Of the Summer Crop–My Yowoto Post this week

Of The Summer Crop

The one when the brat had to get a haircut…

The offspring had a haircut last week. Now why is this momentous, you might ask validly? After all, in the 11 years that he has been on this planet as a part of the race, he has contributed on a bimonthly basis to the flotsam of the snipped hair on assorted salon and barber shop floors.

But this was a haircut with a difference. For one, this was one in which he was accompanied by the pater. For another, it is the summer upon us. Let’s put things in perspective here. For years and years, I have been the sole adult responsible for the grooming of this child, and I am an indulgent parent. I allow him to sit in the barber’s chair, the cape snugly around him, dictating terms to the person in charge of shearing him to presentable in public levels. “Cud liddle frum d side and liddle frum the top and keep dis part longly.”

This often has had the unhappy consequence of him emerging from the salon with his hair gelled to gravity defying levels in a vain attempt to make himself look taller, never mind that I look at him and wonder if I should have just thrown the money I spent into the waste paper basket given that barely a millimetre seems to have been reduced from the circumference of his foliage.

Read the rest here.

My Parent Quotient post for this week. Getting a pet

Getting a pet. My Parle G Parent Quotient post this week.

The occasional whine in the household is that of getting a dog. Thankfully, this has replaced the incessant whine of wanting a sibling, and this is something I can deal with.

I’ve realised that the offspring hasn’t really realised the actual nitty gritty involved in keeping a pet which means training and twice a day walks and taking care of the pet as one would take care of a baby.  I’ve so far stayed unswayed by the constant pleas of “Please please please, can I have a dog, I will take care of it, I will give it a bath and take it for a walk and give it food, please please, please.”

As any sensible parent knows, keeping a pet will never be the child’s responsibility but will ultimately be the parent’s responsibility. But I also know that there are pros to having a pet in the house

Read the rest of the post here

Interview with Madhuri Banerjee, plus two copies to be won of My Clingy Girlfriend

Madhuri Banerjee and I first connected on twitter and met at a panel discussion at the Wassap Andheri in 2012. She’s one of those wonderful people who immediately light up a room when they enter, lovely, articulate and very warm. She’s also the best selling author of five books. Her latest, released in March 2015 is called My Clingy Girlfriend and is written from the point of view of the male protagonist, I have a signed copy by my bedside I’ve been reserving to read once the dratted final exams (the offspring’s, not mine) get done with and I am sure, as with all her other books, this one will be as enjoyable.

2 (2)Clingy cover

Here’s a bit about Madhuri.

Her debut novel Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas sold over 40,000 copies.

She followed it with a sequel called Mistakes Like Love And Sex. She also has a romantic college story in Advantage Love. And her last release Scandalous Housewives is the first installment in the sizzling new series that explores the psyche of unsung housewives in urban India who want more from life and will go to any lengths to realize their deepest, darkest desires.

She has also worked with actress Karishma Kapoor on a non-fiction book called The Yummy Mummy Guide. She has two more books releasing this year and is currently working on television shows and a new film script.

She is also the writer of the successful Bollywood film, Hate Story 2.

COVERS

Here is a short Q&A with Madhuri about writing

What are your earliest memories of ‘writing’ something? How did you know you were meant to be a writer? I started writing diaries as early as eight or nine years old. I used to write about the places my family travelled and what I felt on a daily basis. And soon enough it went from “Angry at Ani (my brother) for dropping my book into the water” to something more meaningful and introspective. So it was a calling that I didn’t recognise for a long time because I just thought it was a hobby.

What kind of a writer are you? Do you plot assiduously, or do you let the story flow organically?

I have an idea and then write out the main character’s traits. After that I let the story and plot flow organically.

 

What is your writing routine like? Any rituals, habits, quirks?

I wish I was more disciplined but I’m not. If there is a luncheon to attend with my girlfriends, I will happily let go of writing for that day and take off to chit chat. I call it “research” because I am inspired by their stories and lives and ask them probing questions about sex. It all goes into my books and columns somewhere. But I do write like a mad person for days and nights when I’m possessed with an idea and the story haunts me till the words come out on a document. In retrospect I think I need more balance!

Your writing influences–authors, poets, artists, any people, and anything you turn to, you draw upon for inspiration?

I’m inspired by good writing really, not just a person or book. It’s not that I take someone else’s story and adapt it to my own. Or I want to be like anyone else. When I read a book or a poem, I need to be moved. I need to feel something. And that’s what I take for my writing. I want my writing – columns, books and blogs to make people feel, cry, love, smile, laugh, think, inspire and awaken. That’s what fulfills me as a writer.

You do have a hectic schedule–plus you are a mom. Are there days when you are overwhelmed, unable to write? How do you deal with them?

Absolutely. I sit and drink! #mommyneedswine

Do you agree that discipline is an essential part of the writing arsenal? How important is writing discipline to you?

I try to have discipline but it never works with an exact time schedule with a child, managing a house and multiple projects. If a meeting comes up, I need to abandon my writing at the time and go. If my child demands more attention from me that day, then I need to put my writing on hold till she sleeps. But I do try to finish everything before a deadline and I’m always prepared for far more than what is expected of me. It’s probably because I’m always thinking of the larger picture.

What kind of reads are your favourites? Books you turn to over and over again.

I love reading Elif Shafak, Jhumpa Lahiri, Agatha Christie, Murakami. But I also love Chick Lit. It’s my comfort food for the soul. A good romance with interesting characters and a different plot always makes me happy. And it’s not too taxing on the brain while I’m working on my own novel.

We’ve discussed this at aPaulogy, but a recap for my blog readers, what is your opinion on the slotting that gender automatically seems to assign to an author?

It’s sad really but Indian women writers are slotted into these categories

a) She’s a woman, she must only write about romance and that’s sooo boring!

b) She’s Indian so what does she know about how to write in English? Also she’ll keep everything in the Indian context while I’m more of an international reader you see.

c) She’s not popular so I don’t know how her books will be.

d) She’s popular so she must have really bad writing!

It’s strange that men will not pick up women authors. I recently released my 6th novel My Clingy Girlfriend which is a novel from a man’s point of view about relationships. Men can’t believe I can write so well. But they’ve not read my previous works to realise that I have always tried to exceed myself in my writing and do something different with every book! One gentleman on Facebook said, “It constantly amazes me how you have effortlessly crossed over to the men’s side and deliver such finessed nuance that is so unerringly masculine in its genesis… Kudos Madhuri Banerjee

How difficult was it to write in the male voice for this book? How did you get into the skin of the character? My Clingy Girlfriend has been the easiest novel I wrote! I wrote it in a month, after spending a few months figuring out what I wanted from the novel. When I started writing, the words just flowed. I guess while I was “researching” I was so in the head of men that it became easy to see their point of view. And I loved writing Radha. She was me in an extreme form.

And finally what writing advice would you give aspiring authors?

Find your unique voice. Don’t go with the flow. Be better.

 

You can buy My Clingy Girlfriend here: http://goo.gl/VwPjmN

 

Other Books by Madhuri Banerjee

Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas – http://goo.gl/9mID7O

Mistakes Like Love And Sex – http://goo.gl/fs7KUP

Advantage Love – http://goo.gl/LJyJsT

Scandalous Housewives – http://goo.gl/VUCLNr

Two signed copies of My Clingy Girlfriend are available for a giveaway to bloggers who want to review it for their blogs. If you wish to receive a copy and review it, do leave a comment at the end of this post. Madhuri will choose the most interesting two comments to send signed copies to. Contest ends April 20th. India addresses only.

Event round up of the Power Women Who Write event on Morsels and Juices

Event Roundup

Power Women Who Write, an event that was held at aPaulogy Mumbai on March 20th, 2015 brought together six powerful women writers to celebrate their writings through book readings and audience interaction. They also discussed and opined on the future of Indian writing as  well as the publishing industry at large. Morsels & Juices had the rare privilege to conduct a Q&A session with these brilliant and gorgeous authors. We thank Kiran ManralMadhuri Banerjee, Meghna Pant, Parul Sharma, Aastha Atray and Anjali Kirpalani for taking our questions.

M&JAmitav Ghosh once remarked, today a woman writing is a woman fighting. For truth, for honesty, freedom, even if not for equality.

As a woman and most importantly as a writer, do you ever feel burdened to deconstruct conventional “stereotypes” through your writing? What is your opinion on the above comment made by Mr. Ghosh?

Anjali Kirpalani: Definitely! I think I speak for every woman when I say that we hate gender stereotypes. I hate the perception that many men have-that women can’t be funny. It downright pisses me off! My novels are chick-lit novels but I don’t do sappy. Although romance plays a key role in my novels, I ensure that it is realistic romance. I bear in mind that we’re in 2015 and relationships today are much more complicated than they were say, 20 years ago. So I try and reflect the times we live in through my writing. And humour plays a very important role in both my life and my writing. So when men assume that my novels will be mushy and my female protagonists ‘girly’, I cannot stand it!

I received a lot of praise for the protagonist Nikita in my début novel, Never Say Never. So I gladly deconstruct conventional stereotypes through my writing. And I do it because I enjoy it. I never feel ‘burdened’ that I have to do it. I do agree with Amitav Ghosh’s statement. The fact is that we live in a patriarchal society. Whenever a woman achieves something, men like to believe that she got where she is because she’s the fairer sex. The reality is that women usually work harder than men to achieve their goals. And what’s surprising is the number of educated men that are sexist.  We see it all the time in the workplace. And the world of writing is no different. There are still men who prefer reading books by male authors. And so, what we need right now are more women writers and their unique voices and stories. Which, thankfully, is happening. And that’s what this event ‘Power Women who Write’ is celebrating.

Madhuri Banerjee: No, I don’t feel the need to do anything like that. I just empower my women protagonists. I write complex characters and tell a good story. I leave it to the readers to do the rest. I do wish the Indian readers would pick up more women writer’s books and read them. Women are definitely trying to break boundaries, try different genres, and explore new territories whereas the Indian male commercial fiction authors are writing the same genre they know for years.

Kiran Manral: A woman writing was always a woman fighting. Not just today, not just yesterday, but also tomorrow, the day after and until the end of time. From the time women wrote under male aliases, till the current age where women writers are slotted as chicklit, there is always a battle–and the battle might not always be as lofty as one for truth, honesty, freedom and equality as the good Mr Ghosh says. It might just be the small, very real battle of just needing to be heard out.

I don’t feel burdened by anything when I set out to write, except perhaps the weight of my own expectations and the fact that the novel in my head will always be, as a wiser author once said, always much more beautiful than the one I finally end up with.

Parul Sharma:  I am always a little uncomfortable making a comment on behalf of half of the human population. So I will speak for myself. I think writers write for one reason alone – they have something to say and they fear that something terrible will happen if they don’t say it. I wrote and still write for this reason. The writing process for me is infinitely personal – it is not me versus the rest of the world. I am trying to make sense of the world, confused and bewildered as I am by it and my chosen tool is humour.

In all honesty, I don’t know if I am deconstructing stereotypes or pandering to them. My heroines have all been urban, well-educated women with a post-graduate degree or two, in love with men who treat them as equals – maybe my stereotypes are more modern but that doesn’t make them any less truthful.

As for honesty, I think there is no other way to write. We are scornful of bad language, of sentences not constructed prettily, of characters that are cold and inspire nothing – and yet, all of these are more acceptable than being dishonest in one’s work, of not saying what needs to be said.

I don’t think I am writing to gain equality. I am equal. Have people trying to bully me around, put me into comfortable, little-woman brackets? Oh yes. But damned if I am going to let someone else define my boundaries for me.

Meghna Pant: When my first book of short stories Happy Birthday was published by Random House India in 2013, a lot of reviewers had commended my ability to write stories from a male point of view. I found this disconcerting: why was it surprising that a female author could effectively delve into the male psyche? Were male protagonists the domain of male writers? Did literature have to be pigeonholed into female writing and male writing? Wasn’t a good story a good story regardless of whether it was written by a man or a woman?

Then I recalled VS Naipaul’s misogynistic statements in which he dismissed all writing by women because of what he viewed as female ‘sentimentality’ and ‘narrow view of the world.’ This despite the fact that the works of George Eliot and Mary Shelley have had a far more profound impact on world culture than his has. This despite Hilary Mantel, AS Byatt, Iris Murdoch, Harper Lee and Flannery O’Connor.

Sadly masculisation of literature is not a Naipaul-led phenomenon. For centuries female writers have been forced to use pen names or androgynous pseudonyms to afford them mystery and, worse, authority. Charlotte Bronte published under the pen name Currer Bell. Her sister Emily hid behind the signature Ellis Bell, whereas Mary Ann used George Elliott. Is it a mere coincidence that Harper Lee and Flannery O’Connor could well be mistaken for male names by the uninitiated? What does it tell us when the world’s most famous female author, JK Rowling, decides to publish her crime novel debut under the male pen name Robert Galbraith? Especially since Rowling has never published under her real name: the very feminine Joanne Rowling. Even the Grande Dame of erotica, the supposedly bold EL James, has not published under her real name: Erika Mitchell. Does this not serve to demonstrate the permanence of this issue?

As gender roles become less distinct, with more men in touch with their at-home sides and more women becoming action heroes, we should delight in our differences and remember that gender is a social construct. The sole purpose of literature, if it must have a purpose at all, is to transcend such fallacies and show us the world that we want to become. A story must be read not because a man or a woman writes it, but because it is written well.

With regard to Amitav Ghosh’s statement, the notion of equality is not so simplified that we can write our way out of it. Women writers can begin by writing exquisite breathtaking stories. But, as all writers know, our journey with a book doesn’t end when we finish writing it. Women writers will have to learn to fight for bigger advances, bigger royalties, premium store displays and invitation to coveted literature festivals. We will have to abandon our inherent diffidence and mainstream role-playing by marketing ourselves as aggressively as our male counterparts. Only then can we leave the world with no option but to give us our rightful place as equals.

Read the rest of the article here

In MumbaiGloss

‘Power Women who write’ event took place at aPaulogy in Worli, Mumbai on 20 March. 

Kiran Manral, Meghna Pant, Madhuri Banerjee, Parul Sharma, Anjali Kirpalani

Popular women Indian authors Kiran Manral, Meghna Pant, Madhuri Banerjee, Anjali Kirpalani, Aastha Atray and Parul Sharma came together to discuss writing in India, the publishing industry in India and the increase in the number of female writers in India.

It was an evening filled with books, art, conversation, food and food for thought! The freewheeling chat addressed issues such as the popularity of male writers over female writers in the romance novels genre and the importance of marketing your book.

Madhuri Banerjee, APaulogy

Read the rest here

Event: Power Women Who Write

“The event ‘Power Women who write’ took place at aPaulogy in Worli, Mumbai on Friday, 20th March 2015. 
The event brought together talented and popular female authors Kiran Manral, Madhuri Banerjee, Anjali Kirpalani, Meghna Pant, Parul Sharma and Aastha Atray. “
What did we talk about? Writing. Genres. Marketing the books we write. And so much more. Here’s a picture of us holding our books. Read them yet?
apaulogy5

Interview with Shunali Khullar Shroff, author of Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother and a signed copy giveaway

Shunali and I go back a long way, in fact so long back is the way that memory mists over, and if I dare reveal when exactly that was, we both risk the real and tangible danger of carbon dating selves. Anyway, as life and things have an unfortunate tendency to do, we lost touch completely with each other and reconnected only recently thanks to that very wonderful malaise of the modern day social media, namely twitter.

shunali

When Shunali told me she was writing a book, a while ago, I was most delighted because not only is she one of the few writers who can hold a sentence, and hold it well, but because she also has a delightful turn of phrase and sense of that elusive drollness that is sadly lacking in most writing these days.

As for her book, I would be unfairly biased if I said anything about it, being proud godmother-ly about it, so all I will say is read it if you are a parent. You will find yourself nodding your head along, between snorting helplessly with laughter. Read it if you aren’t a parent. Think of it as a road guide to the path ahead if you ever plan to be one. Or just read it for the fun read. You owe it to yourself to read books that are well written and make you laugh as well.

battlehymnofthebewilderedmother

Here’s a quick Q&A with Shunali about her book:

How did the book come about?
As a writer, one writes experiences that are closest to ones life at a given point. At this point,  my KRA (key responsibility area) is that of a mother and therefore this book.

Is this essentially a book on parenting?
I wouldn’t say that. This is as much a book about parenting as The curious incident of a dog at the night time is about a dog. On a more serious note, yes this book is the journey of a young woman, from being a full time career oriented person to becoming a full time mom and losing and then finding herself in the process.

Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother is as much about children as it is about failure, self-doubt, moments of triumph and above all, a general all-encompassing feeling of bewilderment.

When I became a mother, I felt lost. And when I say that, I am only putting it mildly. I took refuge in self help books but to no avail. I read books essaying different parenting theories and they all made me feel INADEQUATE. At the end of each such book I was just left feeling guilty about all the things I was not getting right. I lose my cool, I point at the flabby bits of my body when I feel fat,  I wasn’t and am not a perfect role model to my children even when I am at my most exemplary behaviour. It upset me that I did not have the requisite maternal instinct, nor was I the go-getter tiger mom who is lionized so much today, nor did I want to subscribe to that thought process. And so it is that I reached a saturation point with all the books that make mothers feel incompetent and began to tell my story. The only thing I had in the absence of parenting instinct was love and I had to work with that.

When I started to write this book, I did not realize the form it was going to take. Even though it is non-fiction, one usually is aware of the direction towards which one is veering the book as one begins to tell ones story.
But the key characters of my story, my daughters Rania and Zara were constantly changing. I was keeping my notes already from the time both of them were really small but when I finally began to compile the material I realized that they were different people every month, For girls change must faster than boys and one gets to witness and engage with their various avatars between the ages of 4 to13.
This made the book easier in some ways because every day was a new story presenting itself to me.

What were my challenges as a first time author?
I think, if you are a a first time author, the first thing you need is a good editor before you submit your script and I was lucky to have found one with the help of my friend Jayapriya Vasudev who had suggested I do this book in the first place.
But once the manuscript was ready and submitted, one had to patiently bide ones time, hoping that one would wake up to that one happy mail in their inbox. This part seemed the toughest, although I cannot complain really because I only had to wait a few months before I heard from Hay House and a few other publishers.

Since I keep a blog, I did not mind the wait because a blog gets you instant gratification. You write, you hear back from your readers, some of them retweet your link, you feel like a successful writer for a day and then again you slip into the abyss that is smug complacency till you write your next piece which stinks till the nether regions of the internet gateway and you are filled with self-loathing.
That, my kids and a fair bit of traveling that I somehow end up doing kept me too busy to obsess over hearing back from the publishers.

A friend, who is also a published writer, pushed me a lot when it came to my submissions and for that I owe her a lot. So yes, my advise to aspiring writers is to befriend writers, read a lot of literature, write as often as possible and submit a clean copy.

Which authors have had the greatest influenced on you as a writer?
That’s a tough one because one can never know what elements of a particular book remain within us and ferment in the neo-cortex of one’s brain till they are released on paper, but the writers I love best are JD Salinger, Oscar Wilde, PG Wodehouse, Nick Hornby, Bill Bryson, Dave Barry, Sue Townsend, Helen Fielding and two outrageously funny women, the poster girls of stand-up comedy, Tina Fey and Joan Rivers.

We also have three signed copies to give away to the three most interesting comments on this post. All you need to do is to tell us your most amusing parenting anecdote. Contest ends April 30th. Shunali will choose the winners and her decision is final. India addresses only.