Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why dont we speak in Hindi?

Year 2011, train from Nice to Antibe, France.
As the train sped along the Mediterranean Sea and i watched the blue of the water with amazement, two women walked in to sit next to me. Obviously French, the women chatted non stop. Not a word was spoken in English, just quick paced French that i could make nothing of. That memory has stayed with me.....i think mainly because it was a very happy day. The sea does something to me, and speeding in a train towards it i could feel that excitement mount inside me...

Year 2011, Lucknow Railways Station.
As i stepped inside the railway carriage having just bid a tearful adieu to my parents, lips quivering and ready to burst into tears any time now ( I cry and bawl my head off like a two year old each time I leave my parents. Yes, even now. Stop rolling your eyes!) I saw two women who seemed to be friends occupy the birth opposite to me. They chatted the whole night. Very little of the conversation was in Hindi. The few words they spoke in Hindi made it very clear to me that they were fluent in Hindi but chose to converse only in English. That memory has also stayed with me, because i noted that the women did not converse in Hindi at all.

These are not isolated incidents. When i travel outside of UK, particularly in Europe, I see people embracing their own language. They speak and write in their language and are proud to use it as much as is possible.
In India however, it is the in thing to speak in English. It is almost as if conversing in English labels you as someone who is high class maybe, sophisticated....i don't know. I know I was probably part of this while I was living in India, but being outside has given me perspective and appreciation of our culture. And hence this post.

I have also seen how proud other nationalities are of their culture and with our culture being so much richer than most others it is a shame that we do not become champions of it.

More aware of this, when i travel to India now, i make it a point to speak in Hindi as much as possible. So what then  sometimes happens is a conversation in two languages. I speak in Hindi and the person in front of me replies in English.

I wish that would change. While i do not think I that i would do justice to writing a book in Hindia, maybe when i go back to India next, i will pick up a book written in Hindi.

It is time to give my language more credit :) 

Monday, April 09, 2012

How TIB got its publisher

I know finding the right publisher is a big challenge. The biggest one, i would say. And the most important. Remember, if someone asks you for money to print your book, it is vanity publishing which is really best avoided. A good book should be able to find a publisher who has faith in it and is ready to put in the money required.

This is the story of how TIB got published.
When I finished putting together TIB which was then titled 'Happily Ever After',the next issue that cropped up was to find a suitable publisher.

Sitting half way across the world, in London, hunting for publishers who are nototriously absent online was always going to be difficult. There were a couple of documents i had prepared. First was a bio sketch- almost like a CV but more about how you would come across as an author.  The second things was a synopsis. I will probably write a small post about what i think the ideal synopsis should look like, but that will come later someday. For the time being, just google for it :)

And the third thing was a cover letter. It had to be catchy, it had to be something that would stand out in the pile of emails most publishers get. I must say my writing skills were already being tested.

I also googled a lot of authors who had books in the genre I was going to write in and sent them emails asking for help and advice. Unfortunatley, not a single person replied. Yes, not one. Which is why, I am doing all this- leaving bits of my experience for would be authors to get some help from.

Once the three documents were ready, I started firing off emails to every address i could find online. It was a tedious task and the wait was difficult, very difficult. I had heard and read of horror stories so i really did not know what to expect.

I actually recall that day very clearly. I was in Lucknow and Sid and Bhai were sitting with me talking about something. Bhai was showing Sid a magazine, Forbes India. One of the articles that that magazine carried was called 'Rupa, the paper Tiger'.

'Have you emailed your MS to Rupa?' Sid asked me. By that time I was already in conversation with a much smaller publisher.

I had not emailed my MS to Rupa not sure why they would be interested in a newbie like me but Sid asked me the question expecting me to say yes. Maybe i should have, i thought to myself. And here is the biggets bit of advice i would like to give to anyone who wants to publish his/her book- have faith in what you have written. The amount of confidence you have in it will probably determine its fate.

'Errr...i....i think i did...should have...' i fuimbled.

'Why dont you email right away?' said Sid. I had the laptop with me, I picked out an email i had sent to another publisher and simply forwarded it to Rupa with the author bio and synopsis.

We left Lucknow that day for London, and on reaching London , as the cab pulled out of Heathrow Airport, I flicked open my Iphone. There was a reply from Rupa. They would like to read the whole manuscript.

The whole way back home it was all i could think of.

In the next couple of days, i proof read TIB and emailed it to Bhai who printed it and posted the manuscript to the publishers.

And in the next 10-15 days, that fine morning, groggy and still half asleep, i yet againg flicked open my iphone to see another email from the publisher.

They were happy to sign me on, said the email, could i read the contract and if all was okay, sign it? the email said.

Sitting on my bed, in payjamas that had elephants made on it I remember i stared at my phone. A publisher was ready to publish my book. That was unbelievable.

At the moment Sid walked in.
'They said Yes!!!' i screamed.

I did not need to explain what 'they said yes' meant. He knew :)


PS in the dedication the first line reads ' For Sid, who read about the Tiger', now you know what that means and refers to ;-)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

For those who want to write a book

I get a lot of emails from people who aske me for tips. The questions are the same almost always, so i thought i will put my experiences here. So for the first time, here we go:

Be patient.
You need to be patient.. You will take months to write the novel, months to get the right publisher and months to get it into the market.Okay it might not be as bad but nevertheless you need bucket fulls of patience.

Be ready for criticism
TIB has been on the best seller list of the most reputed newspaper in the country for the last 7 months. It is really unbelievable. And all i can say is that I am very grateful for that. However all things are not as rosy.

They cant be.

You might have put in your all in your book but there will be people who will trash it completely. But then you cannot please everyone,so you will have to tell yourself that it is okay. Develop a thick skin. When TIB came out, all i heard were great reviews so much so that it was unbelievable. But ofcourse, there will be bad ones too and when those came in i was so very very dejected. I told my husband that i will never write another book. Ever. But ofcourse, those were just meaningless tantrums that Sid had to put up with. Now if i read a bad review, I look at it very objectively. See, if i can take away anything from it and move on. I am also very grateful to the readers who come back with positive reviews, as they really make my day even now.

Know who you are wiritng for.
I know that i write for one person. That one person is typing this. :)

Develop your own style of writing.
I know of people who have the entire story etched out in their heads even before they start writing the first word. For them writing a book involves a lot of planning. I know of authors who use excel sheets!

My work involves a lot of planning, if i were to plan a book too, i would probably never write it! Infact that has already happened to me. About 3 months back, done with about 40 pages of book 2, I sat down one day to set the story in cement. I spent the next week meticuoulsy figuring out the plot and all the sub plots. And never wrote the story! The 40 pages still reisde in some folder on some laptop and will probably never see the light of the day.

I like the magic of weaving the story as i write it. I enjoy not knowing the plot. I dont think i can ever write a book knowing fully well what the detailed plot is all about...however, I am essentially a dreamer and this is my style. You need to find out yours and stick with it, no matter what other people tell you.

Develop a network of people who will have faith in you and will stand by you.
This is more difficult than it sounds. Trust me. Friends People will walk away, friends will stay. :) Treasure them.

Read as much as you can. I have spent atleast 1/4th or maybe even 1/2 of my life with books. More often than not, i cannot sleep without reading. When i travel, my hand bag always has a book. Only when you enjoy being with books, can you write a book.

Get some one to proof read your book.
I have two people roped in to proof read my next whenever that is ready. I am very very glad that they are people whose judgemnet (and command over english grammar) I trust.

Always save the word doc!
And make sure you save in the right format. Keep emailing updated bits to your own email ID. Really, trust me on this one. A few weeks back, i lost about 9k words. I am still reeling.

Finally, the last bit of advice is to not listen to any advice.
No, not even mine. there is no formula. Trust me on that.