Bookaroo – Day 1 – Launch Day

Header-logo-unit-DELHI2Bookaroo had begun. It was the 29th of November 2014. The launch of Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market was scheduled for 3 pm. I had a nice lie-in and then decided to go to the pool to write and prepare for the event.


But it was  not to be. The lovely pool manager decided that I might enjoy some blaring music at 10 am and switched on the loudspeakers. I retreated to the safety of my room which was a good thing because I decided to tell the story and practice the song.

The cleaners were on the corridor and must have been terribly confused by the noise coming out of my room with nursery rhymes and sounds from the story.

I reached Bookaroo venue quite early and met up with my editor Nithya who had come all the way from Chennai for the event. We took charge of The Stage 30 minutes before the event and started getting ready.


The crowd was building up and we started at three with a massive countdown with the support of the audience. Then we sang Farmer Falgu Had a Farm – a remastered version of the Old MacDonald had a Farm with AiyaaahyayyyaYo! Then we told the story from the first book Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip.


Each child in the audience was given a raffle ticket and we put the tickets in a hat and pulled out a number. The lucky winner was the receiver of the first book of Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market.


After the official launch, we counted down in Hindi this time and then I told the story of the second book ending with a fantastic recipe for an omelette – we chopped, we broke eggs and we sizzled under the warmth of the winter sun in Delhi. Then we sang  a new song that I had written for the second book.


A very big crowd, a very participative audience of children and parents and a good queue for signing – what else does an author want for a launch?


7th Delhi Bookaroo – Day 0 at the Schools Day

I’m new to Bookaroo! But I felt right at home the minute I walked in through the gates. I was a bit early – you can tell when I am over-enthusiastic that I couldn’t sleep longer and couldn’t hang around the hotel more. Header-logo-unit-DELHI2

The grounds were getting ready, volunteers were arriving and soon bus-loads of school kids were brought in and let loose amongst authors.



I had met some of the authors the previous evening at a SCBWI India event organised by Anushka Ravishankar of Duckbill books. And I met more on my first Bookaroo event day.  IMG_0394I met with Anita, the wonderful editor and publisher at Young Zubaan and met with one of the most wonderful illustrator Priya Kurian – the illustrator of Where is Gola’s Home?

I met writers and illustrators from India, Sweden, Australia, Germany, Singapore and of course UK too. A lot of names to connect with on Social Media and meet in future festivals.

I was thrilled and honoured to meet Eileen Brown and Jamila Gavin. I am proud to say Jamila even bought Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip and I signed it for her grandkids.

My session was in an open space on the grounds and apart from the kids and teachers from the German school, I also had a visitor with feathers – an eagle. I had two wonderful volunteers who were so excited, they joined in eagerly.


We talked about long python like stories and tall giraffe like stories. We made up tall tales and every student and teacher in the audience was able to participate. We had loads of fun because we were all good at making up stories and tall tales.

The session was filled with stories too. I told them the story of “catching the hound” from Mississippi and the Counting Story from India and of course Farmer Falgu paid a visit too and told them about his trip to find silence.

After a great lunch we all were packed into three cars and taken to see Old Delhi. We went through narrow streets, walked into old buildings, shamelessly took pictures of selling beads and old doors and brightly painted windows. IMG_0420The street was filled with so many tiny shops and each shop was filled with millions of beads in hundreds of bags. Then we walked through a tiny street selling food where they deep-fried bread with fillings twice – and then went to the spice street. IMG_0410 IMG_0445

After inhaling a lot of smoke and spice filled air, we left the streets to the safety and comfort of our air-conditioned hotel rooms.

Day 0 ended with a wonderful party organised for all attending writers, illustrators, editors, publishers and sponsors.

Tomorrow is a special day. Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market will be launched at Bookaroo. I received my first set of copies on Thursday of the new bookIMG_0396. More tomorrow after the launch itself.




Children’s Day in India

It is children’s Day in India today and I thought I should ponder over it and share my thoughts with you all.

What constitutes Children’s Day – I think many countries celebrate this and perhaps for different reasons and with a different focus. nehru1Children’s Day in India is celebrated to honour Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime-minister who was born on 14th November because he liked spending time with children and he always had kids over to his office to talk to them.

The Universal Children’s Day is celebrated quite close to the Indian one – on 20th November since the mid-50s. Almost every country has a date dedicated for this.

It is not a public holiday obviously – there used to be performances, competitions, more relaxed timetable at school and having events like debates and speech competitions at school. eggshellpaintingI think one such event I participated was in the Egg-Shell painting competition. That was adventurous for me because I had never touched an egg before that in my life.


For me though this day was a bit more special– both my mum and sister celebrated their birthdays on 14th November. P1000199We always had sweets and special prayers at home and we used to tease my sister saying the whole country was celebrating her birthday.

For me Children’s Day should inspire people to do better for their children. For India, that means – providing education and food to so many children who do not have a childhood. This year India and Pakistan won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly by two people in their own ways has furthered this cause. We should support and help Kailash and Malala to do more – the collective strength is greater than the sum of its parts.

I love the flags, the roses and the sweets that politicians distribute on this day.


But I want them to stop doing token celebrations and do something in their own circle of influence. Even teach for a day, find out which kids amongst their party followers don’t go to school and provide free schools for the people who work in their parties. I want politicians to stop making gestures and get stuck in, get hands dirty.

Today I am a writer and I write for children. I love spending time in schools and enjoy telling them stories and listening to their stories. As an author of children’s books, as a writer who wants to connect with children and inspire them –what is children’s day to me and what should it be?

I want to be a role-model. I want to teach children to read, write and listen to stories. Every child is creative, imaginative and capable and I want in a small way to be part of that process.roomtorread

I have been pondering about the charity Room to Read – I want to do a bit more than fund-raising or donating money. They too won accolades this year for bringing books, schools and education to girls across the world. Perhaps it is time to join them and get stuck in myself.

I’m not doing enough yet. Children’s Day has turned into more of a family celebration time given the two birthdays we celebrate. One of my math teachers is also born on this day. But I think it is time I celebrate Children’s Day in a more meaningful way – and I am going to spend the next 12 months until the next Children’s Day putting some ideas into action.

Do you have ideas? What do you think we should do for Children’s Day wherever you live?

My first story workshop at Blue Anchor

I volunteered recently with Southwark Libraries to do some creative writing and story workshops at the Blue Anchor Library.


Blue Anchor Library is small and cosy and not far from where I live.  It has a newly refurbished building and staff who are committed to literacy and reading. For a library this size, it has an array of events that are suitable for the community they serve.

Today was the first workshop and as an ode to the Mythical Monsters Summer Reading Challenge, my story woranansikshop was to help the kids write an Anansi story of their own.

Not sure lot of parents were thinking about workshops for this week as it was term start – but the valiant librarians encouraged the children reading and finishing up homework (new term after all) to come and participate.

Two girls who came early and sat and read the Anansi books that the librarian had put out for the event. Then two sisters who had done their homework wanted to join. Then another boy who came to the event seeing the poster. So we had a good group to start us off.

We started off with an Anansi story – I told the story of How Anansi got the box of Stories and realized many visitors were keenly listening to it too. I could see parents hovering by the video section that was closest to the workshop space and listening.Blue_Anchor_children_s_library_for_web

A boy who was doing homework took off his headphones and turned around, but he was too shy to come down and actually participate.

After I told the story, we analysed it. We figured out jointly the structure of an Anansi story. Then I read them a story that I had written a few years ago at Jane Yolen’s workshop – an original trickster tale about Anansi, not from Anansi’s box of stories.

The kids then analysed the story I had written and matched the structure. Now they were ready to create their own. By this time, we had lost two of the participants as their ride had come early.

But the other three were undeterred. They had three different plots and we discussed each plot. By the end of the plotting, we jointly decided one plot wasn’t going to work. Then the children started writing their own stories with it.

I could see the enthusiasm in their eyes. They weren’t shouting and jumping about with joy – but they were seriously working on their stories. I had three converts on my hands – kids who wanted to write stories and read more.

The parents were absolutely thrilled that the kids had sat down and written a story. Other parents came to ask if there was another session. So all in all a good workshop. I always think – if I can I instill the joy of stories and writing in one kid – that’s reward enough for each event I do.

peagreenboatNext week I am in Dulwich, at Rosendale Primary School with Peagreen Boat Books at their Mini Hay Festival telling stories to Reception and Year 1 kids all day long. I can’t wait.


My adventures with Series Fiction – Just Starting

I have been working on a series-fiction character for two years now. I have rewritten the story many times and each time I start I think about the approach- should I do in-depth character studies?   Should I write it as it happens and figure out as I go?

I always thought preparing for a long time, interviewing my characters and writing about their features and likes and dislikes will take away the pleasure of discovering it. I always get put off by the lists, the interview questions, the forms that are available on the Internet to do character studies.

But this time I had to do it. My writing mentor Tony Bradman at Golden Egg Academy, said I need to know my characters in depth and I should spend time on the preparation so the writing is more focused. My groan must have echoed through the city if not muffled  by the constant noise of engineering works on the tracks near my flat.

So how does one plan a character for a series fiction for children? Most character trait charts and interview questions were aimed at fiction for adults. Some were genre specific like world building for science fiction and fantasy.  I decided to start with the hint that Tony had given me – think about why sitcoms like “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Big Bang Theory” work? They are comedies, they are situational, but are heavily character based.


So that’s where I started. I trawled through episode guides of my favourite character-sitcom – Big Bang Theory. I studied the tropes that feature in popular sitcoms. That gave me the basics of how characters should be structured and why these characters have to be exaggerated.

Then I studied the basics of writing a character based sitcom. What goes into? Why is the character important and why does everything has to centre around the character traits.


That gave me the basics. But I still needed to know more about my characters. So, firstly, I decided what I wanted to know about each characters. I trawled through many character study charts and synthesized what I wanted for a young fiction. I created my own character chart (which you can see here). But again, I was bored filling in a chart with traits. I didn’t think it would wake up my creative spirit. I wanted something playful, something fun and something I could enjoy doing.

After a lot of pondering, trials of form-filling and trying out various things, I decided I liked to brainstorm about my characters using the questions. The questions are the guide but the responses won’t be in the form. I would reflect the character’s personality in my character study notebook.

Oh yes, I needed a chance to buy new drawing notebooks. I can’t draw at all – but this exercise made me so adventurous – I started using colours, speech bubbles and all sorts of drawing and pictures. Some I tried to draw using websites that showed me how to draw and some I cut and pasted in my notebook.

I had discovered my most productive form of creating characters. I was able to have fun, confuse the person sitting next to me in the pub and use all the stationery I had in the house.


So there was one notebook for the main character, another for the kids who are part of the main character’s life and then the adults in a separate notebook. What fun!

Then when I thought I had reached my personal heaven, guilt crept up on me. I wasn’t writing. I was playing. Is that good? Am I wasting time? Is this all going to be of any help when I write? I hadn’t written for 4 weeks, working on 6-7 characters, plot ideas, research on background, dogs, cats and all sorts of related things.

Oh and I listened to loads of youtube songs figuring out what songs my characters would like, watched cartoons and worked out what my adventure holiday camp would entail. It was loads of fun!

I  went to Facebook SCBWI group for help. I fretted that I was going to squander away my part-time life. That’s when it hit me and was also advised of the same thing in the Facebook poll – write vignettes, write short essays about the characters. Yes, that would work. That would help me focus on the writing, allow me to experiment with voice and also with tense.

But what should I write? That’s when WritingMaps came to my rescue. I had bought a whole pack of them a few months ago and one of the maps was about characters.

character_cover_compact character_side2_grandeSo on a train to Lille in Paris, at 7 in the morning, I unfolded the map in the train and started to write character episodes for my characters.

That definitely made me feel better- but something else happened. I discovered more things about my characters than I had known before.

This could become a habit – the avoiding of writing doing character studies and vignettes and colouring and drawing and doodling. That’s kind of what David Almond said in a recent masterclass I went to – have fun, doodle, scribble – don’t worry about having fun!

Soon the writing will start and I will report back on how I used the character studies and all the brainstorming I did.