It 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 again.
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.
That’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.
Or 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. And 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.
I 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.
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).
So, 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.