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.


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?