A Love Poem

By Aishwariya Laxmi

The day I fell in love with you
A poem was born
On the pages of my diary
That’s safe from prying eyes
You awakened inside me
Emotions strong and sublime
I thought about you all the time
Far-away echoes of a time and place
Were replaced with new thoughts
Whispers of happiness
And an image of your face
The person I once was is now gone
And the new me is journeying through life
With the help of words that I string together
To express the feelings that you’ve stirred inside
The very same ones that keep me alive

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“I write to make sense of the world.” – the writer

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Interview with Author Rajasekar KS

  1. Could you tell us what your book ‘How to read your husband like a book’ is about?

It’s about understanding the “inner mind” of husbands through everyday situations. The way they think and act and what it means is revealed through illustrations and little nuggets of insights. It’ll throw light on the behaviour of husbands and is aimed at helping married women understand them.

2. What prompted you to write a book on this topic?

An incident during my college days in 1989 triggered the idea for the book. An aunt in the neighbourhood was telling me one day, “Raj, why is your uncle non responsive when I want to discuss something, on weekends it’s difficult to get the TV remote from him, and he’s forgetful of important things…” This left an indelible mark on me. It cropped up now and then, but finally in 2015, I began to write ‘How to Read Your Husband Like a Book’.

3. When did you start working on this book? How long did it take for you to finish writing it?

As I said, I started penning this in 2015. It took me six years. I had to observe and pick the right situations that resonate with married women, so that it helped them enrich their relationship. 

Author Rajasekar KS and the book cover of his 'How to read your husband like a book'
Author Rajasekar KS and the book cover of his ‘How to Read Your Husband Like a Book’

4. What do you have to say about the institution of marriage?

Marriage is beautiful and everyone must experience it. It has stood the test of time. It’s natural for man and woman to come together but it’s nurturing when we come together and start a family. We’re made that way and I guess will stay that way.

5. What part do you think humour plays in a marriage?

Humour is an important part of the everyday wife-husband relationship and one can laugh away the worries when a spouse has a sense of wit about them. Without humour, marriage could turn out to be rather serious. But on the lighter side, marriage is also fodder for a million jokes.

6. Do you vary your style for writing different content formats? How so?

I chose short form prose laced with humour because the subject is important, the time demands it – reels, shorts, TikTok; and audience attention spans are dipping. Moreover, I chose illustrations and single page nuggets because one should be able to just open the book and read any page. I choose formats based on subject, form, platform etc.  

7. Who are some of your favourite authors?

I loved RK Narayanan, Somerset Maugham and Shakespeare. Even author P Raja, from Puducherry, my professor at college.

8. What advice do you have for newbie authors looking to get published?

Research and find the right kind of publisher who specialises in your genre. An author is a marketer, too, so create plenty of content around the subject of your book and be ready to fire on all cylinders on social media, blog, video, webinar, and more. Find where your audience is and choose the platform to connect with them. Be consistent, but more importantly persistent. It’s a 5-day match, so be ready for the long haul. Don’s lose steam, ever!  

9. Which books on writing would you recommend?

I’ve been writing since the age of seven and I didn’t really read much on writing. I just work on my craft every day, even at 54. But I’d recommend choosing some books/ courses on the art of writing better, signing up on copyblogger, following writers you like.

10. Do you have lessons to share from your own writing journey?

When I was at school, I used to keep a notebook by my side, even when I went to sleep. A writer needs to have some discipline and rigour, so write regularly. That’s something I learnt early. 

I fell in love with the Internet medium when it arrived in the world. I built Zodiacs4u, an astrology blog with 250K page views a month. 13 months later, in 2008, I sold it to a US content company. 

When Slideshare was new, I leveraged it for Impiger Mobile, where I worked for a few years, I grabbed 2000+ leads and 144k views in two years, with 25 decks.

The reason I’m saying this, writers should be curious to test and try new platforms and formats of content. Writers should explore life.

Pick up a copy of ‘How to Read Your Husband Like a Book’ on Amazon

Name, Place, Animal, Thing

Introduction

‘Name, Place, Animal, Thing’ is Daribha Lyndem’s debut novel of 199 pages published by Zubaan books, which is an independent feminist publishing house. They publish fiction, nonfiction, academic and children’s books for, by and about women in South Asia. The book has been longlisted for the JCB prize for literature and named by Vogue India as one of the best summer reads of 2020.  Daribha Lyndem works with the Indian Revenue Service as a Deputy Commissioner of Customs. The book consists of interconnected stories that throw light on Shillong as seen through the eyes of the protagonist as she grows up in the 90s. As someone who has never been to Shillong and who can’t recall reading any book set there, I was eager to read this book, which was sent to me by the kind people at New Asian Writing.

The name of the book immediately brought to mind the game ‘Name, Place, Animal, Thing’ we played as children. The game entailed receiving a letter of the alphabet per round and all participants coming up with a name, a place, an animal and a thing that started with that letter of the alphabet within a specified time and awarding points based on how uncommon the names were. The game is referenced in a couple of chapters of the book.

Brief summary of the ten chapters

In the first chapter, the author tells us the story of Bahadur, a Nepali in Shillong who had five children, one of whom was mauled by dogs. The author goes on to say that hardly anyone came to the boy’s rescue, except for her father.

Chapter two is the story of Mr Baruah who ran a shop that sold cards, stationery, toys and curios located in Barik, the centre of Shillong. Mr Baruah had married a Khasi. In this chapter, we read about a racially motivated hate crime.

Chapter three is the story of Tommy Lu, a Chinese immigrant who owned a Chinese restaurant called AVVA. Two hundred and fifty years ago, Tommy’s forefathers had moved to Kolkata from China. His wife ran a nail salon, his father was a dentist, and he had two children, a son and a daughter. Tommy had to sell his businesses, pack up his things and move to Kolkata with his family since he was a victim of extortion.

In chapter four, the protagonist talks of a yellow bear that her father gave her as a present when she was five. It is the first gift she remembers receiving from her father. She talks of moving from Nongrim hills to their own house in Rynjah when she turned eight. The reader is also introduced to a man known as Cousin Muscles whose moniker was inspired by Jerry’s brawny cousin in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. What happens to the yellow bear as the protagonist grows up forms the theme of the chapter.

Chapter five is about Mrs Trivedi, the Hindi teacher who did not get along with the other teachers. The school children came to their own conclusion that it was because Mrs Trivedi was a divorcee or because she smoked too much. Incidents involving Mrs Trivedi are described and in the end, she leaves the school. “Some said she was back with her husband in Kanpur and that they had made amends. Many joked that she had finally been institutionalised. But soon, people forgot about her.”

Chapter six is about Mr Sarkar, the mathematics teacher and stories involving him.

Chapter seven titled “the Lawmali Graveyard’ is about the protagonist’s grandfather who died in 1984 and the subsequent visits by the family to his grave. “It allowed us to remember those who have passed on, not in a reverential way with stiff sombre faces bowed over a cold stone structure, but in a mellow mood where we retold funny anecdotes. We became comfortable with the dead and more comfortable with our own dying.”

Chapter eight titled Bishar Mary is the story of Bishar Mary or Bi, who came to the house when the protagonist was thirteen. Bi and her husband were not married in the traditional sense although he was the father of her children. They lived together. The protagonist and her friends used the term “Khasi style” whenever a girl had a baby out of wedlock.

Chapter nine or “The revival” is about God and religion in the protagonist’s life. Chapter ten or the final chapter called Yuva is about the protagonist’s best friend Yuva.  

I attended an Instagram Live on 2 October 2021 by Zubaan books at 5 pm when the author read out from one of the chapters in her book. However, due to a technical issue, we all lost audio and couldn’t hear her.  When I rejoined the talk, the reading out from the chapter was over!

Details I gathered from the Instagram Live I attended of the author

The author mentioned that she had bought a kindle mainly to read her own book, which had initially come out only on Kindle, but now the hardback has arrived. The book is semi-autobiographical, but some of it is fictionalised. She called the book Name, Place, Animal, Thing to give a sense of familiarity to the reader since it was a game we all played in school. She also mentioned Flames, which was another game we played. She aimed to make the book “nostalgia-heavy” by “not lachrymose.”  All the chapters are named after Names or places or things. Names of people, place- graveyard, thing- the yellow bear.

She started writing the book in “October of 2017 or 2018” and finished it in February the next year, which was five months. She said she was already thinking of these stories since she was sixteen. The last story in the book is the least fictionalised. The characters were inspired by real people, but she changed all the names. Her close friend Yuva is the only name she hadn’t changed. Yuva died when the author was twenty. It was important to Daribha to write about this death since Yuva was a very close friend. This book will not have a sequel but she has ideas for a second book, which will take time since she is working full time. She is giving it “years and years”.

Quotable Quotes by the author

“I don’t think my book is an all-encompassing novel on Shillong. I only wrote through the eyes of a child”.

“I find the term “NorthEast” and “Seven Sisters” very reductive. I wish people would bother to learn the names of the states.

The author’s favourite books and short stories

She is reading a book called “A swim in a pond in the rain” which is by George Saunders, which was recommended to her by her friend Priya. She likes Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” and Swallowing Mercury” by Wioletta Greg. She tried emulating the work of Ray Bradbury and was inspired by “Swallowing Mercury” by Wioletta Greg, which drew heavily on memories.

“There will come soft rains” by Ray Bradbury is one of her favourite short stories. She likes Saki’s stories ‘The open window’ and ‘Dusk.’ When she was 14 years old, her favourite novel was “The Lord of the Rings”. It meant a lot to her ‘coz her dad gave it to her. When she was 22, “One hundred years of solitude” was her favourite novel. She has read “Wuthering Heights”, “Middlemarch”, “Great Expectations” and “One hundred years of solitude” more than once. She has read fairy tales more than once as a child.

The author’s advice to new writers

She gives advice to new writers, “Think of it as a job. If you decide to write five chapters, write five chapters every day. Keep an hour every day for writing. Shut out your YouTube and Instagram. I like to keep a book I admire next to me and when I feel stuck, I open it for inspiration.”

The Whole Wide World

I was recently featured in ‘The Whole Wide World,’ a unique anthology by Sweetycat Press. The book consists of “episodes” from 80 authors worldwide. The cover by Priti J is eye-catching and tremendously appealing.

Of all the anthologies my writing has featured in, I had the most fun writing this one. My dad tells me that this type of writing by multiple authors of a detective story was popular in English serial magazines in the 1920s, and Agatha Christie was one such famous early writer of such episodes.

The book is targeted at 14-18-year-olds and follows the adventures of Detective Curly Knucklewad and his assistant, Wanda Wowzer, as they travel the world to look for the missing recipe of the Limp Noodle Sauce. The episodes are by turn comic and chilling. Mine is the eighth “episode” in this anthology.

Book Cover of The Whole Wide World designed by Priti J

How The Whole Wide World was assembled- ( from the book)  “Each episode is a flash fiction story or narrative poem, each one without a specific conclusion that fit together like a puzzle. It’s comparable to watching a TV show where each episode presents new situations and new dilemmas but the show itself is The Whole Wide World. The main characters, Detective Curly Knucklewad, and his assistant, Wanda Wowzer, may change slightly( another remarkable thing is how similarly they are portrayed in so many episodes), but given that the 79 authors whose episodes were accepted for this anthology were given nothing to go by other than the names and roles of the detective and his assistant, the two characters never go outside the parameters of what they are to do: search for the thief who stole the Limp Noodle Sauce recipe.”

Here are some mentions of the book:

From PR Log

From Scoop

The 512-page book is available for purchase on Amazon India and is available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. The paperback is available on Amazon USA.

You can read reviews of the book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Interview with Author Ranjani Rao

  1. Your memoir “of divorce and discovery” will be out soon. Could you tell us more about the book?

Rewriting My Happily Ever After is a true story of a three-year period of my life. At that time, I had walked out of my marriage of sixteen years. Despite being brought up in Mumbai, having an advanced degree and having returned after spending fourteen years in the US, I had always lived in either my parent’s or husband’s house. Moving out was a major decision which required me to learn, unlearn and relearn many things while I figured out my new life as a single parent. My book covers my journey to independence.

2. What prompted you to write this memoir?

I wrote this memoir for three reasons

  1. To stop hiding my pain
  2. To seek closure
  3. To help other women who may find themselves at the same crossroads as me.

Going ahead with the decision to divorce is not a trivial one for women who live in a culture that looks down upon a ‘broken family’. Even women who are financially self-sufficient or have family support prefer to live in a unhappy but familiar state instead of finding a happy life outside of the known boundaries of their life. I wanted to share my thinking process and the coping strategies I used to figure out my new life.

3. How long did it take for you to write this book? Could you tell us more about your journey?

I procrastinated for over ten years but began writing earnestly in Jan 2021. I wrote for 50 minutes every morning before my workday began. It required commitment, discipline, and some suffering to bring the book to life. Some days it was difficult to relive those painful memories of the past but the greater goal of connecting with readers made me keep going.

4. This is your fourth book. How has the experience of writing it been when compared to your first three books?

My earlier books were compilations of short stories (Negative Space) and essays (No Longer NRI and Train Friends). Those were easier to put together because they were written as standalone pieces around a theme.

This memoir is my first major book-length creation and took much more concentrated effort. I wrote the chapters as independent pieces and then moved them around to make the narrative cohesive. It required three drafts, a handful of beta readers and a professional edit to bring it to its final stage.

5. How did you gear up to write this memoir?

To be honest, I needed a lot of convincing to sit down and write this book. I intuitively knew that there was a need for such a story to be out there because divorce is a topic that Indians/South Asians tend to brush under the carpet. Still, I was reluctant to subject myself to the pain of reliving a difficult part of my past. But having a decade-long gap between the events described and the writing made it bearable. I am glad I wrote it because the writing was cathartic and also gave me closure.

6. What advice do you have for someone who would like to write their memoir?

I would recommend that you read a lot of memoirs to get a good understanding of the literary form. While there are formulas and standard approaches, you should be clear about the story you want to tell and how you want to do it because after all, memory is subjective and evolving. Just like a fiction writer chooses what to put in and what to leave out, a memoir writer also creates a narrative with very specific and intentional choices about the story and the storytelling, even though the events are unchangeable.

7. How has your background as a scientist helped you in your writing process?

This is an interesting question. As I mention on my website, I observe life carefully, look for signs and trends, verify it with my own understanding and then propose a solution, a suggestion, or an insight. Personal essays come easily to me because of my background because it involves a deep exploration of certain ideas and themes. And although I enjoy fiction, it does not come as naturally to me.

8. Whose memoirs would you recommend to writers?

I have read memoirs by Americans like Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love), Dani Shapiro, Melissa Gouty – I would recommend all of them. Recently I have become very interested in memoirs by Indian writers like Kalpana Mohan, Ashwini Devare and Rohini Rajagopal. I interviewed these three authors on my blog and the discussion was fascinating. I intend to continue the author interview series for Indian memoir writers.

9. Who are your favourite authors and what genres do you like?

My current favorite fiction writers are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Marjan Kamali. I also read a lot of non-fiction – current read is How to raise a feminist son by Sonora Jha and of course, I’m always on the lookout for memoirs J

10. Do you have lessons to share from your writing journey?

Writing is a means of creative expression. But like all art, it requires patience, practice, and discipline to hone the craft and to go deeper. The learning happens in the doing and gives tremendous personal satisfaction. Being able to share it with others is the other side of the coin which is wonderful but is not the motivation to continue with your work of writing. It helps to keep this in mind.

If you want to write, do it for the right reasons.

Signup for Ranjani’s biweekly newsletter here

Interview with Author Rishi Vohra

  1. What’s your latest book, ‘Diary of an Angry Young Man’ about?

Hello Aishwariya. Diary of an Angry Young Man is inspired by true events and the protagonist is based on a real person. The book is set in Bombay in 1992 and Mumbai in 2012, the latter around the time of the Nirbhaya incident, which had moved the nation to anger. Among these angry people is one ordinary angry young man whose anger and actions bring him under the radar of both the police and the beggar mafia. In addition, he has unemployment and a volatile home environment to contend with. Through his journey, we see how a disturbed childhood can lead to an unfocused and unstable adulthood. And how hope and clarity can come from the most unexpected of people and places. The genre of the book is Coming-of-Age/Crime/Drama.

2. What prompted you to write ‘Diary of an Angry Young Man’?

When I was a kid, there was one particular young man in the area close to where I lived, who had become a figure of childhood folklore of sorts and we knew him only by his nickname. He had achieved a high level of recognition, given the issues he stood up for and the scraps he got embroiled in. He seemed destined to go nowhere in life.

I visited the area years later as an adult, and was surprised to learn about how life had completely turned around for him and his current vocation. His unique journey revealed him to be an unreasonable and fearless man, and I admired his resilience and goodness of heart despite the cards that life had dealt him. I felt compelled to tell the surreal story of this angry young man.

3. When did you start working on this novel? How long did it take for you to finish writing it?

I started writing this novel in 2013, right after the Nirbhaya incident had shaken the country to its core. It started off as a short story and I finished it in a month or so. Yet, it felt incomplete as there was much more to this man’s journey and a short story wasn’t doing justice to it. I rewrote it as a full-length novel and kept working on it off and on and over the years to its final draft in 2021. So, to answer your question Aishwariya, it was written over eight years but the first full-length manuscript took around six months.

4. Could you tell us about your writing journey and the books you’ve written?

I started writing my first novel when I was pursuing my MBA in Sustainability at San Francisco State University. In my free time, I sat down to pen a screenplay (since I was a recent Bollywood export) but wrote a book instead. I had no intention or even knowledge of publishing but thoroughly enjoyed the process. A friend read my draft and encouraged me to publish it. The book was Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai and was awarded a special mention at the Hollywood Book Festival and longlisted for the 2013 Crossword Book Awards, which encouraged me to write further. Two novels followed – HiFi in Bollywood and I am M-M-Mumbai. Diary of an Angry Young Man is my fourth novel.

In addition, my short story, The Mysterious Couple, was featured in Sudha Murty’s anthology – Something Happened on the Way to Heaven and another short story, Kaala Baba, in Neil D’Silva’s urban horror anthology – City of Screams. My other short stories include The Saas-Bahu Conflict which was published in the HBB Horror Microfiction Anthology and In Your Eyes in Tell me Your Story’s LGBTQ anthology Pride, Not Prejudice : Decriminalising Love.

5.Your earlier books were Mumbai-centric. How have they been received?

Even though the books were Mumbai-centric, they were well-received my readers all over. The books are set in Mumbai because that’s the place where the stories come from, since I grew up there, but the emotions and conflicts in the books are universal. I try to make Mumbai a character my books so that the setting doesn’t seem alien to readers who don’t know much about the city.

6. Do you have lessons to share from your own writing journey?

Writing is a very solitary and challenging journey that can alienate one from the things and people that matter. One has to learn to switch off and on from one’s book.

Also, it helps to keep making notes and have some clarity before commencing the writing journey rather than putting pen to paper and seeing where it goes. The stories somehow come out better.

7. You’ve written short stories and novels. What different techniques do you apply for both?

Both are enjoyable experiences and require courage before I commit myself to writing them. But for short stories, I need to have full clarity on every part of the story and character as the length is short and any new addition while writing could throw me off course. With novels, there is room to move things around, bring in new characters, twists etc. as I have enough length to do justice to them. So, with novels, I have more freedom to be spontaneous with some aspects as long as the beginning, end and certain essential elements are in place.

8. What do you think are the qualities essential for a good writer?

Passion, diligence, patience and discipline. Above all, reading helps make one a better writer.

9. Could you name some of your favorite books?

I have favorite authors rather than favorite books. My genre of choice is crime fiction and my favorite authors are mostly from Europe who write crime fiction series in their own languages which are translated into English. I can’t think of any book that I have read more than once.

10. Which books on writing would you recommend to aspiring writers?

For fiction, Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk. Of course, there are many more. For aspiring writers, the best way to develop your writing style and instincts is by reading EVERYTHING, with a focus on the genre in which you want to write in.

Four Books I Read Recently

  • The Comfort Book by Matt Haig – This book is like a warm hug. The author shares with readers a list of his favourite movies, recipes and books in addition to his musings on life. In short, he writes about all the things that bring him comfort in the hope that they could help the reader, too. Matt Haig has always been open about his mental health struggles and I’ve loved his other books like The Midnight Library and Reasons to Stay Alive. What I loved about this book is that unlike some other books that discuss mental health, this one is least likely to be triggering for the reader.
  • The Full Platter by Abha Iyengar- I loved this collection of flash fiction by Abha Iyengar. Each story is different and with 40-odd stories, the reading experience is pleasant and enjoyable.
  • The Secret Life of Debbie G by Vibha Batra and Kalyani Ganapathy – This graphic novel is a coming-of-age tale about a sixteen-year-old girl named Soundarya, who likes to be called Arya. In the book, we enter Soundarya’s world and discover that her mother is a divorcee, who is looking to remarry and has a suitor in mind. How Soundarya deals with this new development, considering she might soon have a half-brother and half-sister forms the crux of the book. Add to it teenage drama involving becoming the talk of her school due to social media and how it changes the relationships in her life and you have a rather spicy graphic novel for the modern reader. It addresses issues such as fat-shaming, sexuality, gender, outing, bullying etc and is suitable for the internet generation.
  • Arrivederci by Amrita Valan – I read this collection of fifty poems by Amrita Valan. There is no underlying theme to the book. It is a collection of her fifty best poems. Some of the poems are rather long. I liked the last poem in the book titled ‘The Last Poem’ the best. I also liked ‘Life Lessons of a Poet’.  Her poems deal with themes of love, longing, loss and death.

10 classics with less than 200 pages

Some readers get put off by tomes. Some people have lost the habit of reading books and are looking to get back to it. For the benefit of these readers, I’ve compiled a list of 10 books having less than 200 pages each. Happy reading.

  1. The picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde – 165 pages

This is Oscar Wilde’s only novel. Wilde combines elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction. It is a portrayal of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young man in late 19th-century England. The premise of the book is that as Dorian Gray lives a life of crime and decadence, his body retains its youth while his portrait reflects his debauchery

2. The wind in the willows-Kenneth Grahame- 172 pages

Four friends – the mole, the rat, the badger and the toad – go on a series of adventures. They explore the mysteries of life in the Wild Wood. They end up in a car crash, in jail, and a battle with weasels. A tale of wanderlust, this book will appeal to several generations

3. The painter of signs – R.K. Narayan- 183 pages

The painter of signs is the story of Raman, who paints signboards in Malgudi, R.K. Narayan’s fictional town. Daisy is an attractive young woman who engages Raman to paint signs advocating two-child families. This bittersweet tale of love in India reveals as much about the country as it does about its lead pair

4. The thirty-nine steps – John Buchan – 133 pages

This is the first and arguably the best of John Buchan’s Richard Hannay thrillers. Scudder, who is being chased by deadly traitors, seeks refuge at Hannay’s residence. He is soon found dead with a dagger driven through his heart. Accused of his murder, Hannay flees his home and takes on the culprits after being cleared by law

5. Bonjour Tristesse- Francoise Sagan – 113 pages

Cecile leads a hedonistic life with her father and his young mistress. When she is on holiday in the south of France, she takes a lover. However, when her father decides to remarry, a tragedy takes place

A picture of the 10 classics mentioned in the blog post

6. The prince and the pauper – Mark Twain – 190 pages

Two boys – one an urchin from London and another, a prince from a palace unwittingly trade identities. The urchin finds a life of riches while the prince is reduced to a life of rags

7. A streetcar named desire – Tennessee Williams – 142 pages

It is one of the most renowned plays of our time, winning a Pulitzer prize. Blanche Du Bois, a southern beauty meets a tragic end brought on by her insensitive brother-in-law, Stanley Kowlaski. The movie of the same name starred Marlon Brando as Kowlaski and Vivien Leigh as Blanche

8. Of mice and men – John Steinbeck- 121 pages

This novella is about two drifters – George and simple-minded Lennie. They start working on a ranch and George must keep his friend out of trouble. It is a powerful tale of friendship.

9. A room of one’s own – Virginia Woolf- 117 pages

This essay by Virginia Woolf was first published in 1929. The author develops the idea of what would have happened to Shakespeare’s sister, arguing for the value of independence for any creative writer.

10. The outsider – Albert Camus- 111 pages

Mersault is a non-conformist. When his mother dies, he refuses to show any emotion. He commits a random act of violence and again lacks remorse, which compounds his guilt in the eyes of the law and society. This portrayal of a man confronting the absurdity of human life is an existentialist classic.

Hemingway’s way to good writing

Ernest Hemingway is so popular in literature that there is a writing/editing app named after him: The Hemingway app. The renowned writer’s most famous work is arguably ‘The Old man and the sea,’ for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

I started re-reading Hemingway’s ‘A moveable feast’ last week. It is a memoir of his life in Paris in the 1920s although written during the last years of his life. He writes about his encounters with literary stars like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and others. “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway to a friend in 1950.

In this blog post, I have compiled the following four tips from his observations on writing in ‘The Moveable Feast’:

Tip 1- Stop writing when you know what’s going to happen next.

“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way, I could be sure of going on the next day. (Page 7)

I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it. (Page 16)

Tip 2: Write one true sentence. Cut the ornament out and start with the first true simple declarative sentence.

“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. So finally, I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut the scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. Up in that room, I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline. “ ( Page 7)

Tip 3- Don’t think about writing when you are not writing. Put your subconscious mind to work.

“It was in that room that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time, I would be listening to other people and noticing everything.” (Page 7)

Tip 4- Use similes to bring your writing to life.  

Hemingway’s descriptions of women are rich and beautiful. ” She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain- freshened skin, and her hair was black as a crow’s wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek,” he says of a girl in a café. ( Page 3)

Ernest Hemingway had a minimalist style of writing, and he believed in writing short sentences. Writers and editors would do well to read his work and glean lessons from his writing style.

Composition of a Woman

I read ‘Composition of a woman’ by Christine E Ray, a book of poems about womanhood and its attendant issues. ‘Composition of a woman’ is her debut collection of poetry that won the Reader’s Favourite Bronze Medal in Poetry in 2019.

Christine has covered topics such as fibromyalgia, depression, menopause, love, heartbreak, middle age, sexuality and vulnerability in her poems. She has laid bare her emotions on these pages unreservedly. Although dealing with complex emotions and topics, the book flows easily and will most likely have you returning to it to check out how a turn of phrase sits on the page or how something was described. The poet writes with candour and without a trace of self-consciousness or self-indulgence.

Cover of ‘Composition of a Woman’

The collection is in free verse, but some of the work is prose-poetry.

In one of her poems, she wonders how “girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice”. She notes that some of them are mean girls!

Her ‘On becoming a poet’ encapsulates what it is to be a poet –

“Sometimes, adopting the names ‘writer’ and ‘poet’ led her to encounters with the most amazing minds connecting her with a larger community

At other times she thought that ‘writer’ and poet’ were the loneliest names she had ever called herself waking up every morning

To unzip her chest, her gut

And bare her truths to the world

Because like others of her kind

She was complex, messy containing

Multiple truths, not a singular one…”

Her sense of humour sparkles through some of the poems. Some of her poems are named after books by famous authors such as The Bluest Eyes, Bad Feminist, We should all be feminists, The bell jar etc.  She draws from the canon of great feminist literature and weaves magic on the pages of this tribute to womanhood. Read it! It’s available on Kindle Unlimited for free.

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