Looking Back at 2017

2017 has been brilliantly busy. I

  • learnt to dance Salsa a little bit, still learning,
  • started to learn photography,
  • finished my Masters,
  • rode a horse
  • lost weight
  • visited California, Spain and Rome.
It was a year of the Great Bucket List.

Notwithstanding the political and natural disasters this year that we all suffered through, on a personal basis, I met many wonderful new people, reconnected with old friends, met children in classrooms and bookshops across the UK and US and wrote a lot of new stories.

Professionally I had multiple milestones this year – I met my agent and they signed me on. I finished my MA in Writing for Children, albeit with a lot of tears, nail-biting trauma, and a lot of drama.

Pattan’s Pumpkin got brilliant reviews in America and got included in the Read Across America calendar for October. A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice has been shortlisted for the Surrey Libraries Children’s Book Award and Farmer Falgu makes new strides in Germany.

Sometimes it felt like I was shuttling between things, or living in train stations and lounging in airport lobbies, but I managed to combine book tours with holidays, squeezed time out of every day and night and I’m still here, unscathed, a little wiser, a lot more childish (I seem to grow down than grow up) and I can’t wait to find out what 2018 will bring.

Thank you to everyone of you who came to my events, talked me through a bad draft of the novel, gave me advice, encouragement and support. Thank you to every teacher, librarian, PTA organiser, parent and literacy activists who brought diverse books into children’s hands. Thank you to all my family who hardly saw me this year as I breezed in and out of family gatherings and celebrations.

I thought just a couple of photos looking back wouldn’t do. So here is a quick recap of the year.


Fabulous February

Where is February, I ask. It has been a whirlwind of activities in London and rest of England, armed with a bag of books and props, often looking like a bag lady on National Rail Service. And it was mostly fun even when rain poured through dark skies and sleep was a rare commodity.

This February has been extra special – having been invited to the prestigious Imagine Festival at Southbank to run workshops and to the Chester festival of half-term fun and to the South London’s favourite bookstore Tales on Moon Lane’s half-term festivities. Half-term ended with wonderful storytelling at Discover Stratford.

World Book Day ran almost back to back with Half-term across England and my story train barely stopped between the two. I was on the move, constantly checking my orange National Rail tickets and printed maps just in case my phone runs out of juice. Between the boroughs of London, I moved from East to West to North to South, testing TFL’s quality of service.

When I was bereft of sleep and missing home-cooked dinners, there is one thing that kept me going. My engine was fully powered by the stories I tell and the stories the children were inspired to write. We made up wonderful stories with the children and in some schools we told them and in some we wrote them down. Either way, there was no limit to their imagination. That’s the primary reason I go into schools and do events – to fire up the imagination of both children and parents alike and at the same time, be absolutely enthralled by the stories the children create.

From Greek gods to aliens, pigs to fishes, our stories were full of adventures, mishaps, journeys and cartloads of fun. Here are a few stories children jotted down during the workshops.

If you want to be part of the next workshop, do sign up to my newsletter so you can find out about an event near you or if you want to invite me to your schools, do get in touch.

A Celebration of Jars and Pumpkins

Throw a giant pumpkin, a jar of mango pickles and a storyteller together into a bookshop, sprinkle some cake, mix some friends and family, garnish with praise from the publisher and editor and what you get is one amazing book launch and a chuffed author who is busy writing more stories.

Maybe you missed the noisy chatter on Twitter or my invite in the newsletter or perhaps you had AJOP_9781406364675_PC_UK_circrelocapattan_coverted to Mars to escape the pollution on Earth -but if you have not heard, I celebrated the launch of two new books last Saturday (8th Oct 2016) at Pickled Pepper Books, London with storytelling, orange and yellow mini cupcakes and a room full of people who had come from far to celebrate with me.


I’ve gone to many book launches in the past few years and I was worried that I p1030032wouldn’t know what to do when it was my turn. I was worried there won’t be any photos. I was worried that I’ll forget my words during the storytelling. I was worried. It was like your baby being sent to nursery or the big school for the first day. Shiny and new into the hands of others. Would they love the stories as much as I do?

p1030050I watched the door as people trickled in. I watched as people on the street walked past and it wasn’t a familiar face. As friends started coming in, I slowly relaxed. As the time came to tell the stories, my story genie took over. She knew the stories, she loved them, she grew up with them. And I hope those who were there liked the stories.

So the books have left the docks and floated away into the hands of readers. A story lives again when it is told and it grows and changes and lives over and over again when retold many times. And I hope these stories live those many lives through the readers and the listeners they read to.



Celebrating Stories and Libraries

The first week of February is special for two reasons – it is the National Storytelling Week and the end of the week was the National Libraries Day. I usually mark these dates with tweets and Facebook posts of cute quotes.

But this year, I had a fantastic opportunity to celebrate both with bells on. I was recommended by the charming and gracious Jan Blake to CLPE as one of the storytellers at their Wonderful World of Stories event. What a joy it was. The amazing Ann Lazim and her team had put together three of us – June Peters and Patrick Ryan and the newbie me to tell stories to school children across London.

Sat in the Julia Donaldson room at CLPE, I told stories from India – from tricksters to creation stories, from animal stories to stories filled with food. We had crocodiles and turtles, crows and cockerels. We had Birbal walk the floor with the great Emperor Akbar. One class surprised me and asked me gory stories and how lucky I had been reading a few to find some Halloween ones.

The sweetest joy was also that June and Ann had a free slot in the last session and they came to listen to my stories.


On 6th February, I was invited to Hillingdon to tell stories from my books – it was the celebration of National Libraries Day and what better way to spend the day. My dad was visiting and I took him with me too. I was going to tell stories from my books – and we got an instant audience when the carpet was unfurled and a real drumbeat started.

Botwell Green Library - 1

We had kids from three years old to twelve and everyone joining in. I had my drums and cow bells and the kids started to play some of them and we had a noisy session. Even the shy ones who pretended who were not listening were actually listening. And then they came to me when I finished to ask me if I would come again. Aawww! What better compliment could I get.

A big thank you to Helene Roome and CWISL of course for making this happen. We were in this library as part of CWISL’s Shoutwest festival a year ago. Then Helene kept in touch and asked me to visit once before too. There are many kids from Asian families in the neighbourhood  and she was keen to bring me to tell stories from India to them.

All in all, a special February so far with my finger in the story-pie. Check out my events on the website to find out where I would be visiting next.

Bookaroo – Day 2 – Workshops & Storytelling

Header-logo-unit-DELHI2My first session of the day was at 10:30 am and I had to get to central Delhi from Gurgaon, a neighbouring town where I  had gone that morning to meet friends from Duckbill Books and a brilliant breakfast. In spite of the numerous warnings about traffic jams, I got back in plenty of time.

At first, the Amphitheatre was empty – after all, it was Sunday 10:30 am – and I thought most people would have a lie-in, a late breakfast and perhaps some newspaper browsing. But eager readers from New Delhi came in droves just in time for the session.


The first session was IDEA BLASTER – we were going to take off into StoryWorld with things we can find around us.

With the help of the young people in the audience and some grownups who were brave enough to reply, we built three stories out of nothing but our imagination and some prompts from the world around us.


Our first story was about an eagle called Narangi – because it was orange in colour and it was stuck inside the Matti Ghar that was on the premises.


The second story involved Astro-Cat fighting with a superhero to take control of Mars.


The third story involved an Astro-Mutt and a cartoon superhero villain with gadgets.

All in all, we had super-fun.

Then I had some time to make sure I get some selfies with writers and friends I had met during Bookaroo and visiting the illustrator gallery. More on that in tomorrow’s post.

The afternoon session was a wildcard – it was about story shapes – shapesbut it was right after lunch. Would people listen? Would children fidget and want to run about?

I was scheduled to start at the Kahani Tree and there was already a big audience seated there. Then as I welcomed them, many opted to stay back, much to my joy (and relief?)

We did long stories, tall stories, never-ending stories and counting stories.As we began the story of the biggest liar, we tested the waters and found out how well the children can imagine.

lie-clipart-liesThey made up stories about themselves – being a princess, a fairy, a dragon, a superhero – even the littlest ones had a lie to tell. Then I told them the story of the biggest liar (A Tall Story).

We followed that with the never-ending story – the story about the twins Only and Again.

gola_webWe talked about stories about going home, journeys and landscapes with Where is Gola’s Home? which was a big hit with all ages – they were busy trying to spot the various characteristics of riversides, beaches, deserts and jungles.

I like counting like every other 7-year old. So I told them the story of the 11 travellers. But we didn’t just tell the story – we played it out. We had 11 eager volunteers up front who were being counted. We had a wise girl solve their counting problems.


The crowd was hungry for more – so we did another counting story with Birbal and the crows in Delhi – an apt story for a Delhi Bookaroo!

That was my last session at 2014 Bookaroo and I hope to come back again and meet more readers and budding writers.