KINTSUGI: Flash Fiction First – Volume 1 edited by Abha Iyengar

I’m so pleased to have my flash fiction piece ‘Mended and Precious’ featured in ‘KINTSUGI: Flash Fiction First – Volume 1’ edited by Abha Iyengar.

There are 13 flash fiction pieces by different writers, both new and established, curated in this book. While all the stories are on the theme of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of melding and repairing broken objects with gold lacquer, the way each writer approaches the topic is unique.

Book Cover

Abha Iyengar has declared three honourable mentions and two prizes for the best stories.

The first story ‘Come Lie Down Beside Me’ by Aakshat Sinha got an honourable mention. It’s about how touch can evoke such different sensations, depending on whether it is consensual or not. The story is inspired by the artwork of Sangita Datta.

The second story is the one I wrote – ‘Mended and Precious’ – it’s about finding love when you are broken.

The third story ‘Snow Days’ by Anushree Bose got second place in the contest. It’s about a couple that moves in together during the lockdown.

The fourth story is ‘Line Break’ by Gayatri Lakhiani Chawla and I loved how it ended. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet, so I won’t mention why I loved it.

‘Strangers’ by Kinshuk Gupta was an interesting read since the story reveals how we look at the world through the lens of our own past experiences and schema and how sometimes we misjudge people due to that. This story got an honourable mention.

‘The Broken Glass’ by Ramya Srinivasan also got an honourable mention. The story comes with a twist.

‘Hemingway’ by Sandeep Narayanan also comes with a twist at the end.

‘Sequins’ by Saritha Rao Rayachoti is about how all of us are broken and how some of us manage to feel whole again. The story won the first place in this competition.

‘Golden Touch’ by Smeetha Bhoumik is about a family, a surprise and a reunion.  

‘An Artist’s Life’ by Subhana Sawnhy is about a marriage between Meera and an older man, how it plays out and how Meera finds herself again.


‘Scars to Be Embraced’ by Vaishali Saxena is a story about sexual abuse, which is written in an epistolary form.

‘Never Again’ by Vandana Jena is about Sujata, an older woman who reclaims her life.

‘Slap’ by Vijayalakshmi Sridhar is a story of domestic abuse and how the victim learns to leave.

All the stories are about healing and hope. I recommend this anthology to readers looking for comfort and hope during these turbulent times.

The book is available here and is free for kindle unlimited subscribers. Do read it and leave a review on Amazon. Even a line will do:)

Interview with Author Meera Rajagopalan

  1. Could you tell us about your book ‘The Eminently Forgettable Life of Mrs. Pankajam’?

It’s a diary of a 63-year-old woman, who has just started to lose her memory. The book helps us see her world through her eyes: as a mother, wife, mother-in-law, grandmother, friend, and many more relationships whose contours change, sometimes rapidly, over time. The book is available on Amazon.

2. What inspired you to write it?

The seed was sown when my husband’s aunt visited us once, and she could not remember any of us, but she played with my toddler children. We thought she understood who they were, but she simply said,  “Does one need to remember them to enjoy them?” That got me thinking about identity and memory.

3. When did you start working on this novel?

It was late 2016. I was part of Writer’s Ink, a wonderful critique group created by Radhika Meganathan, for which I submitted this.

Author Meera Rajagopalan

4. How long did it take from idea to novel?

Surprisingly, not very long! About 60 days is what the first draft took. That’s definitely an exception for me, though.

5. Could you tell us about your publishing journey during the pandemic?

Actually, not much happened, except that the publication date got pushed. However, the journey was long, as you can imagine.

6. What else would you like to tell us about your book?

Read it!

7. What are your other published pieces? Can you share links to some of them? (anthologies/ articles etc)

I’ve published short stories in a few anthologies.

https://thewire.in/books/short-story-road-safety

https://www.helterskelter.in/newwriting/vol68.

8. Which are some of your favourite novels?

Oh, there are many. Recently I read and loved The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, and The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester. Actually, I was a big fan of non-fiction before I started writing, and have now managed to graduate to speculative fiction!

9. What advice do you have for a writer who is looking to get published?

I am not experienced enough to dispense advice! I am still trying to understand this evolving space. I think it’s important to understand why you write and choose your path accordingly, and also that there is no bad reason to write!

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

Who doesn’t love On Writing by Stephen King? And, of course, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which is sort of a manifesto for women’s space in literature.

Interview with Author Radhika Acharya

1. Could you tell us about your books?

The Funny side of it is an ebook on Amazon Kindle. It is a collection of anecdotes on varied general topics – all ranging from mildly funny to hilariously witty. The anecdotes were either inspired by a news item, an event,  or something that I saw or heard somewhere.

The Adventures of the JP family is a paperback published by Mark-Fly publishers from Coimbatore. The book is about a middle-class Indian family and the adventures and misadventures faced by its members, as they go about their daily lives. It is a hilariously funny book and has been well received by readers.

2. Could you tell us about your publishing journey.

I self-published ‘The funny side of it’ on Kindle Direct Publishing. It is a very user-friendly platform and once one gets the hang of it, it is fairly simple. Of course, I did have a lot of valuable advice and suggestions from co-authors and much help from my two sons while doing it.

‘The adventures of the JP family’ was picked up by Mark-Fly publishers from Coimbatore. They brought it out as a paperback for me. Once my manuscript was accepted, the only thing I had to do was approve the cover designs and go along with their strategies.

3. What inspires you to write humour?

To be frank, I really don’t know. It’s just who I am. As far back as I remember, right from my school and college days, all my writings tended to border on the humorous side. That doesn’t mean I never write other stuff. I have written a few articles, poems and short stories where there is no scope for humor too. 

Author Radhika Acharya

4. You also write a humorous column on Kamalamma for TOI blogs. How did that come about?

Kamalamma is typically middle-class and she represents the Indian woman of this generation – quite traditional but at the same time would like to show that she can be modern too.

When I pitched TOI and was selected to be a blogger with them, I thought it would be the perfect platform to launch Kamalamma, given the wide reach of TOI and the brand name. And frankly speaking, I never expected that she would be received with so much enthusiasm by the public and become so hugely popular as she has become.

5. Who are some of your favourite authors?

While I grew up on Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Sydney Sheldon, Ruskin Bond and Sudha Murthy to name a few, I also love reading Jojo Moyes, Chetan Bhagat, Amish, Mary Higgins Clarke. It all depends on what I feel like reading at any given time, but for comfort reading I always go back to my all-time favourites – PG Wodehouse and Georgette Heyer.

6. What advice do you have for aspiring humor writers?

To be honest, I am not that experienced or seasoned a writer to give advice, but having said that, I do recommend anyone attempting humor to not make too much of an effort to be funny. Writing, humor or any other genre for that matter, is an extension of yourself after all, so it should flow naturally from within.

7. What do you do to promote your books?

You have asked a question which is actually a sore point with me. While I enjoy writing thoroughly, I lag behind in networking. That’s where I lost out on a lot of potential readers when I first started my blog Radhika’s diaries with WordPress. I had only so many followers who regularly came back to my posts.  I have reached this stage by being consistent and persistent. But I have realized since, that a writer does not live on an island. We cohabitate with other writers and authors. It’s ‘give and take’ and that’s really wonderful.

8. Humour is difficult to write. Do you agree? What are your views on this?

I don’t know what to say since, as I mentioned in Q. 3, humor has been my forte ever since I began writing; It would be difficult for me to speak for anyone else who attempts to write humor because every writer’s journey is different.

9. Are you writing your next book yet? Tell us more.

To be frank, my publisher Mark-Fly has advised me not to rush things and to concentrate on Adventures of the JP family for some time. I am following their advice and quite enjoying the whole process. But of course, I am working on the draft for my next book and at this stage all I can say is that it’s a romcom based on a real story.

10. How do you find material for your column and books? Do you draw from real life?

While all my characters and situations are fictitious, I draw inspiration from real life people and events around me and then let my over-active imagination do the rest. My mind runs ahead with ideas and sometimes I have to rein it in, keeping in mind the word-count and the patience of readers.

My writerly life for the last couple of weeks

I’m a part of the Himalayan First Draft Club and I’ve been attending their sessions with writers on Sundays. We had an initial kick-off session on Zoom with Chetan Mahajan, who owns and runs the Himalayan Writing Retreat.

So far, I’ve attended zoom sessions featuring Kanchana Banerjee and Vish Dhamija. I’ve watched webinars and Live Sessions featuring Kanchana Banerjee before, but this was my first time attending a session with author Vish Dhamija. Kanchana Banerjee’s novels include ‘A forgotten affair’( Harlequin) and ‘Nobody’s Child’ ( Harper Collins India 2019). She is working on her third novel. Vish Dhamija is an award-winning crime fiction writer who has written about 10 books, mostly legal thrillers. His debut novel was ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ ( Srishti Publishers). His next book ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ is releasing this month from Pan Mac Millan India. It is available for pre-order.

Prisoner’s Dilemma by Vish Dhamija

Writers from all over the country and some outside India, too, are a part of the April cohort of the Himalayan FDC. Many of them are a book old, while some have written short stories and poems. There is a Google Excel sheet where we are all supposed to enter our word count for the day. We are expected to write every day of this month. We are also part of a whatsapp group. I’m halfway through the programme and being in touch with so many writers has helped me stay motivated although I’ve been a silent lurker. I’ve been writing a poem a day, keeping with NaPoWriMo.

I’m also a part of a writers’ whatsapp group by Blogchatter called ‘Help me write a book’. I’d joined that a couple of months back and decided I would write poetry this year. I’d written three poems based on a different theme as a part of this group, but for NaPoWrimo, I changed the theme and I’ve been writing a poem a day on my new theme.

What have you been reading and writing? Do let me know in the comments section.

Interview with Author Sudesna Ghosh

  1. How many books and novellas have you written so far?

I started out as a short story writer. My short stories for children and adults have been published in newspapers and magazines across India. My book publishing career started with two nonfiction books – published by Harlequin India and Collins. After that, I started self publishing my short stories and novellas and there are about 20 of these ebooks right now. Recently, two of my romance novellas were published by Juggernaut Books.

2. Could you tell us about your writing journey?

My writing journey began in school when a teacher encouraged me to write stories and read them out to my classmates. I grew up reading books and always thought it would be wonderful to live in the world of publishing. My idols were authors like Beverly Cleary and P G Wodehouse. So, during my full time stint at a major newspaper, I asked them if I could write short stories for the kids’ supplement. And that’s how my writing career got serious.

The chance to traditionally publish two nonfiction books came a couple of years after I became a full time writer. After that, I wanted to take advantage of self publishing, inspired by Sundari Venkatraman who showed us what a good option it is. And with time and experience, I can say that both paths to publishing have pros and cons. That’s why I recently published two romance novellas with a publisher too.

3. What is your educational background? How has it helped you in your writing?

I am a psychology graduate from University of Rochester (USA) and I’ve always had a keen interest in human behaviour and emotions. My understanding of human nature and my empathy that has come from that, has helped me write characters from the heart. When I write, it is easy to put myself in the character’s shoes/mind/heart.

Author Sudesna Ghosh

4. Could you tell us about your latest book?

My new novella, Mira, is about a woman who has just escaped from a domestic abuse situation. She is eager to find herself. Her estranged husband wants to make things difficult for her and her father isn’t supportive because divorce is looked down upon in society.  But Mira has support and the willpower to build a new life. That includes finding love in an unexpected place.

5. You are a mental health advocate as well. Could you tell us more about the work you do in this area and why you chose to do it?

I chose to speak openly about my struggles with anxiety and depression on social media and with anyone else who wants to talk to me. Twitter has a good mental health community that encouraged me to speak up. Twitter is the place where I found out that I’m not alone.

In my writing, I have protagonists with mental health issues sometimes, including anxiety and body image issues.

6. Which are some of your favourite reads?

I love reading books by Sarah Morgan and Mandy Baggot. I recently read a fun book called Excess Baggage by Richa S. Mukherjee. Reet Singh has a very romantic book with a hot hero called Satin & Sapphire. Loved it.

7. Name some of your favourite literary characters.

Lord Emsworth and Jeeves from P G Wodehouse books. Ramona from Beverly Cleary books. Andrea from The Devil Wears Prada.

8. Out of all your books, which one is closest to your heart and why?

I am a cat lady and a proud cat mom, so Crazy Cat Lady Finds Love is closest to my heart.

9. Which is one book (other than your own) that you would highly recommend to bibliophiles?

This is too hard! I recently loved a nonfiction book about the Jaipur royal family called The House of Jaipur. I rarely read this genre but it was very informative and written in an interesting way.

10. Any words of advice to aspiring novelists?

Find out what works for you – whether it’s 20 minute writing sprints or early morning writing sessions. Don’t try to copy anyone’s style. Be you. And don’t use two words where one will do.

More of this and that

Hi! How’s everyone been doing?

I read ‘Twenty Love Poems and a song of despair’ by Pablo Neruda recently. This book had been on my TBR for a long time – I think a couple of years, in fact. But now that I’ve read it, I’m a bit underwhelmed. Maybe I just expected too much from it.

I’ve been attending the BlogchatterWritFest and so far, they’ve had online sessions with Samit Basu, Sidharth Jain, Amanda Deibert, Pallavi Aiyar, Jenny Bhatt, Jayashree Kalathil and Manreet Sodhi Someshwar.

In one of these sessions, I learned about the Pomodoro method of time management. You can read more about it here.

I read Kuzhali Manickavel’s ‘Eating sugar, Telling Lies’ recently. It’s a short and slightly disturbing read. I loved her writing style and also her use of monikers in the story.

I read ‘Three is a lonely number; a story in verse form on Kindle Unlimited. The plot was a bit Bollywoodish, but I enjoyed it all the same.

I loved ‘The adventures of the JP family’ by Radhika Acharya! I’ve been reading the author’s Kamalamma series on her blog for a while now. This book, where she has created new characters of the JP family has her trademark sense of humour on every page. The author makes even an ordinary event appear funny through her skilled writing. It’s a must-read!

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

It was my birthday recently and as is the new practice at the Creative Soul Club by Blogchatter, the birthday girl ( me)  was admin for the day. I shared a picture of Starry Night, the world-famous painting by Vincent Van Gogh and asked the members to a) Use one word to describe the emotion it triggers in them b) Write a brief poem ( even 4 lines was good). c) Try to replicate the painting d) Share a song that it reminds them of. e) Write a story.

I got a bunch of interesting answers! Would you like to try it?

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

Hello, everyone! How’s your reading coming along?

A little while ago, I read ‘La Douler Exquise’ by Kavya U Janani. I’d bought this book in December 2020 and read it only recently. The book features poems about unexpressed and unrequited love and makes for a nice read. It’s available on Kindle Unlimited.

I read ‘moon letters’ – micropoetry by Dr. Saumya Goyal with artwork by Namita Jain. I loved some of the poems and all of the artwork.

 ‘Women Mutiny,’ is a collection of stories that were winners of the Muse of the month contest conducted by Womensweb. It is available on Kindle Unlimited. I enjoyed this collection a lot and I know it’s not fair to compare, but I liked this one better than another collection ‘No apologies’ that they’d brought out a couple of years back and I’d read in January 2020.

Image courtesy: Unsplash

I read ‘Writing Flash Fiction: How to Write Very Short Stories and Get Them Published’ by Carly Berg. The book had some useful tips. I also read ‘Eating sugar, telling lies,’ a short story by Kuzhali Manickavel, which was compelling. I’d read and reviewed her ‘Insects are just like you and me except some of them have wings’ in 2010. Read my review of the book here.

On my TBR list are Kiran Manral’s ‘Kitty Party Murder’, Jenny Bhatt’s ‘Each of us killers,’ Ushasi Sen Basu’s ‘A killer among us.’ I also want to catch up with instalments 2 and 3 of the Mo Mystery series by Ushasi Sen Basu: The Cursed Stone: Readomania Singles (The Mo-Mysteries Book 2) and The Flatmate: Readomania Singles (The Mo-Mysteries Book 3). I know! I know! I seem to be on a murder mystery rampage 😀

I’d set a goal to read only 12 books this year, but seeing that it’s only mid-March and I’ve already exceeded my target, I guess I’m going to be reading a lot more. It’s always better to under-promise and over deliver😊

Do let me know in the comments section if you’ve read any of the books on my TBR. It would be great if you could share your reviews, too!

My Reading and Writing Pursuits Last Week

I bought a Kindle copy each of Chinese Whiskers and Jakarta Tails by Pallavi Aiyar recently. I’d picked up both books since I love cats. However, after reading about 50% of Chinese Whiskers, I’m berating myself for my impulsive buys. I will make it a point to finish Chinese Whiskers, but I’m not enjoying it much. I find it boring and I feel that children may enjoy it better since it is from the perspective of the cats. I think it is important to read reviews of a book before you buy it, so that the chances of disappointment are fewer. To top it, I found ‘losing’ misspelt in the book( at 38% of the book), and since that is a pet peeve of mine, I’m doubly disappointed. The illustrations, however, are cute.

Today, I received a copy of ‘The Karachi Deception’ by author Shatrujeet Nath. I’d won this book in a Facebook giveaway conducted by the author a couple of weeks back. I look forward to reading it.

This year, I’d started with my morning pages from ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, but I soon abandoned them ‘coz I didn’t want to feel that I HAD to do them. I wanted my time to be mine to use as I saw fit or to squander. I’m on Page 112 of the workbook and I’ve not been doing it week after week as recommended. It is supposed to be a continuous 12-week programme to artistic recovery.

I was given an opportunity to come on a Facebook Live session by Blogchatter and share screen space with author Samit Basu when I’d won a contest he’d conducted on Facebook. I’ve read his ‘The adventures of Stoob’ long back and also read some of the editions of his newsletter ‘Duck of Dystopia.’ My question to him had been ‘Could you recommend a book on writing that you found useful.’ He recommended ‘On writing’ by Stephen King, which I’ve already read twice and reviewed here.

I recently took up a 5-day writing challenge conducted by The Writers’ College on Facebook and completed it.

Here’s a poem I wrote for Spoken Word Poetry as a part of the 5-day writing challenge.

DON’T GIVE UP

The road ahead may seem tough

But don’t give up

You were put on this planet

To realize the meaning of your life

Don’t give up

Before you achieve

What you set out to do

If challenges are thrown your way

Overcome them

Work through them

Fight them

But don’t give in to disillusionment,

Disappointment,

Fatigue,

Hopelessness,

Use every ounce of strength

In your mind, body and soul

To go forward;

Play the role you were meant to…

Put in the effort

And you will be rewarded

Even if you don’t reach your goal

You will be one step closer to it

Wear your dream like a cloak around your shoulders

Breathe it, imbibe it

Until it seeps through every pore

And pushes you forward

Aim for success

You cannot pour from an empty cup

Only when you are satisfied inside

Can you help people nearby..

So start with yourself

Do it one step at a time

Left foot, right foot

Put one foot in front of the other

And don’t give up

No matter how hard it may seem

No matter how weighed down by troubles you are

Push ahead

And the light will stream in from afar

You can do it!

Go on, do it now!

Do let me know if you enjoyed the poem. Also, what have you been reading and writing lately? Do share links from your blog or articles you have written in the comments section. I look forward to reading them.

Two Books of Poems

I read two books of poems recently: ‘Isolocation’ by various poets and ‘Hate that cat’ by Sharon Creech. ‘Isolocation’, a collection of 44 poems by various authors, is available for free on Kindle Unlimited. The book was published in October 2020. The poems are about isolation, quarantine, change, the socio-political climate, mental health, feminism etc. I particularly loved ‘Dear Tomorrow’ by Gayathri Viswanath, ‘Amygdala’ by Ishmeet Nagpal, ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by Ishmeet Nagpal and ‘Yellow’ by Anjali Singh. I know I will re-visit the book to re-read these.

Pic from Unsplash

I also finally got around to reading ‘Hate that cat’ by Sharon Creech, which I’d bought in November 2020. The book is meant for children of ages 8-12. Its companion book is ‘Love that dog’, which I have not read. ‘Hate that cat’ is about little Jack who attends poetry classes by his teacher Miss Stretchberry. He attempts to write poetry based on his lessons at school. Jack learns about symbols, metaphors, images, alliteration, onomatopoeia, etc., through the poetry of William Carlos Williams, Edgar Allen Poe, Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers, T.S. Eliot and others, in his classes. Some famous poems are also featured in the book. Jack records his observations through his poems, which form the book. ‘Hate that cat’ ends with a reading list of ‘books on the class poetry shelf.’ Two of the author Sharon Creech’s other books include ‘Walk two moons,’ which won the Newbery medal and ‘The wanderer’, which is a Newbery Honor Book.

Three Great Reads on Kindle Unlimited and One Audiobook on Audible

I’ve been reading three books simultaneously! Yes, I do that! The first is The Kali Project, which is a collection of women’s voices as they discover their inner Kali. The second is the ‘Love’ anthology, which is a Valentine’s release this year. As the name suggests, it features short stories on the theme of love by various authors. The third book I’m (re)-reading is a classic by Franz Kafka, ‘Metamorphosis,’ which is literary prose fiction – horror. I picked it up since it is one of the activities prescribed by The Creative Soul Club of Blogchatter.

I listened to the audiobook version of ‘The power of your subconscious mind’ by Dr. Joseph Murphy narrated by Jason McCoy on Audible. I found it soothing and calming.

I also attended an hour of the Sunday meeting of the Broke Bibliophiles of Chennai Chapter a few days ago. Yes, yes, it was online. It was nice to catch up over conversations around books. In other news, I’m thrilled that my flash fiction entry ‘A lover’s call’ was adjudged one of the winning entries in an online contest recently.

How has your reading been so far this year? Do you read one book at a time or do you read several books simultaneously? Do let me know what you are currently reading and whether you are enjoying it. Do you listen to audiobooks? Let me know in the comments section if you recommend any audiobooks for me.

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