Book 2 of CBC 12X12 = DONE!

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CBC 12×12 update – Feb month’s chapter book IS….. COMPLETE!

Phew. I am not saying it was difficult. It was crazy. Because I tried to write a chapter book in Tamil (my mother tongue), and – I hate it when this happens – it made me realize that I am all that – NOT.

I was originally scheduled to work on another book, but perhaps I should accept that the list is going to be redundant. Because my muse is listening to no list now. She writes what she wants to write. And she wanted to write HOME BEFORE DARK in my mother tongue, and that’s what I did… in FREEHAND.

Not for the fainthearted. Double phew.

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Credit: Slaff / Photopin.com

You may notice that the last couple of weeks I had re-blogged other posts a lot. Because I was not online, I was manually writing my story! I didn’t have tamil keyboard, so there was no choice really… and I salute everyone, the bestselling authors of yesteryears especially, who wrote their masterpieces in freehand.

Some things I learned while writing this month’s chapter book:

1. I thought I should be faithful to the language and translate it as is. Of course, I was also lazy – it’s easier to blindly translat (no thought process involved!). But when I attempted to, it didn’t feel right. My head actually started aching, and I felt very, very bored.

2. So I did the next best thing. I had an advantage over your garden variety translator – I was also the author of the book. I threw away the english copy, and started writing the story in tamil. To my surprise I found that this was much easier than translating. Since I was not forced to to stick to the blueprint, the freedom to change/fine-tune incidents, scene sequences, and character portrayals was exhilarating.

2. HOME BEFORE DARK is the story of a cat’s journey through Chennai, my home town, so while writing the Tamil version, I didn’t have to think too hard for setting and description… I could assume that Tamil readers know what I am talking about (while writing the English version, I had to constantly keep in mind that the book had to be understood by non-Tamil speaking readers, and write accordingly).

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Credit – Immagina / Photopin.com

3. I didn’t want to use unruled notebooks (I end up doodling the entire page with baby eyes and flowerpots), so I started to write in a ruled notebook. But whatdayaknow, I just couldn’t stand those lines – they were like barriers to my thought process and they made me sleepy (yes, I know, something is not right in my head. But that’s another post). So I went back to unruled books.

4. I had FUN renaming my characters! Gramps became Perusu, Tracks became Signal, 190 became Nooradi and Unicorn Enclave became Myna Apartments. My fellow Tamilians will appreciate this point better :). Another lesson… if I explain every little thing, the essence is lost, sigh.

5. The finished book had the same plot as the english version, but not the same dialogues. Not even the same tone. It was slightly different from the original version, in a better way.

Moral of the Month: I should start writing in my mother tongue.

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Workshop report #1 – Feb 23, 2014

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Feb 23 marked the first date of this year’s writing workshops from Smara Creative Escapes.

Six confirmed, but only 4 were able to make it; still, it was a good audience. All but one were budding writers, and everyone was eager to learn about the art and craft of children’s writing.

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The arena….

As I interacted with the participants, I was once again reminded of how awesome it is to share your craft with others. You can bet I am planning to do it more often and in a much bigger scale!

Here is what Vallabi, illustrator and budding writer, said: “Thank you so much for an informative & interesting workshop yesterday.  It has inspired me to write regularly now.”

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…with warriors 🙂

Many thanks for Art n Soul for hosting the workshop.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS / INFOMINARS

If you need more information, please contact me.

Why All Writers Should Attend a Writing Conference

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I attend conferences, whenever I can, wherever I could find any, which is tough, given that I live in India (most of the time) and it is crazy tough to afford the flight fare from here to anywhere that hosts a decent conference. I started my career all thanks to a writing conference, and over the years, I have found that investing in a conference at right time pays off in unexpected ways. Here is an article by Kristen Lamb on why all serious writers should attend a writing conference.

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Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons

Writing conferences are extraordinarily valuable. We work in a creative field and sure, we can sit at a keyboard and write a book. But, without training and guidance, we can make our path to successful publishing far longer than it might have been with outside expert help. We open ourselves to learning by trial and error, which can cost time, money and be a real ego beating.

I joke that I should have called my social media book, I Did All The Dumb Stuff So You Don’t Have To. I did everything wrong. I believed because I was “smart”, I didn’t need help.

Yeah.

When it came to writing a novel, I spent four years trying to fix a train wreck. With social media, I spent two years undoing building a brand under a cutesy moniker. When it came to blogging, I blogged for a…

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POETRY WRITING TIPS – POST 1 – WITH SHERRYL CLARK – Villanelles and Pantoums

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I knew Sherryl as a fellow batchmate during the 2004 Annual Children’s Writers Conference at Chautauqua (upstate NY). She is a prolific Aussie children’s writer and here, she tells you how to write villanelles and pantoums (poetry styles) for kids and adults. To know more, please check out Sherryl’s poetry website for children and teachers at http://www.poetry4kids.net

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POETRY WRITING TIPS

I’ve had a number of questions from people looking for writing tips about poetry. So I called on the expertise of some of my very talented poetry writing colleagues, and they’ve generously agreed to share their knowledge here over the coming months in a POETRY WRITING TIPS blog post series.

My first guest poet is Sherryl Clark who writes amazing verse novels and poetry plus many other things.  Sherryl was also my teacher at the Victoria University Professional Writing & Editing Diploma course I completed, and I learned so much from her.

Sherryl  has a poetry website for children and teachers at www.poetry4kids.net Her latest novel is Dying to Tell Me (Australian edition) and her author website is at www.sherrylclark.com She also has a site that provides information and help for writers at www.ebooks4writers.com

And if you’re in Victoria, you’re invited to the launch of Sherryl’s latest…

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Actively Seeking Talented Children’s Writers and Illustrator

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Rodeen Literary Management (Chicago) is actively seeking talented writers and illustrators of all genres of children’s literature including picture books, early readers, middle-grade fiction and nonfiction, graphic novels and comic books as well as young adult fiction and nonfiction.

Please review the submission guidelines (clicking on the link below is HIGHLY recommended!) and send your work electronically to submissions@rodeenliterary.com

Writing and Illustrating

LHernandez_Wolf This fun winter illustration was sent in by Author/illustrator, Leeza Hernandez. So nice to see someone enjoying this winter in the snow. Leeza was featured on Illustrator Saturday on June 30th 2012. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/illustrator-saturday-leeza-hernandez-2/

BACKGROUND: In 2001, Paul Rodeen went to work for Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. in NYC. In 2004, Paul moved back to his home state of Illinois where he opened up a small satellite office in Chicago for Sterling Lord Literistic, Incorporated. Between 2004 and 2008, Paul expanded his list of clients to include over a dozen talented writers and illustrators of picture books, middle grade novels and young adult fiction. Author/illustrator Peter Brown, was Paul’s first client at Sterling Lord and Peter is still with him today. This group of talented artists became the backbone of what would become Rodeen Literary Management.

In late 2008, with much encouragement from his clients, editors, publishers and other agents, Paul Rodeen   established Rodeen Literary Agency…

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What I learned from JKR

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In 2007, when J K Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay, I was a bit…. confused. What does Dumbledore being gay has anything to do with the story?

I am pro-LGBT and sure, I want to live in an ideal world with equal rights for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation but I just don’t get it why the multi-millionaire author had to reveal that information AFTER the entire series was completed. It’s not like it was going to make any positive impact anywhere, either in Harry’s fictional universe or in the real world.

I have one more gripe – in the above link, it is reported that when JKR made the announcement, the audience broke into applause and later her comment was “if she’d known that would be the response, she’d have revealed her thoughts on Dumbledore earlier.” Really? So an author, even a bestselling one, is under the compulsion to draw a character based on  readers’ approval??!!

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In my opinion, that declaration was clearly given as an afterthought, just so that the book become politically correct. A very cynical part of me even wonders if it is a clever PR move saying, oh look, we are not ostriches, the Harry Potter books DO have a gay character!  Of what use is post-published trivia?

And (I assume) most of us loved the pairing of Ron and Hermione. It’s a classic case of opposites attract and it also conveyed (young) people around the world that you don’t have to be super-duper yourself to win the love of a super-duper girl (and vice versa of course 😉 ). Underdogs rule! But now, sigh, she has to go and wreck it too.

So what is this? Creator’s remorse? An idea for writers keen on alternate universe fiction? Or a simple marketing ploy to generate some buzz now and then?

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Obviously, there’s a lesson in this. Hindsight. A powerful and alas, often absent trait in most mortals. The other day I had to submit my story thrice to my critique group – yes, THREE documents of the same story on the same day – because I did not check the version properly. If I had done this to an editor, my manuscript would have stayed in the slush pile forever.

There are SO many things that we do in haste and repent in leisure. Wavering between two climaxesSending a query with mistakes. Sending a manuscript without several revisions or without getting it beta-tested. I’ll never forget misreading the deadline of a contest and spend close US$125 on Blue Dart charges, only to have an email telling me that they cannot accept my submission as the deadline had already passed. A costly and bitter experience to impart a simple lesson.

So, next time you write a story, please check if you have done everything you as the author should do, and then submit it. Or at least, after you became a successful author, refrain from alarming your readers with alternate endings!

Introducing Short Story 2: CHRYSALIS

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Chrysalis is my first YA short story, and the second story I wrote this year for Short Story 12×12 challenge. The submission call from Dark Hearts served as a writing prompt, and what started as a fantasy piece evolved into a contemporary drama and the prologue of a series I plan to write about three teenagers with touch choices to make (next year’s Big Project!).

Attempting this story reminded me of the vast spectrum in children’s literature. I am grateful to be blessed with the interest and aptitude in writing in so many sub-genres… I started as a picture book writer, wrote early reader/retellings of classics and fables, completed a chapter book last year, and have currently outlined three novels – a tween comedy, a upper middle grade epic fantasy and a new adult steampunk (overcompensation much?).

The only book missing from my TO DO list seemed to be an anguish-filled school drama and CHRYSALIS provided the ideal background for that.

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For quite some time, I had been thinking of writing a story based on the ‘real’ teenagers of Chennai. No lovable vampires, no flying broomsticks, just raw, adolescent confusion and chaos. Anjana, the protagonist, came to me fully formed, a hitherto-sheltered teen who falls utterly in lust with the most troubled boy in school. Here’s an excerpt from CHRYSALIS:

It’s been happening ever since the year started. The lies. The stories. The rumors. One minute we were worrying about Botany practicals, and the next minute the grapevine is agog with the news. Dhaval proposed to Susan in the parking lot. Sridar intercepted Nandhita when she was walking home and gave her a rose. Somebody saw someone kissing. Hearts were on show, inside and outside the school grounds. Everybody is out, to hunt and be hunted.

I am not invited.

I don’t know why, though. I am not fat. I have good skin, in the color of fresh broken wheat, even though my hair’s a bit frizzy and my eyes are too small. My best friend Kayal, on the other hand, is short, dark, plump, freckled and completely dumb. But unlike me, she is bombarded with proposals. So are a lot of other girls in my class.

I look at myself carefully. What’s lacking? Don’t I have the goods? What are they doing, what signal are they sending out, that I am not?

“Anju! Anju! Open the door… what are you doing inside?”

Shit. Mother. The One who insists I come home straight from school, not realizing that school itself is the danger zone. I dress hurriedly, and open the door. “Why is the door locked?” she asks, sniffing the air.

I want to laugh. She thinks I have been smoking.

“I was trying that new skirt Periamma gave me,” I reply and point at the discarded clothes on the floor. Convinced, my mother leaves the room and takes up the Kitchen Queen role. Soon, the king of the house would be home and hot pakoras should be waiting on the dining table.

It is almost July, yet there is no sign of monsoon at all. I enter the shower to get rid of this sickly, sticky feel on my skin. Water falls on my head, hot and hellish. I yelp; it is so hot outside that the tap water is boiling. As I close the shower valve, I hear my mother saying: “The priest said it was a special pooja. The Goddess is so enraged she has cursed this city with unending heat; each of us donated a litre of sacred liquids to cool her down.”

I imagine a shower of fresh milk and wild honey and tender coconut nectar on my skin. I feel delicious. And hungry.

The bell rings. That’s Father. The One who changes the channel when a kissing scene comes on, yet forgets to log out his internet sessions. He comes in, looking tired. In the morning, he leaves with an anxious face. I have only seen him wear these two expressions. When he looks at me, a third adds on. Confusion.

At dinner, I pick at my food. Dad watches the sports channel. Amma and Paati exchange banalities and clever barbs, a battle that started long before I was born and would end only after one of them dies. I am bored, so I think about Kayal and her new boyfriend. The one who bites her. 

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