Part 3: Public Texts with Asha Nehemiah & Bijal Vachharajani at IIHS

This is the third post in a series about Public Texts sessions that I organise as part of my work with IIHS. If you missed the first post, catch the first & second sessions before you read further!

Children’s book sessions are always fun! There is a true sense of community among children’s book authors, illustrators and publishers. They always show up in large numbers. The camaraderie is so great that by the end of the session, the speakers were calling out to the audience to pitch in to the discussion. This sense of community is what drew me to IIHS in the first place. I had attended one of the children’s books sessions held during City Scripts 2018. And immediately, I wanted to put together such sessions where the conversation was freewheeling and the audience fully engaged. That’s a big thing for me to feel because I am not the most social person you’ll meet.

Asha and Bijal in conversation at Public Texts about children’s books.

This Public Texts session with Asha and Bijal blew me away. It was so much more than I expected it to be. Titled ‘Where Do Stories Come From? Writing for children through the years’, this session took place on Fri, 31 May from 6.30 pm. This was the best session so far. We had 44 children’s book enthusiasts in the audience. They ranged from bookstore owners to writers, illustrators and publishers. And they brought children!

We had organised an exhibition of children’s books from our library which was a great way to keep the kids engaged. This session was aimed at adults but we should look at doing some sessions for children as well. My sense is that it would have a lot of takers around Sadashivanagar. What do you think? Once I get Public Texts off its feet, maybe that could be my next event.

Asha Nehemiah has been writing for children for many years now. She talked about how before emails and such ease of access, she used to buy children’s books to find publishers’ info in there. She also talked about different kinds of publishers from Children’s Book Trust (CBT) to Pratham and the differences in their working style. With CBT she said, she would send in a manuscript one day and forget about it, till it appeared as a book in her mailbox. With Pratham however, creating a book was an iterative process. Read Asha’s latest book, Behind the Lie on Storyweaver.

Listening to Bijal talk about children’s books, it’s hard not to get excited about it. There is an energy about her that’s infectious. I loved that she also asked Asha fun questions about baking snacks from her stories in real life.

Another important part of the Public Texts puzzle was the popup bookstore. We had Aashti setup a Lightroom stall at the session. I bought more books than I could afford (as I always do). The good thing is that this time around I actually read all of them.

I am grateful for this session because it showed me that I really could hold all these pieces together. I am also grateful that this session got me to read a lot of Asha’s books. I loved how quirky yet simple they were.

Next up we have Sukanya Venkatraghavan and Shreya Ila Anasuya in conversation with Shalini Srinivasan about their fantasy fiction collection, Magical Women. This is scheduled for Thursday, 20 June 2019 from 6.30 pm. They will discuss feminist voices in fantasy fiction.

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