Why the authors and illustrators of children’s books are important?

Ask people about the books they read to their children and they will enthusiastically tell you about their favourite books. They will narrate the story, describe the size and format of the book, the kind of paper used and how well produced it is. But ask them who the author and illustrator are and you will find them strangely clueless. Here’s why you should pay attention to those names on the cover of the book you enjoy so much!

A Writer’s World#15 Questions Readers Ask

In my interactions with my audience, which is primarily made up of children, I get asked any number of questions. These are usually about how I write, where I live and who draws the pictures for my stories. But occasionally, there are questions that are so unexpected that they have me in splits! Presenting a series of Questions Readers Ask.

Which character do you love or hate from your own books?

When a child asked me this, I was gobsmacked because this was a question that no adult has ever asked me. So I thought honestly about the question before I replied. And it set me thinking – can a writer really like or hate their characters? After all, every character is born out of a writer’s imagination. In that sense, every character is a child of the brain.  Is it possible to hate or love any one of them?

Every character that a writer creates goes far deeper than the portrayal on the page. When I create a character, I like to know him. Of course, I would like to know everything, but since that’s not always possible, I settle for learning as much as possible. If the character is finicky about food (which is something many children in books are!) then I want to know what he thinks of the food and why he feels this way. I definitely like to know what he considers good food and what makes him swallow the food he dislikes. Perhaps he eats it because his mother has told him to, perhaps it’s because it’s never occurred to him that he could refuse to eat it. Right away, I know something about my character. I know that he’s a child who follows the straight and the narrow, and rarely questions people. This helps me plot how he behaves in my story. Will he continue this way? Will this easy acceptance of his be his redeeming quality or will it lead to his downfall? If he’s going to change in the course of the book, will his attitude to food change too? It’s a little bit like getting to know a new friend. You see much you like and admire, you spot a few things that make you feel sorry for him and identify a small number of things you dislike. And before you know it, you are friends with your character! From there it’s only a step to deciding if you like or dislike him!

Sometimes characters do things that writers would themselves never dare to. A character in a series I have authored is constantly body shamed. But her reaction is completely unlike my own reaction to being teased and bullied. She takes it in her stride, making jokes and being so cool about everything that eventually her tormentors are won over. I find her behaviour courageous and am faintly envious of the ease with which she deals with criticism. If only, I find myself thinking, I could be like her!

Other characters, through their own journey within the book, have opened my eyes to the world around me. They have directed my gaze towards relationships that have always been taken for granted and suggested ways of dealing with these. For a fictional character who only lives in your mind to do all this is pretty amazing. It’s difficult not to love these characters.

So yes, I do love some characters from my books! After all, they have taught me a lot. And given me a story while they did this!

A Writer’s World#14 How you can support a writer

The minute I say this, I know the first question will be, ‘Do writers need to be supported?’ Oh yes, all writers need support of different kinds. The families of writers provide the immediate kind of support. They are the ones who understand her need for space and time. They learn patience and perfect the art of hand holding, the technique of always saying the right thing to comfort the writer, distraught over a rejection, a story not going the way she wants it to or just the flatness that comes from feeling unappreciated. My son once wrote me an email, offering me a fabulous amount of money to write a story, concluding it with the assurance that the world loved my stories and was waiting for them. This, when he was sitting at the table next to mine!

Is there anything else that friends and distant family, neighbours and acquaintances and readers can do to help a writer? Of course there is! Much like you would support an independent book store or a small business started by a friend, you can support a writer by buying her books. Make sure to talk about her and her work. Since writers lead terribly private lives, most people would never know that they had one living in their midst. You can make sure people do know of this.

You can do this on social media too by congratulating her on having a new book out, or tagging her in appropriate discussions. You can also try and get the local libraries or schools to invite the writer or engage her in literary activities that will bring her into the public eye. In addition, you can make sure that the writer is paid for her time and effort each time she engages in an interaction.

You can also buy her books as a way of supporting her. If this is not something you wish to do, there is something easier that you can do.  You can simply review a writer’s books on Amazon, Goodreads and any other site you can find.  Most people go by reviews and the ratings when buying books and your write up will certainly help a writer.

These are seemingly silly things but they will help the writer feel loved and appreciated. And surely that’s a very small thing to do for someone whose books have brought joy into your lives!

A Writer’s World #13 Questions Readers Ask

In my interactions with my audience, which is primarily made up of children, I get asked any number of questions. These are usually about how I write, where I live and who draws the pictures for my stories. But occasionally, there are questions that are so unexpected that they have me in splits! Presenting a series of Questions Readers Ask.

 

 

At one of my interactions, a child asked me, ‘Do you have any ordinary friends?’ I was puzzled. Did the child think I lived in the midst of crazy people? Seeing my confusion the children kindly clarified, ‘Do you have friends who are not writers?’

And suddenly, I saw myself through the eyes of all the children watching me with honest curiosity and waiting to hear my answer. They had been going about their lives peacefully when all of a sudden, there I was, thrust into their midst and introduced as a writer! What was more, I had books with my name on it to prove the fact. What were they to make of it? So they asked me questions. And every question I answered only confused them further. I seemed to do nothing but read lots of books written by other people and then sit down to write some of my own! Surely, they thought, such a person was not normal. She probably lived on food different from the food they ate, knew nothing of boring things like school and homework and spent her leisure with equally mad people.

To answer this very honest question – yes, I do have friends who do not write or spend every waking moment writing and discussing writing when not doing it. These are friends who keep me grounded, who help me see that while writing is an amazing career to have, there are other things that make up life. I go shopping with them, watch and discuss movies, agonise over children and families, swap recipes and information. Since they have nothing to do with the world of writing and publishing, I even share my worries with them. And sometimes, their casually thrown comments and suggestions provide me with a brand new way to move forward.

But it is much more than that. These people knew me long before my tryst with writing began and their  memories are made up of the person who dreamt wide and deep, the person who fell but learnt to stand up again, the person who wanted. And in the midst of all the rejections and silences, in the midst of the wait to hear from editors, it is nice to have such people. They are the oasis of memories which sustain me, which refresh me and which send me back to writing, with my determination renewed.

So, no, I actually don’t have any ordinary friends in my life. Because every single friend I have is so extraordinary.

This is dedicated to all my extraordinary friends who listen and sympathise, cheer me on and believe in me. 

A Writer’s World #12 Why writers must stand by their books

No writer is ever fully pleased with her book. This could be a first time writer or a much-published one. What they all share in common is the little niggling thoughts and doubts about their books. They worry that the book is long, they sigh that chunks of it deserve to be rewritten, they wish they had another opportunity to edit the book.

This is a natural reaction. After all, from the time that the book was accepted for publication to the time when it was finally published, many things have changed. The world and politics, but most importantly, the writer has changed. However, analysing your own book and deciding that it could be improved upon is one thing. But what happens when a reviewer writes a bad review of your book?

The most important thing to remember is that not every book you write is going to be appreciated. Some people will love it and others will hate it. Those who love it might not shout out their love from the rooftops. But you can be certain that those who dislike it will make it a point to review it and discuss it, with particular focus on the weakness they have noticed.

At such times, the writer’s role is clear. She must stand by her book. When the world is finding faults with your writing, what your book needs is for you to stand by it. To be proud of it and proud of yourself. Because you have done an incredibly brave thing – you have dared to put down your thoughts on paper and you have had the courage to send them out into the world, alone and helpless, to find homes. And something that brave deserves all the support you can give it. Besides, if you, its creator back away from supporting it, then who will?

So, stand by your book and show it some author love. Love thy book.

Your book needs it but you need it much more than that!