Thursday, August 28, 2008

India beckons

I use my local library a lot. A LOT. I mean my taxes and fines are being used to construct a new self-help wing. They are even considering naming it after me.

Seriously, what's bittersweet about my library books these days are the due dates on them. March 12th has turned into September 12th as if in a blink. I read books now and turn to the page with the card that has the due date on it and I feel my heart sink. Soon the books I borrow will have due dates of October, then December, and then January. And as January rolls to an end, so will my relationship with my library, for that's around when I will stop using it, at least as a regular member. After that if all goes well, I will use it during the summers I am here, being nostalgic about these very times.

Our time to return to India draws near and so do my fears about adjusting, making good there. It is the right thing to do, no question--parents miss us and need us, our son should know his heritage and be close to family as he grows up etc etc. But spoilt brats as we've become, coddled by an efficient, no nonsense nation of haves, it isn't going to be easy going back to a country where toughness is taught at the crib. My parents though, left my brother and me too soft, too protected, too sheltered and yes, way too privileged to be well-adjusted Indians. So perhaps its poetic justice that I must do the adjusting now and be an adult about it.

Its not going to be all bad of course. With money, India can be the perfect place. Maids, cooks, afternoon tea. But my library I will miss. Sorely. Besides my friends. But truly, the library is one of my closest friends too. So it will be one of the many lovely friends I have made here that I will miss. Sigh, sigh, sigh.

Come on, you say, no real tragedy here. Its not as if I am leaving a burning house, a platoon of blood thirsty gunmen and all my possessions to go to an unknown banana republic. It's my motherland for Pete's sake right?

Sigh, sigh. I am building nostalgic memories even as I write this on this humid Sunday night, listening to my three year old talk to his cars in bed, trying hard to squeeze more into the final moments of a long, fun, almost end of summer day in Chicago.

The countdown has begun...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hot off the press: the latest pain

So many of us take pleasure (I know I often do) in other people's pain. "At least my life isn't as bad /crazy/pathetic as theirs," is a good feeling to have when hearing about others' miseries . Thus in the interest of the world at large, I write this post.

And what pray, you ask, prompted that sentiment? Rejection number five. Some hours ago, as a matter of fact. This editor, I'll call him Jaikishen Batra to protect his identity, likes the novel (called it an ambitious effort). But he wasn't blown away by the writing. In this difficult market, my writing though adequate and nice isn't enough to make a splash. So some editors think I can write but think the novel too quiet. Then there are these new ones who don't think I can write well enough. I need to find that one person who thinks I can do both and the real danger is that the rejections I start getting from now on may well be from people who don't think I can do either i.e. the novel and my writing stinks. Must brace myself for this eventuality...

I just started reading Sideways (remember the movie with Paul Giamatti). This man is a kindred with his wall covered by rejection slips and hanging by a thread with an agent slowly losing interest in what will never be a big deal maker. It's nice to be able to say you truly understand how the protagonist of the novel you're reading feels. Except of course I am a bit spoiled in that I don't have to worry about paying the rent (thank goodness!).

Now I know many would think, and so do I, trust me, that maybe my work truly isn't that good. It doesn't stink perchance, but more than likely, although good enough for friends and family, the book just doesn't have what it takes to make the cut for commercial publishing.

There is probably a lot of truth in that but I have shed too much blood, sweat and tears to not at least try, give this my best shot and only then hang up my laptop. Besides, in the midst of this already tumultuous submission process, that sort of thinking won't get me anywhere. So, even if I am one of very few, for now, I continue to believe in myself and my work.

Aaargh, I hear soft son hasn't napped for his second afternoon in a row. Must try and not panic, for I got the horrid mommy memo that kids start to wean off naps at around age three. I never thought it would happen to me given the strict, efficient disciplinarian mum I think I am. Obviously whatever I am doing isn't cutting it on this front either...this just isn't my day, my week, my year.

C'est la vie...but now that I have vented...I mean shared this latest development, I shall go for a run and mull over yet another business venture or book to fail at and following that I shall try and get drunk on Pinot Noir which I don't even like.

Thank you all for listening.

Elvis has left the building...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The wonderful quiet, troubled world of the unpublished writer

I never imagined I'd have anything to blog about. But there's things I care about that many others care about too (world peace, composting :-), biking to the grocery store then wondering how to bike back laden with groceries, losing five pounds, keeping sane while around an overactive three year old etc etc) and maybe those are reasons enough to sit here hammering away...

Then there's another reason. My book.
Its called...well, I was advised not to use the real title else I influence more powers that be. I am not maverick enough to tell them to go to hell yet so I have succumbed and removed the title...suffice to say that the title is catchy and everyone except my agent--I'll call him Jacques Chirac--hates it. Many ask me about it--what's happening with your book, what's the progress?? The progress, if indeed one can call it that, makes a snail seem like Lightening McQueen but that's just how this business is and I have decided to make this bed so I better sit on it. Anyway a blog suddenly seemed like a good way to vent err share the happenings on this front because I am deluded enough to believe that it's actually interesting to the people who ask. Or maybe they're like my brother-in-law who used to, since the turn of the century, (when I started toying with the idea of a book), ask me "How's the bu--ugh." And I thought, hey, I haven't really mentioned the book to anyone yet so I am flattered he knows. Turns out he means my VW bug. And now it's years later, my bug's old, my book's old also and all he can still ask me is "How's the bu--ugh," and I just say they're both fine thanks and we move on to easier topics such as Barack Obama and the oil crisis.

But I am not going to talk about oil or Obama here so if I am here to share, might as well start sharing.

The news is that a month ago, my agent Jacques sent me a list of 28 possible publishers whom he was going to approach. Now this is our second round of submissions. The first round went to thirteen or so top guns and they all uniformly said lovely writing but not for us. Too quiet, not enough drama, My protagonist is too good to be true (I agreed with this assessment) and too many characters to keep track of (fine I agreed with that too). So I re-plotted, re-wrote, re-edited, got rid of a bunch of characters, made him a bit of a player, added elements of drama to make the manuscript more exciting, all without resorting to gratuitous sex and violence and sudden landings of Russians in fighter jets on the shores of south India. Armed thus with a new and improved version, I handed it confidently to my agent last month. "Much more commercially viable," was his admiring (if deadpan) response. Hey at least he didn't cut me loose. Try finding an agent in this business. That needle in the haystack is a cake walk in comparison.

I walked on air for a week.

Ok, so new version, new submission. Of the 28 on his list, he has so far sent it to 15, also top guns. And the responses trickle in like a trail of blood. Its funny how the responses trickle back to me yet I feel like I am losing blood. Excuse that poor yet graphic analogy. But it's how I feel. So far four have gotten back to me. Again all glowing. Some even say they were engrossed in the book, finished it over the weekend, felt for Swami BUT...there's that dreaded word again...too quiet. Now will someone please explain this word to me?? Because I no longer know what it means. Short of making my protagonist a Bond like womanizing double agent living on a farm and working out of his mother's kitchen, I am out of ideas. But as my fourth rejection has rolled in ruining yet another summer weekend, I think, well, this editor has even said he wants to read more of my work and hey, how many times in my life will I have the honor to be rejected by a top editor at a top publishing house? Ruined weekend but we won't ruin the week. Hope this feeling lasts 'cause the next editor's email is right round the corner....

At 3:00 a.m--that dreaded hour--on so many nights, I sit up and go, "Damn (or stronger cuss word), I have two failed/stalled businesses behind me and now a book that just isn't sexy enough to print, so really, just STOP. Stop this nonsense of trying to trod the unbeaten path and find a career, any career before it is too late.

Stop the useless dreaming! For living the dream--which people at cocktail parties think I am doing--just isn't what it is cut out to be.