Reading, much?

So the first ever reading held by Desi Writers Lounge finally went through, and it was a meeting of the minds in interesting ways. It also gave us moderators an excellent idea of how long it takes in general terms.

Held at Rif’s Cafe in F-6, Islamabad on March 29, 2008 (Saturday), it began with our members coming in at various times, generally close to the 5.30 pm time set. Once we had everyone, we began with a member reading out her recently written and unedited poem, and this I’ll have to confess was exciting especially since this was the first we were hearing/reading about it. The entire point of the readings is to present new, unread work to an audience and it was interesting hearing the poet’s thoughts about the poem, a little background information on it, the varying perspectives brought in by the listeners.

Before beginning the reading, however, each piece had been printed and set on a table to encourage the participants to come in and pick up a copy; something like a program for the evening. They were also encouraged to pick up a pencil, to write their thoughts in the margins of the distributed pages. However, we wavered a little from our original conception of just having the writer read out his/her work by encouraging the participants to read the work ahead of time, so they’d have their thoughts assimilated and could draw a little from what they had already understood from the piece, before a discussion. A good step, I think.

However, the critique on this one poem took up about 20-30 minutes having gone into the poem in detail, down to deciding what lines should be changed, where it can be broken up, where to add a little emphasis, etc…and where to make it a little more apparent to the reader. We ended up not having time to read out all four pieces, which means we’ll probably ask for less pieces to be read out in the next readings.

Another consideration that was brought up, was the possibility of adding a book club into the scenario, but this might prove a little unfeasible if some participants haven’t attended the previous readings, etc. Of course, the idea might be to assemble something of a general crowd, so even if we have a few new participants, we can circumvent it by possibly having the book club meet on alternate readings or something of that kind.

Something else that we’ll need to do is impose a time limit on how much time will be spent on each piece’s critique, so we can fit in a maximum of about 3-4 pieces thereby helping more writers as opposed to helping only 1-2.

Meanwhile, we pretty much settled on having a reading once a month, and what this means is now that we’re branching out of the members-only cloud we enveloped ourselves in for this reading, we’ll be diversifying. So, if you’re interested in attending the reading as a reader (writer who reads out his/her work) and more importantly: live in Islamabad, remember that you can email us at with your name, cell phone no (please note: all information transmitted is confidential. We will not distribute your name or other contact information to anyone else, and you won’t be spammed or bombed by intrusive messages and/or emails) and the piece you’re interested in reading out, as an attachment. This is done so we can print out hard copies to make it easier for our listeners to read before the reading itself, making notes on the side which can be helpful when providing feedback to the writer concerned.

Exact dates and venues will be finalized, and when done will be put up here, as well as on the website’s main page and forums. So one way or another, member or interested bystander, you will be informed. We will also try for having a few fliers and/or posters done up for the event to be distributed in cafes and other “intellectual” hangouts.

That’s it for today, folks.


Moving Forward

The email was sent out yesterday evening, confirming the time, venue and general format of the reading. Looks like this thing’s really happening, one way or the other. It seems bookmarks will not be on our agenda for this first reading, although there are still in consideration as a part of the general theme.

So for those of you who’re attending, it’s a brilliant opportunity to really showcase your work, who you are and of course, get to know the people behind the Lounge so to speak. Here’s to hoping that the first one is successful and that we can continue building up a following, and get to our eventual goal: a more broader sense of literary awareness, beginning from Islamabad and branching out to various other cities of Pakistan, and wherever else our membership resides and are able to commit to something like this on a vast scale.

Meanwhile, am considering outsourcing work for our fliers, posters and bookmarks externally so if there’s anyone out there who knows any talented designer who’s willing to help us out (you will be compensated for your services, obviously), that’d be a really brilliant heads up. Meanwhile, I’ll move forward on getting this thing launched and out there as soon as possible. Remember, if anyone know any local designer that’s based in Islamabad or Lahore, give us a heads up at or We’d really, really appreciate it and of course, the ideal situation is meeting up with the designer locally, as opposed to the long distance communication that outsourcing often yields. But we need someone pronto, as in the next 1-2 weeks. I can stretch it to 2 1/2 weeks, but nothing beyond that. You have our mailing information, so…

We are moving with full steam towards our reading and the other little event we’ve got planned, the details of which we’ll announce at the reading, and once that’s done on this blog and the website as a collective. It will be our first event on a large scale. Apparently, when we decided to take the Lounge out of its online context, we really meant it!

Adios for now,

The Powers That Be

The Clash of the Venues

A little clarification here: the reason we haven’t let our members know where, when and how is because our venue changed on us at the last minute. It turns out the area we were going to host it in is under construction. So we’re trying to find a place fast and quick. But don’t worry we will find a place, and the emails will go out and we will have this thing, damn it! :)

Meanwhile, I’d advise you to take a trip to the forums. Turns out we might not have many readers, but we’ll have our listeners. Sigh. Oh well, perhaps next time then? When we open up things to the public? I am hopeful.

For whatever reason, I have hope.

You’re Going To Get Tired Of This…

The last several posts have all dealt with, in some way, the rapidly approaching reading which because yours truly now has the engagement party of a very, very old school friend to attend, has been bumped forward by a day. It was scheduled for March 30th and has now been shifted to the evening of March 29th, 2008 (just in case, you forget the year apparently!) which happens to be a Saturday. It was either that or pushing it forward by an entire week, not an option because many people are steadily being confirmed for the event. Including the three standard moderators, we may now have have 7 or 8 other participants bringing it to a total of 10-11 which is great, because we weren’t expecting many. My fellow moderator thought it would be just the three of us; I was a tad more optimistic and hoped for at least 5. I’ve always been good at the guessing game…but wait until we have the event and someone or the other pulls out, then I’ll be terrible at that game!

Meanwhile, the forums are alive and kicking with once established old Orkut members, returning to the Lounge roots and involving themselves in our signature activities–reading, writing, critiquing–which is lovely, because it means the moderators can remain silent on some pieces and they’re still critiqued by other involved members which also means no piece goes unheard.

Unfortunately, we’re holding our reading in the very heart of Islamabad where I battle a vicious disagreement with pollen; so my speaking and/or reading abilities may or may not be impaired. I’ll try to do the least amount of speaking possible, with the possibility of someone reading out my pieces on my behalf becoming almost incumbent. Tragic. But as it is, we’ll see.

Sometime later this week, times, dates and venues will be sent out to the confirmed list of participants and the 29th will hopefully see us, engaged in a stimulating discussion. Looking back over our history, it really is amazing how far this once Orkut based community has come, expanding to a website, forum, e-zine and now first public reading. And as a community we’ve grown as people, maturer writers and commenced friendships outside of the community, but which have been fostered there and nowhere else; and despite all odds, “online” notwithstanding, here we are.

Still standing.

Here’s to Desi Writers Lounge!

Show of Support

It seems the email has been somewhat of a success, with a lot of people showing interest including people not based in Islamabad, but fortuitously visiting Islamabad or shifting here. That’s good news. That shows a degree of interest…I think it’s catching some of us by surprise; I’m more of a cautious optimist. I would be thrilled to have a bulky turnout. It’ll be a little daunting for the first run, but it’s going to be exciting, too.

To those Islamabad members that are interested, we urge you to spread the word. It’d be nice to have a solid turnout for our first venture outward. Details of the event will be emailed to the interested parties, standing by our “invitation only” policy in place for the first reading. Depending on how well it goes, we’ll open up the event to anyone who’s interested. However, we urge you to remember this is a serious event: writers and readers only. If you’re just coming for the free food, forget about it…you’ll just be bored. Spare yourself the agony of seeing writers drone on and on about their work, having readers interact and suggest improvements…unless you’re an active participant. Desi Writers Lounge’s policy towards the indifferent and disinterested isn’t pleasant. Consider this a warning.

As for the rest, come and be merry. Contrary to our reputations…we don’t bite! At least…not on the surface. :)

Settling on Reading Dates

The email’s been sent; the reading is now very much a part of our future. We’ve tentatively rested on March 30th for our first try and don’t expect much of a response starting out, but we do expect to build an audience. It’ll be a slow and largely uphill task, but we’re going to do it!

The pollen’s out in full bloom, causing a lot of people (including yours truly): allergic reactions including watering eyes and constant sneezing, and since we’ll be holding our first reading smack in the middle of the city, where paper mulberry trees flourish, I’m a little worried that my speaking abilities might be hampered. Yes, I will be speaking introducing the website and what we do, introduce the poets etc, which will continue indefinitely. I may or may not be reading out one of my own pieces. But of course, the three core members based in Islamabad will have to be involved in some way to encourage the others (hopefully there will be others).

Meanwhile, if you’ve received the email and are interested, do get in touch with us at the email addresses provided and let your friends know about it too, people who you think will be interested in poetry, short stories and creative ramblings, and who would consider coming up and reading their own work. Much of this is bringing literary awareness into this city in particular and the country in general. We do plan on introducing this in both Lahore and Karachi eventually, but for now…baby steps and once we’ve learnt to stand, we’ll look to branching out.

Once the first reading’s over, we’ll let everyone know where and when the next reading takes place, including putting up an announcement here and including little fliers and what not, as well as the email addresses you can use to reach us. Still a lot to do.

But man…it’s exciting!

Chalked Out: Road Map for the Readings

In my last post, I hinted at the reading format but then never really expounded on it. I decided to take things in stages; call it taking pity on our readership. :)

So here’s the thing: the reading will be more along the lines of bringing our current “online” format outside of the digital world and into the real one. To that effect, it’ll be more of a writer’s forum where readings will just be one part of the overall experience.

The program for the reading in general stands thus: not only will writers be allowed to present their work, but also receive feedback on it (much along the lines of what we do now. However, they’re also free to just read their stuff. To just be heard, so to speak. We like to think we cater for everyone). The audience will then participate in a Q & A session with the writer, asking questions about his/her work to get an idea of where the writer was coming from. We will ask all readers to send in their material beforehand, so we can make copies of their work and distribute it to the audience ahead of their reading, most particularly useful to those who want to receive critique on their work; it’s always easier to comment on something that’s in your hands.

Unlike most readings with people standing before a microphone, looking down at the audience’s uplifted faces, we’ll retain the atmosphere of the ‘Lounge with people sitting informally in a circle. A nice, laid back environment. Peers getting together in an attempt to improve and encourage each other. Writers will be encouraged to introduce themselves before beginning, on three principal points: who they are, what kind of stuff they write and how they seek inspiration, and specifically, how they sought inspiration for this particular work. They will be told to expound on these points in advance.

At the end of the event, we’ll introduce a group activity which could take place as writers interpreting each others’ work (we all know how everyone interprets a work in different and varying ways, often insightful and helpful to the author in question), or dissecting an all time favorite (poem, short story, book, etc). These are just some examples. We will also present them with a sign up form, for the next event, to gauge who will be participating the next time around. Of course we’ll give out the dates and venues of the next reading.

Another thing we’re aiming at is to have the reading at a different venue each time (book store, cafes, any outdoor location, etc) and depending on how successful we are, bring in a few local (literary) celebrities now and again.

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the plan we’ve chalked out?

The Green Light

The three core members of the ‘Lounge based in Islamabad, met yesterday to talk about the reading and approximately three hours later, we had a full-fledged plan chalked out for the reading series and the first in that series, in particular.

We also covered the e-zine selection policies that were placed into effect with this issue and will be further refined for Vol 4. In the future, we will be allocating 2-3 months for the publication of each issue (beginning on the day the polls end), which will in all likelihood result in about 2 issues being published each year. The decision for the process now reads thus: once the polls close and the pieces have been selected by the core membership, a deadline date will be set by which all editors must have their pieces edited and finalized respectively, by each editor, feeling that they are all up to the par. After that, all pieces will then come to me, where the next 2-3 weeks after the deadline date will be devoted to going through them all . If I feel some pieces need to be further worked on, I will contact the respective editor asking for these changes. The editor will then see about those changes. This will thereby eliminate the need to eradicate any pieces that have been edited. I do however, stand by all decisions I’ve made for Vol 3.

That said, I also feel some writers have suffered because of the lack of a 100% effort put in by their editors, and for that I sincerely apologize. With these new rules in place, this will be eradicated in future issues and I thank those who graciously received their rejection letters. It was a ridiculously hard thing for me to do, having been the recipient of one myself. But…it only makes you stronger. And I have no doubt that our members will deliver for the next issue.

There is also another event planned in the future, which will be announced after the reading which itself, is planned for the end of March. We will be calling out to our members based in Islamabad to please email in their poems for the reading, or…if they have nothing new, to choose from their old material they would like to present. The emails will be going out presently.

For the event hinted at above, we will be chalking out an extensive marketing campaign.

Again, we urge our members in Islamabad to let their friends know about the reading…the only way we can get the message out there is through word of mouth, which is about the biggest weapon we have. After this, we’ll be opening up our readership to everyone else out there. Call the first reading a test run. And, to answer another question, we will be bringing in celebrated writers and poets as our readings progress. The reason why we aren’t introducing any in the first reading, is because of organization. We need to be thoroughly organized and professional, and once we’ve done it a few times and have a thorough feel for the whole thing, we will better be able to handle it when the celebrities waltz in.

So, everything has been discussed and once a date’s been decided, I’ll post it here emailing our membership to let their friends and/or family and other relatives out there interested in readings (not restricted only to poetry), to rope ‘em in. At the end of each reading, we’ll have a sign up form to let people sign up for the next reading, giving us their names and email addresses (or other contact information).

As you can see, we’ve covered all our bases. If you’ve got any questions relating to the reading, ask away.