September 19, 2015

The Revolutionary NaNoWriMo Mumbai Meet

There are few things I am openly proud of, and this has to be one of the items on the list. Why? I’ll tell you in a bit.

NaNoWriMo changed my life. It made me from go from I’ll-write-a-novel-someday to forget-about-CA-Final-exams-write-now! [pun intended ;)]

I was a few days into my exams that November (2010) when I found out about NaNoWriMo. I should’ve been nose deep into my books, but I was busy going through posts from my Blogger dashboard.

Since then, every November, everything else stops for me. Life comes to a standstill. ‘Other things can wait 30 days, but this book needs to be written NOW!’ is my attitude.

Soon enough, I found the online NaNoWriMo community and the WRIMO India Group. I went to my first NaNo meeting/workshop in December 2012 and that’s where I met Sonia Rao and Allison Williams, among other WRIMOs, for the first time. Allison was conducting a workshop titled, The Blazing Fire: Writing with Burning Passion, and as expected, it was pretty informative.

Sonia Rao is, other than being a fellow writer, our lovely NaNoWriMo appointed Municipal Liaison (ML) for India Region and she’s the one who arranges all these meetings, gets people together. It is because of her that we get a chance to meet, speak with and learn from each other and writers and editors like Allison.

Allison Williams is a guerrilla memoirist, essay writer and travel journalist who also writes fiction and is a freelance editor. Yeah, she’s as awesome as she sounds.

Since then, I have been to most of the meets in Mumbai, and recently I’ve started dragging Kritika to them too (and so far, she ain’t complaining. Why would she? Allison was curious about how we worked together and thought Kritika was lovely. And pretty.) 

For the last few meets, I’ve also voluntarily taken up the post of the unofficial ‘official photographer’ of the event. I actually come prepared with my camera (fully charged) and if necessary, even a tripod. I take every job seriously, especially the unofficial ones. Those are the ones that get done before the deadline.

After the meeting, Sonia posts the pictures in the WRIMO India group. Though most of us in Mumbai feel great looking at the pictures, it’s the ones who don’t live here or weren’t able to attend who feel sad and left out. Our dear Dola lives near Phagwara in Punjab, and even if there were a meeting to be held there, she’d be the only one.

When we found out that Allison was going to be in Mumbai, Sonia organised a meeting, which is usually how these off-season meeting happen: someone we know from our WRIMO group is in town, so let’s all meet up.

This time too, there were people who couldn’t make it, and I had an idea. You see, a few weeks ago, we discovered Periscope. The second I made the connection, I privately messaged Sonia, telling her about periscope; what it was and how we could use it for our meeting to connect with those who’re unable to attend.

Sonia was on board immediately. She just might be my new favourite person, by the way. Why, you ask? Just because she loved my idea? Hell, yeah.

Not many people get on board new things so easily unless they see some personal gain in it; especially when they have nothing to gain from it. And she did not just agree, she was so enthusiastic about it, calling the idea innovative and me, a technowizard (I just introduced an existing idea, someone else’s brainchild, for the benefit of the group, but I like the term :D) that it was impossible to not at least like her for it.

But I’m an all-or-nothing kinda girl, so you’re either my best friend or I hate you; there’s nothing in between. If you’re lucky you may find yourself in the category of I-can-stand-to-see-your-face-and-hear-your-voice-while-resisting-the-urge-to-punch-your-face-and-that-means-you’re-okay.

Anyway, we made the announcements and everyone seemed excited. So this was happening.

And then I started to worry.

What if there was no WiFi? What if my data pack ran out when we were halfway through the broadcast? What if Costa Coffee didn’t allow it? What if my mom called while we were live? What if no one was able to log in? I had too many questions.

But all I could do to retain some control over the situation was:
  • Ensure that my phone was fully charged.
  • Remember to carry the phone holder.
  • Check if I had enough data left in my talk plan to continue the broadcast (over 300 MB of available download as of that morning, so woohoo!)
  • Create space in my phone to save a video longer than 20 minutes (I deleted unnecessary apps and transferred most of my photos.)

And then I showed up.

And everything went on smoothly.

I was there half an hour earlier than our scheduled time. Sonia was already there. Allison showed up minutes after I did and well, we started talking because that’s what you do at meetings.

Pretty soon, Kritika joined us, followed by Ritesh and we thought we were going to be the only ones there. But on the bright side, a poor turnout at the actual meeting would mean more people logged in for the broadcast, right? Yeah, I’ve totally got my priorities in order.

But a while later, around half an hour before the broadcast, Neil and Vanita joined us too.

We spoke about a lot of things and not all of them were about writing. But the essence of the meeting was captured in this 33-minute long video, where Allison talked about the writing and editing process, about things you should... you know what, watch the video because even though the video quality is not that great (Thank you, Periscope, for broadcasting in High-Def but saving the 33-min video on my phone as a 29MB file. No, wait. I take that back. It sucks,) but you can hear her clearly.

And because of this, WRIMOs all across India (and maybe even across the globe) will now benefit from this.

WRIMO India how has its own YouTube Channel and if you are a WRIMO, you must subscribe to it because this tech-savvy thing does not end here. And while you’re following, check out WRIMO India on Social Media (links at the end of the post) for more updates. With the NaNo season upon us, there will be loads of activities for you to be a part of – offline as well as online.
Anyway, this is all I have time for, now. We’re having another meet in a few hours. Will blog about it (or just share the video, you know) soon. ;)

K bye.

 -   Nikita.

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Also, The Azad Sisters and WRIMO India are on Periscope and our usernames are the same as our Twitter handles.

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