Posts made in February, 2015

In Conversation with William Dalrymple || Research, Writing, and Other Experiences

It was a Friday afternoon and I had an appointment with William Dalrymple at his farm in Mehrauli at 3pm. When I arrived he was having lunch with some visitors and I was led to an office that opened out to a beautiful terrace. Upon being asked whether I would like to conduct the interview inside or outside, I chose outside. As I sat there waiting, I tried to figure out the species of various birds that were chirping in the trees in the backyard and tried to relax my nerves in the cool breeze. Yes, I admit I was nervous. But then I was meeting an author I respect a lot, someone who is obviously brilliant, and who, in spite of being British, probably knows more about my city, my country than I do. But as soon as Mr Dalrymple came sailing out to the terrace, greeting me cheerfully from a distance, I relaxed. He seemed like someone I could talk to for hours. He eased himself into the cane chair opposite me and leaned back, ready to answer whatever questions I had for him. And soon we were discussing everything from his writing process, his books, his life in India, his experience of running the Jaipur Literature Festival, and what he plans to do next. I learnt that he has very recently lost his pet cockatoo. But apart from that, his two dogs, who were both at a point during the interview sitting with their heads in my lap, and his several hens and roosters practically own the place. Transcription of this interview was another story altogether. At times during the recording, the panting of the dogs, the chirping of the birds, and the cawing of the crows was louder than both of our voices, and I found myself having to play these bits 10 times, 15 times in order to understand what was being said. But this was a part of the whole deal of meeting Mr William Dalrymple and getting a tiny little peak into his eclectic world. After a brief round of introductions, we eased into the conversation and soon were engrossed in the interview. Vibha Malhotra (VM): To start with a fun question, of all the books you have written so far, which one did you have the most fun writing? William Dalrymple (WD): God, none of them were fun to write. Writing is work. It is hard work. It is like an exam. They were, however, all fun to research. Reserach is really the most enjoyable part. You are out travelling, seeing things, but writing is work, certainly. VM: Talking of research, writing of your books involves looking through old manuscripts, diaries, and documents. Especially where the Government Agencies are involved, how difficult is it to gain access to these documents? WD: Where the Government of India is concerned, there are several ropes that you have to jump over, but the process is really quite standard. To get to work in the National Archives, there are various stipulations. You have to have a degree. If you are a foreigner, you have to have a letter from the Embassy. If you are a desi, you have to have a letter from an academic institution or a publisher. And you have to provide an introduction, and the reasons you are doing it, and the plan. Then there’s an interview and if you get past that, you can use the archives. The government is really quite straightforward. It is like getting an accreditation for a newspaper or starting a business or getting a license for various government...

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Literature Studio’s 3rd Writers’ Circle || The Next Level

Literature Studio’s 3rd Writers’ Circle || The Next Level

From the time the first Writers’ Circle was organized in December 2014, this group of creative writers has grown considerably. Along with some regular faces, we also see new members join and become a part of the family each month. Each member brings along a unique writing style and a different personality to the Circle and that is the biggest charm of this gathering.   With his ability to capture life realistically Amit Joshi’s Hindi writings inadvertently have people rolling on the floor, laughing. Raghav Arora’s contemplative take on the world makes one wonder where this young chap gets the wisdom clearly beyond his age. Esha Chakraborty’s charming stories and her impeccable story-telling skills have earned her several admirers, so much so that when she wasn’t present in the 3rd Writers’ Circle, she was missed. Arpit’s perseverance and confidence radiates as he graciously accepts feedback and suggestions. The 3rd Writers’ Circle saw several writers and readers in attendance for the first time. Ninad Parikh’s thoughful, introspective stories were the perfect way to begin the session.  Kathryn Brettel read out of the manuscript that she completed recently and is now looking for publishers. Her instinctive writing and unassuming, humble personality left a lasting impression on everyone present. Gaurav Dhawan left a mark with his fiery criticism. The short blog post that Satyendra Ranjan shared rang true with several listeners. Sahil’s quiet presence and relevant remarks were very well received. Ritvan Pande’s extraordinary quips spiced up the evening. Ashmi Ahluwalia’s soft, evocative poetry touched everyone at some level, while Parvathi’s interesting observations and questions made a huge difference as well. With 12 people attending the 3rd Writers’ Circle it is time we start thinking of the next steps. Starting from the 4th Writers’ Circle on 28th of March, there will be some rules and regulations in place to ensure that the quality of criticism and discussions stays high. We will be reading out the following rules before writers start reading their works: Ensure that your comments are helpful. Criticism for the sake of criticism will not be tolerated. You are welcome to share your feedback about the writing, but not the writer and his or her capabilities. Blanket comments, such as “Language can be better”, need to be accompanied with specific examples. While you are giving your feedback, if the moderator says “cut”, you cannot continue with that particular point anymore. You are welcome to share a different feedback though. Flouting of any of these rules can result in expulsion from the Circle and may also result in a lifetime ban from the future circles. We have also started thinking of ways to make the circle available to more people. We will be sharing more about this soon. In the meanwhile, if anyone has any ideas, please feel free to share. Thanks, Vibha...

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Naughty Monty goes to Noida, for another wonderful Creative Writing session with children

Naughty Monty goes to Noida, for another wonderful Creative Writing session with children

A sad, vengeful vampire called Maya, a huge fridge with an inferiority complex, a kind-hearted but irresponsible fairy, a beautiful, well-behaved, yet vain mouse, and a flowerpot that feels suffocated inside the house – it is incredible how children aged 6 – 9 can come up with such extraordinary characters with multiple layers. Every time we get used to the brilliance exhibited by young aspiring writers, they go one step ahead and surprise us further.  And this is also makes Naughty Monty one of my favorite workshops. The truth is, however, that none of this should surprise us. Children have the most unhindered imaginations. Their thoughts, mind, and memories haven’t been tainted as much by their experiences and other people’s views and are unrestricted by what we, adults, have come to accept as reality. And, therefore, with a bit of stimulus and exercises tailored to make theme focus on thinking about stories, they are able to churn out magic. They participate with enthusiasm, and openly give and receive ideas, but are still straight-forward enough to say “no” when the idea doesn’t agree with their vision of the story. A creative writing workshop for children is as much an occasion for learning for children as for the tutor. Each child teaches something new, one just has to be perceptive and open enough to receive the new knowledge. Lectures just don’t work with children. They get bored and are ruthless with expressing their thoughts. You have to step into the circle and be one with them, while at the same time maintaining authority. Naughty Monty has been such a great experience for Literature Studio and we have received so many requests from various places to bring Naughty Monty to their cities, colonies, towns, that we are thinking of making this a monthly workshop at least for the next few months. The next city Naughty Monty is headed to is Gurgaon and you will very soon see an announcement for the same....

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Announcing Literature Studio Summer Scholarship – Season 2

Literature Studio announced its first summer scholarship for school students last year. Two brilliant youngsters, Shreeya Sharma from Delhi and Shreya Pothula from Bangalore, became the first ever Literature Studio Summer Scholars. Both students studied 20-hour-long creative writing courses with Literature Studio and at the end of it published a short story each on Literature Studio’s blog. DETAILS: Literature Studio Summer Scholarships are back this year for a second season, and the following awards are up for grabs: 2 Scholarships worth Rs. 25,000/- 2 Scholarships worth Rs. 12,500/- The scholarships will be awarded in form of Literature Studio’s creative writing courses that will be conducted during the summer vacations on a one-on-one basis, either face-to-face or online. ELIGIBILITY: If your child meets the following criteria, he or she is eligible: 1) The child is 11-17 years old 2) The child has demonstrated talent/interest in writing or reading HOW TO APPLY: To apply for the summer scholarship, send a sample of your child’s writing (600-700 words, fiction or non-fiction) to info@literaturestudio.in by 15th April 2015. In case you have any questions, feel free to email us at info@literaturestudio.in or call us at +91 9818566774. WHAT WILL MY CHILD GAIN FROM THIS SCHOLARSHIP: We will let the previous year’s scholars and their parents do the talking: ***** Here’s what our summer scholar Shreeya Sharma has to say about us: During my summer vacations, I got the opportunity to be a part of Literature Studio’s Short Story Writing Course. This had been a wonderful experience for me as it opened a whole new world of excitement and understanding of writing to me. Vibha ma’am is a wonderful teacher and has a beautiful charm about her.  She used a lot of innovative and grasping examples to explain the different concepts. She gave assignments which enhanced my imaginative capabilities. During the course that lasted 10 classes, I, thanks to her constant encouragements and advice, wrote a short story – Presumed Guilty.  The actual process of writing this story was really engrossing and Vibha ma’am constantly motivated and guided me in taking the story further whenever I got stuck. The course content was excellent, but the best part was the guiding and grooming that she did. This course has effectively enhanced my confidence as a writer. Thanks to Sangeeta aunty, I was able to learn so much from this wonderful teacher. This has been a very memorable experience for me. And here is what her mother, Amrita Sharma, shares about the course: Thank you all for the heartwarming appreciation, feedback and encouragement for Shreeya’s story. Shreeya Sharma had written this story as part of a creative writing course by Literature Studio which she had done during her summer vacations. This end result of the course is out there for all to see. But the actual process of writing this story was made totally engrossing and motivating by the teacher, Vibha Malhotra. The course content was very good but the best part was the guidance and grooming done by Vibha. She has not only improved Shreeya’s story writing skills but managed to effectively enhance her confidence as a writer. Thanks Sangeeta Khanna, for bringing us together It has been such a memorable experience that I would wholeheartedly recommend Literature Studio as a one-stop-shop for all your creative writing needs. The story that Amrita is talking about here has been published here. ***** This lovely testimonial by Sapna Pothula, mother of our second summer scholar Shreya Pothula: Thanks a lot Vibha for the Short Story Writing course. Shreya always looked forward to the sessions.Yes, it certainly has added strength to her writing skills.There is finesse in...

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