'Shout out' brings heartening news for new writers
Amongst the many gifts that DLF offers, a notable one is how it facilitates aspiring writers to access platforms for publishing, at home and abroad. In addition to the various local publishing houses setting up shop on the grounds of the Bangla Academy, Day 2 of the festival featured a panel called “Shout Out”, featuring Chris Heiser, publisher and co-founder of the Unnamed Press, Rupert Dastur director of the Cambridge Short Story Prize and founder of TSS Publications, and Courtney Hodell, director of the writing programs at the Whiting Foundation.
After the three panelists explained a little about the workings of their respective platforms, the conversation moved to opportunities for aspiring writers. Rupert Dustur, who, at an earlier panel, introduced the Cambridge Short Story Prize in Dhaka, spoke about how aspiring Bangladeshi authors could access the competition for free. In his view, competitions are a good place for writers to find motivation, gain exposure, and to hone their craft. Talking about the rejection that is an unfortunate reality of every writer, he said “You need to build resilience in your career.”
Courtney Hodell expanded on the frustrations of rejection, and made an interesting point about the gendered differences in response to rejection. “Men tend to hear a ‘no’ as a “no, not this piece, and move on to send other pieces, while women hear a ‘no’ as ‘no, they didn’t like my voice”. She urged women writers to continue to persevere, to revise their work, and to continue trying different avenues, so that they get the attention they deserve.
The conversation moved from frustration to opportunity, and all three panelists pitched in to talk about the relative merits of independent publishers vs ‘big name’ established publishers, querying literary magazines for first time writers, as opposed to finding publishers for a debut novel. “Independent authors can invest more ‘sweat equity’ in authors” said Heiser, but went on to elaborate, saying that they need their authors to be more proactive about revisions, marketing, and the whole process as a whole.
The panel ended with an interactive Q&A session, where Chris Heiser’s final piece of advice was for budding writers to actively seek out and build their support networks.