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1. When did you find yourself in the world of words?
I wasn’t an avid reader until 2007. I didn’t even know there was a literary genre. I occasionally read pulp or not even that. I was a dreamer. I worked in the corporate world writing content for the e-learning industry. After completing an MBA and a PG my life was set, so-to-speak and at the back of my mind it was just about getting an ROI on these educational investments.
One day working on a client-specified project called English Town --which was to create teaching material for 6th grader Shanghai students -- I wrote a precise paragraph. I still remember it. It was my first free-writing paragraph about a dog under the moon in the mist. And I was like…wow. I want to write more, without client specifications, just chasing a thought, idea, story, character with words.
I realized this was short story-writing and booked myself for a two-day workshop at a festival near Churchgate. I didn’t know it was the Kala Ghoda Festival.
At this workshop I made my first writer-friends [who are still my dear friends to date], and joined the BCL writers group and wrote more stories, visiting the library every now and then to read my works.
I associated with many writer groups – public and private – after that, while finding my voice.
2. What do you think of the newly emerged genre "Micro-fiction”?
Flash fiction always existed. Poetry is small fiction, according to me. A haiku is a big crunch, if a novel is a big bang of the story world or universe of the characters, ever-expanding and continuing in the minds of the readers.
So this so-called new genre micro-fiction coincides with the sizes of our virtual screens, the time to write-produce-edit (as writers), and the attention spans of the readers. In that sense it’s useful.
But condensed story telling loses out on the swirling unfurling description, atmosphere and narrative of a bigger plot that can stoke imaginative sensibilities. So it has its disadvantages too.
I am currently introducing enthusiasts to haibun, through workshops. Haibun is a Japanese prose-poetry form interspersed with haiku. An intersection of story and poetry. I won’t call it micro-fiction, but it can sit on half-a-page and cover a lot of ground in a small frame.
3. What are your views about Indian publishing industry?
It isn’t a macrocosm that is easily understood. No fish can fathom the whole ocean, and maybe you don’t need to and just make sense of the swimming rather.
The point-of-view of every element in this ecosystem will change the narrative of this industry. An industry per se is about economic parameters of commerce and consumption. But what do you do when the product has to have soul that will move and influence, illuminate, entertain or educate? Not just that, this product should embody art and craft (ideally), form and language, theme, and genre. And the spectrum widens with every factor making the ecosystem fast-changing and fickle. Take for instance a variable like content deliverance or consumption interfaces: online or mobile phone reading, and there we introduce another dynamic to the equation.
I, for one, can’t wrap my mind over this industry and I’m not even trying. I just concentrate on the microcosm which is of: writing and producing good work (hopefully). The rest will take care of itself.
I believe in both models - trade and self-publishing, as long as the quality and craft is maintained.I was earlier of the opinion that subjectivity was a writer’s biggest adversary in terms of winning or losing publication opportunities, or awards. But business decisions are bigger key indicators.
4. Your views on online readership...
I love the virtual book. Swipe pages on a Kindle and finish reading with backlit ease. I recently dismantled a bookshelf of nearly 1000 books, after buying ebooks of all that I wanted. I also read a lot of online quality fiction. Even poetry enters my newsfeed via a mobile screen. There should be a new genre of reading – called ‘Between the reds and greens’ or ‘Before the potholes are filled’ or ‘Before traffic eases’ or ‘Before the rain lets up’.
5. Tell us about your book/s
I have two books out, for now.One a collection of short stories – The Arithmetic of Breasts and other stories, that was shortlisted for the Digital Book of the Year award 2014 by Publishing Next.And second is a first book of poetry – Four Degrees of Separation. It has 60 free verse poems.There are other works-in-progress books and you will hear of them from my blog: www.rochellepotkar.com
6. A message for the reader's community...
Read, of course, but engage with a writer by reviewing their works. Don’t hold back. There is no better engagement with a writer than letting them know what you think of their books or writings. It was after all written for you or to be eventually shared with you.
So read and engage!