- What was your inspiration behind writing Isapuram Tales?
I did not intend to write children’s books. You could say, the books came to me. One day in 2016, when I was going through a challenging time in life, I felt the urge to write. I had a vision in my mind and felt a pressing need to write. It was a scene with a little girl laughing on a swing. She was being pushed on it by an old grandpa-looking man. Little did I know that it would lead to nine stories, which would eventually become two books. They are India’s first spiritual fiction books for ages 7-99!
Honestly, as I wrote, I had no idea of what would appear on paper. I worked in partnership with the Universe, in readiness and acceptance of what would appear. All I knew was I had no resistance to what was being written. As the stories came, they turned out to be simple reminders about life, the mind, people, relationships, emotions. In the stories, these were being experienced by children, questioned by children, but the wisdom they hold are important to adults as well. I re-learnt many important lessons as I wrote the stories, and at one point of time, I just knew they had to be shared with the world.
2. Could you tell us about your writing journey and educational background?
I started writing when I was in grade Five, poems about life, sorrow, and joy. Childish ones, but they seem very wise in retrospect! Writing and reading were all I knew. I would live, breathe, and sleep books. And so, naturally, I wanted to study literature in college. My dad wanted me to do engineering and we ended up deciding Commerce was the compromise! Makes no sense, but that is what I graduated in.
But even as I studied commerce, the real writing began. I started freelancing during college. By the time I was 18, encouraged by my brother, I was writing for the Times of India Supplements. Then after graduation, I chose to do my post-graduation in journalism. Though I already had a body of work by then, it was the best decision I had made, for I got to study under the doyens of journalism. I ended up securing the highest marks and graduating with the Jehan Daruwalla Merit scholarship. Since then, I have been a travel writer, a content writer, a communications specialist with development agencies, etc. The writing has been varied.
3. Could you tell us about your publishing journey?
For years, journalism was the mainstay, but I wrote poems and short stories on the side, dreaming they would be published in books one day. More than a decade ago that dream came true with poems in literary magazines and short stories in anthologies. Around this time, I won an award from the State of Andhra Pradesh for one of my travel pieces.
Then I had a soul-awakening kind of period. After chasing words and success for years, I felt a disconnection with what I was seeking. I felt no fulfillment with what I had worked so hard to earn. For almost five years after that I almost gave up writing, working only sporadically. And then, just like that when I least expected it, Diya and Baba (the lead characters of Isapuram Tales book series) came into my life. I did have a contract with a traditional publisher. But soon into the journey, I felt a lot of differences in our approaches to the book. So, we amicably parted ways and I decided to take the crazy decision of self-publishing children’s books! It has been a wild and challenging adventure; India is still not open to self-published books and marketing them is very tough.
4. You conduct writing workshops on therapeutic writing techniques, too. Could you tell us about them?
I have always been interested in the mind, emotions, and the soul department since I was a child. These fall under the “spiritual” category, and I now identify most as a spiritual seeker. The therapeutic writing is an outcome of that journey. I have spent over 25 years learning and practicing from different spiritual teachers and traditions. But the last almost 10 years have been with a guide and mentor who I owe a lot of my awakening to – GD. Somewhere in these meanderings, I discovered how much I turn to writing as a tool to bring emotional and mental stability into my life.
I began to explore the power of writing in healing and therapy and later started offering it as a part of my therapy sessions with clients and in my workshops. I have since seen beautiful results for the same. Therapeutic writing brings the power of healing and transformation into your own hands. We all look outside us for healing and wellness, but writing is a simple skill everyone possesses and can be used very effectively to deal with stress, emotional challenges, and even to usher in change. I guide people through these processes in my workshops and one-on-one sessions and help them unravel their minds to bring in ease, peace and joy.
5. What are you writing now?
I am always working on many things at a time! I am primarily focused on a book of these therapeutic writing techniques, tentatively titled “The write path.” I am also working sporadically on a book for children. I also have another two books, which are being worked on as and when they happen.
6. Do you have any upcoming book releases or writing workshops?
I intend to release “The write path” as soon as possible this year. The writing workshops are an on-going affair. I just completed a 21-day program and will be launching another one next month.
7. What are some of your favourite books?
Oh, this is difficult because my favourite books have a lot to do with where I am in life… Some books I can still read again and again are ‘The little prince,’ ‘The alchemist,’ and Herman Hesse’s ‘Siddartha,’ etc. I want my son to read “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” now, because I once loved it. “Ishamel” and “My Ishamel” by Daniel Quinn blew my mind, when I read them two decades ago, and Shatrujeet Nath’s Karachi Deception did that a decade ago! Actually, it is easier to name authors than books. I love Amitav Ghosh’s writing, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s writing, some of Paulo Cohelo’s books, R.K. Narayan, and Ruskin Bond. In the past few years, I have veered away from fiction and find myself reading either children’s books or spiritual books. Children’s authors I love include Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Nandini Nayar, Paro Anand and Shruti Rao. I know I have mostly named Indian writers, but that is intentional ?
8. What advice do you have for aspiring children’s book authors?
I don’t think I have enough experience in that domain to be dishing out advice to others. But as someone who has been writing for decades, I would suggest – Be true to your voice. Do not compromise on what you want to say. But don’t be self-obsessed either. It’s a fine line ?
9. What should a writer be mindful of when writing for children?
Children’s writers tend to dumb things down for kids. Some writers believe in sugar-coating things. But kids are wise. They notice things, we adults don’t. While we don’t need to throw the thorns of the world their way, do not make them believe the world is only full of roses. Be realistic without being bleak. I love the quote that says there is only a little difference between ‘partner’ and ‘parent’. Choose the first whenever you can.
10. Which books on writing would you recommend?
“Elements of Style” by William Strunk and EB. White. It’s an old book but one I believe every writer should read. I would also recommend “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott and “Writing in general and the short story in particular” by Rust Hill.