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Writing as Process

I found a cartoon on twitter by Tom Gauld….

This is exactly what is happening to my characters now. They are changing entirely. Women into men, children into women, men into monsters. The plot is not a straight line and neither are the characters. The material you thought you didn’t need and had rewritten comes back in different forms. Writing is becoming more and more about rewriting. It’s very hard to explain and best to leave confined to the mysterious word-process.

I wonder at the tutorials and videos and how-tos of writing a book. Even if you write down verbatim that your plot will be such and such and your characters will be so and so, when you combine them on the page they scurry off like ants in different directions.

Has that happened to you?

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in Day to day

 

Return

For a long while now, I’ve been toying with the idea of revamping the website. That hasn’t happened yet but I suppose it will eventually. In the meanwhile I thought I should get back to blogging, something I still do where I work at InstaScribe.

Recently I was part of the UEA Creative Writing Workshop in Kolkata, India, and for reasons personal and otherwise this was the proverbial breath of fresh air.

So what happens in a writing workshop? What can you expect?

I don’t want to spoil the fun for those who have never attended a prose writing workshop before but one thing I can tell you is that you don’t necessarily write as much. The writing has to have happened before. The preparation to reach that space where you interact with writers should best have begun many months or even years before the workshop. Then the critiques that workshoppers receive will be of greater value.

I was excited by the sheer range of professionals who are interested by writing. Also the writing life. The idea of living on caffeine and inspiration. The idea of sitting at the ideal writing table immersed in creating a valuable tome. The idea of constructing the perfect tale. These are now dreams that people from many walks of life harbour.

And the mentors Romesh Gunesekera and Amit Chaudhuri showed aspiring writers and those who were writers already that a book is not ready when you think it is and it may be on its way when you think it is not.

When a manuscript is open for critique, so much is at stake. The idea itself, the theme, the syntax, the words themselves and even the author’s personality. It is a risk to put your work out there before a group of twelve or thirteen people. Not to mention experienced writers. Have you been to a writing workshop? What has your experience been like?

© neelima, 2015

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Day to day, Fiction, Inspiration

 

Talking with Amy Gigi Alexander-Part 2

In Part 1 of this interview, Amy Gigi Alexander talked about writing and travel. She has many projects in mind and this interview explores how you can take up so many projects and do justice to each of them. Very often these days, we find ourselves steeped in a quagmire of ideas and possibilities– the challenge lies in  taking your ideas forward.

You are a fan of bucket lists– you wrote one that was a huge motivation for you to experience life– what is the best way to create one?

I’m huge fan of bucket lists. I think a bucket list and what is on it shows the character of the person who wrote it. These lists are not always about quick experiences which are checked off in succession—sometimes they are tasks that take years.

I’m about to write a new bucket list this month, and one tool I will use is to imagine what I am afraid to do. I think bucket lists are useful to get over fears and overcome the blocks that we set up for ourselves. Anything I think I cannot do will be on my new bucket list.

In addition, bucket lists are a wonderful way to find your sense of humor. On my last list I had things which still make me smile that I did them: embarrassing silly acts that make me take life a little less seriously. Be in a parade. Sing in front of a crowd. Try stand-up comedy.

Bucket lists are not just about saving your life—they are also for helping you find your joy.

Tell us about your upcoming book projects and other social media projects and what inspired them.

I have three book projects happening right now. The first the Conversations series. This is a series of long format interviews with travel writers and writers of multiple genres about travel themes. The idea came to me because I was looking for such a series online, and couldn’t find anything. My dear friend Patricia Schultz who wrote 1000 Places to See Before You Die gave me the best advice once: “If you don’t see what you want out there, make it. Create it yourself.” So Conversations was something that came out of that advice. The series is online on my website, also on Facebook page, and will be published as a book in the future.

The second book project is the travel memoir I am writing about India. I lived-and loved—in India for several years, and this book centers on five months of those experiences in Calcutta, West Bengal, and a small village in Bihar. It is a story about falling in love with a city, a love affair that is passionate and intense, and at the same time, working with Mother Teresa’s nuns and questioning the validity of my beliefs and struggles with my own humanity.

The third book project takes place in Panama, and centers around an eight month period I lived in a remote jungle village with a group Ngabe Bugle indigenous people who had invited me to live with them. It is a story about losing oneself and finding oneself in a new way, and also it is the story of the proud and fierce people who I lived with and honored me with their experiences and teachings.

And of course, there are other book projects floating around– one is a travelogue about Varanasi and the Ganges. However, these are the first three to complete.

Online, I have my website, which features my own stories, a blog, the interviews and a guest collection of curated tales; the Walking Writing Women Facebook and Twitter pages; and my own personal Facebook and Twitter pages.

Tips on how to use social media. You curate multiple pages and causes- how do you do this effectively?

Well, first off I think people get the impression that social media is a time drain. I have the opposite feeling—to me it very fast, easy, and doesn’t take a great deal of time. I do schedule the amount of time I spend on it each day, and that time is divided into four parts: (1) my own posts (2) responding to comments and personal messages (3) seeing what others are doing on social media (4) sharing the work and posts of others. Once I hit the time limit, I don’t visit social media again that day. However, I still might go on it to have a messaging conversation. The trick is spread your time throughout the day in segments, so that you are always interacting and always seeing what interests others.

My social media tips:

(1) Be inspiring

(2) Make your page a destination that people want to visit because they feel good when they do.

(3) Share the writing of others

(4)Don’t use hashtags and other annoyances unless it is a theme or an event

(5)Thank others often and by name

(6) Use messaging to deepen the conversations that start on your posts

(7) Choose a few things that you are known for and consistently post about those things.

(8) Authenticity. Love what you post.

(9) Choose five random people each day to visit: look at their page, check out their links, and their websites, and comment on their posts

(10)Be okay with deleting comments without explanations and deleting/blocking and unfollowing people who harass or comment inappropriately

I usually ask every writer who is featured on this blog for a creative prompt- I call it Project Inspire. Give me your version of it. A picture, a story, a tweet…anything you think could get a blogger inspired to write or pack her bags and travel.

Project Inspire:

“I’ve always been fascinated by risk-takers. Maybe not so much risk-takers as people who listen to some inner voice and follow it where it takes them. They follow it even though they aren’t sure where they are going or how things will turn out. They go anyway. These people are the great travelers, voyagers, discoverers. And I’m not just curious about them: I need them. For life without them as guides is like being in a beautiful palace with all the lights turned off and the curtains drawn.

There have been times in my life I felt suffocated, that I walked as though there was a pillow in front on my face, blocking my sight, my speech. Muffled. Closed. Squinting at shadows. Sometimes it has taken me awhile to figure out that the pillow is there, and that my words aren’t being heard, that I’m blind. It takes me time to see that blurred lipstick shallow breaths are not sustaining. That’s when I start searching for risk-takers and I follow their trail, usually in the form of a road trip, a journey towards. Road trips, particularly of the driving-a-car-for-hours-and-hours variety, to some hoped-for destination, sight, or encounter, have a way of unshackling.”

-from Freefall in the Mojave

 

Thank you so much for your time Amy! It has been a wonderful experience talking to you and learning about how writing can be used productively to share experiences and learn from it. For it is not just the journey that matters but the telling too that makes the story a gem.

 

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Day to day, Interviews with Poets

 

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Reading a poem

We had a book club session which I will be blogging about soon, and I found myself wondering what book had made such a supreme impression. There have been many, many books. I’m a fickle reader- I flit from book to book, linger on some pages, and then rush to another tome or even screen. I had resolved to read every book that came my way, but I take my time with them, and though the falling into love with books is routine, few embed themselves in memory.

Now I take books seriously- review books, complete reading books, write books.

But what piece of writing has stayed with me?

It had to be a poem.The Waste Land by T.S.Eliot was a poem that I loved for reasons far from the poem. It had to do with the teacher who read it to us and turned it into some kind of anthem in our minds. Always, always April is the cruelest month, even though it is the time of our own harvest festival. Always there is hope, even when there isn’t.

So I read a bit of the poem- and it was as though my professor was reading it to us again in that faraway classroom that I wish I could go back to. That could be why the poem moved me, because it had moved someone else as well, in a place that still existed on the map but was now completely inaccessible and severed by time.

Have you found yourself rereading something- a poem, a book, and realizing why that piece of work meant what it did? Sometimes it could be a revelation.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Day to day

 

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Recovery

I must confess I am not through blogging. I blog a great deal where I work and that has led me to the illusion that I am blogging after all and have left nothing behind.But I have, of course.

Waxing eloquent about poetry is not enough– you must pursue it, but as this is my place of honesty, I have not been pursuing poetry for a while now. Not at all– all my interests are going prosaic and this worries me. Though I did madly read Philip Levine the other day.

There are many things about me that my blog has not touched and I find this strange.

Like

The first #book(see I’m a hashtag addict) I ever wrote was a self-help book. It took a couple of years for all the wheels and cogs to come together, but I wrote it to see if 326 pages was possible. It was.

Then I wrote a short novella, and considering that this is my blog and that it must be self-serving, I should have done more work on the paranormal romance genre and speculative fiction genre in general.

Has it ever happened to you that you have been blogging for a long time and you suddenly realized that you had a place at your disposal to say so many things, and you didn’t? I envy those who use their fbs and twitters to speak so fluently about the place where they are at.

It calls for some kind of fluency of the fingers to type out your life to your timeline.

When will I ever learn to do it–must I? Must you?

Of course.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Books, Day to day, Fiction, Paranormal Romance

 

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Count

In a new year mood (that has been dampened by the ways of the world) I visited my Submittable page(the page where are all your submissions to poetry and fiction journals can be recorded) and saw that my submission count of poetry and fiction has been so very limited!

Why is this?

There could be many reasons I do not submit enough and many that you do this as well.

In general, there are many problems with submitting poems. Most magazines will not accept poetry published on your blog or any other social media. So you limit posting them and since posing them is as good as an incentive as any, you write less poetry!

Then there is the problem of writing poems in a  consistent place. Many poems I’ve written have been misplaced or have disappeared along with my hard disk (I’m still grieving over this). You can never capture a poem once it is lost as you  write it in a certain kind of state of mind. How do you save the state of mind?

Then there is the manuscript. You pack whatever you have salvaged into a single Word Doc. The doc grows and grows and then when you look at it after a while, you wonder why so many expletives are about to erupt.

After all you wrote this.

Submittable has salvaged one or two poems I wrote and I am grateful as I can download some work that never made it into the world. Rejections are sometimes a godsend when all memory, your own and the digital Proust fail.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 10, 2015 in Day to day

 

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Easy Hat

Is creativity the easiest hat to wear? A magician’s hat?

A poet has it easy- she writes poems if she is persistent, she publishes in several journals and starts making a name for herself.

A writer writes a story, maybe an e-book that sells like hotcakes. Then he writes a sequel, and then another. His series gets picked up by a producer and now his eureka moment in the bath is a multi-million dollar business.

An artist draws a circle and it turns into a motif known world over.

But whatever is created is made between living and the best work can hardly ever come with success as the final goal. The characters have to talk to you, the melody has to translate from a moment on to the page and the image must come from a heartbeat.

So it can not be the easiest hat to wear. On the contrary.

That’s my 2014 lesson. You can not take this idea of creativity as a permanent sticker that will label your existence. It’s just an indication of the road you should walk on.

You must learn one thing

The world was made to be free in

Give up all worlds

except the one to which you belong.

(David Whyte)

© neelthemuse, 2014
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2014 in Day to day

 

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