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


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STOP PRESS! Instead of finishing one chapter book a month, I have finished FOUR!

Amazed? Me too :-D. All thanks to Story-A-Day Challenge. ‘Cos I look back at May 2014, and I see that I have written 30 fresh stories, or four independent compilations.

Now, I confess I may be exaggerating a little… because these are not complete stories. They are raw drafts.

It is a common misconception that writers produce beautiful books at first attempt… usually, it takes weeks if not months to edit/revise/polish a story. I definitely need to edit the stories I wrote last month for better dialogue, pacing, setting et al, but the all stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. And I can work with that!


Still, I have 30 stories, and 4 compilations, i.e.:

1. The Ark C/O Unicorn Avenue (5 new stories + FURRY LOVE, published by Hachette in 2010 + THE BALCONY CAT written in April for Short Story 12×12)

2. The Monkey’s Spear and other sci-myths (9 new stories + MONKEY’S SPEAR which was written in Jan this year)

3. Adventures of Naughty Narada (10 new stories – whoa!)

4. Tales from St. Tessa’s (6 new stories + THE BEAST THAT WASN’T, published by Hachette, 2010)

I am not great with titles and these are just working ones, so no snickering please!

Out of all four, The Monkey’s Spear and other sci-myths has the most complete drafts; that is, I don’t see any major plot or dialogue changes. Each story is less than 600 words, and told like a fable, so to my belief, they are ready to go out for crit. So, I shall consider it as my 5th book for CBC 12X12 challenge.

ready 2 serve

So here is where I am slightly deviating from my CBC 12X12 plan. There are 3 remaining short story collections, and I want to spend the next 3 months editing them and making them perfect.

Because after The Blank episode on May 31, I am afraid I may be at risk of a burn out. The danger is real – you don’t want to over-heat the Ole Brain. No way! Not when I am half done in CBC 12×12… so one compilation a month. I want to shape these raw drafts into pucca edited Second drafts, which can be sent to my trusty crit groups members for their valuable feedback.

It will be ideal… give me a month, and I can get them ready enough to send out for a new home. Wish me luck!

Story 31: Sapthapathi!

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One story. Just one more to win the challenge, and I was completely empty.

Seriously. Spent most of day blinking at the ceiling. Could not even ask my brain to think of a new story.

I couldn’t believe I was going to lose now, because of just one story… and you know desperate situations call for desperate measures…

So I dug through my old archives and found a story that was buried deep under the debris that’s my inbox. It was about a woman’s thoughts on her wedding day while the ‘Sapthapathi‘ ritual happens, i.e., taking 7 holy steps around the matrimonial pyre (you guessed it, I wrote it before I got married!).

D Curves.  Noise added.

But now, after two and half years in matrimony, I am wiser (both in subject matter and plot prowess!) and found a lot of bugs in the story to fix. So I kind of slashed the bugger open, did a through re-haul of the plot and edited the story.

YAY!!!!!! I WON, I WON, I WON!

Hopefully, I did NOT win by cheating :( :( :(

Well, even if I did, I now have 30 NEW STORIES that I didn’t have 30 days ago… holy moly!!!!! THANK YOU JULIE FOR BEING AN INSPIRATION!

Ayurveda and why you should go organic NOW

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In my previous post, I had talked about Ayurveda, how you are what you eat, and what we are eating right now is slow poison.When I was a child, we brought our local groceries at the local market. The road I grew up in Saidapet (till we moved to Velachery in 2010) was called Bazaar Road; we were just a few steps from the largest market in the neighborhood. From what I remember, a grocery shopping trip was almost like a ritual and it happened at least every other day (no fridge!).

You go in the early mornings for the freshest greens, the juiciest meat, the most tender crab. You move from one seller to others; who are actually squatting on the streets, their makeshift shops along the platforms, hawking as loudly and as lyrically as they could, each trying to drown the other’s voice. You bargain, you cajole, you weep at the prices, but end of the day, you come home with a satisfied grin which quickly turns into a frown when you realize that you have to prepare lunch for five in two hours.


Veggies, pulses, groceries… we bought them at individual shops, whose owners were more often than not long time acquaintances, whose own “land” and “farm” yielded their produces. Greens and fish would be fresh, and there would be a huge fallout if any grocer dared to give his “long time customer” something that is less than stellar quality.

Fast forward to 2000, when a modest financial windfall enabled us to shop in “super markets”, then a new concept. As my Granny said, “What… you pick everything by yourself? Then what are the shopkeepers for?”

But soon, the transition became inevitable… everything under the same roof? Home managers were delighted; no more multi-trips to buy the same stuff every month. To save on time and effort, it became first fashionable and then essential to shop at supermarkets.


Around this time, started my nearly two decade war with food allergies. Milk started to make me puke. I could drink coffee, milkshakes, buttermilk… but if I drink them every day, by the end of the week, I would be sick with a cold and cough. The term sinus infection was a bit alien at that time, but is a part of my life now.

Perhaps it is co-incidence. I don’t know. But I always believed that every action has a reaction. Something changed, when we stopped buying from the local market and started purchasing from departmental stores and supermarkets. Even if it is just my imagination, there is no arguing with the fact that food today is far less healthier than it was ever before.

So what to do when everything you buy is contaminated? Here is my 5-step solution:

1. Stop buying from the mega supermarkets. Cheap is NOT best. Cheap means mass-produced, tasteless, riddled with fertilizers and chemicals. Most of us, especially large families, buy everything by the dozen in big supermarkets, and have completely turned on to auto-pilot when it comes to food ingredient… we don’t even read food ingredients these days. Next time you see those carrots or greens at a cheap rate in your local ASD or COSTC or BIG BAZ, stop and think why they are so cheap :(

2. Cut down restaurant food to minimum. Fast food, hotel food, take away – NOT good, because they are businesses who will buy everything cheap so that they can make most profit with least investment. Processed and most non-organic food, especially when taken in excess, becomes slow poison. We are not only feeding ourselves, we are also feeding the next generation, a.k.a., tomorrow’s world. So, please, just stop for a minute, and think what you are feeding your son or daughter.

3. Educate yourself. Read about your food. Know what goes into your body. Participate in discussions – Topix has a good online forum about organic food. If you believe in holistic medical practices, visit a well-reputed Ayurveda consultant to get a personalized diet chart. If you have a food addiction program, go for detox. Empower yourself with awareness and pass it on to your family

4. Organic is the way to go. Your own organic vegetable garden, either in your balcony or terrace or back yard – SUPERB. Otherwise, your neighbourhood organic store or farmer’s market is the best choice. Yes, it is costlier… but really, what would you have – less money or less health? You can earn more money, but you CANNOT earn lost health or completely reverse diseases like cancer.

5. Believe that you can do it. This is the most important of all, you must believe and take action. A “what the heck, it’s all going to the dogs anyway” attitude is not going to help anybody! Like Gandhi said, be the change you want to see. With discipline and the right attitude, you can do anything. Read more about why you need to go organic here.


Yes, these changes are tough. But think of the dangers ahead… surely, a little hard work now is better than a truckload of pain and regret later?

Most people do not buy organic due to its (relatively) expensive… but I live in India and it is not expensive as such but difficult to get 100% organic stuff here; but the scene is slowly changing, with more and more organic outlets online. If you live in India, this link gives you a list of organic stores near your location.

The road to a any journey must start with the first step, in the right direction. You put one foot forward, and the other, and the other… and that’s how you make changes. I understand such a decision is not easy, but I hope you would be able to make some positive changes in your food purchases and lifestyle, because if we don’t, the alternative is too scary to think about. Good luck :)

List of Online Organic stores: