Friday, March 25, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
The event was held in a church auditorium on the Emory campus, on Sunday at 5 PM, free and ticketless. On the big day, I showed up at 3:30 PM and was fifth online. All 5 of us had plunked down onto the floor and buried our heads into a book as we waited for the doors to open, which I now find amusing. I snagged a seat front and center in the first row. Make no mistake: Salman Rushdie saw me. When I finally get my book published and he sees my photo on the back jacket, he’ll say, “She was the woman who kept fidgeting and texting while I spoke.” To clarify: I wasn’t texting. I was taking notes on my cell phone so that I can write this blog entry for the good of mankind and memoir writers everywhere.
The conversation meandered its way through how we look at the past with the eyes of the present and the way we see the past is transformed by the times of the present, which is quite true. Three years ago, I might have ended my bestseller with the main character going on to live a morose, melancholic life, the sort of life heroines in Bollywood movies live when fate takes her down before her happy ending musical. Today, however, I know my main character, no matter what she does, will live, whole-heartedly, wildly. None of the facts of my past has changed; my perspective, however, has, so I shake my head in agreement with Rushdie.
The experience of reading something, be it a poem, story or article, totally changes with some context or perspective. Audio-visual content provides both. We hope that supporting A/V material will make the content more accessible, easier to interpret and more interesting for readers.
Just to clarify: this is a pilot. We've only put two videos up so far and are gauging the response to them. If people like the concept, we will launch the channel formally and improve the production quality. The videos will always have an 'at home' feel to them, though, because we want to keep them real and to represent the true essence of amateur writing.
Go to http://www.youtube.com/user/DesiWritersLounge to check out the channel. AND DON'T FORGET TO CLICK ON THE 'LIKE' BUTTON!
Monday, February 21, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Meanwhile, watch out for the next installment of Vol 7 material, coming your way on February 15th!
We are grateful for your patronage and your patience during the host switching.
- The DWL Team
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Just an update that the DWL website is undergoing maintenance right now. We hope to be back online within 24 hours. Till then, you can always head over to the temporary Papercuts site www.paper.takhleek.com and read the latest issue and comment on the pieces.
We'll see you soon!
The DWL Team
Friday, February 11, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Volume 7 of our biannual magazine is now available. We've all worked really hard to revamp the magazine, and we're hoping you will enjoy reading it. Don't forget to comment on any pieces you might like.
Go to www.desiwriterslounge.net and click on the Papercuts tab to read!
Friday, January 14, 2011
The first time we were going back to India after moving to the States, in the summer of ’97, my father declared that I was allowed one pair of jeans, one pair of sneakers and a shirt to travel in. My attire after landing in India was to be salwar kameezes, lenghas and long skirts. As a fifteen year old and a part of the 1.5 immigrant generation growing up in NYC, I cracked a few smart ass comments at my father’s dictate, but didn’t fight it too much. See, this wasn’t worth beating my already sore hands on the drums of teenagedom caught in the middle of the immigrant experience. I could mouth off to mom and dad, insist on my independence, rail against the stereotypes they attempted to impose on me and generally be an Indian version of the bratty American teen (where, really, my parents got off quite easy) all in the safety of my life in Queens. Being on Indian soil, however, wasn’t reality; it was vacation, where what happened in India, stayed in India. For a month or so while we visited family, I could play pretend and be the Sati Savitri type if that’s what my family wanted.
While in India, I never made an attempt to explain my life in NYC to my family members. Maybe it was sheer selfishness on my part of wanting to avoid the lectures on how I’m still Indian even though I live in America that came with opening up with my conservative family about my life in NYC. Staying general usually worked best: yes, school was good; yes, I still remember how to speak Kannada; yes, I do have Indian friends. I smiled a lot, I ate a lot, I wore what they wanted me to wear and I wrote in my journal a lot. I was polite, respectful and most of all, just plain quiet. We never discussed anything deep and certainly nothing related to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
My writing, however, has never been quiet. I will break my personality into pieces for the various different compartments of my life, but my writing is one place where I live, whole and complete with total honesty. It never concerned me in the past that when I get published (yes, I said it - when, dammit, when), as a creative non-fiction writer, I would be laying my life out for public consumption. With my immediate family, I began to hang the family’s dirty laundry out to dry starting at 16, so it would be nothing new to them. Everything else, I justified. My parents are so closeted about their lives that it’s not like their friends and acquaintances would recognize me as the child of someone they know. My extended family in India – well, I’ll just make sure the book never gets translated into Kannada and besides, how are one brown woman’s words ever going to travel across the ocean anyway? It’s tough enough getting published and being known locally.
What I hadn’t counted on was technology shortening the distance between my lived reality and the person I pretended to be to keep the peace with my extended family. Before, there were phone calls between NYC and India where surface words lay like sweet, sickly icing on top of a cake. Now, there are emails and Facebook updates between my life and my cousins’ in India. With the internet came Google and Facebook and off they ran, snatching my delusions that my writing and my life could be kept separate from my extended family in India.
While working with Noor to edit a short piece of mine for volume 7 of Papercuts, towards the end of the process, I realized I hadn’t changed one of the characters’ name. That realization broad-sided me as I realized I was telling quite an intimate tale that involved people other than myself. With Papercuts accessible online and subject to Google’s tentacles, there’s a possibility that my cousins in India would now have access to that part of me that I hid from them. (Sidenote: I’ve seen the re-designed website for Papercuts and it rocks. It’s shaped up to be quite a strong representation of the talent at Desi Writers Lounge. You all should be uber-excited!)
There was a brief moment where I considered breathing into a paper bag, but then the writer in me, the one who has always had the backbone, snarked, “Well, then you either better hope they never find it; hope that if they find it, they’ll understand; or if they read it and don’t understand, then you better get ready to deal with the fall out - because this story is getting told.” After another dirty look thrown at the hyperventilating pansy, the writer strode off to start penning the continuation of her story.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
I will be introducing an interesting new dimension as well. I am taking a course here at Stanford titled "This is your life: Personal Stories in Poetry and Prose" and I am eager to share all that I learn with DWL members. We all write personal stories in our poems and stories from time to time. Even if we think a subject has nothing to do with our own lives, we can often trace back the roots of a piece to one personal experience or observation. This is why I am eager to take this course. Not only will I learn how to pen down personal experiences, I will also rediscover ways to critique such writing. I know we run into critique disagreements frequently. Keep your eye out for tips regarding helpful and honest critique in "The Critic."
Another plan for the resource board is to post more of the classics in "The Critic" for discussion. I know we touched upon a few pieces, just brushed the surface of them, really, but I plan to update that thread with more short stories and poems for us to critique and discuss. I have some of my favorite and widely enjoyed authors and poets on the list. So stay tuned.
Finally, guess what?! It's January - beginning of the year, which means there will be a lot more competitions to look forward to. Keep checking "Publication Avenues" for updates. I encourage all of you to send your work to these competitions. Usually there is a nominal non-refundable reading fee, but consider it a creative investment. Remember, we are all here to critique and polish your work so it is in its best shape. Please post your entries on the forums and wait for your peers to comment before submitting to a journal/competition. More often than not, you will find that critique on the forums will make your work more competitive.
A special scoop: there are a few other major plans we are working on, including but not limited to another writing competition. More on this later.
All of you who are able to make it to the DWL Reading and PaperCuts Pre-Launch Event, have fun. It has taken a huge effort to bring this together and our team in Pakistan has been working tirelessly to arrange it. If you are able to attend this event, please do! And don't forget to contact Shehla to let her know that you'll be there.
I am getting super excited for all these new plans, and I better get to work now so I can deliver all that I promised above.
See you on the forums!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I can't believe it's 2011. Babies born in nineteen ninety are going to turn twenty one this year. I feel ancient. I am a mid-eighties baby myself and really detest the ugly hairstyles and questionable fashion trends associated with my decade. But really, my decade was the nineties, the late nineties particularly when I finished school. Ah, those last few years in an all-girls missionary school were full of day-dreaming teenagers. The poster boys were Shahid Afridi (he still is a hero, was just younger and clean-shaven back then), Shahrukh Khan ("Kuch kuch hota hai, Anjali. Tum nahi samjho gi" and "Senorita, aisay baray baray shehron mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain" - eww, and yes, I still remember these lines!), The Backstreet Boys (I thought they were horrible, frankly), and the ones who wanted to be really "different" liked Saqlain Mushtaq/Shoaib Akhtar, 'N Sync/Boyzone, and Amir Khan/Salman Khan. Sigh, ten years after graduating, I still think my world at that time was perfect for the fifteen-year-old me.
I remember these trivial details well. There was no fear, no worry, just a normal and healthy childhood. When I called home this morning from the warm comfort of my commuter train, my thirteen-year-old brother answered. After exchanging pleasantries he said, "Do you know Salman Taseer was assassinated today?"
"Yes," I said. "It's horrible."
"Not so horrible for me. I get a day off from school tomorrow," said my brother.
Both my sister who was sitting near him, and I, a world across from him said "Shahzil! Someone DIED! Should you be saying this?"
"Sorry, sorry," said my brother, completely non-committal.
How's it possible to think this way? Did I have the same mentality as a child? Granted he is twelve years younger than me, but in that moment this morning, I felt decades older. I have never felt so distant from him before.
In this situation, who do you blame? We've both had the same parenting, same facilties, similar schooling. The circumstances, however, of our respective childhood are different. When I was his age, I never heard a bomb blowing up my neighborhood marketplace. I didn't ride my bike across the carnage. My mother didn't go looking for me frantically in the street because she had heard hand grenades going off two roads down our house. My brother has seen and experienced all this in his thirteen summers. He has switched three schools to be closer to home. He has lost distant family members in street violence, bombings, and suicide attacks. His mother and uncle have been robbed multiple times at gunpoint. He has seen two monumental natural disasters in his country: the earthquake and the floods, along with the mass migration of internally displaced persons. His parents and sisters are paranoid about his safety. All this has led him to treat death as something trivial, an everyday occurrence. Something about his childhood is lost and damaged. He has grown up too fast, too soon. His eyes have hardened and narrowed. I don't see the mischief in them that was so apparent when he was five and was waving goodbye to me at Lahore International Airport in 2003.
It is two thousand and eleven, everyone. My little brother will turn fourteen this year. When I was as old as him, I was writing really bad poetry inspired by nineties Bollywood. They are horrible poems, but my childhood was beautiful enough to turn me into a poet. Hopefully we can all make an extra effort this year and do what we can to improve the world we live in. Resolve to make the world better in any way you can. Go green, even if it involves a small change like switching to paper bags. Write a small check for a charity every month this year - every dollar helps. Blog about what you see around you, raise awareness for the causes you believe in. Write to make someone's life better, even if it is for an instant. Put a smile on someone's face even if you have to contribute a joke to a local paper. This year, don't make colossal commitments. Start small. Do something for someone else. A tiny little thing. And see where it takes you.
Happy New Year from all of us at DWL. Sorry for the sadness, but some days laughter eludes me after the first paragraph.