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It's Friday in Patna!

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Nov. 30th, 2012 | 06:08 am

Patna is the dirty, chaotic capital city of the poorest state in India. Frequent power cuts. Fewer dogs but more cows in the street than Mumbai. Cycle rickshaws and shared auto-rickshaws compete for traffic lanes with white, driver-staffed government SUVs and political marches. I know, I make it sound so attractive.

But here’s what’s cool about places that are developing—there’s a burning energy, because everyone is on their way up, and they’re on the way up together. Not just jostling like crabs in a bucket, but pulling each other forward through cooperation, compulsion, bribery, capitalism, and a strong look-out for their own best interests.

Yesterday, I’d been driven in one of those classy SUVs to a state emporium to buy village art. On the way, I saw the sign, so I asked Sanjay to stop the car for a minute. I walked into the office of the Times of India and pitched two freelance articles to the local editor-in-chief (articles due Monday).

Last night I went to a reception/cocktail party for NGO staff in the middle of a five-year joint project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involving nutrition, family planning, health and safety, and women’s empowerment. I met the Delhi director of CARE, spoke with people from CARE in Atlanta, and heard about a new, 50-question test designed to measure the level of local female empowerment (sample question: If you refuse sex with your husband, is it his right to beat you?).

I realized that the lovely, Asian-inspired apartment I’m staying in would make a great post for Apartment Therapy, a blog I’ve wanted to write for. (There’s a roof terrace, and it’s wedding season, so 10PM-midnight is 360 degrees of fireworks, bands and fairy lights).

I attended the opening ceremonies of the Sonepur Mela, the world’s biggest livestock fair, and listened to politicians make speeches in Hindi—and briefly welcome me, personally, in English. “See me if you have any immigration problems,” said the Deputy Consul from the podium.

I may actually be buying an elephant on Sunday (on my list of six impossible things).

I probably wouldn’t be able to do these things in New York.

Hi, is this the New York Times lobby? Yes, I’d like to meet with your editor-in-chief please, does he have a minute?

I’m not a big fish yet. So I’m paddling in a small pond, mobilizing my chief resources (charm, curiosity, and an ability to deliver product) and battling the terror of writer’s block and writer’s avoidance (you know, when you’d rather clean the garage or your metaphorical equivalent before writing one word).


Definitely Not The Opera rejected my hair pitch. That’s cool, I’ll submit again next week! And right now, having so many things I want to write is helping me feel forward motion—I don’t have time to be hurt by rejection, my brain has already moved on.

At the reception last night, an Indian now based in Toronto but from here asked, “Have you heard of The Moth?”

“Why yes,” I say. “I won it two weeks ago in Chicago.”

And that’s how tomorrow night we’re having the first-ever, non-copyright-infringing, Moth-style-Storytelling event in India.

Are you into design? Do you have a beautiful/eclectic/fun/adorable house? Do you like finding furniture at the curb, refinishing it, and writing about the process? Apartment Therapy is not just design for rich people—they have a ton of Ikea hacks on there, too. Submit your home for a House Tour article here.

Crossed Genres. A literary magazine that each month chooses a theme, which writers must include in a fantasy/sci-fi genre piece.

They pay. They respond quickly.

Email submission through their website. They say no simultaneous submissions, but the other place I’ve sent this piece doesn’t want first rights and takes forever to respond.

The Wolf.

Whether or not you’re into historical fiction (and I haven’t read Wolf Hall yet, though my best friend adores it), this article about two-time Booker Prize Winner Hilary Mantel and her writing process is fascinating, and a beautiful essay in its own right. Larissa Macfarquhar has taken the legwork of a traditional interview and made a beautiful meditation on the literal and metaphorical ghosts that drive someone to create. And there’s a terrific writing exercise in there, too:

Sit quietly and withdraw your attention from the room you’re in until you’re focussed inside your mind. Imagine a chair and invite your character to come and sit in it; once he is comfortable, you may ask him questions.


What's your favorite writing exercise?

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Comments {5}

blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Nov. 30th, 2012 08:22 pm (UTC)

I walked into the office of the Times of India and pitched two freelance articles to the local editor-in-chief (articles due Monday).

Love this.

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(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)

Now I just have to bridge the gap between "getting the gig" and "finishing the piece." :)

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(no subject)

from: drwex
date: Dec. 1st, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)


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(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 5th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)


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(no subject)

from: yachiru
date: Dec. 1st, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)

Couldn't figure out where your twitter was! Listened to this and thought you might dig.

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