Indi's Blog

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Scroll: Publishing and the Pandemic

More Submissions, Fewer Readers? How India's Literary Magazines are Coping with the Pandemic

First Person Accounts of from the Editors of Lit Mags in English Hindi and Tamil:

Literary magazines have been quiet, stable homes for creative writing, sheltering fiction, poetry, essays from the bluster of the mainstream. So what happens when the world falls apart and everything becomes noise?


Literary magazines have been quiet, stable homes for creative writing, sheltering fiction, poetry, essays from the bluster of the mainstream. So what happens when the world falls apart and everything becomes noise? How do the gentle stables of literature cope? As we wait anxiously for the first post-pandemic literary masterpiece, there is curiosity about the kind of submissions literary journals have been receiving; whether isolation, grief, fear, longing are spilling on to the page, and if they are, what form they are taking. If some reports are to be believed, more people are writing now than ever – there’s even a “poetry virus” going around. Just how contagious is it?

When all manner of publishing platforms are bumbling their way through “the new normal”, literary journals must also find ways to survive. And many have – despite hitting pause on print runs, despite disrupted distribution channels, despite running low on time and resources, all the while competing with escapist, clickbait-y material popping up at every turn.

Floating in a pool of doom and gloom as we all are, one could argue, is precisely why we need these little literary islands – to travel the length of a memorable short story, to savour the contours of a poem and, as Out of Print founder Indira Chandrasekhar puts it, to “also find escape from fear of a looming cloud of viral particles or the imagery of fellow citizens dropping dead as they embark on a journey home, the horrors of Indian matchmakers or low brow Scandinavian crime.”

Editors of literary journals from across the country talked to about the highs and lows of working through the uncertainty of the times, the new sense of intensity in the creative writing coming their way, and what the future holds for them.

Indira Chandrasekhar, Founder and Principal Editor, Out of Print

Out of Print has been flooded with submissions, many of them strong and compelling. Not all of the stories emerge directly from the pandemic, many visit and record an earlier time, a time before the world stood still and fought for breath. Many were written before the pandemic. Yet all of our recent submissions are certainly products of this strange time.

Solitude, loneliness, the feeling of being trapped within four walls, either alone or within an intensified family dynamic, inform these stories. At Out of Print, I have been able to immerse myself in the editing of these works with a keen, enhanced attention.

We are a quarterly and have published two issues between March and August featuring works that veer between the jagged and the mesmeric. Even though I am a scientist, it is not the data I am looking at – the online traffic and so on – but, rather, the less tangible responses, like an ever-widening author pool that allows me to speculate that the magazine is being read.

We’ve received letters about the recent issues, including references to individual stories, that indicate that readers are responding to what we’re publishing. Yes, the tensions of the moment must drive people to escapism. I believe, however, that readers can open their minds with a thought-provoking short story and at the same time find escape from fear of a looming cloud of viral particles or the imagery of fellow citizens dropping dead as they embark on a journey home across the stretch of the country, the horrors of Indian matchmakers, or lowbrow Scandinavian crime. The mind needs stimulation even while it indulges itself in mindlessness.

We have been lucky: our primary sponsors are also readers of the magazine, our outlay is not over-demanding, and Out of Print continues to be supported. If things change, I suppose, we will have to adapt.

Interviewed in Scroll

Scroll: Are Online Literary Magazines the Future of Literature or A Mere Indulgence for Writers and Ignored by Readers

An interview with Indira Chandrasekhar, founder-editor of the online literary magazine outofprint, offers some answers.


By Sathya Saran, June 16, 2015



On the one hand, the number of literary magazines in print where writers can publish short stories, essays and poetry before they can become full-fledged books is dwindling. As far as English writing in India there haven’t even been any since this form of writing exploded. So, online magazines, where costs are lower and production quite simple, could well be the literary ecosystem that readers and writers both need.

On the other, however, the very ease with which such a magazine can be set up makes it possible for a boom in such digital publications, without adequate gatekeeping when it comes to quality. Moreover, all these magazines in India expect writers to write without being paid, a policy that may not attract the best writing.

Indira Chandrasekhar, who started 
Out of Print as a platform for writers of short fiction related to the Indian subcontinent, explains where her magazine stands in this scheme of things. Excerpts from an interview:


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Interviewed by the Deccan Chronicle and Asian Age

Lovely of the Deccan Chronicle/Asian Age to engage in such a fun interesting discussion on writing, reading, ideas, editing, publishing.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

'No Word in Our Language' in Guftugu

No Word in Our Language has been published in Guftugu, the quarterly journal of the Indian Writers’ Forum. The issue is entitled ‘Culture Matters’. I feel proud.

I set the story in a village that is being subsumed by the city; spaces are violated by the encroaching concrete. A group of students from an American University comes to visit. The narrator, a boy, who is at first enamoured of the ‘alien creatures’ ultimately feels exploited and violated by them. The story has remained true to how I first wrote it, but it had much more going on, many more extraneous happenings before the main arc emerged as it has now. 

S Vijayaraghavan's image, Mystic Valley, accompanies the story.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

'Disappearing Act' in Dead Housekeeping

Thrilled to have Disappearing Act in the fine Dead Housekeeping, a journal that looks at loss through the lens of home management. With micro essays. 
Digital drawing by Indira Chandrasekhar
Dead Housekeeping editors include the wonderful Shabnam Nadiya who gave us such a bold and extraordinary piece of writing for the March 2015 issue of Out of Print.
My piece, like many on Dead Housekeeping, blurs, or rather, perforates the boundaries between essay fiction imagination extension.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'The Embryotic' in Cosmonauts Avenus

Rather thrilled that The Embryotic appears in the very cool Cosmonauts Avenue.

This story has been through a bit of an evolution. In a previous incarnation, it was called The Boil and was shortlisted in the 2012 Mslexia short story competition.

Here's a screen shot of the Fiction Page - and in case you are wondering about the photograph, it is taken by my lovely niece, and the sweetest portraitist ever, Devika Raman.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

'Polymorphism' in Eclectica

'Polymorphism' appears in the April/May 2014 issue of Eclectica Magazine.

Here's the link