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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time for some R & R

No, its not Rest and Recreation I'm referring to. You've heard about Reading and wRiting, haven't you? When talking about writing, can reading be far behind? Sorry for the clumsy paraphrase. Yet, if you think about it, reading is essential and intrinsic to writing. If you can't enjoy a book's company, you are no writer, nor will you ever be one. These two are interlinked by a common love of words, an appreciation of their connotations and an understanding of the power of clear thoughts expressed succintly. Some years ago, I voluntered at an organization helping immigrants in my city. A lot of new immigrants come into my city because of its proximity to Toronto. Highly educated people come here from countries where they speak and read and write in languages other than English. I was paired up with a young girl who wanted to brush up her language skills in English. She wasn't a new immigrant any more though. Her family had settled in Canada for a long time for her to acquire familiarity and ease in English. Yet she couldn't read well, and obviously couldn't write. Her school work suffered and the reason why she had approached this organization was because she could not graduate from high school until she passed her mandatory English language courses. Now, I began, with great enthusiasm to draw up a reading list for her level. We read easy Readers through and through, we got through excellent children's books and by and by, I noticed a marked improvement in her writing abilities as well. When I had finished my sessions with her, she was proudly writing essays, basic by some standards, but still, essays which had clear direction and a coherent structure. I was proud of her. Moral of the story - if you want to write, read! But beware what you read. More on that later.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

First Timer


That was my first book. Let me see if I can give you a glimpse of the journey I undertook. It has always been my dream to write. Since childhood, I was drawn to writing. The bug bit me when I was in Grade 8. I started writing in my diary (it was an orange coloured AGFA company diary, I recall).

We were on a family trip to Darjeeling in West Bengal, that haunt of Himalayan wildflowers, cold bracing breezes and exquisite vistas of the venerated peaks.

Something awoke in me at the time. I came back absolutely throbbing with the beauty of nature I had witnessed. Since I couldn't draw, I wrote - it was as simple as that.

From then on, I fed my writing habit, scribbling furiously in journals throughout my teenage years. The dream to be a journalist was the next step. I followed the path required, and soon acquired a different set of skills. I began to take an interest in current affairs and learned all about the world of newswriting. I worked for newspapers and magzines, honing my skills in observing, and conveying my POV succintly. Seeing my byline in print added fuel to the fire.

My next goal was to write a book. Easier said than done, I'm afraid. When I tried to break into the Canadian writing world in early 2000, it was essentially a closed one. I tried without success to get my writing published in literary journals.

On the way I learned a number of things. You have to pitch your idea to the publisher first. Then if they bite, you write a proposal. Only if they like your proposal will they ask you to sign a contract. That's what happened to me.

In 2004, I finally signed on the dotted line and started writing this book. It was published in September 2005. When I first held the book in my hands...what can I say!