Tag Archives: interview

An Interview with Alex Bruty – Mentor at WoMentoring Project

Those of you who have read my last post on the WoMentoring Project know who Alex Bruty is. For the uninitiated, Alex is a wonderful mentor at The WoMentoring Project where upcoming female authors are provided free mentoring by professional literary women. Also, she has been my mentor since August this year. To know more about this project, read on!

In Conversation with Alex Bruty
Interviewer: Arpita

Tell us about the WoMentoring Project.

I think the WoMentoring project is best described as a pay-it-forward initiative. It was born out of the realisation that there are many ways new writers can get help and feedback on their writing; for example via degree courses, professional editing/feedback services, but all these things cost a lot of money. What if someone is really talented and needs a little bit of help, but can’t afford to pay for it? More and more it seems that whether or not you climb the ladder in any sort of creative pursuit, is greatly dependent on your bank balance. So, WM being a free service is vitally important. People come to WM for a variety of reasons, the mentors range from highly-respected writers and agents, to new writers like me. The aim is to provide mentees with feedback on their writing.

Tell us about your own creative writing journey and how you came to be a part of the WoMentoring Project. How long have you been part of this project?

I’ve always written, but started to take it more serious around eight years ago. Before that I wouldn’t have dreamt of showing anyone anything that I’d written. That’s actually part of the reason that, around a year and a half ago, I volunteered to be a mentor with WM. I’m really just starting out myself, but I know what a leap of faith it can be to show someone something you’ve written for the first time. Cost is not the only prohibitive factor in someone not wanting to join something like a writing group or course. There are lots of talented people who are frightened to show anyone their writing- you could say it’s the literary equivalent of stage fright. If you just want to write for yourself, that’s great. But, if you eventually would like to get something published, then I’d say feedback is pretty essential. That’s what I feel I can offer a mentee, a safe environment to test things out, explore their writing and find out what they can improve on. I know that the short stories I’ve had published wouldn’t have been accepted had I not been through the long learning processes that I have, so to pass on some of that knowledge to someone else is a real pleasure.

What do you love most about this project?

I think the best thing for me is seeing not only the growth in literary voice of my mentees, but also their growth in confidence.

Mentoring can be educational to both the mentor and the mentee. Tell us about something that you learnt while mentoring for The WoMentoring Project.

Mentoring just refreshes everything you already know, but forces you not to let it lapse! So, in that sense, it reinforces good habits. Also, on a more personal level with you, Arpita, I am learning not only about Indian culture, but about the lack of opportunities to do creative writing courses that there are in India.

What is it that you look for in a good short story?

To be immediately transported into another world. Writing short stories requires many different things to novels- the obvious one being there is less time to absorb yourself into the setting and get to know the characters. For this reason, the writer has less time to ‘grab’ the reader, so it has to be immediately engaging and concise. For my own personal taste, I like to read about something that I’ve never considered before; or, to read a writing style that is truly distinctive.

Suggest three writers that an aspiring short-story writer must read.

I’d probably recommend they read something that is in the same vein as the genre/style they are writing in, and then, the exact opposite, something that they would never consider writing, just to compare and contrast different styles and consider all the options that are available.

My own personal three favourite short story collections are The First Person and    Other Stories by Ali Smith; No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July and The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan.

Tell us about one creative writing exercise that has helped you the most as a writer.

The one that helps me the most is freewriting because it’s just raw and you don’t get a chance to self-edit. It’s basically writing down the first things that come into your head and letting your thoughts spiral, it often takes you somewhere you wouldn’t automatically go. It can even get a bit weird sometimes, in an out-of-body type of way, like it’s not really you who’s in charge of the pen/keyboard…or maybe that’s just me! Most of it will probably be unusable, but it’s very freeing and there might just be that one amazing line hidden in there somewhere.

If you were asked to give three tips to an aspiring author, as far as the structure and voice of writing is concerned, what would they be?

A tutor of mine would always say ‘find the uniqueness within your writing’. I think this is particularly applicable to the voice of a character, or a story. At first it could sound like obvious advice, but it requires you to be really honest and ask yourself if you are creating something that is unique rather than a pastiche of someone else you admire, or even something that you’ve written before.

I’m not a fan of formal structural advice, as I think it can halt creativity. I’d prefer a really messy, unstructured first draft that can be edited later, rather than trying to keep to a pre-destined structure that might stifle creativity. Having said that, structurally, I often find that new writers tend to get muddled with where exactly in a story they have said something. For example, certain knowledge might be assumed at the beginning of a story without them actually writing it on the page. In contrast, sometimes too much information is given at the wrong times and it can slow a story down. Try not to get too expositional and bogged down with details that aren’t needed. And remember that dialogue can often be a great way of picking up the pace of a piece if you feel things are getting a bit static.

In conversation with Jahnavi Chintakunta – Author of Ctrl+Alt+Del

Jahnavi Chintakunta is author of non-fiction self-help book, Ctrl+Alt+Del (Transform your problems into accomplishments). In this interview she tells us how being a Toastmaster led her to write the book and discusses what sets her book apart from other books in the genre.
Don’t forget to grab your copy of Ctrl+Alt+Del on Kindle! It will be available for free on Amazon from July 29th through July 31st. You may also follow Jahnavi on her blog, Recharge your day and her Facebook page.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Jahnavi.  I am an electrical engineer turned software engineer turned author. My electrical engineering career was born out of necessity, and the following transformation to software engineer happened owing to the IT boom. Circumstances and luck played a role in both these cases. However, the transition to author was born of out of a choice to reinvent myself.
Tell us about your book.
My book Ctrl+Alt+Del (Transform your problems into accomplishments), as the name says, is about converting hurdles in your life into stepping stones to success, and thereby thriving in your life. It’s a step-by-step approach for a wholesome and abundant life filled with success and happiness.
Tell us about the context in which this book was written.
I am a Toastmaster (Toastmasters is a Non-profit organization which helps in developing public speaking and leadership skills). Every year in toastmasters, there is an International speech contest where the speaker has to speak for 5 to 7 minutes about any topic.  When I participated in the club level for the first time in February 2013, my speech title was ‘Ctrl+Alt+Del’, and I spoke about how I had once been able to overcome a personal trauma by diverting my thoughts to more productive avenues, and thereby getting through what would have otherwise been a worrisome period .I was the first runner-up of the contest.
I felt that I had more ideas to share about this concept and that it also needed a bigger audience. So I started penning my thoughts, resulting in this book.
How did you come up with the title of your book?
As mentioned above, I was preparing for my speech in the contest. There is a rule of three in speaking  i.e if you say something in three words or three parts, it is more effective than other number of things. This principle also applies to writing.  I had divided my speech content into 3 parts. I needed a title which connected these 3 parts. Then, suddenly I got that idea. I don’t know exactly how. May be I got that title because I was a software professional and I clicked ‘ctrl+alt+del’ several times a day.  May be!
How does it feel like to have put your thoughts in the form of a book?
After I finished my book, I was overwhelmed with joy. I had done something that I never imagined I could do.  Also, writing that book was like writing self affirmations. I was penning my thoughts as if I was talking to my troubled soul. It helped me sail through my tough times.
How is your book different from the other self-help books in the market?
Many self help books are huge and it takes a lot of time to read a single book. I deliberately kept my book small, because, I felt that the readers are busy with their own lives and they should be able to get to the crux of the matter fast. You don’t want an already worried person to worry about the size of the book. The language, the style and the content is easily understandable and a recap of the main points is provided at the end of each chapter. Further, my book consists of a lot of anecdotes which the younger generation can relate to.
Has writing this book changed you or your life in any manner?
First of all, writing the book gave me lot of self confidence and inner peace. All my efforts paid off when I got a good feedback from my friends, colleagues and managers at work.
As a self-published author, how did you market your book?
As a matter of fact, I couldn’t do serious marketing for my book till now. This is because, a couple of months after I published the book, I moved from India to the United States. It was a huge change for me and in the last one year, I had so many personal situations due to which I didn’t have enough time to get back to my book. I hope I would be able to allot sometime in the coming few months.
Now that your first book is out there, what are your future plans as far as writing is concerned?
I have ideas for 2 more nonfiction books: One is about ‘shortcut to success’ and the other about my experiences in America. I have to work on those ideas.
Will you self-publish your next book or try traditional publishing?
As you know, self publishing is much easier than traditional publishing. It is much easier to share the book with everyone, if it is an ebook. I would prefer self publishing for my next book as well.
Last words for our readers.
I would like to enunciate the core lesson of my book:
Never, ever let your life’s problems defeat you. However tough your situations may be, as you begin looking at the positive aspects of your life, you will not only begin to appreciate your life, but you will also find a way to emerge as a winner. Do Ctrl+Alt+Del!

In conversation with Doug Lance, Editor-in-chief, FictionMagazines.com

On 18th April, 2015 I received the happiest news in my writing career. One of my short stories, I am Mala, was accepted for publication in eFiction magazine. On May 1, it was published and is available now on Amazon and eFiction website.

Today, I have with me Mr. Doug Lance, Editor-in-chief, FictionMagazines.com (the umbrella enterprise of eFiction), who, thankfully agreed at once when I asked him for an interview. Thank you so much, Doug, for doing this. Here’s what he has to say:

Tell us how the Fiction Magazines started and how the journey so far has been.

I started FMDC in college in 2010. It started as a simple, free blog site. I continued to work on it and develop it further. It grew quickly and became my full time job by 2012.

What kind of stories is eFiction looking for?

eFiction is looking for great literary fiction that is topical and relevant to the most popular events and ideas online.

How is a story, for example I am Mala (selected in Vol. 06, No. 02), chosen for publication in eFiction?

Stories are voted on by our volunteer curators, then selected by the assistant editor.

What is the hardest part of being an editor?

My job as Editor-in-chief of FMDC is not a typical EiC job. This company is building magazines that have never been possible ever before. The company is structured like no other in the planet. I’m constantly innovating and building systems that have never existed before. That is difficult but I would not have it any other way.

As an editor, what are your pet peeves?

The only pet peeve I have is people who do not follow guidelines. I don’t like people who just shotgun blast their stories to every market. I prefer folks who take the time to read my magazines and write for us specifically.