"A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right. " ~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Going forth into the Tunnels of Darkness

I must thank Clarice, below, for writing in my absence. Though the internet did fail us for a little less than 24 hours, it has returned in full force. So things, are in that sphere at least, well.

There have been no changes in the e-zine publication plans--we will be moving forward with publishing it sometime at the end of January--the interim month will be, as per our now established Editorial Policy, devoted to editing pieces. The reason that it has already been pushed back several times, is because of the search for quality and the understanding that it needn't be rushed.

The editors will shortly notify the finalized set of writers under their respective categories, although The Poets will be notified a little later. Reasons for this diversion needn't be discussed, here. Suffice to say, there's a reason for everything we do.

One thing must be noted absolutely, however: protocol must be followed. Currently, the deadline for which all editors must have their respective finalized pieces is January 18th, 2008. Anyone who doesn't follow this to the dot, will have their piece(s) struck from the final published list. I need to make this absolutely clear now. We're all on a schedule here, and allowances for everyone have been made with the rather accommodating date. So to all the finalists out there: ensure that you've got an approved and complete piece by then. There are some pieces that require severe, heavy edits before they have a chance to make it in. To these writers, especially, you must follow the guidance of your assigned editor until he/she is satisfied. I will, however, make the last judgment call if there is one to be made.

I am well aware that I am no professional writer, but as Editor and Administrator, someone has to do it. I apologize in advance.

The E-Zine's publication date has been set for sometime in the last week of January.

A new design inclusive of new logo might be instituted some time before then, or it may make its debut with the new volume. That remains to be seen based on my own time and planning. Suffice to say, it is in the works.

I can only hope Vol 3 is a roaring success, and jump starts our reputation outside of the web as a literary magazine to be reckoned with, hopefully cemented with the reading planned for March. The posters, fliers, bookmarks etc will be promoting the website more than the reading itself, although we'll probably have a separate batch for that as well, distribution limited naturally, to Islamabad only.

The material for marketing the website, however, will be distributed as noted earlier, in the three main cities where our members reside: Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi as well as a special package mailed to our international member in Washington D.C.

This is all in the pipelines, which I'm hoping doesn't mean it never materializes! :)

Wish us luck, everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Special Update

If you've been wondering about the recent lack of activity on the forums, please know that it might have something to do with the situation in the country. I know that some members in Islamabad have lost access to the internet in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's assassination. We can't say at the moment if this will affect the vol 3 publication date in any way. Hopefully, once the three day mourning period is over, life will slowly inch its way back to normalcy.

Hope everyone is staying safe!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Jury's In: Hold On to Your Seats!

After a near three hour discussion over finalizing all e-zine related pieces, earlier tonight, out of an overwhelming 60+ pieces polled, the list has been narrowed down to all of 20. It is, conceded, a little more than I would have liked, but these are all, or mostly all, solid pieces.

Lists will be put up tomorrow evening, with the appropriate writers being contacted and directed according to protocol. Because of my own unavailability for editorial duties, work will be redivided with the four sub-editors. I will, as always, comb through each piece before sending it in to the e-zine.

Protocol must be noted, and followed: we, the editors will be working with selected writers according to a predetermined deadline. No piece will be allowed final entry until and unless the assigned editor has approved. If, supposing, the writer of a specific piece doesn't respond to his/her editor, the piece will be struck from the list. So if you've been selected, and are among those contacted tomorrow evening, you are expected to follow through with protocol. The rules will not be broken, or bent for anyone. After all, if we do it for one person, we have to do it for everyone.

There are a wealth of things planned for the upcoming quarters, including a new issue as well as the reading. If there are things you feel should be added to the site, or any suggestions you have for the reading, please do drop a line either in the comments, or to me personally. I have a knack for writing back, irrespective of anything.

And now, my minions, I bid thee farewell. It's been a long night, and I should be in bed, snug as a bug in a rug, by midnight.

Adios, and keep your eyes peeled on the forums if you're a member, and on the e-zine scheduled for release in late Jan, if you're just a reader. We welcome you in either capacity!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Stories No One Tells: Writers' PMS

Being a website administrator is hard work, because not only are you managing things upfront but everything that goes on behind the scenes falls under your domain, too. Being a forums administrator and a website/e-zine administrator; the dual job becomes managing both private with public to achieve just the right balance. Sometimes, it feels like I'm banging my head against the wall. Repeatedly, in an attempt to elicit a response. Sad, isn't it? :)

From negotiating with bidders, to negotiating the terrains of imagination and coming up with a decent idea of how to represent the concept of our site graphically, for an appropriate logo that defines who we are. Not just our web presence, but the very existence of the Desi Writers community. I've been thinking a lot about how we can boost our image, and discussing it over with my entrepreneur brother-in-law, I realized: we've only just begun. Something as vast as this needs to be propagated more from an offline perspective, which means more readings than just the one we're planning for March, more marketing outside, more awareness of who we are and what we do, so that the dream of getting our members published becomes an achievable reality, not a distant dream for the future of maybe's and someday's. I'm ambitious for this little project and every second we wait doing nothing or standing still, is, in my opinion, a waste of time.

A month was wasted with working with our web developer who was never ours, another few weeks wasted in trying to locate a replacement, until I realized I was a Computer Scientist, and would have to put that CSS knowledge I had amassed to good use. Again. Forgive me, if, besides being an administrator and editor, I wanted to take a break from being a developer, too. We can't afford to waste any more time. We need good content, an avidly contributing memberbase, and people who are as enthusiastic about their writing, their message and the community, as we are, and locating that niche will be harder than everything else combined.

But we must pursue this actively; we have to build an adequate presence both online and off, and get people to the site who can contribute to it effectively, otherwise it's all just noise, and most of the time, not even that. Just an overwhelming amount of silence.

They say, it's something of a phenomena actually, and I really didn't have any better example than this: every woman living in the same household for an extended period of time, begins sharing the same menstrual cycle. As in, they all PMS at about the same time, give or take a few days. I wonder, if we at the Desi Writers' Lounge don't all have a collective writer's PMS of sorts at the same time? What else can possibly explain the void when one of the bigwigs don't post?

So, if you're reading this and you've been a long time reader and writer but haven't joined the Lounge, write! We have big dreams...and trust me when I say, it's nice to be part of a community that dreams big and has every intention of accomplishing them.

Happy Eid, everyone! Early, I know...but I don't think I'll have a blog update on Eid day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Fracked Up World

I feel like we've been treading and retreading the same waters over and over again, over the past few months. Design? Re-design. Person located, finally. Didn't work out. Should we or shouldn't we? We should. Just when we go in again, madness ensues. Things just weren't meant to be, I guess. This also means I'll have to work on the templates on my own, but I am a little more confident in myself with my newfound and rediscovered knowledge. I'll be fine, but might not have the time to usurp my editing duties. We'll see, however.

Reference to the Writer's Strike made by Clarice, things are looking slightly up for the writers with the DGA (Directors' Guild) refusing to renegotiate their own contract until the AMPTP settles things with the writers. The AMPTP, if you believe in the rumors floating around, wanted the DGA to start their own negotiations thereby putting the pressure on the WGA. Nice to see the concept of unity in the creative community, still exists.

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world out there. They got that part right.

So, though a new design and logo is on the way, there's probably still some time until we get there. I've got some very talented graphic designing companies on the line for the logo work, so there's that lovely thing to consider. What look are we going for? Classic funky. You do the math. Something that screams: the Lounge. Should we go with the 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' idea, or should we break it down into something else? Do you have any ideas? The Administration speaketh. Go forth into those creative tunnels, don't turn out the bulb of genius and venture out never, until you've got something up your sleeve.


Designs, Looks and Logos

We hope to start revamping the site soon, with a new look and definitely our own unique logo. The hunt for the perfect design team continues as poor MP is driven up a wall. The mods are trying to assist her to the best of our abilities, but obviously feedback from all of the members and readers would be appreciated too. I just thought I'd use this space to ask you for any feedback relating to design issues.

Some things to consider: what do you think of the current main web page? What is your opinion on the ezine displaying on the main page? How do you feel about covers for each issue of the ezine? Do you think we should stick to a classical look for our main page or go with something extremely daring?

On a side note: the Writers Guild strike continues, and with almost no new tv (no House, no Grey's) till Jan, its been a really entertainment starved week! Maybe its time to finally get cracking on the piled up reading?

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Importance of Being Right...On The Money

The new forums are up, the switch being made from the rigidity that was phpBB 2 to the more fluid and interactive SMF forums. For now, I've kept the same color scheme as our old version, although this will change when we've finalized a color scheme and layout for our main website.

Heads up: there's a new writer's workshop being arranged by British Council in Dhaka, for writers between the ages of 25 and 35. Sadly, I don't qualify but I'll be damned if I don't try. There's no harm, is there? As it is, details available here including the attachments and documents required before submitting a writing sample. So if you're interested in attending a workshop, please do take a look.

Because of a slight mix up regarding polling dates on the forums, we've lost about a week of potential voting. However, we're urging our members to vote now and to keep it up till Monday night, when all polls are scheduled to expire. December 11, 12.01 am is when they "officially" expire.

There's also been a shift in policy, where we now require a minimum of 4 votes (those with a single vote to their name will be independently voted on by the mods, because obviously we didn't vote the first time around! I repeat: vote to keep these pieces in the running) to make it into Phase 2 of the selection process. Phase 1 remains the voting stage, and is instrumental to our process, but we introduced Phase 2 because of an apparent lag in quality which the votes, although extremely helpful in their own right, don't always get it right because not everyone's voting. As a result, the five moderators will step in and finalize all pieces. We're also not going to be taking in as many pieces as before, with each column having a limit in terms of how many will go in. For this, we are profoundly sorry, and it'll make selection extremely difficult but someone has to do it.

We're looking at the possibilities of marketing our website in national newspapers, radio, bookstores, etc well before our scheduled reading in March. To this extent, we require excellent pieces and this isn't saying that what we have now aren't excellent. We just mean, with less pieces, we have more time to spend and communicate with writers on those pieces and can, as a result, help in making it the best it can be.

Once the design and more importantly, logo of our website is finalized, we will begin printing out fliers, posters and bookmarks to be distributed in bookstores as a way of getting the audience we want and are looking for. These will be sent out to all major cities where our members reside: Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi with a special care package sent to our international members so they can help spread the word wherever they are. This is marketing on a vast scale, especially considering that it's been practically nonexistent until now. Taking this in context, you might now understand the importance of both a redesign and new look both in terms of design as well as content. To this extent, we hope that both as members and readers of our work, you'll appreciate all changes that will go into effect in the new year.

As always, anything you'd like to add, please voice them in the comments or send me an email on either the address available here or at comments@desiwriterslounge.net.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Eye Twitches & Creativity

My eye's been twitching consistently for the past week. What do you think the odds are that it has something to do with website administrative duties? Nah, didn't think so.

There have been updates, however, which is why there's a new post in less than a week. The forums have been shut down, at least till Monday evening for maintenance and upgrading purposes. Come the new week, and we'll have a new forum. Well, to be honest, we already have one but I've had to convert it from phpBB to SMF which for some reason, wasn't as easy as I had thought it would be. However, it has been done and my Sunday has been utilized to great effect. Excellent. All members, posts, topics and threads have made the shift.

We'll also have greater control over the registration process, with these really easy to add modifications. Compared to phpBB, SMF seems like heaven. Literally. Whereas previously the reason for membership and signature fields were one, they have both been miraculously separated with the former being mandatory and coded in from the backend to that effect. If you don't fill it in appropriately, it will result in actual revocation...how frackin' amazing is that?! What I've wanted to implement for a year has been incorporated in a day. Sad, I realize but also incredibly fulfilling.

There's also a nifty newsletters option which takes care of my previous concerns and I have the option to send them in HTML which can include our official header/logo (when we have one) on top. Seriously. I was going to pay for this. I am still a CS person, it seems, or at least with a mildly mechanical bent of mind to say the very least (allow me my butter this one time, please).

There's also a calendar for events, which again, takes up quite a bit of what I wanted incorporated. Eventually, I'll find a way to bridge our forums with the site everyone else sees and has access to.

Also, you can change your display name finally (this was something I had incorporated in my own vision, before switching over to the open source world. Back when I thought coding was fun!) to something other than your username, which is most especially useful if you want your privacy.

You'll also get 'Happy Birthday' messages from the forum provided you want to, and have entered your birthdate.

So there are a ton of new things in this forum board that weren't there earlier, and although I've spent most of the latter half of the day ensuring everything remains as close to possible as it was before, it's going to take time for the users to get used to this new format.

But hopefully not too long. I shall admit to being supremely excited; after a much needed length of time, finally something to talk about.

The new forums will be launched Monday evening, and if you're a member you will be notified accordingly.

I'm hoping for a new design with the New Year, and we'll be well on our way. With changes in the editorial policy planned as well, things are gearing up to a (hopefully) more productive quarter.

Friday, November 30, 2007

10 Things I Hate About This

No, I'm not going to start listing them down, I just really wanted to use that phrase. Ridiculously short story I have no plans on expounding, which makes mentioning it entirely unnecessary. Lovely!

Now that I've located what looks like a promising designer, the only drawback is that they're located here...as in Pakistan here...as in, in my city Pakistan. Yes. After a rather saddening experience with an Indian developer (God bless the Indians, though; they're not all bad, one bad seed notwithstanding! Tons of bad seeds in Pakistan, too!), I would much rather not deal with subcontinental developers. However, their ratings, client references and portfolio seems to speak for itself. And they have now graciously agreed to providing me with a mock up...which is basically a prototype of where they'll take the design of the site, along with showcasing what they can do. Since I was deprived of this previously, and not wanting to take any risks this time around, taking the advice of my very knowledgeable sister, I am a little more optimistic. Of course, the development that I've planned and outlined in this blog is still scheduled. But first and foremost, is a face-lift.

Addressing quality related issues is another thing entirely, and which will hopefully be addressed and put to reasonable rest by our small "board" some time this weekend or next week. I don't know whether it's the editorial policy or the fact that a small set of members are the only set that post and re-post and thus, are the only ones available for e-zine polling. There are some marketing related issues and plans up my sleeve, which might unfold subject to agreement by the others. There are a lot of things to be decided, and specifically towards our new look, logo and design etc.

There is still the dream of making it to print, which might, ironically, be more quality oriented. The problem with being web-based is that though you're able to reach a wider base, it becomes a tad problematic when you're using it for quality assurance. Not everyone's at the same level, which shows through in the forums, where the pieces are..."workshopped" according to one of our members. Although most of the hardcore stuff happens behind the scenes in the 'editorial' stages, which brings me to another question: are we not doing a good job of it? Should we be pushing our writers harder...or what, exactly? I realize that everyone ages at their own pace, and to that extent we should give them both time and space for growth, but this worries me. Because some how, in some way it's setting us back.

A few posts back I mentioned how a complete stranger stated that my work represented on another website was far better than the content put on display in our 'zine, which though flattering to me, was a disappointment. Everything seems the same. Are we not pushing creativity hard enough? Not focusing on pushing the envelope? After all, isn't that part of what a workshop does for you? It pushes you to be your best. One piece or maybe two from members is good, and then they slip again. I need to know why.

I suppose the easiest thing to say is that writing isn't the same for everyone, which is what I am constantly being told time and time again. It's frustrating to hear the same thing from different people: not everyone's like you, not everyone takes writing so seriously. It isn't about taking it so seriously...it's about actually using criticism to improve. It's the want to get better, to progress, to push the envelope. That isn't asking for much, is it?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's Official

Development, at least temporarily, is over. Thanks to our reliable representative in West Bengal, India, development has prematurely halted. As I scramble to get my thoughts and schedules together, polling for the e-zine might just be extended since we're no longer working on a deadline. Or so it seems.

In my hunt for a new development team, I've decided to ditch the extra components and features for now, subject to good re-design work instead. So we'll see how all that pans out. There will in all likelihood, be a round of further discussions and negotiations which of course, isn't something I particularly look forward to.

But this will, however, give me a lot of time to plan out the design in detail as well as work with the designer to come up with both an effective color scheme as well as a well suited logo to our site and concept. Hopefully, something before the reading scheduled in March. We'll need logos and color schemes on the bookmarks and banners, so...still a lot of work to be done.

I suppose the key in all this is organization and planning down to the last detail. That may have been the lesson learnt in all this. But just thought everyone should know, about the latest upheaval in running a website...since it seems, for all intents and purposes, I am the website...which in a certain light, is just plain sad.

Hopefully my next post will be a tad more hopeful.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Chivalry's Dead

Although including the perspectives of a completely new member was a bold idea, I thought it might work. You have to understand where I was coming from, however--I thought there would be more talk about goings on in the literary world--I hardly expected a religious debate.

I think it's key to understand the purpose this blog serves; as an introduction to the site itself. Sure, I'd love for our writers to eventually put up their thoughts and opinions on the goings on of the Pakistani cultural world, but that's where it ends. Opinions and debates are what The Abstract Thinker on the forums, exists for. It's exactly the sort of things the Podium will cater to, once it's actually functional.

I'm having second thoughts about my developer. There are reasons, I think, why the cheap ones come cheap. They are profoundly unreliable. I was to receive updates today...and did I? Nope. In fact, it's quite safe to say I received no communication of any kind.

In other news, our Orkut community has entirely changed. The description, the way the name's been structured (DeSi Writers for whatever reason), the location (what was once Pakistan is now Mumbai, India. Pardon the yowls of disbelief!), the image (ours was always a cup of tea. Now it's your typical pen and paper), the community owner (goodbye, Sana--it was great while it lasted). It's a little sad to see your past go up like that, but then, as I stated so aptly on the community: that was our past, the site is our present and future. And obviously the new breed of desi writers on Orkut are now entirely disassociated from what we were three years ago. They'll make their own history. Ours is still there, for those interested although most of our work has made the transition into our archives. I think it's safe to say, since Sana is no longer the community's owner, it's no longer ours. It used to be, yes but it isn't anymore.

Let's observe a moment of silence for the death of a great community, and one if it were absent, we wouldn't be here.

For those of you who live in Islamabad, know that Sharabeel's latest is here: Be Careful Where Your Clothes are, and according to Obi, is a farce. So...I'll probably see it, with both my sisters in tow. I have to say, I'm very partial towards plays casting people I actually know. I think I've just become a tad lazy though.

Polls continue to run in the forums until December 10 and if you're thinking of submitting a new piece, know that the deadline for this quarter is December 1. So you have about a week for submissions, and about two for polling.

A request to our members and would-be'ers, please do vote. We're all about democracy here, don't you know?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Weekend Blues

I see Clarice has started to post...well, well! Welcome! Really, she's given me far too much credit, but I'm so taking what I can get.

Had a hectic weekend--those who live in Pakistan know this is full on wedding season--which apparently also means you go to weddings of people you barely know but work with. Hey! Society's the bitch we all love to hate.

Lahore was...blissfully calm. No riots, no nothing. But all that's political talk. Let's get on on to the real stuff.

Development progresses, albeit more slowly than I would care to admit. With e-zine publication slated for the first week of January, this is as mentioned below, going to be an excruciating two months. But, do vote...if you're a member and if you're not, my God! That's just tragic...after all this!

The template (our main design) is still on the rocks with the designer not quite clear on what I want despite showing him repeat versions of what goes where. That said, having talked it over with a cousin while in the City of Food, I've decided to revise our current Orange/Maroon color scheme primarily because they're both from the same family. (She's an artist. She ought to know). I should have some workable color schemes within a few days, however. Something like Maroon/Light Blue or Orange/Gray--that sorta thing. But we'll see how things turn out.

The Podium is still under construction, but we do have a ready made gallery which means our members will actually be able to see us! Yaay! Pictures of meetings and events and anything associated with or held under, the DesiWritersLounge.net banner. Speaking of which, although nothing has been made official yet, we're planning on a poetry reading sometime in March in Islamabad. Not quite clear on all the details, yet but we will in all likelihood host an invitation only event for members and those people our members know. I'm looking into options for printing bookmarks with our logo, color scheme and website URL on its front and back respectively. Kudos to my artist-cousin for giving me the heads up about this option, because after all, we want people to remember us and if you don't have some sort of remnant of the evening, our message is lost. So there's that in the works. We might have it covered as a podcast and/or video upload for members unable to attend.

In other news, we've got both the event calender/bulletin board still in the works although I've begun to think the Nov 29th deadline will no longer hold and for me at least, it'll be a mad scramble between work, editorship and working with the developer to prove value for money.

I think that about sums everything up.

And oh yes, I got a request from one of our new members to post on this blog...which I'll grant, so this will become something of a medley between viewpoints, random posts and weekly updates so: Keep your eyes glued to this space.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Stage Fright

When Maryam told me she's busy and I need to update the blog, I thought...oh, no biggie. I mean, it's just writing random thoughts, mostly stuff about the lounge. How hard can it be?
But this is weird. And scary. I mean I had a blog once and only a few close friends knew about it. But I know lots of people read this blog. And I'm kind of tongue tied, or finger tied in this case. (Was that a bad joke? Should I take it out?)

So...hmm... yeah, the lounge (atleast this isn't a speech where people can hear the awkward pauses!). Things are looking up after the slow summer and the collective writers block we all seemed to be facing. (Mine, evidently, is here to stay. This post should be further proof of that).
There are new members and lots of activity. We're at the polling stage for volume three (have you started voting yet?), with the release date being set at January 7th. With a little over three weeks between the end of polling and the actual publishing date, looks like December will be busy for the editors and the finalists.

I was recently "promoted" at the lounge, so I am now going to be a lot more actively involved in the actual working of the site. I have Maryam overlooking all of my administrative activities, but the poor girl needs help shouldering the responsibility! One of my first thoughts logging into the admin panel was: Holy Crap this isnt as simple as I thought.

I can never get over how far we've come from our Orkut days, and we all owe it to Maryam for bringing us this far. I thought I'd use this space to acknowledge how much work she's put into the Lounge.

(And lets face it, when she reads this sorry excuse for a blog entry, I'm going to need something to save me from complete annihilation!)

This might be a good time to stop. Till next time, if there is one!

(And you were going to go vote now, weren't you?)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Writers' Guild Strike, Heartening

This may be completely unrelated to writing in Pakistan or for that matter, pertaining to the desi writers at large, but their's an interesting development concerning writers in the country governed by our on-again/off-again political partners, the Bushes. Turns out, the writers' guild is on strike against the corporations who are refusing to pay them their due share in residuals when it comes to Internet and streaming video downloads of television shows and films. They currently make about 4c/$20 DVD. What are they asking for? 8c/DVD + residuals from the Internet and streaming video, which the networks broadcast along with ads thus reaping rewards through ad generated revenue but passing none of it along to the creative team behind the success of it all. Kinda sad, idn it?

So beginning Nov 02, the writers have been on strike, picketing outside the offices of the production companies and houses. They've been joined by members from the SAG (Screen Actors' Guild) and the screenwriters have pledged their own support. It's an important time for writers and creative directors at large, because this is the first time in 20 years (the last strike was in 1988 and lasted a total of 22 weeks costing the studios more than $500 mil) that the writers are fighting for something that is rightfully there's against a mostly revenue hungry corporate conglomerate. As a writer, I can appreciate their points of view and sitting across the Atlantic pledge my own support.

If you're interested in signing their petition (think about it this way: if the strike doesn't end any time soon, we'll be treated to a ton of re-runs, not to mention a slew of reality TV shows. Just when we thought it couldn't get more Idol-istic. A lot of shows (The Office, Desperate Housewives, Lost, etc) have wrapped up production because they no longer have scripts in the pipeline. The effects will become apparent in Jan-Feb), they've got an interesting and constantly updated blog here, and the petition itself: here. It's nearing 40k signatures, which is heartening and goes to show just how much the Internet has permeated through to our cultures.

So unless you want creativity to die out in mid-January, voice your support, sign the petition.

That about sums up this entry.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ready. Set. Kazam!

Yes, yes I've been MIA and for that I must profoundly apologize. Many things have happened in the interim, political instabilities not withstanding. I shall try, in my bumbling way, to keep politics for the most part, at least until our Podium's set up, out of the picture.

For one, our memberbase is kicking and by kicking, I do mean kicking. A new member's posted something about Sulman Rushdie, we're having a little political debate about the current crisis in the country, the e-zine and regular forums are alive, new posts almost daily in One Day, Two Minutes and A Writer's Journal. If you're feeling hesitant about posting, now's the time to start jumping into the center of things so to speak. All eyes, for once in a very long time, won't be on you. We've got enough pieces to keep our hands full, so to speak.

Not to mention, if you're posting, chances are you will be heard and someone or the other will step up to help you. The key here is that we're all writers and we're all learning, experimenting and in turn critiquing and hopefully, it doesn't sound too much like criticism. The important thing to remember is that we're all very different people and very opinionated and as a result, there will be clashes of ego.

When the new site unveils, changes will be made in the forums--topics will, in all likelihood, be switched and moved around--the "wheels", "events" and "co-ordinations" threads will be removed in favor of The Podium and the vBulletin board respectively. We'll also be getting a gallery, including one for the site as well as the forums, so there are changes planned ahead. We can cover events with pictures, limited to either public or members only viewing.

Yes, I think that's about all for now.

Comments are as always, welcome.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

I always wondered whether I would live through a ruckus of a political situation, use it as a backdrop for my stories, and portray the picture of my country as I knew it. That was before I knew November 03, 2007 was on the horizon.

This post isn't writing related, granted or even remotely related to the website or community. It's a condemnation against the General, for what he's done and what undoubtedly, he will do. Because local news channels have mysteriously disappeared and the lone international channel standing (BBC) at about 6-7pm last evening, zapped out shortly thereafter. The only form of actual news we've got left is what's on the Internet, where thankfully, the government hasn't banned news sites. Imagine getting news about your own country from the Internet, because you know the local media's only reporting what the government wants them to, facing imprisonment otherwise.

Today I attend a desi writer's wedding, and having discussed it with a new member yesterday, I realize just how far we've come together. From strangers to writer buddies to friends, we've made amazing progress in very little time. And at last, the forums are alive and kicking...in fact, there's such a plethora of new material, I'm finding it difficult to catch up on my reading (especially after once again committing to the book club's Les Miserables pick), which naturally includes any comments/feedback/critique I may have to give.

Will write more tomorrow -- there's far too much going on today.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


The development work began a few days ago--on October 27th to be exact, but my "official" starting date was Nov 01, which as you might have noticed--has arrived. Development on the book club of things has started, and each new step is drilling more clearly my own vision for the site. So it's a good feeling.

Of course, I need to have a time line, an accurate representation of what's going to happen when to better assess how long it's going to take. They always quote you a time which might end up being a placeholder for how long it's actually going to take. Considering I was once in the field myself, I know the common mentality. So there's that. Dun-dun.

The second thing I'm interested in is getting this blog aggregated with Bloggers.pk--a blog aggregator for all Pakistan related blogs. So here's hoping we get selected. I had to answer a question on what a 'lotta' is. Never thought there'd ever be a day.

Anyway, T2F for those of you who aren't like me and don't subscribe to newsletters of events in other cities, and ones that you'll probably never attend: is hosting a poetry reading. It's in Karachi, but since some of our readers are from the city by the sea, here's a heads up.

Obi's play is still playing at the Islamabad Club and it will continue doing so for the next week--it ends, as mentioned earlier--on Nov 08. And be prepared, it isn't your usual play. For someone whose known, seen Obi's growth on the forums, the play will be seen as very much in character. So do go there.

Our Book Club lags, and it's a very, very sad fact and I suddenly realized earlier today that I would need to paraphrase all our discussion on the Club (for which I am paying an additional sum) for week-to-week or two weekly, or however we're going to arrange it. This will mean of course, that we'll all need to be more involved and with our current dormant member base I don't see that happening in the near future. There is, as mentioned earlier, only so much that I alone can do. I'll need some support. Putting that theory to test, my abstinence from the Book Club seems only to throw everyone else off of it too. It's a little disheartening, actually. However, I am optimistic.

Anyway, there's still a lot more development planned including most importantly, a new look which would be nice. I'm thinking we might eventually give our issues 'covers' of some sort. Something to let people know what's inside. Make it more like a magazine on the internet, so to speak. Yes, there are changes galore.

Ah well, we'll see.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tales From Beyond.

Having recently seen fellow Desi Writer - Osman Khalid Butt (informally known as Obi)'s play - The Good Doctor, produced under his own theatrical production company - The Living Picture Productions; yesterday, I think I can safely say I am immensely proud of his accomplishments. It's heartening to have seen a person's transition from poet to writer to actor to full on playwright and director. Although there were a few things about the play that may not have sat too well with me, for instance the blaring sound which seems a permanent fixture in any play performed locally and especially at Islamabad Club; and the added fact that towards the end, each succeeding death seemed a little contrived and something of a plot device; some things like the sets (with the added touch of the family portraits) were beautiful. Down to the way the actors were dressed - very period-like - this play was the play of a perfectionist. Added to the fact that the boy in question, is just 21 years old. Kudos to you, Obi.

The DesiWritersLounge.net reconstructive surgery is set to start on November 1st, and is something I am greatly looking forward to most especially since it's been a long time in coming.

An added thing I'm looking at now, is how to raise awareness about our site and the work we do. A desi writer (mikko on the boards, Madiha to the world) pointed out that we can begin the work by hosting poetry readings under our banner, at a local coffee spot and intellectual hang-out (Civil Junction). It is an interesting idea, and something which we can definitely run with. Her idea was to start with the classics, but I can foresee something more interesting branching up and more along the lines of what I'd planned so many years ago. Having proper readings with real people bringing in their own work and reading it aloud. I don't have everything planned - for instance, will we recruit these people to be part of the lounge and slowly begin to post - will it be a members-only event with invitations being extended to other people and eventually starting a cult of some sort? As can be seen, things have still to be woven together. But as an idea, it has tremendous potential.

Concluding, the desi writers as a collective seem to be moving forward and after all these years, it's a marvelous step in the right direction. Here's to more milestones, here's to moving forward, here's to being heard and being inspired.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Creaking Doors

With development slated for November's first week, a structural policy or something is needed imminently. A board member (we have an unofficial board of directors, comprising mostly of the remaining members from our original Orkut days - five including yours truly) recently stated that we need to make alliances with other desi oriented writing websites. And here I thought we were the pioneers (no, that's not entirely true: I knew we weren't. But our operations are so far from left field, it's genius). To that extent, there are quite a few of them out there - desiwriters.com (name thieving...and this is quite literally true - the founder of the place was a former member, back in the days when we were still trying to narrow down a time and place for the creation of our own site), desilit.org, chowk.com, readitlive.com, t2f.org for related events, etc and probably a handful of others just waiting to be discovered. If we create alliances with these places, chances are it helps us both. So that's something else on my list of things to do.

I've found an excellent example of how I'd like our debating platform, The Podium, to look like...it was something work-related but my God, it was brilliant. Of course, I have no idea whether or not there's going to be a component with just the right amount of tweaking involved to get us going, but at least it's out there. Somewhere on the global, webby, stratosphere, it exists.

The event calendar is just a handy little way to keep our visitors and members abreast of anything new on the cultural, literary, arty and theatrical scenes. To that extent, it may become something like a global adventure, with members from all countries posting their 'flyers' on the bulletin board. Of course, that it comes out exactly as I've envisioned it is key. It has to look "writery".

To that extent, our header image of the writer's desk will more appropriately be incorporated into the site...something original and not infringing on anyone's intellectual property is what we're looking for. I'm hoping the board will begin to split responsibilities for varying pieces of the pie...since although November seems ideal, it's the time when my own work is going to step up several notches. No more lunch hour blog posts, in other words.

One of our members--Obi's got a play coming up--starting, if my sources are right, on October 26th and no doubt stretching to the 10-14 days that now seem standard. All kinds of rumors have begun to spew forth from 'it's a twisted love story', to 'it's a horror story...or so I've heard'. Whatever it is, it's entitled The Good Doctor. Since it's an Islamabad only event, tickets are available from Illusions and the Islamabad Club. Make sure you get yourself a seat--I've been hearing the events may be sold out. But hey, that's the news on the grapevine.

The Inheritance of Loss is the book that's scheduled to take me out of my recent reader's slump, and it's been doing a decent job of it. I may now have the courage to pick up Hugo again considering I heavily pushed for it in the Book Club, and have been largely (read: entirely), absent in its discussions. How tragic.

However, I'm hoping that with the right amount of activities, people will and can get their butts to the Lounge, become members and start posting. We're looking for the talent--our scouts are out there as we speak--but in case they miss you, drop me a line and we'll see what we can do.

Later amigos.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Continuing from Before...

I realized that I made mention of elaborating on something which I never ended up doing - not wholly abnormal for me considering the varying plateaus of thought I switch to constantly. Anyway, back on topic, I'm talking about the whole 'writer's loneliness' thing I wrote about previously.

Discussion about points 9-11, 13 begins now. Just to recap: #s 9-11 discuss the laziness of writers in general, while #13 talks about the importance of realizing rejection and getting past it. Unfortunately, I don't remember the 'excellent citations and examples' I was going to give when I originally began writing that entry.

"A person must realize that writing is a daily routine, not the result of an occasional inspiration. The Writer has to find the time every day to sit down and write. Keeping a journal is one way of sitting down and writing. The beginning writer cannot use his job as an excuse for not writing." - #9.

This is something that needs to be discovered through personal experience, otherwise it'll never ring true. I would know - one of the desi writers has been drilling this into me since day one. 'Color Me In' - a short story I wrote about family skeletons was my own turning point. I had to get on it again and again. It's taken me about a decade of writing to get to this point. Advice is all well and good, but actually seeing it for yourself, in action - pursuing this course of action on your own initiative really works wonders.

Writing, like any other serious pursuit, must be won by diligence and discipline. Just because it's an art doesn't mean it can't be owned although to an extent, words in themselves will always be the elusive enigmas they are.

#11 is something I believe I've already covered throughout this blog. When you're not writing, don't blame it on the right inspiration or whatever excuse, when the plain, simple and rather glaring fact is you simply don't want to. I know it's often the reason I've got. Take the latest story, for instance - "Numb". I just didn't want to get into it, because I wasn't sure where it'd take me - my stories often seem to be letters I seem to be writing myself, thereby proving Zafon's timeless quote: "A story is a letter the writer writes to himself to tell himself things he wouldn't be able to discover otherwise". This is true on many, many levels. So when you're scared of where a story's going to take you, and don't want to take the risk, eventually...if you're not careful - it consumes you. Fortunately, I shared this fear with a friend who simply told me there's nothing to the game without risk. One of our members stated this very thing (a lack of courage to write) on a comment on 'The Bitch is Back' post. My advice isn't new: grow a pair and get out there. Everyone has an ego which will inevitably be knocked around a bit, but that's no reason not to try. On that note, I should learn to take my own advice when it comes to program applications and writing competitions. Go figure, huh? I, however, have been out there. And trust me, it hurts. But you get right back on that horse and keep trying until you hit gold.

I think I may have gone off on a tangent there. I seem to have melded point #11 with posting on our forums. Whoops. :)

But seriously, with the 150+ members we've got not more than 10 who actually post. My question is simple: What exactly are you so terrified of? Being hurt, bashed into little pieces? What about us? Do you think it was easy? That we just breezed by? It hurt. And it always does, always will, but you take what you want and discard the rest, and then come back for more. Nothing's better than being around your peers, learning and growing with them by your side. Chances are you'll make a few friends -- you're surrounded by people who do exactly what you do -- in gallons. Surely that has to count for something?

If you're a writer, you have to be prepared for rejection. If anything, you'll develop a thick skin after it all, and better able to take the undoubted rejection slips that will inevitably find their way to you. No writer I know hasn't been rejected in some way or form. But if you've been through the moral, emotional and critical bashing phase, you learn to move on. A lot quicker, too.

Think about it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

All Abuzz

Blogs it seems, are all the buzz and have been sending traffic our way, so naturally I'm all up for it. Most particularly, one of them linked here (Jaded Malang's blog) has sent repeat traffic our way. Yaay!

I realize it's been a while since I've been here, and that may have resulted in a loss of readership. That being said, the reason was much simpler: there was simply nothing mind blowing enough to write. And since this is a writer's blog, it just seems like it should be more writer oriented.

To that purpose, I have something new for us today. Familial literati - or, to put it simply: the pursuit of literary ambitions when its hereditary. What does that even mean, anyway? Umm...well, it's normally when a parent is a writer or in the general field - take, for instance - Kamila Shamsie's mother, Munizeh Shamsie whose an editor and critic and thus produced a writer offspring. I'm not seeing a necessary connection, but there are those who do, and we at the Lounge, like to say we take everyone into consideration. :)

So is it really a big deal? Do they really have an edge over the lesser fortunate who've grown up with the working class mom and dads, or in most traditional and conservative households in Pakistan, working dads? Or is it just another hurdle thrown out by the perpetual would-be writers, trying to make things difficult for themselves? Sure, as a writer's kid, you'll probably come more into contact with the artists of the literary world, or in general. And you'll kinda take certain things for granted. But that only makes the struggle for the lesser fortunate, that much more interesting. Because we haven't grown up with writers coming in and out of our houses, haven't been in close contact with artists in general or activists in particular. We've had to climb our way up, earn our positions the hard way, and if you see it in a certain light it's the 'fortunate' few who've got a tougher job. Being the offspring of a particularly good and established writer pushes you to develop your own voice away from that of your parent (or parents). So really, we've got a far better deal. Besides, we also know how much is at stake here, because we've slaved our way to the top...or, well...wherever.

A few months ago (enter personal anecdotes - there are few things I, as a writer, haven't been through), coming off of rejection from my dream program, I began to wonder whether I was really at a disadvantage from those who were either holders of English majors in their undergrad, or Masters or with literary backgrounds, or with family history of literary backgrounds. My mother put it into perspective for me: You've had to do things the hard way. It wasn't easy to be recognized or accepted as a writer, by either family or society, but with diligence and determination, I got there. So isn't that a far greater accomplishment than having something handed down to you? Doesn't that really show the love for craft, more than family or background? It's much the same in anything - those who are handed down a title are more at a disadvantage than those who've had to get there by their own efforts alone.

So really, don't complain about people whose fathers or mothers were writers being at a higher vantage point, when really it's all about perspective. Beauty, as someone once said, is in the eye of the beholder. You make your own path in this life, irrespective of class, status or family and you earn respect for that.

But these are as always, my thoughts, and you're completely free to disagree with them. In fact, I'd be happy to spar with someone who disagrees. We could have a healthy debate right here, which brings me to a feature we'll be incorporating into the redeployed version of the 'Lounge. 'The Podium', which as a platform for encouraging debate allows a member to create an argument, allow for rebuttal and name the deadline for said rebuttal. It's sort've like a competition of sorts, too and is a great platform for all those verbal spars I hear in my mind sometimes. And the cool thing about it is, though you have to be a member to initiate a debate, you don't have to be one to continue and/or rebut it. So you can write a well worded, detailed rebuttal and it'll find its way up there, allowing the original or agreeing members of the population to contest it. Pretty nifty, huh?

We're also planning a virtual bulletin board of sorts, complete with push pins and cork, which will allow members and members only to post upcoming events, but and here's the nifty thing again: Anyone can view this. These two segments of the site will be independent from the forums, and will also include a rejuvenated and reborn Book Club including a newsletter to keep you abreast of our discussions regarding the book in question. Nifty, eh? Yeah. Very nifty. It will, I suppose, be lifting and editing existing discussions on the forums, and will probably introduce a degree of responsibility since I'm hoping more people would like a simple newsletter instead of joining the entire site at large. Responsibility for our members to be more active, involved and serious minded in the discussion.

So I'm trying to cater for everyone here. I'm just hoping this succeeds.

Comments are welcome, although I'm a little weary of actually getting them considering we haven't gotten any yet. :) But hope springs eternal!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Bitch is Back

It's got nothing to do with pricing - I would be more than happy to outsource to someone who gives me the impression he/she's actually read the document - supplied his/her own suggestions and is enthusiastic for the project. But finding someone like that is incredibly rare. Not totally impossible of course, but rare. Besides I'd also like to know all the money and time I'm investing in this will pay off when it comes to our members. But people are such unpredictable, thankless and selfish creatures, don't you think?

So I'm kicking off a new campaign: Tough Love. I want to up quality - when someone searches my name after a particularly successful run on another website - locates the Lounge and finds my work better, it's sad. Flattering most definitely, but also completely sad. Because a lot of work's gone into it, and we're obviously not doing enough of a good job. But why base my opinion on the comments of one person, right? I'm not. Yeah, the truth hurts. Our traffic is down - we're bringing people to the site but aren't keeping their attention long enough to stay there - it's down to one thing, and one thing alone that can attract the kind of people we're looking for: Content. Bitchy, tough loving me has been reborn and doesn't seem to want to leave. At least not any time soon.

I believe if you push people to be their best, they can get there. I would know. The Desi Writers have been doing it to me for the last two years, most especially when we were on Orkut, still unsure of what to say and what not to. It's the tough love that gets you going, that gets you thinking, that makes you say: Fuck it but starts those wheels turning, nonetheless. It's by telling them you believe in better, by saying 'I expect something more' that makes them push for it. It's a constant drill - painful to watch often, and more specifically, to be a part of - to see them struggling, but knowing, inevitably that the result will be the biggest payoff ever. To both you and them.

I'm all in for giving us time to grow and all that jazz, but it's been far too long and it's time now. Time to take things into our own hands, instead of hoping for people to come around. Because here's a thought: they never will. That's just what people are. They're lazy. Unless someone starts blowing a whistle. And you see this thing around my neck? It's the proverbial whistle.

And it's screaming.

All aboard?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Back on topic

Loneliness. As a writer, that's something you have to get used to and something which only deepens over time. The recognition of it, is possibly the first step to true indifference. Personally, I've seen I only awaken to my loneliness when I'm surrounded by people I love and who undoubtedly love me (modesty is obviously not a virtue), and most acutely when I'm not writing. You know, it's odd how we classify "writing". For me, "writing" involves writing fiction - to truly put something creative out there - but really, this qualifies as writing just like writing in a daily journal and it's various, various forms does. But that's beside the point, or at least the one I'm trying to make now.

Yesterday, I went searching for how to handle writer's loneliness (it was a particularly bad day) - I have my moments of self-doubt just like the next person. It may not look it, but I am human. Anyway, so I found a set of writer's characteristics from this site which I'm going to list and discuss.

  1. The Writer doesn't have to like people, but the Writer must be profoundly, passionately interested in them.
  2. The Writer must have an equally passionate desire to make the reader see what the Writer sees, hear what the Writer hears.
  3. The Writer must be sensitive to the human condition and moved to express his/her feelings about it.
  4. The Writer must have a passion for words so that phrases, sentences, and rhythms haunt him.
  5. As a person the Writer must be profoundly committed to what the Writer is writing; as an artist the Writer must be detached from it as the Writer learns to recognize what is good and what is bad about his writing.
  6. The Writer needs to be born this morning, and again tomorrow morning. The Writer needs to look at familiar faces as if the Writer has never seen them. The Writer should drive his car to wherever the Writer is going as if it were the first time. The Writer should look at the face of the supermarket checkout girl as if she, too, was born this morning.
  7. The Writer must learn that writing is rewriting. The Writer must be able to cut away at his manuscript without quivering, to carve up his child without flinching.
  8. The Writer must acquire a deep concern for details. This concern often makes the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful story or article.
  9. A person must realize that writing is a daily routine, not the result of an occasional inspiration. The Writer has to find the time every day to sit down and write. Keeping a journal is one way of sitting down and writing. The beginning writer cannot use his job as an excuse for not writing. (In fact, why not use the job as an excuse for writing?)
  10. The Writer must realize that only a small number of writers are able to make a living by writing. There are few compared to those who have other professions, trades, or jobs.
  11. The Writer must admit, finally, that there are no excuses, that the only reason the Writer isn't writing is because the Writer doesn't want to. People write successfully everywhere, under all conditions and with all kinds of handicaps.
  12. Occasionally the Writer will stop in anguish and tell himself that everything has been said, all the tales have been told. The Writer must remind himself that the story of Romeo and Juliet had been told by an Italian writer of novellas, but that Shakespeare told it better, and that the same plot was retold later in the form of Abie's Irish Rose and again in West Side Story.
  13. The writer must learn to live with his rejection slips, use them as scrap paper, not label them "End of the World." The Writer can avoid many rejection slips by knowing the market.
  14. The writer must learn how to handle the problem of loneliness, for writing is a lonely profession. It is one road a person must walk alone.
And that's it. Some points, if not all, are absolutely valid and relate a lot to both the discussions that spring up on the site and this blog, but also questions I've been asked personally relating to writing.

On the set of links to the side, you'll notice one for Orwell's essay 'Why I Write', where he's discussed that his writing was better when fueled by a purpose, usually political and if you ever pick up any of his books, in particular 1984, you'll notice a warning resonating so clearly, made all the more important with America's "Big Brotherish" tactics. So there's #3 proved.

Points 1-3 I agree with, because you don't have to like people to write about them, but to do it successfully you have to be interested in human nature. And really, we are the most fascinating creatures. Why do you think soap operas never die? Hell, we've coined a new phrase - "teen soap operas". 90210, anyone? That the actors playing teens were in their thirties is entirely beside the point.

What is writing without words? But you don't necessarily need to be haunted by them to be a successful writer - true, nearly every writer I know has been plagued by getting the right word - I know I have. Hitting the nail on the head can get me out of bed, inches before falling asleep, it is that incumbent. But it isn't a must.

#7 - rewriting. I think a lot of today's would-be authors don't realize the severe importance of the rewritten word. When you first start out, you're just getting the idea straight, putting it to paper is the result of all the events, emotions and conversations you've been seeing in your mind. It's not a thinking story - it's a driven story, by all means - but it isn't in the right place at the right time. It needs to be hacked into, which explains #8 as well.

#s 9-11, 13 I will discuss in my next post, with a very illustrative and I believe, absolutely correct example and citation.

On to #12 - everything worth writing has already been written - has been a subject of great interest at the forums. It's true: Everything worth writing has been written, but and here's the clincher, contrary to the quote, I have my own (and it's an old one): it isn't the tale, but he who tells it. A story isn't different because it's been done before, but because I, Maryam Piracha, the Writer am writing it with my own perceptions, opinions and views. And every person, in particular every writer, sees things at a different angle, and it's that for which writing that particular story becomes absolutely necessary.

Finally, #14 - writing is by far the loneliest profession you'll ever encounter. Why? This blog provides an insightful look into the situation. Is it because nobody understands? From personal experience, that's what it was like for me, until the desi writers. But even then, even when you have the community, the feeling never truly deserts you. At the end of the day, you need to seclude yourself, to write alone, unhindered and if you can't handle it, you're just not cut out for the job at all.

Will it break you? Absolutely. Will you survive? That's up to you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Budgeting Concerns

So I've stretched the budget, won't be enjoying the first three months of my pay, and have eliminated one key feature from the project at large. It happens, right? And besides, it's all for the greater good.

One of the great things about Joomla - an open source content management system (CMS) - is that you can add a host of things to it, later. Of course, I'm not entirely sure how I'd go about adding a gallery that would also merge with the forums, but hey! It's not terribly important to have it managed in such a way that it incorporates both, right? Maybe we should stick to its traditional method and lump it with the forums. After all, if we must have a gallery, that's where it should be. Alternatively, it could always be lumped in with the CMS, because once this is done, each component of the site will be meshed with the other and they'll all perform together.

The important thing is that the core features not be messed around with - the gallery was a last minute addition - if the podium, the bulletin board, the e-zine and the forums are all there, that makes for one great looking website. Not to mention, if they all work together. A true place to provide intellectual debates, creative discussions and writing. To put our vision out there - to give the upcoming desi literati a chance to really shine - that's all I want, really.

The chance to be involved in our book club discussion, keep abreast of all that's happening on the Lounge via newsletters etc. Really "step up to the mat" and hopefully "set the world on fire" with the podium, "unleash your creativity" with the bulletin board (or well, maybe not creativity as informational skills) and of course, "write, experiment and be heard" on the forums and e-zine. The gallery really doesn't fit into the grand scheme of things, does it?

Now all I can hope for is that my budget doesn't exceed itself too much - really I thought it'd all be covered in my mental estimate - and it's already doubled.

But it'd be worth it, that much I know and this...all this? It's a little thing I like to call: investing in your dreams.

I'll go out on a limb here, and ask what you think but don't expect me to get all weepy when you say nothing. I'm on the clock here, as it is.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Old Arguments

This website and its associated comments, reinforce what I've mentioned time and again on this blog: the desi writers are just not doing enough to make a mark in the world in general, and the literary world in specific. The question becomes: what are we so afraid of, and why?

Although the article itself discusses the validity of MFA programs, the comments are fascinating reading and seem to echo so many of my own thoughts (and problems) with the current breed of desi writers.

There's the old argument of doing, again. Or lack thereof.

In the spirit of camaraderie, this is an article published by our very own desi writer in The News on Sunday. Shameless self-promotion, you ask? Absolutely. What else is this here for?

In other news, I seem to be having some trouble locating a suitable service provider to match my vision for DesiWritersLounge.net's upgraded version. I can only hope I locate one and try to release some beta form by December's end, although it doesn't look likely.

With so many changes planned, so much to rehash and revise, I wonder whether we'll have any time for e-zine editorial work. Or well, to be more specific, me. Of course, I can always reassign them to my minions, but then considering one's got a play coming up, another will be married by then, the other's got work and the last is a somewhat reluctant participant; things don't look particularly bright.

But December's still a while away yet. "We" should really stop worrying about it

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

New discussion: what makes a writer good or bad?

To be honest, I think the classification shouldn't exist. While it's true, that some writers are naturally more gifted than others, I think a lot of it stems from how much you're willing to put in, and how much you're willing to go running after it.

If publication is the measure of being 'good' or 'bad', then there's the problem right there. There are a lot of writers out there because of time and circumstance just haven't been discovered, and probably, in most instances never will. Does that mean they aren't 'good'? I don't think so.

A lot of good writers are rejected by publishers, not because their work isn't good - it could be the best ever - but a lot depends on its perception, and the timing, and on whether it's going to be received well by a rapidly undemocratic audience.

But, and I'm going out on a limb here, I'd say that a lot of it depends on the individual's own persistence.

And sure, contacts matter, especially in the publishing world. But at the end of the day, it's just down to one thing: how does the work sit with the publisher? Because if it doesn't sit with his/her appetite, it's not going to stand a chance at publication, unless you self-publish and do you really want to go down that path? There's nothing wrong with it of course - a lot of people self-publish - but although it's not a statement, it's the rule of thumb: self-publication is the mark of a failed author, who couldn't be published through traditional means. So if you want to keep your respect, you might want to think twice about it.

Of course, there are some glaringly bad writers out there...but then, they're the ones who get others to write their books for them! We should thank the ghostwriters of the world, they ease our palette just a little, and really, it's the wee bit that counts.

Will write more on this, later.

I'd ask you to discuss this in the comments section, but really, I know better by now. The audience of this blog, like its corresponding site, is largely silent. Oh well. I've been living with the silent treatment for a little more than a year now.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


People. They're all content with status quo - there is no longing to awaken. To do. To cause action, how can you be a writer without a cause?

In that vein, is Numb being written with a cause? Is there some social need driving it? My stories are worthless without a cause. They must exist for something, so to speak.

That characters (in N) are empty; almost soulless creatures. The purpose - the cause, if you will - is to bring forth the darkness in man. But it might not answer any questions, other than 'are we prepared to face the darkness in us' with the answer: 'no'. I believe the best we can do, is subjugate it, instead of really looking at it in the face.

A writer must write, after all, because he's got something to say and not the other way around.

The activist in me is back, just when I was wondering where she'd disappeared off to. But we all need our moments of reprieve, sometimes.

I need to move past this wordless state. I must.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Finding the center of gravity

Interesting conversation at the dinner table, today. Apparently, according to my mother, two sisters shouldn't sleep with each other (no, not like that - head out of. Gutter. Now.) on the same bed, because of the parentheses. I said the brother-sister union is one of the usual cases of incest, and then of course, the most common one came up - father-daughter. That started a further discussion how in some shows (most notably, Law and Order: SVU) they've shown twisted cases of each, including mother-daughter relationships. Yes, we often talk about incest on the dinner table.

But sarcasm notwithstanding, it brought up an interesting side issue: my mother and sister feel such insane, psychotic events shouldn't be depicted on TV for common, public viewing because it fills your mind up with things you wouldn't think of, otherwise. I disagree. I think it's an excellent way to create awareness - to let you know about the shit in this world - and the fact that you need to be wary of the realities of these situations, and the possibilities that they can and do happen in thousands of cases across the world. After all, if we hide them, how will we help get rid of the social depravities?

This kind of thinking has permeated through to our culture at large - hide it, subjugate the hidden truths - and yet, we turn our noses up in disgust about incidents similar to these when they happen in our vicinity. It's hypocritical.

I have a cause, and I firmly believe in this and it's among the reasons I write. Sure, in the beginning it was all about the story, but my recent pieces have been fueled by something else entirely.

Numb has restarted, thankfully although the style I'm writing it in is completely foreign. If I was worried about falling into the same snarkalicious one of yesterday, looks like I won't have anything to worry about. Or well, hopefully.

So just to clear the air: I'm not one who just talks and talks about writing on different subjects, and doesn't tackle them in an effort to better understand. I do, and I plan to continue doing it.

And if there are people out there, most notably members of my family, who think things like these shouldn't be addressed, I'm here to say: Tough. I owe something to society, or it owes something to me. In either case, I feel it incumbent on me to write the humanity of things, even if it isn't as pretty as we'd like to think it is. Or...well, I'll admit: Especially then. Some members of my conservative family don't like my tendencies on the Shi'a-Sunni-sectarian issue. If people ask what I am, I prefer to say I'm just a Muslim without classifying. Some people actually think this is a dangerous way of thinking and needs to be corrected, asap - I kid you not.

Yes, the fire of activism burns in my soul once again, alive and well. Nice to know.

As for DesiWritersLounge.net, it is my sincerest wish that it launches itself to become among the best independent desi magazines this country has to offer, gives the upcoming writers a place to flex their muscles and encourages thinking. Challenging, always - a place for independent judgments. Because if we're just going to create another breed of intellectual slackers, we've failed and my vision for the site and forums is lost.

Back at the dinner table, conversation's end found me locating the center of gravity of a fork on my finger. An appropriate end to the story, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Contrary to one of my earlier posts, I'm pondering whether a strange variation of combined writer's block has hit the forums collectively, over at the 'Lounge. It seems every which way I turn, someone's mourning the absence of words. Words. It's all about words, isn't it?

Mine is a little more sinister: fear. And somewhere underneath it all, is the feeling I can't get away from: I am undeserving because I did the one thing I thought I'd never to - push it away - and now, it seems I'm terrified of calling it back. At the end of the day, I've defined myself through my work, and if I'm not a writer than who the hell am I?

Oh...and this just in. We've got a serious contribution request from a Daily Times reporter - just checked my inbox. Is that neat, or what? Seems like we're really kicking things off. Hinteresting, so very hinteresting, indeed.

Things seem to be looking up for the Lounge. It's been a long time coming, but we're getting somewhere. The only way to move is forward, after all.

Yes, this just lifted me from my writer's doldrums. How heavenly.

It also looks like I'll be starting the podcasts after all, and probably on my own. How strange that the first voice people will hear will be mine, representing DesiWritersLounge.net. I find that decidedly odd. However, it's all in the name of progress after all.

Here's to moving forward!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Our Religion & Bookworm: Revised

Just saw Misbah-ul-haq's final bow at the ICC 20/20 World Cup - poor man - no idea what he was thinking, though. 6 runs from 4 balls. We were so there, before he took that poor risk and bam! Out. Caught from behind. Oh sadness, sadness, sadness.

We can be happy for one thing, however: he singlehandedly turned the match around. Nerves of steel, the commentators said. Well, those nerves had to run out at some point, and sure it was terrible timing, but at least we didn't lose in the humiliating way we could've. So there are things to be pleased about.

That, and the realization that whatever the interim period, cricket remains our religion, where sects and the various divisions play no role whatsoever. It's amazing that a sport can bring people together like that.

In other news, I feel I've done my fellow desi authors a disservice by claiming that their work isn't as minded as it should be, and although I remain adamant in my opinion that it needs to tackle more mainstream dialog to make a greater impact, the work they have done shouldn't be ignored. After all, maybe it's important for us to remember the time of Zia and the East/West Pakistan shift and all the hatred that erupted in those times. That the Land of the Pure was inevitably born from a whole lotta blood. Sure, it doesn't deal with the present, but hey! It's a great way of giving us some measure of closure on the past, right? Right.

In that vein, Trespassing wasn't an altogether bad novel dealing more along the contemporary lines of the Gulf War's impact on the Pakistani population's thought process. 'Twasn't bad, as fictional desi analyses go. At least, we've got mainstream English writers, right?

But enough of this. We need more, damn it and subjects that haven't been touched on, or that people have been too afraid to talk about. There's so much to address - our country's got stories sitting in its veins - good Lord, even the shit it pours out's got a story to tell. Brilliant, eh? The multicultural, multi faceted, multi-colored society of ours needs to be addressed in its fullest capacity, and why must we, by definition write only about one specific city may I ask? To embrace the country, is to embrace it in full, to live it and I think that's one of the things that makes Islamabad a great place to live in - you're sort of removed from the inbuilt narcissisms of other cities - you make impressions on a more open-minded scale, less afraid so to speak, to understand. Of course, this could just be for a subset of people - the same subset that exist in limited minorities in any city of this country of ours. So maybe I'm just babbling? Maybe. It's always a possibility. One of the fundamental things about being a desi writer, is the capacity to babble, and to babble with conviction.

In other news, we've got a little "add-to" story running up on the E-zine forum, which, if all turns out well, we'll incorporate as a combined story effort by several of our members. The history of this lies in the original Internet Kahani begun by one of our moderators, while still at Orkut, in fact among its early and formative days. She began it and asked each of us to contribute a little bit to it, the next post starting off from where the last ended and though it began by a man being chased in the dark, it ended with the man having somehow made it into the desert, with a snake for a companion until finally being bitten by a vampire and being condemned to the undead! It was a great effort by each of us bringing to light the diversity of our skills and styles, and a story rich in both description and imagination was conceived within the few short weeks that it ran. In an effort to bring back that sort of imaginative team work, I've restarted it obviously with a different storyline.

If you're interested to read it, unfortunately it isn't public yet, so you can either wait for December, or you can join us and contribute. It's a fun little exercise.

Anyway, Numb seems languishing in its hole somewhere and if I wait for long enough, it'll disappear from my conscience altogether. But that mustn't happen.

Wish me luck - I may need it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Coffee Culture: Whipped Literati?

Today's Magazine (Dawn) had a plethora of articles about the budding cafe 'culture' in our dear Land of the Pure - I counted four, which is actually pretty sad because all of them were similar - "Down Memory Lane", "Eat, drink and be merry", "The lost kulcha gali" (why can't we do something instead of complaining about it, is the bigger question), and "Smell the coffee, please" which I must take offense against - the writer's need to appear witty was nearly as bad as the people she wrote about. The whole pot calling kettle black and all.

It's as if they all collectively decided to tackle this insane topic of discussion, which must have been written to death for the past two-three years when the houses first started mushrooming in the three cities. Point to note: Islamabad's growth hasn't been mentioned in either of the articles - hmph, typical. Usually, when Dawn presents a case, it's a for-against thing consisting of one article for each, not this insane idea of 2 for 2. Some respect for the readers here, please! Sheesh. You'd think all they were worried about was selling copies.

I believe writers are thinkers, and to be a writer you must, in some part at least, be a thinker, be the person willing to defy and challenge the conglomerate rules that bind the rest of society. To awaken, to change. Not sit back and write about idiotic things like the cafe culture. You have a problem with it? Well, you obviously do so let's stick to the rhetoric here, shall we? Do something about it. Don't tell me, show me, damn it! I'm tired of the constant whining and bemoaning of what the coffee "culture" (or lack thereof I should say) has infused into this country. If you're bemoaning the loss of doodh-patti, advocate for its return and I mean, beyond writing about it in Pakistan's third English language newspaper. Arise, arise! Move people to action. Constant criticism and berating never did anything except give the rebels further cause to rebel. Come on, people. A little creativity here.

You want forums for literary endeavors and lack them in coffee houses? Fine, that's perfectly acceptable, but then create those forums. Show you do care.

I know that the whole literary conversion thing is slow, but hey! At least I'm doing something about it - I'm running that website - bringing out a quarterly ezine for the amateur and budding writers of tomorrow, in the hopes of creating more awareness. So what are you bringing to the table aside from those nags and moans for yesteryear? Because if that's all, the door's that little tiny thing in the corner.

Don't let me stop you.

I guess you have to ask yourselves one question: "are we, the flag bearers of the grand Past whipped by the coffee culture?" Because if your answer is no, I beg to differ.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Given, I don't know as much as I would like to about the recent E-Crimes Bill, the ones who are in the know, private officials of course, seem to think the bill is a violation against any citizen's basic right to privacy. What I've read about it, I can't help but concur. The Government's Big Brotherish tactics it seems, are gaining more publicity and recognition although whether or not anything will be done about it, remains to be seen.

After all, wasn't the Chief Justice reinstatement supposed to herald 'change'? They ruled favorably towards the hair transplanted (wigged?) Nawaz but They (the Other They - don't want to be too specific - might land me in jail, apparently) deported him off again. Some power! But then, that might just my personal cynicism towards the sense of law and order in this country. To quote Ars Technica: Law & Disorder.

Although one thing can be said about living in this constant state of political unrest: there are no shortage of subjects to write upon. Then of course, there's the Victorian Era we still live in in terms of marital proposals and societal propriety. "Modernity" might cling wrap, attach itself to the highest echelons of society, but still we can't escape our Victorian roots. Among our last colonial heritages, we should be proud.

True, this entry isn't strictly about writing, but I did mention it somewhere in there, so I think it qualifies. Things go slow on the site - we have our periods of slumps apparently, and there's only so much I can do alone - yes, I have other responsibilities, but I don't believe that they should hinder my role of caretaker of the site. If only others shared in that noble conception.

Can you feel the snark?

One parting remark, though note that it's wholly unrelated to any of the above: writers are supposed to be the loners of society, and I've seen several in my acquaintance circle who seem to embrace it all too naturally. Indeed, I was among them. But one thing needs to be made clear: we might think we can make it, but man's inherent nature isn't to be alone.

Food for thought.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I'm running on less than four hours of sleep, and yes I like announcing that - didn't I mention somewhere upthread that I'm horribly vain? For all the busybodies out there, I'm off the clock work wise, which means I'm free as a bee until Iftari. Genius! I rhymed.

I've been struggling lately with Numb, my latest "short" story although given the stuff I'm planning for this little foray into twisted personalized fiction, it might not be too short and maybe not even much of a story. Why the negativity, you ask, especially with all the grrreat vibes I've been sending out there with the perseverance and the persistence and all that jazz? The story and its associated characters, lines, alleys and byways have been on my mind for weeks. Although I must confess: the starting paragraph, as relentless and difficult as its been, sets exactly the tone I was aiming for. But then, I only did scratch and rewrite it four times. Those attempts are all saved of course...who knows when I might need them after all. They're good to save for a rainy day.

Speaking of rainy days, it poured here in Isloo for all of a little over 60 minutes before giving way for the sun to peer in through the nonexistent gaps of a few hours ago. It hailed too, as if He was trying to prove something. Last time it hailed, we were sitting at Civil Junction enjoying the first rains of the monsoons, and the discussion about the poetry of the season gave way to my own personal description of the scene soon after, in Color Me In while staring out onto the veranda of my lounge. (Note: my lounge, not the desi writer's lounge).

I think, as I expressed in The Writer's Journal forum, that a part of the reason for not being able to move past with Numb, is because a lot of it will come from experience with a certain crowd that I'm just not as willing to share, or more appropriately, I don't want to be affiliated with. And I really don't know whether my personal strengths still hold with the person I used to be, and who I've since struggled to unlearn.

There was a writer's quote I read a few weeks ago, about how writers strip bare in their stories, of how disrobed they appear to the public in their works, and how much of themselves really goes into each attempt. Because if you're committed to telling that story, invariably bits of you find their way in and the absurd fact is: once they're written and put up, that's it. There's no taking them back. You are what you write, really. It's actually that simple.

And I suppose a part of me is terrified with what Numb will uncover. Because aren't stories just always personal inroads, discoveries into your untold treasure chest of secrets? But of course, nobody knows specifics. After all, what fun would that be?

Being a writer is a shitty job, and it's more than a job, because you're often not paid for it, or not paid enough. So it's an obsession, a devotion, an insane asylum. It's many things to many people, but it's an art.

That's the only unarguable fact.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Because a member responded to the podcasting news on the main page of our website, I've come to the realization, sudden and absolute: I haven't really planned the entire operation. I should, because what if someone else steps up? Terrifying.

As it is, I'm still mulling over the different features the website should have when I outsource it to another company instead of doing it myself. There are limits to my knowledge, I must admit and besides, I'd rather have something classy which can be achieved by working with someone else. I dictate, they implement. It'll be a reversal of roles - I've never been a client before. Should be interesting.

Very small post, this just to keep those fingers moving than for any extrinsic value of its own. That's it for now.

I'm too tired and drained to write anything else.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bookworm: Arise

As a follow up to the original "Bookworm" blog post, I need to add that The News has its own literary section, dubbed 'Literati' and apparently runs a Zia Mohiuddin column on its front page (NOS). I must confess, that its been close to five years since I last picked up The News and in that interim have fallen quite in love with Books & Authors instead, so my ignorance needs to be appreciated.

In addition, I have been directed to a few equally informative links, posted at the end of the blog post containing among many, NYT's podcast book reviews, which yet again goes to show the limits to which literary podcasts are being put to. However, let's not talk about that, shall we?

Another interesting blog is a Booker Prize shortlist - Indra Sinha - the author of Animal's People. That brings up the rear to Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and brings the number of nominated desi authors to two. Both books, it seems, have sold very few copies in England although Hamid's book I know, has done quite well in the US.

Out of the 6 links I was directed to, 4 were Indian which yet again goes to show how far the people on the other side of the border have come in terms of literary achievements. There needs to be a forum in Pakistan by which the creative talents of this country are heard. There is a very apparent gap between the two nations in terms of this. Even our writers write about widely differing things - you'll see a trend in most Indian authors - to write the common man's story, while ours almost always deal with the elitists - a small segment of the population. Are we really going to wake each other up to the horrors and realities of this nation by our own tales? Is this what will bring our people out of their stupor? The new "It crowd" generation of writers seems to have one thing in common: a demeaned sense of reality (and morality too, for that matter). It may seem naive, but I cling to the opposite side with an odd strain of optimism. In the end, my stories are real, they talk about reality and what's in the present and now, and how inevitably, the people we trust, and in particular - family, the importance of which - we must never underestimate. Perhaps my own strong relationship with the people in my life inevitably brings me back to this again and again, but I believe to be whole, we don't need to look very far in our lives. We don't need to write books upon books showing us mirrors to our own lives, albeit in twisted and convoluted ways.

Given, I find a comfortable home in the upper middle class, and there are times when my pride comes in the way of my better judgment, but I am no elitist. I must confess: I don't know how the very elite in our country live, and will go out on a limb to add another thing: I don't want to. I'm quite content with life on this side of the tracks. I do not look over the fence at the other side with longing, I do not look at all. And there are others like me. So how really do books like Kartography (from an author I admire: Kamila Shamsie has shown me much through her work), Moth Smoke, Trespassing and the like help us? What do they say about the country? What tales do those words weave? There are no common issues - issues understandable by all - issues like class, sectarianism, extremism, zina and the Hudood Ordinance and its true interpretation in Islam - the differences between that and how it's depicted socially. There is no mention of religion at all and yet the clash between the modernists and the moderates and the extremists has been a decades long one. So what subset of the population do these stories really represent? Because it isn't the upper middle class, in fact the middle class is entirely absent in these tales. The stories don't seem to be about anything - they don't seem to want to bring the population to its knees - to force them to understand both sides of conflicting issues. They seem only to add more fuel to the fire, to propagate not educate, to generalize not dissect, to be read and not understood. How true do their stories really ring, and are they truly written with a purpose in mind? The reason Pakistani authors are not completely on the map, is because we don't write about serious things - we pick up "safe" topics - nothing beyond the ordinary excites us.

Things must change if we expect to move forward. The next generation of writers - today's generation of writers must exact change, must think outside the box - must not sink in the mud of the writers preceding them.

Now is the time to surface, isn't it?

Links referenced in this post:
Indra Sinha's Blog
The Hindu's Literary section
New York Time's Book Review Podcasts

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's not personal, right?

This article is an excellent example of what I've been mentioning time and again. Given, it is nearly two years old, but the fact that we're still facing the same problem, doesn't bode well for the next two. Talking it over with my sister, made me realize an important point: what we, the desi writers, are doing and who we're aiming for, are the intellectuals - the writers, poets, artists, playwrights, screenwriters - thinkers, and as such, aren't catering for the mainstream desi population but a very small subset.

However, I do believe, despite what the others say, that we need to up our quality. How else will we make our mark on the world wide web? I don't want to sound like one of those 'it's my way or the highway' kind of people, because that's not who I am. Part of the success of the site has to be attributed to the feedback and comments of others, which although I don't always like or agree with (it's my baby, for crying out loud! Would you like it?), I do try to incorporate if I think it helps the overall attractive quality. Within reason, so to speak.

In other news, The Jane Austen Book Club is due out next weekend. That's one I want to see, but forces me to ask the obvious: what is it with Hollywood and Jane Austen this year? We've got two films featuring the esteemed authoress in some capacity, in two very different flicks. Not having seen Anne Hathaway's representation of a young Austen in Becoming Jane, I can't pass judgment, but from the trailer I did see, her accent slipped and that's saying something. It was a two minute trailer. Now don't get me wrong - I like the actress, and I think she's talented - but appropriately conquering the Colonial accent has long been a challenge for thespians from the other side of the Atlantic. Whereas I think the ones from this side of the ocean seem to do a better job of capturing the nasal tones of the Americans, in general. And when I say "the ones from this side", I'm not including desi talent, which seems to overemphasize the r's, lose the t's and substitute them with d's, case in point: water - wader. I kid you not. As someone having lived the better part of my life in the American educational system, I can say something with complete confidence: you're missing the point.

Chowk, my prime competitor for now (it's been there a decade so obviously they've got a huge edge, and they can also be said to boast my work. What?! What better way to clobber the competition than from within enemy lines?) doesn't figure into my plans for world dominion. Our writers are by far more talented, but they've got the big wigs. Doesn't matter. We've got contacts, and might be willing to pull those strings if needed. But I think I need to remind myself that a lot of this is going to take some time. Especially since we're not really politically oriented, which is Chowk's major advantage. We cater more to the hardcore creative thinkers, so there's the "subset" theory all over again. We're the kind who go to coffee houses and cafes for the intellectual company, and less for drinking the beverage.

To that effect, there is something of a hang out in Isloo's Civil Junction, most especially their politically effusive menu. And sure, maybe somewhere down the line, you might see a Desi Writer's Lounge in the flesh grace the streets, but that's still a while away yet. So why don't we avail the resources on hand, now?

There will be a revamped site however - and there will be more columns - and something more of a magaziney feel to it. I do promise a higher level of quality if I have to handpick the pieces myself, because unlike some, I believe we've earned the right to pick and choose.

Any comments? No one comments on anything. If you keep this up, I'll start to take it personally.