My Writing Process Blog Tour

A Time to Dance I would like to thank Padma Venkatraman for inviting me to take part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour! Padma is the author of three novels, Climbing the Stairs, Island’s End, and her most recent one, A Time to Dance. Her writing is lyrical and accessible and her characters are filled with inner strength. A Time to Dance is a story about power of inner awakening through art. It is beautifully told with the vivid imagery that Padma weaves throughout all her novels. You can visit Padma Venkatraman at http://www.padmasbooks.com/

Here are the questions I have been asked to answer as part of this blog tour:

1) What are you working on?

Since I write for children of all ages (from picture books to young adult novels) I usually have more than one project going at any given time. Right now I’m polishing a couple of picture books and writing a middle grade novel that was inspired by a trip with my daughter. I am also working on an adult novel with one of my family members. Since I have a picture book coming out next year, I am also preparing author’s note for it.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My young picture book protagonists are curious and playful. The characters of my young adult and middle grade stories are thrown into situations that change their lives drastically. Their struggles lead them to discover their inner strength and find out who they are. Some of the themes I touch on are equality, fairness, and independence. I don’t consciously start out with these themes but let my characters lead me to them.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I grew up surrounded by stories. There were stories from the ancient epics of Mahabharat and Ramayana to stories about India’s freedom fights. My great grandfather, my grandparents as well as my parents not only told me stories, but also encouraged me to read. Still, in college, I studied science and became a microbiologist. I worked in my field and enjoyed it and never thought about being a writer. When my daughters were young I started reading to them and with them (when they became independent readers).  After years of storytelling and reading, I wanted to tell my own stories and my first novel, Blue Jasmine, was born.

4) How does your writing process work?

I write in spurts because of all the other commitments and distractions (which I love) in my life. When I have time I often write between three and six pages a day and then may not write for a week or longer. But even if I am not writing, the stories are always in the back of my mind – simmering, deepening, and sometimes boiling over. Once I have a rough draft I revise, rewrite and sometimes reimagine and rework the story. I also belong to wonderful critique groups and I share my stories with them and pay attention to their comments to make my work better.

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Here are the three wonderful writers who’ll be following me as part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour:

IfYouWereADogJamie A. Swenson received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in MN. When not writing, Jamie works as an early literacy storyteller/library associate at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville, WI. Look for her books: Boom! Boom! Boom!, Big Rig, and the forthcoming If You Were a Dog. Please visit her site: http://www.jamieaswenson.com

JingoCoverStephanie Golightly Lowden has written two middle grade historical fiction novels. Time of the Eagle takes place in the 1700s among the Ojibwe people.  Jingo Fever, her latest novel, takes place during World War I amidst anti-German hysteria and deals with the issue of bullying. Please visit her site: http://www.stephanielowden.com/

 

SquircleAndrea Skyberg is an author-illustrator and artist-educator. Her books have been honored with the Mom’s Choice Award Gold & Silver medals, a Moonbeam Award, and a Next Generation Indie Book Finalist Award. Andrea runs the weekly blog feature Tuesday Tours, which showcases artist’s and writer’s studios. Please visit her site: andreaskyberg.com.

 

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Only pictures allowed…

This February my daughter and I had the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands. We were excited about the vacatoin but the actual trip was even better than what we had expected. With all the winter storms, we almost didn’t make it and had to change our travel plans at the last minute.
Once we got on our ship things went very smoothly. The naturalists on board were not only knowledgeable but also passionate about the Galapagos Islands and keen on preserving the flora and fauna of that unique place. I think their enthusiasm made the trip so much more interesting and memorable. There were about one hundred people on our ship and we met many interesting, thoughtful and fun people on board.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise
I had first learned about Charles Darwin in school in India. When I attended Iowa State University, I took a class on evolution and learned in great detail about Darwin’s theory of natural selection and also read his book, The Origin of Species. Ever since that time the Galapagos had a special place in my head but not in my heart. This trip changed that.

The wildlife was spectacular. The giant tortoises are something of a wonder and to see many of them roaming in the wilderness was made more precious by the fact that they were almost extinct. The Charles Darwin Foundation on Santa Cruz island does a tremendous job to preserve these tortoises.

To see the sea lions, lava lizards, iguanas, and giant tortoises so close and in their natural environment was amazing, but the most touching part was how close we were able to get to the various birds like blue-footed and red-footed boobies. They were not afraid of us. On one of the walks a nazca booby was on our path. Everyone in my group walk past it so I tried to do the same. He pecked me! He didn’t puncture my skin but it was unexpected. The fact that these animals are not caged and tourist have to keep to the trail and designated parts of the beaches added to our experience.

Tourists in Galapagos are allowed to take pictures but nothing else. All the seashells, feathers, and pieces of lava rocks are off-limits. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t bring back “souvenirs and trinkets” from the Galapagos. Just seeing this place was enough to fill our heads and hearts with memories that will last a lifetime.

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Gazing at the Stars: Multicultural Literature

Growing up in India, I never thought of stories from other cultures as not my own. After all, India is a multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic country. I come from the state of Gujarat and my mother tongue is Gujarati. When I read a story set in Bengal where they spoke Bengali (and I didn’t know a word of it) and had customs and a culture very different from ours, I immediately connected to the protagonist and was interested in her journey. The same thing happened when I read a poem in Hindi set in northern India or read a translation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. When my uncle told the story of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, my brother and I sat hypnotized to hear the fate of Edmond Dantes. Who wouldn’t?

 

To me a story is a story because it’s about who we are as people, about our joys and sorrows, struggles and triumphs, and not about where we live, how we look, or what our customs are. Sure, these things help shape us – when an author brings a setting alive with the sounds, smells, textures, and colors of the protagonist’s world, the setting feels real and character becomes multidimensional. But those details do not change the human emotions and experiences of the character. It is that common bond that makes anyone relate to any story anywhere and makes the emotional connection to the character deeper and lasting.

 

Today we need to have a body of literature that reflects our global society and its make-up. It is important for children with various ethnic backgrounds to see their culture, geography, and their immediate world reflected in stories, like an echo. It is equally important for children who are outside of that specific culture to read about something new and different, like gazing at the stars: they may be distant but they are awe-inspiring and we feel part of something bigger. In the same way, children should feel part of something bigger than just their family and immediate community.  Books make them look at the world with fresh eyes and open their hearts. Ultimately, stories transcend all the specific details and link us all to the human journey; it is wonderful for children to empathize with a protagonist’s excitement, fears, dreams, struggles, and triumph, regardless of his cultural background, race, religion, ethnicity, time period, or history.

 

In the United States, multicultural literature for children is a broad concept. It is a term that is used for all the literature in which the protagonist is non-white. It encompasses African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native-Americans – basically all hyphenated ethnic and racial groups. As I write stories that are set in India and about Indian-American children growing up in this country, I fall into that category of a “multicultural” writer.

 

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) of the University of Wisconsin keeps a sharp eye on the number of multicultural books published every year. Sadly, they report that in the past several years the number of multicultural books has not gone up. This is surprising, as we know that the minority population in this country has increased steadily over the same time. In the not-too-distant future, we will have more than half the population belonging to “minority groups.” Why haven’t book publishers kept up with the changing demographic? And why do we need more multicultural books?

 

The BBC did a short video on this issue, exploring the state of multicultural literature in the USA. Megan Schliesman of CCBC, Jason Low of Lee and Low Publishing, several patrons at Middleton Library in Middleton, WI, and I were interviewed for the piece by Franz Strasser of the BBC for its Altered State Series.  Here is the link: http://bbc.in/1fmetAA

 

 

Interview with Uma Krishnaswami:

Uma Krishnaswami interviewed me on her blog, Writing With A Broken Tusk, regarding my chapter book The No-Dogs-Allowed-Rule.  Krishnaswami is the author of many children’s books including her picture book, Chachaji’s Cup and her middle grade novel, Grand Plan to Fix Everything.

To read the interview, please go to: http://umakrishnaswami.blogspot.com/2013/09/interview-with-kashmira-sheth.html

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Sunshine, a critical tool for writers?

We have had more than our share of dreary, cold, and wet spring days in Wisconsin. Everyone I met, family, friends, people at the grocery store, fellow gym goer—they all mentioned how they were tired of this soggy mess. I agreed with them completely.
It downed on me that it might be the reason I have done so little “new” writing in the past few days. Sure, I have worked on the stories I have already written. I have tweaked a few that didn’t need any tweaking and probably made them worse but I haven’t written brand new material on a complete blank computer screen.
It made me think that more than anything we writers, who sit in one corner and face a blank pages or a computer screen, need is that bright sunshine to flood our brain cells with intellect and ideas.
I would love to know how sunlight has any effect or not on your mood and/or creativity.

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Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup

If you like books, food, pictures, and poetry check out Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup; http://jamarattigan.com/
It is fun place to read about books and artists as well as explore some great recipes and see some interesting pictures.

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