What does a children's book author read for fun? What does reading mean to an author? All this and many more questions were on our minds. We invited renowned author Asha Nehemiah to our Young Readers' Club to find out what reading means to a children's book author. As we listened to her, we became more curious and had even more questions. So much so, we learnt to look at books from a whole new perspective, thanks to her.
Asha Nehemiah is well known for her humorous and entertaining children's books such as Trouble With Magic, The Mystery of the Secret Hair Oil Formula, The Mystery of the Silk Umbrella and more recently The Grand Chapati Contest. Another important book from her desk that deserves special appreciation is Behind the Lie. In this book she skillfully handles a serious issue that unfortunately continues even now- domestic violence. Written for children, she gently sensitizes them about the issue and enables them to be aware and realize that they can make a difference if the need arises.
Excitement was building up at the Young Readers Club
In the days leading up to the "Author Meet" day, several young readers who were familiar with her books and had even earlier recommended some of her books to their peers, showed up on our regular sessions with copies of her books, repeatedly asking when she would be coming.
When the day arrived most readers logged in 15 mins early and there was nervous chatter until it was announced that the author is joining the Zoom meeting. Asha Nehemiah appeared on our screens with a beautiful smile. We were thrilled to see her. She began by sharing her love for reading and how she grew up reading Enid Blyton. The children were fascinated by the fact that their favorite author also read books by Enid Blyton, who still remains a household name in children's books. She continued telling them about how she reads to keep herself up to date with children's literature, for inspiration to write and also how she has the habit of preserving random newspaper cuttings with interesting news items. All of these enable her imagination do its magic. Fascinating characters and intriguing plots are born thereafter.
The young readers were fascinated by the fact their favorite author also read books by Enid Blyton...
A reader is someone who is never found without anything to read. Be it waiting somewhere or travelling or simply lounging at home, having something to read is a necessity. To hear that from an author was refreshing and inspiring for all the young readers. They realized that reading for pleasure is actually fun and can result in marvellous things such as fantastic books to read as in the case of a children's book author.
A reader is someone who is never found without anything to read. Be it waiting somewhere or travelling or simply lounging at home, having something to read is a necessity.
"I read three books at a time. It depends on which part of the day it is and my mood. For instance I like to unwind with a book of poetry before I go to bed in the night." The fact that she reads three different books depending on the time and mood, caught the attention of many readers. Their eyes opened up with awe. For days after the event, they spoke about how the author manages to do that.
The fact that she reads three different books depending on the time and mood, caught the attention of many readers.
Have there been instances when she gave up reading a book because it did not appeal to her?
At the Young Readers Club, there is emphasis on enabling young readers to choose the book that they independently read as well as the ones we read together. However in some rare instances, a chosen book fails to interest all of us and we tend to give it up. There is generally much discussion before we come to such a decision. It was comforting and inspiring to know that the author has also experienced this and that there have been times when she had gone back to the same book the second time and it felt different.
How does she find books to read?
She keeps track of books being written by reading book reviews available in different media. In particular, she says making note of authors whose books we have enjoyed reading and looking for their work raises the chances of finding books that we will definitely love to read.
Children's books that she recommends
There is always cheer in the Young Readers Club when every young reader recommends reading their book finds every month. Needless to say the joy was manifold when our guest author Asha Nehemiah came up with book recommendations that she has read and enjoyed.
Here is a useful list:
When The World Went Dark by Jane D'Souza
The Ninja Nani Series by Lavanya Karthik
Diary of a Taekwondo Master by Shamini Flint
History, Mystery, Dal and Biryani by Subhadra Sen Gupta
Mystery of the Silk Umbrella by Asha Nehemiah
Cool by Michael Morpurgo
Writing a book is a time consuming process and is a lot of hard work.
We got a peep into the process of writing a book. She gave us a glimpse of her storyboard which sometimes ran into pages with notes written in pencil. Writing in pencil she says allows her to make mistakes and erase them later on. That flexibility enables her imagination to run at its pace without having to worry about errors. Mistakes may happen but they cannot interrupt the thought flow.
Eyebrows shot up when she told us that she writes several drafts before she decides that the story is fine to be sent to the publisher. The children let out a gasp when she said that sometimes it takes months to finish writing a book. After which the publishing team takes over, finds an illustrator and carries out all the processes involved in publishing meticulously. Months of hard work and then the book goes for printing and distribution. We learnt to think twice before criticizing a book next time.
We learnt to think twice before criticizing a book next time.
Writing a book isn't necessarily a solitary activity
There is a certain amount of team work between the author, the illustrator and the publishing team. For instance, it was interesting to learn about a particular book she was working on, the illustrator had accidentally switched the characters in the illustrations. After much thought and discussion it was decided that it would be easier for the author to switch the names of the characters in the story rather than rework on the illustrations all over again.
When it was time to wind up the event
Time flew quickly. We were having fascinating conversations with the author. More questions kept piling on but unfortunately we ran out of time. The young readers later listed out questions that went unanswered along with their very special thank you notes to be sent to the author. Asha Nehemiah took the time to patiently respond to every one of their questions and warmly acknowledged all their thank you notes. This event was one of a kind. We are all going to remember our conversations with her for a long long time to come.
A book that on it's way to the book stores.
Here is some great news for all the fans of Asha Nehemiah's writing and in particular her book Trouble With Magic. The sequel to this book A Pinch of Magic is coming soon to the bookstores. The book is expected to be released in online stores on the 14th of June.