KATHMANDU, Sept 27: Talking to 26-year-old Arun Budhathoki, one gets the picture that the publishing world in Nepal is not very kind to poets writing in English.
The poet, who has come out with two anthologies and a novella, is now working on his third. His first poetry book, ‘Edge’, was published by cyberwit.net, a publisher in India, and his latest will also be published from India.
“I couldn’t find a publishing house which accepted English poems. The publishing houses here think that English poetry books don’t sell,” states Arun.
Published by Oriental Publications, ‘Fifteen and Thr3e Quarters’ is Richa Bhattarai’s first published work. She says, “It was relatively easier for me, because my father is a writer himself, and quite familiar with the ins and outs of the industry. But if I had to do it on my own, I’m sure it would’ve been hugely difficult.”
Arun’s second work, a novella called ‘The Lost Boys of Kathmandu’ can be found in an eBook format, as can his ‘Poems on Sikkim.’ They sold faster since people could access it from all over the world. Arun couldn’t get a publishing house to publish his novella. “Perhaps they were looking for something that would sell,” he said.
However, lack of interested publishers in his own country hasn’t discouraged him. He continues writing. When talking about criticism, he begins interestingly, “Poets hate critics. There are no good critics in Nepal.”
Yet he rues the lack of criticism he has received here. He says, “I sent ‘Edge’ to all the major newspapers and not one reviewed it. Considering that, it’s surprising that I should get reviewed in ‘Cha: An Asian Literary Journal’ from Hong Kong.”
Criticisms for ‘Fifteen and Thr3e Quarters,’ a collection of short stories, were plenty, says Richa.
“While some lauded it as an effort to add something to the works written in English from Nepal, many of the criticisms were vehement, and called the book ‘corny,’ ‘cheesy,’ or ‘influenced by movies.’ I agree with most of the flaws noted by the critics, because I would perhaps have reviewed my book in a similar manner too.”
The 25-year-old works as a sub editor at The Himalayan Times and says she faces writer’s block everyday.
“I face it every single day, every single time I sit down to write, and I’m sure it’s the same case with many writers. Writer’s block is certainly a very vexing phenomenon, but we become writers only after we learn to deal with it. My trick is to envision the end product. I just imagine how the story will turn out to be, and how good I’ll feel after that, how others will enjoy reading it — and then I somehow force myself to write,” she states.
On the other hand, Arun says, “I’ve yet to experience it. I think it’s just an excuse, and being plain lazy. Writing’s an exercise. You have to write everyday.”
Both have been writing for more than a decade, beginning at school. Richa remembers, “My first published piece was a poem in ‘Muna.’”
She believes that there are a lot of challenges for young writers. She says, “There’s this fear, and a very real possibility, of everyone from the publisher to the reader to the critic rejecting your work.”
Yet she is optimistic. Determination is the answer, she thinks. “Because a good work will eventually come to light, it’s no matter how many obstacles one might have to overcome.”
‘Edge’ sold quite well. “I have only one copy with me now,” Arun laughs. So, despite the fact that it sold well, doesn’t he think publishers need to reconsider?
He says, “They should but I doubt they will. It’s easier for a novelist to get published. And a Nepali poet will always find willing publishers. Theirs is a long tradition, and poets writing in English have just started. English poetry in Nepal is at its infant stage.”
Shiwani Neupane’s ‘Monica – Pieces of Perfect’ was published by Kathalaya earlier this year. Sheeba Shivangini Shah has had two novels published by Om Pilgrims Book House, ‘The Loyal of the Crown’ and ‘Beyond the Illusions.’ Can we believe that it’s not as hard as it’s believed for young aspiring writers to get published?
Richa opines, “It’s definitely harder for young writers. We haven’t built up our credibility yet to catch the eyes of publishers, and it’s difficult for publishers to commit unless the written work is exceptionally good. But now I do believe it’s become a lot easier than before because publishers are more receptive and they will at least go through your manuscript and give you ideas. Also, there are so many newspapers and magazines and it’s easy for good writers to get published in, and thus noticed by publishers.”
Rhicha Maharjan, Officer Manager at Om Pilgrims Book House, says, “It’s difficult for young first-time writers to be published. But we do publish those that have potential. We published Pradeep Swar around two years back. He was just 19 then. Fiction stories work well in the market. So if the content is good, we have no hesitation in publishing it.”
On the other hand, Arun says, “Young writers looking to get published should either be well connected or rich.”
A cynical view, or a dark truth?