Thursday, December 28, 2006

Arizona State University team

Here is a potted biography of Professor Melissa Pritchard of Arizona State University, courtesy Bishan Samaddar of Kalam.
Melissa Pritchard
Professor of English and Women's Studies at Arizona State University, Melissa Pritchard is the nationally acclaimed author of three short story collections: Spirit Seizures, The Instinct for Bliss, and Disappearing Ingenue; three novels: Phoenix, Selene of the Spirits, and Late Bloomer; and a biography: Devotedly Always, Virginia: The Life of Virginia Galvin Piper. A recipient of numerous prestigious literary awards, including the Flannery O'Connor Award, the Carl Sandburg Award, the James Phelan Award, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for best fiction by an American woman and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Writers Voice YMCA, and Brown University's Howard Foundation, Pritchard's fiction has appeared widely in such literary journals as: The Southern Review, Boulevard, Open City, The Gettysburg Review, Conjunctions, and The Paris Review. Her stories are frequently cited and reprinted in anthologies such as: Pushcart Prize XX and XXVI; Prize Stories: The O Henry Awards; Best American Short Stories; The Prentice Hall Anthology of Women's Literature; Best of the West; Great Contemporary Ghost Stories; Mothers: Twenty Stories of Contemporary Motherhood; and American Gothic Tales, as well as college textbooks such as: Deepening Fiction: A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers; Behind the Short Story: From First to Final Draft; and A Garden of Forking Paths: An Anthology for Creative Writers.
She has received the Claudia Ortese Memorial Lecture Prize in North American Literature from the University of Florence and her fiction has been translated into Spanish and Italian. Her novel Selene of the Spirits was selected for the Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” series and her short story collection, Disappearing Ingenue, featured in Doubleday's “Fiction for the Rest of Us” series, was chosen by Alan Cheuse for National Public Radio's 2002 Annual Summer Reading List. Her latest novel Late Bloomer, published by Doubleday in 2004, has been called “brilliant” by Publishers Weekly in a starred review, “ravishing” by Vanity Fair magazine, and was named a 2004 Best Book of the Year by the Chicago Tribune. She is at work on a new collection of stories, The Odditorium.
Nominated for the 2005 Outstanding Achievement and Contribution Award by Arizona State University's Commission on the Status of Women, Pritchard is Director of Creative Partnerships for the Daywalka Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending human trafficking and modern day slavery. Pritchard is currently working to establish outreach projects with the Phoenix Children's Hospital and Daywalka's Kalam project, for the MFA Program at ASU where she has taught since 1992. She is also serving as story consultant for a documentary about the Lost Boys of Sudan.
Her team comprises Michael Green, Max Doty, Tina Hammerton, Darcy Courteaux and Aimee Baker.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006 End sem Question Paper

Here is the 2006 End sem question paper:

1. Complete this dialogue.

‘Why have you called me here?’ she asked, unable any longer to bear my silence.

‘Haven’t you guessed?’ I fingered the edge of the file I was carrying. Surely she had recognised it, understood why I was meeting her like this. ‘Malavika, how long has this been going on?’

She frowned. ‘You mean the financial irregularities? Since August, I guess. At any rate, it can’t have been longer than that.’

I put the file down on top of the water cooler and drew myself a glass. ‘Why did you take so long to tell me?’

‘I wanted to be sure.’

‘Who were you protecting?’

It seemed as if a shutter fell inside her face. Her lips thinned; she turned her face away and looked out of the floor-length window, her eyes tracing the line of the sea in the distance. I noticed the polish on one of her nails was chipped. ‘No one.’

2. Write a full story (not a plot outline) taking one element each from each column of this story grid.










Nuclear shelter




Beauty parlour







3. Here is the back-story of a character. Write a ‘front story’ (starting from this point in time) about him. You may make up any additional people or incidents.

Shantanu Mahajan is 43 years old. He’s a successful engineer with a construction company specialising in city planning. He grew up in Nasik in a middle class family; his father was the headmaster of a boys’ school and his mother a tribal from the interior of Madhya Pradesh, who went to school on a government scholarship and became a teacher of physics. Mahajan, an only child, is immensely proud of his mother, but also a bit defensive about her. When he went to his father’s school, he was acutely aware that it was his father’s status that prevented the boys from teasing him about her. He lives in Mumbai, and the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city is a relief; he’s happy there but not very socially active, loves his work and relaxes by watching national geographic and going for hikes in the Western Ghats, which he loves. He belongs to a hiking club and has a photoblog of digital pictures he’s taken in the hills. But to his parents’ eternal grief he never married: he wasn’t good at finding anyone for himself, and caste considerations prevented them from finding a match for him. Now he’s comfortably settled, spends moderately on fine wines and his flat in Bandra, his pride and joy. Only once in a while, especially after his parents visit, he regrets the way his life has turned out and wonders if it could have been different.

4. Rewrite this descriptive passage, introducing colour and atmosphere:

The alley is cobbled. The houses on either side are high. Narrow windows occasionally look out onto it, but mostly the walls are blank and dirty. Here and there graffiti and torn posters can be seen. A stray donkey has made its home near the garbage dump at the end where it munches on kitchen waste and discarded leaves. The alley winds behind the houses, giving access to back doors where servants, traders and workers enter and leave the grand yet ancient buildings. From this side, it’s hard to recognise where one house ends and the other begins, although the fronts are painted in different colours and designs. If you don’t know where the alley opens, it’s easy to miss it altogether.

5. Here is a plot outline. Complete it and write a story based on it.

The fort is extremely old, most of its roofs decayed and gone. It frowns over the valley of Suvarnam. Bhanwarlal, the old master, is dying, but he has no children and only a young wife of seventeen years whom he married in the spring. She weeps bitterly, but no one pays her any attention. When he’s been carried to the river and burned with the last of the fort’s firewood, she comes back in her white sari and bars the door behind her. The valley and its village forget about her, except Munni Dai, who brought her here and is resigned to staying with her. The two women sit together, preparing their meagre meals and passing the time each day till the sun goes down. Sometimes Munni Dai scolds the young girl, saying no one in this day and age behaves like this, but she always calms down and goes back to cleaning the rice. Until one day …

Bonus Bootleg Track!

Some questions I didn’t use

1. This is the beginning of a story outline. Complete it. You may introduce one or two additional characters.

Rama is a spoilt rich girl who thinks she can have everything. Her parents have brought her up with the best of everything, and she’s used to always getting her way. Then she’s caught cheating in her board selection tests, using a state-of-the-art WAP mobile phone to download answers from the internet. She’s expelled from school. When her parents go to plead for her, the principal agrees to take her back, on one condition: she must earn the price of the phone, Rs 15,000, with her own labours.

[Describe what happens after that.]

2. Create a plot outline choosing one emotion, object, character or place from each of the following sets and weaving it into the outline. You may add other elements and characters as necessary, but the four things you choose must figure prominently. State your four choices at the head of your answer.





A policewoman

A condemned house



A cook

A shopping mall


Rolling pin

A fisherman

A train compartment



A painter

A riverbank



3. Complete any one of the following pieces of dialogue:

a. ‘What are we going to do?’ he cried in despair.

‘You ask me now?’ Rajlakshmi’s eye blazed. ‘When all our wealth has already been poured by you down the throat of that landlord, just because you can’t hold your liquor?’

Haranath hung his head. ‘Yes, there’s a devil in me, I know. That devil would drink the sea and kill me with the salt. But the deed is done, Raji, our land is gone, and now we must try to survive it. I am sorry.’
‘Will your sorry give my children education, or put food in their hollow bellies?’

‘I wish I could wring out of me all the liquor I’ve drunk,’ Haranath moaned, ‘and be a man again.’

‘Well you can’t,’ she said, and crossed her arms, ‘so you’d better start thinking fast.’

‘Where shall we go?’ he asked, and looked with fearful eyes at the rail track across the distant green fields.

b. ‘That’s interesting,’ she said softly.

‘What is?’ he asked, idly turning the pages of a magazine.

‘The Agarwals have called the painters in. Maybe at last they’re going to get that ugly daughter of theirs married off.’

He looked interested. ‘You mean Reshma? How old is she now?’

‘Twenty nine.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘The girl’s been twenty nine for the past five years.’

He crossed the room to join her at the window. ‘What a lot of activity. You know, you could be right.’

‘Hmmm. I wonder if they know she’s been secretly meeting that Rajat for years.’

‘I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve just found out.’

4. Rewrite any one of these paragraphs, giving the scene emotional colour. Invent the details you need to flesh out the scene, such as colours, sounds, sights, objects, activity, people and animals, smells etc. but do not introduce a plot or principal characters.

There is a busy road leading from the station. On one side is a market. On the other there is a pond. By the pond women wash clothes and pots. There are children and stray dogs in the field beyond the market. Many fruiting and flowering trees grow around the spot. The houses are mostly two-storeyed with verandahs. People watch the bustle from them.

There is a slick mall on the corner. Lots of people shop there, or pass the time. There are often traffic jams outside. All kinds of shops fill the mall. In the middle, there is a kids’ playground. On the top floor, there is a restaurant where they often have live music. There are also stalls in the middle, one for icecream and one for rolls. Young people hang out there.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Kalam: Margins Write and University of Arizona meeting

On either Thursday Jan 11 or Friday Jan 12, 2007 (depending on when our American friends get in) there's going to be a meeting in the AV Room with some students and a professor of creative writing from Arizona State University. This comes to us courtesy Kalam: Margins Write (an NGO) . I'll need 5-10 people, preferably past and present WIPers but other creative people also welcome, to come sign up with me beforehand. When we meet in the new year is fine.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Upgrade to Beta ... Ooops!

Calling all members

I've just upgraded the blog to the Blogger beta platform, which is why your names have disappeared from the sidebar. However, you all still have permission to post to this blog. You just have to log in to blogger in beta (easy if you have a google account) and your name will magically reappear. Hopefully this upgrade will remove some of the more irritating features of the blogger platform.

Job offer and call for submissions

Crossposted from Caferati listings
1. Journalists Wanted
for a new Bombay magazine
Wanted: Sub-editors / copy editors / Full-time journalists / writers / reporters. Also designers. A new magazine is being launched in Bombay. It is city-centric and will focus on celebrities. Obviously, they don't want to reveal more since the magazine isn't out yet. They're offering competitive salaries. And they would like to make it clear that this a 6 days a week job, and the work doesn't stop till the next issue is out. They're looking to put together a team by early December. (Our apologies for not posting this earlier. To apply, please email Suren Bhatia at
[Information courtesy: Rushina Munshaw - Ghildiyal of A Perfect Bite]
2. Call for submissions; Writer's Bloc Festival
Rage Productions (Rahul da Cunha, Rajit Kapur and Shernaz Patel) is organising Writer's Bloc, a festival of plays written by new writers, to be staged at Prithvi (Jan 9th-21st) and NCPA (Jan 23rd-Feb 4th). The festival is a culmination of a year-long process, in conjuction with the Royal Court Theatre London, of conducting workshops for new playwrights to help them complete a full-length play. Part of the programme is a section called the Platform Performances that will precede each of the Prithvi shows. These will be held at 8 pm each day, Jan 9th-21st. In keeping with the festival theme, each Platform performance will be a 20-min reading of original writing in any form: poetry, short fiction, an except from long fiction, skit, play except, song, or a combination of all these. Actors are available to read out/enact pieces, if required. (But writers may choose to read their own work.) If you'd like to submit your original writing to be read, please mail the piece(s) to Niloufer Sagar at RAGE needs to finalise the platform listings by the end of this week. So hurry!
[Information courtesy Mukul Chadda]
Until next time, then.
May your muses treat you with kind, tender care.
Thank you
Manisha Lakhe, Annie Zaidi, Peter Griffin
(Feedback welcome at editors at caferati dot com.) And please keep those suggestions coming in. We need them!)

Monday, November 27, 2006

95 more to go!

I have 95 copies of the old WIPLash to sell @ Rs 30 a piece. Anyone interested should contact me either online or in person. We're clearing stocks for next year's crop.

This year's WIPers, the deadline for submission of stories from this year's course will be January 31, 2007. I'll then need someone to help me edit it, preferably not a course attendee. A previous student would be ideal. If any of you read this post, please volunteer. You'll have to read the page proofs of WIPLash 2006 for errors and help with the layout. Also we would like a cover design done properly this year. The book will be about 100 pages A5 size. We should have copies in hand well before term ends so everyone gets theirs before they leave.

This is your chance to get into print.

To recap: editor and cover designer, please step forward. We'll get working on this through February, print in March and have copies out before April.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Take a bow

Well, we’ve had a scintillating three sessions of storytelling to end the WIP programme this year. I was particularly pleased at the progress made by the people who stuck with it against all odds, especially one person who struggled and struggled through the course but in the end came up with a WINNER. It definitely showed me that the course IS making a difference, and that there is a qualitative difference between people who attended class and worked hard at their writing and those who didn’t. There were of course others who attended class but didn’t listen to repeated suggestions from me and from the class that their stories weren’t working: my sympathies, guys, because I know how hard it is to pay attention to the reader and take the necessary knife to your creation. Nevertheless, falling in love with your story doesn’t do it any good. You just end up spoiling it rotten.

There was also a demonstration of the truism that SOME writers are born, not made, and will come through with a stunning piece even if they have attended no classes. This is in spite of having been utterly clueless in the first couple of sessions. Although ‘making’ is a relative term: the true writer goes on making him/herself, no matter what shit goes down, no matter how good life is. The business of writing goes on 24/7, and only a little of it is actually to do with paper and silicon. I respect that: like I said, the class is only one way of becoming a writer. If you can do it on your own, so much the more credit to you. But it’s a rare person who can do it, and for every one, there’s a dozen who think they can but can’t. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but in the end it’s the readers – millions of them, over decades – who decide who’s a writer and who isn’t.

But that aside, even if no one in this batch becomes a WRITER, you’ll all have become better at telling stories, and hopefully you’ll all have had fun in spite of the hard slog we’ve had to do.

And so to next year …

I was also very pleased (yay!) with the very good audience response we had, full house every day in spite of classes and class tests. Thank you, people, for making the event a success.

All the stories were good. Some were brilliant. Only one disappointed a little. You’ll all find out which in a month or so…

In the meantime, visitors to this blog, please feel free to comment on the final presentations, give me suggestions for making it better, or anything that comes to mind.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Final Presentations

So our final presentations are scheduled for the 14th, 15th and 16th from 3 to 5 in the AV room. On Monday I'll be putting up on the AV Room door the names of people who'll speak on each day. There won't be a mike as it's more of a pain than a help in the tiny space, so be loud. Fans of WIP and general department people, please come to hear your friends tell stories. It should give us some welcome relief in the most hectic week of the semester. Unfortunately the final day clashes with the Food seminar (which I'll have to bunk in the afternoon) but that's just the usual JU madness.

People have been asking what I'm looking for, and whether it's possible to do a good presentation of a bad story. Well, up to a point it's not; unless the story's halfway decent even the best storyteller can't make it sizzle. But you can ruin a good story with bad telling, and you can rivet people with a good reading of an OK story. The most basic points are: 1. Read slow enough for people to assimilate and follow, ie much slower than usual, with lots of pauses, (but don't put 'em to sleep) 2. Be loud and clear, 3. Pause when transiting between speech and narration, 4. Vary your tone appropriately, but only change your pitch, not your volume, 5. Make eye contact when you can, 5. Be engaged with the story; don't read it like a seminar paper or a news report. This is similar to, but not the same as, reading a character in a play, beacuse here you have to be ALL the characters as well as the narrator.

Finally, what constitutes a good story? This is a question that authors, publishers and readers have tried to answer for generations, with no end to the search in sight (different ages answer it differently, with some results agreeing across time). Funnily enough, it's not a question that critics concern themselves with all that much. Critics are generally rather embarrassed at humanity's insistence on a story. Perhaps it's because stories enter our lives so early in life: an eighteen-month-old baby, otherwise unmanageable, will listen openmouthed to a story and swallow their pap without demur. But you can read Barthes till your eyes pop and never find out why.

Many modern writers have been half-nelsoned by critics to prove that the narrative is dead: look at Joyce, they yowl. Joyce was, however, a consummate storyteller; he just loved to OD on narrative. He's a stories-teller, in fact. The truth is, people who write novels (or even poems) without stories are forgotten by history. No one wants to read them over and over again and give them to their children, or buy them for their closest friend who's dying of cancer, or give to their parents on their seventieth wedding anniversary. But say that to any modern critic and they'll look at you like you've crawled out of a Mills and Boon. Or a Terry Pratchett.

Rather, read your stories to your sisters and brothers, and your parents, and to your domestic help if you can translate on the fly, and see how they react. Buttonhole friends who are NOT literature students and ask them. If there's one thing being an author has taught me, it's never to underestimate readers. They're the smartest people on the planet. Go to them, thou sluggard, consider their ways, and be wise.

So I'm looking for a kind of narrative honesty which goes beyond surfaces, which is rooted in reality but which makes us see things with fresh eyes. It's not made of statistical averages -- in fact it's just the opposite, it looks for the remarkable within the ordinary. Some of it only comes with experience, and I will of course allow for that. But the first rule of good writing is: don't be satisfied with easy stuff. The spontaneous good story is a rare treat, bless its little cotton socks. Most of the time, you have to slog for it (like another category of human endeavour which I will not name). So PLEASE read over your stuff as you have consistently failed to do throughout this course (sigh). And CHANGE stuff that doesn't work until it does.

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Happy holidays

Happy puja holidays to all WIPers past and present. This year's batch: don't forget to write your final stories over the holidays. Story clinic when we rejoin after the break.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Caferati Listings mailing list: from Peter Griffin

Caferati - Calcutta
Today's topics: Introducing: Caferati Listings (beta)

From: "peter griffin"

Hello. This is to inform you that we have now started a new mailing list, Caferati Listings <>. Unlike most of our newsgroups, this one doesn't require moderator approval to join. And it is a send-only list, so you you will not be subjected to endless replies, debates and chatter. To subscribe go to and sign up. (Or mail one of us, and we'll send you an invitation.)

About Caferati Listings

Since we have access to a bunch of writers, we get a lot of requests to help publicise contests and submissions to anthologies, list job openings and stuff like that. Some of these we post to our forum, or forward to our local groups. This can get tedious when done piecemeal. So we decided to create a separate newsletter devoted to just that task. Caferati Listings will send out information about interesting writing opportunities, paid and unpaid (provided we think they're cool) and events. This includes:

• Contests, online or in print.

• Calls For Submissions from publishing houses and the media, online or in print.
• Information on literary events and festivals that seek participation fromoutside their own geographical area.
• Job opportunities for writers, full-time, part-time, freelance, retainer-based or one-off assignments.


Emails to this list will never exceed one a week. More likely than not, it will be a comprehensive monthly mail, unless something very juicy, but with a very short deadline crops up. You can also choose not to receive any emails, and only visit the group's home page whenever you please. (Just remember to bookmark it, hm?) You can adjust those settings when you sign up, or later, by visiting the group's page.


Caferati's editors are the only ones who will have access to the email address you use to subscribe to Caferati Listings. We will never sell, rent or lend this list to any other person ororganisation.

Submissions to Caferati Listings

You are invited, nay, urged, to send in information about contests, events, writing opportunities, calls for submissions, literature festivals and the like. You need not be the person behind whatever it is you're submitting. You're welcome to send us tip-offs and links as well. In the case of tip-offs, we will credit the first person to send in a particular item. Like so: "Via: Salman Naipaul, yourURL" (if you send us one). Please let us know if you do not want to be credited. Mail editorsATcaferatiDOTcom, and use the words "For Listings -Submission" or "For Listings - Tip" in the subject line to ensure you get past our spam filters. (Do NOT mail the group directly. It is, as we said, a one-way mailing list, so your mail won't reach us or Caferati Listings subscribers.) Make your submission brief, and do include URLs where those interested can get more info.

Ideal submission:

Name of event or opportunity
Brief explanation
Conditions / restrictions / deadlines
URL for more information, if necessary
Your name and URL

Conditions for Submissions

Do NOT send us email with attachments. We won't open them. If there is any kind of entry, admission or application fee, please state that clearly. Likewise with deadlines, and any other restrictions or conditions. For unpaid writing opportunities, please state why you think the opportunity is worth the application. If you submit a paid job opportunity, please state clearly the experience, qualifications and/or certifications you consider mandatory, contact details for queries, and the preferred method of, and deadline for, application. If you're including a "more information" URL, please link directly to the relevant page or permalink. Don't post a parent site site link and expect people to go search. If you're expecting us to hunt and then list your submission, we have two words for you. Ha. Ha.

Caferati's editors reserve the right to refuse to include your submission, and to not give you any reasons for refusal. Listing events or opportunities will be free for as long as we can manage it. However, if this list becomes insanely popular (we wish!), and begins to take up large amounts of the time we set aside to earn our livings, we may consider charging for submissions, particularly where the person or organisation making the submission stands to make money. This will be with plenty of advance notice. And if we do so, paid submissions will be in a separate, clearly marked section.

Strictly local events

For information on Caferati's own local read-meets and other strictly local writing-related events and opportunities, please check if we have your city covered in our list of local newsgroups (URLs below the signature line), and subscribe to one of those. Just to make this clear, you don't have to be a Caferati member to subscribe to Caferati Listings <>.

Of course, for those of you who aren't, we would be thrilled to see you on our free Forum <>, currently hosted on Ryze<>.

Thank you.

Annie Zaidi, Manisha Lakhe, Peter Griffin--for Caferati




News for members:

Announcements of contests we run, endorse or partner:

Local Groups in India:

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Submissions wanted

Submissions wanted from past and present WIPers for the Blabberwocky journal (see TT Metro for today) of stories of not more than 100 words. This will be an extremely high-powered deal with stuff from Terry Pratchett, Julian Barnes and Benjamin Zephaniah. Submit to me or sudiptoDOTsanyalATgmailDOTcom. You have till September 20.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Midsemester examination question paper

Here is the question paper of the recently concluded mid sem test, in case anyone feels like breaking their head on it.

Answer any ONE question. Where you are asked to complete a passage, your contribution should be at least as long as the given text.

1. This is a flat factual description of a street scene. Rewrite it, adding emotional colour in the form of scents, sounds, metaphors, and figurative language. Your additions should contribute to the vividness of the scene. Note: Do not introduce action or main characters.

It was a wide street with skyscrapers along it. The cars were mostly private, a few taxis, some buses. People were walking along, looking at the shops. The shops were smart with big windows and window displays. There were some beggars. The traffic island had a little garden on it. On the corner there was a café. There were tables on the street where people were sitting under umbrellas. College had just given over and kids were going home. Office goers were returning, carrying leather briefcases and looking for taxis.


2. Choose one of these plot outlines and finish it.
a) A girl is born blind. She is very intelligent, but her parents feel guilty for the way she is and overprotect her, not letting her go to school for fear she won’t be able to handle it. She spends most of the time on the roof, listening to an old tape-recorder and a selection of Rabindrasangeet. Next to their house, unbeknownst to them, an ex-convict has rented the rooftop room. He’s trying to rehabilitate himself, but no one will give him work. He wonders why he always hears music, and one day he spots her swaying alone in her little room on the roof. He calls her over and lends her a Rabindrasangeet tape. Invent what happens next.

b) A businessman’s car breaks down on the Mehrauli Road, in a very dark and deserted part of it. He tries to flag a car down but has no success. It’s late at night and the following day is a national holiday. He can’t get a connection on his mobile phone. He starts to walk north along the road. After a while a car stops. It’s full of young people coming back from a party. They’re all a little high, and they expansively agree to drop the businessman off at his Gurgaon home. They set off, but soon they seem to be lost. The young people aren’t bothered. They bring out food and wine and have a picnic on the car’s bonnet. The businessman’s watch now says two am. He’s really worried and a little out of his depth. Invent what happens next.


3. Create a plot outline using one item from each of the following sets. The item from category (a) should be your dominant mood, (b) should figure in some way in the story, (c) should be your main character (d) should be your setting. You may add other elements and characters as necessary:

a. Rage, love, resentment, gratitude,
b. A chain, a box, a mirror, a ball,
c. a housewife, a vagrant, a fireman, a painter,
d. a condemned house, a laboratory, a train compartment, a riverbank.


4. Complete the following dialogue:
‘Did you see that?’
‘That guy winked at me!’
‘He didn’t. Stop imagining things, Sonia, and read your book. There’s still five hours to go before we land at Dum Dum.’
‘You’re such a spoilsport, Mahua,’ Sonia pouted and looked out of the window.
Mahua sighed. ‘It is just possible, Sonia, that every guy in the world isn’t destined to fall automatically and hopelessly in love with you.’
‘And what would you know about it? All you ever do is tie guys in knots with your intellectual fundas. Guys don’t like brains, sweetie. It makes them go all awkward and spill their Coke.’

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Thank you soooo much, for extending the deadline for the newspaper-story to post midsem!!
What with midsem around the corner, and Prufrock, Miller, Anna Seward, Mrs, Barbauld and Freud bugging me, my creative juices seem tro have dried up. Thanks, again!!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Exquisite corpse

This is what ten people on a Thursday morning came up with in an hour and a half. Exquisite corpse, by the way, is a game where each participant can only see the last sentence (written by the person just before them) of a story in progress . The participant writes their own sentence, covers up the previous one, and passes it on so that only their sentence can be read by the next person. It’s therefore a kind of chain story. At the end, the paper is unfolded and the whole story read out. To know more, go here. And also here. Also, if you want to read a desi version by Samit Basu, Shakti Bhatt, Rana Dasgupta, Ruchir Joshi, Tabish Khair, Meenakshi Reddy, Madhavan, Monica Mody, Vivek Narayanan, Raveena Rawal, Nilanjana Roy, Anand Vivek Taneja, Jeet Thayil, go here.

I've paragraphed the stories and cleaned up spelling and punctuation, but otherwise this is pretty much as written.


The wind blew through her flaming purple hair. She looked at the train tracks ahead and a tear trickled down her cheek. The train rushed towards her and in that second her life flashed before her. She could see all her favourite colours --- red, blue, violet, pink and brilliant green; she held her breath.

Boom! Boom! Wheee! Fizz! Bang! The inky black sky broke into a fantastic array of colours that took her breath away. The guy standing next to her suddenly held her hand tight. She gave him one tight slap right across his eager face.

‘Aaaah! My mother never hit me as hard!’

‘I am your mother now.’

‘I will look after all of you, even that thing lying in our cellar.’

She was still hugging him, when she felt the barrel of the gun.

The class laughed over this so much they had another round, this time with each participant given one minute to write, timed by my stopwatch (since we had twenty minutes class-time left).

High-speed exquisite corpse:


Twelve blind mice ran down the dark, dank alleyway. They could smell the cheese, and they couldn’t stop. It smelt like Rohan’s shirt, the one he was wearing ‘that’ day. That sweaty shirt she hoped she would never have to smell, ever again.

He stood in front of her, dishevelled, perspiring, his hat askew, and stared at her with dull eyes; she wished she could shove him out of the 10th floor window.

‘We can’t help it, you have to go ahead with this now.’

He lifted the heavy bag onto his shoulders and dashed towards the door. But no matter how many times he tried to hit the door with the bag, it just would not give way. He was stuck. Undaunted he searched for an alternate exit … and there it was right behind the cupboard in the cabin.

The door opened … it was pitch black … he walked out and banged into something solid. It was a trap!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Caferati Read Meet

This was a huge success, with Ria Chakraborty, Najnin Islam and Sulipta Jana representing WIP, with support from Inam Hussein Mallick, who also read a poem of his own. All four contributions were of a very high quality. I only have a few points to make about the reading styles. With the exception of Inam, all of you needed to be much louder and clearer. Reading your work well is the courtesy of writers.

Further opportunities to read will come up in future. I'll be posting them here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Some food for thought

Here are some exercises (or rather exercise patterns) that I'll be using in the course. But they're much more than coursework: I find that doing these exercises or similar is a potent cure for writer's block, and I do feel that even established writers can benefit from doing them once in a while to keep their creative muscles limber. I find they help in germinating plots or sorting out problems with existing ones. Unlike traditional 'questions' they produce fresh recults every time you do them, so I'm not giving anything away by posting them here. They may be of use to people outside the course, hence their appearance here.

Creative Writing Exercises

1. Back story 1: Write down four well-marked characteristics you have (even basic things like age, gender, social status etc.) Now take the opposites of these four and create a character with them. Write the character’s back story. NOTE: back story is a character’s background up to the point where they appear on the ‘stage’ of your actual story. It’s all the stuff that makes them who they are; they way they grew, the experiences they had, the things they like and hate. Not all of a character’s back story need actually appear in the story, but you need to have it in the back of your head so that the character will live and move convincingly.

2. Back story 2: Take the character you just created, and imagine four people around them (you will need to create basic back stories for them). Then describe your primary character from these four people’s points of view. Write at least a paragraph for each person.

3. Dialogue 1: Take two characters, either new or ones you’ve made earlier. Have them introduce themselves in direct speech. Try to get a feel of the way they ought to talk. Then try and construct a dialogue between the two characters. NOTE: you will need to come up with a basic plot.

4. Dialogue 2: Write a story involving two characters which is composed entirely of dialogue (with short factual action statements/descriptions where necessary.)

5. Plot exercise 1: Take one day in the life of a character. Think of a decisive action/crisis this person might face, then enumerate the possible ways in which this might come about. Choose the most attractive or interesting way and construct a plot around it covering twenty four hours culminating in this action/crisis.

6. Plot exercise 2: Write the names of five feelings, objects, people and places (that’s five into four) on twenty slips of paper. Put each category into a hat. Draw one of each. Create a plot/write a story involving this feeling, object, person and place.

7. Reality transforming 1: Think of something that’s happened to you. Write it down. Then go back and look at what you’ve written, change the location, time, names and appearances of characters involved, and shift the point of view from the ‘you’ character, to someone else who was involved (or the authorial voice).

8. Reality transforming 2: take three real people you know and create a composite character out of them, so mingled that the identities of the three originals are unguessable. At least one should be neither family nor friend: maybe someone you read about in the news, or a celebrity, or a fictional character.

9. Description 1: Write a flat factual paragraph describing a location: a bridge, or a village square, or a hotel, or a beach. Now use these facts to write different mood pieces on them. Do one which is primarily optimistic, and one which is gloomy, but do not change the essential facts. You can change the weather and the time of day but not drastically.

10. Description 2: Take a location and set the scene for an action (determine beforehand what the action will be). Setting the scene includes describing the actors and important features of the area that will play a part in the story. Your description ends just as the action starts.

11. Research 1: Talk to your mother or close relative. Have them relate an incident out of the family folklore. Take notes, then change everything you can about the event: time, place, actors, and write a story about it.

12. Research 2: Take a well known incident out of history. Get some basic facts on it, then create characters (they need not be historically attested) and set your story in that period.

13. Genre: This is produced mainly through plot and mood. Take a given outline and write a story on it in any one of six genres: romantic, action, horror, realist, magic realist, stream of consciousness. Avoid pastiche. Sample outline: A girl and a boy who live in the same para are friends. One day the boy leaves without any reason. The girl suspects someone has deliberately engineered this. She sets out to find him and discovers the reason why he left (the reason will vary according to the genre). They are reunited (again, genre will determine in what sense).

14. Skit 1: Go over your dialogue exercise and rewrite it in skit form. You will need to add stage directions and stage business.

15. Skit 2: Write the names of processes on six pieces of paper. Choose two out of a hat. Write a skit where these two things happen simultaneously on stage. (You will need to divide the page into two columns. When one process involves speech, the other will be in dumb show, and vice versa.)

16. Skit 3: Write a skit in which one character is silent throughout. He/she can mime without speaking. You will need to set this in stage directions.

17. Skit 4: Write a skit in which the characters go on a journey across the bare stage. Create the scenery with language and gesture.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

For PG2s especially

PG2s can sign up now if they want. The delay for PG2 sign-up for courses in general is to prevent all seats being filled up before the PG1s come on the scene. Since we have no PG1s in this course, it's not a problem. So post-grads, if you wish, you can sign up now. That's why I've put both categories on the same sheet.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Calling all final years

The Writing in Practice notice is now up on the departmental notice board. The list of courses to be offered next semester is still being finalised, and should be done by Friday. We will then give the signup sheets to Anandada for you to put your names down on. You have to sign up by the 16th of June, so your window is essentially 5th to 16th. There will be separate lists (on the same page) for UG and PG. All signup sheets will be in grid form and sequentially numbered. Do NOT put your name in between slots: this is to stop people squeezing in and jumping the queue. And no, if someone has struck off their name you can't replace them: you add yourself to the bottom of the list (Dada/didi line acchhe!). We will be strict about this rule this time, for all the courses.

Friday, May 26, 2006


A thousand apologies if there are any errors, oversights or infelicities in the book. Treatment prevented me from taking as much care over it as I would have liked, and by the time it was all typeset exams were upon us and I hesitated to ask any of you to help. The important thing, I felt, was to make a fairly respectable start and to get the book out before you all dispersed. Also the whole plan of the book was an afterthought born out of a casual conversation with Supriyadi. One of the oversights (a bad one) is that I forgot to acknowledge CAS's (and Supriyadi's) support for the book, for which omission I am much mortified.
Future plans for the book: I would like to see this become a launching pad for new writers from JUDE, and to that end I would like to make it good enough to be an attractive title to commercial publishers. Since we now have the benefit of starting the next course with the thought of the book in mind, we can plan the contents from an early date. CAS won't be able to support us indefinitely, and we will have to appeal to the market at some point. To this end I'm going to tighten the requirements a little. For the first book I tried to take at least one story from everyone, since that was fair. Also, when you submitted the stories, you had no idea that they would be published (I'm sure you would have polished them up some more if you had). For the next book, there won't be automatic inclusion for everyone. I will choose the best stories regardless of who they're by, so the course-takers will have to compete to get in. I may also return stories for editing/reworking before the page makeup. A number of the stories we included this time had faults, as I'm sure you'll agree. We want to avoid that, as it pulls down the overall saleability of the work. What I would like is that after a few years of producing this book on our own, we should have some rough figures regarding sales and demand, and some high-quality back-issues, to give to a publisher along with a contract. Publishers don't like dipping their toes in untried waters, and we will have to reassure them that no piranhas are patrolling.
Also YOU will have to key in the damn things next time. Later on, when the next course has got under way, I will put up some guidelines for submission.

What next?

Listen up, people, because soon the date for signing up to new courses will be upon us. It hasn't been decided yet, but today we made the list of courses that will run in the next semester, and Writing in Practice is definitely running. To refresh your memories, this course is for FINAL YEAR STUDENTS, that means UG3 and PG2. There will be separate signup sheets for UG3 and PG2, and I will take the first ten on each sheet UNLESS there is a huge response, in which case I will have to conduct a screening test. Please be alert for notices on the blog and on the dept notice boards, because if I need to screen I will do it as early as possible, as the unlucky ones will have to scramble onto other optional course lists to fill their requirements. I'm afraid that if you have to go on your holidays or attend weddings it's just too bad; try if you possibly can to linger a few days after the exams end on the 6th and sign up before you go. But hopefully we won't have a problem. Watch this space for notifications.

They're here!

The books have been delivered, and you're all going to get five free copies each. Saumava, Azeem, Pradipta and Bodhi have already got theirs. The rest of you drop by some time and pick them up; they're in my room. In addition there will be two copies in the DL. If you want extra copies, you can buy them for 30 bucks each. The books will be on sale only to JUDE.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Books are coming from the binder's

The books are done, but probably I won't get time to haul them to JU before Thursday, as I have a course to conduct at the Geological Survey of India on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Please note: you probably won't see me in dept. on these two days.) Get in touch with me after that to collect your copies. I may need a couple of people to come with me to the printer's and help load up the car.
NOTE: The books are arriving on Friday morning, that is tomorrow. If you can't pick them up that day, I will store them in my room and you can meet me when convenient.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Poetry Dot SCAM

Some of you will remember a green and elegant pamphlet from that was put up on the notice around this time last year, advertising a free poetry competition with lots of prizes. I have since learned (courtesy Peter Griffin of Caferati) that this is a SCAM. If you have entered a poem for the contest DO NOT PAY THEM ANY MONEY under any circumstances. To know more go here.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Egg Jams

Here's wishing all you WIPers all the best for the social event of the semester (not). Get out there and prod some righteous donkey!

How they did it back then...

Here's Margaret Atwood's wonderfully witty take on writing poetry.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Excellent advice on writing

Here's John Scalzi's take on the writing life, thanks to Hurree

More Kaavya...poor thing

Samit Basu has gotten ensnarled in this controversy, and has apparently been misquoted as well, to add to the confusion.
And there's this, from Peter Griffin

Get your PDF here...

I've saved the pagemaker file of WIPlash as a pdf, which apparently I can't post on the blog, but I can send to you individually. Would you like to receive this file?
Alternatively, I can post the texts of people's stories on the blogs, or send you word versions (in case you haven't got any and I typed your stuff up from handwritten drafts). What would you like, people?

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I've added a link to this organisation in the links section of this page. This used to be the Bombay Writers' Cafe. There was apparently a read-meet a week ago at the Punjab Club, organised by Anurag Mathur (not the author, someone else) and Ravi Bagaria, which we seem to have missed out on. If you want to join their messsage board, you'll also have to join Ryze, hence the other link.
There's also a Google Group for Calcutta. You will need to contact caferatiATgmailDOTcom (Peter Griffin) and/or have a gmail ID to join this.
Oh and please do read TC's novel in progress :)

Herewith more on Kaavya

Here's a Guardian article that might be of interest.

Friday, May 05, 2006


I (t)read on familiar territory.

A site about agents

Someone asked me (can't remember who: my memory has become very poor since chemo) about the necessity of agents. Thankfully we as yet don't have any here in India. But the US is lousy with them, and if you want to see how much damage they do, check this out. Absolute Write is a forum for published writers. Take a tour, it's quite interesting.


Sorted out the list formatting.
Also mucho apologies for harping on the Kaavya theme, but the plot has thickened since I last pronounced on it. It turns out that poor unimaginative Kaavya was the victim of a 'book packager' (not the lowly guys in the sales loading bay) who shipped her to Little Brown neatly tied with a little pink bow. Just goes to show how icky the scene now is in the West, where authors are not fit to sniff the hem of a publisher's trouserbottom. You have to go through an agent who will cream a bit off the top in exchange for your using his or her contacts, and for totally rearranging your book into an origami crocodile wearing a laminated tutu. Interestingly both authors (Megan and Kaavya) fulsomely thanked the same editor (who has since skipped town) for working on their book. Innocent slip up (Oooh, Ms. Managing Editor, I mixed the proof sheets up while cleaning my desk)? I don't think so.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Book of the course in press

The long wait is almost over. The book of the course, called WIPlash, has been typeset and will be okayed for printing today. I'm hoping to have copies in hand by May 15. It's 116 pages and we have a print run of 100. Here's the table of contents:
Adwaita Das
------There’s Something About Fish
Anurupa Bose
------Here Comes the Sun
Arati Banerjee
------The Birthday Treat
Bodhisatwa Dasgupta
------A Reasonable Negotiation
Hrileena Ghosh
Ishani Dasgupta
Karma Mingyur Yonzone
------I Danced Like a Bear
------Weak Hearts
------The Death of Pink
Neelini Sarkar
------Night Whispers
Pooja Das Sarkar
------The Relic
Pradipta Sarkar
Rai Ganguly
------The Kaleidoscope
Romila Saha
------Of Dreams and a Twenty-Year-Old Lottery
------Of the Love of Fathers
Sandeep Philipose Mancha
------A Tale of a Towel
Saumava Mitra
------Name Imaginary
------The Seamy Side
Shaikh Azeem Hussein
------The Train to Kolkata
Simon Andrew Jennings

Thursday, April 27, 2006

And Now for Something Entirely Different...

Anyway, to make you all feel better, here's a nice picture by J.K. Potter, the guru of the masters of light. This one is called By Bizarre Hands and was a cover illustration for a book of the same name by Joe Lansdale.

O thou cogger, get a life!

I've been watching the Kaavya Vishwanathan (How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life) fiasco with equal parts of amusement and horror (in print and on the web). In case you missed the articles, she's accused of copying in more than 40 instances from Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts. The sad fact is, in the American undergraduate community, cogging is a way of life. Courses there are much more assignment-based, and as you probably know, there are free essay sites as well as pricier custom essay-writing services (staffed by debt-ridden research scholars: it beats waiting tables). Net-savvy porfessors regularly run string searches on their students' work to catch 'em, but with custom written stuff you can't do that because it's not on the web. So far at JU we've had only certain people ineptly cogging from each other (ahem) in real time exam situations and the odd class assignment. Anyway, the point is, that kind of thing might get you through univ with passing grades, but in the real world it is not smart. And it costs money: it looks like Little, Brown are going to get dragged to court over Vishwanathan's 'innocent' little error. Vishwanathan's 'apology' is so childish one wonders if she even knows what she did wrong. But what really worries me about this is good old racial profiling: if you're a hot shot 17-year-old of Indian origin with a sizzling first novel, this whole shindig will reduce your chances of being published by a US press in the immediate future to nearly zero.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Well, people, I am back in action (sort of) after having been fried to a crisp by radiation at Thakurpukur for a month. It's taken almost that long to get back to normal, but I'm now in a position to at least have a stab at some work, including this blog.
Re the book of the course 2005, which was to have been done this semester. I almost completed the page setup before the radiation side effects got to me; I'm going to try and finish it before your exams in May, so I should be able to give you a progress report on that by then. Any of you who want your hard copies back contact me. Also just in case the book comes out after you leave, give me your contact details so I can send it to you. But with luck we should get it out while you're still around.
I'm confident that I'll be able to run the course next sem, so all you final years don't forget to sign up when we come back in July.
A word about the nature of the course. Lots of people seemed a bit confused last year as to what exactly the course was about, how much work it entailed and what they were supposed to be learning, so I'll clarify.
The course is meant for people who want to write, and have already taken a few first steps on their own, even if all they did was pen a few sketches and show them to family and friends. The course provides a friendly environment and a sympathetic audience (all the course members plus me) in which to test-drive your stuff. What I'll be giving you are a few essential keys to unlock your creativity and tools to polish up the results, as well as real time feedback on how you're coming across, with a little bit at the end about the big bad world of the professional writer. In a nutshell, DO take this course if any of the following are true:
1. You seriously want to keep writing in the future,
2. You want to learn how to reach out to an audience with your stuff (make 'em laugh, make 'em cry),
3. You enjoy producing work and have got enough creative steam to keep you going through the admittedly heavy workload, because boy will you be writing for us here. At first you'll be doing all your writing in class, and I'll be holding your hand, but there will be take-home assignments as you get more skilled.
4. You want to learn to be your own editor (note that i don't say 'critic', which is too dessicated a word for what the writer has to do to him/her self) and how to fix the glitches in your stuff.
I understand that creativity is a shy beast, and not everyone who wants to be a writer is necessarily ready at this stage in life to start on the nuts and bolts of writing, So DON'T take this course if any of the following is true:
1. You have a burning desire to write, but aren't able as yet to put pen to paper.
2. You want to nurture your creativity in private for a few more years.
This isn't meant to discourage you, but only to reassure you that being a writer follows its own timetable and has its own needs. People often ask me if I would have taken this course had it been around when I was in college. The answer is probably 'no'. I would have still done what I did, which was write huge quantities of stuff in private for my eyes only, against the day when it would all fall together. I had to wait till I was thirty before I felt ready to handle an audience, which is the point where I would have wanted to take the course (No course was available so I wrote a novel instead ;) .) Everyone is an individual when it comes to writing. You may not necessarily feel the same way at the same time. Also some of the stuff which I'll be telling you in the course is a kind of future investment which will activate when the time comes for you and you go 'Aha! Finally I have my idea for the century's next blockbuster!'
All the best

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Welcome to WIP

Hi everyone, this is going to be the blog for the Writing in Practice courses from now on. Remember that stories you post here can be read by anyone, so take that into account if you have intentions of publishing anything in print in future (as this may constitute prior publication).
Right now I am setting up last year's stories in book form as JUDE has kindly offered to sponsor a publication. Anyone who took the course last year can send me the stuff here.
here is the course outline for anyone who would like to take it next semester.

Writing in Practice
Optional Course for Autumn Semester (2/4)
Department of English, Jadavpur University
Dr Rimi B. Chatterjee

Maximum intake: 20 students

Course outline: This course is designed to give students the basic technical and stylistic skills necessary to write creative prose. It will use insights from critical theory but focus on the craft of writing and the art of evoking reader response. Students will develop their innate creativity through writing exercises and performance and become acquainted with the basics of writing professionally. They will be evaluated on the artistic quality, originality, and polish of their works. As endterm evaluation there will be four one-hour-long sessions of presentations (five per session) open to the entire department in the final week of the course, and a final written examination. Evaluation will be 5+5 (classwork) 10 (midterm examination), 10 + 10 + 10 (end of term presentation and written examination).

The topics covered will be as follows:

Week 1: Basics of writing and editing creative work.
Week 2: Creating a character: back story
Week 3: The basics of plot.
Week 4: The basics of dialogue.
Week 5: Practice on the above: students write a story from an assortment of plot elements which they must weave together credibly using the techniques they have learned. They will be marked on 5 for this.
Week 6: Critique session for the stories: editing
Week 7: Editing, fixing and changing fiction. Practice session for midterm.
Midterm: To be evaluated on 10 marks.
Week 8: The anxiety of influence: how to fight it. Exercises in boosting originality.
Week 9: The ethics of using personal incidents and information in fiction. Confessional fiction, autobiographical fiction. Exercises in fictionalizing reality.
Week 10: Advanced editing: tact and register. Exercises on style and taste. Students will be started off on writing their final evaluated works. All pieces must be no more than 2000 words and no less than 1200 words.
Week 11: Writing for the stage. Practice.
Week 12: Practice on the above. Students will write short skits to be marked on 5 marks.
Week 13: Revision and practice. One short session on the career structure of writing professionally.
Week 14: Public performance of students’ works: readings open to the entire department. Each student will get a ten minute slot. To be evaluated as 20 mark practical: 10 for presentation and 10 for text.
End term: written examination of 10 marks.
Total marks 50.

Plagiarism will result in the automatic failure of a student. There will be no appeal or excuses. Translating from other languages will count as plagiarism for the purposes of this course. We will be checking.