A Fortnight at Seagull

3 June 2013 was a date I’d been looking forward to for months, but I must admit I was a bit nervous when I first walked into the room that morning. Somewhat placated by the lovely gift of Seagull catalogues and stationery, I took my seat along with eight other students, and we were introduced to our teachers, and to each other. Any vestigial nervousness I might have harboured was dispelled as I listened to everybody talk about themselves, how they got here, and (in the students’ cases) where they hoped to go.

It was easy to be inspired there, by the books lining the shelves, the intense, lovely artwork on the walls, and the people who’d created them sitting right there in front of us. I left orientation feeling more excited and awake than I’d felt in months.

The first few days of class were taken by Naveen Kishore and Sunandini Banerjee, and covered the basics—the journey from manuscript to book. Things that I’d never even thought about—imprints, backlists, style sheets, advance orders and the importance of catalogues—were explained to us with entertaining anecdotes and meanderings, and every question we had was patiently answered. And then, more presents! We were given a handy little book that had been made just for us, with all the terms we’d been trying to get into our heads arranged under convenient headings, and illustrated beautifully by Sunandini Banerjee.

We also became acquainted with the concepts of rights and contracts, and the costing of a book (which I will pretend I understood perfectly well).

We ended our first week with a field trip. A session with Ronnie Gupta at the school, followed by a trip to CDC printers. The printing press was amazing—the smell of ink was everything they’d promised us it would be and coupled with the complex machinery and freezing (fine, mildly chilly) temperatures, it made for a somewhat otherworldly experience.

That first week was brilliant. It was like getting a backstage pass to a publishing house, getting to see how things come together, things as beautiful as Victor Halfwit, and as mundane but important as an author contract.

In the second week, we learnt about the parts of a book, and then got down to the basics of grammar and punctuation. We were also introduced to proofreading marks and that beautiful red-ink pen. Sohini, Bishan, and Sohini were again wonderful teachers, they were patient, funny, and made the complex minefield that is the English language slightly more navigable. And of course, the assignments! I was very excited about them and was immediately labelled a nerd. I probably am one, because I really did enjoy doing the grammar and proofreading exercises, in spite of getting half of them wrong.

So that’s a fairly faithful account of my first two weeks at Seagull. It’s just that, nothing else, because that is the only kind of writing I can do. If I tried to really describe how I felt, or how much I think this place might be changing my life, I’d probably fail miserably. So I’ll leave that to the more talented ones and hope that the rest of my woefully short time here is every bit as enriching and amazing as these past few weeks have been.

Chandni Ananth

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2 thoughts on “A Fortnight at Seagull

  1. ANAMITRA RAY, a student of the first batch

    This write-up at once reminded me my experiencewith Seagull, my feeling about the entire ambience, the very first day, the self-introducing session and all. While reading this article I just went back a few months and felt nostalgic. The tour to CDC with Ronnie Gupta was extremely exciting and beautiful. Very often I miss those Seagull days now. But above all, I must say I miss that Seagull coffee.

  2. Priya Gopalan

    Hi Chandni, We loved reading about your experience and I must say that your stay in Calcutta brings back many fond nostalgic memories for our family! Hope you have a wonderful time learning and enjoy all the pleasures of being Bangla! Do send me your personal email so that we can stay in touch (and hopefully I can introduce you to other like-minded literary friends in Cal). Love and best wishes~ Priya (Ravi) Gopalan and Leela mami, NJ, USA

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