Aditi Maheshwari Goyal, Anuj Bahri, Esha Chatterjee, Jayapriya Vasudevan, Milee Ashwarya, Mita Kapur, Preeti Gill, Namita Gokhale and Urvashi Butalia
Harish Alagappa, Official ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogger
The journey from aspiring writer to published author is long, arduous, and fraught with peril, or worse, rejection letters. The First-Book Club is an initiative of Jaipur BookMark, a partner event of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, which aims to provide unpublished writers with a platform to turn their drafts into novels. Twenty writers were selected to attend a session at the 2017 Jaipur Literature Festival, where they presented a short synopsis of their draft before reading out a sample of their work.
In attendance were mentors from the publishing industry: Head of the Department of Copyrights and Translation at Vani Prakashan and the Managing Trustee at Vani Foundation, Aditi Maheshwari Goyal, CEO and Principal Agent at the Red Ink Literary Agency, Anuj Bahri, CEO of BEE Books Esha Chatterjee, Founder and Managing Partner of the Jacaranda Literary Agency, Jayapriya Vasudevan, Editor in Chief, Commercial and Business books, Penguin Random House India, Milee Ashwarya, Founder and CEO of Siyahi, Mita Kapur, Editor and Agent, Preeti Gill, writer, publisher, and co-founder of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale, and writer and co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist press, Urvashi Butalia.
The writers presented fascinating and engaging ideas for books from a variety of genres in Hindi and English. The extracts included a novel that looks at the way English is regarded as an almost divine language of social mobility by rural Indians, a children’s book set in Kashmir that attempts to shift narratives of the region away from conflict and towards the beauty and adventure inherent in the land, and a graphic novel that explores the relationships between women and their families, and how storytelling can be used to reinterpret tradition.
‘Our aim through the First Book Club,’ summarized Neeta Gupta, Festival Director for Jaipur BookMark, ‘is to reach out to the amazing talent that is out there and bridge the gap between writers and agents, publishers, and people who are looking for new content.’
The writers who attended the workshop were thrilled with the opportunity presented to them, and emerged from the session with useful feedback, ideas, and perhaps most importantly, contacts of important industry professionals. First Book Club member Abhay Puri summarized his and other attendees’ experience: ‘Presenting to the panel helped us to get quick feedback and provided some valuable connections. It was quite heartening to see the diversity of ideas and people. I think the mentorship is a great way to encourage new writing.’
Photo Credit: Chetan Singh Gill