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Indian Origin Writer Akhil Sharma is Stealing the Show in US with Short Stories

Akhil Sharma hoped that short stories are published in newspapers like they used to be in the past, adding that they have a specific place in the world and will always remain relevant

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Short stories by Akhil Sharma
Story telling. Pixabay
  • Akhil Sharma might not be well known in India but has built up an impressive resume in the US by writing best short stories which captivate readers
  • ‘An obedient father’ and novel ‘family life’ by Akhil Sharma has also won awards in the past
  • The writer stressed upon the fact that the ideal length of a short-story is somewhere between 15 to 20 pages

July 19, 2017: The greatest challenge for a short story writer, says one of the foremost names in the field — who might not be too well known in India but has built up an impressive resume in the US — is to stick to its ideal length, with the writer captivating his readers in a way that they have no desire for more.

“Knowing that a story is only 15 or 20 pages means that you are restricted in how many characters you can have or situations you can entertain. This means that the entry into the story has to be so strong that the reader has no desire for more,” Akhil Sharma told IANS in an email interview from New York.

 The writer stressed upon the fact that the ideal length of a short-story is somewhere between 15 to 20 pages. He maintained that once a writer goes beyond this length, the stories begin to take the shape of novellas. But temptation is always lurking around the corner.

“The problem is that characters can be so compelling that one feels the need to follow them,” he quipped.

Delhi-born Sharma, who emigrated to the United States in 1979, is certainly not among the most well-known faces of our literary fraternity but the illustrious career of this prolific author is still a distant dream for many writers.

His stories have been published in the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, and included in “The Best American Short Stories” and “O. Henry Prize Collections”. Sharma’s first book, “An Obedient Father”, won the PEN/Hemingway Award in 2001. His second novel, “Family Life” won the Folio Prize in 2015 and the International Dublin Literary Award in 2016.

Also Read: Indian-Origin Comics pick up their Immigration Tales and Desi Stories for Stand-up Acts in the US

“I began writing ‘We Didn’t Like Him’ the day after I handed in my novel ‘Family Life’. I began it with the idea that I just wanted a story with a beginning, middle and end. I had the opening line and I had an idea for someone who wants to be a televangelist.

“I then just began describing the character and trying to make him sympathetic. Part of this meant inventing his back story and what would be natural for him as his life progressed. I wrote one ending and it didn’t satisfy me and so I wrote another,” the author said on being asked to throw light on the journey of a short story — from the time of its inception to its fulfilment.

“We Didn’t Like Him”, along with seven others, comprise his latest book. Titled “A Life of Adventure and Delight” (Penguin/Rs 599/190 Pages), the book is a collection of stories that focus on Indians at home and abroad and plunge the reader into what Sharma calls the unpredictable workings of the human heart.

Sharma said that he loves short stories. “They are demanding and fun and there is the sense that unlike a novel, one is not held hostage by them,” he elaborated.

The author further shared that his short stories have become looser with time.

“They cover longer periods. I find that the transition between my paragraphs is not as tight. More and more I think short stories are simply narratives where an event occurs and a character changes or does not change even though we would expect him to,” he contended.

Sharma hoped that short stories are published in newspapers like they used to be in the past, adding that they have a specific place in the world and will always remain relevant. (IANS)

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Gear Up Indian Women Writers! Time to Call for Celebration on August 24

The festival is likely to call attention to gender issues, creativity, issues revolving around feminism

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women writers
Woman opening a sheet. Pixabay

Bengaluru, Aug 22, 2017: In today’s era, it would be wrong to say that there is a dearth of female writers or no female writers at all. From illustrated novels to mythology and humorous copies to science fiction — it would be a mistake to pigeonhole these writing styles as the male-centric. Definitely not when there are a plethora of women writers existent in this domain.

Here is a chance to all the women authors out there to showcase their talent to the city with an initiative called “SheThePeople”. It is a storytelling platform that invigorates women to swap ideas and work in a well-accorded manner.

The Women Writers’ Fest is being organised primarily for the first time in Bengaluru on August… Click To Tweet

Also Read: Women Writers’ Festival will discuss issues that shape Women Professionals in the 21st Century 

Pronouncing it as a  celebration of the Indian women writers, publishers, storytellers, editors and novelist, the communications consultant Rupali Mehra, also associated with the event, stated: “We have conducted two events in Delhi and Mumbai. Bengaluru was chosen this time as it has produced talented women authors and poets and has a vibrant reading culture,” mentioned The Hindu report.

The event will witness the participation of writers including Sowmya Aji, Shinie Antony, Jahnavi Barua, Jane De Suza, Priyanka Pathak Narain and Gita Aravamudan.

The founder of SheThePeople, Shaili Chopra said: “The idea was to give rise to a platform where we give women voices the majority. That said, our programmes are not restricted to just women. We encourage men to be part of this dialogue”.

The event is reported to have panel discussions on women writing humour, women bloggers, short stories, children’s literature, and mythology among others. The festival will put the spotlight on gender issues, feminism, creativity, and narratives created by women to define their space.

The festival is likely to call attention to gender issues, creativity, issues revolving around feminism, anecdotes devised by women to mark their space.

Author and blogger Kiran Manral on the need for an event focussing only women said: “Women writers need a space where they can discuss issues that inform their writing which can be different from what male writers face. A festival like this provides a warm nurturing space to have these conversations.”


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Five famous works of Ruskin Bond that are seasoned with all traces of emotions

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By Prachi Mishra

It’s not just the distressing sagas of childhood and love, people and trains, the hills and rains, which quickly found their way to our hearts, but it’s also the simplicity that Ruskin Bond sprinkled in his stories that lingered for long in our minds.

An Indian author of British descent, Ruskin was born in Kasauli in 1934, and spent most of his childhood amidst the Himalayas; no doubt his writing captures the local elements of the hills.

Known for his contribution to children literature, Bond has written over a hundred short stories, essays and novellas in his literary career of 40 years.

On his 81st birthday, NewsGram presents you five of his most famous works, seasoned with all traces of emotions.

The Room on the Roof

The Room on the Roof is the first novel written by Ruskin Bond. The book also fetched him the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957.

The story revolves around a 16-year-old boy, Rusty, who lives with his English guardian, after his parents’ death. He, being unhappy with the strict rules of his guardian, decides to break free one day. One day, Rusty goes to nearby market and makes many friends and starts living there. Eventually, he discovers that life is not that easy and he has to face a number of challenges that are waiting for him.

In his first written venture, Ruskin has depicted a story of growing up, love, friendship, and responsibilities. It does not depict the age of adolescence merely as frivolous, but Rusty’s thoughts about his life, his insignificance, make the novel reflective. The novel engages the attention of the young and the adults alike.

Our Trees still grow in Dehra

Ruskin Bond received the Sahitya Academy Award for this written piece in 1992.

‘Our Trees still grow in Dehra’ is a collection of short stories, closely linked with each other. It traces the life of Ruskin from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.

In this work, he also raises his concern over the changing lifestyle of the mountains – the massive amount of deforestation and the extinction of wild-life. He wonders that now there would remain only the artificial and lifeless landmarks created by man.

The Blue Umbrella

This is a story of a girl, Biniya, living in a village in Garhwal region. Her blue umbrella is the focal point of her life and a common envy of the remote village.

A shopkeeper Ram Bharosa is particularly enamored of the umbrella and his apprentice offers to steal it for him. He loses the respect of the villagers for his misdeed and is banished from the village.

At the end of the story, Biniya takes pity on the isolated man, and breaks the ban imposed on him and gifts him the blue umbrella.

This book also found its way to the silver screen through a movie made by Vishal Bharadwaj.

 A Flight of Pigeons

This novella has a different theme than Ruskin’s other works. It is based around the 1857 revolt in India.

The story is about Ruth Labadoor and her family (who are British) who take help of Hindus and Muslims to reach their relatives when her father is killed in a church by the Indian rebels. In the backdrop of the story, the events of the Revolt of 1857 are presented artistically in bits and pieces. Finally, the story ends with English army once again taking over the city almost after a year.

A Fight of Pigeons was made into a television series called Junoon.

The Night Train at Deoli

The story, told in first person narrative, is about a college student reflecting on his annual visits to his hometown Dehradun. On one of the trips, he notices a beautiful girl selling baskets on the street and fantasizes about meeting her.

In subsequent years, he continues to fantasize about her but never pursues her. It’s the story of an unspoken yet powerful attraction and of the student’s regret for never having acted on his passion.

This short story vividly depicts the profundity and flux of human emotions.

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Indian-American author Akhil Sharma wins Folio Prize 2015

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By Newsgram Staff Writer

For author-professor Akhil Sharma, who won the prestigious Folio Prize yesterday for his second book, Family Life, writing it was ‘like chewing stones’ which has left him ‘damaged.’

Sharma, who was awarded the PEN/Hemingway award for his first book, took 13 years to finish Family Life. The Folio Society, which sponsors the prize called the book,’ a heart-wrenching and darkly comic story of a boy torn between duty and survival.’

Akhil Sharma, who lived in India for the first eight years of his life, started his career at the Wall Street investment bank Salomon Smith Barney. He quit three and a half years later because he  ‘ just couldn’t stand it.’

‘Family Life is a masterful novel of distilled complexity: about catastrophe and survival; attachment and independence; the tension between selfishness and responsibility. We loved its deceptive simplicity and rare warmth. More than a decade in the writing, this is a work of art that expands with each re-reading and a novel that will endure.’ Chair of the Judges, William Fiennes said.

Akhil had been working full time on the book for the past eight years. But he had to take up a job at Rutgers University-Newark, as a creative writing teacher, after the firm where her wife worked, Lehman Brothers, collapsed. He is still an assistant professor at the university.

The 43-year old novelist beat Irish novelist Colm Toibin and Scottish writer Ali Smith Coilm, among others to win the £40,000 prize.