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.

Make the Most Out of Conferences

Playing catch-up is okay when you are five. But if you are a serious writer and spent a lot of money traveling to a conference or attending a workshop, you should be prepared to take advantage of the events and not play catch-up with the speakers.

Most conferences invite experienced writers and editors for the events. These speakers specialise in a particular genre or are experts in a specific area. Their keynote speeches and lectures would focus on pre-arranged topics.

If you go unprepared for these conferences, you will realize that many of the terminologies are new to you and also that the speakers do not have the time to clarify doubts on fundamental topics.

Some of you might think – “Hey, that’s why I go to a conference. I want my fundamental questions answered.” Why waste the money and take the effort to go to a conference when you can find all the fundamental details in most books and websites. From conferences and workshops, you should strive to learn what the books, magazines and websites cannot teach you.

Let’s assume that you have already done the research and decided on the appropriate conference. You have paid the money and also made travel plans.

What’s the next step? You need to prepare.

Read about the speakers.

If they are writers or editors, read at least two of their books. Based on your reading, choose your workshops. You cannot decide which writer will best suit your work unless you read their work. Reading a speaker’s books also gives you the most promising opening lines in informal conversations. Knowing the work of the editor or the writer will be useful when you are preparing questions for the speaker.

Some speakers might not be good orators. But their writing might be exceptionally brilliant. You will not appreciate their workshops if you have not read their books before.

Plan your schedule.


Whether the conference is happening in your city or elsewhere, don’t plan other social activities during the conference days. If you have family and friends (who are not writers) in the city you are visiting, plan activities before or after the conference days, so that you can spend the conference time working on your conference notes, manuscripts and the like.

If you are traveling to another city or country for the conference, keep a day or two for tourism; don’t squeeze it into your conference days. You don’t want to have a hangover or tired feet and doze off during lectures.

Read up the basics.

If you have done your homework and learnt the basics from books and websites, you will be able to ask questions that have emerged in your mind and are not answered by these books. Also you will avoid wasting the time of speakers (not to mention other attendees) and also have more time to ask questions that are better answered by your speaker.

Learn the Business Basics

Find out what query letters are, what are submissions and how do you submit your work to a publisher or a magazine. You can also find out about market guides, industry practices and about the all-prevailing SASE (US), SAE (UK)

Learn the Market

If you want to write mysteries, read as many mystery books you can. Find out which publisher is interested in mystery titles. You can do that by checking the names of publishers in the books you read. Also you can check the market guides to find out who is publishing what.

By doing this, you gain an overview on the publishers and you can ask specific questions about these publishers during your lectures Q&A session or workshops. If you didn’t even know who is publishing the kind of stories you write (or want to write), you cannot get insider info in conferences.

Prepare for Publicity

Also, if you are already published, please carry a copy of all the books you have written and copies of published magazine articles. This will prove very useful when sharing your work with other attendees and speakers.

The difficult part is done. Now let’s look at what you should do during the conference.


a)           Arrive early (at least 15-20 minutes). Talk to other participants and speakers who have arrived early. If you are talking to another participant or a speaker, discuss their books, the process of writing and selling it and also about their publishers.

b)           While attending lectures and workshops, take notes. Don’t rely on your memory.

c)           Distribute your business cards and collect cards from others during breaks and chitchats.

d)           Seek out speakers during the break and introduce yourself. Start conversations citing their books. Make general fun conversations too. Let them understand that you are not interested in them just as a speaker but also as a fellow-writer. But don’t hound them while they are at lunch or in the toilet. That’s just not professional.

Finally the frenzy is over. The conference is over or at least the first day is over. Is your work over? Not at all.

a)      At the end of every day, type up (if you are carrying your laptop) or write down your notes, your learning and your reflections. Memories fade and learning will be lost. Such notes are useful for future workshops and also for discussing the conference with your writers group or family.

b)      After the end of a day’s event, hang around; speak to organizers or other writers. If there is a group dinner or outing arranged, don’t make excuses and watch cable TV in your hotel room. Go out and enjoy being with other writers. How often do you get to spend time with people who understand terms like SASE, rejections, revisions, not suitable for our present needs etc.

c)      After the entire event is over, give yourself a day or two of rest. Then start the follow-ups. List the names of editors who were interested in your work. Check out publishing houses that others recommended. Send Thank-You emails to writers and speakers you interacted with.

d)      If you have the email addresses of writers and editors, maintain contact. You’ve to balance this with NOT stalking. Keep them updated about your progress, any new articles published, if they expressed interest in your work.  Foster the relationship you created in the conference.

Conferences are expensive. Unless each participant prepares ahead it is not easy to get substantial benefits. Make your money work harder at conferences and you will learn more than what they taught.

Here are some conferences you can attend

SCBWI’s annual conferences in New York City and L.A – visit

Highlights for Children run retreats and other focussed workshops. Find out more at

Society of Authors in the UK run annual conferences too. And especially the CWIG gathering for children’s writers. Find out more at

Winchester University runs annual conferences for writers. Find out at