I’m not sure if I have ever mentioned this, but for the longest time, I’ve wanted to do author interviews on Shanaya Tales. But I procrastinated actually doing it, waiting for the ‘perfect’ moment to do it (it’s my curse, I tell you!). Nonetheless, to my great pleasure, the perfect opportunity did come by, when children’s book author Sandhya Acharya reached out to me to raise awareness about her Kickstarter campaign.
You guys know that I am extremely cautious about the things that I publicly back, but her cause is something that resonates deeply with me, and I truly believe in, as she is raising funds to publish a children’s book featuring South Asian kids as main characters.
Consider this – though 37% of children in the US identify themselves as multicultural, only 10% of children’s content is multicultural or written by people of color. South Asian content is an even lower percentage. Children’s books can be great conversation starters and provide a window to new cultures and ways of living.
Diversity in books is something that we all talk about these days, and I feel that the adult book publishers are responding to our needs, by publishing books on more diverse topics, featuring more culturally diverse characters.
But when it comes to children’s books, diversity is sorely lacking, which is pretty sad, because it is as important for children (if not more) to see themselves reflected in the books they read – to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. And it is especially important for people from culturally diverse backgrounds who are raising kids in countries like USA to back campaigns like these, which venture to fill this gap in Childrens Literature.
Which is why, it’s my honor and privilege to welcome Author Sandhya Acharya to Shanaya Tales, and introduce her to you guys.
Hello Sandhya, welcome to Shanaya Tales, please tell us a little about yourself and your family.
Thank you so much for having me here. I am Sandhya Acharya. I grew up in Mumbai (India) and currently live in the Bay Area with my husband and two sons aged 4 and 2. I worked in Corporate Finance in my earlier life until I decided to give more time to writing full time. Other than writing, I like dancing. I am learning Bharat Natyam and love dancing U-Jam and Zumba. I also recently took up running.
I read that your background is in Corporate Finance – what inspired you to take to writing? And why the genre of Children’s literature?
I have always had a passion for writing. As a child I was an avid reader and had many diaries where I would keep writing short stories, poetry etc. In the meanwhile, I got an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and worked at Sprint, Google, and Grameen Foundation in Corporate Finance.
Around the time I had children, I realized there were still things I wanted to do and time was limited. Something about being a parent makes you start prioritizing, I guess. I knew if I wanted to become the writer I always dreamt of being, it was only me who could work on it and I had to start somewhere. I started out writing blogs and published a few articles in KQED, India Currents, Indian Moms Connect.
As a parent, I was making these stories up for my sons. Suddenly all these ideas started taking root in my mind for children’s books. So I figured, why not? I loved making stories, it made my children and me happy – why not share it with everyone.
How many books have you published so far? Please tell us a little about them.
I self-published my first children’s book Big Red Firetruck! on Amazon’s KDP program earlier this year. It started out as a fun story telling project I took on with my friend and talented illustrator Rashmi Menon.
The story came about from a bed time session with my sons. Children love cars, trucks, fire-trucks – anything that moves, so it seemed like the perfect subject. My sons interacting and teaching things to each other through play was the inspiration for the book.
The main characters Idu (Ee-doo) and Adu (Aa-doo) are inspired by my own two sons. Idu is a playful preschooler and Adu is his younger brother – a boisterous brat. In the Big Red Firetruck! Idu teaches Adu all about Firetrucks. In my second book ‘Ten Gulab Jamuns’ Idu and Adu will be back to regale us with Gulab Jamuns.
What has been the most fulfilling part of being a writer? And what has been your biggest challenge?
The most fulfilling part is to have a good piece written. And that is probably the most challenging part too! Sometimes the idea seems good but once it is out on paper/doc, I have to rewrite and rewrite.
Also, another challenge is to be successful as a writer, to get some recognition, there are so many other skills you need to work on. It is hard work, not just about sitting in a coffee shop typing away. The amount of outreach I have done, the technology I have learnt, and marketing skills I am still honing for my second book are pretty amazing.
What does the future hold for you? Do you plan to further explore the niche of Children’s books or diversify into other genres?
I am going with the flow. Right now I am in the phase with my kids where Children’s books fit my outlook. But I do have ideas and ambitions for a lot more.
What is the one message you would want to give to aspiring writers?
The same message I would give myself. You have to make time to do what you like and love. It is almost a responsibility to yourself. Your creation, your written work is probably not going to be a runaway success overnight, but you have to keep at it. Like any other vocation, it is a lot of hard work, not just inspiration and ideas.
I know you have created a Kickstarter Campaign for Ten Gulab Jamuns. Please tell us more about it.
I am really excited about ‘Ten Gulab Jamuns’. I have a Kickstarter campaign going on for it till Nov 22, so am really looking for everyone’s support to make this book a possibility. I want to be able to print hard copy books since that is the format children ages 2-6 most enjoy with their parents/caregivers.
It is a fun, lighthearted story. Two brothers and Ten Gulab Jamuns have one hearty misadventure. The story also includes some basic lessons on counting, and highlights important values of teamwork, responsibility, and family. It is based on a true event, and the two main characters are modeled after my own two sons, so it is coming from a very personal place.
I also hope to introduce some nuggets of South Asian culture in a fun, relatable way to children of all backgrounds.
In the story, Idu and Adu are excited about guests coming home for dinner. Mamma has already cooked a lot of things. She is about to make Gulab Jamuns next. Idu and Adu wonder what Gulab Jamuns are. Mamma explains they are yummy, gooey golden balls that look like donuts, and are dipped and soaked in sugar syrup. The Gulab Jamuns look irresistible, but Idu and Adu have to wait till the guests arrive. Can they?
I really hope you all can support my Kickstarter Campaign- become backers and spread the word. You can help enhance the children’s book market with your contribution/help.
Here is the link to the Kickstarter Campaign: Sandhya Acharya – Ten Gulab Jamuns – Kickstarter Campaign
Thank you Sandhya, for taking the time to come on over and share a little about yourself and your books. I wish you all the success with ‘Ten Gulab Jamuns’.
I look forward to holding a physical copy of that book and reading aloud to my 4 year old. I’m sure he would love that too. Especially considering that in-spite of the fact that I don’t have a sweet tooth – I do love Gulab Jamuns, and he has inherited that from me. 😀
Hope you guys enjoyed getting to know Sandhya. It would be great if you could help her spread the word about her campaign in your social networks, so her cause is able to reach as many people as possible.