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Got manuscript? Can publish

Kala Ghoda Festival, held over nine days in Mumbai, will focus on promoting writing skills this year.

art and culture Updated: Feb 04, 2008 19:40 IST

Got a manuscript? Can publish. That's the message emerging from a new venture at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival here.

The festival is held over nine days in February - it started Saturday - in India's commercial capital of Mumbai. It is held in the south Mumbai locality of the same name and was started in 1999.

This year, with the focus on promoting writing skills, a new idea that has hit the festival is the Open Book Pitch. It lets writers use internet-based tools and submit "pitches" to publishers and literary agents.

"Some of the biggest names in Indian publishing are signed up, as are some of the exciting newer ones," Peter Griffin, who is one of the organisers of this event, told IANS.

The process is anonymous in two ways. Writers do not have direct access to the talent scouts from publishers and agents. Scouts do not get any personally identifying information until they see something they like.

The prize: a chance to be published.<b1>

The festival is organised by the Kala Ghoda Association - a non-profit organisation that states its objectives as "physically upgrading the Kala Ghoda sub-precinct and making it the art district of Mumbai".

There are other events too at the fest. "Except for the Poetry Slam, the Open Mike and the workshops, none of these require people to be in Mumbai," Griffin said.

The Poetry Slam, says Griffin, requires a combination of writing and performance ability. The Flash Essay contest, says Griffin, is brand new.

SMS Poetry has one simple guideline: The entire poem must be short enough to fit into a single 160-character SMS. It is being run for the fourth year.

Flash Fiction (also called micro-fiction or short-shorts) presents a simple challenge: tell a story with all the classical elements: a beginning, middle and end, a conflict and resolution, a credible protagonist...but do so in a very limited number of words.

Poetry Slam is about performance poetry. Poets get on stage and perform their work. The audience has a say in whether they stay or leave. Griffin calls it "reality show style, except Slams pre-date reality television." This was the first event of its kind in India, when it made its debut last year.

Flash Essay, new this year, enters the world of non-fiction, adjusted to the age of information overload. Writers can make their point in up to 500 words.

Other non-competitive events include The Open Mike - 15 minutes for seven out of the nine days of the festival. The event mixes writing with performance. Each Open Mike session, booked on first-come-first-serve basis, will have six slots of up to two minutes each.

The Open Screen event mixes the word with the visual arts. Participants submit two-minute films via email. Organisers choose the best films for display.

The Open Wall - which might happen - plans to see a pseudo 'wall' erected at the venue, with audience members allowed to leave their own writing there.

There will also be 12 writing workshops, conducted by prominent writers from across the country.

Workshops will focus on graphic story-telling, poetic form, little pencils (for children above ten), poetry in performance, writing for children, what every writer should know about publishing, writing for stage, exercises for fiction writers, an introduction to freelance writing, writing for the screen, the art of translation, poetry appreciation for children,

Kala Ghoda this year has sub-festivals dealing with the visual arts, dance, music, theatre, cinema, literature, lectures, seminars and workshops, heritage walks, special events for children, and the overall street festival.

Entry to all events is free to all - "only restricted by the size of the venues - and costs are met through corporate sponsorship.

Venues include prominent Mumbai landmarks like the Jehangir Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Modern Art, the David Sassoon Library, Max Mueller Bhavan, Elphinstone College, the K.R. Cama Institute, the M.C. Ghia Hall, and the street area of Rampart Row.

In recent years, the Festival has expanded beyond the Kala Ghoda crescent, with events being held in Azad Maidan and Horniman Circle as well.

"The success of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival has, arguably, encouraged the setting up of several other arts and cultural festivals at that time of the year, when the weather in Mumbai is cool and the sun sets early. These include the Mumbai Festival, the Celebrate Bandra Festival, and in 2007, the Kitab Festival," organisers say.