What I do now is run Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW), a school that facilitates creative writing workshops in Bengaluru and builds a community of writers in the city who share critiques with each other and collaborate on creative projects.
Before this, I spent twelve years of my life being a corporate slave as a language consultant, community manager, social media strategist and other such fancy things, because I had an MA in English and had studied Communicative English in my undergrad.
Today, I get to work with people and help them communicate effectively, write well and punctuate perfectly. I also make readers of them because the exposure to various writing styles helps strengthen one’s own writing voice. I also work as a consultant with a few organisations doing all that I used to do when I was in the corporate world but calling my own hours this time.
I have a great team of facilitators at BWW. Meeting them, developing new modules, sharing the vision and dreams for BWW is how most days are spent. On workshop days, which happen over the weekends, we meet for two-three hours (depending on the course) once every week to discuss texts from the course books and critique submissions. It seems ordinary enough, but because it’s writing and literature, there’s no telling where we will head to with any particular discussion. We traverse history, politics, religion, relationships, sexuality and so on. Friendships form, loyalties get declared and violence is threatened when people disagree on punctuation, semantics and the like.
No single workshop day is alike, but they are all similar in the sense that in each we celebrate good writing, rubbish lazy work and open ourselves to each other and the world. It’s all very dramatic, even therapeutic at times, and always deeply fulfilling for both the facilitators and the writers. We all teach and learn from each other.
Tell us about BWW
Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW) started out as a workshop for creative writing. The purpose was to also build a community around writing. We have now become a real writing school. We have over 200 community members. We offer courses for children and adults now. The focus has moved from just creative writing to include all sorts of writing. We started out as a two member team and now we have twelve facilitators on board.
All our courses are important initiatives that focus on various aspects of writing. What I would like to promote with my work is an appreciation for the written word, the importance of punctuation and correct grammar.
All of us at BWW are crazy about quality writing in any genre. Writing for the masses does not mean weak plots, hackneyed phrases, irresponsible and stereotypical characterisation, appalling grammar and language. We believe that we have a responsibility to readers and it’s a great disservice to think of readers as dumb or lacking discernment even if they read only for time-pass, as we say in Bengaluru.
This may sound bombastic, but ask anyone who has done a course with us and they will tell you that BWW has changed their lives and the way they view the world for the better. That’s the experience I want more and more people to have.
The biggest challenge has been my health. In 2009, I was diagnosed with a host of autoimmune disorders, the most debilitating of which is rheumatoid arthritis. Naturally, living with a condition that makes you chronically ill leads to all kinds of other issues as well. I battled depression, anxiety disorder, the arthritis, weight gain and herpes to name a few.
As I am a workaholic, and also because treatment is expensive, I continued working in spite of my ailments. My work demands that I spend endless hours on the computer, a bad situation for anyone, but awful with my condition. I often feel that I haven’t been able to do half the things I want to do, and that’s incredibly frustrating. But this illness also changed my perspective on life. I’m more patient and a more empathetic person than I used to be. Both these traits have helped me tremendously in business and life since.
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
I think it’s the fact that we have such a large and active writing community in Bengaluru. We have over 200 members now. Our community is constantly challenging and encouraging each other. All manners of collaborations and partnerships have been formed at BWW.
My students respect and love me. It’s very humbling. They see me as a mother figure and call me ‘mommy’ often. My success story is seeing how much students grow as writers and as individuals throughout the course of a workshop. When people from non-literary backgrounds discover the magic of well-written books, feel validated when working for that perfect sentence, start to pay close attention to grammar and punctuation – that’s my biggest achievement. That’s why I am very grateful to all my students.
The gratitude translates to other community strengthening initiatives like regular readings in the city at Urban Solace – Café for the Soul, in Ulsoor. We have book club meetings, author interactions, and discussions around topical events throughout the year. This year, we also ventured into publishing with Best of the Bestiary, an anthology of selected work by our earliest batches, which is available online. Publishing Best of the Bestiary as a community effort was a big deal too. We finally managed to go green at BWW, around six months ago, through WetInk – an online platform for creative writing workshops.
The fact that I am able to build such lasting and meaningful relationships, and do all this with my wishy-washy health, is something I can feel very good about, I think.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
In the world of if, anything is possible, so maybe I’d have been a good, Kannadiga housewife known for the way she bakes or keeps house or something like that, who knows?
But realistically speaking, I might have been running a different sort of school had I not been doing BWW. Considering I started my career as a teacher and facilitator when I was only 18, I know I would have had a job in education. Knowing how much I enjoy the challenges of running a business, I would have been an entrepreneur then too. So yes, I’d maybe have a school for spoken and written English.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Clichéd as this may sound, my biggest inspiration are the people in my life – my parents, my friends and family, the teachers I learnt life lessons from and my students.
I love how positive they are, how unfazed when life throws challenges at them, how unfaltering in their beliefs and how generously they give their love, time and ideas. They all manage to make life look easy. They have taught me to experience life richly.
My students, in particular, encourage me to write better and show me how to take criticism well. It’s an invaluable skill. They inspire me constantly to be a better student, and so a better teacher.
What does the future hold for you?
I dream of the day when people will talk about this school in Bengaluru as the place to be if one is interested in writing, any kind of writing. I would like us to be recognised on a par with any MFA writing programme abroad and bring to light stellar and accessible writers that India, particularly Bangalore, boasts of.
Personally, I’d like to see all my students successfully published. It would be lovely if I had my book out as well.
About Bhumika Anand
Bhumika Anand is the Founder and Director of Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW) (www.bangalorewriters.com). She has a degree in Communicative English and a Masters in English. She has been a lecturer, a corporate trainer, editor, communications specialist, events coordinator, MC, a social media strategist and a manager of online communities for over fifteen years. Her work has been published in Urban Confustions, The Affair, Bombay Literary Magazine, Out of Print and is forthcoming in Queer Ink. She has been interviewed by The Delphi Quarterly, The New Indian Express, DNA and the Deccan Chronicle. She is a disinterested cook, an intermittent but uncomfortably intense blogger at Bhumika’s Boudoir (https://bhumikasboudoir.wordpress.com/), and an appreciator of the ridiculous. She lives and works out of Bangalore.
This article was provided by WeAreTheCity Delhi Committee Member Ashish Bhardwaj.