Koral Dasgupta wants to hear your stories. An author herself, she is calling people to share their fiction and non-fiction stories. Her latest initiative, #TellMeYourStory, a storytelling platforms that invites contributions from anyone who has something to say, not only aims to encourage storytelling, but also is a ambitious attempt to get people reading small bytes of short stories that are convenient enough to be read in short breaks online, something is nothing less than yeoman service in this, an age where reading competes and often fails, with the digital space of click bait and truncated attention spans.
Author, columnist, academician and content strategist, Koral has written Fall Winter Collections and Power of a Common Man : Connecting with Consumers the SRK Way. Apart from this, Koral is also an advisory member of Censor Board of Film Certifications (CBFC), India. She has been experimenting with the merging of art and culture with social media and the online space.
Here she tells our guest-editor Kiran Manral about her latest venture, #TellMeYourStory, and what compelled her to initiate it in a world already cramped with too much information.
How did the idea of #TellMeYourStory come to you?
We chose the name with a hash tag because it felt more fun and trendy.
While talking to people as an author, I found there are many others who want to write. They want to know about our routines, and how ideas generate, and about writer’s block…all of which they associate with glamour. Glamour is an illusion in an author’s profession but writing out your mind is certainly some kind of liberation. I wanted to give others that share of joy. There is news of murders and attacks and natural calamities all around. There’s too little we can do to protect our bodies. But we can at least channelize our minds in a positive way. Little inspiring things that happen to people, the most basic emotions aroused, a lesson learnt, a friend lost in misunderstanding… all these are stories at the end of the day. Be it imagination or experience, #TellMeYourStory invites people to let go of those stories from their minds and express them in written words. The idea is to bridge interpersonal gaps and connect on a common platform. Since I am associated with writing, this is my way of doing it.
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I perhaps wouldn’t have come out with this platform so soon, if my author-husband Tuhin A. Sinha and friend Aditya Kajarekar didn’t offer that pillar of support. The web application is largely joint vision, but Aditya is the force behind its execution.
Why did you decide to adopt the online route? Would you in the near future, consider taking this initiative offline?
They say “never say never.” Yet, I would like to mention that I personally wouldn’t ever want to take this initiative offline. #TellMeYourStory is our way of bringing people closer. When a group of people expresses happiness or disappointment or love, it becomes a common cause. Uniting over such causes connect people. Given the life we lead today, it can happen only online where accessibility is easy and cheap and geography is no longer a boundary.
What do you hope to achieve with Tell Me A Story?
Through #TellMeYourStory I want to bring back reading and writing habits. Also I have met so many people who can narrate simple stories in a beautiful, interesting way. Their skills are never celebrated or known, because they don’t have the patience or content to write a 70,000 words book. The book business is shrinking anyway. But every life has some stories which are worth sharing. They are either hallucinated, or they actually happen. I offer those to be written down and sent across. 200-1500 words is the ideal word count. I am endlessly interested in exploring and experiencing these stories. And with the response #TellMeYourStory is generating, it seems that the rest of the world is equally excited.
Who is your audience, why have you chosen to reach out to them?
As of now, everyone who reads English is my audience. We will do vernacular languages later. 200 or 300 words (that’s usually the length of stories submitted) are not too difficult to read through, but they leave behind a nice feeling nevertheless. Once people like a 200 words piece, next time they are open to read a 500 words story. This opens attitudes in favour of reading as a practice, encouraging a trend which I as an author am naturally happy about.
How many stories do you expect to have in per month, how do you propose to take the stories to a wider audience?
We are starting with one story a week; also every month we invite themed stories. For example, we had Women’s Day stories published around Women’s Day (8th March) this year where men wrote about the women of their lives. Coming up are Eid special stories which will go up starting 7th July. The frequency will go up with time.
You speak of the trials first time authors face in getting themselves and their work taken seriously. Any personal anecdotes that you can relate?
I didn’t face that problem. Westland picked up my first book within three months of completion. But I do hear those trials faced by others. When I receive submissions for #TellMeYourStory, at times I have to help the authors to convert information into a well-rounded story. This I do happily. From our end, we have started some kind of literary and intellectual activism. We are still too small to bring around substantial difference. But I think, if there’s an esteemed team of Jury and Reviewers who agreed to stand by us, then there’s something correct about our path. We, as a team, are honest and sincere about the work we are committed to put in.