Post Manuscript Syndrome and other joys of writing

Post Manuscript Syndrome: Symptoms include twitchy fingers, hand cramps, sleepless nights (nightmares of piles of rejection letters), glazed eyes as you await a revert, fleeting smiles to convince yourself and others that all is well in your world (other than the fact that months of thinking, writing and rewriting now hangs in the balance), acidity and a desire to run each time anyone asks you about your writing. There is no other moment in my writing life as joyous and terrifying, all at once, as the moment I declare to myself that I have a complete manuscript that is ready to submit. I usually drive myself to that point through sheer exhaustion post multiple edits, tweaks and hand-wringing. I hang on to that last line, that last word, that last restructure, that last deletion, addition, substitution… that very last tweak for as long as I can. There’s a finality to the declaration even though the story will go through multiple edits and possible restructures before it takes on its final form. I put it aside for a few days/weeks/months before I take another look at it, all the while biting my nails off and opening and closing the file multiple times. I’ll do all manner of things to fine tune the writing – storyboards, story arcs… even a “state-of-mind graph” (new tool and a rather fun one to do) before I am convinced that I’ve caught inconsistencies and that it is indeed ready to be seen by an editor. There will be the all-important reading by my kids when I’ve learnt to sneak around and watch their expressions as they read, to gauge their instinctive reaction to the...
Books, finances and an appalled ten-year-old

Books, finances and an appalled ten-year-old

My ten-year-old (TYO) has, in the past year, developed a healthy concern for understanding finances. It has resulted in a rather conscientious spender. However, it does lead to funny conversations. Most nights, bed time is the moment when my children remember all the day’s activities and pose questions designed specifically for long conversations. One such discussion happened a couple of nights ago. TYO: “How are your books doing?” Me: “They’re doing well.” TYO: “Are you in profit or loss?” Me: ” I’d say profit since I haven’t travelled for readings at my own cost, as I have done at times in the past. (And because I can’t just let things be) There is the notional cost of time and effort that goes into writing and publishing a book, which is hard to quantify. But yes, profit.” TYO sounding happy: “Great! So of our family income, would the split between what papa and you earn be 70-30?” Me: “Ummm. Not quite.” TYO: “80-20?” Me: “Not really.” TYO, sounding increasingly appalled: “90-10?” Me: “More like 99-1…” TYO, jumping out of bed like a scalded cat: “WHAAAAT? But you’ve written eleven books and you work really hard and and and… it’s not fair!” Me, trying to calm him down: “While that is true, I do have the joy of doing something I love, which is more than what many people can claim. It is a blessing. Also, I get to have all the flexibility to be around you two monkeys. I get to discuss my work with you and hear your opinion, which is quite special.” TYO: “And my friends think you are...

Mosquito and mice poetry and why you must keep writing

In 2010 I wrote a bunch of poems, collectively titled Tadpoles On My Toes and Other Experiences of a City-fied Kid. My first book Icky, Yucky, Mucky! wasn’t even published back then. The collection of poems centres around the thoughts, experiences and interactions with the world for a child growing up in urban India. It grew to close to eighty poems and I hoped and prayed that someone would turn the lot into a book. It hasn’t happened so far. I’d started off with the knowledge that publishing poetry can be notoriously difficult. But that’s the thing about being a writer. You have to write what you want to and often need to. You have to get the thoughts out of your system and onto paper. You hope that it will all come together and turn into a book. Sometimes, it works out. Other times, it doesn’t. While you hold onto the hope that a publisher will love what you’ve written, that it will fit in with their publishing direction and list, that publishing poetry will really not be as difficult as you are given to believe, you have to keep writing alongside. You don’t wait for your piece to get signed on before moving on to writing the next thing. You especially don’t stop writing if a piece doesn’t make it into a book. I filed away Tadpoles On My Toes and got on with putting pen to paper/fingertips to keys. Ever so often, I opened up the file and tweaked a word here, a line there. Five years and eleven books later, two poems from that collection titled Mosquito...

The joy of home turf

There is something special about reading in a familiar space, on a familiar platform – home turf, if I may. My reading this Saturday at Kitab Khana bookstore as a part of the Children’s Literature section of the Kala Ghodha Arts Festival was one such. With the excitement of limited edition early release copies of my fourth History Mystery, Razia and the Pesky Presents and accompanied by a very tall, very crazy fellow writer, Parinita Shetty as the Wazir and my enthusiastic daughter as a stable hand as we enacted one scene, it was a session I thoroughly enjoyed. From the efficient trio of Lubaina, Parinita and Rukhsar there with hugs of encouragement to knowing my space for the next hour – where I need to leap off an elephant back (a chair stood in for it), the placement of the makeshift palki, where partners in crime need to run to in order to pinch my nose… the stage is familiar ground. There are usually a few known faces amongst the children and new ones who bring much joy with an opportunity to introduce them to my books. From Mr.Jagat and other sales staff who wave out and tell me which books are moving well, always encouraging, always supportive, to the promise of cheese toasts and sweet and sour apple tea as a reward to self at the cafe, Kitab Khana and the Kala Ghodha Arts Fest brings much joy, year on year. I’m hoping to have another juicy book to tempt them into inviting me again next year. And while non-Mumbaikars need to wait till June for Razia and the Pesky...

To Squiggle with love

My kids took all of nine months. Squiggle was four years in the making. From sleepless nights with a fuzzy idea about what I wanted to write, to not quite knowing how. From sheafs of paper lying crumpled on the floor, to post-its that got shuffled around each day. From holding on to her, nervous about her first view, to Anita Roy at Zubaan Books writing back: “I LOVE SQUIGGLE. It made me giggle. Let’s do it! Exclamation mark!” From us knowing what she needs as her playground, to finding Vikram Nandwani, the fabulous illustrator who brought her to life. From draft after draft after draft while gazing at her adoringly (and often through gritted teeth) through all her teething troubles, to her blossoming into all her loveliness. From spending hours poring over her at the Zubaan office, to Niyati and all the other wonderful folks at Penguin joining the joyride and helping her zoom her way into this world. Squiggle, I love being your mommy! Go make the world a little more squiggly and punctuation friendly! To get commas in place and help children end their sentences, buy Squiggle Takes a Walk online here: Amazon, Flipkart Natasha Sharma is currently back to sleepless nights with a fuzzy idea for the next book with Squiggle. Share...