Tuesday, March 17, 2020

AutHer Awards 2020 declares its top winners

It was an exhilarating evening at Taj Palace, New Delhi that saw a heart-warming celebration of women on Women’s Day. Times of India and JK Papers joined hands to celebrate women authors who have added value and creativity to the literary space. The AutHer Awards 2020 was attended by the who’s who of the town and the hall jam packed with authors, academicians, publishers, bureaucrats, politicians, artists and book lovers, cheering at the winners was a sight to behold.

And the awards went to……..

The awards were handed over in 4 categories and consisted of a trophy and cash prize worth Rs 1 lakh each. There was a Lifetime Achievement award and a Popular choice award too.
In the category Fiction the award went to Madhuri Vijay for her book, The Far Filed (Harper Collins Publishers India)-(Literary Fiction) and Sutapa Basu for The Curse of Nader Shah (Readomania)- (Historical Fiction).
The Best Author Non-Fiction award went to Saba Dewan for her book Tawaifnama (Westland).
The Best Author Debut award was split between Rudrakshi Bhattacharjee for This is how it took Place (HarperCollins Publishers India) and Rehana Munir for Paper Moon (HarperCollins Publishers India).
The award was given to Rudrakshi posthumously who passed away at the young age of 16. It was an emotional moment for the entire gathering when her parents Debasree Bhattacharjee and Ratnadip Bhattacharjee received the prize on her behalf and said how happy and incredulous she would have been to receive it.
Bijal Vachharajani was given the Best Author Children’s award for her book A Cloud called Bhura (Speaking Tiger).
The Popular Choice Award went to Sutapa Basu for garnering maximum number of votes online.
Legendary author Nayantara Sahgal was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award that was received by her daughter who read out a soulful message by Nayantara, thanking TOI for giving her an award that she had never received earlier-a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution as a woman author.
Times Group CEO Raj Jain who graced the occasion with his presence, emphasised on the need of focussing on the contribution of women and said, “Since times immoral women have always played an integral role in all aspects of life and indeed have been at the forefront of the creation and origin of existence. Sadly though, they have always been praised out of fringes and have never been a part of the mainstream social and historical narrative.”

 The journey of the awards

The books were chosen, post multiple layers of screening, out of a whopping 850 entries submitted by both publishers and individual authors for the coveted national award, the first of its kind in India. The jury considered books by women published in India between December 2018 and November 2019.

Eminent writer and politician Shashi Tharoor who was the Chief Guest of the event, said: " Of course, things have changed very much, but the fact fundamentally remains that too much of our history, too many of our stories have been written simply by men and if you look at the global picture, the vast, vast majority of published writings have not just been written by men but by white men. Therefore the literate public have looked at the world or have been shaped and conditioned by perspectives of these men."

The jury

The chairs for the AutHer Awards jury consisted of author Ashwin Sanghi (Fiction), actor and author Sonali Bendre (Non-Fiction), columnist and author Shobhaa De (Debut), and author Bulbul Sharma (Children’s books).

The other jury members were author Jaishree Misra (Fiction), author and former Deputy Secretary, Sahitya Akademi Gitanjali Chatterjee (Fiction), author Yasser Usman (Non-Fiction), author and journalist Manimugdha Sharma (Non-Fiction), author and comic writer Arjun Gaind (Debut), Co-founder of ScoopWhoop Rishi Pratim Mukherjee (Debut), actor, compere and Director of The Study School Shivani Wazir Pasrich (Children’s books), and author Ramendra Kumar(Children’s books).

Vinita Dawra Nangia, Literary Director, AutHer Awards beautifully summed up the need for having a special award for women authors, “Why should there be an award for women authors? This is to encourage them and recognise their talent because men still seem to have a disproportionate advantage in the field of publishing. It was 174 years ago that Bronte Sisters wrote under the pseudonym of a man because it was felt women writing fiction would not be acceptable in men and although a lot has changed after that, but women continue to use pseudonyms and initials and men dominate the bestselling lists. We need to change all that.”

The AutHer Awards was hosted by popular stand-up comedian Papa CJ who interspersed his conversation with humorous anecdotes and added a lively nuance to the gala evening.

Monday, March 16, 2020

~ Cover Reveal ~ Love, Marriage, and Other Disasters by Shilpa Suraj

About the Book:

She believes in love, family and…squiggles!

Alisha Rana is not your typical single desi girl. For one, she is on the wrong side of 30.  For another, she is divorced. And last but definitely not least, she is still, gasp, a virgin!

Alisha doesn’t want much. But what she does want is that elusive thing all women search for – A man who gets her…but a man who gets her hot! She calls it “feeling the squiggle.”

Enter Dr. Vivaan Kapoor, cute, hot, squiggle-worthy. The younger brother of her cousin's prospective groom, he’s got the squiggle factor in spades. The only catch? He's never been married and is years younger than Alisha. Basically, completely off-limits.

And then there is Arjun. Widowed, older than her by the right number of years and a genuinely nice guy. He's Vivaan’s cousin and a so-called perfect match for Alisha. The problem is, Alisha’s squiggle-o-meter refuses to budge for him.

What will Alisha choose? A lifetime together with the 'right' man or a chance at happiness with the 'wrong' one?

About Shilpa Suraj:

Shilpa Suraj wears many hats - corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.
An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.

Shilpa on the Web:

Friday, March 13, 2020

~ Cover Reveal ~ Murder in the Chowdhury Palace by Sharmishtha Shenoy

About the Book:

What if someone you loved... was murdered? How far would you go to bring a killer to justice?

Orphaned in her childhood, Durga has always longed for wealth, security and, above all, a sense of belonging. She finds it all when she marries Debnarayan Chowdhury, heir to an immense, multi-crore estate. But the Chowdhury family has been under a curse that dates back to the British era. The first-born of each generation dies young, purportedly killed by the spirit of Kadambari, a young woman murdered by the notorious Shankar Dakat, the founder of the Chowdhury family and their Zamindari. When her father-in-law Birendranath dies unexpectedly, Durga and Debnarayan come down to the ancestral home in Kakdihi, a small village near Kolkata. The moment Durga enters her new palatial home, she crosses a threshold of terror. She loses her husband within a month of her marriage and finds herself a widow in a house full of strangers. Are Debnarayan’s and Birendranath’s deaths accidental? Everyone in her new family and the neighborhood appear to be friendly. Most of them have a motive to kill her. A well-meaning neighbor tells her, ‘Run from this place. You have no friends here.’ Is she, the current owner of the estate, now on the murderer’s radar?

Read an Excerpt from Murder in the Chowdhury Palace

The trees were denser beyond the pond on the northern side, and the area was unkempt and full of thorny bushes and nettles.  Debu remarked, ‘Not many people venture into the northern part of the woods from this point because the haunted house is less than a mile from here. So this part of the estate is in a rather wild state.’
‘Yes, I can see that nature has completely taken over this part. But still, let’s go there.’ I said excitedly.
‘Some other day…,’ Debu murmured. His face was slightly pale.
‘Debu! You really seem to believe in these ghosts and all that nonsense…,’ I said rather incredulously.
‘No… no… of course not!’ Debu exclaimed.
‘Then prove it! Let’s go and visit the house.’
‘Look… it won’t be very safe. The walls are crumbling, and I am sure that bats have made their home there.’
‘Please, Debu, let’s go, I have never seen a haunted house,’ I said, cajolingly. I gripped his hand and almost dragged him towards the house.
We came upon the abandoned temple first. The plaster was coming off the walls, and the aerial roots of a huge banyan tree had encroached upon the temple and gone in through the walls causing rainwater to leak into the walls and damage them further. The house was located a further quarter kilometer away.
There was a strange, sinister silence all around. Even the birds did not twitter in this part of the woods. The house with its closed shutters and peeling walls was a one-storey medium-sized building. It was dark and uninviting, steeped in shadow due to the jungle of trees that had flourished around it. Darkness echoed and folded upon itself. I walked resolutely to the main door, only to find it locked. 
‘Where is the key to this door?’
‘I don’t think anybody has it.’
I was in a naughty mood. ‘Then let’s break it open. I really want to see what’s inside.’ 
In spite of Debu’s protests, I picked up a heavy rock and hit the rusty lock with it. The lock broke easily.
We stepped inside a large hall. It was full of cobwebs and broken dilapidated furniture. Suddenly, a bat swept past my face. I let out a startled cry and drew back. I would have fallen to the ground had Debu not caught me.
‘Let’s get out of here. You shouldn’t be so adventurous in your present condition. The baby might get hurt,’ he said in a quavering voice. 
‘Oh come on... please Debu…let’s explore a bit more.’
I went further in and switched on the torch of my mobile to see better. At the center of the hall, were the remains of a havan done a long time back. The bricks used for the havan were blackened, charred and crumbling with spiders spinning their webs over the layers of dust. There was a portrait of Shankar Dakat and another of a woman on a wooden platform near which the havan had been performed.
‘This is, of course, Shankar Dakat’s portrait. And this must be Kadambari…,’ I said. ‘Who painted this?’ The painting of Kadambari mesmerized me. She was little more than a young girl in a green sari, worn without a blouse in the traditional fashion. Her big eyes were strangely life-like and sad and her long, thick, curly hair cascaded down her bare shoulders like a cloud.
‘I don’t know who painted this, nor do I care. Let’s go, Durga. I feel really uncomfortable here.’ Debu said a little impatiently. I started coughing because of the dirt. ‘Durga, you know you are allergic to dust. Come away now. I don’t want our baby to get hurt.’ He clutched my hand in a death grip, and almost dragged me out of the house.
The fear in his voice was contagious. Also, to be honest, the life-like painting had spooked me. We hurried back towards the pond. As we almost ran back and neared our home, there was a shout from the ground-floor east-wing balcony. It was Kanak. She shouted, ‘Who goes there?’

About Sharmishtha Shenoy:

Sharmishtha Shenoy is the author of the Vikram Rana Mystery series. The books under the series are “Vikram Rana Investigates,” “A Season for Dying,” “Behind the Scenes” and “Fatal Fallout”. She has also published a book of short stories, “Quirky Tales.”
Her short stories have been published in efiction magazine and Woman’s era. She loves writing murder mysteries, the kind of books that she likes to read. Her favorite authors are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. She also likes the work of Satyajit Ray – especially the Feluda Series. 
Before starting to write, she had been an IT professional and had worked in TCS, Satyam, Infosys, and Microsoft. 
She is a big foodie and enjoys Biriyani (both Hyderabadi and Awadhi versions) and rasgullas like most Bengalis. She is also a lusty singer of the bathroom singing variety.
Though she is happily married to Mr. Shenoy in real life, in her fantasy world she is wedded to her creation Vikram Rana.  You can get to her blog by typing the word “Sharmishtha Rana” into Google. No, seriously, try it.
She was born in Calcutta. She is an M Tech from the University of Reading, Great Britain and had received a 100% British Government Scholarship to study there. She lives in Hyderabad.

Sharmishtha on the Web:

Monday, March 2, 2020

AutHer Awards 2020 by Times of India: Shortlist announced

The AutHer Awards 2020 Shortlists for best women authors in Fiction, Non-Fiction, Debut and Children’s Literature were announced today by a panel of 12 eminent judges. The books have been chosen, post multiple layers of screening, out of a whopping 850 entries submitted by both publishers and individual authors for the coveted national award, the first of its kind in India.

The AutHer Awards – a joint venture between JK Paper and Times of India -- are a celebration of women authors who have added value and creativity to the literary space. The jury considered books by women published in India between December 2018 and November 2019.

The chairs for the AutHer Awards jury consisted of author Ashwin Sanghi (Fiction), actor and author Sonali Bendre (Non-Fiction), columnist and author Shobhaa De (Debut), and author Bulbul Sharma (Children’s books).

The other jury members were author Jaishree Misra (Fiction), author and former Deputy Secretary, Sahitya Akademi Gitanjali Chatterjee (Fiction), author Yasser Usman (Non-Fiction), author and journalist Manimugdha Sharma (Non-Fiction), author and comic writer Arjun Gaind (Debut), Co-founder of ScoopWhoop Rishi Pratim Mukherjee (Debut), actor, compere and Director of The Study School Shivani Wazir Pasrich (Children’s books), and author Ramendra Kumar(Children’s books).

The Longlists for the awards were announced yesterday. Seven books in Fiction category, nine books in non-fiction category, four in Debut category and seven in Children’s category made it to the Longlists. For the complete Longlistclick here.

The shortlisted books in the four different categories are:
(The lists are in alphabetical order)

Best Author Fiction
1. 'The Far Field' by Madhuri Vijay
'The Far Field' by Madhuri Vijay gives us a potent critique on Indian politics and class prejudice and traces history and relationships through a fractured family and state.

2. 'In Search of Heer' by Manjul Bajaj
The book is a modern retelling of the 600-year old legendary love story of Heer and Ranjha.

3. 'The Curse of Nader Shah' by Sutapa Basu
'The Curse of Nader Shah', as the title suggests, is a fictional retelling of Nader Shah's journey. The book follows the rise and fall of one of the world's most notorious conquerors.

Best Author Non-Fiction

1. 'The Anatomy of Hate' by Revati Laul
Looking back at the gruesome Gujarat riots and a decade long research, Revati Laul's 'The Anatomy of Hate' is an important addition to the literature of violence and mob mentality.

2. 'Tawaifnama' by Saba Dewan
'Tawaifnama' by Saba Dewan traces the story of a family of courtesans, their history, culture and music- belonging to a bygone era. It is a walk through a forgotten landscape of Banaras.

3. 'Coming Out As Dalit' by Yashica Dutt
In this deeply personal memoir which is also a Dalit narrative, journalist-author Yashica Dutt opens up about her journey of accepting her identity of being a Dalit. She also writes about the history of Dalit movements, their fight for equal rights, the caste injustices in our society and a need for change.

Best Author Debut

1. 'Paper Moon' by Rehana Munir
Set in Bombay, 'Paper Moon' follows Fiza's journey of finding herself and falling in love. When her estranged father passes away, he leaves a sum in her name hoping that she'll open a bookshop-- this changes Fiza's life overnight. Meanwhile, Iqbal tries to woo her while she is still confused about her feelings for her ex-boyfriend Dhruv.

2. 'This Is How It Took Place' by Rudrakshi Bhattacharjee
It is a collection of interconnected stories that touch upon the issues of mental health and loneliness. Some tales sound familiar and others are open ended, moving and thought-provoking.

3. 'Looking For Miss Sargam' by Shubha Mudgal
Singer Shubha Mudgal's debut book 'Looking For Miss Sargam' is a collection of short stories, each centered around music and misadventures!

Best Author Children

1. 'A Cloud Called Bhura' by Bijal Vachharajani
'A Cloud Called Bhura' by Bijal Vachharajani is a funny and interesting tale about the changing global climate and the havoc it can cause to humanity.

2. 'Flyaway Boy' by Jane De Suza
Jane De Suza's 'Flyaway Boy' is a realistic representation of how children of the contemporary era are being pressurized to move along with societal demands.

3. 'Being Gandhi' by Paro Anand
'Being Gandhi' not only traverses through the Gandhian ways having relevance in the modern world but also raises some pertinent questions on our society.

For the Shortlist, click here.

The winners of the AutHer Awards 2020 will be announced in a grand ceremony on Women's Day, i.e. March 8, at Taj Palace, New Delhi. The winners in each category will be given a prize worth Rs 1 lakh. Apart from this, a Lifetime Achievement Award will also be given to a woman author for her lasting contribution in the field of literature and a Popular Choice award will be given to the author selected through public voting. To vote for your favourite author, click here.