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.

Chivalry’s Dead

Although including the perspectives of a completely new member was a bold idea, I thought it might work. You have to understand where I was coming from, however–I thought there would be more talk about goings on in the literary world–I hardly expected a religious debate.

I think it’s key to understand the purpose this blog serves; as an introduction to the site itself. Sure, I’d love for our writers to eventually put up their thoughts and opinions on the goings on of the Pakistani cultural world, but that’s where it ends. Opinions and debates are what The Abstract Thinker on the forums, exists for. It’s exactly the sort of things the Podium will cater to, once it’s actually functional.

I’m having second thoughts about my developer. There are reasons, I think, why the cheap ones come cheap. They are profoundly unreliable. I was to receive updates today…and did I? Nope. In fact, it’s quite safe to say I received no communication of any kind.

In other news, our Orkut community has entirely changed. The description, the way the name’s been structured (DeSi Writers for whatever reason), the location (what was once Pakistan is now Mumbai, India. Pardon the yowls of disbelief!), the image (ours was always a cup of tea. Now it’s your typical pen and paper), the community owner (goodbye, Sana–it was great while it lasted). It’s a little sad to see your past go up like that, but then, as I stated so aptly on the community: that was our past, the site is our present and future. And obviously the new breed of desi writers on Orkut are now entirely disassociated from what we were three years ago. They’ll make their own history. Ours is still there, for those interested although most of our work has made the transition into our archives. I think it’s safe to say, since Sana is no longer the community’s owner, it’s no longer ours. It used to be, yes but it isn’t anymore.

Let’s observe a moment of silence for the death of a great community, and one if it were absent, we wouldn’t be here.

For those of you who live in Islamabad, know that Sharabeel’s latest is here: Be Careful Where Your Clothes are, and according to Obi, is a farce. So…I’ll probably see it, with both my sisters in tow. I have to say, I’m very partial towards plays casting people I actually know. I think I’ve just become a tad lazy though.

Polls continue to run in the forums until December 10 and if you’re thinking of submitting a new piece, know that the deadline for this quarter is December 1. So you have about a week for submissions, and about two for polling.

A request to our members and would-be’ers, please do vote. We’re all about democracy here, don’t you know?

Weekend Blues

I see Clarice has started to post…well, well! Welcome! Really, she’s given me far too much credit, but I’m so taking what I can get.

Had a hectic weekend–those who live in Pakistan know this is full on wedding season–which apparently also means you go to weddings of people you barely know but work with. Hey! Society’s the bitch we all love to hate.

Lahore was…blissfully calm. No riots, no nothing. But all that’s political talk. Let’s get on on to the real stuff.

Development progresses, albeit more slowly than I would care to admit. With e-zine publication slated for the first week of January, this is as mentioned below, going to be an excruciating two months. But, do vote…if you’re a member and if you’re not, my God! That’s just tragic…after all this!

The template (our main design) is still on the rocks with the designer not quite clear on what I want despite showing him repeat versions of what goes where. That said, having talked it over with a cousin while in the City of Food, I’ve decided to revise our current Orange/Maroon color scheme primarily because they’re both from the same family. (She’s an artist. She ought to know). I should have some workable color schemes within a few days, however. Something like Maroon/Light Blue or Orange/Gray–that sorta thing. But we’ll see how things turn out.

The Podium is still under construction, but we do have a ready made gallery which means our members will actually be able to see us! Yaay! Pictures of meetings and events and anything associated with or held under, the DesiWritersLounge.net banner. Speaking of which, although nothing has been made official yet, we’re planning on a poetry reading sometime in March in Islamabad. Not quite clear on all the details, yet but we will in all likelihood host an invitation only event for members and those people our members know. I’m looking into options for printing bookmarks with our logo, color scheme and website URL on its front and back respectively. Kudos to my artist-cousin for giving me the heads up about this option, because after all, we want people to remember us and if you don’t have some sort of remnant of the evening, our message is lost. So there’s that in the works. We might have it covered as a podcast and/or video upload for members unable to attend.

In other news, we’ve got both the event calender/bulletin board still in the works although I’ve begun to think the Nov 29th deadline will no longer hold and for me at least, it’ll be a mad scramble between work, editorship and working with the developer to prove value for money.

I think that about sums everything up.

And oh yes, I got a request from one of our new members to post on this blog…which I’ll grant, so this will become something of a medley between viewpoints, random posts and weekly updates so: Keep your eyes glued to this space.

Stage Fright

When Maryam told me she’s busy and I need to update the blog, I thought…oh, no biggie. I mean, it’s just writing random thoughts, mostly stuff about the lounge. How hard can it be?
But this is weird. And scary. I mean I had a blog once and only a few close friends knew about it. But I know lots of people read this blog. And I’m kind of tongue tied, or finger tied in this case. (Was that a bad joke? Should I take it out?)

So…hmm… yeah, the lounge (atleast this isn’t a speech where people can hear the awkward pauses!). Things are looking up after the slow summer and the collective writers block we all seemed to be facing. (Mine, evidently, is here to stay. This post should be further proof of that).
There are new members and lots of activity. We’re at the polling stage for volume three (have you started voting yet?), with the release date being set at January 7th. With a little over three weeks between the end of polling and the actual publishing date, looks like December will be busy for the editors and the finalists.

I was recently “promoted” at the lounge, so I am now going to be a lot more actively involved in the actual working of the site. I have Maryam overlooking all of my administrative activities, but the poor girl needs help shouldering the responsibility! One of my first thoughts logging into the admin panel was: Holy Crap this isnt as simple as I thought.

I can never get over how far we’ve come from our Orkut days, and we all owe it to Maryam for bringing us this far. I thought I’d use this space to acknowledge how much work she’s put into the Lounge.

(And lets face it, when she reads this sorry excuse for a blog entry, I’m going to need something to save me from complete annihilation!)

This might be a good time to stop. Till next time, if there is one!

(And you were going to go vote now, weren’t you?)

Writers’ Guild Strike, Heartening

This may be completely unrelated to writing in Pakistan or for that matter, pertaining to the desi writers at large, but their’s an interesting development concerning writers in the country governed by our on-again/off-again political partners, the Bushes. Turns out, the writers’ guild is on strike against the corporations who are refusing to pay them their due share in residuals when it comes to Internet and streaming video downloads of television shows and films. They currently make about 4c/$20 DVD. What are they asking for? 8c/DVD + residuals from the Internet and streaming video, which the networks broadcast along with ads thus reaping rewards through ad generated revenue but passing none of it along to the creative team behind the success of it all. Kinda sad, idn it?

So beginning Nov 02, the writers have been on strike, picketing outside the offices of the production companies and houses. They’ve been joined by members from the SAG (Screen Actors’ Guild) and the screenwriters have pledged their own support. It’s an important time for writers and creative directors at large, because this is the first time in 20 years (the last strike was in 1988 and lasted a total of 22 weeks costing the studios more than $500 mil) that the writers are fighting for something that is rightfully there’s against a mostly revenue hungry corporate conglomerate. As a writer, I can appreciate their points of view and sitting across the Atlantic pledge my own support.

If you’re interested in signing their petition (think about it this way: if the strike doesn’t end any time soon, we’ll be treated to a ton of re-runs, not to mention a slew of reality TV shows. Just when we thought it couldn’t get more Idol-istic. A lot of shows (The Office, Desperate Housewives, Lost, etc) have wrapped up production because they no longer have scripts in the pipeline. The effects will become apparent in Jan-Feb), they’ve got an interesting and constantly updated blog here, and the petition itself: here. It’s nearing 40k signatures, which is heartening and goes to show just how much the Internet has permeated through to our cultures.

So unless you want creativity to die out in mid-January, voice your support, sign the petition.

That about sums up this entry.

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.

Be Careful What You Wish For

I always wondered whether I would live through a ruckus of a political situation, use it as a backdrop for my stories, and portray the picture of my country as I knew it. That was before I knew November 03, 2007 was on the horizon.

This post isn’t writing related, granted or even remotely related to the website or community. It’s a condemnation against the General, for what he’s done and what undoubtedly, he will do. Because local news channels have mysteriously disappeared and the lone international channel standing (BBC) at about 6-7pm last evening, zapped out shortly thereafter. The only form of actual news we’ve got left is what’s on the Internet, where thankfully, the government hasn’t banned news sites. Imagine getting news about your own country from the Internet, because you know the local media’s only reporting what the government wants them to, facing imprisonment otherwise.

Today I attend a desi writer’s wedding, and having discussed it with a new member yesterday, I realize just how far we’ve come together. From strangers to writer buddies to friends, we’ve made amazing progress in very little time. And at last, the forums are alive and kicking…in fact, there’s such a plethora of new material, I’m finding it difficult to catch up on my reading (especially after once again committing to the book club’s Les Miserables pick), which naturally includes any comments/feedback/critique I may have to give.

Will write more tomorrow — there’s far too much going on today.


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.