I learnt one new thing yesterday, maybe two, maybe three, actually four.

cwislCWISL was at the Read, Write, Perform Omnibus event on Friday and Saturday this weekend. 

omnibus-claphamWhat a wonderful venue – the old library transformed into a cultural space. Drama classes for kids, poetry, music and a café/bar too.

CWISL setup the stall on Friday and even had one of our team-meetings at the wonderful café.


Then on Saturday, we came bright and early while the skies rumbled and rained. And then it was time for the drama classes to begin – and the hall was filled with young boys and girls running around, talking, preparing for their young-theatre class.

CWISL  members got to meet with parents, children and the drama teacher who was trying to convince his students that he wrote Jack and the Beanstalk. We also told everyone about the creative writing workshop for kids that was at noon.


Learning #1 – How to unlock a story


I learnt from Margaret and the beautiful treasure box she shared with Beverley, how to unlock a story. As a writer, storyteller and as a creative writing mentor – it was fun to watch her unlock the story with our workshop attendees.





Learning #2 – Making connections

I lead a double-life. I have a corporate persona when I am at my day-job and then my creative side when I am writing, telling stories and selling my books. Here time is of value, but not as valuable as it is at the day-job. Here it is always about finding creative connections, meeting interesting people and connecting with one reader – if that’s all we get throughout the day.

We spent the whole day, explaining our mission at CWISL to visitors to the Omnibus. We chatted about the workshops and the new postcards. And we met librarians, bookshop people, festival organisers and that’s valuable. You don’t get that by selling books just on the internet.

I met the librarian from Clapham Library who not only bought Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip, much to my joy, he invited me to tell the story at his library. image descriptionWe shook hands on a date and time. Check out the Events Page for more details. 

I met the festival organisers of Omnibus along with other CWISL members and we talked about how we could collaborate.

I even walked into Clapham Books on my way back to the station, to look at their shop and ask if I could do an event there. That was brave of me. I am usually very very anxious to do things like that. I almost walked out without making contact. But I realized the worst that could happen was they would say No. Well they didn’t. I would be writing to them for sure.

Learning #3 – Be Specific

This one is a writing tip. Courtesy of Sam Osman and Paul Bryers. I attended their adult creative writing workshop – I had time on my hands, remember. This is what I don’t get to do when I am in meetings and conference calls at work.

We learnt how to bring a scene to life, how to make the reader feel the same thing as the narrator.

When Sam said, “Don’t be general. If you say I went on a roller-coaster ride, each reader is going to imagine their own roller-coaster ride experience. It might be scary or fun for them. But you need to make the reader feel what your narrator is feeling, not what their own experience was.”

Aha! Now I have an anchor for my descriptions. I always knew descriptions have to be specific. I always  knew “show not tell.” I was taught to write descriptions with all five senses. But Sam gave me a reason for it. A damn good one.


Learning #4 – Start with a small object that has big impact

And when I thought that was the most important tip I’ve ever got from an award-winning writer, Sam gave me another gift.

In each of the scenes we all described in the workshop, we were asked to find a single object that can anchor the scene. That object could also be the starting point of the story.

While one person brilliantly chose a pencil shaving, another chose an abandoned shoe, there was a sharp knife and of course mine was a screw.

screwA screw that my narrator was focused on, as she went up the roller-coaster.




Sam told us to start our stories with an object – focus , zero-in, pan-in the shot, don’t do a wide angle. Both Paul and Sam have backgrounds in film-making and I could see how that has enriched their writing as well.

Paul then showed us how “show not tell” can be brought to your writing by highlighting some of the descriptions we had used in this exercise.

Signing books, unlocking imaginary worlds, zooming in the camera, having wonderful soup and corn bread at the cafe, all in all, it was a fantastic day in when the skies rumbled and rain tumbled outside.

I was tired at the end of the day. I needed chilled white wine and a couch.  But it was all worth it. Time needs to be measured in terms of what you got out of it, not how much money you made out of it. At least for me, that’s the motto I hope to live by.

World Book Day event at HippoCampus Chennai with Tulika Books

I celebrated World Book Day event with Hippo Campus, Chennai and Tulika Publishers. A hoard of kids were ready to listen to stories, sing with me and absolutely ready to spring with answers to any questions I had for them.

I read from Balu’s Basket and Where is Gola’s Home? and we had a great time singing all sorts of things and drawing everything from house to basket to an eagle when we finished reading and listening to the stories.

I met a lot of young people growing up in Chennai today as I grew up here many decades ago. I got to meet some of my friends and family with their little ones.


My mum and Dad came with me too, proudly commenting on which parts of the session elicited more response and how smart today’s kids are. 


Looking Forward to New Experiences

I’ve been to India many times before. You’re right, I was born and brought up here in Chennai, the city with the second longest urban beach in the world. I grew up knowing nothing else but Chennai for most of my adult life.

When I left the country, initially I didn’t return much. My first picture book  Where is Gola’s Home with Tulika Books came out in 2006. It was  one of my life-long dreams of being published by them as they were part of my Chennai fabric. Since 2006, I’ve visited many times the last 8 years, but this time is different.

This time I come home as a proud author. image descriptionWith a book launch in India with Karadi Tales, with two books out from Tulika Books and of course three author events. I once attended a convention where one of the authors said – DON’T SAY NO. JUMP IN.

And that’s what I have been doing the past few months. I’ve been offering school visits, going to libraries to do events and now a book tour of sorts. What fun!

Chennai is home. But Chennai is also the epicentre of children’s book publishing in India. Chennai is also the centre of the revival of storytelling in India, especially for children. And while living in London, watching all this unfold, I felt I was missing out.

This trip has given me an opportunity to dip into this marvellous world of storytelling, meeting with kids in Chennai and getting another book out in India. I should make myself an “I am a Chennai Author” badge – because I’m so proud to have been born here.

I don’t think my love for books was anything related to Chennai – although I do think the reading and literature scene is big in Chennai. With Tulika Books, Tara Books, Karadi Tales and even Duckbill is now based in Chennai, it is the happening place for children’s books in India and I’m ever so proud to be wearing the Chennai badge.

Balu's Basket Eng-Tamil F.pmdI’ll be telling stories from Balu’s Basket and Where is Gola’s Home? in the famous Hippo Campus on the 19th April. A world book-day event and of course an Easter event of sorts. Then I am at Just Books, Anna Nagar on the 27th April. gola_webCome and listen to another book As I Watch, published by Guardian Angel Books as well.

The book launch is on the 27th April too, in the afternoon and I am at Kids Holiday Camp on the 2nd May telling more stories.

Come and say Hello, if you too are in Chennai and love listening to stories.


Storytelling at the re-opened Streatham Library

Friends of Streatham Library and the fantastic Sandra Davidson from the Library invited CWISL to come and participate in the opening week festivities. We had a stall at the new big hall.

I had 4 of my books to display and sell. It was great to see that many people – parents, grandparents and visitors to the library were interested in the books as much as the food, the chess and the history on display.


The big and bold illustrations of As I Watch and Balu’s Basket did get a lot of attention.

And then in the afternoon it was my turn to do storytelling in the children’s section of the main library. The kids were busy painting bags and after a big storytime announcement from me the kids and parents gathered around.



This was the first time I was going to tell Where is Gola’s Home? And As I Watch. Balu’s Basket was on its second storytelling.

gola_webThe kids loved listening to Gola. They loved to think about landscapes like riverside, forests, the beach and the mountains.


And then I read Balu’s Basket. While some of the fruits were exotic for the kids here, they were really into it. They guessed the colour, they made shapes with their hands. We clucked together when Balu went to collect the chickens and we sang Rock a Bye Baby when he rocked the baby to sleep.

AsIWatch-6x150After that I read As I Watch – appropriate for a beautiful, spring afternoon. After the butterfly had laid it egg, the children drew colourful butterflies.









It was a fantastic opportunity to be there and to meet with so many lovely Streatham residents. It was another wonderful event made possible by being part of CWISL.10150691_627492180649570_1087848448_n

My first CWIZZ

As you all know I’m a member of CWISL – the Children’s writers and illustrators in South London – a not-for-profit organization that promotes literacy and reading within our local communities in and around South London. cwisl

Sam Osman who also writes as Sam Hepburn, the author of Quick Silver and Margaret Bateson-Hill, the author of Dragon Racer trilogy are the brains behind CWIZZ. This time they were also joined by Sara Grant, author of Dark Parties and Magic Trix.

 This is how it works!

Schools from South London are invited to a literary quiz. One of the schools offers to be the host. Last year it was Dulwich Prep and this year it was Allens in Dulwich. Each school sends one or more teams of literary quizzers.

The CWISL authors rally around the leadership team and prepare questions, donate their books as prizes and even offer a free school visit as prizes. This year we had the lovely Mo O’Hara, author of My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish do the MC and she was brilliant. (see below – Sara Grant and Mo, running the event)


This was my first CWIZZ. I volunteered to help out, donate books and offer a school visit. It was great fun watching students answer questions from classics to contemporary literature. During the rounds, we also asked the questions created by the participants. We gave away books as prizes and I love that. When I was growing up, only books were given as prizes in our school. The only books I owned were prizes.

We had the lovely PeaGreen Boat Books come and open their pop-up shop with our books on display. We had our lovely CWISL authors to do the marking – Judy Allen, Patricia Elliott, Lydia Syson, Amanda Swift and Jo Franklin and our treasurer Beverley Birch checking and totalling with the amazing librarian Katie from Dulwich Prep, it was all very organised.


            I loved it because it was my first visit inside the Great Hall in Allens. It was like visiting Malory Towers from Enid Blyton, with paintings on the walls, high ceilings, big spaces.

           Every author had to ask a question to give away a prize. My question was based on my book A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom from Walker Books. The question was easy! Many hands went up.


            The question was “What is Ghee?

And the answer is – it is clarified butter. I always thought that was funny. It is as if like the butter had doubts and we had to clarify something to it. I’m happy that the butter is now clarified. Because I love ghee better than butter.

Then I picked a school for a School Visit and it was St. Martins in the Fields from Tulse Hill. I’ll be visiting their Creative Writing Group this month. What a great way to start spring.

        I wish these kind of events were there when I grew up. I didn’t get to meet real authors, have librarians run creative writing workshops and arrange literary quizzes.

          Back to the CWIZZ – The competition was tough. For the first time we had joint winners for 2nd and 3rd places.

emanuel1st place went to ‘We Don’t Know’  (Emanuel)




Joint 2nd


”Oracles’ Dulwich Prep and

‘Streatham Sherlockians’  (Streatham and Clapham High School)dulwichprep




Joint 3rd

‘We Shot The Albatross’ (Dulwich Prep)

‘Crunchies’ ( Darrick Wood)


The students who won the various books then started hunting their authors down for autographs. It was a great joy to watch kids who love books and who know so much about the books and authors.

My first big event with CWISL has turned out to be fantastic. I’m looking forward to more!

Check out my Events page to find out where I’ll be in March and April 2014. If I am in your neighbourhood, come and say hello.