Since 2013, as most of my regular readers here and other writer friends know, I’ve always had an ongoing literary project. For example: the literary magazine I ran during 2013-2014; the weekend poem project I did for nearly two years; the monthly short stories column (now being published at PopMatters); the journal prompts project last year. These are separate from my ongoing writing work: the fiction, non-fiction, book reviews, and translation.
To some extent, these literary projects are all part of my own never-ending DIY MFA because I learn so much from each one. And, to some extent, they’re also a form of literary citizenship where I try to highlight/showcase other writers or give back to the writing community.
In 2018, I was rather vocal about the problems across the Indian publishing ecosystem as some of you might recall, especially if you’re connected with me on Twitter. While this initiative (Writers and Translators Association India — WTAI) isn’t dead yet, it’s going to require more influential writers stepping up to add their vocal support.
So, while WTAI is on the back-burner, I’m thinking of starting a podcast series on writing and translating craft. This will not be an overnight thing because I intend to do it professionally with planning and preparation. Below are some preliminary details. I will be fully transparent in sharing progress publicly because my hope is that it will encourage more literary initiatives across the Indian publishing ecosystem. A rising tide will lift all boats — I truly believe this.
No doubt, there will be some mistakes along the way. But I’m open to feedback and suggestions. Please just be nice about it?
***NOTE: This is a work-in-progress and subject to updates based on feedback/suggestions.***
PODCAST NAME — TBD
WHAT — a one-on-one 30-45 min discussion with an Indian, Indian-origin, or India-related writer/translator re. writing/translating craft
NOTE 1: This geographical scope isn’t about Indocentrism but a matter of current logistics and my own reading gaps. Over time, I hope to get writers from across the broader South Asian diaspora involved too.
Truth is that, while many writing-related podcasts in the US and the UK have recently opened up to writers of color, there are still very rare appearances from writers who are Indian or of Indian origin. This, despite India being the second largest English-reading book market in the world. And cultural differences play into writing and translating craft just as they do into the written or translated work itself. So we do need to have more discussions about craft within specific cultural contexts as well.
A bit more about what is meant by cultural differences that affect writing and translating craft: different narrative traditions; different kinds of state, industry, and self-driven censorship by writers; different levels of experimentation entirely. There are some writers trying and accomplishing interesting things with their works. But, given India’s publishing ecosystem, they have no decent platform to share or discuss their creativity. This can’t be done on a lit fest panel during a 45-minute round robin of 15 superficial questions like “Where do you get your ideas from?” Readers aren’t always savvy enough to know and reviewers seem to be more focused on content and politics and avoid discussing craft and aesthetics (as if these stand apart from each other.)
NOTE 2: Also, the present scope is limited to Indian writing in English (IWE). Again, over time, if things go well enough, I hope to engage with writers from the regional languages also.
NOTE 3: “Writer” means writers of all stripes — poets, screenwriters, playwrights, and more. I’ll probably ask some other writer friends to host those particular guest writers though because I’m not technically skilled to discuss poetry craft or screenwriting craft.
WHEN — monthly to begin with, moving to bi-weekly after a few months
HOW — diving deeper into one or two aspects of fiction and non-fiction writing and translating craft (not going to try to boil the ocean with too many topics per episode);
— topics will not be about “how do I write more” or “how do I get published” but more specific like “let’s discuss the pros and cons of literary adaptations” or “let’s talk about the which-word craft of literary translation”;
— there will be a brief pre-episode email conversation so we can map out a set of discussion points together and ensure a smooth, productive dialogue;
— there will be an excerpt reading by the guest writer/translator from their own work and from one work by another writer/translator they admire;
— ideally, each episode will also be posted online with a reading list of all mentioned books/articles and a list of further resources;
WHO — This is a two-fold answer:
— Guests: writers/translators with reasonable depth of experience w.r.t. to the topic(s). A balance/mix of new/emerging voices with established ones is probably best to allow for variability and texture. As this is focused on writing/translating craft, the guest writer/translator will need to have some credibility already within the reading+writing communities. Writers/translators who can add to and expand craft discussions with thought-provoking insights — that’s the main goal.
— Audience: readers and writers interested in going beyond nuts and bolts craft discussions to understanding how writing is both an art and a craft.
WHY — In the interests of full transparency, here are just five reasons:
1/ India has a few writing-related podcasts but mostly geared toward beginning writers and not diving deep enough (for me.)
2/ The US has some excellent craft-related podcasts that are featuring writers of color more now but writers of Indian origin are still featured rarely.
3/ The Indian publishing ecosystem needs a lot more platforms/opportunities to highlight and showcase literature and writers.
4/ I need a #literarycitizenship project for 2019 — a way to give to others within the writing/translating community.
5/ I miss discussing writing and translating craft in depth with other writers and translators from my lit mag editorship days.
WHAT’s NEXT — Much of January and February will involve planning and fleshing out details regarding technology tools/setup, getting the word out, outlining the first few episode topics, approaching a few writers for each, doing a trial episode with a trusted writer friend, and so on.
Suggestions, comments, feedback? Please add them below or contact me individually.