A Writer’s Journey is filled with Realizations, Revelations, Rejections 
and YES, Revelry!

Illustration (2013) by...Me! :-)
NO, I'm NOT an Illustrator, but wish I were!

I started writing for children nearly five years ago. I spent the first two years writing and sending out stories to publishers. But all that I got out of it was rejections. I couldn’t believe that the publishers hadn’t liked my stories. They were perfect, or so I thought. But I was wrong!

I had good story ideas. But because I was new to the world of writing and publishing, I was unfamiliar with the do’s and don’ts of writing for children. 

The rejections discouraged me. But I could not stop writing for inspiration was all around me. My experiences as a parent and as a kindergarten teacher kept filling up my mind with new story ideas and I kept writing new stories and editing old ones.

Apart from that, here are some things I began doing that I hadn’t done before...
·        Researching and learning... about the art of writing for children
·        Attending writing workshops… to improve my craft
·        Joining the SCBWI...where I met a wonderful group of people, authors and illustrators, experienced and aspiring. We’d meet every month and critique each other’s manuscripts.
·        Attending conferences such as the AFCC (Asian Festival of Children's Content held in Singapore)… which provided an opportunity to network with people involved with children's literature in every possible way!
Things don’t always happen the way we want/expect them to... 

One day, I had an unexpected email from an editor whom I had been writing to for some time. She needed a story about cleanliness and oral hygiene and asked if I’d be willing to write it.
When opportunity knocks, one must never turn away.

I will always be grateful to that editor for thinking of me when there was a need. That email brought a turning point in my writing career. I accepted her offer and began working on the story right away. And that’s how my first book, Brushing is no fun!, published by Pratham Books, happened.

After a few rounds of editing, the text was finalized. Fantastic illustrations by Anupama Ajinkya Apte turned it into a bubbly, fun picture book. And then there it was…finally, a beautiful picture book with my name on it as the Author! Naturally, I was inspired to re-work my other rejected stories.

So at a networking event, when I learned about a children’s publishing company unknown to me, I knew where to send my next best story. I am very grateful to the person who led me to them because when I heard back from the publisher, it was positive news. And that’s how Pickle Mania came to be published by Tota Books. 

Brought to life by the artistic talent of Shailja Jain Chougule, it is appreciated by everyone who’s seen it. It's a story about a little girl’s determination to have a pickle of her own. 

Another one of my stories The New Girl was accepted by Pratham Books. Illustrated beautifully by Sayan Mukherjee, this story was inspired by own childhood when I often experienced being the new girl in the classroom, feeling left-out and often not knowing what to do during lunch breaks. Luckily, most of the time, friendly kids were around me and I wasn’t lonely for long. 
When I began writing the story, I knew that the new girl's story had to be similar to mine and yet different. With that goal in mind and inspired by unpleasant things read in the news, I arrived at this story. You’ll have to read the book to find out more about her.

Of all the stories, my fourth book, Lunch-Friends, took the longest to get published. This is one of the first stories I wrote. Hence, in its initial form, it was not quite there. But over the years, after several rejections and critiques, I worked and re-worked it to bring it to its present form.

After Pickle Mania was published, I reviewed this story one final time and sent it to Tota Books. Much to my disbelief, they accepted it!

This story is very special to me because I can feel I have grown as a writer by editing it hundreds of times. To have found a home for this baby was a big achievement for me! 

Lunch-Friends is a story about tradition, bonding with grandparents, the environment and the power children possess in their hands. Shailja Jain Chougule's fantastic illustrations enhance the value of this book.

So these are my four books, published and available in print so far. 

I do have a forthcoming book called The Clever Tailor. Illustrated by Nayantara Surendranath, the story is an Indian adaptation of a European folktale. Being a performance storyteller, I had shared this story with children at the Singapore libraries several times. And as I got more and more comfortable with it, it struck me that this could be made into a picture book. So I sent out the manuscript and it was accepted! I expect the book will be released in early 2018. 

To sum up, it has been an incredible journey since I started writing five years ago. A journey filled with realizations, revelations and rejections (Let's call them a Writer's 3R's or W3Rs!) which are finally paying off. But that doesn't mean the W3Rs will be gone once you get published. In fact, they are simply a part of the journey as we try to get our story-babies to their destination - a publishing house that adores them and helps take them out to our audience! 

Before I wrap up, here are a few reminders for aspiring writers of children's fiction:
  • Write about what interests you and/or what you know. You may need to do some research on a topic that interests you. To develop a plot, you need to start off with some basic knowledge. Thereafter, additional information can be researched. 
  • Read. Read. Read. To know what others have written about, esp in your genre.
  • Join a critique group, one that you are comfy with. Many folks don’t realize how valuable this is because of the 'other' perspective you get on your manuscripts.
  • Network with other writer/illustrators to keep abreast of contests, new publishers, events, etc. 
  • Get on social media.
  • Keep that mobile phone away in mute or notifications off mode when you're working on your story.
  • Never be hasty about sending out your manuscripts. If you think it is ready to be sent out, wait for 2-3 months, then review again before sending it to a publisher.
  • Don’t let the rejections and other hurdles stop you. We often get caught up with our other duties and responsibilities. Sounds bookish, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Keep doing what you love to do and one day, you will begin seeing results.
Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just a matter of waiting to get to it. Good luck!

Thank you, Kahani Takbak, for inspiring me to share the story of my journey. 


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