The Clarion West 2016 Write-a-thon and Me: Part 2

I always tell myself that I should be writing, instead of writing about writing, i.e. posts like this. I intended to do a week-by-week update of my Clarion West Write-a-thon, as many others are doing, but we’re already in Week 4 and obviously I haven’t. I also haven’t quite kept to my originally declared writing goals, but I’m happy with myself, since I did write a lot these past three weeks, probably more than I’ve written in a whole year since Clarion West, MFA submissions included. I’ve thought more actively about what I want my writing to accomplish, the perspectives I want to embrace or abandon, and did a little bit of necessary cathartic writing that was blocking my creativity otherwise. I made some writing-related contacts, and I always feel triumphant when I manage to reach out to people, especially strangers, because it never stops being difficult.

I realize that I don’t look like someone who has difficulty initiating conversation with strangers, especially when you judge by my years of living away from home, but I’m actually always winging it. Nearly 95% of the people I know were introduced to me by someone else I knew, or circumstances, e.g. I happened to be in the same office or classroom as them. At almost 29, I feel as terrified of saying “Hi, I am…” as I did when I was 15, if I don’t have the convenient wall of “XYZ asked me to go talk to you” to hide behind. I have zero small-talk skills, so I often lose touch with people when I don’t have anything immediately to do with them. High-functioning anxiety is usually invisible, or gets blatantly called lying, which is the line I’ve got all my life from everyone who doesn’t actually know me closely enough see how I live from day to day.

So for me, every act of initiating contact is an achievement, and I achieved some of those in the last three weeks too, which I hadn’t in nearly a year now, more so because the past year had also been an all-time emotional low. So here’s a list of things that I did for the Write-a-thon till now:

Week 1 (June 19–25):

  • Wrote an essay in defence of fantasy fiction written in India, originally of 2582 words, for a specific publication (TBA) but without a specific pitch or word limit, because said publication doesn’t have them
  • Sent essay to publication
  • Did my final revision on the third story from Other People
  • Sent story to my editor, R. Sivapriya, at Juggernaut Books

Week 2 (June 26–July 1):

  • Wrote a flash/short story
  • Got story beta-read, and edited it
  • Submitted the final version of story for publication
  • Read and critiqued a story by a friend
  • Wrote a grant (well, con membership) application, which has now been achieved! Hat-tip to Con or Bust for their incredible generosity to me. If nothing goes wrong (give an anxious person a break, right?), I may be encountered at the World Fantasy Con in October.

Week 3 (July 2–8):

  • Participated in a Write-a-thon sprint, during which I wrote the beginning of a second essay, intended for a specific publication
  • Completed the first draft of this essay, currently at 1634 words
  • Wrote a semi-personal blog post about an emotional crisis I have been suffering for a while now, 2187 words. (I’m not sure if I should be counting this under Write-a-thon writing, since I am not even seeking to publish it anywhere else, but I had started thinking up a story that involved a traumatizing relationship, and I realized that I could not write that story until I wrote out my own.)
  • Reconnected with an ex-employer who sometimes publishes SFF (there are no dedicated SFF publishers in India), and who may have some freelance writing work for me
  • Wrote a query to a publication (TBA2) asking if they’ll be interested in a third essay I’m hoping to write.

Week 4 (July 9–15):

  • Received response and edited version from editor of TBA publication about the essay from Week 1
  • Did minor rewriting to essay from Week 1 and sent it back

And now we’re halfway through Week 4, and TBA2 publication has written back saying they may be interested in the idea (but not sure, since they’ve never seen my writing before), so I will get on with trying to write that essay. Thinking of it, it hasn’t been such an unproductive Write-a-thon, overall.



Many good things have been happening, but my Internet connection hasn’t been strong enough to keep up with them. Firstly… well, I’m not yet allowed to talk about the ‘firstly’. (I’ll post about it and put a link here as soon as I am.)

So, secondly. PodCastle put up my story on the third day of February, narrated by Elizabeth Green Musselman, who was excellent with this multilingual universe I loved the way the story sounded. (All those horrors abated.) And everyone at PodCastle – and especially editor Dave Thompson, who bought the story in January – was very nice and very positive about the story. And now I’m diligently following the story’s discussion thread on the Escape Artists forum, where other people are saying other (largely) nice and accurate things about it.

I have been building and obsessing about the Johuree universe for so long (I started writing the first story in 2009 back in UG3; never finished it) that I keep needing to remind myself that this is the first Johuree story that has actually seen the light of day. If anyone wonders what the inside of my head looks like (though I cannot imagine why anyone would), do go and listen to the story!

Kindle illustration for 'Hip-Bone Butterfly'
Kindle illustration for ‘Hip-Bone Butterfly’

There was another publication, equally happy-making. On the second day of February Kindle published its latest poetry edition, and my very old poem ‘Hip-Bone Butterfly‘ finally came out in it. The poem is from 2011, but it is one of the last poems I’ve written (I hardly write poems any more), and it had won the first prize at the Poetry with Prakriti festival the winter when I was interning with Blaft in Chennai. I had this blog even then but I hadn’t mentioned it on the blog – although it was the first time I received a reasonably important prize for my writing, and I was super kicked – because back in college I was too cool for all that.

And now I’m too old to be cool, but I cannot for my life imagine that to be a bad thing. :)

A story, a poem

A poem I wrote in 2011 was recently published, in an online magazine called The Missing Slate. Here is a link. And here‘s a link to the original, which is one (punch)line longer than the version that was published. It is ever interesting to discover how people read your writing. I’d have thought that last line essential, but the editors of the magazine found it redundant to the poem.

Sometimes, these are lessons.

Of course, I no longer feel the bruise under which that poem was written. (Other scars have covered it.) Distancing is so often a blessing.


The other, the story, is one I originally called ‘Interview with a Bollywood Screen Goddess’, which was published in the November 2014 issue of eFiction India. I have not seen this one yet, since the magazine can be purchased either as a digital or a print edition, and I am waiting for my print copy to arrive.

‘Interview’ (which the magazine no longer calls ‘Interview’) was a great story to write; it cheered me up during a period of otherwise intense depression. The story starts out as a magazine interview with a famous Bollywood actress, which is something I always find fun to fictionalize. I think anyone who’s ever been an entertainment journalist has had that thought running through their head – what if you could make up all of this, rather than, let’s say, about 60% of it? What if the person you’re interviewing literally represented those adjectives like enchanting, mesmerising, unearthly… and then, in ‘Interview’, it turns out that they do! A very generic, easygoing fantasy story, set in Delhi (the Other City of this blog, whose habits and memories are still fresh in my mind) that made me very happy.

There is something to be said for this sudden surge of publications. It is that I have finally (I think) overcome my reluctance to publish. Of course, the transformation is less sudden than it seems. I had started writing ‘Death of a Widower’ in 2011, abandoned it, picked it up again in the summer of 2013, finished and send it in to Rupa, and An Atlas of Love was published in early 2014. That’s not quite sudden. I write maybe a poem or two a year. It’s hardly enough for a sustained publishing record, and as for fiction, for most of my life I have not been able to think in short stories. Any idea I had was always the length of a novel, and I’d start writing it, and of course, I am yet to complete a novel. I wish I was prolific, but I’m not. And while I never retouch my poems after I’ve written them, I find myself rewriting my stories most of the time, hopefully making them stronger and better with each version. It is a craft I am still learning. I hope one day I will be good.