Books and Beyond with Bound: New podcast blurs the lines between readers and writers in a 'thriving literary culture'

The podcast Books and Beyond with Bound, like their other activities, offers an infrastructure that supports a writer and offers a bookish community to engage with.

Aarushi Agrawal April 20, 2020 10:02:15 IST
Books and Beyond with Bound: New podcast blurs the lines between readers and writers in a 'thriving literary culture'

Among the insights literary company Bound’s new podcast Books and Beyond with Bound offers are Manu Pillai talking about not buckling under the pressure of being sent a defamation notice, Lisa Ray telling listeners about reclaiming her narrative after being a victim of labelling, and Rajat Ubhaykar explaining the difference between travelling and tourism.

Hosted by Bound founder and editor Tara Khandelwal and writer and editor Michelle D’Costa, the podcast focuses on everything that led to the writer’s finished work. From their writing process as well as daily routine to the support system that keeps them motivated, tackling rejection, writer’s block and the source of their ideas and inspiration, the podcast aims to learn more about the author. “When I read a book, the first thing I want to know is what influences in that author’s life that have gone into creating this piece of work, from start to finish, from idea to putting it down on paper; who are their mentors; what makes them tick,” says Khandelwal.

Books and Beyond with Bound New podcast blurs the lines between readers and writers in a thriving literary culture

All photos courtesy Bound

Besides being a dream project that allowed them to have in-depth conversations with the authors they admire, the duo also keep in mind their audience, largely a community of readers and writers like themselves. “We ask the authors questions that will help aspiring writers,” says D’Costa. While the number of creative writing courses in the country are limited and not something every aspiring writer can commit to, a podcast such as this offers an in-depth look at how established writers go about the process. “It’s honestly very difficult to come up with good work,” says D’Costa. “So that push [is something] a lot of writers require. Because at the end of the day, if you treat something as a hobby, you’ll never take it seriously. There’s nobody there to guide you or be there for you. So we want to build that support system,” she adds.

This infrastructure that supports a writer and offers one a bookish community to engage with has been Bound’s longstanding endeavour. Besides the podcast, they offer workshops, editorial services, and writers’ retreats, through which one can explore their creativity. “I decided to start Bound around two years ago because through my work as an editor and journalist, I saw that there were a lot of aspiring writers who wanted skill building,” says Khandelwal. “We’re trying to get you [to a place] where you’ll be confident with your work,” adds D’Costa.

Books and Beyond with Bound New podcast blurs the lines between readers and writers in a thriving literary culture

A Bound writers' retreat

While each writer is dealt with individually, there is also some common advice. For one, they stress the importance of critically engaging with texts and reading good literature, across genres. “While literary fiction might teach you how to build good sentences, genre fiction helps you create scenes or move the story forward,” says D’Costa.

They also acknowledge that writing is not easy. While several people have trouble starting out, it’s important to not be conscious about ones’ first draft and just get it all down. “Don’t stop writing, it’s as simple as that,” says Khandelwal. While a lot of writers are able to create something interesting, they have noticed that it often needs a degree of editing and polishing. “That makes the difference. With good editing, it takes [the work] to the next level,” says D’Costa.

Even as writing is primarily a solitary activity, they also stress the importance of community and building a support system. One can grow a lot as a writer through sharing work with a network of writers and being open to feedback. “It’s different for every writer but at the end of the day we just try to motivate them,” says D’Costa. “If you got the same support for writing that you do for engineering or medicine, you would be [more motivated],” she adds.

While writing and the humanities more generally don’t receive the type of support the sciences and financial services do in the country, the duo, both of whom have around 10 years of experience as editors, has noticed a growing literary culture. And social media is in large part responsible for this growth, offering a sense of community. “People now have writing buddies, they share their work with one another or act as each other’s mentor or editor,” says Khandelwal. Through social media, reviewers and book bloggers are also successfully encouraging people to read more. “They’re spreading the love for literature, which is great,” says D’Costa. There are also more avenues for creative writing, like online sketches and web series, making it a viable career choice for more people.

All of this is together working to create a thriving atmosphere that encourages creativity. “When we started out, the concept of a retreat was very new to people, we had to explain it. Now the concept of a creative vacation is more popular,” says Khandelwal. There’s an abundance of talent in the country, and publishers, it seems, have also taken notice. “The last two to three years have been very encouraging for writers. A lot of publishers are accepting debut authors and experimental work, which would not happen before,” says D’Costa. “Fiction is growing,” she adds.

Given the coronavirus outbreak, while releases have been pushed and the physical publication of several books halted, the literary scene continues to be exciting. “I think the literary culture is thriving,” says Khandelwal, adding, “whoever is a writer, is a reader. In our community, if you’re a writer, you love books, you love words."

Listen to the first episode of Books and Beyond with Bound season one here:

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