Kolkata, Jan 12 IBNS | 7 months ago

A steaming cup of coffee, two brand new books and eminent literati set the ball rolling for the morning session of the fourth day on Saturday at the Appejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) 2014 being held at The Park here.


The launch of Omair Ahmad's,'The Kingdom at the Centre of the World' and Prajwal Parajuly's,'Land Where I Flee' was followed by a panel discussion on 'Fast Forward-New expressions in 21st Century Writing from the Subcontinent' that introduced the guests to the various facades of modern day writing.

Can a writer write just for himself, closed in a room oblivious of the market requirements?

Palash Krishna Mehrotra and Somnath Batabyal related that it is "very difficult to stick to guns" in the 21st century when writers have to constantly bear the interference of the editors and agents who always want to add the ingredients that can sell a book.

Batabyal explained,"They may want more sex" .

About his first novel,'The Price You Pay', a thriller which follows the adventures of a young crime journalist, he said," I did not think to be a crime writer. I had to write it that way as the editors and publishers wanted to pitch it like that."

Agreed Palash saying the agent may end up saying," that this was not the book I wanted," if he feels the book will not attract readers.

So, who does a writer writes to? Is it the unknown audience or to himself?

Omair Ahmad felt that a writer should write for his family and friends.

According to him,"Close friends and relatives would not hesitate to point out the flaws in your writing."

Quoting an incident from his life, he said: " I had sent the draft of my book 'Jimmy the Terrorist' to a friend of mine."

"It had little, little bit of sex and sex is such an intimate thing."

"She replied, 'Ha ha ha'."

"I felt hurt but that made me rewrite the thing."

A writer cannot overlook his own emotions even if he needs to write for the market, contended Omair.

However, he felt the editor can really help as he knows what the writer is good at and makes the right suggestions.

Talking about how his editor helped him to shape his new book, Omair said: "Having a look at the draft Ravi told me,'You don't enjoy travelling, right?' Write this as history.'"

Vishwajyoti Ghosh, the author of 'Delhi Calm', a graphic novel, said editors are different from the publishing agents. They "feel" for the book.

He says," Editor is open to new ideas, makes suggestions and it is a great symbiotic relationship."

The panelists agreed upon the importance of strategic marketing in promoting their sales.

"Some writers visit the book stores in the cities like Delhi and Mumbai and pay the owners for more prominent display of their books," revealed the panelists.

There was however an outright dismissal about the importance of social networking sites in promoting a book or increasing its sale.

Palas Mehrotra revealed the emergence of completely different set of writers who use different techniques to identify the market.

"Writers from the management background learn about the gap and write for that market," he said.

The writers pointed out even, techniques such as pie charts and flow charts are now used by some writers to convince the publishers as to why a particular idea will work.

English writing in India is still very young, noted the writers.

Publishers in India cannot accommodate science fiction yet and the western market is far more competitive to penetrate, said the panelists.

The panel which consisted of writers Palash Mehrotra, Somnath Batabyal, Prajwal Parajuly, Omair Ahmad and Vishwajyoti Ghosh agreed each writer has his own readers, but they all "want to be read".

The session was moderated by Abhijit Gupta, Associate Professor of English at Jadavpur University.

(Posted on 12-01-2014)