Acceptances Galore!

When I got the email today from my editor at Karadi Tales with the contract – I felt elated, accomplished. It felt good. But I also wondered about why this year? None of the books I placed this year were written earlier. None were revised year after year like the story of spider I’m trying to place for years.

So what was the magic all about?

Firstly, I think I studied each of these publishers closely. I didn’t have access to their books in the UK as two are Indian publishers and the other is from US. But I read their guidelines, went through their catalogue, asked them questions about what they are expecting to see.

Then the second most important thing I did was pick the story that fits the audience – I knew the target audience of the publisher. I knew what stories I wanted to write. I religiously incorporated features the editors would like.

For example, all the 4 topics I wrote about – a clever camel, a flying umbrella, a cumulative trip, a market trip – were topics close to my heart. I like journey stories, I like stories where the protagonist meets lots of interesting characters on the way. I like clever tales, with a funny ending.

Once I wrote and revised many times, I incorporated some of the things the editor might like. For example, Pratham Books were going to translate the book into many languages. So I chose the language carefully. Nothing complex. I also knew they wanted a cheerful character. They absolutely loved it and sent an acceptance ahead of their review calendar.

For Farmer Falgu’s first book with Karadi Tales, I wanted to bring out the music elements. Not in the first few drafts – but I got an opportunity to edit. The editor wanted changes and gave me some overall feedback. But when I rewrote it, I also incorporated the music elements. I did some overt rhymes and rhythms. Because the publisher is primarily an audio producer, I knew the book stood a chance with those elements.

I loved the character I wrote for Karadi Tales. Farmer Falgu stuck in my head and wanted to go on a trip again. This time instead of sending  him on a mission, I sent him to the market. But it turned out to be an eventful trip and Farmer Falgu conquers his problems at the end and comes out succesful.

Again I got great feedback, but some edits as well. And I loved the edits the editor had made. I understood more of what they want and how they liked some of the words, structures etc.

So, after I sold my first picture book in 2006, I’ve had 1 with GAP (As I Watch) since then and then a few e-books. But this year has been a bumper crop. Acceptance parade! And I think that’s because I’ve matured as a writer. I am able to acknowledge my strengths and weakness and play on the strengths more.

This is nowhere the end of the story. It has just begun. I want to place some picture books in the UK and some chapter books too. Have you read “A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom?” I want the next book now! This came out in 2009 and I want a few more to be published here.

If I wish for it loud enough, work for it hard enough, I’m sure that too will come!


While I was away…

I have been working on middle-grade stuff and chapter books for the last few months. I have been tweaking and revising my picture books. But all the new ideas are still waiting for PiBoIdMo 2012 and I haven’t started a new project yet.

I have been reading a lot of chapter books too. Because I need to find out more about what’s out there, but also because I am on a course with Andy Stanton.

While I was away, look what has happened to the picture book world. Some delicious, funny, magical picture books are out just in time for half-term. What a treat! Hmm, they are not available on kindle. Do I dare buy more hardback Picture Books and find some space in my bookshelves?

I wish I was a little girl again and my father wins the lottery and buys every picture book I asked for. I wish I was the librarian in a fully funded council where every new picture book is welcomed with author visits, readings and celebrations. I wish I had a mansion with the biggest room dedicated for picture books.

But I am not all that. I am a writer and I wish I could write like this.

Here are some gems I found today

Jack and Nancy by Quentin Blake








The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson









and a fun book filled with poems that will inspire days out in the countryside, and a scrapbook at the same time.

Where The Wellies Take Me from the Morpugos


National Poetry Day – My Tribute to Poet Suratha

Today is National Poetry Day and the theme is STARS. Perhaps I was no different from a small child growing up in England. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was one of my first English poems – although I did grow up with folk songs and poems in Tamil.

We weren’t really taught poetry or taught to like it. I remember we memorized “I Remember” by Thomas Hood. Ironic. I don’t remember the lines – but I remember that I learnt the poem by heart at that time.

But my real love for poetry that has lasted so long and still makes me yearn for words, language and rhythm, came from a great poet in Tamil – Poet Suratha.

surathaHis real name I am told is Rajagopalan. I had never heard of him until I was in a Tamil Class that was too young for me. In India you had to learn a minimum of two languages other than English. So I studied Hindi at school and in a special course. But I also had to enroll for Tamil. I learnt Tamil at home, I was reading ever since I was four or five and the Tamil class was literally a way to pass the grade. I could have taken French – but then I had to study and learn. So I decided school was hard already, at least in Tamil, I can pass without trying.

In one such class, where kids who couldn’t read Tamil were struggling to read, they discussed a poem by Poet Suratha. The teacher said Suratha is a famous poet, he wrote for adults and kids. He wrote lyrics for pop songs too. And he lived not far from the school.

I loved the poem – although I can’t remember which one was it now. I loved the rhyme in  it and the usage of words. I wanted to write just like him. So after school, without telling anyone, I went looking for his house. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to him when I found him. But I wanted to see the person who had written the poem.

I found the house eventually and knocked on the door. Ignorance and Brute Force,  I reckon. A lady opened the door and said the poet was inside, would I like to come in. Wow! They didn’t turn me away. He was there in a chair in the living room. The room was dark. He was silhouetted against the light from the backyard.

I blurted out that I read his poem in class and I loved it and I want to write like him.  He acknowledged me. He asked me to show the poem and he said there is so much more to read. And then I should write.

I was inspired beyond imagination. The lady was not amused that a kid was visiting her famous husband. They didn’t live in a big house. I guess poets in ant age and any country didn’t make a lot of money.

I wrote every day. I filled a notebook full of Tamil poems. I still have them. My Tamil teacher was impressed. She read it and critiqued it and there I was the first poet in my family.

I am grateful to that man who didn’t turn away a shy, gawky insecure teenager who turned up at his doorstep. I am grateful that I attended the simple Tamil class and got to read his poem.

Here is to poetry day. Reach for the stars.

The Third Picture Book of the year – Farmer Falgu


I had always wanted to write a funny journey book. I tried various times and it was never right.

And then while researching Indian publishers, I came across Karadi Tales. I know Karadi Tales from a long time ago. They are based in my home-town Chennai (I should say City – but home-city doesn’t have the same feeling of reminiscence.)

I know they were big on audio and I was delighted to find out that they are now publishing picture books too.

So I decided my journey book would be an Indian story and the characters in the story, uniquely Indian, folksy even.

I wrote about a farmer who sets off and meets different people. In  my first draft, I setup a problem for the farmer – but didn’t really solve his problem. But well like all writers, I thought it worked. I sent it to the editor at Karadi Tales.

In a few weeks, the editor came back. She said we liked the story; but…

Ugh! Here we go, I thought.

The rest of her email actually told me what she felt was wrong with the script and offered to review a revision.

Ha! That’s better, I thought. See, editing I can do. I can revise something to death. Once I get a hint I am very good at solving the puzzle. Most of the time I suffer from near-sightedness – I can’t really see what’s wrong.


I set off towards the revision. The first thing I did, was to work out the ending, which the editor said wasn’t satisfying. I had an idea – long ago I had written a poem (that went unpublished) on the silence of nature and listening with eyes. I gelled that with the story and I thought I had a good ending now.

But then I thought I would use this opportunity to do some more revisions. I cut the words and introduced sounds of the farm. Then I introduced in-line rhymes. I checked the rhythm one more time and cut some more.

I worked on it for 3 days – making changes here and there. And finally sent it out again and set off on my holiday in 8 months to Scotland.

The good thing is my day job is so busy and I am usually working on so many projects that I forget what I’ve submitted in a conscious way. Although I hold all my submission entries in my head. I exactly know who is yet to reply.

A week and half later, I was in bed, with a bad cold and fever. I heard a ping on the phone in the afternoon. Without looking at the phone, I knew it was the editor. Not sure why – it could be the time – because all my spam is focused before 11 am and after 10 pm. And in India it was end of the day. When editors tackle unsolicited manuscripts worldwide.

I didn’t check the email for another few hours even though the phone was right next to me. I was that ill.

Then I checked and I rejoiced. Yes we like it and can we publish it as a picture book.

Of course, you can! I was happy about so many things – it showed me the power of targeted submission. It showed me how market research and knowing the publisher and their alignment would help pitch the right story.

Well, hopefully this book too will be out next year and will do well.

What’s next then?

This Year’s Picture Books – The Second One – The Clever Camel

Here is the story of the second book. Couple of years ago, I asked a friend to give me a writing prompt. He said – Camel, folktale.

Camel and a folktale – that meant I have to retell a camel story. So I scoured around for a camel story. Predictably camels are not part of the Panchatantra  and I found many from the middle-east. I wrote a retelling of a camel story as a writing exercise.

I met some writers a few years ago in a writing workshop in Oregon. We kept in touch and we still do. One of them recommended a small publisher Guardian Angel Publishing. They produce beautiful books with diverse themes as a Print on Demand publisher. The book gets sold in Amazon. I did two books with them – an e-book and then a POD.

The e-book was published under their Littlest Angel series – Chasing a Pot of Gold

Then I placed a creative non-fiction – As I Watch – the story of a butterfly. Samantha Bell illustrated it and it is sold on Amazon. 

Earlier this summer, I decided to look up all the writing practice I had done to salvage some stories that had potential. I opened the camel story. I thought that would be great for GuardianAngel Publishing. So I sent a draft to the editor who promptly replied. She wanted some revisions on the scenes. I cut down some more words, added a few more scenes and there the story was accepted the next day. How often do you get to do that?

The Clever Camel is now contracted. I am expecting it to be out next year too. Next year will be a busy year for new books, I think. But I am not complaining.

A red umbrella, followed by a clever camel. It is not often that I get two acceptances within the first 6 months of the year.