Racy, Earthy and Oh So Profound!


“City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert takes us into the caverns of the 40s and the 50s New York City.

Vivian Morris, a would-have-been-straight-laced Vasser graduate ends up being a promiscuous and down-in-the- pits kind of girl – but she is not without merit.

An exceptionally resourceful and skilled seamstress, she also becomes an adept seductress with her partner-in-crime Cecilia Ray. Both leggy beauties explore the underbelly of the bustling metropolis night after night.

Events transpire as events do! A kiss under a lamppost shared amongst these two girls and the husband of a  famous actress leads Vivian to leave town in utter shame, get engaged to a guy she doesn’t love, break up with him, and return to the life in NYC.

Except … the NYC on her return is full of the effects of the war. There is rationing everywhere, men have left for the frontlines, and the general mindset of people is ripe for helping the country than indulging in hedonistic pleasures.

This is where the amelioration of Vivian begins. She seizes what is available. She works in the Navy Yard, evolves as a person, develops and invests herself in friendships, starts her own boutique, and remains unmarried while being in love with a veteran.

Sexual escapades, cigarette smoke, bottomless glasses of liquors pepper the story but under all these carnal activities, lies crisp human emotions, steadfastness under adversities, an upbeat attitude towards life despite failures, and an edgy and worth memorizing treasure chest of phrases uttered by Edna Parker.


Writing as a Career Option


I’ve been asked more than once when my book was getting published.

“I am not writing a book,” I said.

Yet, I am a writer.

There are many stereotypes attached to writers and the craft of writing. Not all writers are novelists and not all writers have an epiphany from heaven to create memorable pieces. Well, if they do, I haven’t heard of any. While writing, they also do not revel in silks and stroke a furry feline and neither are they constantly mired in their own thoughts and removed from the society. But we will let these ideas coexist with the fact that writing is one of the most versatile of professions.

If you are considering writing as a comeback career option, make a candid evaluation of your writing and storytelling skills first.

Do you have what it takes?

Are you a natural at this? Do friends praise you for your witty or insightful updates? Are you the default communicator for the PTO ? Do you always have a story running in your head while doing chores?

Facts for the aspiring writer:

The good news first – you do not need a formal education in communication or journalism to get a job as a writer, though it helps. A flair for writing, good grammar skills and the default ingredient called passion are good enough.

Content that counts – Start with writing about what you know best to build your writing repository, whether it’s food, politics, health or parenting tips.

Options, options – Understand  your style of writing and then determine which industry it fits best. If you have a science background and the ability to write a clean copy, you might consider the field of medical writing. An aptitude for descriptive renditions could open doors to real estate writing. There are numerous options in PR, Digital as well as Marketing, like ad copy and printed materials.

Showing it off – Should you have a portfolio? Yes, but you don’t have to be intimidated by the thought of putting one together. Web links to your published work, or samples of unpublished pieces as attachments to your resume would do very well. Build writing credits one piece at a time.

Check out some of the best web-based portfolio sites for writers here.

How can you hone your craft?

Write! There is no other way to learn this other than to JUST write.

Drop everything and make notes when you get your ‘aha’ moment, and believe me, you will! At places and times you might never imagine the muse will visit you. Grocery receipts have come in handy many times for me. Phrases, memories, visuals, jingles, anything could lead to a full- fledged story.  Just remember to jot them down the old fashioned way, using a pen and paper (believe me, this works), or send a recorded message to yourself in their absence.The Notes App on most Smartphones is also a great tool. Do remember to file away all your divine or otherwise revelations later.

Read! You can’t be a good writer without being an avid reader.

Set deadlines and stick to them. Oftentimes the longer you fuss over a writing piece, the worse it gets.

Identify a mentor, partner to inspire you or co-write with and use Apps like Google Docs for shared work. For a free tutorial click here.

Refine! Keep the piece aside and revisit after a day or so with a fresh set of eyes.

Kill  your darlings! Don’t fall in ‘forever love’ with a phrase, paragraph or a character. Every word in a short piece should serve a purpose. If not, delete it.

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone….”—Stephen King, WD

The true mark of a good writer is a commitment to the craft, perseverance, and the ability to read, revise and polish until it reads just right.

Ernest Hemingway said it best, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

So go ahead, tell that story. And remember – the worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn’t!

Watch out for Part-2  on the How-to’s and Job Prospects for the aspiring writer.

You can also read this and other insightful articles pertaining to your ‘return to work place’ at Maroon Oak




       The first crack in the wood sends shivers of excitement down the spine of the wood cutter. The periodic and consistent chopping thereafter yields a cadence that fills the inner ear with inexplicable pleasure.   Humans have been notorious for not only desiring patterns in music and language but also for getting agitated when it is lacking.

Literary devices like assonance, consonance, alliteration, and anaphora work on the fact that we like repetition.   Anaphora is one  figure of speech that uses a specific clause at the beginning of each sentence or point to make a statement.

Pretty sure Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s use of anaphora won her the love of Robert Browning. See how she woos her lover in this famous sonnet:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

Sonnet 43 from the Sonnets From the Portuguese

Anaphora, possibly the oldest literary device, has its roots in religious songs and discourses used to emphasize certain words or phrases. Gradually, writers brought this device into practice.

From poets to writers to politicians, the use of anaphora is as widespread today as it was in the earlier times.

photo Barack Obama uses anaphora effectively in this  2008 speech after winning the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina. “I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina.”

The more it is used, the more emotions it invokes in the audience.

Who can forget the moving speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, “I have a dream….”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech


The rhetorical quality of anaphora helps in fostering a connection, increases the impetus, drills the point across faster and helps in etching it in the listeners’ minds.  

Winston Churchill “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be….”

Other examples of the usage of anaphora are:

  • No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important.
  • We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity.
  •  “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings [. . .]

The 21st century social media uses anaphora as a tool to drill its message in its users’ psyche. Repeat, repeat and repeat. Sometimes the rhetoric do not have a musical quality and falls in the category of nonsense but it sure works.


“Good night and good luck”

Can good listening skills make your writing better?

I read an interesting article by Barry Farber in the vicinity magazine some time ago titled,‘Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn.’

It talked about paying close attention when somebody is talking as a moment’s distraction can change your interpretation of what the other person is saying. This set me thinking. Do I also write better if I listen better? I have been mulling over the science of this and I think it does work. The more I observe people, listen to them, look in their eyes, see the change in their facial expressions, admire their surroundings, the more I know them from inside. I can feel their emotions. I also absorb a lot more for longer periods of time if I give a full ear to something and when I am ready to jot down the incident, it is as if it is playing in front of me.
The article also mentions the importance of displaying as much of your knowledge as needed. When I tied this to the aspect of writing, it proved to be a gem of an advice. Lord Chesterfield, the 18th Century British Statesman said,”Never seem more learned than the people you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch and keep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours, but give the time when you are asked.”

Strengthening your short stories by ‘Theory of Omission’ or ‘The Iceberg Theory’

When reading about Hemingway, I came across his iceberg Theory.

The Iceberg Theory (also known as the “theory of omission”) is a term used to describe the writing style of American writer Ernest Hemingway. The theory is this: The meaning of a piece is not immediately evident, because the crux of the story lies below the surface, just as most of the mass of a real iceberg similarly lies beneath the surface. For example The Old Man and the Sea is a meditation upon youth and age, even though the protagonist spends little or no time thinking on those terms.In his essay “The Art of the Short Story”, Hemingway is clear about his method: “A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit.”

From reading Rudyard Kipling he absorbed the practice of shortening prose as much as it could take. Of the concept of omission, Hemingway wrote in “The Art of the Short Story”: “You could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.” By making invisible the structure of the story, he believed the author strengthened the piece of fiction and that the “quality of a piece could be judged by the quality of the material the author eliminated.”

My fascination with a SENTENCE – Sentences that invoke disgust

We will take a look at sentences packed with life lessons, punches, emotions, disgust, memories etc. one by one. Let’s look at some sentences that evoke DISGUST. As usual do let me know what sentences in famous classical or modern literature evoke disgust in you.

“Evermore in the world is this marvelous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats”

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)

“The vine bears three kinds of grapes: the first of pleasure, the second of intoxication, the third of disgust”

Diogenes quotes (Ancient Greek Philosopher; said to be the Founder of Cynicism 412 BC-323 BC)

“There are some persons who only disgust with their abilities, there are persons who please even with their faults.”

François de la Rochefoucauld quotes (French classical author, leading exponent of the Maxime, 1613-1680)

Phenomenology of the Hedgehog

“How distressing to stumble on a dominant social habitus, just when one was convinced of one’s own uniqueness in the matter! Distressing, and perhaps even a bit annoying. The fact that in spite of my confinement in a loge that confirms in every way to what is expected, in spite of an isolation that should have protected me from the imperfections of the masses, in spite of those shameful years in my forties when I was utterly ignorant of the changes in the vast world to which I am confined; the fact that I, Renee, fifty-four years old, concierge and autodidact, am witness to the same changes that are animating the present-day elite- little Pallieres in their exclusive schools who read Marx then go off in gangs to watch Terminator, or little Badoises who study law in Assas and sob into their Kleenex at Notting Hill– is a shock from which I can scarcely recover”.  – Muriel Barbery

Two female protagonists belonging to two different social strata in Paris. A 50 something fat concierge and a 13-year-old girl who lives in the building with her rich parents and her older sister.  The concierge is an avid reader of Tolstoy and an admirer of great works of art. Her interest and knowledge in good books, movies and paintings are as clandestine as the teenager Paloma’s decision of committing suicide on her thirteenth birthday.  The book is beautiful in every respect. Muriel Barbery‘s writing invokes a lot of thinking with respect to the superficial world that we live in. Paloma, the teenager is disgusted with the shallowness that she experiences around her. Renee keeps to herself for the most part except for her friend Manuela and the books that she reads. Both come together for their love of knowledge. Paloma knows that Renee is not an ordinary concierge and Renee can tell that Paloma is not a fluttering young butterfly either.

Paloma writes her thoughts which she calls ‘Profound thought #’ and she likes to be left alone most of the time. To escape from her family she likes to spend time in Renee’s loge.

Manuela’s pastries, the arrival of Ozu in the building, the chance utterance of Tolstoy’s lines by Renee in front of Ozu, his interest in her intelligent company, her transformation by way of a hairstyle,  a couple stolen outfits, Ozu and Renee’s meals and movies meetings are each of the scenes that are masterpieces in themselves. The ending is a surprise one. But for Renee’s accidental death at the end, it would closely resemble a goody- all- is- well- fairytale with Renee being rescued by Ozu, the rich guy in the shining armor.

Muriel Barbery’s maturity in storytelling shines through at the end with the twist. Great Read. Although it starts off as a heavy one.