Book 4: TRACKS ON A TRAIN

Comment 1 Standard

Plot: Can Tracks the station cat overcome his fear of trains and save the day?

Words: 7450

Status: THE END! For CBC 12×12, four books completed, 8 to go!

Yep, this is the book I was supposed to write in January 2014. I am a little more than 100 days late, but better late than ever, huh?

cat1

This scene actually appears in the book!

Lessons learnt from this month’s chapter book:

1. Writing from memory is a great starting point, but you need to really do some location travel and research if you want your book to be authentic. I actually thought I would be able to write a full length chapter based on my still-clear recollections of train travels as a child and an young adult!

Once I saw how hollow some of my descriptions felt, I had to actually spend a few hours in Saidapet Train station (the main setting of this story) and and take the train from there to the main train station of Chennai, called as the Central, where the climax happens (at the hour of writing this post, there were twin bomb blasts at Central 😦 ). It was the best decision, because times have changed – it had been some years since I took a train (in India), and I was able to appreciate and keep in mind the differences and evaluate how they should be played out in the tale.

2. A small minority called the Kuravas, commonly referred as Sparrow Hunter in my mother tongue, form a big part of this story. I was raised to fear them (Helicopter parents, please desist!) so it took some time for me to step away from my prejudiced mind, but once that happened, I was able to really do justice to them in my story. I also got to learn about the real plight of the Kurawas and am exploring options how to help them, at least passively (my skills as a scribe come to mind!)

3. A little bit every day goes a long way. I wrote this book a page a day, a paragraph the next day and so on – and as a result, it is a hot mess that needs a lot of editing, but hey… at least I have something to edit! – because April was swamped with deadlines – with a new job, my writing time has shrunk drastically but funny thing is, I was now forced to “make” time instead of just searching for and finding it, and by God! If you can really are determined, you can indeed make time for anything you want to do  🙂

So, if ever you meet me somewhere, some time, don’t EVER tell me that you’d have written a book too, if only you had the time!

 

cat2

This is Tracks’ pen friend, who lives in an isolated train station in the Scottish Highlands (info from her FB profile)

How about a story a day?

Comments 2 Standard

StoryADay is a creativity challenge to write, well, a short story every day during May.

Here’s the signup page – http://storyaday.org/about. And the FAQ – http://storyaday.org/faq

I am a proud (and nervous) participant this year. What do I have to lose? Nothing!

Except for an hour or two a day… which is the time taken to write the raw draft of a short story (since my stories rarely cross 2000 words and I type about 4 pages an hour if I forget to be lazy, I hope that’s is a reasonable statement to make!)

d1

 

Plus, I have noticed that the more you push yourself, the more your endurance increases and your excuses disappear. Proof? Me – I am writing a short story AND a chapter book every month. 

The StoryADay challenge is to get you do a marathon sprint for a month, and let you know who the boss is in your creative process – you or your muse (hint: the right answer is NOT the latter).

If you have 30 hours to spare or the creativity to make time work for you, join the this challenge. Even if you do not succeed, you will have 30 half-complete drafts that can be completed over the course of the next eight months (for most of us, time is not the enemy – procrastination is. You will still come out with something that did not exist before you joinedBut if you win… think about it, that would a reason to party all night!

d2

All you need to do is write a complete story every day. You can do it from anywhere, and use a PC, a notepad, or your favorite black board. You don’t have to upload your stories on the site or prove anyway that you are succeeding. In any case, only YOU are accountable for your challenges, and it is nobody else’s responsibility to monitor you!

You don’t even have to sign up if you don’t want to. The creator of StoryADay, Julie Duffy, has made it so that you can be as involved or as detached as you wish. If you had to fight nail and tooth to get that one hour every day, then it is understandable that you won’t have the bandwidth to do anything else  :). But, if you are curious, take a look at the site – it is inspiring, to say the least. 

And if Neil Gaiman Himself has given a stamp of approval, then you know you ought to at least attempt it and see where it takes you 🙂

Lesson 2 of my picture book writing course!

Leave a comment Standard

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!)

1

 

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!

2

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.

3

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!

Comments 2 Standard

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

pondy

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 :)

Leave a comment Standard

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

profile

Blooper!

Leave a comment Standard

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

Comment 1 Standard

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.

Yeehaw!!!

Yeehaw!!!

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.