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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

Be Careful, Tread Softly, You Are Living A Dream

That's the way I feel. I knew that I would try getting a novel published sooner or later. But this is much more than I'd expected. My Book Pitch got four publishers interested at The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. And as expected, I'm over the moon.

I like the fact that I don't know where this may lead me. But I know that I've arrived and am here to stay. And I do not say this with arrogance, but with a calm solitude of the person who knows that he has found a calling worth cherishing for the rest of his life through thick or thin. In fact, I count the announcement being made at the David Sassoon Library as an apt omen for the commencement of my writing career.

I find my situation slightly strange, because most of the blogger-cum-writers I know usually have an agent who takes care of all the details that bother us writers, including finding a suitable publisher for the books. In fact, McKoala got an agent recently. And here I've four publishers interested, and I don't yet have an agent to take care of things. God bless me!

Here's a brief outline of the book pitch:
Set in the fictional world of Prince of Wales Medical College attached to Queen Elizabeth Memorial (QEM) Hospital, the novel revolves around the lives of its four central characters – Vinay Sengupta, Bhoomika Sen, Shyamsunder Chatterji, and Arnaz Eduljee.

Vinay is the son of a retired lieutenant colonel, who wants Vinay to join the army as a medical officer when he is done with his studies.

Bhoomika is the daughter of a rich beer baron and a classical singer. Her parents had separated when she was four years old and she has grown up with her mother.

With a banker for his father and a housewife for his mother, Shyamsunder is a bourgeois nerd whose only accomplishment to date is his admission to the prestigious medical school.

The only non-Bengali protagonist, Arnaz is the daughter of a small-time industrialist mother. From her, Arnaz has inherited the verve and vivacity which make her the cynosure of attention on all occasions.

Set amidst the turmoil of anti-reservation riots that flare up across the country, A Cure For The Doctor tells the story of these doctors grappling with the thrill of their newfound affections, the burden of their noble profession, and the apathy of an indifferent government.
Other successful book pitches may be found here.

This book is not the sort that I might normally write - it has more to do with plot and incident than with the literary novel of detached observations that I may be able to pull off easily. You could even classify it as chick-lit or lad-lit due to certain lightheartedness of the romantic plot. For me though, the attempt will largely be styloclastic, if the word exists. It will be a sharp deviation from the sort of literature I appreciate and that I might write in the future. It will be in fact like an illegitimate child with a history more colorful and intriguing than legitimacy can provide.

I wish to thank Peter Griffin, Jason Evans, Sarah Hina, and Amogh Bhole for helping make this possible for me in some way or the other.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed and waiting to see how things shape up. Meanwhile living the dream while it lasts...

My Heart - A Preview

My Heart

Bae Chang-Ho’s My Heart shall be screened today at the Max Mueller Bhavan at 1830 hours i. e. 6:30 in the evening. The director is considered the foremost exponent of the Korean New Wave cinema. In a stark departure from his usual style of film-making, My Heart is set in the Korea of 1920’s.

The movie is shot amidst the beautiful scenery of Korea. It tells the story of Sun-Yi (played by Kim Yoo-Mi, the director’s wife), who is married off to a ten-year old spoiled brat. When her husband grows past adolescence, he brings home a mistress much to the petrifaction of Sun-Yi. The movie tells the story of how Sun-Yi leaves home and searches for an identity of her own. In a way, the movie mirrors the struggle of Korea to find its identity in a shrinking world.

Here’s what director Bae Chang-Ho thought of his movie’s purpose:

In 1985, I filmed Deep Blue Night, which dealt with the issue of identity among illegal Korean immigrants in the U.S.

It has been many years since then and today Korea is experiencing the effects of globalization. The government has made English a must-learn foreign language, which students are required to learn. As the boundaries of culture have become somewhat ambiguous, I think it is time to think seriously about Korean identity.

The answer to the question, ‘Who are Koreans?’ has been the driving force behind making My Heart. I hope people around the world can understand the psychological characteristics of Koreans represented by jung (love, affection) in this movies.

My Heart, my 15th film, has its background in the beginning of the 20th century when the traditional culture of Korea was vividly alive. I hope it shows the origins of Korean way of thinking.

The movie has won the First Prize and Audience Award at Benodes International Film Festival, France and the Audience Award, Udine Far East Film Festival, Italy.

Two of the gems of experimental cinema - Manhatta and The Man With The Movie-Camera - were screened at the Gallery Beyond yesterday. Since I missed the first one (I watched it on the internet anyway), I shall review only The Man With The Movie-Camera.The Man With The Movie-Camera

Made in 1929 by Dziga Vertov with cinematography by his brother Mikhail Khaufman, The Man With The Movie-Camera captures the Russian life in all its avatars. The movie has no story as such, yet one could call it the story of a people and a time.

The movie shows the Russian way of life in minute detail, and not often in the sad way that directors of art movies are wont to perceive. The camera captures in a most natural way the beautifully uncertain smiles, the lips that make unheard whispers, basking ladies, the victories and the excitement, the routine and the indifference - all captured with the devouring eye of a greedy voyeur and the detailed panache of a keen observer. The result is a movie which speaks of life without judgment and the consequent pitfalls that a jaundiced eye brings to the task of film-making.

Dziga Vertov made use of a variety of cinematographic techniques in this movie. The double exposures, the use of slow motion and fast motion techniques, still shots, multiple split-screens were especially prominent and effective throughout the movie.

Made by him in response to critics who ridiculed his earlier film One-Sixth Part Of The World, The Man With The Movie-Camera was Vertov’s cinematic experiment without the use of a premeditated script, actors, sets, and intertitles. And throughout the movie, this fact of experimentation is highlighted when the movie shows a giant camera apprehending the scenes of common life or when it shows people in the theatre watching the man with the movie-camera do his job of (what else but) making a movie.

For me, the darkness, the quiet and the solitude of Gallery Beyond have become as much a part of the experience as the movies themselves. And I seem to grudge when the lights come on and it’s time to leave.

Experimental Cinema For The Cinéastes - The Loss Of Solitude

The third session of Experimental Cinema screenings (and my second), Gallery Beyond showcased the last four of Avant-Garde movies they had chosen to screen. I say chosen to screen because the Avant-Garde Collection (from which the movies are being shown) is a much wider collection comprising many more movies than time would have allowed them to show.

The four movies screened were:

  • Regen (Rain) (Netherlands, 1929) directed by Joris Ivens, 14 minutes: This is a movie every Bombayite would love to watch, especially if you’ve grown up watching the rain and what gentle poetry it can create on the streets and in the minds of men. If you can catch this short film anytime, please do so. It is a lovely evocation of rain in Amsterdam and how people react to it. Perhaps the most lyrical of all Avant-Garde movies, it is for the best that it is a silent movie. The gentle strumming of the guitar throughout the movie is the only sound the movie has. It is the director’s best documentary before he moved on to doing political documentaries. It is now my favorite documentary; when you have watched it, it will be yours too.
  • H2O (US, 1929) directed by Ralph Steiner, 12 minutes: This movie demonstrates what light can do with surfaces, especially with water. An intensive exploration of the play between light and water, it soon delves into abstractions leaving the consciousness of the existence of water behind. Recommended only if you love the sort of cinema that academics can argue and debate over.
  • Even - As You And I (US, 1937) directed by Roger Barlow, Harry Hay, and LeRoy Robbins, 12 minutes: A story of how three directors, fed up with the traditional boy meets girl plot, decide to create a surreal movie for a competition. A funny take on surrealism, it shows the three directors shooting the movie from every angle, even inside drains and on electricity poles. Finally when they are done with the movie, the deadline for the contest has already passed. The movie ends with them seeing the ad for another competition of surreal cinema.
  • Ballet Méchanique (France, 1924) directed by Fernand Leger, 11 minutes: The only movie which I did not like, perhaps for lack of knowledge. It shows different objects in repetitive motion and from different perspectives. I have to agree that this was perhaps the most experimental of the experimental genre.

After the four movies one of which was a spoof of surreal cinema, an anthology of surreal cinema was screened. Then two of Luis Bunuel’s movies - Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’Or both of which were absolutely likeable classics. I’d not planned to sit through them but saw them anyway.

However, there was a noisy crowd to watch the movies with cells ringing and whispers doing the rounds and the shifting of chairs and the moving of people and one guy even suppressing his laughter at his simple comprehension of the complexity of L’Age D’Or, unlike my first time when the screening hall was perfectly calm and silent and it was fun watching the great movies.

Chana Chai Nukkad Natak

Thanks to the innovative organizers of this play, I don’t have to think of a title for this post. ;-)

Organized by Nitin Das and the Sheikh brothers, Chana Chai Nukkad Natak featured two plays enacted wholly by kids from the Akanksha NGO (with some prodding from Nitin who sat at the back of the stage directing the kids and correcting their cute faux pases).

The first play was about a man saddled with an ailing mother, and two brothers - one mad, and the other given to drinking a lot. He wishes to get his mother to a good hospital, to get his mad brother married, and to gift his drinking brother a career. To that end, he forges fake banknotes. The man gives a fake 500 rupees note to his mother, who buys groceries (or ration as it is called out of habit in India, thanks to the Raj’s and then the government’s policy of rationing food). The shopkeeper later recognizes the fake and adulterates food in order to compensate for the loss. The adulterated ration is bought by a lady whose jobless husband eats it, and goes to an interview with a sick stomach. Rejected in the interview, he becomes a nakli doctor. Finally the drinking brother of the man who had forged the note falls ill and is killed by the fake medicine administered by the fake doctor. The play was aptly titled Nakli Duniya.

The second play was about a lad from Patna who apparently learns Karate by watching Mithun Chakraborty movies, comes first in a Karate championship, and with the prize money comes to Bombay to become a film actor. Since he does not know how to read and write, he is looted and chased away by everyone. Finally he meets Munna Bhai who ensures him a role in a movie. But on the sets, the lad is not able to read his dialogues. I forget the name of the play.

The plays had a makeshift workshop feel to them, the sort that theatre practices often have. Both the plays drew huge rounds of applause from the people, who seemed in no mood to hold back any praise that the performers deserved.

There was some scope for further practice in the second play. Nevertheless, even the blunders made by the kids were adorable and the effort made by Nitin Das to provide kids from Akanksha a stage at the Kala Ghoda Fest is commendable indeed to say the least.

The Avant-Garde movie screenings at Gallery Beyond ended twenty minutes early in spite of the organizers thankfully repeating the first two movies by Man Ray which I’d missed on account of being late. I rushed to Eros to catch Bow Barracks Forever; expectedly I was told that the Preview Theatre was filled to capacity. I took a ride back to Kala Ghoda thinking I might have missed the Kathak performance, but might as well drink in on the later performances.

I arrived halfway through the Odissi performance by Ms. Sujata Mohapatra. It was the first classical performance I saw being held in an open-air theatre, so I had my reservations. But Mohapatra’s excellent performance soon dispelled all of them.

Wearing the white raiment and adornments of an Odissi dancer, she might as well have personified the quality of purity. Her dance was one energetic, controlled expression of sublime artistry; her countenance and hands in perfect tandem with the moods of the song being sung.

The music too was splendid, especially the mellifluous vocals (I think it was Bengali/Oriya folk though I’m not quite sure) and the mesmerizing violin and flute whose flourishes were as brilliant as the lithe movements of the dancer’s hands.

There was some clapping in the middle of the performance, but I think it was because the people thought the performance had ended when it was only the music and the dance getting grave and poignant, rather than due to any distaste or boredom. The performance was on the whole a very pleasant affair.

And now for something off the stage. I was standing on the farthest steps of the Amphitheatre, where all the equipment for coordinating sound and lights is arranged. There were two guys handling the stuff - one guy was working on the sounds (let’s call him the sound man) and the other on the lights (let’s call him the light guy). Apparently the light guy wasn’t quite upto it, so every time the lights on the stage had to be changed or the spotlight turned on, the sound man would shout instructions to the light guy, the light guy would fumble with the lights unsuccessfully, then the sound man would get to the lights in a jiffy and do the needful. This hilarious thing happened quite often.

The delay in changing the lights caused funny situations. Once during the performance, when the rains and the storm were supposed to have caused havoc (that’s what the song was about), the music had already turned clarion, the dancer’s face was filled with a show of fear, but the the lights remained as calm as ever while the light guy tried his best to change them. Finally, the sound man got exasperated, got out of his comfortable seat, and changed the lights, bringing the sense of storm on stage.

But Mohapatra was hardly bothered by it, indeed she must’ve not even noticed it so absorbing was her performance both to herself and the viewers. And for that she and the musicians got a huge round of applause in the end.

Experimental Cinema For The Cinéastes - The Gift Of Solitude

I was lazing around in the afternoon and almost on a whim, I decided to attend the Avant-Garde movie screenings held at the Gallery Beyond. And it was so good that at the end of it, I cursed myself for being lazy and not attending on previous days.

The map for the festival does not pinpoint the location of the Gallery. And nobody except the a man standing outside Max Mueller could tell me where Gallery was. As a result, I arrived at the Gallery a full one hour late. To add to my woes, the watchman there told me that games were being played at the Gallery (Yahaan toh khel khila rahein hain).

Just as I was about to leave thinking that the event had been shifted to some other venue at the last minute for which notifications could not be put up on the website, a man told me that movies were indeed being screened at the Gallery and directed me to a door. I entered a darkened hall where the movies were being screened. It was only when my eyes adjusted to the light and I spotted paintings hanging on the walls around me that I realized I’d been ushered into the gallery itself.

The movies were perhaps the best ones I’ve seen in a long time. The immense poetry and purpose of the cinema that I was subjected to reminded me of the thing that I once wrote as a comment on some blog:

Cinema is visual panache and and an eye for detail… It is the story-telling which needs more than cinema to be successful… But after a certain stage, one loses the desire for incident in the movies one watches. As in literature, I want a deeply uninhibited artistic expose once in a while in the movies I watch (never mind if it is wrong or unpopular). So I have relished a movie that shows a sleeping face pass through its various stages of sleep, or an apple captured in the hands of a person with a certain staccato movement of the camera, and many others. It is these experiments that make up cinema for me, I’ve never looked for stories in the movies I like, though that is an added bonus. It is just that my attention is held by the camera and the way it moves much more than anything that it can capture… Cinema ought to have an essay-like pondering quality for it to be worthwhile…

What makes the grace and the nuances of the movies even more deserving of respect is the fact that the sort of cinematic experiments that were showcased in the movies must have been extremely difficult in the 1920’s and 1930’s without the benefit of tricks of our digital age.

The screenings included the following movies (not including any which I might have missed due to being late):

  • Le Tempestaire (The Tempest) (France, 1947) directed by Jean Epstein, 22 minutes: Perhaps the only movie which had some sort of tangible story, The Tempest was perhaps the most lyrical of the day’s finds. It tells the story of a woman whose lover goes out to sea for fishing. Soon, a storm brews up and the woman fears for her lover’s life. Her mother tells her of a man who can sing a song to soothe the raging sea. She goes to the man and offers him her necklace. He refuses to accept anything, but sings a song into a crystal ball that soothes the sea and brings back the lover to the woman’s door. One of Epstein’s best, this movie makes use of slow motion visuals as well as audio. The way the tempest is captured is majestic to say the least.
  • Romance Sentimentale (France, 1930) directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori V. Alexandrov, 16 minutes: Starring the mistress of a rich Parisian, the movie for the most part shows her singing a song. The notes said it bears the mark of Eisenstein in the beginning (though I would not know having watched Eisenstein for the first time myself).
  • Autumn Fire (US, 1931) directed by Herman G. Weinberg, 15 minutes: Best described as a poem in the disguise of a movie, it revolves around the thoughts of two lovers. Shot by Weinberg as a marriage proposal to the star of the movie Erna Bergman, it draws parallels between the story of love and the changing seasons. Bergman married Weinberg within a week of seeing the finished movie. The movie is one of my favorites in the Avant-Garde series.
  • Le Retour à la Raison (Return to Reason) (France, 1923) directed by Man Ray, 2 minutes: Ray’s attempt at creating surreal cinema, it was not accepted by the surrealists. It was created on a whim for being screened at one of the Dada soirées.
  • Emak-Bakia (Leave Me Alone) (France, 1926) directed by Man Ray, 16 minutes: Another one by Man Ray, it was a longer attempt at surrealism, the scenes of lucidity serving only to punctuate the surrealist escapades.

In fact, the last two of the list were repeats for those who had come late and missed them in the beginning.

Lost In Translation

In the one hour I had between the two writing workshops An Introduction To Freelance Writing and The Art Of Translation yesterday, I wandered the corridors of Elphinstone College and its narrow dark staircases that looked as if they belonged to a cold time-forgotten castle more than a college.

I even happened to venture unnoticed into their staff room which has six larger-than-life portraits hung across its walls. And guess what I found!!! One of the portraits was of William Wordsworth (eponymous grandson of the great poet William Wordsworth), who was a principal of the college at one time. Another portrait was that of Peter Peterson, who had been a Professor of Oriental Languages in the college. It might be history to those who know Elphinstone, but it is certainly news to me.

As for The Art Of Translation workshop that followed, it soon regressed into The Craft Of Translation workshop. It is very necessary to have an agenda or at least a purpose which implicitly sets some sort of tacit agenda, especially if the workshop session is going to be as long as three hours. The discussion was often punctuated with silences that hovered in the air of Elphinstone’s Seminar Hall which hosted the poorly attended workshop.

A lot of discussion took place on the problems of finding suitable publishers for translated work, why small publishing houses make a success of it while big publishing houses shy away from it, and the lack of qualified, experienced translators and an agency that unites them and protects their rights. Also the practical difficulties that a translator may encounter while translating from one language to the other (often the second language is English) were discussed in great detail. Attention was also paid to the problems of typesetting and transcreation.

In all, four people attended the workshop including me. One of them was Meera Desai who had translated some stories from Gujarati. Rimi had a look at the manuscript, liked the stories very much, and promised Desai to do something about them. There was a girl who had worked extensively with BNHS, right from the editing stages to the printing stages of its journals and magazines. Then there was a guy who does technical translation from French to English for an organization. I was the only one with little knowledge of translation, and perhaps that is why the workshop didn’t work wonders for me. In the end, the workshop grew intensely boring and meaningful, like a Proust novel with little pace.

The saving grace for me was that the talk was interspersed with discussions on translation of Bengali Literature. I’ve a weakness for Bengali, and for me it has always meant much more than a language. I took Bengali classes some years back, learnt the alphabet, even some poems, then abandoned it midway for no reason at all. But sometimes I still go back to the thin, translucent pages of my textbooks on the Bengali alphabet and Introductory Bengali Literature and sigh with quiet pleasure.

The workshop could have been productive except that it mostly became an analytical debate rather than a workshop. Ultimately art is more important than (and sometimes far removed from) the issues.

Perhaps Rimi Chatterji’s time could have been better used if she had taken a workshop on The Art Of Writing A Novel, especially since her second novel The City Of Love has been published recently.

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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