It was a packed house at the first edition of the Pune leg of the Women Writers Fest organised by SheThePeople.tv on Friday, August 18. The roomful of women at Bond in Pune, comprised women from every segment of life, not just authors, bloggers, writers and aspiring authors, but encompassed homemakers, professionals, professors (including one who had come all the way from Rewa, Madhya Pradesh) and the cynosure of all eyes, a very well behaved five month old.

The morning kicked off with a workshop on how to blog to the right audience, with noted bloggers Protima Tiwary, Reema Sathe, Aashna Bhagwani on the panel, moderated by Richa Singh of Blogchatter. The discussion had some amazing insights into how it is vital to keep the blogging niche and the need to write to an audience. Says Richa Singh, “Women Writers Fest was a great place to connect with like minded city folks over conversations around writing, books and of course, inspiration of all kinds. It was quite heartwarming to see that so many from the crowd were forming plans of their own concerning blogging, writing –motivated by the day’s talks.”

The second panel of the day was steered by Sudha Menon, author and was a discussion on the Legacy We Leave For Our daughters with Anu Aga of Thermax and Rashmi Shukla, the commissioner of police, Pune. Soft spoken but feisty, Anu Aga was vocal about the double standards of patriarchy we have internalised. “Why do we allow our boys to play the field until they are married and expect our daughters to remain virgins till their wedding night?” she asked. “We need to drop this outdated notion of virginity.” Rashmi Shukla spoke about how women might not realise the little things that put them at risk of being victims of sexual attacks. “Leaving your hair open gives the attacker a chance to grab you by the hair, wearing very high heels makes it difficult for you to run from a potentially dangerous situation.

The panel discussion that followed, What it takes to run a magazine in the digital age, moderated by Archana Pai Kulkarni with Corina B Manuel, Sunanda Mehta and Sucharita Dutta Asane, was a high voltage discussion on how shortening attention spans have affected reading and the consumption of information, and how the benefits of digitalisation have even impacted the editorial process in terms of making it quicker to incorporate changes. Says Archana, “Loved the electric give and take of ideas and opinions, the opening of new pathways for aspiring writers, the insights into the shaping of empowered women, the valuable author tips and the creation of this wonderful platform for creative minds. Kudos!” Says Sucharita Dutta Asane, “The line-up for the panel discussions was thought through very well and the ideas relevant and topical. As for the Editors Speak panel we wish we had enough time for a complete discussion. We had to cut it short and feedback from those who were there was that they felt disappointed with that.”

The post lunch session on How to write your own novel, with Garima Gupta and Gouri Dange, and moderated by Vandana Saxena saw nuggets of information which were welcomed by the aspiring authors in the crowd. Garima Gupta spoke of the need to not try to be everything to everyone in one’s writing or one would end up being nothing to anyone. Gouri Dange stressed on the need tofinetune a 60 word pitch for one’s book that would go on the manuscript proposal to the publishers. It is this 60 word pitch that could be the turning point, she added and one had to work on it with great care. Says Vandana Saxena, “Chatting with the attendees, everyone has an untold story inside of them that is making them restless. For many, until the fest, they had no idea how to give their story a voice, or indeed the confidence to do so. The positivity, openness and sharing in the panels ignited a light within many of the attendees,  that will continue to glow and help let their words flow.” Her top takeaways, “Start writing – find the time and don’t wait for it to be perfect. There will be struggles. It’s natural and you will waver between loving and hating your work.  Don’t worry. Don’t consider even talking to publishers until you have your first draft, a 70 word summary and a good bio which clearly shows why you have the experience to write this book.”

According to Melanie Lobo who moderated the session on Writers versus Authors, with panellists Snehal Pradhan, Shraddha Satav and Saaz Agarwal, “Interesting and varied points of view emerged from all. It was clear that being a ‘writer’ meant more to each of us. The passion we have for writing shone through!”

The discussion on Why we need strong female characters in literature with authors Sujata Sabnis, Tanusree Podder and Kavita Kane, moderated by Tara Khandelwal, saw interesting debate on how mythological female characters get reinterpreted with the contemporary gaze. Says author Kavita Kane, “A session always gets interesting when there is more debate than discussion. And why we need strong female characters was one!”

Author Yamini P Bhalerao who attended the event, stated, “I had an amazing time at the fest. It was a great opportunity for those who wanted to write and get, published and those who wanted to learn the nitty gritties of blogging. For me, the session with Anu Aga and Rashmi Shukla was awe inspiring. Kudos to the She the people tv team for providing such an interactive platform for writers in Pune. Looking forward to more such events.”

The day ended with a high octane Open Mic curated by Pune Poetry Slam and Priyanka Menon, seeing some rousing poetry on feminist issues being recited to an appreciative audience.