Saturday, 23 July 2016

Double helpings of Liebster, Mary Oliver, Camus, Conrad, and the Definition of Various Things

Denise Covey, and prior to her, Yolanda of Defending the Pen  have both very kindly nominated me for the Liebster Award.  Both are published authors and ubercool bloggers, with fun and informative individual blogs on writing, check them out by clicking on the links and if you aren't following them already, I assure you - you totally should.  Not only that, they also jointly co-host the monthly bloghop Write...Edit...Publish where aspiring writers  meet every two months to work at set prompts and present their creations for review and feedback. Thank you for nominating me, ladies! 

And what is the Liebster Award? The Liebster Blog Award is an exciting opportunity to develop relationships with our fellow bloggers from different domains. This is a peer nominated award, which acts as a chain blog post. And is mainly intended to connect with new bloggers while building your email list. So, here goes...I start my acceptance with answers to Yolanda's questions :

Yolanda's questions


1.        What WIP are you working on now/tell us about another hobby you have?

I have a few simmering away, but I am going to tell you about the one that I'm rather excited about write right now, the one that I'm stirring at this moment :)   It's a series of sonnets in Bengali, using places I've visited and/or my experiences in Egypt as prompts. Though Bengali is my mother tongue, I've never learned the language formally. I was taught the alphabet and to read by my mother and am self-taught beyond that.  I've certainly never had the nerve to think I could write poetry in it till now.  So the discovery that I can and I am having awesome fun.

2.        Do you find subjects for blogging difficult or overflowing?

Are you kidding me? Too many thoughts and pics in my head whirling around all the time trying to get out.   No dearth of subjects for a couplet or two anytime.  But yes, I have this self imposed rule that what I post should be freshly written, a week old at most, not dug up from something I wrote when I was 16 or something.  That does sometimes pose a problem, especially when I'm on vacation, especially if that vacation happens to be the home leave :)  

3.        Your favorite fictional character, why? 

I really find it hard to pick favourites, there are too many of those too. There are some from the Indian epics - oh, some tall dark handsome men (and women!) in there that I really like. In English, Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Scarlett O'Hara, Dona St Columb, Mary Yellan are top of mind right now.  Again, I have no idea why they are favourites, possibly because all them have a sense of humour and/or some serious spunk. 

4.        Your favorite author, why?

Again, a series rather than one.  Somewhere towards the top of that list would be Hemingway.  Daphne du Maurier and Georgette Heyer would be on the list too. Also Hilary Mantel, Julian Barnes, Peter Carey, Amitava Ghosh, Neel Mukherjee, V.S.Naipaul. I am sure I am missing out a whole swathe, but these names are the ones that sprang to mind right now. Margaret Mitchell *smacks forehead*.  There. Told ya!

5.        Your favorite genre, why? 

There are books that I read and reread, I'm not sure I read by genre.  Historical fiction is a fav, mystery and crime is another, drama is probably what I read most, but can't say I prefer any one above the other. I absolutely love reading short fiction and poetry too, but they are not 'genres' as per publisherese :)

6.        Blog hops pro or con – productive or a waste of time?

Totally pro. Blog hops are essential fun - otherwise how does a newbie blogger find his/her feet in blogland? I am a particularly avid fan of two - the A-Z and the WEP are community events that I'd feel completely bereft to miss.

7.        Biggest regret or the best decision you've ever made?

Regrets are not quite my thing - so far I've lived trying to avoid them like the plague :) Best decision? - has to be the one to return to Delhi as a teenager, that was a road well taken, and how that particular way has led onto ways here and now, has determined everything good that's ever happened to me.  

8.        What is the meaning of success to you?

If you can stop all the failures, big and small, from defining you.  If you can be amazed and contented at the same time, at peace within and without - then you're a successful person in my book.  

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world
~ Mary Oliver  

I don't think I can put it any better than her, one of the greatest living poets of our times.  Though, come to think of it, 'simply visiting this world' is also amazing! Amazing enough for a person like me.                                       

9.        Do you write reviews for the books you read? Why or why not?

Not always.  Mostly I don't remember to.  I should more often.

10.     Biggest social media success or failure?

I am not very SMsavvy - I'm on FB and that's about it  :) The idea was to reconnect with people I had got out of touch with, mostly because I have had to move so often. I have managed to do that, I've been meeting up with people from my childhood since 2007, with the help of technology/SM or without. As far as I am concerned, that's been successful.  I don't really use SM to market the blog/writing, a total failure there, that definitely needs a lot of improvement.

11.     Please share a paragraph or two from your current WIP or your favorite quote. 

This is an excerpt from 'Yoghurt' part of a collection of short fiction entitled 'The Intricacies of Returns.'   

For a long time after, Ruma did not move.  She embraced the peepul, for it was the old tree that had saved her, one of its sturdy, ancient branches.  She swayed between a semi-conscious daze and a terrible, traumatised alertness.  The rain thinned to a mizzle, feathering down her face, mingling with tears she was unaware she was shedding.  The first faint light of dawn dimly lit up the surroundings.  Still Ruma did not move, only raised her face towards the house. Much of it had fallen, reduced to rubble.   Floodwaters swilled around till the lintel level, the ground floor was completely submerged.  The terrace had gone.  The small shrine room however, was intact, with its patch of square metal roof, perched incongruously whole at the very top of the ruins of the rest.  Two human forms lay there, motionless. 

Ruma breathed out a shuddering sigh, unclenched her body from the branch and finally looked down at herself.  Whatever remained of her clothes was tattered, her skin puckered from the water, weeping blood from a hundred myriad cuts and scratches.  A huge bruise ran down her right flank, her forehead felt swollen and painful.  She moved her hands as if to untie the sling and take her son, her fingers cupping in advance around the shapes of his head and body.  They came away empty.  A torn tongue of the blanket was still knotted to her sari, it flapped lazily like the unwashed, loosened hair of a woman in deep mourning.

Denise's questions

Denise Covey

1.    What is your burning motivation in life?

Um...I'm not so sure that the words "burning motivation" should be anywhere on the blog of a person as bone idle as me.  I dislike changes thrust on me, so I am always pre-empting them by trying something new. I also dislike the idea of not wringing out enough enjoyment from my allotted time - so I guess FOMO is the main motivation.  Doesn't make for great copy or anything :)

2.   If you are published, quickly outline your journey for us.

First book was of Bengali shorts, Seemaheen Bidesh (Borderlessly Foreign) published by Pushpa, launched at the Kolkata Book Fair in January 2011. In English, contributed to several anthologies, both short fiction and poetry.  The most memorable was '10 Love Stories' published by Harper Collins India and Indiblogger, released last August.  The learning curve was steep and exciting. I was mentored by Ashok Banker for this antho, he's a  very well known Indian author.

In between, I have also had the odd poems and shorts published in various e-zines and print mags, and I had my own byline "Passport to the World" which was a series of 24 travel memoirs, published monthly by an American ezine.

3.   If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Why?

West Africa, because I grew up there and because Africa's the most majestic-scenic continent. And/or Egypt because the offspring did some growing up there, I did too.  And also because it's in Africa.

4.   What writing 'secret' can you share with us? 

I am an open book to people who know me, no secrets :)  What I can share is my feeling that the maxim from our scriptures - there is nothing wasted, is totally spot-on.  In life, and in writing. All those times I thought I was 'blocked' there was no need to fret and fume.  I could have calmed down and caught up on something else pending.  Each period of 'idling' churns up some revelation about something, feeds into the writing or life somewhere down the line. Everything happens in its own time with its own magical momentum, me fretting can't chivvy things along, nor can it delay anything. So I might as well take it easy.

5.   What author inspires you more than any other? Why?

That's a tough one.  There are so many who do - beginning with Anne Frank and ending with Zola (there's a theme idea for those of us who can think beyond poetry for our A-Z themes!)  But if I were forced to pick one - I'd go for Conrad.  Why? Because at 21 when he first made landfall in England, he spoke only a few halting words of the language he was later to become known as the master of.  Some calibre, that!

6.   What/who means the most to you?

Family.  Everything else is a long, long way behind.

7.   What is your favourite season? Describe something about that season to appeal to our senses.

Autumn.  "Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower." Camus. Perfect. And because autumn is the season of harvests, of fruits - "the ripest fruit was saddest" (~ Soyinka). Of melancholia, nostalgia, and shortening daylight. Delicious!  A good season to read poetry. 

8.   What do you like to write? Novels, novellas, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, memoir--if you write more than one, tell us.

I love writing poetry and short fiction.  I've worked on a novella and of course travel memoirs, as I said before. I dream of writing a novel, but I get angsty thinking about the lo-o-ng writing time and multiple edits and making sure all the 2+2's make 4 and dovetailing all the facts of the fictional lives and oof, I feel a sonnet coming on.  Done in 100 odd words and 14 lines, even 13 if you're not nitpicky like that. :)

9.   Share with us a sentence or a paragraph from a current piece of your writing.

An excerpt from a 2000 word short called 'Fruit and Nut' that was written for a writing exercise at the Bahrain Writer's Circle.

The monotone went on, threatening, judgmental, sarcastic.  He felt a spark of – heat? light?  some primeval force start up from deep within himself, at the base of his belly, growing into waves upon waves, rising to asphyxiate him, engulfing his heart and his face and exploding in his brain. In one swift movement he flung the skein of wool forward from his forearm to his fists.  Before he knew anything he had thrown the loop over Mamon’s neck like a garland and twisted it into a figure of eight.  He tightened the noose, increasing pressure on her throat, rendering her speechless.  She gasped for air and scrabbled at her throat ineffectually.

10.  What blogger has inspired you the most?

This is another difficult one.  I am surrounded by inspirational bloggers - some I admire for their polished writing, some for their prolificity, some for their great humour, others for their tech-smarts or in-depth knowledge of their subject or their activism.  Some have coped with unbelievable adversity and still manage to stay in control and supremely positive.  There is inspiration writ large wherever I look. But if I had to pick just one my vote would go to Alex J Cavanaugh, a maestro in his own field and above all a gentleman of unfailing courtesy and community spirit, and unflagging support for all bloggers.  

11.  Do you think social media is important in the life of a writer? Why/why not?

Depends. If you are a writer who can genuinely network and exploit the digital connects to market yourself better, then social media widens and deepens your reach like nothing else, and it probably does have an important role in your life, and it undoubtedly should.  

If however, you can't spare the time and effort to build the readership and following on those platforms, or are uncomfortable with self promotion,  then you'd probably be better off leaving that to someone else. 

Thank you, Yolanda and Denise! That was hard and thought-provoking and fun! 

The Liebster Blog Award rules are:

§     Write a blog post about your nomination, displaying an image of the award.
§     Thank the person who nominated you that includes a link to their blog.
§     Answer the 11 questions the person who nominated you asked you in his/her blog post.
§     Nominate 5-11 other starting bloggers who you think deserve this award and come up with 11 questions of your own for them to answer.
§     List these rules in your blog post.


My nominations for the Liebster Award:

1.    Dahlia @ Stories and More
2.    Kala Ravi @ Relax n Rave
3.    Vandana Sharma @ Starry Shadows Poetic Expeditions
4.    Ayala @ A Sun Kissed Life
5.    Ilakshee @ It's Just Me
6.    Betty @ A Bench with a View

My 11 questions to my awardees are: 

1.    What is your hidden talent? something special that you do that very few know about?

2.    If your life had a sound track, what would you like it to be? a song, instrumental music, birdcalls, seawaves, random noises?

3.     When was the last time you read any poetry?  Do you write (poetry or anything else)? Share a line/stanza/para of your writing here?

4.     What is the nicest compliment you have received?

5.   Love at first sight just exists in films/books/hyperactive imaginations.  Agree or disagree, why?

6.    Two wrongs don't make a right, but can two rights make a wrong? How and why?

7.     A childhood memory you treasure?

8.    What's the first item on your bucket list?

9.    If you could live your life over again, what is the one thing you'd change about it?

10.   eBooks or paper ones? Why?

11.   An inspirational quote that you'd like to share?


Okay, that's two helpings of Liebster! Thanks once again to Denise and Yolanda, this was some serious fun. Hope my nominees will accept the award and enjoy writing for it as much as I have done.  I'll probably have to disappear into the vacation again, but will post as and when I'm able, unscheduled and haphazard, and drop in at yours too without prior notice. I'm doing this after a long time, this post-it-as-it-happens-and-let-it-be, and I'm lovin' it! :) See you soon. Meanwhile, stay well and happy!



  1. What a WONDERFUL post.
    I loved your deeply considered answers.
    Thank you for introducing me to Mary Oliver. Her poem was such an elegant and polished encapsulation of some of my most fundamental beliefs.
    And I found the snippets you shared of your work powerful and thought provoking. Nothing new there. Your work is always that.
    Yay for the ninja captain. You are right about him. Gentle, inclusive, considerate...

  2. Thank you Nila for taking the time to accept the Liebster Award from two of your friends and to make a very intriguing post of it. Loved reading your answers. We share many fave authors and attitudes to life. Conrad. His Heart of Darkness is one of my faves as is the film from it--Apocolypse Now. Pretty much my fave film...I must have a pretty dark heart, eh?
    Loved your extracts from WIPs, too. You are a gifted penster. How can you say you're bone idle? I actually feel bone idle when I'm writing, as i still haven't got over the luxury of being able to write and not be running around after my husband and children...well, most of the time, lol!

    Denise ;-)

  3. Hi Nila - totally endorse EC's and Denise's comments - amazing thoughts here for us to have a serious think about ... I loved your concept of success - so true ...

    Then your poem ... you write wonderfully well ... and Alex - yes he's kept us all together ... the gel for many bloggers - always inspirational ... we are blessed to be 'in his blogging world' and the A-Z is a great place to meet new friends ...

    I'm ashamed to say .. I hadn't realised Joseph Conrad was Polish ... but I now know ... I didn't even know FOMO - but can quite see you'd fit into that category - always learning and growing and trying new things ... new areas -

    Wonderful ... take care and enjoy your writing, sharing those ideas and poetry with us ... cheers Hilary

  4. Wow, fascinating post. I enjoyed the look(s) inside your mind. You're an intriguing person!

  5. your answers are so rich and deep. They resonate for the writing world. So much information here - first can't go wrong with a Mary Oliver poem quote. By the same token, your poetry and excerpts tend to exhibit that same extra depth. Excellent blurbs shared. I loved the word "mizzle" in regards to rain - that's perfect. Your travel, languages, etc. - all make you an intriguing person. Thanks for sharing and being a Liebster.

  6. So wonderful that you shared your answers to all the questions! Thank you!

    You are such an inspiration and talent! Your positive influence shines in each answer!

    Sharing Mary Oliver's poem was beautiful! The one thing I don't fear is death. I've always seen it as a bridge to another opportunity, but it's a bridge that we can only cross when our dues has been paid in this life. All rewards must be earned.

    I love your definition of success. So true!
    Have a beautiful week!

  7. This was such a great read Nila! I loved reading your quirky yet deep replies. It so happens I share the same favorite authors and characters! The Mary Oliver poem is a revelation to me....exquisite! Your verses are so rich in talent and at the same time so enjoyable, that is a feat not everyone can pull off so successfully! Your exposure to different cultures and writings clearly shines through your words. All the best for your tryst with the 'mishti' language. Thank you so much for nominating me for the Liebster's. I've done one round of the Liebster's so is it okay to do it again? Thanks again and wish you the best always!

  8. These might be the best questions (and answers!) in the history of this award. Great to know you and your work and your process and thoughts so much better.

  9. Thanks so much Nila for the nomination, appreciate it but I already have done it once so would it be fair to go for it again? As always a treat to read your posts :)

  10. Hi everyone and thanks for your friendship and all your good wishes! I am having a fab time offline - so the online presence is a bit thin.

    I have done the Liebster several times simply because I don't like saying no to people who matter to me :) That said, there is absolutely no pressure on any of the nominees to accept - feel free not to if you aren't comfortable with multiple Liebster posts.

    Stay happy and well.