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.


Balu’s Basket – the journey

Balu’s Basket is the first book where I’m going on a journey from the germ of an idea to actually marketing the book – of course, all in under two years.

Before this when a book came out, I was naive and inexperienced to do anything about it. Sometimes my books would come out only in some countries and I wasn’t sure what to do on the day of the launch, if I found about it.

This time though, I think I’ve picked up some tricks and tips along the way, I should say, thanks to SCBWI and its wonderful family – where people talk about how they do things so you could learn from them.

So, back to the story that I came to tell.

Balu’s Basket was an idea based on my eternal themes – I keep coming back to grandparents, villages, fruits and Indian motifs. I wrote the first 20 lines and I really liked the shape of the story.

Tulika accepted it early this year and confirmed that it would come out in 2013. Hurrah!

Lucky for me, this year I also had plans to go home to Chennai in India. Guess what? Tulika, my publisher is based in Chennai too. The last time I had been to India was four years ago and I thought this was divine coincidence.

People at Tulika were absolutely amazing to me. Right from the receptionist who said, “You’re Chitra Soundar, I recognised you from your photo.” to the publisher Radhika Menon who gave up her valuable time to talk to me.

Deeya Nair the editor who I’ve been working with, since my first book with Tulika introduced me to the illustrator who was working on my book. Uttara a digital design student and an illustrator was right there in the next room working on my book – giving it finishing touches.


That was fun – I could see her originals – she flipped through them. She is an amazing artist and so young. This was her internship project and what wonderful work she has produced.

When Deeya gave me the original contracts to sign, she remarked that this was the first time a contract was being signed in the office by the author and witnessed by the illustrator. A good first, I’d say.

Then I met with the amazing duo – Aneesha and Pallavi. Aneesha manages marketing for Tulika and she is very positive about Balu’s Basket as she loves my first book too. She is my partner in crime, as we plan marketing across two continents.


Pallavi had literally joined that week, but was no stranger to Tulika. She’s going to spread the Tulika word in the UK and US and gearing up for it.

[Pallavi (far left), Aneesha, Uttara]


So from manuscript to illustrations, the first part of the journey is almost over. While Aneesha plans the book launch in Chennai, here I am planning the book launch here in London.

Here is the sneak preview of the coversBalu's Basket Eng-Tamil F.pmd Balu's Basket Eng-Hindi F.pmd! I love the colours, don’t you?

The first one is the English-Tamil version

and the second one is the English-Hindi version.

And of course, this time I am also doing events in the UK where I will sell all my Indian books.  The full circle – from being a writer to an author to a full-fledged author-machine. I kid myself – I’ve just begun this new aspect of my unknown courage. I have signed up to the book launch, I am telling stories to young children (we all know how intimidating that can be) during autumn and winter of 2013.

And guess what the next book will be out in early 2014 from Karadi Tales and the whole thing will start again. I’m excited. Perhaps this book came out at the right moment of my maturing author life. Perhaps the wind was blowing in the right direction.

Balu and his Basket


Tulika Books are based in Chennai, India. It is my home-town. Well, it is a coastal city. When I started writing picture books in earnest, my first ambition was to be published by Tulika. One of my writer acquaintances had got a book with them and then I found another. I was jealous and I was green with envy. All in a good way of course.

Although I had started publishing in magazines and with a Singapore publisher, getting a picture book in print was a hunger that wouldn’t go away.

When I started writing “Where is Gola’s Home?” I was more watching the US picture book market. I lived in Singapore at that time and the libraries had more US and Australian books. Tulika’s Books were not readily available in Singapore.

Where is Gola’s Home? Stuck in my notebook and wouldn’t let me go. I think it was rewritten at least 50 times and I did get some really good feedback from Little, Brown USA. I kept sending it out and when I sent one of the versions to Tulika it was 1000 words long. Unheard of nowadays. Some of the picture books I write is hardly constructed with 250 words.

Although long picture books were a norm, Tulika were launching a bi-lingual imprint and they wanted something short. The book was in consideration for almost a year and then I got the good news that they had accepted it. By then I had moved to London and was unpacking my study. Literally.

My wonderful editor Deeya at Tulika had revised the whole book and asked me if I could edit it – pronto! It was less than 300 words long. I was amazed. My first master-class in editing and picture books I should say.

Where is Gola’s Home? Has been a moderate success in India. It came out in 5 Indian languages along with English.


OUP Pakistan has recently bought rights and I’m guessing they would do a bi-lingual edition in English-Urdu.

But since that book was published, I have not been able to write something that tickled the fancies of my editors at Tulika. Although they patiently read every submission I sent them. 6 years later, last June, I sent them a book about Balu and his basket.

When I enquired about the status of the book late last year I was told it was in the shortlist and I had to wait to find out. I think I have mastered the art of waiting. But still I think I definitely pestered the editors for an answer many a times.

Balu the name was based on my maternal uncle, Balaji. He was from Chennai too. He was one of my early fans, along with my dad. Sadly before I knew if the book would be published or not, my uncle passed away last September in a sudden illness. The book became even more of a passion for me. But I am seasoned enough to know about publishing that what you want and what you get are two different things.

I finally let go the chasing and got back to writing some picture books for the  UK market. This is February, the month of PB Marathon and I’m doing a half marathon – so I am busy writing new ones.

I wrote to my editor this week on a different topic and then asked her if she knew the status of my book. And she said YES! We have scheduled it. It’ll be out this year.

What a surprise! Balu and his basket will now be a picture book from Tulika and I’m delighted to say the least.


This is my second book from Tulika and I can’t wait to see it come out.

I am hoping to be in India in July and I can thank my editor in person for her support.