What’s up in July 2021?

Hello, readers!

June was a great month, and I spent some memorable time with my family as we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. However, like everything that must come to an end, those good times gave way to a difficult phase. First, my in-laws left, and then the husband resumed his work. It was essential the kid, me, and Baba agreed to stay back because the kid looked devastated. Before we could adjust to the change, I fell sick and caught a stomach infection.

The anniversary cake

Work had to take a back seat as I tried to ensure that the kid didn’t miss his online classes while gathering enough energy to battle my sickness. After a fortnight, things improved, and I began this month with a paid assignment after a long time. I focused so much on the second Raya Ray novel that I stopped taking up any other project for months together. I wrote a couple of short stories (I haven’t written one since the MFA course finished) and submitted them to a couple of international magazines. Let’s which what’s in store for me – acceptance or rejection. I also have an exciting idea for my next book; I hope to initiate the process before month-end.

The anniversary surprise

While it feels great to share the professional updates, I’ve always written snippets of my personal life on the blog. After a long time, the husband was in town on 1st July – Doctor’s day. While I celebrate the man on every possible occasion, circumstances have made such opportunities selective and family-friendly. I took him out for coffee, and conversations flew to applaud the doctor and his colleagues relentlessly working as Covid warriors for the past 1.5 years.

Celebrating the doctor husband

The third wave is already knocking at the door. Places have opened up, and people are flocking in huge numbers by breaking covid protocols. The second wave has up a reality check of a crumbling healthcare system. Let’s not worsen the situation further. Please mask up, get the vaccine doses, and maintain social distancing. Until we meet again, stay safe and take care.

Birthday, anniversary, & vaccination

On 29th May, I celebrated my birthday with the three men in my life – my father, husband, and son. After a decade, I asked my father to buy me a new dress on my special day instead of my usual requests for books and journals. When Ma was around, she refused to listen to my resistance; birthdays always meant a new dress. After she passed away, I never found any joy in the ritual of a birthday dress as a gift. Eventually, Baba let it go.

The first birthday cake

But this year, I decided to celebrate for two reasons – I had finished writing my second novel, and I finally had the three special people in my life under one roof on the day. From cutting cakes to ordering food, we indulged in small moments of happiness. But we also shared these little joys with those who keep us going through their support – our cook, house-help, driver, security guard, and a few more helping hands. I’m going to cherish these memories for a very long time.

The second birthday cake

On the professional front, I completed numerous rounds of editing the book and sent the initial documents to my literary agent. We are working on the marketing plan and publisher details. But, I finally decided to take a break from the second novel (BTW, it has a new title; stay tuned for the announcement). The next item on the priority list was to get my first dose of vaccination. Getting a slot on the Cowin app seemed tougher than cracking UPSC exams.

Fortunately, my residential area organized a paid vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group in collaboration with Apollo hospitals. Thanks to an alert and aware husband, we managed to get a slot for me for 3rd June. From document verification to getting jabbed, it took me less than twenty minutes to complete the process. Except for the pain in my left arm that subsided after nearly two days, I didn’t have any side effects.

Vaccinated

June is a month as precious as May since we will complete a decade of our married life on the 20th of this month. While it’s been more than twenty-two years of knowing each other as friends, best friends, and a couple before making it official, the past one-and-a-half years have taught us both to cherish every opportunity of hope and togetherness.

While I’ll resume the work related to the launch of the second novel very soon, I also intend to start writing for magazines, digital platforms, and other mediums going forward.

New adventures in writing

I hope you have taken the vaccine and got your friends and family vaccinated as well. Please help out your support staff who might find it difficult to use technology for booking a slot. And keep the mask on; we can’t afford to lose this battle.

Update on my second novel in my birthday month May

After three months of writing and editing my second Detective Raya Ray novel, I was finally ready to take the next step. So, on Tuesday afternoon, I initiated the process of mailing a document set related to the book to my literary agent. While there are many steps before the final version is published both in paperback and e-book format, I’m glad that I could give Raya a challenging case to crack. Coincidentally, it is also my birthday month.

The second Raya Ray novel (tentative title)

Since March’21, the doctor husband is back to his erratic schedule. I’m left with no choice but to raise the kid single-handedly once again. Shuttling between anxiety and helplessness, writing this book was my survival strategy. It also helped that I had my strongest support system in my brave five-and-a-half-year-old, who has barely met his father six times in sixty days. His interest in my project is beyond inspiring.

But I must also confess that the kid is a tough taskmaster. No reporting authority in my erstwhile corporate career has ever sought a status update of my work at a frequency of every half-an-hour, like this child. Phew! I’m quite glad that he has decided to shift his focus to Enid Blyton’s Mr. Noddy for the time being.

Mr. Noddy saves the day

It is a tough time to live in. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard close friends lose their loved ones. I wasn’t even sure if I should put up an update on the book, especially when we are struggling to survive. But, art is a great survival strategy as well. It takes away our grief, worries, and hopelessness momentarily and gives us reason to dream of a better world. With a ray of hope in my heart that this too shall pass, I go back to balancing my role as a mother and a writer. Someday, I wish to write a book on what it means to be the wife of a frontline warrior.

Stay safe, stay home (if possible), take care, and wear a mask. We need to break the chain. Stay tuned for more updates related to Raya’s latest case.

Bidding adieu to an eventful 2020 with hope for a happier 2021

At the beginning of 2020, my writing journey looked quite thrilling. I made it to the shortlist of Orange Flower Awards 2020 in a couple of categories and won multiple awards for my debut novella. I was invited as a speaker to the Women Writers’ Fest in Kolkata, and the MFA course gave me the right push to stay motivated. And then the pandemic brought the world to a standstill.

Women Writer’s Fest, Kolkata

I’ve often written about my journey as a doctor’s wife in a year that tested my patience and perseverance. It is through written words and my five-year-old son’s company that kept me going. Since the year is about to end in less than ten days, I wish to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to those who engulfed my life with support, love, and compassion. My family and my close circle of friends are nothing short of blessings in my life.

Literoma Nari Samman Award 2020

The MFA certificate arrived on 12th December. After two post-graduate degrees in science and management, the third degree in creative writing made me the happiest. I hope to continue creating through books for the rest of my life.

Deal of Death

On 21st December 2020, my debut detective thriller ‘Deal of Death’ completed a year of its launch on Amazon. To everyone who read, took out time to leave a review on Amazon and feedback on Goodreads, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. But if you are one of the rare ones yet to grab a copy, you can download the e-book here. (It is free on Kindle Unlimited, so don’t miss the chance.)

Merry Christmas from the kid

Yesterday, my son performed in the online Christmas celebration conducted by his school. He spoke about how the festival represents the joy of love and brotherhood/sisterhood. To see the kid transform from a shy toddler to a confident kindergarten student was a magical moment for me. It made me take a trip down memory lane, reminiscing the delightful Christmas celebrations in my convent school.

Orange Flower Awards 2021

Just before I wrap up this post, I am excited about my writings getting nominated yet again for the Orange Flower Awards 2021 in the categories of short fiction, humor, social impact, and women at work. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the next levels in the hat-trick year.

This is how we began 2020 – winning the best debut novel award

I will remember 2020 as a year that taught me resilience. As we enter 2021, I hope the world is finally free of Covid-19, and we get the opportunity to go back to the old ‘normal’ way of living. Here’s wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy new year in advance. I will see you again in 2021.

Stepping into the last week of the MFA in creative writing course

A year back, I posted my first assignment for the MFA course on this day. A couple of days ago, I submitted the last write-up required to meet the credit criteria to complete the one-year creative writing course. Next week, I will have an MFA added to my M.Sc. and MBA degrees. But this journey is much beyond earning a certificate.

When I discovered Writer’s Village University through one of my friends, I had started questioning the rationality of pursuing writing as a full-time profession. I had trashed two manuscripts written with the intent of publishing one of them as Raya Ray’s second case.

WVU taught me kindness and compassion. I discovered a supportive writing network in a virtual world. I unlearned to learn writing like an enthusiastic teenager. I finally understood the impact of constructive criticism.

My writing corner

The last ten months haven’t been easy for anyone since the pandemic bringing our lives to a standstill. For weeks, it was just me and my son trying to adjust to the fact that we can meet his doctor father only once a month. While I am immensely grateful to my father and my in-laws for their support during this phase, it is writing and written words that kept me afloat. The turbulence in my mind found a way out through typed words on my screen.

While I have chosen to continue my association with WVU, I have decided to get back to writing beyond my class assignments from this month onwards. The revived state of my writing desk is the first step towards a new beginning of my renewed writing journey.

My Friend Alexa: Rant post 3 – Writing is a profession too

In the last couple of years, I have earned the displeasure of a bunch of relatives for not staying in touch. Some have even labelled me a snob for not picking up calls to catch up on life. Eight years of corporate life, filled with multiple con-calls throughout the day, customer queries, and work-related conversations had the phone glued to my ears. When my son was born in 2015, I made a conscious decision to stay disconnected.

Within a couple of years, I had successfully managed to rub them on the wrong side with my assumed ‘snobbish’ attitude. Instead of getting worked up about the unfairness of the deal, I took it in my stride and decided to stop giving explanations. If people didn’t understand the difficulties of raising a new-born with the husband on an outstation medical duty, they didn’t deserve my time.

In 2017, when I began writing and eventually decided to make it a full-time profession, there were quite a handful of ‘well-wishers’ who wanted me to go back to a real job. According to them, penning down thoughts was a hobby that I could pursue while continuing with a corporate job. They gave examples of their ‘super mother’ friends and acquaintances who had managed motherhood, high-profile’ jobs, and hobbies with elan.

Initially, I took a lot of pain to enlighten my near ones that I wasn’t pursuing a hobby; I was turning a passion into profession. Did they understand? Hell, NO! Some thought it was a stupid idea, some spoke about how my son was soon going to grow independent and make me regret my choice, and some didn’t even think twice before labelling me an escapist. Thus began my first step into a new profession.

Last year, I decided to get a professional degree to add value to my career. The snide remarks related to going back to academics in my late-thirties only made my resolve stronger. I kept a screenshot of the payment I made for the course. It came handy to combat those who thought my husband was paying for my third post-graduation. While writing isn’t a great paymaster, it isn’t impossible to earn the amount needed to fund my studies. Unfortunately, many in my immediate circle still have trouble understanding it.

Even today, I don’t pick up calls unless they are from my immediate family, very close friends, my son’s school or an unavoidable urgency. I prefer to revert over messages as per my convenient time, ensuring that I respond to each one. Writing isn’t a job that can have anyone working with my mind switched off. My mind is active even as I go about my daily chores. So, when I sit down to write, I shut out the world and plunge into creating a magical world. Like Stephen King advises in his book ‘On Writing’, “Write with the door closed.”

Creative endeavours require as much hard work and support as any other profession; the return on investment is much slower and lesser. But that didn’t deter me from diving into this new world after taking a 180-degree turn from my previous profession. And I am not the only one fighting a battle for creating a new identity as an author. The least that a ‘well-wisher’ can do is acknowledge that writing is a real job.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  Stay tuned to read my fourth rant post in this series.

SONIASMUSINGS.COM TURNS THREE

It feels like yesterday when I decided to quit my banking job and mustered the courage to follow my heart. On 13th September 2017, I let my intentions known to the world through the launch of my blog soniasmusings.com. From 2017 until now, it’s been a roller-coaster ride of blogging, writing articles on esteemed platforms, authoring a book, and eventually choosing to do my third masters program, an MFA in creative writing. It wasn’t easy to venture out in an unknown territory, yet it was more difficult to convey that writing wasn’t a passion anymore; it was going to be my third and full-time profession. If I have to pick a turning point in my life, I would always choose this phase of pursuing my dreams.

#soniasmusingsturnsthree Three years of blogging and writing. Thank you, for the support!

Thank you, dear readers and followers, for showering me with so much love, support and encouragement over the years. You motivated me to stay focused on my goals.

V for Varun Grover

Writer, author, lyricist, activist, poet, and stand-up comedian Varun Grover is a well-known name in the field of the visual medium. He has won the National award for the best lyrics in 2015-16 for his song ‘Moh moh ke dhaage’ from the movie ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar. This intellectual activist is known for his strong opinion on the current political and socio-economic scenario in the country. His work includes movies like Masaan and Gangs of Wasserpur, Udta Punjab, Newton and web series like Sacred Games among many others. His poem ‘Hum Kaagaz Nahi Dikhayenge’ against the imposition of NRC went viral to become such a rage that it was considered as the unofficial anthem for solidarity in the fight against oppression. A few months ago, he was also in the news for uploading pictures wearing nail paints while smashing gender stereotyping.

Varun Grover - Source: YouTube
Varun Grover – Source: YouTube

Grover is known for his political satires. Be it on the ban that the movie Padmavaat faced or the stifling environment overshadowing the nation, this razor-sharp humorist doesn’t mince his words while taking a dig at such an unfortunate turn of events. ‘Aisi Taisi Democracy‘, the part comedy and part musical show that he performs with Rahul Ram (Indian Ocean) and Sanjay Rajoura touch upon uncomfortable topics in the present scenario.

Through the veil of humor, Grover highlights those issues that are either covered-up or not supposed to be spoken about for being highly sensitive. This powerful and empowered artist promotes awareness by coating the truth with a dose of humor. There are very few performers who have the potential to create such thought-provoking quality content applying the genre of comedy.

This is the twenty-second post in the Blogchatter A2Z challenge based on the theme ‘Laugh in the time of Corona.’ I will see you on Monday when I disclose the featured stand-up comedian in my post for W.

You can read the previous posts in the series here. I strongly recommend everyone to watch this video to understand how jokes can also make you uncomfortable and hit your conscience while laughing out loud.

Double Awards in Literature on International Women’s Day

8th March is celebrated worldwide as International Women’s Day. While I am aware of the history that brought this day into existence, it breaks my heart to think of the nature of crimes, violence, and harassment that women face 364 days a year. If only we had been successful in normalizing the belief of equality between both the genders, we wouldn’t have needed a special day to remind everyone that even in 2020, women are forced to fight for their rights to survive with respect.

Beach Vacation Mar 2020
Beach Vacation Mar 2020

This year the day wasn’t meant to be any different because I have stopped celebrating women’s day or rather give in to the discounts and offers that have trivialized the intent behind this day. The only special event on 8th March was that my 4.5-year-old had finished his final exams and we could plan a short beach vacation with our childhood friends and their families. It was a refreshing change to switch off from writing, my MFA course assignments and the daily humdrum of life for three days. We went on a trip down the memory lane as the vehicle took us out of Kolkata towards the Mandarmani sea beach.

But life was waiting around the corner with some special surprises in the store. The first mail in the morning arrived from The Spirit Mania (TSM) Group conferring me with the Influential Women Award 2k20 in Literature. Before I could get over the excitement of this surprise win, the second award arrived from the Literoma group in the form of the Literoma Nari Samman 2020 Award in the field of Literature again. While I couldn’t make it to the TSM award venue in person, the pre-planned trip also made me skip the grand Literoma Award function held at the New Town Library, Kolkata. A friend of mine accepted the trophy, medal, and certificate on my behalf and it is only today that I can hold it in my hand basking in the glory of this success. Women’s Day for me became a day of double celebration this year as I won these two prestigious awards as a female Indian author in the field of Literature.

Literoma Nari Samman Award 2020
Literoma Nari Samman Award 2020

These awards help me stay motivated in my chosen field of creative arts. They give me encouragement on days when the sky outside the window overlooking my workstation feels gray. Thank you TSM group and the Literoma group for appreciating and awarding my work. All the love poured in primarily because of my debut Detective Thriller ‘Deal of Death’ that established me as an author (you can purchase a copy from the link here). Heartfelt gratitude to my readers for choosing to be a part of my writing journey. It is now time for me to go back to reading, working on more assignments and continue creating content with a purpose in mind and stronger determination in the heart.

Speaking at the Women Writer’s Fest in Kolkata

Here’s the big news that I had spoken about in my last post. Tomorrow, Saturday 8th Feb, I will be speaking at the Women Writer’s Fest by Shethepeople.tv on the theme ‘Writing Thrills’ at The Saturday Club, Kolkata. Along with three other prolific writers, we will be discussing our journey as authors in the genre of thrillers. The day is packed with various events and you can catch my session from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm. Entry is free and all you need to do to attend the event is register on the mentioned link below.

Women Writers Fest Kolkata 2020

Women Writer's Fest, Kolkata
Women Writer’s Fest, Kolkata

I will be sharing further details about the proceedings of the day along with some pictures and videos (if possible) in my next blog post. However, if you want to watch me live from the event tomorrow, please follow me on my Facebook page/Twitter/Instagram (I go by the handle @soniasmusings everywhere).

The panel on 'writing thrills'
The panel on ‘writing thrills’

Please wish me luck as I make my debut as an author in the first writing fest of my new journey.