#BlogchatterBlogHop – Would you rather visit the moon or Mars?

The moon has always called out to me. I recall camping on my terrace with friends as a child and gazing upon the moon from inside my makeshift tent. I recall writing an essay on the cosmos and drawing upon my knowledge of Colin A. Ronan’s ‘The Skywatcher’s handbook’ and including a few lines about the moon. I remember Moonface from Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. And how can I forget the Tintin comics ‘Destination Moon’ and ‘Explorers on the moon’ that I read as a child and re-read in my adolescence? Or staying up and watching the sky for the comet Hyakutake when I was in college and gazing upon the moon from my friend’s terrace.

A creative commons licensed picture of the moon from Wikipedia.

The moon reminds me of Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books. The moon also reminds me of some anthologies that are being sent there as time capsules. It brings to mind Sharanya Manivannan’s book ‘Mermaids in the Moonlight,’ which is filled with fabulous fables, myths and legends by the author who creates powerful imagery through her words and verse.

I associate the moon with quirkiness, coolness and calmness. Interestingly, it’s a place that man has landed on earlier. As far back as 1969. That’s enough to give it an aura of familiarity when compared with aggressive red planet Mars- the planet that is supposedly where men are from if one is to go by ‘Men are from Mars and women are from Venus’ by John Gray, which I read as while doing my Masters’ degree.  

With so many things going for the moon at least in my head, how does Mars stand a chance? If I were to draw up a list of pros and cons for the moon vs. mars, the moon would win hands down. Mars couldn’t hold a candle to the moon!

So, go ahead, present me with the voting button and let me press the one for the moon…who knows? Maybe it will propel me to the moon one day. If not, I will have to get there on the wings of my imagination😊

This post is a part of Blogchatter Blog Hop.

The Warrior Within

She was tired of being the underdog! (although people usually rooted for the
underdog, didn’t they?) She wanted to reinvent herself. Be version n+1 and wow
everyone. She chalked out a mental plan to 1. Stop taking crap from people 2. Be
assertive. 3. Go for it. 4. Undergo an image makeover. 5. Seize the day for at least
365 days in a row. That would be something!

She took out her year planner and filled it in with her goals and dreams. She even
made a mood board. She started journaling about the things she was grateful for.
And what do you know? Life started looking up! She soon realized that
something good happened to her every day, and earlier she used to focus only on the bad that happened. This gave her a more balanced perspective on her life and accomplishments.

Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

She made it a point to surround herself with positive people and avoid the
naysayers or those who dealt her disrespect. Who knew? She had been a
product of her environment, or so it seemed.

She was already metamorphosing into a butterfly and finding her wings to take
flight— all because she set out to conquer her demons. As she inched towards a
better life, she knew it was because of her own efforts that it had happened. That
made her feel better than ever— that she was self-reliant and could make it
happen for herself. Nothing like being kind to oneself to act like a balm to a tired
soul. Since she stopped being her own worst enemy, life was getting better and

She then reached out to her immediate circle of friends to check on them. Earlier,
she was so focused on her problems that she couldn’t pour out of an empty cup.
Now, she wanted to give generously of her time and attention but only to the
deserving. She had found the warrior within!

Note: This piece was first featured in The AMP magazine

There are no foreign lands

Jeffrey Sheehan served as Associate Dean for International Relations at the Wharton School for 30 years. He has lived, studied, worked, and volunteered in 85 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. He has amassed 13,464 visiting cards and out of them, he has extracted 17 who had nothing in common other than the author’s respect and affection. Were there characteristics these individuals shared, despite being from different countries?

The author’s hypothesis “is that there are humans today, representing a variety of cultures, civilizations, ethnicities, and spiritual traditions; speaking multiple languages; and following vastly different pursuits, who share what I believe are some common dispositions.” He believes that these characteristics can help interconnectedness.  

He disputes the concept of the clash of civilizations advanced by Samuel Huntington and concludes that fundamental similarities in human disposition make communication and resolution of differences possible. The book is an inquiry into intercultural communication.

Book Cover

The 17 individuals selected for the book include:

  1. Luis Fernando Andrade Moreno- Colombia
  2. Boediono- Indonesia
  3. Chanthol Sun-Cambodia
  4. Dawn Hines-US
  5. Eric Kacou-Cote ‘d Ivoire
  6. Rosanna Ramos Velita-Peru
  7. Durreen Shahnaz- Bangladesh
  8. Shiv Khemka-India
  9. Jacob Wallenberg-Sweden
  10. Anthony Hamilton Russel-South Africa
  11. Keisuke Muratsu- Japan
  12. Arantxa Ochoa-Spain
  13. Leslie C. Koo- Taiwan
  14. Vassily Sidorov-Russia
  15. Roberto Canessa-Uruguay
  16. James Joo-Jin Kim- Korea
  17. Yu Minhong – China

The author creates a snapshot of these 17 individuals, with their unique cultural, educational, family backgrounds and the shaping of their attitudes to philanthropy, materialism, micro-finance, spiritualism etc. He concludes that everything is a spiritual problem and that spirituality is the solution to every problem. If we are true to our authentic selves, we can exercise control over our own spirituality. Intercultural communication is facilitated when one is free and spiritual.

The book was first published in Chinese for Shanghai University Press and enjoyed a two-month run on the best-seller list in China. It includes a glossary, maps, and uses Arno typeface, which is named after the Arno River. It is available for free on Kindle Unlimited. This is a book for everyone who has an interest in how people can work together more collaboratively and productively.

The book is available on Amazon.

Three cats, a man, and a woman

David was pretty much your average Joe. There was nothing exceptional about him. But he had one attractive quality – at least in Nancy’s eyes. He loved cats. He had not just one, but three amazing felines. The first was Violet, his tabby cat who was blind of one eye and David’s favorite. The second was Raven, his black cat that he protected every time Halloween came around, and the third was little Muffin, the one-month-old darling he had found dumped in the trash by some horrible person. He considered it his mission in life to save these cats and give them a home. He didn’t have much to offer, but there was always enough for his cats.

Little did David realize that Nancy had been noticing all this from next door. Nancy with her long, shapely legs, auburn hair, and sparkling blue eyes. She was looking for true love and she wanted a man who would love her and care for her just the way she was. It helped that David was easy on the eyes.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

One day, Violet, David’s tabby left a little present for Nancy. It was a half-eaten bird! Right under her dining table. Although she was thoroughly repulsed by the carcass, she understood cat psychology enough to know that in a cat’s mind it was considered an act of love. Nancy went over to David’s house and playfully flirted with him. He came over to her place and helped clean the bird carcass. And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Interview with Author Devika Fernando

  1. You’ve written romances of all kinds – second-chance romance, paranormal, royals, single mom etc. Which one is your favorite kind and why?

Oh, that’s an interesting question I haven’t been asked before. I think the books in my Inn Love romance series have been my favorite to write so far. I chose a different country and fictitious inn for each book, and being an innkeeper myself, I could subtly weave my own experiences into the stories. Plus, I just love armchair travel and can get lost in the research for the settings.

On the other hand, I also loved writing my paranormal romance trilogy because I’ve always enjoyed various elements of the supernatural. It was something completely new for me to write, bringing its own challenges and more freedom to try out something different.

2. Could you tell us about your educational background?

I don’t often talk about it because (especially in Sri Lanka) people tend to look down on me for not being a degree holder. I graduated from German high school with top marks, but I never attended university or got any other kind of degree (although I started an office management diploma in Germany for a few months, several years later). Life happened and I made some choices I don’t regret at all.

3. How easy or hard is it to put yourself in the shoes of the different characters you write?

I’ve always had a very vivid imagination and also been observant, so I find that part easy. And I think being an introvert helps. I can get into other people’s hearts and minds and empathize, which is important.

Author Devika Fernando.

4. What are the challenges you face while writing series as opposed to standalone romance novels?

Some of my series feature stand-alone books even though they have a common thread or theme. I think it’s remembering details from previous books that need to be consistent. I’m pretty bad with dates/time frames, names, things like that.

5. Do you believe there is a formula when it comes to writing romances?

Well, if it’s genre romance, then of course there are certain unspoken rules; and if you write for a publisher, there are ‘spoken’ rules too. I’m not constricted by those but try to work with popular tropes and keep in mind what readers enjoy. I guess that is a formula in itself.

But I believe there’s only one rule that HAS to be met when writing romance: a happy ending a.k.a. HEA (happily ever after) or alternatively HFN (happy for now) if it’s a series.

6. Which are some books on romance writing you’ve read and would recommend?

I have to say I haven’t read any of those – although I do read general romance or writing advice blog posts. In that regard, I can recommend Jami Gold and the guest authors on her site, as well as Jesse Stuart.

7. Could you name some of your favorite romance novels?

That’s impossible, sorry! Some of my favorite romance novelists are Nora Roberts, Sylvia Day, and Cass Michaels.

8. Looking back at your journey as a writer, what are some things you would avoid doing today if you could?

Hm, another great question. I’ve learned from reviews of my earliest books that I shouldn’t get too lost in describing the setting and the background information but weave it into my plot and have my characters interact with it instead.

9. What do you consider your greatest achievement till date?

Writing-wise? Probably that I embarked on this self-publishing journey at all. I started in 2013 and I’ve published almost 20 books so far, some of them co-written.

10. What is your advice to aspiring romance writers?

Read as much as you can, and write as much as you can (ideally both in your genre, but that doesn’t have to be). And never forget that writing itself is just the start, it’s the marketing effort afterwards that counts, too.

Fibonacci Poetry Competition for Children

Please follow these guidelines to the T, else your entry may be rejected by the judges.

The poem MUST follow the form of a Fibonacci sequence. The number of syllables in each line of the poem needs to be the sum of the previous two lines: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13.

Here’s more information on a Fibonacci poem.

For examples of a Fibonacci poem, check the latest issue of Science Shore magazine.

Age limit: 16 years. Please provide your date of birth with your entry.
Submit only one poem per person.
Deadline: June 15, 2022.
Submit your poem to scienceshoremagazine@gmail.com

The subject of your email should be “Poetry Contest 2022 submission” followed by your name… for example, a submission by Jane XYZ would have the following text in the subject line:
Poetry Contest 2022 submission Jane XYZ
Prizes will be announced in the last issue of 2022.

Criteria for choosing the winning entries:

Content and clarity of presentation of idea
Syllable count
Word choice
Grammatical correctness

The prizes are :

1st place: INR 750/-
2nd place: INR 500/-
3rd place: INR 250/-

Poems of special merit will receive certificates.

Interview with Author Anita Satyajit

  1. What was your inspiration behind writing Isapuram Tales?

I did not intend to write children’s books. You could say, the books came to me. One day in 2016, when I was going through a challenging time in life, I felt the urge to write. I had a vision in my mind and felt a pressing need to write. It was a scene with a little girl laughing on a swing. She was being pushed on it by an old grandpa-looking man. Little did I know that it would lead to nine stories, which would eventually become two books. They are India’s first spiritual fiction books for ages 7-99!

Honestly, as I wrote, I had no idea of what would appear on paper. I worked in partnership with the Universe, in readiness and acceptance of what would appear. All I knew was I had no resistance to what was being written. As the stories came, they turned out to be simple reminders about life, the mind, people, relationships, emotions. In the stories, these were being experienced by children, questioned by children, but the wisdom they hold are important to adults as well. I re-learnt many important lessons as I wrote the stories, and at one point of time, I just knew they had to be shared with the world.        

2. Could you tell us about your writing journey and educational background?

I started writing when I was in grade Five, poems about life, sorrow, and joy. Childish ones, but they seem very wise in retrospect! Writing and reading were all I knew. I would live, breathe, and sleep books. And so, naturally, I wanted to study literature in college. My dad wanted me to do engineering and we ended up deciding Commerce was the compromise! Makes no sense, but that is what I graduated in.

But even as I studied commerce, the real writing began. I started freelancing during college. By the time I was 18, encouraged by my brother, I was writing for the Times of India Supplements. Then after graduation, I chose to do my post-graduation in journalism. Though I already had a body of work by then, it was the best decision I had made, for I got to study under the doyens of journalism. I ended up securing the highest marks and graduating with the Jehan Daruwalla Merit scholarship. Since then, I have been a travel writer, a content writer, a communications specialist with development agencies, etc. The writing has been varied. 

3. Could you tell us about your publishing journey?

For years, journalism was the mainstay, but I wrote poems and short stories on the side, dreaming they would be published in books one day. More than a decade ago that dream came true with poems in literary magazines and short stories in anthologies. Around this time, I won an award from the State of Andhra Pradesh for one of my travel pieces.

Then I had a soul-awakening kind of period. After chasing words and success for years, I felt a disconnection with what I was seeking. I felt no fulfillment with what I had worked so hard to earn. For almost five years after that I almost gave up writing, working only sporadically. And then, just like that when I least expected it, Diya and Baba (the lead characters of Isapuram Tales book series) came into my life. I did have a contract with a traditional publisher. But soon into the journey, I felt a lot of differences in our approaches to the book. So, we amicably parted ways and I decided to take the crazy decision of self-publishing children’s books! It has been a wild and challenging adventure; India is still not open to self-published books and marketing them is very tough.

Picture of author Anita Satyajit with her books

4. You conduct writing workshops on therapeutic writing techniques, too. Could you tell us about them?

I have always been interested in the mind, emotions, and the soul department since I was a child. These fall under the “spiritual” category, and I now identify most as a spiritual seeker. The therapeutic writing is an outcome of that journey. I have spent over 25 years learning and practicing from different spiritual teachers and traditions. But the last almost 10 years have been with a guide and mentor who I owe a lot of my awakening to – GD. Somewhere in these meanderings, I discovered how much I turn to writing as a tool to bring emotional and mental stability into my life.

I began to explore the power of writing in healing and therapy and later started offering it as a part of my therapy sessions with clients and in my workshops. I have since seen beautiful results for the same.  Therapeutic writing brings the power of healing and transformation into your own hands. We all look outside us for healing and wellness, but writing is a simple skill everyone possesses and can be used very effectively to deal with stress, emotional challenges, and even to usher in change. I guide people through these processes in my workshops and one-on-one sessions and help them unravel their minds to bring in ease, peace and joy.

 5. What are you writing now?

I am always working on many things at a time! I am primarily focused on a book of these therapeutic writing techniques, tentatively titled “The write path.” I am also working sporadically on a book for children. I also have another two books, which are being worked on as and when they happen.

6. Do you have any upcoming book releases or writing workshops?

I intend to release “The write path” as soon as possible this year. The writing workshops are an on-going affair. I just completed a 21-day program and will be launching another one next month.

7. What are some of your favourite books?

Oh, this is difficult because my favourite books have a lot to do with where I am in life… Some books I can still read again and again are ‘The little prince,’ ‘The alchemist,’ and Herman Hesse’s ‘Siddartha,’ etc. I want my son to read “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” now, because I once loved it. “Ishamel” and “My Ishamel” by Daniel Quinn blew my mind, when I read them two decades ago, and Shatrujeet Nath’s Karachi Deception did that a decade ago! Actually, it is easier to name authors than books. I love Amitav Ghosh’s writing, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s writing, some of Paulo Cohelo’s books, R.K. Narayan, and Ruskin Bond. In the past few years, I have veered away from fiction and find myself reading either children’s books or spiritual books. Children’s authors I love include Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Nandini Nayar, Paro Anand and Shruti Rao. I know I have mostly named Indian writers, but that is intentional 😊

8. What advice do you have for aspiring children’s book authors?

I don’t think I have enough experience in that domain to be dishing out advice to others. But as someone who has been writing for decades, I would suggest – Be true to your voice. Do not compromise on what you want to say. But don’t be self-obsessed either. It’s a fine line 😊

9. What should a writer be mindful of when writing for children?

Children’s writers tend to dumb things down for kids. Some writers believe in sugar-coating things. But kids are wise. They notice things, we adults don’t. While we don’t need to throw the thorns of the world their way, do not make them believe the world is only full of roses. Be realistic without being bleak. I love the quote that says there is only a little difference between ‘partner’ and ‘parent’. Choose the first whenever you can.

10. Which books on writing would you recommend?

“Elements of Style” by William Strunk and EB. White. It’s an old book but one I believe every writer should read. I would also recommend “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott and “Writing in general and the short story in particular” by Rust Hill.

My Book Review of ‘Rising: 30 Women Who Changed India’

Rising – 30 women who changed India – a non-fiction title by Kiran Manral and published by Rupa covers the inspiring journeys of 30 Indian women from various fields who blazed a trail for others to follow. Manral has allocated a chapter for each achiever, and she has meticulously listed all her references from secondary research at the end of each chapter. A few of the achievers have been interviewed as well.

In the Introduction, Manral says, “The aim of this book is not to eulogize these powerful women or to put them on a pedestal. They probably wouldn’t care for something as pedestrian as pedestals anyway; they shine wherever they are, regardless of spotlights. The aim rather is to tell their stories, through what we know of them, from information available in the public domain or from first-hand accounts given by those who were gracious enough to spare some time to tell us about their journey.”

Book Cover

The women featured include Sushma Swaraj, Sheila Dikshit, M. Fathima Beevi, Mahasweta Devi, Amrita Sher-Gil, Amrita Pritam, Sonal Mansingh, Lata Mangeshkar, Anita Desai, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Harita Kaur Deol, Madhuri Dixit, Bachendri Pal, Rekha, Chhavi Rajawat, Karnam Malleswari, Shailaja Teacher, Hima Das, Naina Lal Kidwai, Shakuntala Devi, P.T.Usha, P.V.Sindhu, Ekta Kapoor, Kiran Bedi, Mary Kom, Menaka Guruswamy, Tessy Thomas, Aparna Sen, Kiran-Mazumdar Shaw and Maharani Gayatri Devi.

The first woman to be featured in the book was Sushma Swaraj – the former minister of External Affairs in the Narendra Modi-led government. She was also the former CM of Delhi and former Lok Sabha Speaker.

I was particularly inspired by the chapters on Mahasweta Devi, Amrita Pritam and Anita Desai, literary luminaries who have won major national and international awards for their pathbreaking work.  Of Mahasweta Devi at the Jaipur Literary Festival, Manral says, “The speaker was Mahasweta Devi – author, iconoclast, social activist; the labels didn’t really matter.”

Of Amrita Pritam, Manral writes, “In her writings and her life, she leaves behind a legacy for women writers in India which urges them to defy social constructs and constraints, challenge them and to live and write as she did – unfettered.”

About Anita Desai, Manral writes, “With her immense body of work, she remains firmly one of the most powerful voices in post-colonial Indian writing in English.”

“Every story is replete with takeaways, lessons to be learnt, not just professionally but otherwise, too. These women have lived life on their own terms, becoming a beacon of hope to many others, women and men alike. If after learning about these inspirational women, a young girl, anywhere in the country thinks to herself, ‘That could be me! If she can do it, so can I, this book would have served its purpose,” says Manral towards the end of her Introduction.  

I recommend this book to young women who aspire to follow the pathbreaking women before them who have earned a place in India’s history in the fields of politics, sports, acting, art, writing, painting etc.  

You can buy the book here.

This review is powered by the Blogchatter Book Review Program.

Happy World Poetry Day!

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Sampurna Chattarji’s poetry workshop conducted by Blogchatter on World Poetry Day.

Sampurna stressed on the importance of learning about poetry and its formats. She said the “perfect poem” is a mirage or chimera. She also said one must be confident about the nuts and bolts of the language one writes poetry in. One must “devour poetry” and study the craft. One must be able to take criticism, understand it, and equip oneself to be one’s own editor.

Sampurna has recently translated Joy Goswami’s prose poems. For those who love mathematics and poetry, she recommended Inger Kristenson’s book, The Alphabet, which is based on the Fibonacci sequence. She stressed that the best translators of poetry were other poets themselves. She also gave us a reading list and suggested we look up the first books of those we considered established poets. Incidentally, her first book was ‘Sight may strike you blind,’ which is currently unavailable. She read out a poem called ‘Evil eye’ from her first book. She suggested we pick up anthologies.

There’s so much more I learned from her during this session. I feel blessed to have attended it.

For more about Sampurna Chatterji, please visit her website.

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