“Imagination? It is the one thing beside honesty that a good writer must have.”
- Ernest Hemingway.
With their unbridled imagination and flair for words, the four finalists of ‘Wordsworthy’, a short story contest organised by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in collaboration with the prestigious The Hindu Lit for Life literary festival would definitely pass muster with even Papa Hemingway’s exacting standards.
The month-long contest, which ran from January 14 to February 13, 2018, invited anybody who had an original story to tell, and could do it in English in 2,000-5,000 words, to send in their submissions. The initiative was aimed at encouraging first-time and upcoming authors to self-publish their works easily. The contest saw a great response with most entries coming from first-time, hitherto unpublished authors.
Of the several entries across multiple genres, the four finalists were shortlisted by author Rashmi Bansal of Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish fame, who will also pick a winner. The selection criteria included creativity, originality, the quality of writing, commercial viability and reader reviews.
Here are the four finalists and their entries, in no particular order:
- Nrupal Das: The Boy
- Kaarthika Santosh: Draupadi in a Brothel House
- Jithin Emmanuel Jacob: Zaira
- Vijaya Das: The Pigeon’s Nest
Imagination taking wings at an early age
Nrupal Das, who is a technology entrepreneur based out of Bhubaneshwar, says the process of writing brings him immense joy. “I love it when I have my imagination in a hyperactive mode and I can visualise the whole story. However, the core of the story around which my imagination works is something that I have felt strongly about in my real life.”
While he enjoys outdoorsy activities like travel, sports and adventure sports, he’s also a self-confessed bibliophile whose love affair with reading started in Class 7 when he encountered The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. George Orwell’s Animal Farm followed, and Nrupal says he was amazed by how his imagination took wing even as he was reading the author’s words.
That was enough inspiration for him to let his own imagination take him places. “I started writing short stories and contributing to various school and college magazines. Most of my stories are based on some stray incidents and my imagination on adrenaline,” he says.
Comparing himself to a bathroom singer, Nrupal says he was a closeted writer for a long time till he published his first collection of short stories through Amazon KDP a year ago.
“When I got to know about the KDP Wordsworthy contest I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to have my short story read, appreciated or criticised by fellow reading enthusiasts.”
His work, The Boy, is a story about love, loss, and innocence through the eyes of a boy. “It has been an amazing journey ever since. My short story has received a lot of love, some criticism, and then the icing on the cake was becoming a finalist in the KDP Wordworthy Contest. The feeling of being a finalist and receiving my first fan mail due to this contest is a memory that must be treasured.”
A story with a cause to change society’s perception
Kaarthika is a published author who made her debut in the writing arena through her book Tagged, which was published in May 2016. Another short story by her was published in a global anthology of horror stories.
“Since childhood, I’ve always been engrossed in stories, be it listening or reading or creating my own. So whenever I have a story with me, there is this constant urge to share it with everyone. I feel writing helps me take my stories to more people,” she says.
She’s been partial to Enid Blyton as an author since childhood. A fan of detective stories, even Kaarthika loves Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. When not reading, writing or working, Kaarthika likes to solve puzzles and travel around the world.
Her submission to the Wordsworthy contest, Draupadi in a Brothel House, is based on a discussion between a sex worker and her son. Through this story, Kaarthika says she wants to try and change society’s perception about sex workers.
“I wanted my story to reach more readers through Amazon KDP and also to read interesting stories published by fellow authors. This has been a wonderful platform to encourage budding writers to come out of their cocoon and share their story with the world,” she says.
Dreaming of a better world through his writing
“My favourite ways to spend time involve conversations and travel. I’ve been a debater and speaker since childhood and carry themes from my travels across everything I write,” says Jithin.
His interest in debating shows up when he shares why he expresses himself through writing. “Everything that I’ve ever written has shades drawn from issues that have deeply disturbed me -- from discrimination and disregard based on gender, race or class, to the inherent unfairness that keeps our society running. A writer should serve as a mirror that shows our society what it really is, opening avenues for rational discourses.”
However, that’s not all that he takes away from writing. “Being a writer also helps me slip away from reality into a world entirely my own, and befriend folks I’ve created, my characters, to form a space filled with hope where the rights and wrongs of our world would cease to exist. So my motivation to write coincides with my motivation to retort, dream and, most importantly, exist in joy. “
A manifestation of that joy that he derives from writing is his submission Zaira. According to Jithin, the story takes the reader back to his or her schooldays, first crushes and a feeling of longing.
When asked whose works he enjoys reading, he reels off some names: J.K Rowling, Enid Blyton, Dan Brown, Erich Segal, Paulo Coelho, Haruki Murukami, Kazuo Ishiguro, Noam Chomsky and William Dalrymple. Nevertheless, he maintains that Arundhati Roy is his favourite author, ‘by leaps and bounds’.
For several years, he chose to keep writing as little more than a personal passion as he didn’t know how to get his works published by traditional publishing houses. “It was purely the ease which KDP brought into publishing that made me take my passion beyond what I’d fathomed. It is every writer’s dream to see his or her work reaching as many people as possible and being a finalist in KDP’s Wordsworthy Contest has taken my story to people and places I could only dream of otherwise,” says Jithin
Writing helps her rise above the mundane
Vijaya Das has had multicultural experiences right from her childhood – a Tamilian brought up in Kolkata, married to a Bengali, with exposure to different cities both within India and abroad. And this, she says, has given her an interesting perspective on a plethora of social, cultural and political issues.
She says she draws inspiration from everyday experiences. “I try to discover the special in the normal, be it people, society or events and my thoughts find expression in my blog,” says Vijaya, who works in a senior managerial role in Human Resources Analytics for a leading banking MNC in Bengaluru.
“I find writing an extremely liberating experience, helping me rise above the mundane everyday incidents. I have felt myself evolving as a person in the process, more cognizant of issues around us, and mindful of the little joys in life. It acts as a great stressbuster and even when I sit down to write late in the night after a long day filled with professional and family commitments, I find myself relaxing and filled with a deep sense of joy,” she shares.
Her short story The Pigeons’ Nest is based on her personal experience with a pair of pigeons’ repeated attempts to create a nest in the balcony of her house, which she then related to a similar basic need and attempt by humans as well, and the disturbances to this process caused by external disruptions.
When asked to name her favourite books, like any true bibliophile she hesitates. “This is a difficult question. I have many favourites, which I keep going back to.” She says she is partial to mythologies and classics. “I never tire of reading the multiple interpretations of the Mahabharata and each read gives me a new perspective on its timeless relevance. Currently, I am enjoying reading all the Amar Chitra Katha books to my daughter and reliving my own childhood in the process.”
She says the contest gave her the ideal platform to take her story to a larger audience. “Quite naturally, I am thrilled to be a finalist. It has helped me gain recognition as a writer and the feedback received has helped me to understand the perspectives of different readers. I also look forward to the feedback from the critics’ panel, which will help me evolve as an author in future.”