Skyping at Silly o’clock

FF-JustBooks_Aug2015_2It all started with Just Books, Anna Nagar. I made friends with the fabulous folks from Just Books when I was in India couple of years ago and they kindly invited me to their book festival this year.

Of course travelling all this way to Chennai for an hour’s storytelling was as improbable as my pet fish becoming a rockstar on the moon. She doesn’t have much of a talent on the moon, no gravitas, you see.

So we decided I would Skype if Just Books could arrange the technical things – like a laptop, a TV connection and a microphone. Sounds simple, right?

It was relatively simple, I should think. I’m kidding. I was here just turning on the laptop where the Just Books team carried big TV sets into their library, laid cables, tested mikes, changed laptops until everything went BLIP_BLOP_BLOOOO and then back to working FF-JustBooks_Aug2015_5again.

We tested laptops, televisions, microphones, lighting and seating and we were ready to go. The thing is India is about 4.5 hours ahead of London – that means all my events happen at silly o’clock in the morning in London.

It’s just as well, that I’m a morning person – the one who could wake up at five, but couldn’t keep her eyes open after midnight.

News of this Skype session spread like a bad smell and I got invited via a good Facebook friend to visit Pathways School in Noida, near Delhi for their technology day. What better way to be inspired by technology than use it for fun. So I agreed. Again we tested the setup a day before at half-past six in the morning  and then today I met with the kids at half-past six my time again.

IMG_0591That’s a lot of early mornings, ready and bright to meet the world. Normally I get up really early but I couldn’t even let my invisible friend see me until noon – I walk around in my pjs, with no makeup, hair pinned up until hunger knocks on the inner stomach walls and remind me I have to feed the writing machine.

SenbeiClockOr if it is a day I have to go to a day job, my talking clock reminds me – IT IS LATE and I rush into work – hopefully remembering to take off my pjs and put on something more sensible and grown-up-ish looking.

Every time I do one of these sessions, I’m amazed how convenient this technology is. They can hear me, see me and listen to me tell stories. And then we always make up a story together and it is so much fun. farmerfalgudressupAnd I don’t even have to change out of my pj. Just change the top to something more respectable. I’m kidding. I do dress up before I meet impressionable young minds and show them authors are really grownup people. Most of the time I fail miserably.

Today I met second-graders from Pathways School and they were an eager bunch in spite of the session being very close to their lunch hour.

I started with some things about myself, some questions to them and suddenly a voice popped up – When are you going to tell the story?

To the point. Just like me when I was his age. I am still told I come way too quickly to the point and I need to beat around the bush some more. The little person was right. So I told them the story from this book. gola_web

11988727_867511133331373_7090665875316021014_nI was almost done, we had question time and the first question was – How do you write a story? How do you answer that?

I can say I get ideas, I think about them,

I doodle, I dawdle,

I procrastinate, I fabricate, hyperventilate.

Then I get aggravated, agitated and put it away.

But the story is obstinate, I can’t eradicate it.

I’m fascinated and then I sit down and write.

And it goes on and on and on.

 But that is not something I could tell a 7-year old who thinks somehow this process is magical filled with dancing puppies, unicorns in silk robes and Korean pop music in the background. So I decided to show him how it’s done. And we made up a story together.

I gently gave them a structure and they filled in the blanks with enormous doses of creativity – a dragon that wants to eat a – stand back and be surprised and be warned – a baby.

And then I asked what super-power does the baby have – pat came the answer – crying of course and at that point, ladies and gents, the story was born. The rest as we say was as simple as dragon’s dinner. Want to read the story? You can find it here.

I have to mention the absolutely wonderful teachers who arranged everything without a hitch. They were on time, they encouraged the children to participate and will be doing some of my book related activities in their classroom too. A big thank you to them for making this happen.

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In spite of the early starts, that makes me wonder if I’m really a robot with a self-destruct button, I’m enjoying the time I spend with these young people. Especially when I meet with kids in India who are mostly told academics is the first thing, everything else comes later – a spark of a story can set fire to the Delhi downpours (thanks Adele, for a brilliant line, which I have borrowed and changed).

selfdestructSo, to prove that I do have a self-destruct button, I have two more Skype sessions with India. The first one on the 19th (this coming Saturday), is with HippoCampus, Chennai. It’s free to attend and my books will be on sale to buy too. We will be creating a new story for Farmer Falgu.

And then I’m meeting with 9 parents and their kids via Google Hangout on Sunday and that’s a brand new experiment in the world of social media meets author who loves silly o’clock sessions. Let’s see how that goes. More sessions are on the cards – you can register your interest here.

That’s my super-late (for an early riser like me) report of today’s amazing session with Pathways school. The good news is I can sleep in tomorrow until 7 am. Blisssszzzzzzzzzzzz.

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World Book Day event at HippoCampus Chennai with Tulika Books

I celebrated World Book Day event with Hippo Campus, Chennai and Tulika Publishers. A hoard of kids were ready to listen to stories, sing with me and absolutely ready to spring with answers to any questions I had for them.

I read from Balu’s Basket and Where is Gola’s Home? and we had a great time singing all sorts of things and drawing everything from house to basket to an eagle when we finished reading and listening to the stories.

I met a lot of young people growing up in Chennai today as I grew up here many decades ago. I got to meet some of my friends and family with their little ones.

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My mum and Dad came with me too, proudly commenting on which parts of the session elicited more response and how smart today’s kids are. 

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The Belated Book Launch Update

Balu’s Basket was launched by Tulika Books, India in September. In the United Kingdom, Balu deserved a launch. So we decided to do a book launch party at my place. This was my first planned book party. For my previous two books I didn’t know I could do Book Birthdays, Book Parties and Book Lunches. I’m learning.

Balu's Basket Eng-Tamil F.pmd

So I invited a lot of friends, my entire family and their little ones. Friends came from far away towns and cities. Friends turned up with little ones and it was a real party. We talked about the book, about how I started writing and a lot more. We laughed, we made jokes, we ran around the little ones trying to draw on white walls.

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In all the hosting and the discussing of books, I forgot to take pictures of my guests and people buying books. We had a lot of interest in my other book from Tulika – Where is Gola’s Home? as well.

 

We can’t have no photos after the launch? So I hatched a plan. All my readers sent me a photo of them reading the books. Hurrah!

 

Here is one!
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For more of these photos, do visit my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ChitraSoundarAuthor

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also buy my books from this website here. 

If you quote “LaunchAtBlog”, you will get a free surprise gift with the book.

Balu’s Basket – the journey

Balu’s Basket is the first book where I’m going on a journey from the germ of an idea to actually marketing the book – of course, all in under two years.

Before this when a book came out, I was naive and inexperienced to do anything about it. Sometimes my books would come out only in some countries and I wasn’t sure what to do on the day of the launch, if I found about it.

This time though, I think I’ve picked up some tricks and tips along the way, I should say, thanks to SCBWI and its wonderful family – where people talk about how they do things so you could learn from them.

So, back to the story that I came to tell.

Balu’s Basket was an idea based on my eternal themes – I keep coming back to grandparents, villages, fruits and Indian motifs. I wrote the first 20 lines and I really liked the shape of the story.

Tulika accepted it early this year and confirmed that it would come out in 2013. Hurrah!

Lucky for me, this year I also had plans to go home to Chennai in India. Guess what? Tulika, my publisher is based in Chennai too. The last time I had been to India was four years ago and I thought this was divine coincidence.

People at Tulika were absolutely amazing to me. Right from the receptionist who said, “You’re Chitra Soundar, I recognised you from your photo.” to the publisher Radhika Menon who gave up her valuable time to talk to me.

Deeya Nair the editor who I’ve been working with, since my first book with Tulika introduced me to the illustrator who was working on my book. Uttara a digital design student and an illustrator was right there in the next room working on my book – giving it finishing touches.

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That was fun – I could see her originals – she flipped through them. She is an amazing artist and so young. This was her internship project and what wonderful work she has produced.

When Deeya gave me the original contracts to sign, she remarked that this was the first time a contract was being signed in the office by the author and witnessed by the illustrator. A good first, I’d say.

Then I met with the amazing duo – Aneesha and Pallavi. Aneesha manages marketing for Tulika and she is very positive about Balu’s Basket as she loves my first book too. She is my partner in crime, as we plan marketing across two continents.

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Pallavi had literally joined that week, but was no stranger to Tulika. She’s going to spread the Tulika word in the UK and US and gearing up for it.

[Pallavi (far left), Aneesha, Uttara]

 

So from manuscript to illustrations, the first part of the journey is almost over. While Aneesha plans the book launch in Chennai, here I am planning the book launch here in London.

Here is the sneak preview of the coversBalu's Basket Eng-Tamil F.pmd Balu's Basket Eng-Hindi F.pmd! I love the colours, don’t you?

The first one is the English-Tamil version

and the second one is the English-Hindi version.

And of course, this time I am also doing events in the UK where I will sell all my Indian books.  The full circle – from being a writer to an author to a full-fledged author-machine. I kid myself – I’ve just begun this new aspect of my unknown courage. I have signed up to the book launch, I am telling stories to young children (we all know how intimidating that can be) during autumn and winter of 2013.

And guess what the next book will be out in early 2014 from Karadi Tales and the whole thing will start again. I’m excited. Perhaps this book came out at the right moment of my maturing author life. Perhaps the wind was blowing in the right direction.