Posts made in August, 2014

So You Think Writing for Children is Child’s Play?

“But will this establish you as a serious writer?” a well-meaning friend of a colleague asked her when she confessed that she was working on a children’s book for her debut as a writer. And this is really the standard assumption about children’s literature. Very often, it is dismissed as simple, non-serious, and easy to write. But  anyone who takes out time to read children’s literature – and many adults do so simply because it is gratifying in a literary sense and fun to read at any age – would know that there is much more to this art and it absolutely deserves to be respected a lot more. It isn’t only about fairy tales and lessons in morality. It is much, much more. To begin with, writers of children’s books carry huge responsibilities on their shoulders. Their writings introduce children to the world of books and God forbid if it is uninteresting, it may put the little ones off reading forever. And children are smart, they expect a lot from the books they read. One 8-year-old girl I sent one of my stories for review got back to me with comments like “the story is interesting and kept me engaged”. They can sense dilemmas, conflicts, and struggles the characters of the stories deal with and are smart enough to see through any loopholes the writer may have inadvertently overlooked. Whatever you do, you can never take these young readers lightly. And you also have to be careful of the content you are presenting to the kids. Smart though they are, they are still too young for some topics. Moreover, something that is suitable for a 6 year old may be too childish for a 8 year old, and a young adult or a teenager may look at the literature meant for younger children with disdain. So a writer who takes up writing for children needs to be sure which age-group he or she is writing for. But one also has to be vary of dumbing down the story too much. Children are more perceptive than we give them credit for, and a simplistic, didactic book may not make the cut with them.  Mortality and grief are as real to them as to us, and tougher. Occasionally  an accomplished children’s writer comes along and deals with these subjects with such finesse that readers are left in awe. One such children’s writer is David Almond. He has written several books that deal with complicated issues such as bereavement, loneliness, grief, abandonment, and isolation, and all in children’s books. His book My Name is Mina is one such intriguing story. Click here to read my review of this book. We often forget our childhood concerns and issues as we grow up. More often than not we do not remember the little things that gave us joy. So the challenge lies in making the world you create for your young readers as realistic as possible. You have to put yourself in their shoes and experience the world as they experience it, to be able to make your readers relate to your writing. Your protagonist needs to be of the same age group as the reader for your reader to be interested in his or her journey. Writings of Paro Anand demonstrate this beautifully – her characters, their journeys, challenges, and victories are all very real to her intended readers. But then Anand writes well for both children and adults – a feat not too many can boast of. Children can be brutally honest and they will never say anything just to make you...

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Happy Independence Day!

“राख का हर एक कण मेरी गर्मी से गतिमान है मैं एक ऐसा पागल हूँ जो जेल में भी आज़ाद है.” -Bhagat Singh Let your spirits soar, be free, and no situation can ever hold you captive. Happy Independence Day, Friends. Treasure this independence above everything else. Countless patriots have sacrificed their life to get this for us.  ...

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Fiction Friday || ‘Presumed Guilty’ by Shreeya Sharma

We peeked timidly into our class to see who the new Political Science teacher was. A dark-skinned man was leaning against the teacher’s desk waving his thin bony arms as he talked to rest of the class. How I had wished to make an outstanding first impression on the new teacher. And here I was, standing outside the class, late on the very first day! “May we come in sir?” Ayesha had taken the initiative and had already asked for permission to enter while I was lost in my thoughts. He turned around at this interruption and looked at us through his horn-rimmed glasses and then at his watch. We braced ourselves for the coming outburst and put on our most innocent faces and looked at the floor. A few seconds later, we heard a soft spoken voice, “Oh yes please. You are a little late but never mind. Please take your seats and we will continue our class.” We stood there with our mouths open. What? No scolding? No “stand out of the class”? Surely, a teacher can’t be so polite. Was he being sarcastic? The scolding should come now. But all he said was, “What’s the matter? Wouldn’t you sit?” We murmured an apology and walked to our seats as if we were in a dream. His name was Rajeev Chaudhary. The topic being discussed in the class that day was Federalism. By the time I had reached the classroom, he had already explained the concept of vertical power sharing between different levels of government and horizontal power sharing between various organs of government. I was on high alert as I tried to pick up the threads of the discussion. I was eager to make up for the lost ground. I had already promised myself that I would show him what an awesome student I was. So what if I had started on a wrong foot. Soon, I was confident, he too will be dazzled by my brilliance, just like rest of the teachers. “Now, there are two types of federations. Let me explain with examples. Let’s take India and USA, both federal countries. Can you identify any distinguishing feature between the functioning of power in these two countries?” My hand shot up in the air. “Here’s our very own Hermione Granger,” said one of the students seated behind me. I tried to answer all the questions he asked, but he preferred to give chance to other students. He would smile in approval whenever my hand shot up but would ask someone else who had not even raised their hands. What does this mean? I am here, ready with the answer, and you are asking someone who doesn’t even seem interested in the class? We got to know him better through the course of our classes. He would try to explain Federalism by using examples and stories from around the world. ### “Doesn’t he look as if the wind will blow him away?” “Yeah, look at the way the sunlight is playing games on his head. Baldy!” “And don’t forget his ever-smiling face. Dude, doesn’t his mouth ache?” These types of comments were in general circulation in the class. And Chaudhary sir was an easy target as he looked so peculiar. His dressing sense was old fashioned and he was bald and skinny and looked funny. I giggled at these comments but rarely participated. I was just in time to divert my attention from Rahul’s comments back towards Dr. Chaudhary. “No language has been given the status of National Language.” “But surely, Hindi is our National language,...

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