Going forth into the Tunnels of Darkness

I must thank Clarice, below, for writing in my absence. Though the internet did fail us for a little less than 24 hours, it has returned in full force. So things, are in that sphere at least, well.

There have been no changes in the e-zine publication plans–we will be moving forward with publishing it sometime at the end of January–the interim month will be, as per our now established Editorial Policy, devoted to editing pieces. The reason that it has already been pushed back several times, is because of the search for quality and the understanding that it needn’t be rushed.

The editors will shortly notify the finalized set of writers under their respective categories, although The Poets will be notified a little later. Reasons for this diversion needn’t be discussed, here. Suffice to say, there’s a reason for everything we do.

One thing must be noted absolutely, however: protocol must be followed. Currently, the deadline for which all editors must have their respective finalized pieces is January 18th, 2008. Anyone who doesn’t follow this to the dot, will have their piece(s) struck from the final published list. I need to make this absolutely clear now. We’re all on a schedule here, and allowances for everyone have been made with the rather accommodating date. So to all the finalists out there: ensure that you’ve got an approved and complete piece by then. There are some pieces that require severe, heavy edits before they have a chance to make it in. To these writers, especially, you must follow the guidance of your assigned editor until he/she is satisfied. I will, however, make the last judgment call if there is one to be made.

I am well aware that I am no professional writer, but as Editor and Administrator, someone has to do it. I apologize in advance.

The E-Zine’s publication date has been set for sometime in the last week of January.

A new design inclusive of new logo might be instituted some time before then, or it may make its debut with the new volume. That remains to be seen based on my own time and planning. Suffice to say, it is in the works.

I can only hope Vol 3 is a roaring success, and jump starts our reputation outside of the web as a literary magazine to be reckoned with, hopefully cemented with the reading planned for March. The posters, fliers, bookmarks etc will be promoting the website more than the reading itself, although we’ll probably have a separate batch for that as well, distribution limited naturally, to Islamabad only.

The material for marketing the website, however, will be distributed as noted earlier, in the three main cities where our members reside: Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi as well as a special package mailed to our international member in Washington D.C.

This is all in the pipelines, which I’m hoping doesn’t mean it never materializes! :)

Wish us luck, everyone!

The Jury’s In: Hold On to Your Seats!

After a near three hour discussion over finalizing all e-zine related pieces, earlier tonight, out of an overwhelming 60+ pieces polled, the list has been narrowed down to all of 20. It is, conceded, a little more than I would have liked, but these are all, or mostly all, solid pieces.

Lists will be put up tomorrow evening, with the appropriate writers being contacted and directed according to protocol. Because of my own unavailability for editorial duties, work will be redivided with the four sub-editors. I will, as always, comb through each piece before sending it in to the e-zine.

Protocol must be noted, and followed: we, the editors will be working with selected writers according to a predetermined deadline. No piece will be allowed final entry until and unless the assigned editor has approved. If, supposing, the writer of a specific piece doesn’t respond to his/her editor, the piece will be struck from the list. So if you’ve been selected, and are among those contacted tomorrow evening, you are expected to follow through with protocol. The rules will not be broken, or bent for anyone. After all, if we do it for one person, we have to do it for everyone.

There are a wealth of things planned for the upcoming quarters, including a new issue as well as the reading. If there are things you feel should be added to the site, or any suggestions you have for the reading, please do drop a line either in the comments, or to me personally. I have a knack for writing back, irrespective of anything.

And now, my minions, I bid thee farewell. It’s been a long night, and I should be in bed, snug as a bug in a rug, by midnight.

Adios, and keep your eyes peeled on the forums if you’re a member, and on the e-zine scheduled for release in late Jan, if you’re just a reader. We welcome you in either capacity!

The Importance of Being Right…On The Money

The new forums are up, the switch being made from the rigidity that was phpBB 2 to the more fluid and interactive SMF forums. For now, I’ve kept the same color scheme as our old version, although this will change when we’ve finalized a color scheme and layout for our main website.

Heads up: there’s a new writer’s workshop being arranged by British Council in Dhaka, for writers between the ages of 25 and 35. Sadly, I don’t qualify but I’ll be damned if I don’t try. There’s no harm, is there? As it is, details available here including the attachments and documents required before submitting a writing sample. So if you’re interested in attending a workshop, please do take a look.

Because of a slight mix up regarding polling dates on the forums, we’ve lost about a week of potential voting. However, we’re urging our members to vote now and to keep it up till Monday night, when all polls are scheduled to expire. December 11, 12.01 am is when they “officially” expire.

There’s also been a shift in policy, where we now require a minimum of 4 votes (those with a single vote to their name will be independently voted on by the mods, because obviously we didn’t vote the first time around! I repeat: vote to keep these pieces in the running) to make it into Phase 2 of the selection process. Phase 1 remains the voting stage, and is instrumental to our process, but we introduced Phase 2 because of an apparent lag in quality which the votes, although extremely helpful in their own right, don’t always get it right because not everyone’s voting. As a result, the five moderators will step in and finalize all pieces. We’re also not going to be taking in as many pieces as before, with each column having a limit in terms of how many will go in. For this, we are profoundly sorry, and it’ll make selection extremely difficult but someone has to do it.

We’re looking at the possibilities of marketing our website in national newspapers, radio, bookstores, etc well before our scheduled reading in March. To this extent, we require excellent pieces and this isn’t saying that what we have now aren’t excellent. We just mean, with less pieces, we have more time to spend and communicate with writers on those pieces and can, as a result, help in making it the best it can be.

Once the design and more importantly, logo of our website is finalized, we will begin printing out fliers, posters and bookmarks to be distributed in bookstores as a way of getting the audience we want and are looking for. These will be sent out to all major cities where our members reside: Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi with a special care package sent to our international members so they can help spread the word wherever they are. This is marketing on a vast scale, especially considering that it’s been practically nonexistent until now. Taking this in context, you might now understand the importance of both a redesign and new look both in terms of design as well as content. To this extent, we hope that both as members and readers of our work, you’ll appreciate all changes that will go into effect in the new year.

As always, anything you’d like to add, please voice them in the comments or send me an email on either the address available here or at comments@desiwriterslounge.net.

Eye Twitches & Creativity

My eye’s been twitching consistently for the past week. What do you think the odds are that it has something to do with website administrative duties? Nah, didn’t think so.

There have been updates, however, which is why there’s a new post in less than a week. The forums have been shut down, at least till Monday evening for maintenance and upgrading purposes. Come the new week, and we’ll have a new forum. Well, to be honest, we already have one but I’ve had to convert it from phpBB to SMF which for some reason, wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be. However, it has been done and my Sunday has been utilized to great effect. Excellent. All members, posts, topics and threads have made the shift.

We’ll also have greater control over the registration process, with these really easy to add modifications. Compared to phpBB, SMF seems like heaven. Literally. Whereas previously the reason for membership and signature fields were one, they have both been miraculously separated with the former being mandatory and coded in from the backend to that effect. If you don’t fill it in appropriately, it will result in actual revocation…how frackin’ amazing is that?! What I’ve wanted to implement for a year has been incorporated in a day. Sad, I realize but also incredibly fulfilling.

There’s also a nifty newsletters option which takes care of my previous concerns and I have the option to send them in HTML which can include our official header/logo (when we have one) on top. Seriously. I was going to pay for this. I am still a CS person, it seems, or at least with a mildly mechanical bent of mind to say the very least (allow me my butter this one time, please).

There’s also a calendar for events, which again, takes up quite a bit of what I wanted incorporated. Eventually, I’ll find a way to bridge our forums with the site everyone else sees and has access to.

Also, you can change your display name finally (this was something I had incorporated in my own vision, before switching over to the open source world. Back when I thought coding was fun!) to something other than your username, which is most especially useful if you want your privacy.

You’ll also get ‘Happy Birthday’ messages from the forum provided you want to, and have entered your birthdate.

So there are a ton of new things in this forum board that weren’t there earlier, and although I’ve spent most of the latter half of the day ensuring everything remains as close to possible as it was before, it’s going to take time for the users to get used to this new format.

But hopefully not too long. I shall admit to being supremely excited; after a much needed length of time, finally something to talk about.

The new forums will be launched Monday evening, and if you’re a member you will be notified accordingly.

I’m hoping for a new design with the New Year, and we’ll be well on our way. With changes in the editorial policy planned as well, things are gearing up to a (hopefully) more productive quarter.

10 Things I Hate About This

No, I’m not going to start listing them down, I just really wanted to use that phrase. Ridiculously short story I have no plans on expounding, which makes mentioning it entirely unnecessary. Lovely!

Now that I’ve located what looks like a promising designer, the only drawback is that they’re located here…as in Pakistan here…as in, in my city Pakistan. Yes. After a rather saddening experience with an Indian developer (God bless the Indians, though; they’re not all bad, one bad seed notwithstanding! Tons of bad seeds in Pakistan, too!), I would much rather not deal with subcontinental developers. However, their ratings, client references and portfolio seems to speak for itself. And they have now graciously agreed to providing me with a mock up…which is basically a prototype of where they’ll take the design of the site, along with showcasing what they can do. Since I was deprived of this previously, and not wanting to take any risks this time around, taking the advice of my very knowledgeable sister, I am a little more optimistic. Of course, the development that I’ve planned and outlined in this blog is still scheduled. But first and foremost, is a face-lift.

Addressing quality related issues is another thing entirely, and which will hopefully be addressed and put to reasonable rest by our small “board” some time this weekend or next week. I don’t know whether it’s the editorial policy or the fact that a small set of members are the only set that post and re-post and thus, are the only ones available for e-zine polling. There are some marketing related issues and plans up my sleeve, which might unfold subject to agreement by the others. There are a lot of things to be decided, and specifically towards our new look, logo and design etc.

There is still the dream of making it to print, which might, ironically, be more quality oriented. The problem with being web-based is that though you’re able to reach a wider base, it becomes a tad problematic when you’re using it for quality assurance. Not everyone’s at the same level, which shows through in the forums, where the pieces are…”workshopped” according to one of our members. Although most of the hardcore stuff happens behind the scenes in the ‘editorial’ stages, which brings me to another question: are we not doing a good job of it? Should we be pushing our writers harder…or what, exactly? I realize that everyone ages at their own pace, and to that extent we should give them both time and space for growth, but this worries me. Because some how, in some way it’s setting us back.

A few posts back I mentioned how a complete stranger stated that my work represented on another website was far better than the content put on display in our ‘zine, which though flattering to me, was a disappointment. Everything seems the same. Are we not pushing creativity hard enough? Not focusing on pushing the envelope? After all, isn’t that part of what a workshop does for you? It pushes you to be your best. One piece or maybe two from members is good, and then they slip again. I need to know why.

I suppose the easiest thing to say is that writing isn’t the same for everyone, which is what I am constantly being told time and time again. It’s frustrating to hear the same thing from different people: not everyone’s like you, not everyone takes writing so seriously. It isn’t about taking it so seriously…it’s about actually using criticism to improve. It’s the want to get better, to progress, to push the envelope. That isn’t asking for much, is it?

It’s Official

Development, at least temporarily, is over. Thanks to our reliable representative in West Bengal, India, development has prematurely halted. As I scramble to get my thoughts and schedules together, polling for the e-zine might just be extended since we’re no longer working on a deadline. Or so it seems.

In my hunt for a new development team, I’ve decided to ditch the extra components and features for now, subject to good re-design work instead. So we’ll see how all that pans out. There will in all likelihood, be a round of further discussions and negotiations which of course, isn’t something I particularly look forward to.

But this will, however, give me a lot of time to plan out the design in detail as well as work with the designer to come up with both an effective color scheme as well as a well suited logo to our site and concept. Hopefully, something before the reading scheduled in March. We’ll need logos and color schemes on the bookmarks and banners, so…still a lot of work to be done.

I suppose the key in all this is organization and planning down to the last detail. That may have been the lesson learnt in all this. But just thought everyone should know, about the latest upheaval in running a website…since it seems, for all intents and purposes, I am the website…which in a certain light, is just plain sad.

Hopefully my next post will be a tad more hopeful.

Ready. Set. Kazam!

Yes, yes I’ve been MIA and for that I must profoundly apologize. Many things have happened in the interim, political instabilities not withstanding. I shall try, in my bumbling way, to keep politics for the most part, at least until our Podium’s set up, out of the picture.

For one, our memberbase is kicking and by kicking, I do mean kicking. A new member’s posted something about Sulman Rushdie, we’re having a little political debate about the current crisis in the country, the e-zine and regular forums are alive, new posts almost daily in One Day, Two Minutes and A Writer’s Journal. If you’re feeling hesitant about posting, now’s the time to start jumping into the center of things so to speak. All eyes, for once in a very long time, won’t be on you. We’ve got enough pieces to keep our hands full, so to speak.

Not to mention, if you’re posting, chances are you will be heard and someone or the other will step up to help you. The key here is that we’re all writers and we’re all learning, experimenting and in turn critiquing and hopefully, it doesn’t sound too much like criticism. The important thing to remember is that we’re all very different people and very opinionated and as a result, there will be clashes of ego.

When the new site unveils, changes will be made in the forums–topics will, in all likelihood, be switched and moved around–the “wheels”, “events” and “co-ordinations” threads will be removed in favor of The Podium and the vBulletin board respectively. We’ll also be getting a gallery, including one for the site as well as the forums, so there are changes planned ahead. We can cover events with pictures, limited to either public or members only viewing.

Yes, I think that’s about all for now.

Comments are as always, welcome.

Ch-ch-changes

The development work began a few days ago–on October 27th to be exact, but my “official” starting date was Nov 01, which as you might have noticed–has arrived. Development on the book club of things has started, and each new step is drilling more clearly my own vision for the site. So it’s a good feeling.

Of course, I need to have a time line, an accurate representation of what’s going to happen when to better assess how long it’s going to take. They always quote you a time which might end up being a placeholder for how long it’s actually going to take. Considering I was once in the field myself, I know the common mentality. So there’s that. Dun-dun.

The second thing I’m interested in is getting this blog aggregated with Bloggers.pk–a blog aggregator for all Pakistan related blogs. So here’s hoping we get selected. I had to answer a question on what a ‘lotta’ is. Never thought there’d ever be a day.

Anyway, T2F for those of you who aren’t like me and don’t subscribe to newsletters of events in other cities, and ones that you’ll probably never attend: is hosting a poetry reading. It’s in Karachi, but since some of our readers are from the city by the sea, here’s a heads up.

Obi’s play is still playing at the Islamabad Club and it will continue doing so for the next week–it ends, as mentioned earlier–on Nov 08. And be prepared, it isn’t your usual play. For someone whose known, seen Obi’s growth on the forums, the play will be seen as very much in character. So do go there.

Our Book Club lags, and it’s a very, very sad fact and I suddenly realized earlier today that I would need to paraphrase all our discussion on the Club (for which I am paying an additional sum) for week-to-week or two weekly, or however we’re going to arrange it. This will mean of course, that we’ll all need to be more involved and with our current dormant member base I don’t see that happening in the near future. There is, as mentioned earlier, only so much that I alone can do. I’ll need some support. Putting that theory to test, my abstinence from the Book Club seems only to throw everyone else off of it too. It’s a little disheartening, actually. However, I am optimistic.

Anyway, there’s still a lot more development planned including most importantly, a new look which would be nice. I’m thinking we might eventually give our issues ‘covers’ of some sort. Something to let people know what’s inside. Make it more like a magazine on the internet, so to speak. Yes, there are changes galore.

Ah well, we’ll see.

Old Arguments

This website and its associated comments, reinforce what I’ve mentioned time and again on this blog: the desi writers are just not doing enough to make a mark in the world in general, and the literary world in specific. The question becomes: what are we so afraid of, and why?

Although the article itself discusses the validity of MFA programs, the comments are fascinating reading and seem to echo so many of my own thoughts (and problems) with the current breed of desi writers.

There’s the old argument of doing, again. Or lack thereof.

In the spirit of camaraderie, this is an article published by our very own desi writer in The News on Sunday. Shameless self-promotion, you ask? Absolutely. What else is this here for?

In other news, I seem to be having some trouble locating a suitable service provider to match my vision for DesiWritersLounge.net’s upgraded version. I can only hope I locate one and try to release some beta form by December’s end, although it doesn’t look likely.

With so many changes planned, so much to rehash and revise, I wonder whether we’ll have any time for e-zine editorial work. Or well, to be more specific, me. Of course, I can always reassign them to my minions, but then considering one’s got a play coming up, another will be married by then, the other’s got work and the last is a somewhat reluctant participant; things don’t look particularly bright.

But December’s still a while away yet. “We” should really stop worrying about it