Writing Kathputli

I always wanted to write a book. Much like ‘Kathputli’’s protagonist Chitrangda Chatterjee, I knew that writing a book would be my Everest. Of course, it had to be a good book. Something I could be proud of, that I could happily put alongside my ever-burgeoning collection of prized books. Not just any old thing.

I started and abandoned writing some 6 books in my 37 years. One was when I was in junior school and roughly 10 or 11 years old, very grandly called ‘Science Vision’. There would be tiny models of mountains and volcanos in the book, actual envelopes would disgorge paper letters written by the characters. Understandably, the ideas were hard to execute and I had to regretfully lay that book to rest midway. I might actually try it again, as a children’s book, once I have enough resources to get a pop-up book of such complexity printed.

Since college, the number of attempted novels dropped somewhat. Amidst office, friends, family and chores; I was happy just writing blogposts and short stories; and my readers (about 10 people) were happy too because they had to commit to reading no more than 700 words at a time.

Then came the time I took a break from work to take care of my baby. My every thought and action revolved around this tiny human being for about a year. When I emerged from this baby-induced fog, I realised it was time to use my little grey cells for other matters again. I wasn’t looking forward to the whole office grind − Monday Blues, 9 AM panic, do-my-clothes-match misery. My plan was to be a freelance, pyjama-clad writer/editor/full time mommy until my daughter was school-going age. This gave me the time and mental space to start a new book. My track record told me I would abandon it to its fate latest by the 12th chapter. But as I wrote I began to wonder if this time I would get to the finish line, as the story grew and ripened on the page.

It took me under a year to bring the book to some kind of completion. I wove much of my experiences and feelings into its fabric, the rest was imagined or in some cases heard. I thought I’d conquered my Everest. Boy, was I wrong! After favourable reviews from my parents, husband, and one or two friends (accompanied by lots of feedback that improved it several times over) I strode out into the world; confident that it would get picked up by the next passing publisher on the lookout for fresh talent.

Whoever has had experience in this field is laughing his/her guts out at this part. I most resoundingly did not get ‘picked up’; in fact, apart from one rejection from a big ticket traditional publisher none of them even deigned to respond. (Yes, I did send chasers − thanks for asking.) Thus I wasted two years.

Then several things happened at once. I completely gave up, and began to send the manuscript to people who had expressed even a passing interest in my book. The joke I had going with one of my best friends was, that I should charge 3 rupees for emailing the word doc to people; and thus get something back for the three years I’d spent on the thing.

A cousin of mine read it; and was emphatic that it was a great book. She would edit it if I promised I’d publish it. A colleague (I had, since then, begun work as the Editor-in-Chief of SiyaWoman) read it and said she would love to help me self publish, it was definitely worth the trouble; who needed traditional publishers in the age of Kindle, social media and an array of online resources?

My husband (who has now emerged as my greatest support as I get the print versions out) and parents (super-supportive and relentless follow-uppers) had always urged me to self-publish; now with some renewed encouragement from other quarters; I began to work towards publishing it.

And now, here it is on Kindle, edited and illustrated and formatted; for your reading pleasure. We plan to have the paperbacks available in early February, 2017.

It has been quite an experience. Not only have I realised the dream of writing and publishing a book I could be proud of, me and the 3-4 people associated with ‘Kathputli’ can now teach you the end-to-end process of publishing a book. No task too big or small! J

(This piece was first published on SiyaWoman.com. The image was one of the first covers Rashmi had drawn for us, which evolved into the one we have now. More on that in another post.)

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