporting. It was partly from a sense of duty to my blog; blogging was something I wanted to keep up ‘conscientiously’; a way of practising writing the way I, for years, practised playing the violin. But I found myself hunting desperately for ideas (instead of having the ideas come to me) and then, listlessly, ‘reporting’.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the itch to write just once or twice. There was a particularly fun outing last Sunday that would make for an interesting post (to write). There’s a movie that I’d love to review here, specially because I’ve already reviewed the book (Kite Runner). But there’s been just no time and not enough inspiration.

There could be another reason for my writer’s block. Over the past four months or so, I’ve put together a book – or at least a manuscript of what I hope will someday be a book. It’s only 40,000 words, so it’s more like a book-let than a book, really. Still, it’s an important work for me – it’s the story of our family, of our decision to adopt and the adoption process and all that it entailed. I shouldn’t, of course, blow my own horn, but I feel it’s a good book, and one that might be of interest to many, many people out there. I think I’m done with writing it; now starts the long, draining process of trying to get it published.

I know it’s a long, draining process, because I’ve already tried it with my other manuscript, the one of my long, adventurous, solo sojourn in the Himalayas. I’ve been trying to get that published for four years now, with no success, so I’m not exactly full of hope and optimism for this new project of mine… But, well… I’ve already written the story, so I suppose I’ll just have to keep trying.

And another thing. A month or so ago, I decided firmly that it was time to go back to work. Yes, the daily nine-to-five grind, with all its implications for family life as we have known it for the last two years. I’m done with the arguments about whether or not it’s the best thing to do, or the right thing to do, or even about how, exactly, we are going to manage it on a day-to-day basis. I just need to get back to work. Now, if only I could find a job willing to take me. I’ve applied for about a dozen vacancies so far, but, amazingly, I’m not actually flooded with offer letters yet. In fact, I haven’t even got as far as a single interview call yet.

Oh, well… At least it gives me time to start on my next book. I don’t know whether perseverance pays off, but I do think there’s a very thin line between stubbornness and stupidity and I don’t seem to mind which side of it I’m on, as long as I can get off this writer’s block and just write.

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