New Agent!

I have good news! If you follow me on social media, then you already know that I have a new literary agent! I’m excited to share that I’m being represented by Kari Sutherland from Bradford Literary Agency. We’ll be revising Cloudreader together and getting it ready to send out to editors. Fingers crossed!

In other news, I’m starting a brand new middle grade science fiction project that I’m excited about. My daughter helped me come up with some character ideas and I’m excited to see where this rough draft takes me. I might also be traveling to Brussels in a few weeks! I’ve never been there before, so I’m excited. I love traveling to new places. I may share some pictures here when I remember. I get a bit weird about sharing my kids’ photos on my blog but since my kids aren’t coming on the trip (gasp!) I may have more photos to share than usual. Here’s hoping 2019 continues on this upswing!

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Ode to the mole on the tip of my daughter’s nose

Random, well-placed
marks make you unique.
Like a well-chosen word,
the mole on the tip
of your rounded nose,
perfects the sentence of
your face.

When you were born
your face was
swollen, squished
by my internal organs.
Though you cried and
screamed every night,
your birthmarks faded
silently. Through disappearing
milia, your singular mole
emerged.

New moles arrive
everyday, dot-by-dot
constellations multiplied
despite the lotions
we spread like glue
so the sun won’t stick.
But that teeny brown mole
on the end of your nose,
the one that matches
mine, will always be
my favorite.

————–

This poem was written as part of an online poetry class I took a few months ago. I’m slowly going through to revise the poems I wrote there. I’ll probably revisit this one a few more times, but this is my current version.

I’m also still experimenting with how to share poems and the formatting etc. I’m not super pleased with how this looks on the screen, so if you have any tips, I’m all ears!

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Boston Area Children’s Author Events

What’s going on with my events calendar? I’m so glad you asked. For the past few years, I’ve been using facebook exclusively because it is easier to add events from bookstores that way. However, a few people let me know that they haven’t been seeing the events when I post them to Facebook. (A few people even said “Oh didn’t you used to have an events calendar? What happened with that?” To which I said, “OMG it is still there and it is a lot of work have you not noticed it???”)

So…yay the Google Calendar is back! at the moment it doesn’t have as many events listed as my Facebook version. But as I add more events, I’ll type them also into google calendar.

A few people have suggested a newsletter, but unfortunately, that is a bit beyond my energy level since this is a lot of work as is. Sorry about that!

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A letter to my loves & a reminder to myself

There is a joy in being alive. I want you to know this. It is up to us as people to keep that joy alive. Climate change is scary. Somehow while inventing new technologies to help our lives, we have set our Earth into a chaotic spiral, and it is easy to get lost in the warnings and panic.

The injustices we see and experience around the world can also make us lose hope in humanity. Who are these people who care only for themselves and not for the dignity of other people’s lives? Who are these people who care more about racial purity and imagined borders than friendship, love, and trust?

While I don’t pretend to have a clue about the right thing to do to stop climate change or to bring about peace on Earth, I do know that we have to try. There is satisfaction to be found in trying. There is joy in getting up and trying again after a failure. And there is peace in forgiving yourself for not knowing what you are even about half of the time.

This is how it works: Grownups do their best to keep this world running. We make mistakes. We raise children and teach them what we know, what we tried, what worked and what didn’t. Children remind grownups to try to leave the world better than we found it. When the grownups grow old, they die, and the children become the adults. They continue what was started, and they learn from our mistakes, and they in turn pass down what they have learned.

That is what there is to life. Everyone tries to make things sound more complicated, but that is what it is, and we are lucky in it. The world is ours to take care of, and we cherish it and do our best to enjoy what time we have here.


Notes & Questions to myself:

This letter was written to a child in my family in response to something she said about climate change, which I’m sure a lot of other kids (and other aged people!) are feeling right now.  But how do we teach our children to learn from our mistakes? How do we teach them not to repeat our mistakes when we all learn best by making them in the first place? How do we stop people from continuing to repeat history, even histories that aren’t lost to antiquity but are easily searchable on the internet?

“Leave the world better than we found it” was a phrase that, after I’d written it, sounded like something I’d heard somewhere else or seen online. Wikiquotes attributes a similar quote “leave the world a little better than you found it” to Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the scouts movement. But I also found a quote “you will leave the world no better than you found it”, from Confessions of a Young Man by George Moore which isn’t exactly hopeful! I didn’t go digging further but suffice it to say this idea isn’t one I started. How apropos!

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the limits of memory; the limits of imagination

I often wonder why we don’t have a group memory
Why we can’t remember what happened to our ancestors
how they lived, loved, and died
what they did with their time

What we have is writing, art, and language,
shared with understanding and intention
their existence and interpretations threatened by one despot or the next

changed during transcription, changed by time,
and our ability to understand what we have inherited
is subject to the limits of our own imaginations

our bodies carry a record written in code
a recipe for human life, human limbs, human memories
shared without understanding or intention
their existence and interpretations threatened by one despot or the next

changed during transcription, changed by time,
and our ability to understand what we have inherited
is subject to the limits of our own imaginations

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How to be invisible

We’re celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ literature community. Join in the conversation on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen or Twitter #kidlitwomen

My #kidlitwomen post was intended to be an essay about being a mother and a writer, about dealing with racism and sexism in not one but two cultures. However essays and non-fiction don’t come naturally to me, so instead of trying to wrestle my words into the right format, I just let them go the way they wanted.

***

How to be invisible

It starts with your first child. Invisibility wraps its way around you while you push your stroller down the street. People sense fear and incompetence festering around you, a stink they can’t stand to be around, one that you can’t even smell. (Is it even there?) It doesn’t matter that you have brought life into this world, that the well-being of another life hangs on your own well-being, your opinions mean nothing. Less than nothing.

You are a mommy now.

You are an empty vessel waiting to be filled with the advice of others, never mind your own lived experiences, university degrees, medical degrees. Your own thoughts and dreams have been rendered meaningless by others.

You will be treated as though all the creative juices that inspired you to write a novel have already dried up. As though you are desiccated creatively the minute your breasts begin to fill. You are now plain, flavorless, uninspired. (And sometimes you are just so tired you aren’t even sure that they are wrong.)

You will be afraid to reveal who you are. Everyone knows mommies can’t recognize good literature when they read it. Scandalized mommies ruin all the good bits. How then can they be writers?

If you are a mommy with brown skin, a mommy from a minority background, a non-Christian woman, a heathen writing about childhood,  you are unrelatable, unsellable, unknowable. You are not from here, you never could be from here, you are an anomaly, too foreign not foreign enough too ordinary to be exotic too mommy to be avant-garde. No matter which country you are in, your parents’ or your own, mommy and writer can’t be the same person without consequences.

You will keep writing, knowing that your work will be willfully misunderstood. You will keep writing knowing that they read your voice as uninteresting, unfunny, unworthy, uninspired. You will keep writing though the conversations continue without your voice.

Someday you hope your daughters will read your words and speak them out loud, knowing how hard you fought, how big you dreamed, how far you soared. And when your daughters’ time comes, whether they have children or whether they don’t, they will be seen, they will be heard, their voices and thoughts and opinions will matter, their art their science their dreams will matter.

You will make sure of it.

 

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Brown eyes and book covers

A few months ago, a story popped into my head whole. Somehow, a picture book idea I’d been mulling over called Rock Swap (inspired by one of my daughters who loves collecting rocks) morphed into a short story about a girl named Adrika who collects rocks and ends up defeating an old rakshasa named Hidimbi. At the time, we were driving to my parent’s apartment for Thanksgiving, and I didn’t have a pen handy, so I dictated the story into my phone as my family listened. Later I revised it.

My older daughter loved this story. She really wanted me to turn it into a book and a movie and make millions of dollars from it. I informed her that probably wasn’t going to happen. Then, she asked if I could print this out for HER to sell in our front yard. (A side note: she is obsessed with the idea of making and selling things.) So last week, when she asked again about printing out and selling one of my stories, I said, what about Rock Swap? She was so excited. We revised it together, and I told her she could draw the cover.

Immediately, she knew which scene she wanted to draw, but she still had all sorts of questions for me about color choice—what should Adrika wear, what color should the font be, etc. I asked her questions to help her figure it out for herself. On her own, she decided, of course, Adrika should have brown hair, like her, but then my brown-eyed daughter said, “Can I draw her with blue eyes on the cover?”

This threw me. I wasn’t sure how to respond. Even though I had a specific girl in mind when I wrote Adrika, I had never really described her eyes. My mistake, I guess, if I had something specific in mind. So, should I encourage my daughter’s artistic side by telling her to draw Adrika however she wanted? Or would I have to turn this into a teachable moment of some kind?

Still dithering, I started off with, “Why?”

“I think it’ll look better.”

It’ll look better? Mommy guilt rammed right through my heart. I felt I had failed my daughter in some way. She genuinely felt that blue eyes would look better than brown eyes on the cover of this book. I fought to control my expression so I wouldn’t seem judgmental.

I said, “I like blue eyes, but I was really picturing an Indian girl who looked like me, or like you. And we both have brown eyes.”

“I don’t think brown eyes will look right on a cover. This brown is too dark, and Indian people can have blue eyes.”

“I suppose that’s true,” I said, wondering whether I was the one being closed minded. “But there are so many characters with blue eyes. And I wanted this character to have brown eyes.”

“Let me show you the brown,” she said. “Then you will see that it’s too dark.” She colored on a scrap of paper and brought it over to me.

I looked at the page. “This looks like your eye color,” I said. It did. “I have dark brown eyes. Does this look like my eye color?”

Her eyes flicked from the page to my eyes and back again. I could tell from her expression that she agreed and was still thinking about this.

I said. “When you tell me this color is too dark for the cover, it makes me sad. It makes me think you don’t like your own beautiful brown eyes.”

She didn’t say anything. She went and colored the character in with brown eyes and tan skin like hers.

 I don’t know exactly what was going on in her head, did she change her mind about who can be on the cover of a book?  Or instead, did she decide she couldn’t talk to Mommy about this any more? I didn’t ask, not sure I wanted to know the answer, and honestly not sure she would know the answer anyway.

I’ve seen how my daughter grins at herself in the mirror–I know she likes the way she looks, but will that change as she gets older? Will seeing mostly lighter-skinned people with blue eyes all over her books and TV shows gradually teach her that her own appearance is somehow inferior?

I hope by continuing to talk to her and read her my stories about brown-eyed, brown-skinned, dark-haired girls, she’ll continue to love her own appearance as much as she does now. I hope she’ll be able to truly feel that eye color really doesn’t change whether a person is worthy of being a main character in a story. I hope so. I suppose time will tell.

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Harvard FAS Diversity Dialogue Summer Panel

Hi everyone! Summer vacation is over, and I’m working on two projects right now: a picture book and a middle grade fantasy project. The kids were in camps for much of July, so I got a lot of work done then. Last month was a bit hit or miss, but I had fun with my kids and am excited to get back to work this month!

Those of you who follow me on social media know that a few weeks I participated in a panel at Harvard, talking about the fantastic WNDB anthology FLYING LESSONS. The livestream of the panel is up on youtube. It is an hour and a half long, so clear up some time in your schedule and check it out!

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a typical breakfast

Just a typical breakfast conversation:

4 yo (randomly): Are we being controlled by giants?
Me: I don’t think so. Why?
4 yo: There is a big hand hovering over my head like this. (demonstrates with her hand over her head). I can see it!
7 yo: There would be a hole in the ceiling though.
Hubby: Maybe the walls are just an illusion, like a holographic projection.
7yo: But I can touch it.
Me: But have you actually touched the ceiling? (farting) oh, look the giant just made me fart!

As you can see we have many high brow conversations at breakfast.

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Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt Save the Day (a fan comic by my kid)

My 4.5 year old is a huge fan of the Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton. She wanted us to make the 3rd volume of the series, so here it is! I present to you Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt Save the Day! My daughter says, “This is book one in a brand new series.” She came up with most of the words. Anything in black marker was drawn by me–she colored all the rest. Haha! I love it. I might be a little biased though!

The Cover: Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt Save the Day! by [my 4.5 year old.]

One day Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt were swimming through the ocean when they saw a Pig Pickle! They had a battle. (Amitha’s note: she said she wanted me to draw a “big pickle” but I heard “pig pickle,” and I liked it, so we went with it.)

The Pig Pickle was defeated! then, Super Narwhal helped Pig Pickle become superfied. Now Pig Pickle was Super Pig Pickle!

It turned out that Super Pig Pickle was missing her baby. So Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt had to help find the baby.

They looked everywhere, except the Pig Pickle’s home. And then, finally they looked in the Pig Pickle’s home. There was the baby, safe and sound in the crib.

Superfy!

More Adventures Coming Soon

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