My Top 30

Cover photograph of LIES/ISLE's last issue (Issue #7).

Cover photograph of LIES/ISLE’s last issue (Issue #7).

Everyone should have a top five, a top ten, or even a top twenty.

I have a top thirty list.

That’s thirty literary magazines I want to see my work in.

The top five are the cream of the cream. The literary elite.  They are listed in the order of their (almost) unbreakable publishing bourgeoisie-ness.

The rest that follow are still pretty big deal, but they are listed in no particular order.

Some of them (a whole lot actually, now that I am looking at them again) are Canadian.

Some Canadian magazines from my "Top 30" list.

Some Canadian magazines from my “Top 30″ list.

Why this list?

Because it’s good to aspire.

Also, from what I have heard, publishing credits not only earn you street cred (as a writer), but also boosts your ever flailing writer’s ego.

And since recently I got to cross off a name from the list, I have been on top of a cloud higher than #9.

My most queer piece till date, “Regular,” got accepted by LIES/ISLE! Watch this space.

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Coming to terms with the real me

real selfTwo summers ago, my stalker claimed that he “knew” me because he had read every single thing I had ever published.

But that isn’t the real me, I had wanted to say. That is just an online persona. That is how I talk in my head when I am writing. That is me performing online.

And it does so much feel like a performance. That I cannot bare my bones and just exist within my skin. That even when I am writing about an honest experience, I am also self-censoring.

I tried keeping this anonymous blog once (it still exists somewhere) where I could proclaim my inanities without shame. But even faced with faceless strangers, I kept up the performance until finally one day, I stopped writing there completely.

The truth is… the only time I can truly shed my skin is when I am fictionalizing. The moment I turn to fiction, the words become more visceral, more a part of me than apart from me. It’s ironic in some way, I suppose. That I can be myself when I am essentially making things up, and not otherwise.

It’s almost as if the real me is a fictionalized version of me. Or, several versions of me.

The only comfort is that they are less idealized versions. Versions that help me come to terms with who I really am.

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Havana Calling

havana

Freshly painted pink car in Havana – © iStockphotos.com/Christian Bernfeld – Source: http://www.timeout.com/travel/features/392/20-great-things-to-do-in-havana

This post comes a little belatedly, not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I was/am busy finishing up before I depart to feed my soul for two whole weeks.

That’s two weeks without working on my thesis, or thinking about deadlines, or marking papers, or answering questions to concerned parents who unknowingly turn up the stress factor by affectionate nagging.

That’s two weeks of engaging with an unknown place and people and experiences through creative writing and photography.

Godammnit, I can’t wait!

But le sigh. I have to finish a mountain of work before I get on that plane.

So on the eve of 23rd April, I completed four years of being a blogger. Ta-da!

What did I do that day? Nothing substantial. Meaning, no celebration as such. But possibly worked on a thesis chapter, as I have been doing every day now.

So here’s the lowdown. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I haven’t been publishing much lately. Not because I haven’t been sending my stuff out, or writing anything at all (Oh, but I have! So. MUCH.), but because I have been aiming higher.

By higher I mean I have been sending my work to journals where I truly want my work to be seen (won’t take names. Don’t make me! Not yet…). The result has been that I have also been getting a lot of rejection letters. Not form ones. Actual letters with feedback where most of them say:

We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, your piece was not selected for publication. We sincerely hope you will submit again in the future. 

ps. Thanks for the chance to read this. You do a great job of capturing voice in this piece. It made the shortlist for this round.

It made it to the shortlist! Atleast on three different occasions. Which means I am getting something right. In this essay on academics/writers and fashion, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says as much. She calls it “progress of sorts”. That’s where I am right now.

I have also been fashion blogging. It’s a one year project (not just for now. It just is.). It has been evolving and frustrating and fun and all kinds of mixed feelings. From a post every week, I have dissolved it to every alternate week just because it is too much work. Mad respect to fashion bloggers all around. Also, just like my little sister, if anyone else is wondering WHAT THE EFF IS THE POINT? You will find out in a year, when the project’s done.

And for those of you not in the know, my second MA thesis has a creative writing component. Which is really parts of my work-in-progress novel. And, for which, I was allowed to take Carolyn Smart‘s fiction and poetry workshop classes over the past eight months.

In fact, Smart is so awesome that she even edited a short story for a competition. I didn’t make it in, which sort of broke my heart, but it just makes me want to work harder on the story. It will find a home elsewhere, I am sure.

So, there you have it. This is what it has come to after four years of blogging online.

Not a writer yet, but getting there.

Meanwhile, HAVANA CALLING!

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The Chapbook that never was

Final product.

Final product.

Chapbooks are not easy to make.

And, my final project for Carolyn Smart’s poetry workshop class was just that. A chapbook.

I knew what I wanted. My barenaked face, sans makeup (except mascara), as the cover.

The title would be “For Sale” borrowed from the first line of the first poem.

And, my name.

And, it would be fancy, a 4X6 in hardcover, bound in red cloth.

Hah. Impossible. For a 12 page chapbook, it was très impossible.

Credit: Chloe Sobel Photography.

Credit: Chloe Sobel Photography.

For the photo, I hunted down the fantastic Chloe Sobel from my creative writing class last term. Her expertise lay in feminist retellings of fairytales. And, portraiture.

After scheduling and rescheduling, we managed to meet outside in the windy cold (there was snow on the ground, and her reflector almost flew away, twice), get my clothes partially off for the barenaked feel, and clicked a few for my cover.

Next, the layout.

I begged my fantastic sister to help out with her artsy skills, and although she tried, due to time crunch (on my part), it was just not what I had pictured in my head.

So, I visited the printing services on campus with my ideas. They shot it down. We don’t do the kind of binding you want, they said. It just cannot be done.

I went to Staples next, but with similar results.

And just when I thought all was lost, and I would probably have to print those pages out myself, and staple them together in a shoddy manner (sewing and glue guns were out of question. Mostly, due to lack of a single artistic bone in my body.), I thought why not. Let me see if there are any binding services in Kingston.

The nearest to my location was DigiGraphics, and so I called them. The kind Elizabeth Clark there suggested, very gently, that perhaps I should reconsider the binding. Saddle binding could work you know, she said. It wouldn’t be fancy, but we could work with it.

So, I let them.

Final cover, courtesy of DigiGraphics, Kingston.

Final cover, courtesy of DigiGraphics, Kingston.

And voila. I had my chapbook.

It was slightly different from what I had initially imagined. But it was a real thing.

And, it was all mine.

The chapbook contains seven of my poems (four of which have been workshopped in the poetry class and some of which have been published online) and only exists as a single copy. It was, as I mentioned, made only for the purpose of my final creative writing project. At the moment, I do not have any plans of having any more copies published.

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FashUN Faux Pas

fashion intro

Turns out I really wanted to (if you don’t know what I am talking about, click here).

Yes, I really wanted to.

The catch? It’s an experiment for a year (for now), and just four posts in, it’s already evolving.

Some of my friends – including LuAnne D’Souza aka Weesha – who have seen the blog, have been really supportive.

And my brain! It has been in an overdrive, where I have already begun to churn out academic articles about fashion blogging in-my-head.

This ride, my friends, is going to be interesting.

So, I have a fashion blog (WHAT!!). Yes, go see:

FashUN Faux Pas

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This is What I Look Like, In Action

Exchange, taken in Calcutta, India on Jan 5 2014. Photo credit: Abhijit Nayak

Exchange, taken in Calcutta, India on Jan 5 2014. Photo credit: Abhijit Nayak

So, I had to post this amazing, quintessential and almost serendipitious pic where I don’t hate the way I look.

It was taken on 5th Jan by Abhijitda (Abhijit Nayak) of Kolkata Weekend Shoots at the transit camp near Babu ghat in Calcutta, India.

I was in conversation with a “sadhu” who ended up telling me his life story, and even showed me his Aadhaar card :). I don’t remember his entire name, but his last name was Goswami. He was from Maharashtra, and despite the last name, wasn’t very fluent in Bengali. He also wore shackles around his feet; shackles that he claimed he has been wearing for ten years.

I am really glad for this photo, as it reminds me of the (different kind of) freedom I have when I am behind a camera, and when I am navigating the world on my own. I am thankful to my friend, and photography mentor, Abhijitda, for capturing this.

And, this. Credit: Abhijit Nayak

And, this. Credit: Abhijit Nayak

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Why I Can’t be a Fashion Blogger

Okay, I found this funny.

Okay, I found this funny.

It’s simple, really. I love fashion, but I am too lazy to be fashionable all the time.

Okay, maybe that’s a tiny lie.

I do make the effort. I have been making an effort ever since my India trip (a trip I still haven’t recovered from and long to repeat and re-repeat till I do).

So, not too long ago, I had the chance to meet with two fashion bloggers in Calcutta.

Debiparna Chakraborty, who had invited me, is a fabulously sexy plus size blogger, much like my friend, LuAnne D’Souza from Dubai who goes by the name Weesha in the blogging world. The second one was Anupriya Dutta Gupta, also known for her fashion line, Howrah Bridge. There was a third person as well, Shreya Goswami, but she is a photographer.

So, let me be honest. I had been apprehensive about this meeting. Me, a struggling writer-in-progress/grad student (for life!) who didn’t care too much about fashion (well, not until recently) was about to meet fashion bloggers. For fun. Yeah, right! Too-much-pressure, I tell you.

Plus, there was this fear. What if they were superficial? Yes, I stereotype too.

But nice people, them. Debi and Anu. I was almost sad I was leaving India two days later. Anupriya asked me if I intended to ever have a lifestyle section on my blog, and I said no. Because you know, the blog is my creative space as a writer/photographer.

But then, I seriously thought about it. Why not? I could be a fashion blogger if I wanted to. I could fill this niche of a short, curvy, big busted brown girl fashion blogger, something I hadn’t seen yet. So, why not, right?

Well… no.

For one, I simply don’t have the time or energy. I am a full time graduate student. I am working on my second MA thesis. I am taking a poetry workshop/class this term with seasoned Canadian poet, Carolyn Smart (see what I did there? Name dropped…). I just finished all of my PhD and grant applications (phew!). I am planning to launch a literary magazine soon (an idea I had been flirting with for a year). I am also working on my novel and a collection of short stories on the side. So… no way on earth did I have time for fashion blogging too.

Two, I barely know anything about fashion. What I do know comes second hand. From magazines, from my ever fashionable younger sister, from friends, from the internet (long live fashion bloggers!). For example, I recently learnt about accenting, how you can accent certain fabrics with certain colours. The lingo is still very new to me.

And three, I am more of a voyeur, rather than an exhibitionist. It’s true. I love watching (no, don’t you dare go there). So there is no way in the seven wonders of the world am I going to put up pictures of me on the internet for the world to see. Especially pictures of me accompanied with posts that talked about clothes on my body. My BODY.

I am the kind of person who self-censors her private life on social media.

And oh my god, I completely forgot. My brush with a stalker/harasser last year (that led me to making an official police complaint. The police of Mississauga were so very helpful in taking care of that. Thank you!). I don’t want to encourage my stalker (or, potential stalkers) in any way.

I am better off, living the life of a pretend-recluse writer. The one who parties with people she knows. The one who is mostly very social in person, and online, but won’t cross certain boundaries because it is beyond her comfort level…. wait, what?! I didn’t just type that. That is a complete lie.

I cross boundaries all the time.

Not just because as a writer, you should, but because that’s who I am.

Sigh, I guess I could be a fashion blogger after all.

If I really wanted to.

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