Nothing gives me greater joy than discovering a writer I haven’t read before/heard of before. I can still remember the first time I read Colin Dexter, Rex Stout, Gregory MacDonald and Ed McBain, for example. Great writers in my favourite genres.
I vividly remember reading Art Buchwald for the first time. William Safire for the first time. Dave Barry for the first time. My father (who wrote brilliantly – I can't link to any of his writing; he passed away in 1980), in large part, and Art Buchwald and William Safire made me fall in love with great writing in English.
The love affair continues – and the hunt for a new object for the love continued over the years.
Ten years ago, if anyone asked me what I would be doing ten years from then, I would never have answered “journalism”. My first brush with ‘professional’ writing occurred because the editor of Impact magazine had quit in a hurry and Anurag Batra asked me if I could ‘manage’ till he found an editor. A couple of weeks later, I found that I loved what I was doing – and Anurag stopped looking for a replacement.
And, some years later, came a new job in a new magazine – editor of the soon to be launched Campaign India.
Which brought a new angle to my hunt for writers – an active hunt as opposed to serendipitous, accidental discovery. The format of the magazine needed at least three professionals from the industry to write for us every fortnight – two for Private View and one for the Opinion piece which appears below the editorial opinion.
This wasn’t easy; very few professionals in adland had written. Existing media requested a handful of ‘names’ to write for them. The same ‘names’ appeared again and again in publication after publication.
The hunt for new writers was no easy task. The first ones we approached (and, in many instances, bullied) were people we knew well. After they agreed to attempt to write, we had to explain to them that their writing had to fit the Campaign India ‘grid’; there were word limits for anything they wrote. While many had written, very few had written to suit a grid. It wasn’t easy.
In the 3 ½ years that Campaign India has existed, we’ve had over 175 (yes, 175) professionals writing in Private View; about 80 who have written the Opinion piece. In these years, I can think of a number who’ve been brilliant, a number who’ve been good – and just a couple who were – sadly – bad.
Peter Mukerjea was someone who didn’t struggle to write. He writes easily and relaxed; it’s no wonder he’s finished writing his book. Kurien Mathews, Rajesh Pant, Charles Cadell are among others who surprised us with their felicity of language – and their love for writing showed. All of them, however, were, sort of, hemmed in by the grid.
Then came our dotcom. The new medium meant freedom from the grid – and freedom for writers. I could imagine what the writers that we had discovered would be able to do once we gave them free play – via blogs. Tech issues prevented us from truly exploiting this opportunity – till we re-launched our website in mid-2010.
We tested it. There were glitches, speed issues, tech issues – and they are getting ironed out, one by one. We reached a point where we believed that those who wrote for us would get the gratification due to them – engagement with readers.
And we’ve had the absolute honour of a talented cartoonist, Nagesh Sirsal, creating a little piece of genius, provoked by Kiran’s post.
And soon, once you discover the writer in you, we’ll discover you.