Friday, October 7, 2011

Mussoorie Writers Roundtable

Last year at this time I enjoyed attending the sessions of the Mussoorie Writers Festival, focusing on writing and nature, especially mountains. This year the festival was scaled back to a roundtable, with only four sessions given by seven authors. The full programme and bios of the authors can be found here.

On Wednesday morning the Quad was full of teachers and parents. It was the end of Quarter Break and parents could meet with their children's teachers to discuss their reports. In the afternoon a number of the classes were given permission to attend the opening session of the Writers Festival in Parker Hall.

The first session was titled "The Craft of Writing." Three authors spoke.

Raj Kamal Jha is the Managing Editor of the Indian Express newspaper in Delhi. His novels include "The Blue Bedspread," "If You Are Afraid of Heights," and "Fireproof." His talk focused on the difference between writing and editing. He is an editor during the day and writes novels at night. One of his main points that resonated with me was that there is a constant denial of the other side, whatever that may be. Editors force us to ask questions and look at the other side. We should all search for the editor within and force ourselves to listen to others.

Palash Krishna Mehrotra is the author of a book of short stories, "Eunuch Park." His talk was about the difference between fiction and nonfiction. He had some interesting opinions, including that fiction comes out of the writer's own experiences, researching doesn't belong in fiction, novels should not try to correct social wrongs, and you shouldn't burden fiction with facts.

David Davidar is author of the well-known "House of Blue Mangoes," "The Solitude of Emperors," and the newly-published "Ithaca." He worked for many years for Penguin Publishing in India, Canada, and International. He is an editor as well as a writer. He talked a bit about the digital revolution, which he compared to Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. In the beginning story-tellers were the only method of sharing stories; the printing press made a gap between author and reader. Now ebooks are closing that gap. Books are being published without editors to impose quality on them.

Steve Alter is the curator of the Winterline Foundation for the Arts at Woodstock School, the sponsor of the festival. He is a well-known author of ten books, fiction and nonfiction. He is responsible for starting up the Mussoorie Writers Festival about five years ago, and it has become an almost annual event.

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