Lesson 2 of my picture book writing course!

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If you have always wanted to write picture books, perhaps this excerpt will help you sign up for my e-course. More details here.

Visual storytelling has existed from the time of ancient man!

Ever since Man decided to draw because it was easier than words (drawing did come before language), he has been passing on his stories and life experiences in the form of cave drawings, palm leaf scrolls, rock inscriptions and even sculpture. Once paper was invented, it was only natural that the leap from “wall” to “print” would eventually happen (much to the delight of children and adults!)



As writers, we are forever guided and cautioned by three timelines:

1. What came before us (the past)

2. What is currently with us (the present)

3. What is going to come from us, i.e., what we are going to create (the future)

Early picture books were mostly moral lessons, because at that time, the consensus was that children should be seen and not heard. It is a sad fact that even today, when children are about a thousand times more stimulated than olden times’ and have even more distractions, some writers consider that children’s stories should also be moral stories!


To know how times have changes, to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes, it is essential to know the past and the present – only then can we create a unique and relevant idea that has not been done to death. Keeping this in mind, here are two links that will give you an idea of the history behind picture books.

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/02/a-brief-history-of-childrens-picture-books-and-the-art-of-visual-storytelling/253570/ - This link is a comprehensive intro to the history of visual storytelling

http://www.picturingbooks.com/slides/picture-book-timeline.html - This is a terrific resource, complete with picture samples, of the styles of picture storytelling dating back to centuries.

The above two links will keep you happily entertained and infinitely wiser about the styles and storytelling themes prevalent in various decades of the past few centuries.


But this is the global history, right? What about the Indian perspective, you may wonder. Well, that constitutes tomorrow’s lesson :)

Today’s activity:

Read some classic picture books that are available free at this link - http://www.childrensbooksonline.org/library.htm

See what the themes usually are. Try to decipher the attitudes and the moral convictions of a society through the stories it has provided for its little members. It’s not necessary to submit a formal report, but do share your thoughts on what you feel about learning this history. 

Road trip!

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I plan retreats for writers and a favourite destination has been Pondicherry. My first retreat happened there and it holds a special place in my heart!

About 3 hours from Chennai, this piece of French-Indian town is a haven for artistic souls, looking for some creative inspiration or holistic R& R. I was there on Good Friday, on April 18 this year – the same day that is celebrated as World Heritage Day (bet you didn’t know that!).

It was a family trip and was fitting that we stayed in a heritage home. You can read my review of ESPARAN HERITAGE and see some pics here


Yep, that’s the French Quarter.

The trip was also kind of a recee plan to identify possible venues for my next writers’ retreat, tentatively scheduled for Independence day weekend.

Slots tend to get sold out pretty quickly, since I rarely take more than 4 writers in each retreat, so if you’d like to be put on a mailing list to know when these retreats will be announced, write to me at contact@childrenswriter.in 

Interviewed by The Downtown :)

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The Hindu has consistently covered my irregular trysts with limelight in the past decade, but this time, I’m proud to be talking about something that’s close to my heart – hosting Short Story Challenge 12×12.

You can read it here – http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-downtown/game-for-a-challenge/article5906244.ece



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I apologise for the unedited, incomplete and typo-laden draft post you received earlier – instead of SAVE, I pressed PUBLISH. I know, I know… I blame it on an all-nighter, trying to edit a chapter book for submission :(.

Head in Hands

I slipped!


Hopefully, you will forgive me and read the now-complete blog post at 

Thanks for your understanding!

License to Daydream

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My family is religious and I help out every day at pooja. It is a favorite time, not for obvious reasons – but because it gives me time to daydream!

I do a lot of my “storystorming” there… while my hands are busy doing the routine stuff it is now used to do everyday, my mind is alert and churning out story ideas. Most of March’s chapter book plot was created while I put flowers on idols.

Fitting, I guess… for a writer, craft is her God and her commitment to create every singe day, is her pooja.

tool to worship

The Camphor holder

This is an art most writers have mastered. Writing time is fleeting and precious enough that if you also add plot planning or churning to that, you will takes years to finish your book.

So we end up plot-planning in all odd places… the waiting areas in clinics, the endless queues in malls or offices, all those times where you are physically tied and resting but mentally you are alert and can’t bear to go to sleep… these are the times a writer naturally does her storystorming and what if? scenes and holds monologues with her muse. But of course, you cannot practice this in certain situations like:

1. Driving - This is the No. 1 reason I don’t drive, in spite of knowing how to. My Dad offered to buy me a car a decade ago and I refused him, and I still refuse everyone’s advice that I get a car. I don’t want to end up hurting myself, my car or, horrors, some poor person on the street.

It’s one thing to be a slob and a Liberal (more on these soon!). It’s another to be an irresponsible driver. I’d rather spread my energy and time in doing something else.



Plus I am a capitalist. Why drive when you have readymade drivers (a.k.a taxis and public transport) out there?

And I am also selfish. Driving eats up time, and pretty soon it will end up eating my writing time, so I have refused to drive for a long time (my husband says I will, one day, when there is necessity. Well, till then, I will enjoy my driving-free life!)

2. Family Time - I am ashamed to admit that I do think of stories, even when I am spending time with my family. I am such an idea-monger that my mind constantly scourges for ideas and seeds from daily life. I get most of my ideas from real life, so no wonder my muse is trained to locate good ideas from each and every frame of a typical day. But I am trying not to do this! Because it is easy to miss life if you get sucked up in any one good thing.

3. Writing – Ah, yes. I used to do this a lot and only now I have trained my muse NEVER to woolgather or brainstorm while writing. There is a time to create and a time to write.

When you allocate time to write, just do that… books are written by writers, not dreamers :)

writing love

Do it bcos you love it.

Editing Your Chapter Book – Guest post

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ChaBooCha is short for Chapter Bookwriting Challenge. Author Rebecca Fyfe hosts it every March; the goal being, you guessed it, to write a chapter book in a month.

Since I was attempting to write a chapter book every month this year – and boy is it tougher than I ever thought it would be! – I was invited to write a guest post in the official ChaBooCha site. I talk about the process that I employ to get a raw draft to a readable draft – and why it is essential to edit your first draft two times before you send it for critiques.

Here’s the link - http://chapterbookchallenge.blogspot.in/2014/03/editing-your-first-draft-by-radhika.html

editing first draft

Let’s use that one to edit!

Book 3 of CBC 12X12: DONE!

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title: The Diary of DDLJ

plot: Can DDLJ the dog ever come to trust a transit owner, a deceitful one at that?

words: 5950

status: THE END! For CBC 12×12, three books completed, 9 to go!

Lessons learnt from this month’s chapter book:

1. I bought Scrivener for $20 on a special promo, then discovered a free outlining system called LitLift. Together, they have made my projects so much easier (and my desktop so much cleaner). Even if you are not interested in the former, try getting a free m’ship at LitLift. It’s fantastic for keeping all your WIP info and outlines in one place.


2. Even though nobody else is on CBC 12×12 challenge with me (NO SURPRISE!), I found that the participants’ posts and guest articles at ChaBooCha really pepped me up. No matter how disciplined or strong (you think) you are, you always need some extra cheery and I’m glad I signed up ChaBooCha’s FB support group. There was a sluggish slump mid-month, and the daily word count reminders on the FB group kept me from slacking too much!

3. I was highly reluctant to write the story of DDLJ, because while I like dogs well enough, I’m a dedicated cat lover. So, I was very surprised when I discovered that I had no problem writing from a dog’s perspective. I understood that I don’t have to be dog expert to write a doggy story – a dog manual, yes, it requires a certain expertise, but to write a story with a dog in it, all I need is the willingness to do some research.

Moral: Don’t keep feeling afraid. Just dive in and learn to swim!


Credit: alikins / Photopin.com