Mosquito and mice poetry and why you must keep writing

In 2010 I wrote a bunch of poems, collectively titled Tadpoles On My Toes and Other Experiences of a City-fied Kid. My first book Icky, Yucky, Mucky! wasn’t even published back then. The collection of poems centres around the thoughts, experiences and interactions with the world for a child growing up in urban India. It grew to close to eighty poems and I hoped and prayed that someone would turn the lot into a book. It hasn’t happened so far. I’d started off with the knowledge that publishing poetry can be notoriously difficult. But that’s the thing about being a writer. You have to write what you want to and often need to. You have to get the thoughts out of your system and onto paper. You hope that it will all come together and turn into a book. Sometimes, it works out. Other times, it doesn’t. While you hold onto the hope that a publisher will love what you’ve written, that it will fit in with their publishing direction and list, that publishing poetry will really not be as difficult as you are given to believe, you have to keep writing alongside. You don’t wait for your piece to get signed on before moving on to writing the next thing. You especially don’t stop writing if a piece doesn’t make it into a book. I filed away Tadpoles On My Toes and got on with putting pen to paper/fingertips to keys. Ever so often, I opened up the file and tweaked a word here, a line there. Five years and eleven books later, two poems from that collection titled Mosquito...

The joy of home turf

There is something special about reading in a familiar space, on a familiar platform – home turf, if I may. My reading this Saturday at Kitab Khana bookstore as a part of the Children’s Literature section of the Kala Ghodha Arts Festival was one such. With the excitement of limited edition early release copies of my fourth History Mystery, Razia and the Pesky Presents and accompanied by a very tall, very crazy fellow writer, Parinita Shetty as the Wazir and my enthusiastic daughter as a stable hand as we enacted one scene, it was a session I thoroughly enjoyed. From the efficient trio of Lubaina, Parinita and Rukhsar there with hugs of encouragement to knowing my space for the next hour – where I need to leap off an elephant back (a chair stood in for it), the placement of the makeshift palki, where partners in crime need to run to in order to pinch my nose… the stage is familiar ground. There are usually a few known faces amongst the children and new ones who bring much joy with an opportunity to introduce them to my books. From Mr.Jagat and other sales staff who wave out and tell me which books are moving well, always encouraging, always supportive, to the promise of cheese toasts and sweet and sour apple tea as a reward to self at the cafe, Kitab Khana and the Kala Ghodha Arts Fest brings much joy, year on year. I’m hoping to have another juicy book to tempt them into inviting me again next year. And while non-Mumbaikars need to wait till June for Razia and the Pesky...
What I’ve learnt in 50 readings

What I’ve learnt in 50 readings

I conducted my 50th book reading, yesterday!  I can still recall, rather vividly, the sheer terror that threatened to overtake me at the launch reading of Icky, Yucky, Mucky! at the Kala Ghodha Arts Festival in 2011. The moment when the tremor in my voice stopped and I was enjoying being Maharaja Icky, juggling rosogullas. Since then, I’ve published eight books across different age and genre and tailored readings to suit different groups. It has been a tremendous learning experience and even though I still get collywobbles the night before, the moment I am in front of a group of kids, everything else falls away away and I’m there to have fun.  So what have 50 readings helped me learn? School readings work differently from readings at festivals and in bookstores. In schools you read to a group that is homogenous in age, in a controlled environment conducive to a reading and where the children are in their comfort zones. At festivals and in bookstores, you have to account for a varied age group, a kid crying for his mother, late arrivals, kids kicking each other and higher ambient sound. Hence, they need to be planned differently. For readings at festivals and bookstores, I simplify, plan for it to work across a broader range of ages and work in shorter activities that I can pick from, during the reading. Unless you have an assistant, plan something you can manage yourself. However, don’t hesitate to ask for help from teachers and parents in distributing activity sheets, pencils, wobbly eyes and such. Have a backup for everything, even when you have asked for it –...
Get cracking! History Mystery code sheets!

Get cracking! History Mystery code sheets!

Am delighted to share the History Mystery code sheets as a do-at-home activity with your kids. Ashoka and the Muddled Messages features a mystery of Emperor Ashoka’s messages being muddled. In real life we had forgotten how to read the script that Emperor Ashoka had his messages written in. We had the mystery of the unreadable script! Along came James Prinsep, determined to decipher it, which he eventually did in 1837. Ashokan Brahmi is India’s earliest deciphered written script today. I’ve created a simplified code and created activity sheets based on letters from Ashokan Brahmi. Decode them and read shortened versions of some of Ashoka’s messages. Follow the link for the sheets and code: THE HISTORY MYSTERY CODE ACTIVITY.   Share...

History and mystery at my book launch at the Kala Ghodha festival

‘Pa-pa-papa-pa-papa-pa-paaaaa!  Dham-dham-dhadha-dham-dhadha-dham-dham!’ sounded out Kitab Khana bookstore yesterday at the launch of my new History Mystery series with Akbar and the Tricky Traitor and Ashoka and the Muddled messages. About the trumpets and the drums. Bring together a bunch of enthusiastic kids, make them jump into history with the makings of a mystery and they’ll trumpet and beat out the rhythm anywhere. As we pa-paaed and dham-dhammed together, it was time to reveal the strange ways of a writer’s mind. It was time to bring on to stage … THE THING! Kept carefully in a wooden box, covered with a regal red cloth, a brave soul came forth to hold the tongs (for it was rather doubtful whether THE THING had been washed in a  while) and pulled out … … THE SOCK! (At this crucial point, the photographer froze in shock and missed clicking the all important photograph. Be thankful … for the stench, even over the web, might have made you faint.) Ques: Where did the sock come from? Ans: A bag full of props at a Duckbill reading workshop. And then? Well … socks relate to feet that relate to footsteps that connects to the mystery in the Akbar book. I cannot say more for fear of giving the mystery away, but you can learn more about the books by clicking here. The children giggled through the introductory video to History Mystery. We followed it up with trick questions on the Super Six and the Tremendous Ten investigators and I read out the first chapter from Akbar and the Tricky Traitor. We then went on to the...