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