Moving to the mountains was easy. Figuring out what to do here was harder.
The clichéd “make your hobby your profession” was exciting but also scary. unknown. I love writing. It can be mind-numbing and frustrating. But getting even a fragment right – what Mark Twain calls “a glittering paragraph” or the “luminous flash of a single sentence” can be its own reward.
So in July I got the zany idea to host a writing retreat. The “Himalayan Writing Retreat” sounded so cool. I knew of aspiring authors stuck somewhere along the way. I had been one myself before Bokaro Jail*. I started with no curriculum, no product, no material. But a fabulous venue (a friend’s house) was a great start. I asked my old pal Roy Abraham, a multi-award winning copywriter, for help. The two brains started firing and the product evolved. Roy came up with some brilliant communication, including videos.
On August 15 we hung out the shingle. And village Satoli at 6000 ft welcomed six brave
souls. With one American, one Brit & one Kathmandu resident, and the oldest participant touching seventy, boredom didn’t have a chance.
A forest walk and bonfire were a great warm-up. The next three days were a mix of fun discussions, writing exercises, publishing industry analysis. We ended with committing to a “book writing plan” to get our books going, if not done.
Along the way we laughed a lot : often at irreverent quotes like “Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her (Jane Austen) up and beat her over the skull with her own
shin-bone.” We went for forest walks to meadows and streams. We hung around the fire,
we made new friends. I feel truly enriched with new writing wisdom – as much from the preparation as from the rich discussions with the witty, bright participants. I think I am now a better writer with the discipline to get my book done faster.
The participants echo that. The overall participant feedback score was 3.7 on 4 – cool for a first effort. Many great suggestions from them will benefit future participants.
Well-wishers helped in many different ways. Kiruba Shankar with brilliant advice, Arvindji and Mita Kapur with industry insights. Tim Sebastian helped by pushing the
retreat at the awesome iHeart café, Gagan by clicking great pictures, Annanya by putting up posters, and of course Ashish Arora by providing bread, muffins and free publicity. Topping the list was
Roy for, well, everything. And innumerable friends who spread the word and told potential attendees about the retreat.
The Himalayan Writing Retreat will now grow into a series of events to help writers across genres with many different interests. Specialist facilitators like Mariam Karim Ahlawat (an award winning writer of plays and fiction for Kids and Adults) will enrich it even more. And Dr. Vandita Dubey (a clinical psychologist and published author) will help participants with techniques such as mindfulness to focus better and get more creative insights.
For this new journey we also have a shiny new website www.himalayanwritingretreat.com . It’s a new journey with many unknowns. Wish me luck.
*This blogger was incarcerated in Bokaro jail for a month in 2013 which is when he wrote his first book “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail” which was published by Penguin. Since then he has relocated to the Kumaon Himalayas, and the fun stuff he does besides writing this blog, riding the Himalayas, running marathons and contemplating the universe now also includes hosting the Himalayan Writing Retreat.