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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

13 October, 2004

Quality equality!

Some basic thoughts on BWC and my experience.of working with it. At the very beginning, correct me if I am wrong, the impression created was that it was a free forum for aspiring and established writers to come together and read works, works in progress and take hesitant baby steps into the art of writing.

If it develops into a forum where only the best contributions are read then I would have to go find another forum that would accept me however raw that I am. I confess I am not the best writer there is, though I believe I am far better than I was a year ago. I am editing my own novel and I think I have matured and fermented as writer since my earlier rewrite. A writer always evolves and to evolve he needs the support of a peer group and I guess BWC fulfils that promise that it started with. I still need inputs about my work and one forum is BWC because the members though unsparing in comment are supportive.

Let me draw a parallel here. You know those tasty south Indian dosas? A writer’s career is like that of a dosa. It is ground mercilessly by peer review then left to ferment with the author’s own experience and then fried on a skillet, which is the ultimate publication and acceptance of a writer by the public at large.

BWC I think is the grinding stage in which a writer is ground to bits by peer reviews and is prepared for the ultimate frying of the dosa on the skillet. The idea is to break a writer from the shell of his own making and make him more experiential and open to new viewpoints. Only then can the writer mature or ferment and be accepted for publication that is the frying on the skillet. At the outset, we had agreed that if an author is sensitive to criticism of his work then he has the option of requesting nothing but positive and constructive criticism and no barbs or tearing to bits. That was accepted so I guess it still stands. If I felt my work is still undeveloped I would request the audience to spare me the “tearing to pieces.”

Believe me the ultimate stage of publication is a merciless and ruthless process as any published author will know. In the ultimate frying on he skillet, they grill you, grind you, burn you and crucify you. So BWC prepares you for all that torture by some peer criticism and review. I am sorry to say BWC readmeets cannot change into the frying on skillet stage in writing because then it becomes not a forum but a commercial, corporate, profit-seeking entity.

On the other hand, SATCT is our showcase, our show-window in which we can show the world, “Look these are the promising writers we have discovered and encouraged.” Those writers who are chosen for publication in SATCT are in the frying stage and they should be able to withstand trenchant tearing to bits. So for SATCT we can have plenty of quality control and vetting of the stories we receive, not in the BWC readings.

We had a policy of allowing the writers on a “first-come-first-serve” basis I guess that still stands, or does it? Two poems would be adequate for a poet and a short story or article for every writer would be reasonable enough acceptance criterion. A list is prepared of the first posting on the event page and we follow that order at the readmeet and if you are the fiftieth, please make sure you are the first in line for the next readmeet. From the discussion (even the expression on the audience’s faces) the write will know where he has gone wrong, if more effort is required. I discovered so many different aspects to a novel I am writing from my first reading and subsequently I am doing a rewrite with the inputs I have received. I have in mind all those faces who sat before me (Ratna, Annie, Fiza, Hema, Sunil, Peter, Ankur, Vijay, etc) and I know from their reactions what was good and what was plain bad and needed reworking.

An author works in the isolation of his own mind. He need to know his audience and the best way to get an audience is to go and find a peer group that will be supportive. He is already unsure of his work and if he doesn’t come out of his shell and find his peer group he will never ever come out. If he reads an atrocious poem or article he will get the hint from the expressions on faces around him that that he has to work harder, no need to be turned down by a quality control committee. I guess BWC is a good forum in that one can keep in touch with discussions online and can contribute at the readings.

Writer members should not think that they would be panned or drawn over coals and shouldn’t withdraw into a shell because I guess BWC cannot afford to have quality checks. Quality check should be there only for SATCT. But then SATCT has to have quality checks because it is the medium to create a corpus to expand our future activities. If BWC readmeets have quality checks, I am sure, in the end it will become subjective and will depend upon the quality controller’s personal whims and fancies and aspiring authors and writers would never benefit from the experience of reading their works and would withdraw further into their shells.

So BWC members no need to be afraid of quality checks and vetting. Come out of your shells and contribute. If you don’t come out of the closet now, you never will and will regret all your life that you never had the guts to stand before an audience and be heard. This is the best peer group that you can find for your work and ideal group to grow as a writer. Take the first step to publication and contribute a story to SATCT project and if your contribution is selected you will share all the glory and if not you can still be read and accepted at BWC readmeets.

I have poked the burning embers, stoked the fire, now for more coal nuggets please!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely put. Caferati must encourage writers to come out of their shells and their closets not make them retreat further into it.

13 October, 2004 13:18  
Blogger Max Babi said...

Hi John,

I've said it before and will say it again,
you explain the whole scenario better than
the honorable N. Siddhu explaining his take
on Cricket...when in top form.

Witty, detailed, to the point and hard-htting.
Keep it up frind, BWC can see better thru' your bespectacled eyes....

cheers !

13 October, 2004 23:10  
Blogger Alien said...

Hi... first time here... and I am thoroughly impressed... How does one get in / join / qualify??

If it finds your fancy... do visit

14 October, 2004 03:16  
Blogger annie said...

John, you are better at prose and essays, like this one, than you know. and i totally adore your 'dosa' analogy.

14 October, 2004 13:50  
Blogger Ami Titash said...

Hi John

I don't know whether your post is a link in a debate going on at the BWC read meets out there. I agree to what you say about the difference between BWC and SATCT.

The analogy between a young writer and dosa was beautiful, to say the least. It reminded me of what Ursula LeGuin said once about writers.

"Writers have to get used to launching something beautiful and watching it crash and burn. They also have to learn when to let go control, when the work takes off on its own and flies farther than they even planned or imagined, to places unknown.
All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit.
But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently to deserve them."

My only take on this is, that once a writer comes ot of the proverbial closet, he should be ready for the frying anytime. Even before the dosa is not properly ground, even without asking he may be fried. It does not matter whether he wants to be fried at that moment or not. That is the way of the world.

I have been a victim of countless heart wrenching murders and unasked for crucifications of my works. I know it hurts when your works of love and labour are shredded apart without mercy, but on hindsight I feel I am so much better because they happened.

So let there be criticism, let there be quality check, let there be fryings on the skillet. But make sure that this does not become a guillotine where young writers face the axe in the name of revolution.

14 October, 2004 15:11  
Blogger Kraz Arkin said...

As an ember into the fire or as Dosa-fodder, I'm in. Great work guys.

14 October, 2004 19:38  
Blogger manisha lakhe said...

dosa took too long...went and wolfed down a pizza instead...

15 October, 2004 10:27  
Blogger John said...

Hi max, Dattatraya, Annie, Ami, Karz and Manisha, thanks for your inputs. Am glad to know that my piece helped. Those who aren't in visit the following link to join caferati:

Hope to see you around and your contributions too! Don't be afraid to contribute. We can evolve together as writers.

15 October, 2004 11:29  

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