Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Journey to Self-Publishing

By Kalyani Kurup

Excerpt from the personal narrative ‘A Journey to Self-Publishing’

Meanwhile, while I was writing facts for others and fiction for myself, my personal life had taken some unexpected detours. After a life that had taken me through every corner of India and given me experiences of scorching summers, bone-freezing winters, billowing dust storms, and earth-drowning rains, I found myself catapulted onto a new continent. Courtesy of my daughter, I ended up in the USA, and found myself trying to fathom the esotericisms of a new country.

Near the apartment in which I live in Fairfax, there is a library called Chantilly Regional Library, one of the many Fairfax County library branches. I had been there now and then to take books and to participate in book discussions, but it was only in the middle of 2012 that I stumbled into a writers’ organization called ‘Writers of Chantilly’ which meets there twice a month.

‘Writers of Chantilly’ is a motley crew of people who are in love with words and sentences. I found that some of them were established writers glowing in the happiness of the checks they regularly received. Some had just managed to leapfrog into the world of published authors and were exploring the wonders of their new world. Some others probably had, like me, the experiences of chasing agents or sweating it out in post office queues with their manuscripts on their head. The important thing was that they understood each other’s hopes, dreams, fears, dreads, needs, and yearnings.

I asked if I could join their group and they readily let me in. There was no formal interview and no filling up of forms to declare my age-gender-height-weight-sugar-cholesterol-father’s name and records of lawbreaking. They accepted me as if they were expecting me to drop down from heavens into the library’s conference room in the spring of 2012, even though I am visibly incompatible with the rest in height, weight, accent, and skin color.

Empathy is the true union on which ‘Writers of Chantilly’ revolves. Exchange of ideas and constructive criticism are the fabrics that hold the members together. They turned out to be the support system that I had always yearned for but had not found till then.

For anyone who is interested in writing, there is an indefinable ease and comfort in being part of a writer’s group. When I joined, WOC was on its way to publishing an anthology on grandmothers, and as a member I was eligible to contribute. I was hesitant in the beginning because I was not sure of their selection criteria.
I did, however, try. And they did, instantly accept. I felt almost as if I was back in those early days of freelancing in the mid-1980s when I just wrote what I liked and sent it to magazines and they published it. Life seemed to have come full circle.

‘Writers of Chantilly’ introduced me into the world of self-publishing. I had heard about the alternative world of self-publishing even before I became a part of WOC. But I had then believed it to be a sort of shadowy underworld where anemic souls rejected by publishing companies went to build their nests. But the new company made me wiser on the nitty-gritty of self-publishing. I realized that it was no longer an inferior world populated by discarded souls. Self-published authors were apparently giving big publishing companies a run for their money. Self-publishing had introduced a new world order where you were doomed only if readers handed out a negative verdict and not if established publishers rejected you.

All that information was a fresh gust of wind for me. I decided to publish my accumulated material – two novels and many collections of stories nestling in attics and lofts and hibernating CDs and thumb drives….
Self-publishing is no easy trapeze, and does not in itself solve all of a writer’s problems. It is still a long road ahead, but every journey has to start with a small step. I am ever grateful that ‘Writers of Chantilly’ helped me take this tiny first step.


  1. Kalyani, I enjoy your writing...there is no straining :) You have a delightful tone that is warm with humor and honesty. You have a wonderful easy and authentic voice and I always find myself hanging on to every word. I will miss you and please let us stay in touch!

    1. I will defenitely stay in touch, Rebecca. This is the electronic era and communication is no problem. Anyway, I am not surrendering my Writers of Chantilly membership.

  2. Kalyani,
    I only met you a couple of times and traded a couple of emails, but the seriousness with which you treated your writing, and the consideration you provided other members of the group was always evident. You have described the atmosphere of the group as well as I have ever seen it done. Best wishes and safe travels.