Tags Galore

Quotes From Here And There

Albert Einstein
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
Dylan Thomas
I fell in love – that is the only expression I can think of – at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behavior very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy.
Eddie Cantor
It takes twenty years to become an overnight success.
Edward Abbey
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
e e cummings
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and never stop fighting.
Eyler Coates
We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce a masterpiece. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
Friedrich Nietzsche
Without music, life would be a mistake.
Gustave Flaubert
The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.
Going to the Opera is like making love; we get bored but we come back.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
If I love you, what business is it of yours?
John Steinbeck
Only through imitation do we develop toward originality.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
There is no remedy so easy as books, which if they do not give cheerfulness, at least restore quiet to the most troubled mind.
Leonard Cohen
Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything;
That's how the light gets in.
The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.
Paul Sweeney
You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.
Peter Altenberg
I never dreamed of being Shakespeare or Goethe, and I never expected to hold the great mirror of truth up before the world; I dreamed only of being a little pocket mirror, the sort that a woman can carry in her purse; one that reflects small blemishes, and some great beauties, when held close enough to the heart.
Robert Frost
In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money.
Satchel Paige
Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching.
Thomas Mann
A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
V S Naipaul
The writer has only to listen very carefully and with a clear heart to what people say to him, and ask the next question, and the next.

My Personal Library

Crafting The Perfect Pitch

Braving the inclement weather in the morning (I do not do this even for the most important of my college lectures, preferring to amble into the lecture hall only after noon), I managed to reach Elphinstone College well on time. The trains were empty on account of the weekend, and minus the effort that one needs to exercise in the daunting crowds of Bombay locals, the faces of commuters looked sadly careworn and unoccupied.

Held in Elphinstone’s Seminar Hall, Kavitha Rao’s workshop was quite a success - in addition to the twenty people already registered for the event, there were others who dropped by and had to be accommodated. (It would have been that wee bit better if all of them had showed up on time and not trickled in one by one throughout the duration of the workshop.)

A quick note on Kavitha Rao:

Kavitha Rao has lived and worked in London, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Tokyo, and reported from Cairo, Beijing, Seoul and various cities in India. She currently lives in Bombay.

I came across her website just a few months back while researching an article on the internet. I think it was her review of Rana Dasgupta’s Tokyo Cancelled in South China Morning Post that caught my eye. I remember thinking that it must take a gritty freelancer to sell such a story to SCMP.

And her website is another lesson in making the right first impressions, especially in a profession where first impressions can often also be the last. Though her website is clean, free of frills, and minimalistic, it exudes a quiet authority, is regularly updated and never undersells her strengths as a freelancer. In short, just the sort of online portfolio that can make an editor sit up and take notice.

Kavitha began her workshop by asking the us why we wanted to do freelancing. Somebody said that she did not want to do it for the money but for the satisfaction it offered of seeing one’s name in print. That set the stage for an engaging and productive workshop on the craft and business of freelancing.

Though two hours is not enough time to give a lot of lessons in freelancing, Kavitha did her best to squeeze in as much as she could. She spoke about how it is important to read a lot of newspapers in order to pick up story ideas, why it is necessary to analyze your market before you make a pitch, why it is important to have a hook/peg on which to rest the story idea (the reason why the editor must decide in favor of your article amidst the large volume of submissions he receives), and the mistakes that a budding freelancer may make and how to avoid them.

Somebody raised the question - What if the editor steals the story idea and gives it to a staff reporter? From her experience, Kavitha replied that though this was an inherent occupational peril with freelancing, the chances of it happening were very slim (about one in a hundred cases).

Another query raised was what should a freelancer do if he felt that a badly edited article in print reflected on his skills as a writer, even if it wasn’t his fault. To this, Kavitha’s simple reply was - Don’t you agree that the editor knows his magazine more than you do? If there is a factual error, you may point that out, but never make the mistake of telling an editor what his magazine should look or read like. He probably knows it way better than a freelancer does.

The best thing about the workshop was Kavitha’s candor and her realistic attitude towards the business of freelance journalism. The freelancer needs to understand that it is he who is dependent on the editor and not the other way round. It only harms a freelancer’s career if he speaks rudely to an editor; the publishing business is after all based on relationships. Kavitha also discussed what should be the ideal time for which a freelancer may wait before sending the editor a polite reminder (about a week for submissions sent electronically and a fortnight for submissions sent via post, though the rules vary with each market) and ways in which to write such a reminder.

Kavitha made no bones about accepting the fact that Indian publications pay a pittance to freelancers (if they pay at all) and that it was probably better to look at Western markets instead of lamenting the sorry state of Indian publishing industry. She shared some of her experiences on publishing with Indian newspapers and magazines, which unfortunately were not very good. She answered the queries raised by people attending the workshop, many of whom were practicing freelancers themselves.

The most important part of the workshop was the discussion on what constitutes that most elusive thing - a perfect pitch - and how to write one. Kavitha discussed many of her pitches which she considered good ones, so as to demonstrate the essentials that go into a good pitch. As the discussion progressed, some best practices emerged which will be very helpful to those who attended the session and plan to pursue freelancing ahead and some of which I remember well enough to summarize here:

  • When in doubt, leave out. Whether it is the ambiguity of salutation in connection with unisex names or certain facts and figures that cannot be readily verified or the question of something that might be construed as libel, it is better to steer clear of any vagueness and limit oneself to ground reality.
  • If it makes you look good, put it in. If it makes you look bad, leave it out. Another very useful cardinal rule, when writing query letters.
  • Show, don’t tell. An aphorism that can be attributed to Henry James, Kavitha mentioned that it one of her best practices that stands her in good stead no matter which genre of writing one is tackling.

The second session of the workshop takes place tomorrow morning at 1030 hours. The pitches that people will write and bring along with themselves will be discussed in the workshop so that they can realize their mistakes and write better pitches, so as to woo editors into handing them those plum assignments.

Update (February 9, 2008): A mail today in the inbox of Caferati-Bombay folks read:

Thanks to everyone who attended my workshop, and took the time to post here. As a freelance writer who spends way too much time in seclusion, it was great to get out and meet people. It was only my second workshop, so yes, I did learn a great deal. Thanks also to Peter, Annie, Manisha, Rashmi, Anushka and everyone else on the KGAF committee who helped make this possible.

Best wishes,
Kavitha Rao

Kavitha, it was a learning experience for us to listen to a veteran talk about her experiences and impart wisdom gleaned by years of practicing the wayward art of freelancing. Especially after Griffin let us know that all the workshop leaders created and ran their workshops without charging a rupee.

I cannot believe it was only your second workshop. So planned and practiced, it looked like you had been doing it for ages. I hope that such workshops keep happening in the future to impart some gyaan to us fellas. Thanks a ton.



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