Find the Storyteller In You: Rashmi Bansal
A palpable sense of excitement hung in the air as OrangeScape prepared for the writer’s workshop. It’s celebration time! The success party of 100-day blogging challenge, celebrating our fellow Orangescapians who embarked on this daring challenge and completed it successfully.
Notable members of Chennai’s startup ecosystem joined us to celebrate this extraordinary milestone. Some people wanted to comprehend how fifteen tech folks managed to complete the hardest blogging challenge without falling prey to lazy withdrawal or other circumstantial villains. And many were there to catch a glimpse of the chief guest.
Our office space was buzzing with eagerness and anxiety. People like me who were waiting in crazed impatience grew happy when our CEO Suresh Sambandam stepped up to welcome the gathering with a proud smile. He shared the story of how the journey towards thought leadership led to the blogging challenge. His welcome note was crisp and to the point.
Following Suresh, Writing Guru Kiruba Shankar stepped up to narrate the tale of the writer’s workshop. He confessed the scepticism he had at training technocrats who had been nominated to attend the workshop. Usually, people enrol voluntarily to brush up their writing skills. So, he was unsure how they would fare. But, our folks managed to surprise him with a 100% success rate.
Then, Kiruba called two writers to share their experience about the workshop. They were in stark contrast to each other. Our master marketer, Chintan Jain, the ever-cheerful charmer, and our tech whiz, Suresh Kumar, a much-subdued star, both shared the highs and lows they went through in the process of writing.
Listening to the experience of how they embarked on a journey with anxiety and enthusiasm, their feeling of helplessness and thoughts of giving up, how the team spirit motivated them to keep chasing the goal and complete the entire challenge way ahead of time was encouraging and enlightening.
After Suresh’s motivating talk, Kiruba invited rashmibansal to the stage. The fangirl inside me squealed with excitement. When we were waiting for the program to start, I popped a question to Rashmi, “You’ve been inspiring your readers with the tales of several successful people. When do we get to read the story of how you became a writer? Will we get to read about your journey?
I was let down when I heard there would be no book about it :( But she promised to share her tale with the gathering today. So, I was shivering with anticipation to hear it (I know I should stop fangirling, But can’t help it :P) She started by congratulating all participants for completing a phenomenal task. Then, she went on to discuss the trials and tribulations of writing.
Growing up in Pasadena and attending a creative writing class in her third grade sowed the love of writing in Rashmi’s mind. Traveling back to India and getting into the grind of essay writing seemed to put a temporary stopper to her creativity. But, the writing bug came back during the 2nd year of college.
Around that time, she started sending her articles to magazines with the sole intention of having them published. She almost deemed it a lost cause when her submissions were rejected 40 times. She remained persistent and kept the mailbox of editors with new articles every week.
“At one point in life, you have to stop hopping between two boats (people’s expectation & your aspirations) and decide which boat you want to travel on. If only to prevent falling into the ocean called mid-life crisis”
Finally, her 41st submission was published in the Times of India. Right from that moment, she contributed regularly to different newspapers/magazines and nearly wrote 100+ articles. After graduation, she was all set to join The Times of India as a journalist. But, the ‘middle-class curse’ crushed her aspirations as well. She was expected to stick to the ‘tried-and-tested’ path.
Her desi parents expected their “blessed kid” to bring pride to the family by enrolling into a prestigious institute like IIM or IIT. Just like a typical Indian student, she ditched her ambition to pursue her parents’ dreams. She ventured into IIM with a bring-it-on attitude which made her experience memorable.
IIM Ahmedabad was one such experience which made Rashmi what she is today. IIM Ahmedabad opens up a lot of avenues for people. But for Rashmi, it was a bit different. IIM was the peepal tree which made her realize that the corporate world was not her “calling” and it was writingwhere her heart lay.
A sneak peek of the Q & A session with Rashmi
What’s your advice to budding authors?
“Writing and writing to get published is not the same. When you are writing just for yourself, it could be a form of expression, therapy or even fun. When you write to get published, it should be something that makes other people want to read. It depends on what you want to write. Whether it is a fiction or non-fiction.”
What’s your take on self-publishing?
“Stay away from self-publishing. People should pay you a royalty for publishing your book, (5–8% if it is your first book) and not the other way around. The vanity publishers who demand money to publish your book don’t do any value -addition. Their neither edit the book nor do they design a decent cover image. They ONLY print your book. You could do that in a local press.”
Success formula to write a good book?
“There is no formula. If you write something which has a good enough market (like technology or business books), you can get decent publishers. If you’re writing fiction, have a story to tell which others want to read. Write a page-turner, with a character your readers could connect to. Like other first time authors, base your book on a real-life incident; something you’ve experienced or seen. Even if it is non-fiction, be sure to narrate your tale in a convincing way. “
Did your alma mater influence you to become a writer?
“I’m who I’m today, due to a different list of reasons. My magazine JAM (Just another magazine) had a considerable impact on my career. I spent nearly 15 years of my life giving budding writers a platform to get published. JAM kept me young and connected to students. JAM had cult followers, but it was not commercially successful.”
Did IIM teach you to market your books better?
“My readers are my brand ambassadors. From the folks who quit their job after reading my book to the reader who distributed my books for Diwali instead of sweets, everyone marketed my books better than I ever could. “
Tell us about your first book
“In 2008, the boom of startups, I received a project from IIM Ahmedabad to write a book about young MBAs who ventured into entrepreneurship.I had a no-idea how the book would turn out to be. Being an entrepreneur, I did not want to present just the rosy picture and lure my readers in. I wanted them to know the hardships involved. I made sure it was a story and not a case-study. “
Can you tell us about the books which shaped you?
Panchatantra tales were my favorite book. They taught me how to imbibe a lesson into the book without making it obvious. The junior classics capsulated the biographies of fifteen people in just 20 pages, but it gave a complete picture of every person’s life. I guess that had a lot of impact on me. The book, “What Should I Do with My Life?” was a great source of inspiration for me.
Did your life at IIM help you in your writing journey?
Although I nearly failed my first year at IIM, I did not enjoy the courses, but going there, was meant to be since it taught me a lot of things. My experience at IIM brought out the entrepreneur in me, it helped me become a writer and I got a fair idea about business.
Words of advice for budding authors
- If you have a spark or an idea, write it down asap. The longer you put it off, the less detailed it will turn out to be.
- Writing about a current trend? Do it immediately. Before, the trend fades away!
- Don’t churn out too much quantity. Be precise.
- Don’t abuse oxford commas. You may have a long breath control. That might not be the case with your readers. So, stick to short sentences.
- Make your introduction power-packed. Write something intriguing and gripping, that encourages your readers to keep reading.
- When you take your books to publishers, ensure that your introduction and conclusion are powerful.
- Don’t write in Oxford English and make it sound artificial. Use your natural language. Try to mix your native tongue with English to share the emotions in a powerful way.
- Convey your emotions clearly. Organize your thoughts; your writing will unclutter itself. Clear thinking is clear writing.
- Be yourself. Don’t imitate anyone. Your own style is your swag.
- Don’t be a mime. Find the voice hidden within you.
From the perspective of an aspiring author, the Q & A session was enlightening and entertaining. Following this session, Rashmi unveiled the momento, a photo collage about the 100-day writing challenge. Chintan bagged the ‘best performer’ award. (@Chintan Jain: Friendly reminder! Your treat is still pending :D)
On that cheerful note, Suresh announced they would be giving away signed copies of Rashmi’s book and before I could even process the information, people formed a line. Here, I’m standing in the line to get a book from Rashmi, while pondering over the fact if there was another next writer’s challenge on the horizon. And, will I get to be a part of it? Let’s see…