by Chitra Soundar
I’m celebrating this September and October, with the publishing of two new books. You wait for ages and two comes one after the other. Buses and books have something in common then, especially the elusive Bus #47 that goes past my flat.
In 2012, I had literally walked in through the door from Winchester, straight from our British SCBWI annual conference and my phone went PING! When I opened my phone and screamed. No, it wasn’t the bar tab from Winchester or the phone bill. These screams were of the joyful variety that could only be related to books! Not sure if the neighbours wondered if I had killed my imaginary cat.
The cause of the joy was an email from Janetta Otter-Barry, then with Frances Lincoln, who had written to say she'd missed me at the conference and she invited me to submit to her.
I cursed myself for not talking to Janetta at the conference – she was right there in the hotel bar we were staying in, nursing her drink, lost in thought. My shy, reserved writer side didn’t have the courage to bother her. [Tip for everyone who attends SCBWI events – go and mingle. That’s what these events are for. Get a drink to boost courage – that’s what the bars are for.]
Janetta Otter-Barry and Frances Lincoln have been long-standing supporters of diversity and poetry in children’s books and being invited to submit alone should be enough, isn’t it? Well it isn’t. I wanted to be published by Janetta Otter-Barry.
I met her in the new year of 2013 and showed her some of my ideas. Yup, there was no recycling here. All new stuff. This is where my incessant Googling paid off. One of the ideas I showed her was about a previously untold folktale from India, involving a pumpkin. This pumpkin set fire to both our imaginations and Janetta could see the book’s cover in her mind’s eye.
Three years and nine months later, with Janetta creating her own publishing house, Otter-Barry Books, that pumpkin is really on the cover of Pattan’s Pumpkin illustrated by the amazing Frané Lessac, another SCBWI member from US and Australia.
Mara didn’t think what I had submitted was suitable for Walker Books. But she said she liked my writing and she invited me to their offices in Vauxhall. Another banshee-screaming moment, this time in a much smaller flat in South London where the neighbours didn’t take to foreign immigrants screaming loudly during the weekends (or at nights or in the morning). P.S: I moved. I like screaming.
The first book in the Prince Veera series was published in 2010 and six years later, here he comes with his latest adventures and escapades.
I’m finalising the book launch details for these two books – somewhere central in London and if all goes well perhaps in Bath Spa too. Do come – all are invited. I’ll be telling stories from the books and if you are like me and still a seven-year old, you can do colouring in with me too.
I wanted to share this news with everyone here, not just to talk about the books but to ask all of you to join in – engage, network, volunteer, come to all the book launches, lie about your books in pubs and ask for help if you need it. That’s what SCBWI is all about.