Friday, April 1, 2011

An Article in Times Life abt my book Losing My VIrginity and Other Dumb Ideas

The tale goes short!

Young India has a lot of stories to tell and has created a space with short fiction, Anuradha Varma reports


    STUCK in a doctor’s waiting room, the metro or awaiting a delayed flight? How about picking up Fish In Paneer Soup… no, that’s not a meal takeaway, but a book for your mind to snack on. There’s more where that comes from, with titles like Mom Says No Girlfriend, Can’t Die for Size Zero, Losing My Virginity & Other Dumb Ideas and Chocolate, Guitar, Momos gracing bookshelves.

    From office politics to teen chick-lit and urban angst, these books are often less than 200 pages between the covers, priced between Rs 95 and Rs 250 and written by authors drawn from the very readers they aim at — college students and those starting their careers. Interestingly, they are brought out by leading publishing houses that have caught on to the market savvy of catering to the young and restless with attention spans to match.

    Author Shobhaa De is supportive of the trend, “The shorter, snappier, more affordable book fits in perfectly with the shorter, snappier attention spans of today’s young readers. It is hard enough to get youngsters to pick up books in today’s ‘virtual’ times... publishers have to seduce them with material that reflects their lives, their concerns.”

    Adds Vaishali Mathur, senior commissioning editor, Penguin Books India, which has launched Metro Reads, “For the reader who travels around, has a shortage of time and doesn’t have the pa tience to lug around heavy books, we have these books that have a good, gripping storyline and accessible stories that they can read in their everyday lives.”

    While Penguin aims at publishing six to seven such books a year, Rupa has pushed their figure to 50 annually. For Kapish Mehra, MD, Rupa & Co, it was the phenomenal success of Chetan Bhagat’s Five-Point Someone that changed the rules of the game. “We began with campus fiction and went on to chick-lit (such as Pink or Black by 18-year-old author Tishaa) and corporate fiction.”

    While Kapish terms originality of an idea, continuity of thought and a target audience as the hallmark of a good book, most do not make the literary cut, barring a few such as Paritosh Uttam’s Dreams in Prussian Blue (Penguin) and Rajorshi Chakraborti’s The Balloonists (Tranquebar), where the protagonist ups and leaves his girlfriend when she announces her pregnancy, to contact another ex-girlfriend, accompanied along the way by her exboyfriend.

    A Pune-based software engineer, Paritosh was 26 years old when he wrote the short story in 2003 that Penguin asked him to expand into a novel in 2009. He says, “The theme is relationships among the urban youth, of love, loss, longing and ambition. The target reader is the young urban reader, probably in college or just out of it.” Paritosh has also edited and contributed 10 stories to Urban Shots, published by Grey Oak.

    For filmmaker Madhuri Banerjee, author of Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas, the epiphany happened when a friend accidentally told her that she was 30 and still a virgin. Madhuri recalls, “That was the germ of the idea. I was 33 when I started writing the book. It took a few months to write it. I wrote mostly at night after the birth of my daughter who kept me awake most of the time.”

    Communications professional Deep Ghatak, author of Fish In Paneer Soup, finds that publishing houses are more receptive to new age writing and m ove q u i c k ly from acc e p - tance to the proofing stage, although there remain some “that don’t even follow guidelines specified on their own we b s i t e s ” . Blogger and mom Parul Sharma made the transition to writing a book with Bringing up Vasu and followed it up with By The Water Cooler.

Ismita Tandon Dhankher, author of romantic thriller Love on the Rocks, recalls when the writing bug bit her, “I began sailing with my husband in 2006 and discovered that sailors are colourful company. I was 26 years old when I just started doing poetry on the deck one evening, and that one poem changed it all!”

    Before landing a publisher, Ismita says she faced at least a dozen rejections in the mail box every month, sometimes more.

    When freelance writer Sonali Ghosh Sen decided to write a book, it was as the outpourings of a fan for Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan in Kkkrazy About Khan. She says, “I’ve aimed it at what I like to call the ‘Shah Rukh generation’ — people who’ve grown up with his movies and who’ll relive those years with fondness when they read the book.”

    So, can just about anyone be a writer… and is that necessarily a bad thing? Shobhaa De doesn’t think so. She says, “Of course, anybody can be an author! Isn’t that wonderful? I have always said, ‘There is a book in everyone’. The only question is whether or not the person wants to write it!”

    She admits, “Well... some books are terrific, some are plain bad. It’s a whole new language out there, a different ball game, a fresh market. Why sniff at innovation?”

    Why, indeed? So, if you were toying with that idea for a book, this is the time to go for it. Who knows, a publisher may be waiting for just that manuscript to pop into their inbox!

Bitten by the writing bug: Madhuri Banerjee (left), Rajorshi Chakraborti (centre) and Parul Gupta


rohit said...

Must be an enjoyable read Urban Shots by Paritosh Uttam. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.

Madhuri Banerjee said...

Thanks so much!!

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