Journalist vs. Author: teenage Writer at Frankfurt Book Fair 06
3 – 8 October 2006: Jyoti Guptara attended the world’s largest Book Fair at Frankfurt as an author with Indian publisher Tara Press and as a journalist with The International Indian magazine.
Despite over 7,000 exhibitors at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2006 and my lack of a map, my feet lead me directly to the collective stand of my Indian publisher and its relevant imprint. The same instinct that directed me here tells me that these four Indians are my publishers and agents even before I catch sight of the lettering: India Research Press / Tara Press – and Red Ink, the first, and to my knowledge only, Indian literary agency.
We meet for the first time after months of electronic correspondence. I immediately feel at home with them; it’s as if we already know each other, and just happen not to know much about one another. It’s always been business.
“All Delhi’s turned up,” they laugh. Indeed, a glance at the area between Halls 5.0 and 6.0 yields more brown faces than white. It is the 3rd of October and publishers are setting up their stands, arranging their products, books and promotionals. India is the Guest of Honour this year. I hear more Hindi than German.
After weeks of being chained to a computer and editing, it is refreshing to be meeting people and talking. After six years of working on a book you know may never be published, which was the case until recently, receiving overwhelmingly positive responses from international publishers, literary agents and scouts is like having your batteries recharged.
The atmosphere in the halls is inspiring. Oh, the bitter irony of being a writer surrounded by books but not having the time to read anything except my own fantastic drivel! Here, I’m a consumer rather than producer for a change.
And an ambassador, a diplomat of the spoken rather than the written word. Talking about your own work is strange. Writing about it was bad enough. The agency has its pre-scheduled meetings; I soon discover everyone who’s anyone fills their calendar in advance. But there are so many countries represented here, so many desirable publishers within the same territory. I decide to try and help my agency’s progress. Surprisingly, it works well.
Having existing publishing deals and an agent opens doors. I gather the names of several acquisitions editors with remarkable ease… That’s before the Fair opens to the public over the weekend, when publishers erect protective barriers and editors mysteriously cease to exist. However, when “real” business comes their way, they may be more receptive than ever. But it’s an effort, and there is so much else to do. Usually at least two events I’d like to attend are taking place at the same time.
Since our debut has not yet been released, my publisher didn’t have any signings or talks lined up for me, and apart from a few hours of editing and some parties, I was free. Acquiring a press pass turned out to be a very good move (reporting for The International Indian). If the arrival of the public meant hardship for an author on unfamiliar ground, it made my journalistic activities even more enjoyable.
Although I have been writing freelance for two years now, ever since leaving school at the age of fifteen, this was the first time I actually did anything in an official capacity as a journalist outside of my bedroom. After meetings with writers such as Amitav Ghosh and U. R. Ananthamurthy, and being granted an interview with Mira Nair, I know my loss. Further perks include skipping a queue of three hundred to see the new film from Karan Johar (“Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna”, Never Say Goodbye), who of course we got to meet at an earlier press conference. Six days of Frankfurt later my feet are so weary I can’t even be bothered to see Kiran Desai, even though I know that if I fail to meet her she’s bound to win the Booker…
Jyoti Guptara is a freelance journalist and co-author of Conspiracy of Calaspia, the critically acclaimed first novel in the Insanity fantasy series, on which he has been collaborating with his twin brother from the age of eleven. www.twins.guptara.net
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