Scholastic India

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Awesome India by Andrew Cope

My recent trip to India was a bit of an eye-opener. I crammed 5 cities and 13 school visits into 5 days and normally that would be exhausting. But I returned home energised and positive. You are AMAZING! Thank you Scholastic and thank you India.

As well as being a children’s author, I am also a scientist, so brace yourself for some big thoughts! For the last 10 years I’ve been studying the science of happiness and positivity so as well as talking about my new book, I also took the opportunity of sharing some top tips on how to feel good. So, first things first, I learned that Indian teenagers are under the same pressures as the rest of the world’s teenagers. Possibly even more, certainly in terms of pressure to do well at school. And because the pressures of life are so massive, it’s easy to be negative.

Here’s something to consider. The chances are, you’ve been lied to about ‘happiness’. Happiness is sold to you as a pot of emotional gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s ‘over there’ somewhere. You will be happy when you get good grades. Or when you finish your homework. Or when your mum stops nagging you. Or when you get to university. Or when you get married…

In ‘The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager’ we dare to challenge your thinking. What if happiness isn’t at the far end of the rainbow? What if that wonderful pot of happiness gold is at your end? What if it’s a big fat X-marks the spot and it’s right here, right now?

Andy Cope Teenager Cover lowIn fact, here’s the biggest thought of all; what if happiness is the starting point, not the end point. So, for example, what if it’s the happiest teenagers that do best at school? What if being happy now is the key to doing better homework and creating stronger relationships? What if mums don’t nag happy teenagers? (I appreciate that might be a pushing the point too far!)

In short, I think too many teenagers are looking for happiness in the wrong place. Our simple little book is designed to get you to look in the only place you will ever find happiness – within.

It’s not a book about religion. It’s totally based on science. But, great news, it’s the most ‘un-science’ book ever. It’s a full-colour blast of common sense. We wanted to make you laugh and think. But more than that, we wanted to give you some learning that will set you up for a happy life.

AC superman pants no caption

 

 

 

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How the Ghost Got into the PC by Payal Dhar

There's a Ghost in My PCThere’s a Ghost in My PC had its genesis in a short story I wrote for a Puffin anthology of ghost stories. I’ve never met a ghost myself, so I don’t know much about them except that they tend to hang about in old houses. But haunted house stories are so last century. I asked myself, if I were a ghost, what would my haunt be? The answer was easy: a computer! Thus, the idea of ghost in a PC was born.

In short, Ghost in My PC is a story about an almost-13-year-old called Madhu and a ghost called Viru, who lives in Madhu’s laptop. How this came about was that, a couple of years ago, when… no, wait, let’s hear in from Madhu herself:

A little more than two years ago, Raghuvir Nair was my neighbour…. Viru, which is what Raghuvir Nair preferred to be called… was actually very sick. He was severely depressed (the only time Amma almost slapped me was when I once called Viru “retarded”) and he also had a phobia about going outside. The technical term is “agoraphobia” and his other illness has a complicated name, but I’ve forgotten what it is. Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was terribly sad, but he was so ill that he couldn’t do anything to make himself happier. He had tried lots of treatment and many doctors, but nothing worked and he still wouldn’t get better.

The one thing that Viru liked to do was work with computers, which was why he and Amma were such great friends. Amma was, in fact, his only friend. They used to spend hours talking about computers and programming. He wanted to write a new sort of operating system and Amma was helping him with it….

I’m not sure what happened next, but Viru got sadder and sadder, and nothing helped, not even Amma’s company. It came to a point where he couldn’t take it any more and he killed himself.

Telling this story is really hard because I can’t help trying to imagine how someone can be so sad that they’d want to die. I just can’t imagine that. The worst day of my life was when Appa died. When I was little, I used to cry when I thought of him. Now I feel sad, really sad, but it doesn’t make me cry any more, even though I miss him a lot. But when I try to think how sad Viru must have been, I can’t imagine it. He was 22 years old—as old as Kavitha—he could have done so much, he’s really clever and funny, and he would have made his own operating system and put Microsoft out of business one day.

Sorry, where was I?

Okay, so after he died, Nair Aunty and Uncle were, of course, very upset, and so was Amma. But Uncle and Aunty were really grateful to Amma since she had been the only person to treat Viru with respect. They gave her some of his old things, including his laptop, which Amma later gave to me, after formatting it and putting new software on it.

Meanwhile, Viru realized that dying was no good. It was boring and there was no scope to nap when you wanted or surf aimlessly when you were bored. So there was only one thing left to do: he started haunting his own PC. (You might wonder if there are ghosts randomly whizzing about your computer’s circuits. Viru says it’s highly unlikely, since there was a lot of difficult tinkering to do before he managed it, and it’s that much harder if you are an ethereal being, whatever that means.) At first, he was a little panicked and started sending me messages, including “virus here”. He meant to write “Viru’s here”, but he says if he could punctuate correctly, he would have been a writer. He only meant to let the user of his computer (that is, me) know that he was around. But all he did at first was just freak me out.

Anyway, we’ve sorted things out since. Viru lives happily in my laptop, keeps it updated, and spick and span. He also manages to get me online for short periods at a time. Sometimes he helps me with homework, gives me bad advice and tries not to read my personal files. (pp.24–27) 

At first, the short story (called “Virus Here”) was never intended to be a book. But then, one of Scholastic’s editors started haunting me about making it one. At first I just said, “Hmm…” and changed the subject quickly. But the more I thought of it, the more I liked the idea.

Somehow, Viru the digital ghost and his “owner” Madhu grew on me. I wanted to know what happened to them. Did they make friends? Did Madhu’s inquisitive sister Kumuda find out about Viru? What about Amma? Heck, was Viru really a ghost or was it just an early version of the operating system that Viru had been developing?! Well, the answer is… ha, I’m not telling you! You’ll have to read the book to find out.

But ghost story (or not!), There’s a Ghost in My PC raises a lot of questions about cybersecurity. What would you do if your computer started talking to you? Would you talk back to it or would you smell a rat? A ghost in your PC sounds like a fun thing to have, but only in stories. Real life can be a lot more complicated. But that’s a subject for another day.

 

In which Ela and her side-kick go places

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Ela and me. (I know, I know, technically that should be Ela and I!)

Well then, in February this year, Ela and I took the Kala Ghoda chariot from school to school in South Mumbai, before she was ‘officially’ launched at Kitab Khana, my favourite book shop in Mumbai on the 8th, as part of KGAF (Kala Ghoda Arts Festival) 2014.

With the Kala Ghoda chariot

With the Kala Ghoda chariot

The Fried Frog goes to school

The Fried Frog goes to school

With Parinita Shetty and Lubaina Bandukwala, conspirators and organisers of the Children’s section of KGAF 2014

With Parinita Shetty and Lubaina Bandukwala, conspirators and organisers of the Children’s section of KGAF 2014

A close friend’s daughter, Aashya Abubaker (who is also a voracious reader), was good enough to indulge my desire of having a 13-year old launch my book about a 13-year old! The audience, comprising kids from various schools, barraged me with questions, and by the end of almost two hours of reading, interaction and book-signing, I was exhausted and utterly blissful.

With the happy Scholastic team. Hooray!

With the happy Scholastic team. Hooray!

In March, I was invited to the first Chandigarh Children’s Literature Festival. Apart from a poetry workshop (where I used examples from my very own Fried Frog) I had a session all to myself—the very last session of the festival, as it turned out!—to hold forth on Ela. A tricky proposition, given that the venue was a vast auditorium, and the kids would naturally have been flagging by the end of the day, and eager to go home. Luckily, I did manage to hold their interest and attention, and as always, my favourite part was the interaction with the kids. Since I had spoken about the trauma that Ela goes through, one little boy asked me in a woebegone voice, “I hope she doesn’t die?” I was glad to be able to reassure him that whatever horrors may be in store for Ela, however strong her death wish may have been (after all the novel does begin with the line: The day I turned thirteen was the day I wanted to die), by the time the novel ends, she realises that life may not be so awful after all; that in fact the book is proof that Ela survives to tell the tale, the story of her ordeal, and the way in which the writing of a fantasy helps her deal with a reality that had felt too grim to bear.

The month of May found me at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2014, where, apart from events to do with my translation, poetry and fiction for adults, I had been scheduled for two separate stand-alone book-readings and signings on May 1st and May 3rd from The Fried Frog and Ela respectively. My friend, the talented and witty Palestinian-Icelandic poet Mazen Marouf, did me the honour of introducing me to the kids in Arabic, making them laugh out loud as he confided in them that he was actually the mysterious Fried Frog himself, who had popped out in human form only to introduce me before vanishing back into the book!

In which Palestinian-Icelandic poet Mazen Marouf introduces The Fried Frog and its author at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2014

In which Palestinian-Icelandic poet Mazen Marouf introduces The Fried Frog and its author at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2014

The session was fun, especially getting to read my poem ‘On blushes, jealousy and skirts’ to a trio of burqa-clad teenage friends who turned up right at the end!

Reading my poem ‘On blushes, jealousy and skirts’ at ADIBF 2014 Reading my poem ‘On blushes, jealousy and skirts’ at ADIBF 2014 1 Reading my poem ‘On blushes, jealousy and skirts’ at ADIBF 2014 3

Reading my poem ‘On blushes, jealousy and skirts’ at ADIBF 2014

Come 9th May, which also happened to be Tagore’s birthday, Ela was launched in Kolkata to a packed house at Starmark. What made this very special for me was the fact that my dear friend, and fellow-author, Ken Spillman postponed his departure for Australia by a day in order to be there for my event. The conversation with Ken was extraordinarily rich, not only because Ken had already read Ela with his customary insight and perception, but also because he has read my other fiction as well. So he was able to draw out the links between my work, be it for old adults or young adults, for example the role of storytelling as a healing force; my concern with young people suffering physical or emotional trauma and so on. At key moments in our conversation we had 5 youngsters reading passages from the book. My dear friend Ruchira Das had ‘cast’ the children appropriately, based on my character briefs, and they read the extracts I had selected with verve, emotion and humour. For me it was extraordinary to hear my words take on a whole new dimension in the intonations and voices of the young people who until then had spoken only inside my head. And then of course we had questions from the audience, which included school kids, teachers, principals, and families, parents, kids and grandparents. Followed by book-signings, photo ops, and one in-depth interview by the editorial team of a school magazine. (They had promised me a copy of their magazine, but since that hasn’t happened yet, I append the interview at the end of this post.* And for those interested in photos and other coverage, all of that can be found here, on my website.)

And June, just gone, was my first experience at the AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content), Singapore, a marvellous gathering of writers, illustrators, publishers, educators, content developers, readers and booklovers, dedicated to exploring, celebrating and furthering Asian Content for the World’s Children.

l-r

L-R: Venky and Swati, dear friends, and directors of Bookaroo; R Ramachandran, Executive Director, National Book Development Council of Singapore, fondly known as Rama; Kenneth Quek, Festival Director, AFCC; Ken Spillman; moi; Prashati Rastogi, German Book Office; almost falling off the edge, John McKenzie, leading academic and educator from new Zealand; and in inexplicable crouch-mode: Rosemarie Somiah, Singapore-based storyteller, writer and friend.

This year, the country focus was India. I had been asked to speak on a panel rather ambitiously titled: Past, Present, Future: Reinventing Indian Publishing for Children, which had sent me into something of a panic while I was preparing for it. Having collected reams of information from all my friends in Indian publishing, I finally ended up falling back on my own experience of having written for children over a decade now, using those experiences and examples to throw a light on the changes and trends in Indian publishing. While I touched upon the urban, English-speaking scenario, my co-panellist, the inimitable Subir Shukla provided some fascinating insights into the innovative methods being used in language publishing, especially in rural and small-town schoolrooms. I came away richer for it, and was grateful for the feedback from the audience, which was gratifyingly positive.

With Leila Seth before my session at AFCC 2014

With Leila Seth before my session at AFCC 2014

The same day, 2nd June, was my session with Mitali Perkins

 The same day, 2nd June, was my session with Mitali Perkins, US-based author, on YA: Books as Windows and Mirrors

With Mitali Perkins and Deb Fitzpatrick

With Mitali Perkins and Deb Fitzpatrick

Rushing from The Pod (the breath-taking venue with an almost 360-degree view of the city from the top of the National Library Building), to the Multi-Purpose Room in the heart of the library itself, I found myself bursting—5 minutes late!—into a roomful of people patiently waiting, including my co-panellist and Deb Fitzpatrick, our moderator! For someone as pathologically punctual as me, this was something of an embarrassment, but was turned by Deb into a cause for merriment, erasing any initial awkwardness and enabling an easy plunge right into the discussion. Mitali and I had decided we would each make a little presentation, before opening it up for questions. My presentation was short, timed precisely to fit within 15 minutes. For those interested, here is what I said (and read):

‘When I asked myself, as the panel urges us to, “Why is it important that young adult audiences have books that not only provide insights into the lives of others but also serve as mirrors of their own lives and cultures” I could come up with four reasons right away:

i)   To sensitize young adults to a world beyond their comfort zone

ii)  Seemingly contradictory, but to me, absolutely essential and logical—To provide comfort: To make the young adult feel, “I am not alone. Someone just like me is suffering just like me”

iii)  To ask difficult questions with the knowledge that they may not have easy answers, or any answer at all

iv)  To make communication across generations possible

But since these are generalities, I would like to illustrate using a few examples from my own YA novel, Ela.

“The day I turned thirteen was the day I wanted to die.”

This is the line with which Ela, the protagonist of my YA novel, begins her story. It is this death-wish, deep and deeply-damaging, that sets the tone for the story of her life. And it is the word ‘lie’ hidden inside the word ‘life’ that rips apart the fabric of Ela’s hitherto “happy unsullied enviable” existence as a girl growing up inside the comfortable cocoon of upper-middle class urban privilege in India. To make it worse, not only is her life materially rich, it is also emotionally warm. In my fictional universe, Ela is not just an all-rounder child with a circle of friends and admirers, a gang of her own, and a self-confidence that seems unbreakable—she also has an incredibly open, loving and intimate relationship with her parents Smita and Mahesh, and her aunt, Jaya, Mahesh’s sister. It’s rare, but it is true, and it is precious. To give you an idea of Ela’s reality before what she calls the Catastrophe (with a capital C), allow me to read a tiny extract from the book:

And then they dropped the bombshell. I was to get ready for school.

It had been clear to me since the Catastrophe that I could never go back to school, never, not in a million years. How could I face them after the ghastliness they had witnessed? It would be all over school by now, Ela Chaudhary—basketball champ, English Miss’s pet, karate kid, drama queen, style guru—was not who we thought she was. Her parents, those super-cool parents everyone wanted, who never stressed her out, never pressured her, never told her ninety per cent or else, never sent her for this tuition and that tuition, allowed her plenty of internet time, even if they hovered over her shoulder, never told her you have to become a doctor or an engineer, do what you love, if you love writing, do that, if painting is your thing, sure, go ahead, just leave us alone after you’re eighteen, all right, parents who treated her like she was their age, who never embarrassed her in public like the others sometimes did, parents who told her, If you want to do anything stupid that’ll make you sick, tell us in advance so that we can keep the ambulance on stand-by, oh and if you do anything illegal, we’ll be the first ones to call the police, which made her laugh because surely they couldn’t mean it, which parent said such outrageous things, were they serious? Parents whom she didn’t have to hide things from, because hell what was there to hide, and who could hide anything from x-ray eyes anyway, parents who took all the fun out of being gross because they could be super-gross in return, parents who always turned up for PTA meetings, always remembered friends’ names and never used pet names in public, those unbelievably-decent super-cool parents of Ela Chaudhary were not even her own parents. She was adopted. No, she was picked up from the street. Nobody knows where she came from. Which dustbin. Nobody wanted her till Mahesh-Uncle Smita-Aunty took pity on her. Someone threw her away and they brought her home like a stray pup. No one knows who her real parents are.

[Pg 22-23, Ela]

And thus, the unshakeable core of her selfhood is shattered. It happens in the most brutal way, with a neighbour announcing at her birthday party that she needn’t bother defending her parents, because they aren’t even her real parents, she had been “picked up from the street” and that her son was never going to play “with such a dirty girl again” because who knew “which dustbin she came out of”.

At which moment Ela turns to her parents, and says:

She’s a liar, tell me she’s lying, why didn’t you tell her to stop uttering such hilarious lies in front of all my friends, why did you let her? The questions rose wildly to my tongue and died as I turned my face to see the truth written on Mahesh’s stony jaw, in Smita’s quivering lips, it was not Ashok’s mother who had lied—it was mine.

The nothingness opened at my feet, the thick hot darkness dropped on me with a flap of its terrible wings. There were no bones in me anymore, I was no more than a sac of skin, half-empty, half-full of water, wobbling and loose all over except at the shoulder where I felt the talons dig, if they dug any harder I would burst open and the water would flow out and drown them all.

 In the room once glorious with light and music and life, my life, there was a smell of death, a pall of silence. If they had dragged a knife through me, if they had fretted me open with bullets, strangled me with rope, hacked me with an axe, the pain could hardly have been worse. Their eyes—not Ashok’s (hateful), not his mother’s (triumphant)—but my friends’ eyes, the uncomprehending baffled horror-struck eyes of my beloved friends, eyes I could never meet again. Everyone looking at me and I looking at them, Smita and Mahesh, progenitors of a terrible lie, red-handed, pretending even now, as Mahesh said, I think you had all better go home, Ela, why don’t you give them their return-presents, his voice out of that silence like an avalanche of rocks crashing on me, me turning my back on the room, on them all, and fleeing, no steps where the steps should have been, just a blankness that my feet flew over as if the monster bird had given me wings, saving me from one abyss only to swoop me down to the edge of another, my room, once-beautiful-haven, now hellish brink of my sorrow.

[Pg 8-9, Ela]

Ela goes from “beautiful haven” to “hellish brink” so swiftly and suddenly that she has no defences to deal with it. And so begins her downward spiral into a self-destructive zone from which her family despairs of ever getting her back. But as a result of this Catastrophe, two things happen:

One—Ela has to leave her comfort zone of gizmos and girlfriends, and confront a different reality. This is the reality that surrounds her, and most of us, living in India, the reality of class-difference, the reality of street-children, the reality of prejudice. Her key question: “Why hadn’t her parents told her she was adopted” – opens, as it were, a window into another world, the world of under-privilege:

Why hadn’t they told me?

Because it was too horrible to tell. Which meant I couldn’t have come from dear Manju’s soft wobbly stomach and her clean and tidy room after all. I must have come from the dirtiest part of the world, where no one went, the part where slime lived, where sewers ran, where rats as big as dogs gnawed on the toes of sleeping children. I had seen such things while passing in the car, I had turned my eyes away, that was where I must have come from, a hole in the worst part of the world, kept hidden until they burned it down.

The word ‘slum’ entered my head and stayed there, touching everything. We had been taught to respect difference, to understand the words ‘privilege’ and ‘responsibility’, we had made visits to schools where under-privileged children studied, we had given them books and clothes and volunteered to teach them for a day, we had seen the rooms with bare floors and grilles like the bars of cages, we had walked through the unlit corridors throbbing with the same sound that filled our airy halls, we had marvelled at the colourful walls covered with drawings, maps, the alphabet, craft work, we had sat with the children who looked smaller than us even though they were our age, filled with a crazy energy that came bouncing at us like a kind of boundless joy, we had eaten with them, sitting on the floor in long rows, eaten rice, dal and bhaji with our fingers and drunk the Frooti that our school had sponsored, and I had been stunned by my shameful realisation that these were kids we would never consider equal, however much we were taught to, however much we might have wanted to, it was already too late, something separated us, something irreversible and horrendous, and when we walked out of the school and got into our buses and went back home we forgot it quickly, and pretended it had all been splendid, our noble social service for the year.

Taranna had been absent that day, her mother would not allow her to go, who knows what germs those people have, and Vijay had been given a mask, which the teacher angrily confiscated, and Yash had told us the next day of having to take a Dettol-bath the moment he got home. It was deep deep deep, this separation, a wound dividing us from them, and I was falling into it, no, I had come from it, and nobody knew until now, they never told me because it was too horrible to believe that I was them, not us. But what was worse was that even they who were not us had not wanted to keep me, had thrown me away, so that the new question was —Why didn’t they want me, what had I done that was so unforgivably bad?

Maybe I’d done nothing except being born the way I was. It must have been my skin. My dark-as-sin skin which Smita, Mahesh, Jaya Aunty (and I) thought gorgeous, dusky sultry hot, that girl of yours is going to be a heartbreaker when she’s all grown up, what are you saying, she already is, but no one else found it beautiful, maybe neither did they, maybe they were only pretending to make me feel better, because once I had heard an aunty say to Smita—Do something about that girl’s complexion, it’s okay for a boy, but for a girl, kuch toh karo, fairness-cream-sheam, nei toh no one will marry her, and Smita’s cold cold voice saying, No daughter of hers was going to be the victim of disgusting prejudices like that, her daughter would have far better ambitions than just finding someone to marry her, she’s beautiful the way she is, thank you very much, and anyone who couldn’t see that didn’t have eyes in their head, which I thought was much ruder than what the aunty had said. After that, Smita avoided her in the park or on the road, which I thought was very funny, I hadn’t really understood what the hoo-hah was about, but now I did. Now it hit me. That aunty had been telling the truth. My ugly black skin was a curse. So ugly even my own mother couldn’t bear it.

[Pg 38-40, Ela]

And two—Ela has to go on a quest, the toughest quest of all—in search of the answer to the question, “Who am I?” And this is where the crack in the mirror of her selfhood allows her to step through it into a mirror-world of fantasy. This is not the western fantasy world of teenage vampires and magicians. This is a world of grizzled boatmen, mangrove islands, a community of child rag-pickers presided over by a strange boy she meets in that other-world, which in the oddest way reflects and throws an unnerving uncanny light on this-world. It is only when Ela takes charge of her own story, and chooses to invent her own mythology, that she is able to deal with the rupture and heal herself. In this, her self-created fantasy, she is nameless, and all-powerful, she is The Girl Who Was Hatched From An Egg:

The Girl Who Was Hatched From An Egg came out shaking her soft wet limbs. The moment the dry earthair touched her, the slippery white film that coated her evaporated and she felt a new steadiness, a firmness in her body, which was no more than five minutes old. But inside she was ageless. She had been born countless times before. Since the beginning of time she had hatched out of the Egg, full-formed and invincible, ready for the Task that no one else could do.

This time the Task was so colossal, she, who did not know the word ‘fear’, felt a stirring inside that was not the white-hot joy that accompanied every birth. She had saved the southern coast from another cataclysm, she had sealed the rift that had threatened to swallow a whole city, she had stopped a killer disease from spreading by changing the way the wind blew, all this and more, she had done. But now she trembled. Now, she had to find her mother.

She never thought she had a mother. She was The Girl Who Was Hatched From An Egg, she had created herself. What had a mother to do with her? She slept and when it was time for her to do the Task, the Egg cracked of its own accord and she crawled out, a blemishless creature of unearthly glory, alive and whole and ready. She was neither bird nor human, but if the Elders had told her to look for her mother among the wild birds of the earth, she would not have felt so surprised. She had felt in her all kinds of powers, the birdness of an eagle as it swooped upon its prey, the fleetness of the water as it rushed along the banks, the treeness of a root as it pushed its mighty way through the earth. If her mother had been a tree, or an eagle or a river she would not have been surprised. But a human? A woman? Her heart shook and she had to place her hand where it fluttered, like a leaf.

It was not enough to simply find her mother. Once found, she had to stay. This was the part that hurt The Girl Who Was Hatched From An Egg the most. She could not return, she could not sleep until the next Call came, she could not keep her powers. She had to lay her powers down at her human mother’s feet like a warrior surrendering her weapons and be a True Child. That is what the world needs now, the Elders had told her. No more superhuman tasks. Give up being who you thought you were and be what you actually are, your mother’s True Child. That will be all, and everything.

[Pg 84-85, Ela]

With adoption on the rise in India, it isn’t unusual to have friends and family with adopted kids. What has taken me by surprise though, is the way in which this book makes people come up to me—adults who were adopted as kids; mothers who have one biological child and one adopted child, friends who know of cases where a child has come to know about being adopted at a later stage, and has gone into trauma, which makes me feel a shiver, because I wonder what Ela can do for that child? Can she help? Not just the child, but also the parent? Is there a way in which our fictions can address the hypocrisies and taboos of the adult world, and enable our young people to confront their worst nightmares? I do believe the best YA fiction is one small step in that direction. In a country as culturally complex and as socially iniquitous as India, sometimes even the person living across the road can seem like another country. But isn’t the mind of a young person also another planet? A universe unto itself? YA fiction can, I believe, be both window to the self-and-the-other, and mirror to us all.’

Reading from Ela at AFCC 2014, Singapore

Reading from Ela at AFCC 2014, Singapore

The session was followed by Q&A. But the best thing that happened was that several of the people who attended, went out and got copies of the book! Among them was Leila Seth (who bought both Ela, and The Fried Frog for her grandchildren), and Fatima Sharafeddine, the highly-respected and prolific children’s author and translator who also delivered the Children’s Literature Lecture at AFCC 2014.

With Fatima Sharafeddine

With Fatima Sharafeddine

I had the pleasure of spending time with Fatima, and she mailed me after reading Ela, saying how much she loved it. For me, the revelation regarding Ela has been the way adult-adults respond to it. Perhaps this is one of those YA adults which can easily crossover?

I also signed copies of both my books, at the Scholastic Booth in the Media Mart, a delightful experience as always. The Scholastic team later told me all copies but one each were sold out, which pleased me (and them) no end.

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So that’s it for now, from the travels of Ela, the Fried Frog and their eternal and humble sidekick,  Sampurna Chattarji, with love

Sampurna Chattarji

[Copyright for this blogpost and all extracts from Ela with the author ©Sampurna Chattarji 2014]

*An interview by Swasti Mitra Mustafi, 8B

Mahadevi Birla World Academy

  1. Tell us a little about yourself: I’m a writer, poet, novelist, translator with 12 published books till date. I always carry a book with me, even on the busiest day, when I know I won’t get any free time to read. If I don’t have a book with me, I feel I’m missing a limb! I am an obsessive type of person! I’m a perfectionist who gets mad if the details aren’t right. I love luchi-mangsho. (In fact I love luchis so much I wrote 2 poems in their honour in a series called ‘The Food Finagle’ from my book The Fried Frog and other Funny Freaky Foodie Feisty Poems.) I love walking, especially in the mountains.
  2. What were you like at school: I was a big reader. But that doesn’t mean I hung out only with other bookworms! I had friends who were great at sports and athletics, friends who were introverts (unlike me who was an extrovert, contrary to the stereotype of most bookworms!), friends who were in many ways my polar opposites. We all got along famously and invented many exciting scenarios for ourselves (including secret clubs and mystery trails, and invented codes and other such stuff). I loved drama, and elocution, and writing, and hiking. (I grew up in Darjeeling.) I took part in everything with great enthusiasm. And, I always came first in class! (I know, that’s really annoying!)
  3. What was your favorite show as a kid? Oh I had several: Little House on the Prairie, Knight Rider, Bewitched, Worzel Gummidge, Star Trek…
  4. Which writers inspire you ? (if any): Too many to name. Basically I am inspired by writers who move me with their ideas, their use of language, their inventiveness, wisdom, truth, playfulness, and their insight into the human condition…Writers who make me say, “I wish I had written that!”
  5. Do you think parentage is of so much importance to a child and this could be the shock of shocks to Ela to disintegrate her ?: No. What shocks Ela is the fact that her parents, whom she loves, have lied to her. The people she trusted most in the world have kept an essential truth from her, and she feels betrayed. That is why she disintegrates.
  6. Which group of readers did you write this book for? For young adults. For old adults. For anyone who has ever been a teenager. Anyone who has felt the pain of betrayal. Anyone who has suffered an identity crisis. Anyone who has ever felt alone, lost, confused, or friendless. Anyone who has struggled to come to terms with who she/he is. Anyone who believes that fantasy can help you cope with reality. Anyone who loves life but realizes how hard life can sometimes be. Anyone who has ever wished they were dead, only to realize how wonderful it is to be alive.
  7. What is the hardest thing about writing? The discipline of it. Keeping faith in your story day after day after day.
  8. Do you ever get ‘writers’ block? Not yet. Though I have struggled, for example, even when writing Ela, with certain patches. But so far, luckily I have managed to resolve them!
  9. Your favorite book or movie ? Too many to list! So here’s just 3 favourite books from just one genre (fantasy): Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet, Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.
  10. Favorite pass time other than writing? Writing, my dear, isn’t my pastime! It’s not a hobby, it’s not something I do to fill my time—it’s my life, my passion, my profession! When I’m not writing I love reading, watching movies, I love travelling, eating, talking to my friends – all the things that ‘normal’ people like to do!
  11. Your next book? A book of short stories on Kolkata.
  12. Some tips for young writers. Read read read before you begin to write write write! Learn all the rules of the language you want to write in, because unless you know the rules you won’t be able to break them! Don’t be in a hurry to be published. Learn to take criticism and gain from it. Don’t be afraid of hard work and solitude.
  13. Any special thoughts on the launch of your book on Rabindranth Tagore’s birthday? Was it planned or by chance? Would you like to say something about this ? Oh, this was just a happy coincidence! Serendipitous! And somehow, that made me feel specially blessed.

Sampurna Chattarji, Kolkata, May, 2014

 

KIMMIE AUNTIE SAYS … a new series from Kimberly McArthur

Let me tell you a story–

I fell in love with India the first time I visited over a decade ago. The gritty elegance, swirling vibrancy, design flair, rich history, beautiful land, warm people– it was true love. You can see I loved it– I gush even now.

I wore a sari, dodged rickshaws, laughed my way through my ineptness. For every year after that first visit, I connived my way by hook or by crook to come back to India. I gave business lectures, visited temples and mosques and churches, volunteered at schools. I floated along in houseboats, trekked on camel safaris, and traipsed about seeing as much of the country as I could. Over a decade, my trips to India were crucial brain and soul scrubbings to keep me alive and balanced.

India had cracked me open, demanded my ardor, and reminded me God is the only one who really knows what in the world is going on. And I wanted to stay that way.

For many years I co-owned a business in America– www.FreeRange.com is a design and marketing business that focuses on telling the most important stories the world faces. We worked on campaigns for human rights, the environment, literacy, domestic violence, food, health, women’s issues. It was blissful hard work to use our talents every day in service of our passion. However, I had no idea it was also setting the stage.

I never dreamt I would live in India. But now I do. And I was taught as a child that what you love, you give to. I have tried to give to India in a variety of ways. The Me and We series is my latest gift– an offering of love to a country that I adore.

The Me and We is a series about vital learnings in social awareness. The Me part is lots of things kids need to understand as individuals, such as safety and health. The We part is lots of things kids need to understand to interact responsibly with the world, such as sharing and environmental awareness. As parents (and aunties), we want our children to be healthy and happy and grow into contributing adults… and, of course, experience awe and wonder of adventures along the way. I hope these books help. As with every book in the Me and We series, there is a resource page of discussion questions and activities for parents and teachers. I hope these books can simply help parents open doors to vital conversations and learnings with their children… as well as offer a dash of delight!

For me, delight comes from the thrill of creation…. of making something as truly and brightly as I can.  In the past I have often created with color, line, form, textures, and people.  But creation comes in many ways. I am lucky that creating stories gets to be one of my ways.

However, I am NOT an illustrator.  I can’t draw to save my life; even stick figures from my pencil look pathetically anemic.  But we are blessed with the brilliance of illustrators Ayeshe Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta who made the characters and stories spring to life. They, frankly, rock.  As does Scholastic for seeing the possibilities of these stories.  Thank you doesn’t cover my sentiments– I am  deeply indebted.

And now, the Me and We series is kicking off with two of my favorite kids– Max and Vidya.  Superhero Max wants to be healthy — and he knows that means a holistic body, mind and heart.  The social butterfly Vidya just wants her friends to be safe– and so teaches them principles through puppet jingles to keep kids out of harm’s way.

I do hope you love them as I do.

Truly,

Kimmie Auntie

P.S. Expect to see more of the Me and We series this fall with the launch of a boxed set of five titles. These will get you started… but plenty more to come!  If you would like to send me ideas for future subjects, please do!  I’m happy to hear from you at mcarthurkrishna@gmail.com

Cricket Changed My Life: Stories of Hope and Despair from the IPL and Elsewhere

The world is a vastly different place from the time that I was young. Computers were things of legend in American laboratories and science fiction books. Our electronic video games were little handheld devices with Pacman or some such on it. Yet, some things haven’t changed at all. I watch cricket on television with my nephews and nieces just as my parents watched it with me. They like hearing stories about these cricketers, and I like telling those tales.

There’s a lot to say. Our cricketers come from various corners of India, from different backgrounds, classes and communities. Some of them tell cautionary tales, other accounts are inspirational, or moving, or just plain feel-good. They speak of conviction and hardship, hope and despair, and of the cricket that lies just beyond the game’s biggest stars.

From cricketers who have played for the Indian team to the ones that failed to make the cut, players who have achieved success only at the IPL to a couple of men not many know about at all – they are all there. Also present are foreigners who earn their living in India and Indians who went the wrong way, choosing easy money over the grind. And players that could, possibly, have reached higher had they been luckier, or better, or playing at a different time. A few players who qualified as hopefuls at the time of I spoke to them for this book, have moved up several notches since – like Shikhar Dhawan, Stuart Binny and Rajat Bhatia.

The career curve of cricketers is one of the by-lessons in here. Ryan ten Doeschate explained it well in the context of an IPL team when we were chatting. “There are a lot of similarities between a cricket team and a corporate set-up,” he said. “You have the obvious levels of management with the owners, the CEO, the coach, the captain, the manager and the others. There is also a hierarchy within the players. The big players, who play the leading roles, are, like a corporate entity, shouldered with the bulk of the responsibility and ultimately the team’s performance. They are also the high earners of the team.The guys with back-up roles can grow into these positions of higher responsibility through striking and consistent performances, which can again be associates with a corporate structure.”

To that I add: there will be the laggards and the hard-workers, the smart ones and the not-so smart ones, the ones that get where they want to by pleasing the bosses, and then the ones who perform well one day and not so well the other day. Some of them have problems that weigh them down and there are yet others that don’t let personal issues clip their wings.There are people who give it their best shot and are happy in the knowledge that they did everything they could to succeed, and some who sit back and blame the world for all that is wrong with their lives.

Sport, it is said, is a microcosm of life. Indian cricket, with all its hues, is no different.

Cricket Changed My Life tries to tell some tales that I would enjoy reading myself.

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To read this book, one prerequisite, of course, is a love for cricket and cricketers. It would also help to have the capacity to learn from the experiences of others. As a youngster, I didn’t much enjoy being told what to do (I still don’t). And I certainly don’t like the idea of telling people what to do. But it is a good idea to just present the facts and then leave people – young and old – to do what they will with them.

Maybe someone else – with a deeper understanding of cricket and better writing skills – would have done a better job of this. But the big reason I wanted to tell these stories is because in all these years of being a cricket fan and then a cricket writer, I have found precious little in book form about the world of Indian cricket beyond the marquee stars. Yes, news articles are a dime a dozen, but the value the permanence of a book brings is missing.

Off-hand, I’d say there are 30–40 books on Sachin Tendulkar alone. But why is there so little about everyone else? Is cricket, or Indian cricket, only about Tendulkar and the other stars? It cannot be – just look at the vastness of it, from the Ranji fields to the Safi Darashah Trophy to smaller tournaments played between villages (where too there is a certain amount of money to be made).

This book is an attempt. An attempt to try and tell stories we don’t get enough of. There are other cricketers and other stories just as worthy and interesting. But we’ll start with this lot and then, maybe, someday, we’ll all want to share more of them.

Shamya Dasgupta

A HUGE thank you to all the schools that welcomed Oscar to India in February!

A HUGE thank you to all the schools that welcomed Oscar to India in February!

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When I reached home after my February visit to India, I looked at the figures. Seven cities, thirty-nine schools, more than seven thousand children. Add to that the New Delhi World Book Fair, a transmedia workshop sponsored by the Australia-India Council and an awesome festival – Kala Ghoda in Mumbai – and it was a crowded month.

It was also joyous. I’ve visited countless schools in many different countries – Australia, naturally, but also China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Oman. It’s always fun, but nowhere is it more fun than in India.

Indian kids are simply the best when it comes to being truly engaged with an interaction, and they are simply the best when it comes to asking questions. I’ve come to expect this with my Jake series, and talking about I Am Oscar with older classes was just as wonderful.

A question often asked was this: “Why did you write I Am Oscar?” That gave me a chance to talk about my favourite subject – imagination.

It also made me think about my Jake character in the Jake series and identify a thread that runs through my work generally. But whereas Jake simply has fun with his imagination, characters like Oscar and Advaita (in Advaita The Writer) depend upon their imaginations to survive. Oscar is funny, sure. But most of all he’s a creative guy who allows himself flights of fancy. To me, that’s about resilience – the capacity to work through difficult times by releasing the ‘reality valve’ sometimes.

A psychiatrist features in I Am Oscar and, although he doesn’t say this in the novel, he would know that a famous psychiatrist named Viktor Frankl – a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp – said that our ability to see beyond present circumstances allows for the possibility of hope. This capacity to imagine, then, becomes a life tool, a survival mechanism.

Speaking to 12, 13 and 14 year-olds on my India tour, I told them that their lives were getting more complicated and that, over the coming years, they would feel many stresses and anxieties – about study, careers, parents, relationships. I encouraged them to have fun with their imaginations, and to remember it’s the greatest power they have.

During and since the February trip I’ve received some lovely emails. Here’s one:

Nishant here. You came to our school in India (Hiranandani Foundation School)… You highlighted your book “I am Oscar”. And thank you for that ’cause, boy… I tell u I just finished reading it and I am sooooo impressed… I even feel like Oscar Is a real guy. I’m sure that somehow this book is going to change my life. Many thanks!!

Well, thank YOU, Nishant – and thanks to the many other students who have written to me.

Huge thanks to the teachers and principals who made the interactions possible, and most of all, thanks to the generous and hardworking Scholastic representatives who looked after me so well everywhere I went.

 

Ken Spillman

It’s no secret that I love India. I love Oscar too – please welcome him to India!

It’s no secret that I love India.

I love Oscar too – please welcome him to India!

 

The publication of I AM OSCAR has seemed a long time coming – that, of course, makes it extra special. Oscar’s story appeared previously under another title in Australia, where it sold out and received the kind of reviews that writers only sometimes dare to dream about. In fact, I was on a 4-month writing retreat in New Delhi when I received news that the story had received one of Australia’s richest awards for Young Adult fiction. At that time the YA market in India was just preparing for lift-off, and I remember hoping that the book would eventually become available to Indian readers. Now it has, in a revised, retitled and updated edition from Scholastic Nova.

Although I didn’t find the book difficult to write, it took me a couple of attempts. I had written half of the book when my brother-in-law passed away, leaving my young nephew and two nieces without a father. Writing about my fictional Oscar and the period after his father’s death seemed a little too close to what was going on in my extended family, so I shelved the book for a couple of years, revisiting it now and then to ‘see whether it was any good’. I never lost confidence in it: the Oscar voice seemed real to me and I was sure he would touch and amuse many readers. When I finally resumed writing, Oscar spoke to me again and all I had to do was listen. The second half of the book was completed in just 3 weeks.

Within weeks of publication, I was receiving emails from all around Australia. One that I’ve treasured reads: “Congratulations on your book- I thought it was just wonderful. I lost my father when I was 14 and felt such an affinity with Oscar. It was truthful and the confusion/grief/angst was so wonderfully captured. I just LOVED it!”

This was from an adult reader, and I admit that I was surprised to receive as many emails from adults as I did from teens. Somehow, Oscar seemed to have appeal across age groups and genders, and I was also thrilled to receive positive feedback from Indian novelist and poet Sampurna Chattarji, whose opinion I respect enormously. She told me she’d given the book to her father to read and, at 70-something, he “picked up the book and finished it at one go, and liked it very much”.

Sometimes, I think, the best books come from the simplest ideas. In the case of I AM OSCAR, the idea was to create a young, funny, imaginative character and then give him a really tough time. I threw everything at Oscar – the death of a parent, the breakdown of the other parent, a difficult sister, an impossible crush, a change of schools, incredibly fast physical changes, a first experience of love, a massive cold sore – and left it up to him to cope. Not very nice, I know – but that’s authors for you. We’re cruel in the name of art.

The book’s message? Well, I’ve always believed that imagination is one of the keys to resilience. We need imagination in life, and the best exercise for the imagination is reading. I hope lots of people read I AM OSCAR. When you do, please tell me what you think via the contact tab at http://www.kenspillman.com.Image

A Broken Pavement, an Election, a Pile of Books, and Me

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It was a lovely surprise when my chapter book, Book Uncle and Me, published by Scholastic India, recently won a Crossword Book Award in the Children’s Category, sharing this hono(u)r with Payal Kapadia’s whimsical Wisha Wozzariter. The books make a perfect pair, both about kids who are mad about books.

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Scholastic India editor Tina Narang received the award on Uma’s behalf.

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Photo courtesy of Christopher Cheng

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The Australian edition of Book Uncle and Me has also made its way onto the Books in Homes selection.

 

 

 

 

 

All of which got me thinking about how story can travel and where all this came from in the first place for me.

What fragments of reality managed to link together in my messy mind to form this book?

 

Here are the (real) ingredients of this story:

 

  • the broken pavement in the real St. Mary’s Road in Chennai, India where my   parents lived at the time I first began writing this story
  • a pile of books on a street corner
  • a kid sitting cross-legged next to it, engrossed in a book and oblivious to the feet of passersby
  • a fancy hotel on that same road, keeping random company with blocks of flats
  • a woman with an iron who plied a busy trade up and down the street
  • election banners strung between trees
  • kids’ voices, chattering on full volume as they got off the bus and made their way home
  • a sign on an apartment building that read “Horizon.”

I will confess it. I am in love with settings. When you start to pay attention to the quirkiness of a place, it will begin to show itself to you as if it’s auditioning for a part in your story. That street where my parents had lived for over thirty years suddenly began to take on all kinds of possibilities, once young Yasmin came to inhabit it in my mind. The woman with the iron became the “istri lady.” The silent man beating time in the air as if he were playing an invisible drum walked into the story. Even the pigeons seemed to start cooing purposefully. Tee shirts really did get folded on TV. Bus drivers sang–all right, that lament the bus driver sings came right out of my father’s old cassette tape collection that I was converting into digital music files. And slowly, line by line, Book Uncle and Me came to be written. 

 

For expat Indian me, the ex-kid who read obsessively, this has been quite a journey. 

– by Uma Krishnaswami

 

Ching Yeung Russell on her book Bungee Cord Hair

Bungee Cord Hair

 

Bungee Cord Hair is the winner of the Scholastic Asian Book Award 2012. The award honours the best of Asian writing in English.

 

Ching Yeung Russell on her book Bungee Cord Hair—

  • Why did you decide to become a writer?

When I have done school presentations in the states or overseas, students have often asked me, “Why did you decide to be a writer? I always tell them, “I wanted to be a writer not because I could write very well when I was young; and not because I dreamed of being a writer. It was only because of wanting to eat more bowls of dan lai (sweet egg custard).”

They always question me with wide eyes.

I explain to them, “When I was young, I lived in a very small town in southeastern China. There were rice paddies surrounding the town. I often saw the farmers working very hard, but they were still very poor. So I didn’t want to be a farmer. Instead, I wanted to be a saleslady when I grew up. I was only a fourth grader then. I thought being a saleslady was the only job I could do in that small town. It would be much more comfortable than being a farmer. Then, when I was an eighth grader, one of my schoolmates and I were talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I told her I wanted to be a saleslady. She cried, “Oh, no! You can be a writer, because Mr. Lee always praises you and says you write very well.”

That didn’t convince me, because I had never seen a writer before. Writers seemed to be far away, completely out of reach. But then she said, “In fact, if you become a writer, the government will give you a special coupon for a bowl of dan lai.”
My curiosity grew. “Why would I get a special coupon from the government for dan lai?”

She stated, “Because dan lai is made from milk. Milk is good for your brain. When you are a writer, you need to use your brain to think, to make up stories. That’s why you can apply to the government for a coupon for a bowl of dan lai.”
Before China started economic reforms about thirty-five years ago, rice, oil, sugar and other necessary items were rationed by the government. That’s why, even though you had the money, you might not be able to get what you wanted. I loved dan lai and I longed to eat another bowl. That’s why I exclaimed, “I don’t want to be a saleslady. I want to be a writer so I can eat more bowls of dan lai!”
I could never have thought that that childhood conversation would eventually lead to a career.

  • What made you decide to write Bungee Cord Hair?

When I left Hong Kong for the states, I missed Hong Kong very much. That’s why I wrote many poems about living in Hong Kong.  When I sent this manuscript to Lee and Low Publishers in the states, the editor, Jennifer Fox, suggested that I be more focused because the original work included many subjects. I thought about how readers always asked me why I decided to be a writer. That’s why I decided to focus on my writing from when I was 5 to age 12 for Tofu Quilt.

In fact, Bungee Cord Hair is the sequel to Tofu Quilt. Tofu Quilt received many honours and high praise, and my readers wanted to know more about my writing journey. That’s why I decided to work on Bungee Cord Hair, which is about my writing from ages 12 to 15. (Actually, some poems were already included in the original work about my life in Hong Kong.)

  •  Your other children’s novels were written in prose. Why did you decide to write Tofu Quilt as free verse poetry? 

I loved to write free verse poems in Chinese before I immigrated to the United States. I didn’t intend to write my original piece about my life in Hong Kong as free verse. I have never taken a class in English poetry writing. I don’t know any rules about English poetry, but it just naturally came into my head that way, in small stanzas.  Since Tofu Quilt was written this way, I wrote Bungee Cord Hair the same way.

  • Was it easy for you to publish your work in English?

No. It took me more than 15 years and I went through many frustrations to get my first book, First Apple, published in English. In order to learn how to write in English, I stopped writing in Chinese for 15 years!

  • What made you decide to write in English?

Because my husband couldn’t read my Chinese stories and he couldn’t share his thoughts with me about my Chinese writing.  Now I am going back to writing in Chinese, as well. I translated my first four novels about growing up in China into Chinese myself.

  • 15 years isn’t a short time. Have you ever thought of quitting publishing in English?

No. There are couple of things that kept me writing. I truly believed in myself – that I could tell a very interesting story. I also wanted to prove myself to my husband, who initially discouraged me by saying that I wouldn’t make it. Ever since I got a Parents’ Choice Gold Award for my first book, he has supported my writing 100%. He is my first editor for my English writing.

  • How do you handle writing in both languages? Which language is easier for you?  

Before I begin work on a Chinese story, I will read a long Chinese novel to let my brain get used to Chinese thinking. Then I will start writing, because the sentence structure of both languages is very different. Of course Chinese is much easier for me. It is my first language and in college I majored in Chinese Literature in order to prepare myself to be a Chinese writer. To tell you the truth, English is still very hard for me. I spend three times as much time writing in English as I do writing in Chinese, and I still need my husband to smooth out my English. That’s why he is my first editor. Then, of course, my editors give me tremendous help.

  • Are you working on a new project now?

Yes. It is about my struggle to learn English and publish in the US.

  • How do you get the inspiration for your work? 

Mostly, I get my inspiration from things that I know best, like my own stories. I know the sounds, the smells, the colours, the surroundings and how I felt. So I am able to put genuine feelings into the story.

  • What is your advice to aspiring authors?

Believe in yourself. Persist – don’t give up if you don’t have your work accepted at first- and work as hard as a water buffalo.

Ching Yeung Russell was born in China and later moved to Hong Kong, where she graduated from Hong Kong Baptist College with a major in Chinese Literature. She emigrated to the United States right after she got married. Her latest book, Tofu Quilt, of which Bungee Cord Hair is the sequel, received many honours in the States and was nominated for the Red Dot Children’s Book Award of 2011 in Singapore and the Sakura Medal of Japan (2011-2012). Besides writing both in Chinese and English, she also visits schools in the States and overseas. Read more about the author at http://chingyeung.homestead.com

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Pauline Loh on the writing of her Scholastic Asian Book Award winning novel, The Locked up Boy

Writing The Locked Up Boy

 

 

I wrote The Locked Boy in 2010 because I was hungry for a love story and I could not get my hands on one that I liked. I wrote it within a few weeks, but of course, the storyline was very rough.

 

In 2011, I decided to try for the Scholastic Asian Book Award competition. I anguished over the manuscript I would submit. It has to promote good values, be inspirational and universal, etc. With such a tall order, I developed just as big a mental block. My mind was blank.

 

Eventually, out of sheer determination, I bashed out a story on my keyboard. It had the elements on my checklist – it had a moral at the ending, was peppered with inspirational quotes and touched on universal values. There was one hitch… it was boring.

 

Of course, I did not think so myself. After all, I had slaved days and nights over it. But my writing group – established authors in their own right and selfless friends – prised the scales from my eyes. They squared their jaws and dished me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, with the steadfast belief that, though the truth hurts, it would be good for me.

 

Thus, with my manuscript in shreds, I returned to my blank computer screen. By the time the next writers’ meeting rolled around, I still had nothing to show. Out of desperation, I dug through my archives of half-baked stories and came out with The Locked Up Boy. I emailed it to my faithful friends and critics.

 

In the words of my writing partner, “I was so enthralled with the story, I forgot to feed my baby.”

 

There followed a few months of plugging holes and polishing lines. A lot of things in the story got changed, but Mui’s and Justin’s character stayed true throughout. I wanted to write about a girl who was pure, innocent, brave and selfless; and Mui is that girl. I admire her and wish I share her qualities. Failing that, I am glad that I have a chance to introduce Mui to the world.

 

Please enjoy The Locked Up Boy.   

 

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