“No!” was my first reaction when I read the email asking me to be a part of the Women Writers Fest organized by SheThePeopleTV in Pune in August. “I’m still new at this, they’ll laugh me off the stage! What can I say that a hundred famous people haven’t already told them?”
Lots of espressos paradoxically soothed my nerves and a few hours later I pressed delete on my ‘Sorry, I won’t be in town on that date’ reply. I would attend!
My session would discuss ‘How are writers different from authors?’ The venue was a cosy, artistic hall packed with women of all ages. I saw gorgeous sarees, khadi kurtas, dresses and jeans. What was common was the palpable excitement in the air, the creativity zinging about the place. Off the page, I’m the quiet sort and love to eavesdrop. So I pulled my chair closer and listened to the mothers, wives, grannies talk about family, community and the muse. What struck me was how every woman there radiated power, she had overcome her obstacles of time, finances or self doubt and stepped forward to express her words.
The lovely and talented Melanie Lobo moderated our session and my fellow panelists were the well known panelists Saaz Agarwal and ex Indian cricketer turned journalist Snehal Pradhan. Saaz was the voice of experience and urged the ladies to be disciplined and work at the craft. She encouraged us all to read great books so we would know how far away we were from being good. If you know you’ve done a good job, self publish your work – retain control over every step – was her advice.
Snehal admitted she liked to add a bit of masala to make cricket more attractive. Still to become an author, she labelled herself. What we all agreed was our association of authors with having published a book. I’ve wanted to write all my life, being more comfortable with the written word rather than the spoken one. But I guess, when you become more professional about it, want to get it ‘out there’ and are willing to face endless rejection, you’re on the path to becoming an author. You need to learn to develop a thick skin, get laughed at and learn to market your work even if you can’t sell water to a man dying of thirst.
What amazed me was the honesty that flowed, from the speakers and the audience. We discussed blocks, heartbreak, self esteem and I realised I wasn’t alone. We all have overwhelming feelings of being a useless writer or jealousy when others get a huge advance, but we’re all in this together. In fact it’s the empowered women who empower others. The ones who refuse to share their knowledge, who cling to their contacts and reviewers and marketing tips – they’re the scared ones and they’re in a minority.
Ask for help, help others and let’s all be winners together!
By Shraddha Sahi Satav
Follow her on Twitter: @shraddhavs