Sunday, May 19, 2019

To Ava - the Young Writer

To Ava

It was wonderful yesterday honoring the young writers at the Young Authors’ Prize ceremony. I met Ava, the girl who wrote a story about an autistic brother and a sister. I told her while handing her the name tag, 

“You are Ava! I read your story. We, all  six judges knew  that your story deserved the First Prize.” 

The girl, with a headful of braided Afro hair, wanted to crawl somewhere, hide under something, her eyes downcast, face touching her chest. Mom beamed and her teacher Mr. Somebody came and sat beside her with a proud smile. 

“Ava, look at her. Say ‘Thank you’!” Her mom nudged and apologized, “So shy!” 

“Shy people write best,” I said and left. 

There is so much to this writing life. The writer self differs from the real one that the rest of the world sees. Ava is so shy in person but not on paper. 

Her mom confessed later while she was not around, “God knows where she gets those ideas!” she rolled her eyes, “People who read her stories may think ‘Is the family okay, does her mom really abuse her like that and so...”. Mom giggled.

I know exactly what she means and to some extent how Ava feels. While she needs to let those imaginary characters free of her rib cage, she will also have to think how it may impact her close relatives or friends especially if she writes in the first person. Or in memoir form. Many things would be vividly true while much just made up, lies. She’d have to weave lies to tell the truth. That’s her obligation as a writer. 

For that, she’d risk losing friends and loved ones. They would misunderstand  her when her muse would take her by the hand to a mesmerizing world that doesn't exist for the others. She’d forget her known world, abandon her close ones,  lose herself to that  imaginary world.. She might  try to create that world she'd experienced for them later but no one would understand.

And when she gets to the top,  become the best author or so, many of her friends would curl their lips “I could write that too, only if I had given a chance!” 

Ava, you’re on the right track not letting yourself blown away with  prizes and awards, compliments and kudos. You don’t want to spoil your writer’s soul with rewards and praises or crush it with neglect, silence and harsh criticisms. Your writer- soul is much pure and delicate. Protect it, my young friend. Polish it alone. It’s a solitary thing. 

Write away, my dear girl. Young writer, tell us the stories of those who are suffering and we are not hearing. Bring hope to the world with your words for you have the softness in your heart to feel, the strength in your voice to speak up  and the gift in your pen. 

Crawl inside your shell if that be a better shelter for you to thrive. I am waiting!     

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Where did my day go?

Open Book Blog Hop 

If you didn't have to sleep what would you do with the extra time?
I'm late, I'm late

 With that extra time? Oh, so many things. So many things, my friend, only if I had that extra time. 

But I hear the rabbit in me scurrying ‘I’m late, I’m late!” 
Late for what?  you say?  

For everything. Starting from this blog hop Richard so kindly arranged to all the other things I meant to do today. Like… like planting the lily bulbs I had bought last month. Yesterday I noticed lilies were blooming in my neighbor’s garden already. And shame on me, my bulbs are still in the packet. 

Then I remembered that I should have submitted that article I wrote, hope the deadline has not passed and before that, it needed some editing.  

Before all that I must exercise. That is what I had promised myself. Health comes first. And I better not forget to defrost the chicken for tonight’s dinner.  

Shucks! is it past five already? I should have returned those phone calls. What would they think of me?

And what did Richard mean by ‘Parkinson Law’? I must google that term. Oh my, how did a whole hour pass just looking into one little word that tells that no matter how much time you have there will never be enough, more work will eat up that time? Duh! Didn’t I know that? 

When my friends, those who are still in the nine-to-five rut ask me what do I do with my time now that I am retired, I can’t convince them how the hours slip by. Now I have a concrete theory,  a solid term to explain- the Parkinson Law. 

I wake up in the morning with a bunch of plans and find myself with droopy eyes ready to crawl under the blanket- the day’s over. I refresh my to-do list the next day and soon it’s time to change the calendar month! Today rolls onto tomorrows. C.N. Parkinson smiles, “I told you so !”

I remember someone took a poll on Mother’s Day asking a group of mothers- ‘What would you like best?’ choices were - a bouquet, a dinner, a jewelry piece, card and fine perfume and some extra sleep. 

Sleep was the winner. 

May 13, 2019

If you didn't have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

1. Link your blog to this hop.
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

With Joyce Carol Oates - The First Day Workshop

 First Day With Joyce Carol Oates Workshop

Yesterday was that special night I had been counting for days, The first workshop eve with Joyce Carol Oates.
When the librarian, Kathi told me about this workshop and encouraged me to submit thirty pages of my unpublished book "Shadow Birds" I was quite skeptic.  She told me "There is nothing to lose, Dita, it is free, and if you are one of the ten selected ones you get an enormous gift." 

Yes.  I submitted at the very last minute.  And lo and behold - the next week got an email that my piece was selected!  

This was an enormous gift to me and the nine other emerging Bay Area writers like me.  We couldn't thank enough for the generosity. 

When I reached the Lafayette library at our designated meeting room, it was not quite 6 pm. Three other ladies were standing in front of that room with folders in hands, a smile on their faces. As our eyes met one of them, an attractive lady with short dirty blond hair grinned.

“Is this the Joyce Carol…”  I asked. 
“Yes.” She replied. “I am Shanti.” 
“Shanti! So nice to meet you. Your hippy parents gave you this Indian name! I am Dita. I really enjoyed reading your memoir piece.” I stretched my hand.  
She simpered, “ Khukumoni?” 

It felt interesting that we knew each other so well, especially in memoirs you really open up to your readers, yet we didn’t know who the creator is. Not yet.” In a short while, we introduced each other. More and more joined. The door opened. 

A lady with a sweet smile waved her hand “Welcome! Have a wonderful evening with Joyce Carol Oates. “

Ms. Oates was sitting at one end of a long rectangular table in a burgundy color jacket and oxidized silver earring studs. She didn’t need an introduction. We all have seen her pictures many times. The gentleman with a broad smile sat next to her was Joseph Di Prisco- a renowned poet, memoirist and editor.  

 He is the chairman of the Simpson Family Literacy Project, a nonprofit organization that sponsors literacy outreach in the Bay Area and today’s workshop is part of that generosity. 

He is very humorous and brought lots of laughter with each comment. For example, he said, “I wrote a book named ‘Subway to California’. One day a lady in one of my reading group got very annoyed. She stood up, a folder in hand, with brows crossed, asked ‘So it’s got nothing to do with your subway project proposal?’ Hey, no! It’s just a novel.” He chuckled. 

Ms. Oates was calm with a charming way of talking with opening her palms and playing with her fingers. I was feeling funny sitting next to her as if I was not worth it.… but had I seek another chair farther, it may look impolite. So I plopped. But I must say sitting next to such a personality was giving me chills, some kind of shocks, now and then. Strange, but true. 

When she looked at me and said “I am Joyce Carol Oates, and you? “I felt blood rushed to my cheeks. 

“Anindita Basu. You may call me Dita” I blew. 

“Dita…Dita… I thought you’d be much older living through the partition of India.” Holding my piece,  the first three chapters of ‘Shadow Birds’ she smiled.

“Well, actually the seed of the story came from my mother. It is not really a memoir. I’d say, a young adult historical fiction. A story of a young girl during the partition of India.” 
“Hmm. A young adult genre?” her brows knitted.

“Your language is beautiful. Lyrical. The starting is great and the title ‘Shadow Birds!… Stunning. Well, we’ll come back to the genre. Everything goes if you can do it right. We’ll come back to that.”

I could feel my heart pounding. Hopefully, my blood pressure is on the check. I sipped water to take a breath. I remember the other day telling my husband I can never find my pulses. They are so quiet. Checked my throat, checked my ..I couldn’t hear a thing. He couldn’t either. We could find his, loud and clear. But today I could hear my heart beat going thump..thump.

“Tell me a little about your writing life. Since when are you writing? Did you publish anything so far?” Ms. Oates asked. 

I meant to say, “Since when? All my life. Since the first time I received my first present from Santa Claus and wrote him a letter on a slate chalkboard…. the day ma was unfair and slapped me instead of my brother…the afternoon I learned that I am pretty from the side glance of a young man at the bus stand on my way to school…the day I found out that my love left without telling me….and and so many more..” But I couldn’t say a thing. Just smiled. She finished for me “Forever?” I nodded. 

“Who is your favorite author?” I took a deep breath.” Where should I start?” If I say Rabindranath to start with, Bibhutibhusan, Tarasankar, Ashapurna Devi .would she get it? But they are my foundation, my mentors. I gulped.

“Hemmingway, Alcott, Mark Twain, even Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- my favorite), and of course you, Joyce Carol Oates (Where are you going..where have you been, A Widow’s Story.)”

She pressed her lips. “Okay, okay.” 

She looked at the next candidate and Shanti picked up the thread. 

What was the take away from today’s workshop

* “Write every day.” She said. “Even when I was going through the trauma with the death of my husband, I kept a daily journal about what was happening. I was in no form writing cohesively then, but it helped later to sort out when I put together the memoir. “So that’s how that memoir “A Widow's Story “ was written. 

“When you are much hurt or having a splendid time visiting awesome places, keep a daily journal…just what is happening. Later the memory will come. Draw past from the present.” 

 * Tie in a big (larger than life) event, experience or emotion to give your writing another dimension. For example, she asked Shanti if she knew anyone from her family who had survived the Holocaust or suffered directly. Shanti’s memoir was about an experience she had in an Israeli military camp. Her background is Jewish, and she talked about her faith and religion in that piece.