Pune International Literary Festival #PILF2015

Yesterday the 4th of September was the first day of #PILF2015 and it was my debut visit and experience of a Literary festival. I wish to document some learning that I came away with, after listening to some imminent and widely read authors who spoke at the podium.  
Today, the 5th of September is celebrated as Teacher's Day and I hope this post will be an apt ode to authors who I believe, are teachers in their own right.

After the Inauguration of the festival at the hands of Hon. Mr. Shatrughan Sinha, Om Books presented his biography 'Yours Truly, Shatrughan Sinha'. It was a rather interesting tête-à-tête between renowned film journalist Bharathi Pradhan and the illustrious actor. Shri Shatrughan Sinha made a candid recount of how people from different cultural backgrounds in India coined their own funny version of his name calling him everything from Shatrudhan Sinha to Shotrughno Sinha et al. It was a laugh-out-loud time alright! I'd expected a very serious hour ahead, discussing his life and times in Bollywood and politics but it turned out to be exactly the opposite. The man sure knows how to entertain! So humble and open about everything, he has spewed all the incidents and experiences of his life in his biography with utmost honesty he said. He spoke with absolutely no airs about him. Guess these are the traits that largely define why a certain person is so popularly adored. 
Time just flew by with me wishing we could hear some more from him. 
What stays with me is his ideology that come what may, you must stay original, never mimic someone, however much you may idolise another.

"If you can't be the best,

Try and be different from the rest!"
-Shatrughan Sinha

 'Jaico Books' session on 'The Secret of a Best-Seller' began promptly at 3.25 as scheduled and the literary fever finally had me in its grip. I went with the metaphorical empty glass and came away with a cup brimming with some very inspiring thoughts, that thrilled the writer in me to the hilt. 
#CrackingTheCode was just the apt title suggested by Sonal Raut from the crowd of attendees. 

The program was conducted so beautifully by Shatrujeet Nath- the author of ' The Guardians of the Halahala' and 'The Karachi Deception' fame who put forth the exact same questions that were riddling my mind. The panel of speakers comprised of Radhakrishnan Pillai (of the Chanakya series fame), Swami  Shubha Vilas (of the Ramayana series fame), Mehrab Irani (author Mad Money Journey) and Anamika Mishra (author of VoiceMates)

I was hanging on to every word that these successful book entrepreneurs were spouting. And they did not disappoint me at all. Their vast knowledge and expertise on their respective subjects is absolutely amazing. And despite being writing giants, they appeared so very down-to-earth and were absolutely frank with their answers.

I will try and enumerate as many 'pearls of wisdom' as I can remember.

Quite obviously because the subject of the evening was meant to enlighten us on how to write a bestseller, there were many aspiring authors and writers in the crowd. Author Radhakrishnan Pillai who began his journey to success with the 'Corporate Chanakya' had some very good tips for his audience. 
"Focus on one book, " he said and "Break away from the mould." Trying to parallely work on multiple book projects is not his style. He researched his topic thoroughly, chalked out a structure for his book and wrote it. Focused on making it a success and the fantastic response from his readers had him working on his next book. "Write one, see it to success and then go onto the next." That's the rule he works with. And the writer has to refresh his mind, forget about the success of his previous book and write the next like its his very first. 

If you were to ask me, the most impressive speaker of the evening was Swami Shubha Vilas for he was like an ocean of knowledge. Calm and composed in his seat and yet his underlying personality was that of a teacher, longing to bring about an awakening of sorts between his readers and listeners. Indeed a spiritual seeker and a truly motivational speaker.
He said some wonderful things that indeed brought about a paradigm shift in me. 
Swami Shubha Vilas rightly pointed out that every reader says 'What's in it for me?' when he/she picks up a book to read. If the writer can weave in some life lessons packaged in a gripping narrative, then you have cracked the code to writing a bestseller.

So every written book, whatever the subject may be, must primarily offer the Three Es- 
  1. Entertainment
  2. Enlightenment
  3. Enlivenment

On being asked how he came upon choosing to write on the Ramayana, retelling it for the modern audiences? Swami Shubha Vilas said it was his grandmother's bedtime stories that were at the heart of generating his interest in the epic. His book Ramayana- Rise of the Sun Prince portrays Rama in new light, describing his attributes such that the present generation can imbibe the virtues.
What can one learn from Lord Rama?
If you've got talent, use it correctly. 
  • Talent brings you to the bridge of success.
  • Good attitude helps you cross the bridge of success. Without the correct attitude towards life, without humility you will not be able to go too far. 
  • Character helps you preserve the success. Last but not the least, there lies the key to sustaining the upwards graph.
Another important aspect of writing a bestselling book was perfectly underlined by the finance guru Mehrab Irani. He stated that 'people connect' is most important above everything else. He rightly pointed out how his book '10 Commandments of Financial Freedom' did well but when he packaged some financial investment lessons in a fictional tale and presented it to his readers with 'Mad Money Journey', it was only then did he make waves as a more recognised author. When the readers were able to feel one with the financial ups and downs woven into the story, the book was an instant hit.

It all boiled down to the same thought again. 'What do you offer your reader?"
And Swami Shubha Vilas had some more pearls of wisdom for us.
Our 4 aims should be to 
- Live
-Leave a legacy.

All that we write should be worthy of being read and remembered.
When a writer writes, the focus and intent in writing the book should not be about oneself- 
very much like every shloka in the scriptures that start with a 'Namaha' which only means, 'Not about me!'. Everything we write should be with the reader in mind, should be more about the story that your heart is bursting to tell. And definitely not about how much you will be able to benefit from writing it. How far the book is going to go? That is not for us to predetermine. 

A bestseller is not that which sells the most but that which is read the most, remembered and cherished. 

When the forum was opened to three questions from the attendees, someone asked about something that possibly bothers each and every writer, how do you fight the fear of not making a bestseller out of your book?
Though all panelists threw fantastic light on the solution to this problem what made a connect with me was Swamiji's tongue-in-cheek reply. At this fag end of the program, we were all very keyed into his sense of humour. 

He said he wanted to teach us just two ways of being unhappy. 
1. Try to make everybody happy
2. try to make everybody happy with you!

At the very root of the fear of failure lies the need to make everybody happy because we end up judging our own success over other's response to our work, leading to a mental block.   

Signing the interaction off was this one true line -
The more you think and analayse and contemplate when working on your manuscript, the more you will go into doubt. Once the blue plan to your book is in place just type away. Let the writer in you take over and unleash your inner voice. 
Like Swamiji rightly called it - 'Paralysis by analysis'
End it!
Let your pen go. That is one fantastic lesson that I have carved into my heart. I have spent too much of time in self doubt and hence haven't been able to get that last chapter out. A big thankyou to all the authors who spoke their heart yesterday and re-instilled the faith and confidence to just 'WRITE'.

All through the few hours spent at the #PILF2015, I was lucky to be in the company of veteran blogger Vikram Karve. His anecdotes from his life as a naval officer. Each tale has dollops of humour and a life lesson in it too. What a thoroughly captivating personality and an infectious sense of humour he has. 

You can imagine I was smiling cheek to cheek till I walked out of the gates of YaShaDa. 
Now looking forward to reading all those books by the intelligentsia I came across yesterday. Even those recommended by some new and old writer friends who enjoy and celebrate literature with the same passion as I do.   

All in all an absolutely great learning experience on just the first day of #PILF2015
A big #ThankyouTeacher to all!


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