Kissing The Demon by Amrita Kumar | Book Review

If you have decided to embark on a writing journey, either professionally or as a hobby, you will soon realise it is a feat akin to kissing the demon. Fortunately though, Amrita Kumar, with the repertoire of her experiences spanning four decades, lays out a simple and effective method to traverse this seemingly arduous path.

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She starts from the absolute beginning – why one should write, for that is the most important question a writer must be able to answer. Not to anyone else but to the self.

Once that is established, she goes on to explain the integral elements of creative writing: plot, characterization, narration, setting, dialogue, that help form a compelling story. She explains with examples which are relevant to the aspiring as well as the seasoned writer. Kumar draws parallels from notable films as well as award winning and popular books to drive the point.

What is most important, however, that sets this book apart from almost all others on the subject of writing, is that she dedicates an entire section to the publishing process, specifically tailored for the Indian writer.

Starting from when, how and where to look for a publisher and/or agent, pitching your manuscript, waiting for a response, negotiating a contract, understanding advances & royalties, to the actual editing, and finally publicity/marketing, she brings focus to an otherwise blurry image that few debut writers can claim to have fully understood.

Last but not the least, she also helps with tips and tricks to manage the complicated balance of dealing with everyday life, and staying fit while indulging in an altogether sedentary writing habit.

You may choose to read this book before you start writing, or after you have written a first draft, nonetheless it has a wealth of information on both creative writing and publishing that you would otherwise rarely come across. One you cannot afford to miss.

Title: Kissing The Demon
Author: Amrita Kumar
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers India
ISBN: 978-93-5264-303-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 268
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Amrita Kumar is an anthologist, novelist, writing-mentor and creative writing teacher. She began her career in the godowns of Daryaganj to select books for a chain of bookshops, moving on as research writer for the Department of Culture, Government of India, then on to publishing as associate editor, Penguin India; editor-in-chief, Roli Books; managing editor, Encyclopedia Britannica; editor, Indian Design & Interiors magazine; and vice-president, Osian’s Literary Agency. In addition, she has freelanced for Rupa & Co., HarperCollins India and Oxford University Press.
She lives in New Delhi.

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#MyFriendAlexa – A Wrap-Up

The month of September passed by in a frenzy with the multiple activities I decided to squeeze into my schedule for these thirty days. My Creative Writing classes picked up pace with quite a few recommended reading and writing assignments. Then I had my own reading to catch up on (especially since I am running way behind schedule) and some much needed writing.

Out of everything, one activity I was most looking forward to was the second season of #MyFriendAlexa – a campaign run by Blogchatter that I signed up for in August. The aim of this campaign is to help participants improve their Alexa ranking by following a dedicated blogging schedule which includes reading a variety of blogs and posting new content (a minimum of eight posts) on your own blog in a span of one month.

However, I soon realised that as excited as I was to be a part of this and pick up some tips and tricks to the secret of blogging on the way, this was going to be a lot of hard work.

Despite the blog reading and posting schedule I had mapped out for myself at the onset of the campaign, I found myself falling behind even before the first ten days were up. I did somehow manage to pull through the first two weeks by putting up four blog posts and following the recommended reading list.

By the time the third week rolled in, I was so caught up with everything happening simultaneously that I could barely manage finishing my daily blog reading. Putting up my own blog posts seemed far from possible.

So, I gave up on Week 3 and decided to step back. There was absolutely no way I could turn this into success. But then, at the end of that week, I felt terrible for not standing up to the challenge I had signed up for. I decided it was time to take the bull by its horns in Week 4. That meant covering up for the time I had lost, by posting four new blog posts in the last week.

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Today, I feel thrilled that I was able to complete my challenge successfully, even it it meant putting up the last blog post on the last day.

I started the campaign with a Global Alexa Rank of 11.83 million and no India rank. At the end of the month, the campaign has shown a 90% improvement in my Alexa rank – As of 1st October 2017, my global rank was 1.27 million and India rank at 41,876 and this is continuing to drop with each passing day.

MyFriendAlexa 31stAug17  MyFriendAlexa 31stOct17

This is how the ranking changed during the course of the campaign:

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My experience with the Alexa campaign has been very informative and entertaining. I have learnt much along the way and discovered some wonderful blogs. Of course, Blogchatter has been a great support in help me blog better.

I now look forward to using the knowledge I have picked up during this campaign in taking Aquamarine Flavours to new heights. Here’s to a new beginning of better blogging!

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Reminiscent Love

I learnt long ago that we win some, we lose some, yet, life goes on.  Even then, many, like me, who have experienced a great joy or a heartbreaking tragedy will agree it is easier said than done.

It has been a few months since I came out of a nine-year-old relationship and letting go was probably one of the toughest decisions I had to make. There are days when my heart still weeps and I don’t know how to deal with it.

So, here I am, trying to deal with it the only way I can – by writing.

As far as I remember, everything was fine until the first cracks began to appear at the start of the new year. We hadn’t been spending much time together and I assumed that was the reason. I ignored the cracks. Besides, there were other things keeping me busy, leaving me no time to tend to tantrums. That was Mistake No. 1.

When realisation dawned that I was expecting far more than I was investing in the relationship, I decided to rectify my actions. By then, unfortunately, the cracks had deepened.

Despite the glaring signs to which I refused to pay any attention, I convinced myself that it was nothing more than misbelief. That time would heal what was broken. It wasn’t the end yet, it couldn’t be. We had so much more to share. We had to have more time together. That was Mistake No. 2.

When I told my family, some encouraged me to continue, seeing how hung up I was on this relationship. Others tried to convince me it wasn’t worth it. That I should just snap the link once and for all. But I couldn’t muster the courage to take that last step.

So, I decided to seek professional help. Maybe what we really needed was for someone to clinically analyse and gauge if we were worth fixing. When the report came, it broke my heart. The damage was far too extensive. It was then that I finally gave up. If we were so un-mendable, it was best to break all ties. Had it not been for this report, I doubt I would have gone through it .

On June 9th 2017, I finally sold my beloved Honda Civic that had been my partner for all my travels in and around NCR for the last nine years.

In hindsight I think I should have taken this decision much earlier. It would have saved me from so much heartache. But this being my biggest purchase ever, It wasn’t easy at all.

The day the buyer came to collect it, I was trying to think of something to keep with me as a memory. I would have liked to rip a side-view mirror off since we have some special memories together, but those things alone go for a minimum of Rs.5,500. There was no way I could take that.

Eventually, my gaze fell on the pair of cushions emblazoned with the Honda logo which I don’t ever remember using. They sat snug in the boot, wrapped in original packing, since they day I drove the car out of the showroom.

I reminisced about the times, while driving on a long route, when I would think how nice it would be to have a chauffeur while I sit back against the cushions and enjoy the view of the sky, not having to worry about traffic.

So, moments before the buyer arrived to take delivery of my Civic, I sneaked the cushions out of the car and inside my house.

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Nearly four months later, my gorgeous misty-violet beauty may be gone, but its memories are alive. And as I sit and write this, my hand running over the velvet face of the cushion, fingers skimming over the logo, I close my eyes and remember all the good times we’ve had.

I do carry the hope that we may meet someday on the streets of Delhi, side by side on a traffic signal, and beam in that joyous moment of seeing each other again.

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This post is participating in #MyFriendAlexa because I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

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Profit & Loss | Visual Poetry

It has been a month since I started taking a creative writing class at the British Council. The modules cover various aspects of creative writing that include short stories, flash fiction, and also different forms of poetry.

While I have tried my hand at writing a few poems and Haikus, I don’t consider myself capable of writing poetry, except for a few rhyming lines I may have penned here and there.

Nevertheless, I was quite intrigued by a relatively newer form of poetry I was introduced to, called Visual Poetry.

Literary theorists have identified visual poetry as a development of concrete poetry but with the characteristics of intermedia in which non-representational language and visual elements predominate.

Academic Willard Bohn prefers to categorise the whole gamut of literary and artistic experiment in this area since the late 19th century under the label of Visual Poetry and has done so in a number of books since 1986. From his reductionist point of view, “Visual poetry can be defined as poetry that is meant to be seen – poetry that presupposes a viewer as well as a reader”.

As an optional exercise, we were given a few themes and asked to create a visual poem on any one of them.

The theme I picked was ‘A mountain peak’ and my visual poem looks like this:

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(If you can’t read my uneven handwriting, you can read it below:)

Profit and Loss
By Ashima Jain

He runs across the valley
And drops into a gorge,
Struggles to climb some hills,
Wondering how much more.
Then he sees a mountain,
Its peak – the place to be.
If only he can reach that height,
Of his shackles, he’d be free

What do you think of this? Do you see the theme in this graph? Let me know by sharing your feedback 🙂

Any writers reading this – Have you seen or written any visual poetry. I would love to see it. Do share in the comments below.

This post is participating in #MyFriendAlexa because I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

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#MyFriendAlexa and Why I Signed Up for It

As I approach the second anniversary of Aquamarine Flavours, I can’t help but reminisce at how the blog has evolved since it first went live. I started it with the hope to discover a new passion, after having spent over twelve years in the apparel industry. And somewhere along the way, Aquamarine Flavours steered me in the precise direction I was meant to go.

I have been reading voraciously since the past two years, an activity I sorely missed before, and gradually began to experiment with writing as well. Over time I have had my short stories published online and in literary magazines. Earlier this year, I was selected as a contributing author of an anthology of short stories published by Women’s Web – my first published book.

Recently I also forayed into reviewing books and editing manuscripts, the latter providing me a new insight into the art of creative writing.

Aquamarine Flavours has been my platform to share all of this with the outside world, and while I have received a lot of encouragement from friends and readers, I have always wondered how to take it to the next level.

A few weeks ago I was part of a Creative Writing Retreat organised by BlogChatter and during one of their sessions I discovered the Alexa Ranking system. Upon checking the statistics for my blog, I was shocked to discover how far behind it is in visibility.

As of 31st August 2017, my Global Alexa Rank stood at 11,823,468 and (gasp) I don’t have an India rank at all. (Faints.)

So here I am, taking the plunge in committing to take my Alexa Rank to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa and #BlogChatter – The world’s second and India’s first campaign based on Alexa rank and associated tools.

If you like what you see on Aquamarine Flavours and are not following yet, I invite you to join me here (see link to follow on the right sidebar) for some great content. Your support will go a long way.

Thank you!

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A Matter of Style | Short Story Winner for August 2017 Muse of the Month | Women’s Web

A Matter of Style - Ashima Jain (Muse of the Month - August 2017)

The August 2017 writing prompt for the Women’s Web Muse of the Month Writing Contest is from the Indian film – Angry Indian Goddesses:

Indian women are policed and shamed for their choices, whether it is the kind of clothes they wear, or other things they do – woe betide the woman who smokes! And this is not just in their homes in middle class societies – it is everywhere, even in case of supposedly ’empowered women’. What women want is freedom from this and be able to make their choices without being judged.

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via GIPHY

Inspired by this cue, I ended up writing a short story titled A Matter of Style that addresses a different view of the judgement on the clothes we wear. Interestingly, it has been selected as one of the top stories for this month’s contest.

To read the complete story, click here.

As always, I look forward to your feedback/comments. 🙂

Picture courtesy: womensweb.in
Media Courtesy: giphy.com

The Accidental Artist | Winner | Memories from Books Contest

Just like the surprise showers that brought some respite from the scorching May sun, I received some delightful news last evening.

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The Accidental Artist – A short story (flash fiction) I wrote for Readomania’s Memories from Books contest – was adjudged the Second Prize winner.

The cue for this contest was to write a fictional story, inspired from real life incidents, about your dearest memory with a book.

The Accidental Artist weaves a fictional story around my earliest memories with my favourite book. To this day, I vividly remember sitting by my mother’s side as she read it out to me.

To find out more about this book and be a part of my experience, follow the link to read this story – The Accidental Artist.

Don’t hesitate to share your own stories around your favourite books so we can relive some wonderful memories together 🙂

Image courtesy: Google Images.

A Day in Early Spring |Telegram Magazine | February 2017

Here is a magazine that has gained quite a following among writers since its launch in July last year. A literary magazine, Telegram aims to rekindle the flames of quality Indian fiction. They are a monthly journal of short stories, essays, book reviews, poems and much more. As the literary magazine culture disappears from the country’s newsstands, coffee houses and bookstores, it leaves a gaping hole for the discerning reader. Telegram hopes to cause a ripple in the direction of good stories, fiction and essays.

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Out with their eighth issue this month, the magazine includes a short story written by me for their February theme: Shades of Love.

Even though global warming and climate change have impacted our weather cycles, the month of February can’t help but evoke a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Add to that, Valentine’s Day bombards everyone’s timelines and love dominate our feeds, from which there is no escape.

A Day in Early Spring celebrates just one such love story where the fragrance of soon-to-arrive spring, coupled with the blissfulness of love, is enough to wrap you in its enigma.

The issue is now live on Magzter.com, the world’s largest and fastest growing cross-platform global digital magazine newsstand.

Click here, to read it online or download to your Android/iPad/iPhone device, and revel in its ode to love.

Image Courtesy – Telegram Magazine

A Step Out of the Box | Winner for February 2017 Muse of the Month on Women’s Web

As those of you following my writing are aware, Women’s Web runs a monthly contest on its website, based on a writing prompt.

In 2016, these writing prompts were either a direct quote from the featured author of the month, or a quote from one of their published works.

In 2017, Women’s Web introduced a new Muse of the Month series, one with a contemporary twist. Instead of selecting a quote or phrase from a book, the cue is a feminist GIF/video clip from a movie – either Bollywood or Hollywood.

For February 2017, the writing cue was a scene from the film Piku, where Piku confirms that if her friend wants to marry her, her 90 year old father comes along with her.

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via GIPHY

My entry for this month, based on the above cue, is titled ‘A Step Out of the Box’. It discusses the dilemma a married woman faces, in providing care for her ageing father who is living alone, away from his children. The story touches upon a concept that is still alien, but calls for attention in today’s times to bring a progressive change in our society.

To read the complete story, click on the Facebook post below.

Media Courtesy: giphy.com

Following Rules – Short Story on Readomania

Here is another short story, which was written in the genre of humour/satire, sometime last year. It received a very special mention for the quality of writing and has now been published on the Readomania website.

Following Rules is a humourous take on how we, as a society, tend to complain about issues which, in fact, may have been created by us.

Pratichi considers herself to be a responsible driver who stays within the confines of road and traffic rules. She is also a bit a feminist, and believes women drivers are unnecessarily given a bad name.

So how does she manage when she is running terribly late on one of the most important days of her life? Can she stick to the rules while all the rule breakers zip past her? Or will she succumb to the pressures of traffic.

Find out more by reading the full story at Readomania.com.

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If you have any such crazy traffic experiences to share; they could be yours or someone else’s; tell me, so we can all have a hearty laugh together. 🙂

Image courtesy: Google Images.