How Teaching Makes You Better at DOING

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That old age – Those who can’t, teach – annoys me. I do a lot in my life, with the time I have in my hands, with the brain God has given me. And I love to teach. Does that make me a loser? I hope NOT!

Now, I am not saying I have academic credentials to teach (I probably never will, since I am now wired to only write, not study!) but I have several years’ experience in my field of expertise and it warms my heart to help others who are at the bottom of the ladder. Just my bit to make their journey a little easier.

Not only that, every time I hold a workshop, I learn something new from the participants. I am always amazed when that happens – the teacher becomes the student. The synergy happens, and its both humbling and exhilarating. In my opinion, if every qualified person in India tries to mentor just one fledgling under his wing, we would be a super power in no time.

Right, so that fantasy aside, here is an article on why How Teaching Makes You Better at DOING. It’s by Sudipta Barden-Quellen, an accomplished children’s writer and my old batch mate from the 2004 Highlights Conference in New York. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Writing for Kids (While Raising Them):

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

IMG_5422 (1)It’s back to school season here in New Jersey (or, outside Philadelphia, as I typically refer to it) and that means big changes in my household. All summer, my kids and I are bums. We hang out at the beach, at the pool, at the mall. We travel, we sleep in, we do nothing. Summer is heaven.

But come September, my children’s lives change. Gone are the no schedule, no stress days and in their place we have wake up alarms, agenda books, and deliverables (and, it seems, a LOT of laundry!). The kids aren’t the only ones who go back to school—as a children’s book author, the school year means that I go back to school as well.

Every year, between school visits, Skype visits, and events like Dot Day or World Read Aloud Day, I connect with about 100 different schools all around the world…

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WriteOnCon (Aug 26-27, 2014)

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So what if you are too busy (or too broke) to attend a writers’ conference? WriteOnCon is a totally free, interactive online Writer’s Conference held annually during the summer.

DATES: Aug 26 and 27, 2014

WHAT IS IT?: WriteOnCon has been designed to give attendees many of the features of a live writer’s conference, but in an online environment. It connects writers with both industry professionals and fellow peers from the convenience of their own homes. Critique forums allow writers to receive feedback and exposure for their work. For more info, visit


HOW TO ATTEND: To attend the live events all you need to do is go to at the time of the event.

HOW TO ACCESS TRANSCRIPTS: If you are not able to attend the Conference live, no problemo – you can visit and read the transcripts

Excerpts from the FAQ:

  • WriteOnCon really is 100% free to attend. Like them on their FB link at
  • This is a free conference, and a lot of the information applies to all writers, so the more the merrier
  • You will need to register at in order to use the critique forums. Other than that, all of the tools you’ll need to participate will be available on the website.
  • The critique forums are limited to kidlit categories (picture books, middle grade, and YA) but the live events, blogs, and vlogs are open to everyone.

For more details, go to 

Productivity Tools for Writers

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I cannot live without Google Calender. Or my E-Checklist on my phone. And that’s about as tech savvy as I can get, lol. I do have a scrivener sitting in my inbox, but the day after I bought the mac version , my iMac died and went to Apple Heaven, and I am currently working on a PC. Somethings are just not meant to be.

Here are some more productivity tools for writers!

Originally posted on Live to Write - Write to Live:

Screen captures of GQueues (desktop and mobile), Harvest and BoomerangTechnology plays an important role in all of our lives. I’m always interested in what’s new and trying to implement the latest advancements so I can do more in less time. I’ve recently started using a few new services and I wanted to share my experiences with you.


I am always looking to improve my time management skills especially capturing new tasks and prioritizing them. I’ve tried all manor of software and even as recently as 2 months ago, I was using a hybrid online-paper solution. Then a client turned me on to GQueues. Although not a Google product, you must have a Gmail account to make use of GQueues.  It is billed as “A full-featured online task manager for your Google Account and Google Apps account”. GQueues is fine as a stand alone task manager. It’s Getting Things Done friendly and similar to other online task…

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Kidlit Genres: Trends Survey 2014

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To all my readers (and students!) who want to know what’s hot and what’s not in kidlit genres, here is a Trends Survey from leading Editors & Agents. It’s a global perspective, so Indian readers need not take it as the gospel… still, it’s a good yardstick, isn’t it?

Originally posted on Writing and Illustrating:

artshowAngela Padron NJ SCBWI art show FINALThe NJSCBWI Art Show Continues: I think you will enjoy this cute little sea monster in this illustration by Angela Padron. Angela was born and raised in Freehold, NJ but moved to Florida in 2002. For over 15 years, Angela taught bilingual, ESL, Spanish, and Art in public schools before becoming a freelance writer and illustrator. Now she writes and illustrates children’s books, including board books, picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels.

Below is the slide I made up after tallying the answers to the survey I sent to a total of 38 editors and agents. I asked each whether they thought the genres below where increasing, decreasing, or staying the same and if they expected this to continue for the next year.

GenreTrendsCheck back tomorrow for more details.

Talk tomorrow,


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June story: FUGLY

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My June story is about the quintessential tortured hero who hurts the love of his life.

Are you surprised? Me too! Never knew I had it in me to write for adults ;).

FUGLY (no relation to the movie) was born from two things:

1. This article that talks about subverting the fairy tale.

2. My own questions about art, commitment and love.

Fiction (at least the kind of fiction that I write) does have a few elements of truth. It is extremely difficult to create a world out of nothing. A writer needs to have a repertoire of observations and general knowledge, from which she can occasionally pull out a much-needed rabbit when the story is not going anywhere. I have never met any artist-in-residence, but I have planned writing retreats and taught a course on applying for writing residencies, so it was easy to borrow some of the homework.   3313545940_d7271a3249 The hero, Anand, is a figment of my imagination, but based on a typical fast-talking, commitment-phobic artist. There are so many books out there with this stereotype, that I had to jump in the same pool.

There! I just confessed that I had drafted a character based on a character written by another author. Is this plagiarism? I hope not. Anand was born from my perceptions about art and creativity and relationships and human fallible. Those impressions are mine alone.

When the spark came to me to subvert the Beauty and the Beast tale, Beauty became a Plain Jane with Money and Beast was turned into a handsome and poor artist. Initial reactions to the story (from my critique group) were encouraging, though a few were shocked about the immoral theme. Well, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction. And it did help that I personally know of quite a few men (and women) in the creative field, who in the name of art and immortality, would sacrifice almost everything.

See? You need people. Talking from a very cold-blooded point of view, you need them if you want to write anything interesting. They are the ones who will replenish the well of creativity that exists in you. If you are a writer, you need people. Period. The ‘reclusive genius writer’ is a myth. The fodder comes from people. You have to form opinions and perspectives about the people in your life and those you met at work or play or whatever.

So, next time you see some one, don’t just look at them. See. See into their soul, see through their eyes, beyond that sheet of skin that’s the best mask of all.

14114680307_e8c94e6338 FUGLY ends with Beauty hurt by the Beast, and I would like to develop it in a bigger canvas, perhaps a NA novella, or, god willing, a novel. Meanwhile, here is an excerpt:

I am no monogamist. You can’t demand that from an artist, from a creator. I need a lot of chalices, a lot of palettes, a lot of source material. And no innocents please. From purity, you can’t do shit.

But creation is flawed. I accept that. Everything I create, I deliberately make one flaw, so that nature does not make one on behalf of me. My mentor, Rana Malhotra who heads ArtSutra Foundation, says that it will be my trademark.

Biggest mistake in my creation? Born in the wrong time, in the wrong family, hell, in the wrong century too. As my mother was fond of saying, I was the Boy Who Lived (But Killed Her Husband). She was a fat bitch too.

Funnily, apart from girth, there is nothing that Nina and my mother share. When I met her first, I exhibited all the contempt I feel for my fleshier counterparts in the world. Yes, I judge people on appearance, so, sue me – how else are you going to judge someone then, if not on their inability to maintain their body?

I am an artist. I abhor people who do not maintain beauty and proportion. Still I hit on Nina. I was a bit cautious – at least in the beginning. She was from ArtSura, so perhaps I shouldn’t have shat where I ate. But… hindsight is always perfect and useless.

How would I know she was Malhotra’s niece? 11957558626_18b9f5e519 Actually, it was Malhotra himself who had sent her to transcribe my art into some blog for the Foundation’s records. “Let her help you,” he had written in his email. “It’s time you had your own website, and ArtSutra needs some PR stuff to secure more funding.”

I had made all the right noises. I am old school easel and paint so I just couldn’t get this social media shit. “It’s only a few more months for your debut show, and I want the marketing to start their work early,” he had said. “Nina is a bright girl; she will do a great job. Just co-operate, okay?”

Put like that, I could not refuse. He was a kindred spirit as well, he understood artists, their temperaments, their fragile equilibrium. He had saved me from a dismal existence as a day worker in some hole in the wall outfit, given me a once-in-a-million opportunity… I would have said yes if he had sent a pair of snot-nosed devils to do the deed.

I should have known, though. Malhotra was an old dog, the crafty brain behind a number of businesses in India and abroad. Everything he did had an ulterior motive. The reason he was paying my rent and living expenses was because he saw something in my art that even I haven’t seen so far. So perhaps, I should have looked closer.

But really, how was I to know?

*This is primarily a children’s/YA writer’s blog, but from now on, I will also post excerpts and news about my foray into new adult genre, as long as it about the art/craft of writing fiction.

Why you should beta test your draft

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When I completed HOME BEFORE DARK, I couldn’t wait to get everyone to read it. You know, my parents, my childhood friends, my writer friends, my teachers from school and college, their friends and family, and so on.

Well, that is not a good expectation to have. Because a first draft is never the right sample you should give your first readers.

In my case, I was so desperate for feedback that as soon as I typed THE END, I sent the ms out to the poor souls who volunteered to read it. Almost all of them gave positive feedback. They also said that glaring grammar errors distracted them.

Oh the shame! Surely, I should have had the foresight to give them a clean, spell-checked draft? Why oh why was I so, so impatient?

ID-100129640 (1)

But it’s only natural, isn’t it? You complete a story and for a brief moment, you are close to God – after all, you created something out of nothing. You feel euphoric, invincible, and you wish to get affirmation of that fact. You wish others to validate your invincibility. (Which is another post, really).

What you should also remember – your reader’s time is precious. She deserves to be given the perfect draft, so that she can give you the perfect feedback. Feedback on plot and pacing and characterization. Not about grammar or malapropism or format errors. Which, I guarantee you, your first draft will have.

That is why I ask writers to wait at least a month after writing their raw draft (this is the story that you purge out of your mind and onto the pages), to do a basic edit and only then, the first draft emerges. A draft that you should edit as much as possible, check for grammar/spelling errors and let another month go by… and only then should you start to look for readers.


So, back to the topic – why you should never submit your story to a publisher without letting at least 10 pairs of eyes see and evaluate it first?

So you may know what you are doing wrong.

So you may know what you are doing wrong via the words of a peer or a stranger, rather via a rejection note from an editor.

So you may know what you are doing wrong, without spending $$$ on professional classes or critique services, and also develop a network of fellow readers and writers.

Are these reasons compelling enough? No? You want more? Here are a few articles that will help you:

What is a beta reader and why you need one

How to work with a beta reader

How to find beta readers for your unpublished manuscript 


Image credit: / africa