The Short Story Challenge – Distant Echoes
This is a guest post by AnuReviews reader Gargi Mehra – who has been a part of this short story challenge where a group of women came together to bring out an anthology.
At the end of 2013, my friend Radhika Meghanathan proposed an idea – to write one story every month for the year of 2014. A similar thought had sprung up in my mind too.
In my mind, the idea hadn’t taken coherent shape, but Radhika was clear on the rules and the fundamentals. We belonged to that pool of writers who have a story in us. But not the time or motivation to commit to it. Around that time I was in the throes of writing a story myself. And decided I could successfully go through with it. With palpitating heart and trembling fingers, we group members accepted Radhika’s invite, read through her rules, and prepared ourselves.
The rules were brief and simple – by the fifteenth of every month, we would submit a short story to Radhika. She would then compile all the stories into one zip file and send it to the group. Google Groups was our forum of choice. And MS-Word our tool for writing and critiquing. There were no length or genre restrictions imposed. And it was expected that every member critique at least 3 other stories.
Often writers are unsure of how to critique. To simplify the process, Radhika circulated a Critique Template, which we used to send our comments. Apart from the template we also used the Track Changes feature of MS Word to provide comments and potential errors in the text.
The eclectic collection that developed staggered my imagination. My brilliant writer -friends stepped up to the challenge. And we composed everything from flash horror to fantasies and humorous tales. It was greatly enjoyable to read other’s stories. And also to read others’ critiques of the stories. This was, in my opinion, one of the most useful aspects of the challenge. Reading the critiques gave us a really good idea of what worked and what didn’t. It helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses.
The writers, coincidentally all women, based in India and abroad, developed a sense of community that grew strong. Every so often, in between critiques and stories, one or other of the members would pop in to share news of a success.
Here is a sprinkling of the wins garnered by the writers from the group:
- Fehmida Zakeer’s January story “Shopping for Bindis” came out in the Feb-March issue of Reading Hour magazine. Another story Babies in the Park was shortlisted in the DNA Out of Print Fiction Award 2014.
- Shruthi Rao’s story, The Awakening, won the DNA Out of Print Short Fiction Award 2014. Another story of hers, At the Wedding, made it to the final shortlist in the Open Road Review fiction competition in May 2014.
- Vrinda Baliga, a winner in previous Katha competitions, was awarded the Lavanya Sankaran Fellowship to participate in the Sangam House international writers’ residency in 2014. Her story ‘Kings and Sons’ was selected for the New Asian Writing Anthology 2014.
- Sujata Rajpal’s debut novel The Other End of the Corridor was published in January this year. Two of her stories which she wrote for the challenge were published – The Loss in EFiction and Two scoops of Chocolate Mousse in Women’s Web.
- My story Lost & Found won an honorable mention in the LCPL Write On! Short Story Contest. This was my first story for the Short Story Challenge, written way back in January when we started. Another titled Reading the Leaves won the 3rd place in the themed short-story contest held by the Creative Writing Institute.
Radhika provided the platform. We shared our work and pitched in. The result of the challenge is a collection of stories called Distant Echoes, published this month on Amazon.
If you’re a writer who needs just a little motivation to get started, drop Radhika a line. And join the challenge! If you’re a reader, please do check out Distant Echoes. And help spread the word. I hope you enjoy the collection Distant Echoes.