The FRANGIPANI

(<a href="http://Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/josch13-48777/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=359398">Josch13</a&gt; from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=359398">PixabayImage credit)

Last evening, I smelt the frangipani flowers. They were floating in an uruli, spiral whites circumventing subtle yellows. They sat on my screen in an image, during a poetry workshop. We were to follow the usual protocol. Watch, conjure a memory or simply drift with the image. I enjoy these moments of collective writing when I can shut out my inner editor and write unabashedly. More importantly, when I don’t judge my writing.

Anyway, coming back to the frangipani. You might wonder what made me enjoy their sweet aroma. Memories. They make you smell with your eyes. The scent lunged at me from the screen.

They lay strewn under the tree that bore them, making their way into my grandmother’s basket who walked into the mandir with a lingering, delicate fragrance. Some of those flowers stayed back on the tree, adding to its beauty.

They were there- in the uruli, on the tree and in the basket. I wondered which one of their form added meaning to the world. The flowers continued in their state, unaware of their existential crisis.

I was running late. We had ten minutes to write that poem, eight of which I had lost trying to find Sartre in luscious petals.

Finally, the following lines made their way on to paper.

the frangipani flowers

floating in the midst of

veined greens

bring to me

pleasing fragrances

from baskets

and urulis

and trees

a mild balm

that drives away

the vile smell

of disillusionment

It wasn’t a long composition but I thought it was enough. I didn’t get a chance to read the poem (there were close to sixty participants) but I had solved the existential question for quiet lives, fastened to tree branches or lying underneath them.

This morning, I spent a few hours with my potted greens. The hangover from an evening spent with the frangipani.

Do you question the purpose, meaning of your life? How do you deal with the question? Does nature give you answers?

YOUR CREATIVITY MATTERS (IWSG June 2021)

YOUR CREATIVITY MATTERS- This line isn’t my brainchild. Almost a fortnight ago, I attended a poetry workshop. On the day of the graduation this very line formed a part of the valedictory speech and needless to say, it stayed with me. I’ve been wanting to talk about it since then, and what better day than the IWSG Day!

Creativity couldn’t have found a better time to mushroom. Social media is the support it has discovered to twine around. Over the past three years of my creative journey, I’ve met inherent, ingenuine talent in abundance. I’ve also seen it flourish in various forms, take on diversified routes, sometimes make a detour or reach an unidentified destination. In all this, I have known that there is no dearth of it in the world. Some of it catches the eye, some of it stays around for a while and then takes a backseat, sometimes it basks in glory and on other days it simply enjoys anonymity. There are fine days of creating and then there are those dull ones when nothing seems to work right.

Each day, countless words make their way on to paper (now more on electronic devices). Stories, poetry, memoirs, narratives, analyticals- there is a whole gamut of them on social media, in libraries and in book stores.

Have you ever wondered if in this vast universe YOUR words hold any place of relevance? Because I have.

I have found my words gather dust on several occasions. Rather, I mostly find them rotting away. No, that isn’t a writer’s self-doubt. I have seen my comrades seeking readers desperately. My heart has broken on days when a beautiful poem has passed by unnoticed on a Facebook page. But what can one possibly do? People have only as many hours in a day at their disposal as the earth takes to rotate on its axis. There’s also another life which must be taken care of. And so, how much can be read?

Yet, I create. Almost every day. Sometimes on the blog, sometimes on a forsaken page, sometimes for a competition and sometimes only to express myself. This last bit, I believe, adds essence and the much sought-after relevance to dust inflicted words that I speak of.

It is rightly said, ‘Create to express, not to impress.’ It is only in bare, raw expression that my voice becomes the voice of another and my writing bears some sort of semblance to the relevance that I speak of. Whether it be a poem, a piece of art or music, creativity fulfills its purpose by the very process of breathing life into our complex inner selves, by allowing us to manifest our emotions in various forms, tangible enough to be identified with by others.

As writers, we have a tendency to question our own work and its worth in the scheme of things, always pining to be like someone else, relegating our own words to the depths of abyss. Therefore, YOUR CREATIVITY MATTERS, is the panacea I bring to you all for all those days of self-doubt. Time to embrace it!

Remember it every time you begin to wonder, just like me, whether the zillionth word you scribbled has been written before and whether the world will care to read it. Remind yourself that creating in itself is adding value to the world. The Keukenhof is precious, but the world would be incomplete without its dandelions. The dandelion days matter, Your creativity matters!

And now for the optional question- For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

My answer: I have yet to take the plunge which I plan to do this November with NaNoWriMo, but as far as my short stories are concerned, I put them aside for a day or two at least before re-drafting. In the meantime, all I do is think about them!

The IWSG is a database resource site and support group for writers and authors. Featuring weekly guests and tips, a monthly blogfest gathering, a Facebook group, a book club, and thousands of links – all to benefit writers!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Join the group here.

The awesome co-hosts for the June 2 posting of the IWSG are J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria! Do visit them and show some love.

Happy writing!

Our Kitchens Are Lonely Spaces… Muse of the Month

Hello everyone!

How are you all holding up? Things in India are grim and being in Delhi at the moment is like sitting on a ticking time bomb. The second wave of Corona Virus has hit us hard and the only way to be safe is to stay home. Several people and organizations have come forward to support those in need and it’s heartening to see all the hand holding.

While it’s difficult to focus on anything at the moment, here is the link to a story that I had submitted to ‘Muse of the Month’ contest organized by Women’s Web. That it is one of the winning entries, comes as a tiny source of joy in these bleak times. I am sharing the link to the story. Hope you will enjoy reading it.

Image source: https://www.google.com/search?q=image+of+a+gulmohar+tree&client=ms-android-oneplus-rvo2&prmd=inmv&sxsrf=ALeKk00xaWXC14FMc2DCc7zTWypsN21HUA:1619700128805&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiAoseWvaPwAhXRdn0KHX5cCu0Q_AUoAXoECAIQAQ&biw=384&bih=713#imgrc=eB-6x9jhWEJDeM

PS: The story was titled “The Gulmohar Blossoms” by me but the title was changed by the publication to the following, click on the link below to read and do let me know your thoughts.

Our Kitchens Are Lonely Spaces Where We Spend Our Lives, Where Our Dreams Go To Waste.

“My eyes were set on plumes of flaming orange right outside the kitchen window, when Meera walked in. The delicate aroma of the Gulmohar served as the perfect antidote to cooking odours and I so loved it! I bent over the window sill, trying to catch a bunch that had been thrown upwards with great force…”

WEP APRIL 2021- FREEDOM MORNING

Hello everyone! Welcome to A Hundred Quills once again. I am joining the WEP after a long gap and I am glad to be back!

The prompt for this April is a watercolour by Claude Clark, the African American artist and art educator, called Freedom Morning, painted in 1941. (see image below).

Claude Clark was born in Georgia in 1915. His art characterises the African American diaspora experience. He faced prejudice, poverty and racism but did not allow these to deter him. He mixed his own paints from the trashed tubes in art schools. When he could not afford the expensive brushes and cleaning agents, he developed his unique technique with the palette knife. Read more about his remarkable life here. (from the WEP website).

Here in India, we are going through the second wave of coronavirus and it is worse than the last time. It is a difficult gloomy time with the numbers rising continuously and crumbling health facilities. When I saw Claude Clark’s painting, it spoke to me at various levels, but predominantly I could only think of breaking free from the shackles of the virus and also from deceitful, incompetent governance.

I have attempted a poem, keeping it hopeful with prayers and good faith.

Freedom Morning

The exalted circle rose
before their unbelieving eyes,
a ripe lemon with
its mouth
dabbed in red,
shattering the darkness
of all times.
A sliver of gold
at first,
its arms outstretched
Bathing the white chalk
up the mountainside
in its aureate light.

The bugle of victory
was long awaited
in dingy alleys of
standing stones
in a fortress so strong.
Pulling down walls
of resentment
and fear
pints of untruth
viruses smeared,
Mortgaged futures for
obscene sirens,
Deaths lurking
behind fickle violence,
was never an easy affair.

Bricks and mortar
systematically raised
Fortresses of suppression grown
taller with age.
These
an archipelago of d e s p a i r
a whirlpool of mayhem
in a sea of existence.
Those who were
shrivelled up— us and them—
would they ever escape?

No hocus pocus this
Mind you!
Only the gravity-defying
could climb up
walls of fortresses, the impossible
which seemed.
BUT
they did,
on the Freedom Morning.
And the shrivelled stood up like
—unfurling blooms—
The colours of promise
pirouetting in myriad hues.

A dripping light
of yellow semblance,
A gleeful breeze in turquoise blue,
escaping sighs of
pearly relief, glinting
in eyes- the homes (to now)
endless possibilities.

– Sonia Dogra

Total words- 198

Thank you to the hosts for this month, Denise, Olga, Laura, Nilanjana, Renee. Happy WEP!

BOOK REVIEW- AFTER DEATH COMES WATER

(Image: Harper Collins)

Book: After Death Comes Water

Poet: Joy Goswami (Translated from the Bengali by Sampurna Chattarji)

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Genre: Prose Poetry

Language: English

Lovers of poetry can only hope to satiate some of their thirst for this enriching art if they meander into the world of translated verses. The globe with its linguistical variety is a trove of rare pieces of poetry and in translation lies the key to their discovery. Joy Goswami is one of the most prominent and finest of Indian poets from Bengal and a versatile crusader of modernism.

Sampurna Chattarji’s translations of his poems has brought the inimitable poet to readers of the English language. As an amateur poet myself, let me add right in the beginning that this book has not only painted a vast and varied landscape of prose poems but has also made me eager for more translations. It took me two back-to-back readings of ‘After Death Comes Water’ to understand the depth of emotions that characterize the poems.

 As a back story to how the book made its way to my library, I was to have a little interaction with Sampurna during Blogchatter’s Writing Festival, but for some technical issues it got stalled. Having read a little about her, I was keen to read her work and this translation was an opportunity to read two fine poets.

Meena Kandasamy (Author of Exquisite Cadavers) says about the book, “Allow yourself to be outraged and furious, allow yourself to be swept into Joy Goswami’s intimate world of passion. His poems are breathtaking. They will momentarily remind you of the time you were resting your head on the chest of a lover, and by the turn of a page remind you of the bloodbath that exists in the world outside. Sampurna Chattarji’s translations breathe life and fire into his words.”

The book is recommended enough by some of the stalwarts of poetry, with a foreword by Ranjit Hoskote, poet, art critic and Sahitya Akademi Award winner.

About the Author Joy Goswami is an Indian poet who writes in Bengali and is considered the most important Bengali poet of his generation. He is a winner of several awards including the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2000. The Library of Congress has fourteen titles by him. His everyday poetic prose is fiery and passionate. He is a powerful voice against violence, war and genocide.

Sampurna Chattarji, a well-known poet, novelist, translator and poetry editor at Indian Quarterly has eighteen books to her credit, including five poetry books. As a participant of international translation workshops, she has worked with poets from France, Holland, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland and Wales. She teaches writing to design students at IIT Bombay. Her first translation of Goswami’s poems (Selected Poems) won him the first Tata Literature Live! Poet Laureate Award in 2014.

Review  Although I underline some aspects of the book in this section, it is more of an admiration of the versatility of the poet. It will not be befitting of me to talk about technicalities, considering that the vitality and visceral conviction of the verses completely overpowers the senses. And in any case, Joy Goswami is known to defy convention. So, I too have decided to refrain myself from talking about the book in conventional terms.

The book of prose poems is divided into three sections; translations of three collections by the poet, namely Solo for the Deer (Horiner Jonyo Ekok, 2002); No shame in bathing before your mother (Ma’er shamne snan korte lojja nei, 2012) and Whiplash(Shopaang Shopaang, 2017).

The subjects range from environmental conservation to absurdism, fate and meaning of life and in each rendition the poet blows you over with his sheer brilliance. Consider this,

//I’m leaving this

Unfinished poem behind

In the hands of all the

Imminent painters and sculptors. In oils in pastels

In acrylics—in wood in bronze in rock

Let them complete the body

Of this

Limitless map.//

*****************

//Agony, too, is a kind of institution. It will sit on you all the time swinging its legs from your shoulders.//

Joy Goswami doesn’t cease to surprise you. The surrealism and fantastic imagery creates the perfect dreamlike atmosphere.

 Jeremy Noel -Tod (editor of The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem: From Baudelaireto Anne Carson) recalls Charles Baudelaire when he writes about Goswami’s work. Baudelaire, as we know, is known for his original style of prose-poetry, modernism and inventiveness.

Goswami’s prose poems defy convention slipping easily between the metre and everyday speech. They are an ensemble of new styles, techniques, imagery, familiarity, recognizability as also uniqueness.

I am not versed in Bengali and I consider it a disadvantage because a translated piece of work is largely at the mercy of the translator. However, if I were to simply view this collection as my indulgence into the world of Joy Goswami sans the focus on language, I will say it flows seamlessly. Peppered with Hindi and several references, it makes one feel alive. The poems break barriers and as I felt, they move unconventionally from the personal to the universal and paint with perfect precision the insanity of existence. Sampurna Chattarji makes it a collection worthy of your time and senses both.  

My rating is five stars. Having read the book, I have been on a rampant research, studying about Joy Goswami and his work and it’s like diving into a vast ocean.

If you are a poet, this compelling book will motivate you to dive deep into translated verses and discover the raw beauty of India’s vernacular poets.

The book can be purchased from the following link,

This review is part of Blogchatter’s Book Review Campaign.

Taking risks- iwsg April 2021

Hello friends!

Super glad to be writing this IWSG post today. With a lot going on at the personal front, I missed out posting last month and didn’t visit many of my IWSG friends the month before that. But I’m hoping to share more snippets from my writing journey from now on. Fingers crossed!

The IWSG is a wonderful platform that helps you to carve your own writing path. Writing is a lonely pursuit and the IWSG gives you an opportunity to connect with others and learn from their experience. Being a part of this group has helped me to understand my own writing journey and work towards a goal.

If you would like to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, please click on the link below.

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

**************

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for today,  PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!

April 7th’s question:  

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Let me begin by saying that I admire the chutzpah of those who experiment with genres, styles, etc. At the same time, I am a traditionalist when it comes to both reading and writing. Seldom has experimentation caught my fancy. My writing journey is relatively young and for the past three or four years of writing poetry and short fiction, I don’t think I have tried anything radically different.

Having said that, I would like to add that I think I was only testing the waters in these initial years. This year, particularly, I made a conscious decision to experiment and go another route. Before I talk about style or genre, this is the first time in four years that I’ve chosen to send poems to various magazines looking for submissions rather than posting them here on my blog. The blog has taken a backseat with me making only sporadic appearances here.

I’ve been a stickler for rhyme and metre, but now I’ve been trying my hand at prose poetry. I haven’t had a breakthrough with this experiment as of now but I am enjoying this new phase of writing.

A first for me this year has also been a submission for an anthology of memoirs, which has fortunately been accepted. I read two memoirs in January and February and when I saw a call for one, I was naturally inclined to submit a piece may be because I was in that frame of mind. But I completely enjoyed writing it and was glad about a successful attempt.

When it comes to short story writing, I find it hard to even contemplate writing sci-fi and horror. My stories have a more contemporary flavour. But now I see a call for horror stories which has caught my attention and am keen to give it a shot.

It is surprising that I have taken this route but I have also started to believe that taking risks or should I say, being experimental when it comes to writing is adding that necessary thrill to the entire process and making it fun, an absolute joyful exercise. I am not writing as much as I did previously and am going really slow, but stepping out of my comfort zone has ironically made me more comfortable about what/how I write.

As far as controversial topics are concerned, I have written several pieces of non-fiction as a content writer which have been controversial. But when it comes to stories and poetry, I like to keep it layered with only slight allusions here and there.

Finally, talking about point of view and approach to a piece, I like to be real. I don’t really paint a rosy picture unless I see it as such and am comfortable presenting life as it is.

How I enjoyed answering this month’s question! What about you? Do you like to experiment with writing? Do you like to take risks?

Let me end with this quote that I just remembered, which I think perfectly sums up what I’ve tried to say.

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go !

CHINESE WHISKERS- BOOK REVIEW

(Image source: Internet)

Book: Chinese Whiskers

Author: Pallavi Aiyar (@pallaviaiyar)

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: General Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction

Language: English

Recently I watched an interesting writing session with Pallavi Aiyar as part of Blogchatter’s #WritFest. Thereafter her book ‘Chinese Whiskers’ made its way into my library. It was the author’s debut book and the first edition was published in 2010. This new edition has been published in 2021 and is as relevant today as it was a decade ago. But before we find out more about that, let us begin with the book cover.  

The book cover which showcases two cats, one inside a television set and the other on top of a cushion with Chinese motifs sets the mood right away. The honey base is attention grabbing and immediately caught the eye of my ten-year-old who grabbed the book before I could lay my hands on it.

Blurb: Soyabean is a kittenwhen he is adopted by Mr and Mrs A, foreigners who live in a large courtyard house in Beijing. Soon after, the couple brings home Tofu, a rescued dustbin cat. Just as the cats begin to settle into their new pampered lives, Soyabean is offered a job as a model for a new brand of cat food. Meanwhile, a mysterious virus is sickening people across the city and it is cats that are being blamed.

Chinese Whiskers is a modern fable set in the ever-changing landscape of early twenty-first-century China. Told from a feline point of view and richly textured with the sights and sounds of the hutong neighbourhoods of Beijing, Pallavi Aiyar’s first novel will make you laugh and tear up, and think again about the battles that we all fight between the corruption of fast living and the ideals of traditional life.

About the Author: Pallavi Aiyar is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has reported from across China, Europe, Indonesia and Japan. She is the author of several books of fiction and non-fiction, including the bestselling China memoir, Smoke and Mirrors. She currently lives in Spain with her family- human and feline.

Review: The story set in Beijing, China is a tale of two cats Soyabean and Tofu. Written in first-person (cat) narrative, the story incorporates the perspectives of both cats in alternate chapters. As mentioned in the blurb, both felines come from different social backgrounds but land up in the home of their well-to-do European owner who loves them both immensely. However, despite being a part of the same environment Soyabean and Tofu are like chalk and cheese in their personal preferences. It is through them that the writer presents a commentary on life in Beijing. Although I wouldn’t call the book allegorical, it does touch upon the moral and political aspect of life in China as also on the large social divide.

The cats form a strong bond and during the course of their seemingly ‘simple’ lives land up in a precarious situation. An adventure of sorts, which uncovers the corruption and filth surrounding human lives is next on the cards. The story which has been conceptualized keeping a deadly virus, story of migrant workers and the Olympic Games in the backdrop transcends both time and space and is equally relevant today and across nations and societies. Indian readers are likely to savour the flavour which is very Asian and very familiar.

The language is simple and so is the setting. At face value it may even pass off as YA fiction with the illustrations and can be easily picked up by young adults. At the same time, it is multilayered for the adult reader with the confrontation between generations, class divide, corruption, human apathy being some of the several themes that will provide enough to chew on.

The resolution to the cat-adventure has been worked out in an easy manner, and you almost see it coming. The predictability factor can turn the whole thing a little wobbly.  But I guess it has been done consciously to keep it in tandem with the uncomplicated plot. No, there isn’t a moral at the end but there is lots to dwell on.

All in all, a quick and fun read and it did well to arouse my interest in the next escapade of the cats as it appears in Jakarta Tales.  

My rating is four stars.

The Amazon link to purchase the book is right here!

This book has been reviewed as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Programme which you can join here.

CITY LIGHTS

How do you deal with the sheer predictability of life?

I sit in my tiny apartment balcony each evening, watching the city lights and trying to gather my thoughts on the day gone by. They rarely take a detour. At the end of every single day, I land up having done nearly the same things that I probably did the day before. The city at a distance bathes in the same radiance. Right opposite the railway track lies the bustling market area, my sole means of daily survival by daytime. As night begins to descend, I can visibly make out the various stores, neatly lined up. The digital boards with their names brightly lit up. Green, red, orange. I see them in the evenings and they stay up till the wee hours. Unfailingly, always. Just on one of the days I do hope for some of them to malfunction. Maybe I can then spot a slight change. The traffic rushing past the over bridge like cannonballs is no different. Seldom does a vehicle break down causing a “serpentine delay”, which is immediately substituted by honking cars. Soon, it’s back to the haste.

I shift my focus to early mornings. I run downstairs from the tenth floor of the building sharp at 6 AM. I wear the same track pants that I wore yesterday. But yesterday I used the elevator. I alternate between the two but I have only two to choose from. The compound is packed with dazzling bougainvillea, carefully planted on a small patch in front of each building. I try to calculate the distance of each shrub from the entrance. The absolute correctness, the precision of existence. I run away from the bougainvillea and head towards the green carpet. I must walk barefoot on the grass. I look for scrubby tufts. I am glad to discover something gone awry. This is the place where I decide to spend the next one hour, looking around at familiar faces trickle in. I look at the burly man in blue sweatpants. He is into his fifth round and will soon be taking his place on a standing twister. Before I can see him do that for the umpteenth time in a month, I realize my one hour is over, once again.

The rest of the day between the morning and the descending of the city lights juggles between hunger pangs, food stories, phone calls, work deadlines and ticking off lists…almost in an identical order each day. I sneak in minutes of social media, only to be greeted by much of a muchness of this devil. I type familiar words one after the other on the profiles of friends. They do the same. I open an article, trying to figure out whether I’ve read it before. Modern life runs in a loop.

I have an hour left before the 5 PM tea. At 5 PM every day, tea leaves simmer in a pot and I pour a cup with no sugar and another with a teaspoon of it. One more, with sugar free. Every day at five in the evening.

Next, I take my position in the balcony and turn to the city lights. Tonight, I must write. What will I write about? The City Lights! The same city lights? Yes. Don’t I have something new? No. I only have the predictability of routine.   

A to Z Challenge- MY JOURNEY (Registrations for 2021 now open)

(Image courtesy : Blogchatter)

In March 2019, a post on Facebook caught my attention. I was a young blogger, looking to gain a foothold in the blogging world. The post was an announcement about a friend’s participation in a month-long blogging event, popularly called ‘The A to Z Challenge’. I must admit here that I have all the qualities that do not impress popularity or drive growth of a social media platform. Needless to say, the blog’s reach in 2019 was limited and sluggish. And so, the Challenge appeared as a lucrative means to gain traction and add discipline to my writing journey. I took the plunge precisely at the last moment. As you will go on to read, it turned out to be a profitable bargain in the end!

Here is a quick recap of how the Challenge played out for me. In the process, I have also tried to answer some general questions/doubts.

What is the A to Z Challenge?

 Held in the month of April, it wouldn’t be wrong to term this mega event as a sort of Blogger’s Pilgrimage. For the entire month of April, bloggers post on their blog every single day, except Sundays. This makes a total of twenty-six posts, corresponding to the twenty-six alphabets of the English Language. You always have a choice to title your posts according to the alphabets, but even if you don’t it is perfectly fine as long as you have twenty-six posts out there!

It is also a month of not just writing consistently, but also reading the other bloggers, sharing their work, finding like-minded people, collaborating, learning and unlearning! Since I particularly enjoy poetry and fiction, short stories and pieces of flash as well as personal tales, the challenge helped me to connect with bloggers/ poets/writers who shared my interest.

Should I have a theme for the A to Z Challenge?

Not necessarily. In 2019, I went unprepared into the challenge and without a theme. The posts were a mash up of poetry, essays, stories for children, my travel tales and even didactic pieces of prose!

By the next year, A to Z had established me as a blogger who was also a poet. I therefore, decided to write twenty-six poems, all based in history. It was an unusual combination and was very well received. So, I stuck to a theme in 2020.

Which of these choices is better? Definitely, having a theme helps other bloggers identify your niche and know where to come when they are looking for something particular. As for you, well you manage to literally write twenty-six chapters of a book, which may find its way into Blogchatter’s Book Carnival in the month of May!

Take the Plunge

Two years of ‘A to Z’ seem inconsequential when you compare them to the years put in by the stalwarts of the blogging zone. But on an individual level, being a part of A to Z in April 2019 and in 2020, helped me understand my own writing journey, carved my writer’s path, connected me to other writers and eventually found me a place in various poetry anthologies and collaborations, catapulted ‘A Hundred Quills’ from unknown to a place of prominence and helped my writing to get noticed. May I add that it is the success of my past A to Z Challenges and the support of the Blogchatter community that have given me the courage to take my writing to the next level.

I recommend the A to Z Challenge to new and established bloggers. To register simply visit Blogchatter’s portal here. (The last date to register is 25 March)

You may also add your blog link to the Master List of Blogging from A to Z April Challenge here to get the international feel and, if I may say so, forge global alliances. (The Master List opens on March 29 and the Theme Reveal is till March 20).  

So, don’t procrastinate. Click on the links above to register yourself right away!

Happy Blogging, Happy April, Happy A to Z!

BOOK REVIEW- ALONG CAME A SPYDER

Book: Along Came a Spyder

Author: Apeksha Rao ( https://twitter.com/apekshar )

Publisher: Tree Shade Books

Genre: YA spy thriller

Language: English

Price: INR 315/- (Paperback)

           INR 175/- (Kindle Edition)

A YA spy thriller? Didn’t I leave them way behind when I entered adulthood?

It was with scepticism that I picked up Apeksha Rao’s ‘Along Came a Spyder’, after my ten-year-old couldn’t stop raving about ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spyder’ which is a prequel to the book. The young girl has been on a high dose of Nancy Drews and an Indian teenage sleuth with her ‘grey cells’ seemed no less exciting. I decided to play along and that is how Samira Joshi walked into our library.

Blurb: At 17, Samira Joshi has only one dream in life. She wants to be a spy. And why not? Spying runs in the Joshi genes. Her great-grandmother was famous for sticking her nose in everyone’s business. Her grandmother had a flourishing side-business of tracking down errant husbands and missing servants. Her parents are elite intelligence agents for RAW. Yet, they want their only daughter to become a doctor. When she sees a college friend being trapped by a pimp, Samira does some spying of her own, and discovers the existence of a secret sisterhood often spies— The Spyders. And, she wants in! The question is, do they want her?

About the Author: Apeksha Rao is a homoeopath by profession, and a writer by passion. A polyglot, fluent in six languages by the age of five, she fell in love with words very early in life. She wrote her first story at the age of seven.

At the age of thirty-four, she wound up her practice and moved to Bangaluru. As she explored the new city, she was inspired to start a food blog, in addition to her already-popular fiction blog.

Apeksha has been lauded for her taut and gripping stories that always come with a twist at the end. She is a keen observer of human nature, something that is reflected in her stories.  

Review: The adventure begins from the word go. Samira Joshi has had several previews of the life of a spy, having travelled with her parents on some of their missions, of course, only as a matter of chance. Her holiday in Dubai with RAW agents Alka and Ranjit Joshi, is no different. The stage is set for the Joshis to move on a critical mission straight after the Dubai holiday. Samira, who stays back with her grandmother, accidentally stumbles upon a group of teenage girl spies called ‘The Spyders’. That begins an unexpected journey, marking her foray into the world of sleuths, even as she overcomes personal battles along the way. A series of mysteries resolved with the help of her girl gang set the pace for a gripping YA thriller.

There are a few things about the book that are particularly appealing. The ‘make-believe’ characters are straight out of a regular Indian family. A doting grandmother, who is seemingly unhappy with the job profile of her daughter-in-law and well, even her son! Although my instinct says that Ajji might come up as a surprise package in one of the stories later. Samira’s parents are typical Indian parents, who understand the unpredictability and dangers of their own profession and would thus rather have their daughter take up something steadier. Samira and The Spyders are young girls, bold, intelligent, technically sound, can be stubborn, do have their cat-fights and yet are as ingénue as can be. They are the right example of a generation that has a mind of its own but is as willing to learn from its mistakes and grow. One is bound to enjoy the witty conversations between them, as also the war of words between Samira and her mother.  

Samira continues to be a part of several sub-plots (read cases) which she solves while her parents deal with the bigger mission of saving the nation. The sub-plots can get a little exasperating, considering they are more than one or two, but the well-paced writing and continuous action makes up for this minor glitch.

The epilogue makes sure you know that there are more thrillers in the pipeline. My ten-year-old is sure to get a collection of The Spyders for herself (she says it’s added much to her vocabulary) and I am definitely going to borrow them all!

My Rating is 4/5

The Amazon link to purchase the book is right here!

This book has been reviewed as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Programme which you can join here.

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