Ranjith R-A-J

What was your intent in signing up for the BWW? Would you say your intent was met?
Besides the fact that my dad is freaking rich, he’s also a Rajnikanth fan; so after he saw ‘Arunachalam’ around the time I asked him for my monthly loan of Rs. 6,500, he said that I had to ‘earn’ the 6.5K by spending the same amount in a judicious manner, a la Rajni in the same movie – on the condition that it is not used for weed, booze, Sheilas or other such staples. Since I keep a blog that writes on love, life and other popular four letter words, I thought that a writing workshop could help me with my blogging and so invested the $ into BWW with a view to take my blog to the next level. However, it took me two sessions to realize that there was a mismatch between what I was looking for and what was being offered. But once I started looking at it from the perspective of writing a book (which the workshop is all about), I think the workshop turned out to be extremely satisfying, rewarding and quite of a learning experience. I am now very much motivated to get back into completing a book which I had started some two years back but abandoned mid way due to sheer laziness .  As for the 6.5K loan that dad was to give me for my judicious use of money, well, I guess changing one’s mind runs in the family.

What were your key take-aways from the workshop? Which of the sessions/discussions/topics covered did you find most beneficial to you?
Well, my inherent kleptomania did surface every now and then during the workshop and some of my surreptitious and proud ‘takeaways’ were pens, erasers, potato chips, mints and fruits from the meeting room.  But some things that would probably go down with me are:

The concept of lushing out characters and their plush development can really take a story to ‘WoW!’ levels. 

Mapping them out on a board and seeing how your story just elevates.

Find one’s own voice and people will find you.

Are there any other topics/methods you would like incorporated in the workshop?
Since I still consider and did manage to convince my dad that the 6.5K was judiciously invested, I would still have loved it if you guys had given a non writer like me a glimpse of the whole writers’ journey. Right now, you’ve focussed on only the craft of a particular type of writing (and did a great job at it btw!) but I still don’t know about marketing a book in the Indian context, or how to get it published, or the various means of writing available to me or the various other dynamic factors that affect Indian writers. Think you had started off in that direction at the very beginning with some theory on ‘story arc’, ‘protagonists’ etc (concepts that I dish out generously at bars to pick up unsuspecting broads) thrown in but you dropped off from that line of tutelage almost immediately.

How would you rate your Facilitators? Please give specific feedback to both.
The last time I rated good looking women on a scale of 10, I remember it was in college and also that it got me into some serious trouble. But in this case, well you asked for it, so:

Rheea Mukherjee: When Rheea once said, ‘create the character so much that I can smell him’, it got etched into my mind not only because I did not wear deo that day and also because it’s probably the best directive on how to build a character (another sooper takeaway here). Rheea is, I think, the dreamer who dreams, creates and visualises characters and somehow that ability just rubs off to anyone she’s in contact with, which on many Saturdays at BWW, was me.

Bhumika Anand: Aah, in my opinion, a point of view that is so pointed that I’m pretty sure has offended many a people in its wake. Many will complain that Bhumika is far too blunt and need to tone down on the way she shares her feedback - I think NOT! It’s that edge that makes sure the feedback sticks – of late, every time I write a piece, I find myself thinking of how Bhumika would  rip me apart if she had read a shoddy piece of my work and I find myself taking extra care to perfect it. And yes, (one hand on my chest and the other raised in solemn prayer), “I will not say ‘revert’ or ‘prepone’ ever again!”

Would you recommend the workshop to others? How would you rate the BWW, on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the highest?

Well, like I said, I had expected ‘blogging’ when I joined; but only later realised it was not.  So I think people should know what to expect from the workshop before joining it. The Short Story workshop did not find too many takers, I think, probably because nobody knew what to expect from it. If it is the same as the first workshop, why pay more for a repeat, or so I thought.

Also, this workshop focussed only on the craft of a particular type of writing (ie, writing books) and within that particular segment, I’d rate you a 9. But if you could try owning up a larger share of a writer’s life cycle, it could hold you in good stead. Also if you could give us a dekko of an Indian writer’s travails in marketing, publishing, promotions would have been extremely beneficial. Other aspects of being a writer like how to throw a tantrum or how to be an egoistic pig could also be taught.

Any other feedback/suggestions for improvement/criticism…
Within the domain you operate in, I guess you’re top notch; however, since nobody listens to my advice anyways and since I finally found a willing recipient to dish it out to, well here goes:

CRAFT:

The workshop focussed only on the craft of a particular type of writing. Most of us are first time writers who have an alternate main profession and have no clue about the literary world. I would have wished that BWW could have started by giving a perspective of the life cycle of an Indian writer, involving the different types of writing available today, the basics of the publishing industry, the struggle, marketing, and after this preliminary, then you could go ahead and lock in on to the craft, the teaching of which you obviously are very good at.

I particularly liked the way you started off with theory on ‘story arc’ and the like, however, you discontinued it almost immediately. If every class would have some new theoretical concept and then the critique (which clearly is the USP), I’m sure the takeaways could be more wholesome.

Maybe you could choose to give us a glimpse of your other workshops in your existing ones itself so that people could be made aware of BWW’s other offerings. If there was a dekko of the Short Story workshop, maybe more people could make a better decision rather than speculate what its curriculum could be and decide upon that speculation.

Understanding what competing writer workshops in Bangalore offer could help in sharpening our offerings. Right now, the USP is the discussion and critique model – even though the thoughts are unique, it’s a relatively easy model to replicate.

There is a good focus on quality right now, with each of the selected writers displaying an agreeable degree of quality. Think this focus on quality should be maintained.   

PROMOTION:

Currently, facebook seems to be promotional channel of choice.  Other cashless channels like blogging networks (Indiblogger, BlogAdda), twitter, youtube videos could be harnessed. Also, cashed channels like newspaper adverts, sponsorships and seminars could be explored. Distributing branded goods like mugs, key chains and t-shirts to writers, authors and guests could help in improving BWW visibility.  

Guests should be encouraged to participate in book readings and critiques. If each writer brings in a friend, it’s the most cost efficient way to advertise the BWW experience to a potential writer and a new potential member to the BWW literary network.

Literary bodies like MyLifeChronice and Atta Gallata need people for their many events, with a strong obvious preference to writers and readers. If (at least three) BWW writers show up consistently at their events wearing BWW branded t shirts (to be obviously done tastefully), it could enhance brand visibility for BWW to a very relevant set of people. Also, these literary bodies may choose to promote BWW in response to our support.

The huge IT companies space in Bangalore has many budding writers who would definitely find BWW as rewarding as we did. The potential market out there is huge. Focusing on means to connect with this group could prove tremendously rewarding. I know of companies where the HR is actively looking for newer ideas for employee engagement. If we could develop a short module that could be deployed at the many IT companies of Bangalore, this initiative could assure a steady stream of writers, ideas and brand visibility.

COMMUNITY BUILDING:

OK, let’s get this right – my thinking as to how BWW scores over a lot of other similar workshops is that at the core, BWW is all heart and soul – you guys really put in your heart and soul into it and it shows in the quality of your workshop. Other workshops pitch their “fringe benefits” like knowing and bringing established writers to talk with the participants, or having uber cool wine-and-dine sessions, and even may have better packaged and structured workshops; but at the core of it all, the foundation of these other workshops, in my opinion, is not as strong as that of BWW. The unfortunate part is that these fringe benefits work in the short term.  I think BWW should work parallelly on building these fringe benefits, and that’s where a BWW network can help it score. Of course, building this network will take time but build you must. At the same time, don’t lose that soul.

Emphasis on building a community of BWW writers / well wishers / authors / literary agents / members from the publishing industry, can thus help BWW create a self sufficient network into which existing and future writers can tap for sharing ideas, soliciting help and for other writing needs. This group can bring BWW network the benefit of their own networks. Hopefully, BWW can evolve into a one stop shop for writers spanning a network that can help any writer.   Right now, I feel the community building part of BWW has room for improvement.

In conclusion, despite some work needed in non-core areas, I’d rate BWW very, very highly in their ability to unearth the writer buried deep inside us and in bringing out quality work from us. The aspect of character building has not only empowered and improved my writing but also changed my perspective to it.  For these reasons, I’m as much a fan of BWW as I am of the many Rajni movies that I watch.