The 7-7-7 Challenge

Thanks to Madhuri Blaylock over at The Sanctum  for nominating me for the 7-7-7 challenge. What is this, you ask? It’s where you go to page 7, line 7 of your WIP and share the next 7 lines. So here goes:

I took a deep breath and walked over to where Parvati was practicing in solitude. She had hitched the lower part of her sari up and tucked it into her waistband, a common practice for Indian women when they needed to allow their legs to move freely. Practicing martial arts while maintaining the elegant drape of a sari could be hazardous. Unaware that I was watching, Parvati moved with the grace of a classically trained dancer, her sword cutting the air effortlessly in a smooth motion. Her intricate steps belied the danger that I knew her opponent would face. Her arms swung the sword overhead like a feather, while her legs moved to the rhythm of an unheard melody.

 I now call on   to accept the challenge.

 

 

Networking Events for Writers

Yesterday I attended a great event put on by the Surrey Public Library at the striking new City Centre branch. It was part of the Write Here, Read Now program and featured the inspiring Martin Crosbie, author of How I sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle, a self-publishing guidebook. In the 75 minutes that he had he did an outstanding job of presenting a plethora of useful steps to how aspiring authors can self-publish and not bankrupt themselves in the process. In the past, I have attended workshops and presentations on self-publishing and to be quite honest, mostly what I took away from them was how difficult it would be and how little success I should realistically expect. Add to that the fact that I am not great at the technical aspect of it. Martin Crosbie, on the other hand, makes it seem so achievable that it lit a fire in me once again. The best part of it is how encouraging he is to writers who are just beginning their journey. I also met the fabulous Lorna Suzuki, author of The Imago Chronicles. She was one of the writers in  Authors Among Us, an ongoing event at the library where you can listen to various writers give readings from their books and then ask questions and interact with them. I was able to spend some time with her afterwards and share some of my concerns. Ten minutes with her and once again I was on a motivational high. We’ve all been there, in that place of self doubt, of insecurity and frustration, when it feels that we’re stuck. Which brings me to my main point. I feel extremely fortunate to live in a city where the public library puts on multiple events that bring together successful authors of different genres and at various levels of success, so that aspiring writers can connect with them, learn from them and most of all be inspired by them. We all know that writing can be a somewhat lonely activity, but events like these make you realize that there is a community of writers nearby, where you can find guidance and encouragement and where hopefully, one day, you too can pay it forward.

New Adult vs Young Adult: Editing Content for the Genre

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the New Adult genre and it seems that there really isn’t a lot of clarity about this category. Is it just that the characters are older or is the content actually more graphic than the usual YA fare? It isn’t easy to find a definitive answer. Some feel that the New Adult category allows for more sexual content since the characters are between the ages of 18 and 24. Also, the readers of these books would be expecting a little more smut which is clearly something frowned upon in the YA category. My questions is this: if more sex and violence is included in a novel that would otherwise appeal to readers in the YA category, are we losing a big part of the audience? As someone about to self-publish a YA novel, this is particularly important to me. While I do want to target as large a readership as possible, I don’t want to compromise my character’s integrity by adding scenes that may cater more to the tastes of slightly older readers. Although my character was initially written as a fifteen year old, as I’m in the process of editing, I am tempted to make her a bit older. My reason for the change is not the NA vs YA issue, but rather how the character naturally developed as I wrote the novel. However, since I am toying with the idea anyway, I wonder if I should add a little more detail to the romantic scenes. If any writers or readers out there have suggestions or opinions on this, I would greatly appreciate any feedback.

Balancing Act: Finding Time for Family and Writing

frustrated
frustrated (Photo credit: jonwatson)

Since I started blogging a few months ago I’ve noticed that a lot of the blogs I follow are written by moms who, like me, have to split their time between writing, family, as well as a job or a home business that demands their attention. Even on the best days, I feel that I come up short. Either I didn’t get around to editing as much as I needed or I didn’t get to spend as much time with my girls as I would have liked to. The guilt kills me, but try as I might, I am just not willing to give up any of the things that make my life great: my family, my work or my writing. Not that I think I should have to choose, but there has to be an easier way. So I thought I might ask you, the readers, to offer suggestions. Perhaps you have figured out a way to have it all, or at least have most of it minus the guilt. Either way I am desparate for ideas, because I have set a deadline for myself and I am afraid…I am very afraid that I am going to let myself down and that I will lose the drive to keep going.

Writers’ Conferences: Why Every Aspiring Writer Should Attend

Writing can be a lonely profession and networking is a writer’s best friend. Writers’ Conferences provide an excellent opportunity to meet experienced writers as well as others who are just starting out. We all need encouragement when we start the long, often arduous journey to being published. Spending a weekend in the company of veteran authors who have successfully traversed the great divide that exists between the budding author and the published one, can be an unparalleled experience.

I attended the Surrey International Writer’s Conference  in British Columbia, Canada for the past two years, and it has been  an invaluable learning experience for me. I thought I would share some of the details with my readers so here goes:

First of all let me say this – what you learn at a conference in three days is equivalent to taking several long running writing courses. You have your pick of workshops, everything from writing great dialogue to character building to publishing. Then there are contests, readings and book signings. You get to meet the most inspiring people, published and unpublished writers that just get the fire going. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but if you pace yourself, you will get so much out of it. Other than the obvious learning aspect, there is one more reason that a writers’ conference is such a great event. You spend three days in this bubble, where you can forget the outside world and just soak in everything related to writing. It’s great when you’re in the company of others that are excited about writing. You leave feeling rejuvenated and exhausted at the same time, but with a renewed energy to keep going and this to me is priceless.

The downside is that these conferences are pretty costly. At the SIWC about $600 will buy you the full access package which includes all the workshops, lunches, themed dinners and after dinner events which can be a hoot. It does not include travel or accomodation. Of course it helps if you live nearby or if you have a friend who is also attending, so that you can share these costs. If you are attending from out of town, the conference website will usually help you get in touch with others who are attending and are looking to share rides or rooms.You can also reduce the cost  if you choose only to attend the three days of workshops, but not the lunches and dinners. You still get to meet with authors and editors as that is usually built into the basic package. The first year I attended, I chose the full package as I did not want to miss anything. I hadn’t anticipated just how tiring  a full day of intense workshops can be. Although lunchtimes provide a great setting to meet new people, if you look at the cost versus benefit ratio, it’s fine to miss the lunches because you still get plenty of opportunity to chat up people  throughout the weekend.  But for first time attendees I really recommend the full package. I’m glad I got to do it all the first time around, so for the second time, I knew what to pick and what to leave out.

For me the best part is the pitch session, where you get to talk about your work to an agent or editor of your choice. Then there is the opportunity to show a piece of your work to an author who can give invaluable feedback.

So, if you have the opportunity to attend  even one Writers’ Conference you should do it. You will not regret it and who knows what wondrous opportunities might come your way.

Writers and the Fusion of Cultures

Child_with_red_hair_reading
Child_with_red_hair_reading (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was thinking about the stories we all grow up with. No matter where we spend our childhood, when we move to another part of the world we carry these stories with us and consciously or not, they make their way into the stories we write or tell our children. The folktales we listened to as kids or the stories that Grandfather always told at dinner seep into the world of the characters we create and soon we experience a wonderful fusion of cultures in which the bedtime stories a child might have heard in India merge with the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Thus we create new fairy tales for another generation. Almost every culture has some version of  the knight in shining armour who saves the princess. Or the brave warrior girl who outwits the evil genius. And then there are all the mythologies.  As a child growing up in Germany I devoured the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales. But I also loved the stories that my Bengali father told me and the comic books he bought me from which I learned about Hindu mythology. I grew up in a Muslim home, reading stories about Hindu deities, along with old German folktales. I lost myself in the Arabian Nights and listened to the bedtime stories that my Pakistani mother told me. Fantasy knows no boundaries and stories flow effortlessly across  man-made borders. As writers, we are in a unique position. We can create characters and stories which reflect wonderful aspects of different cultures  and enrich the literature of our times. And never has this been easier than now, when we can  reach such a large audience so quickly and easily. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the stories that created such happy memories of my childhood.

The Abandoned Palace: Fatehpur Sikri

Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at hi...
Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at his court; Akbar’s vizier wrote a gazetteer on the Mughal realm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, ...
Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, India, built in 1580 Français : Palais impérial à Fatehpur-Sikrî, près d’Âgrâ en Inde, construit en 1580 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On our trip to India two years ago we visited Fatehpur Sikri. A lot of the action in my book takes place in old temples and palaces, so this was a perfect spot for some great inspiration.  The Mughal Emperor Akbar had this palace city built in the late 1570’s when he relocated the capital of his empire from Agra to Fatehpur. The architecture is a dazzling blend of Persian and Hindu styles. The design bears testament to the religious tolerance that Akbar was well known for. While the Mughals were devout Muslims, Akbar chose to educate himself on the tenets of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, as well as Christianity. In the palace he dedicated a large hall, called the Ibadat Khana or Room of Worship. There he invited scholars and leaders of other religions to meet and discuss their faith with the goal of enlightenment and brotherhood. Surprisingly forward thinking for his time, Akbar even invited women to join these weekly gatherings. But he didn’t just stop at gatherings and discussions. Akbar tried to create a new faith which was an amalgamation of all the faiths he had encountered. He called this faith Din-i-Ilahi, Faith of the Divine. Unfortunately for him, the ministers of his court were not quite so open-minded, and prejudices got in the way of his tolerance. Those closest to him began to worry that his open acceptance of the other faiths would pose a threat and political circumstances did not allow the new religion to gain popularity. Sadly, a few years later, Akbar’s court abandoned the palace at Fatehpur Sikri due to a water shortage.Today, the city still stands, nothing more than a ghost town of courtyards and surrounding pavilions. Walking around the complex you can almost hear the echoes of children playing in the gardens while the Emperor’s wives lounged by the pond. Inside the empty palace it is easy to feel the intensity and passion that must have filled the Ibadat Khana when Akbar led the scholarly discussions on the some of the world’s major religions.

As a writer there is nothing more inspiring than a place filled with so much  history and intrigue. Every room seems filled with secrets and stories just come alive as you walk in the footsteps of so many who made and changed the circumstances of their time.