Sunday, May 25, 2008

Padma Venkatraman's Book Tour at DMC

Padma Venkatraman's writing is as multifaceted as her life: an eventful life that included wonderful experiences such as diving in the Indian Ocean, backpacking across Europe, directing a school in England, and leading research cruises on the Baltic Sea. She has written novels, biographies, picture books, poetry, scientific journal articles, and over a hundred popular science articles for children and adults. Padma Venkatraman was born in India but is now a United States citizen.

It is an honor to have her with us at DMC for her Book Tour Stop for her new novel CLIMBING THE STAIRS. You must have already read the review of this book by our dear member Praba, today she shares her experience of juggling writing and being a Mom with all of us at DMC.

Over to Padma...


Finding time to write when you are a (sleepwalking) parent

Sandeepa, it’s great to be your guest blogger today! Thanks for hosting me on my 4th stop on my very first blog book tour!

And hello, desi moms! If there are any non-desi moms out there who are wondering who a desi mom is, desi is…well…anyone of Indian heritage…that’s pretty accurate, I think…and a mom is…well…what a mum is on the American side of the Atlantic.

A desi mom is one who most likely doesn’t need to have the words “Jai Hind” translated, and one who, when she reads The Protest March chapter of CLIMBING THE STAIRS, can hear the crowd singing Vande Mataram and Sare Jahan Se Acha.The first thing I want to say is Namaskaram, Namaste, and hats off to all of you parents – it takes a parent to really respect what a huge responsibility parenthood is and how much time it takes.

For a few years now, I’ve been juggling science and writing…but now, it’s science, writing and baby…and that really is a new skill. How does one write when a baby yells? Here are 3 tips for those of you with writing aspirations that interfere with yelling kids. Or it the other way around?

1. Write everyday, even if you don’t write everyday.Keep in touch with subject matter mentally on days when you aren’t able to write. Think about it – think actively and constructively about your manuscript – sometime every day – maybe not when you are driving to work, but perhaps at least when you brush your teeth at night. Why? It keeps the subject alive in you and makes it much easier when you finally do get time to sit and type at the computer. (Having lived in America for so many years, I feel almost compelled now, to add, WARNING – This tip is not to be practiced behind the wheel; dreaming about your book while driving can cause accident, serious injury or worse).

2. Don’t start at the very beginning. That’s a very bad place to start.Yes, despite that song about starting at the very beginning (is that from the Sound of Music, which even made its way into Arundathi Roy’s wonderful novel? I think so. If you are a desi mom, you probably know this non-desi movie and this desi book). Novels aren’t necessarily written in order. Some novelists do it, I’m sure, so if it works for you, then go ahead. However, especially after becoming a mom, I tend to just write whatever chapter I feel like when I finally get a moment. Whatever I can see most clearly that day. Then, I fill in the gaps. Does that work? I don’t know. I hope so. It has to work for me now, so I think it will. In 2010, when Island’s End is published, you can read it and compare it with CLIMBING THE STAIRS, and then you can tell me. Or maybe my editor (who says he is going to be reading these blog posts) will tell me long before that…

3. Don’t waste time worrying about rejection. You will get rejected. That’s part of being a writer. I mean, even after you are a published author, there will be rejections of different types. So, who cares? I try not to. Time is precious, especially when there’s a little baby around. And wasting it on the negatives isn’t a good idea. My editor thinks I’m a bit crazy, but after we got the first two reviews for CLIMBING THE STAIRS, both of which were starred, I told him I wasn’t going to read them. Well, recently, his assistant attended one of my readings and forced me to read another review which was also of the highest quality rating, in an important review journal. So I said okay, okay, and I finally read them. But I try hard not to let them get me too excited. Because in the end, if you are a writer, you need to derive your energy from the process of writing and the good that your books generate, not let yourself get too high or too low because of someone else’s critique.

My friend, writer Vijaya Bodach, who is also a writing desi mom had these words of wisdom: “Enjoy the kids. They grow up much too fast. Learn to write in-between the cracks. I started writing at the kitchen counter just 10-20 minutes a day, while my toddlers played on the floor and supper simmered on the stove. Although I started The Great American Novel, I put it away for smaller pursuits – magazine writing and short stories. I learned to write small things well and it has served me well for my bigger projects. One thing that helped me write *with* my kids was to include them in the writing. We’d all sit at the kitchen table for a few minutes writing stories quietly. Sometimes, I’d write a story and have them draw the pictures for it. Oh, take naps with the kids. It’s wonderful to drift off to sleep during the daytime, with ideas bubbling just under the surface. Then stay up late to write. Five years ago, this is how I carved out two hours of night-time writing. It sure beats writing in 15-min. chunks. Of course, all this changes once the children start school. Then you will have time during the day to write, when you’re actually awake and alert. So fret not when the children are little. Your time will come. After all, you can’t stop the children from growing up.”

She’s right. Holding a baby is even better than holding the very first copy of your debut novel in your hands. That’s saying a lot! Thanks for reading!

For those who want to look at the previous stops on this tour or the ones to come, the information is pasted below. And before I forget, if you want to look at reviews of CLIMBING THE STAIRS, here are some links:


Asha said...

I am so proud to have you here Padma, I will check out your book.Loved your post, hope some of the moms get encouragd to write as well.I know it's ard to balance everything you are wife and a mother but doable if you are really want to write.
I am a avid reader although I don't attempt to write except for my blogs of course!:)
Thanks to you too Sandeepa, you did great!:)

Padma Venkatraman said...

Thanks so much, Asha! I hope you'll enjoy my book. The best encouragement we writers get is when someone reads our work, as you know - whether it's a blog or a book!

Sandeepa said...

Hi Padma
Your tips were great. Any idea for new writer Moms about how to get a writing break as in getting stuff published in magazines etc.?

You talk about rejection, how do you approach publishers etc., if you are a budding novice writer ?

Padma Venkatraman said...

Hi Sandeepa
Great question.
Writing for magazines is an excellent way to break into print, that's for sure.
The way to approach publishers. Here's what I'd do, in addition to what I'd suggested in the blog post. I'd read a lot to get an idea of the kind of story a publisher does. My publisher, Penguin, has many different imprints, and there are differences between the type of work each imprint publishes, to some degree. It's useful to do your research about that sort of thing before you approach a publisher. Ditto magazines. You need to be an avid reader of a magazine before you decide if your work fits with what they like to publish. If it does, a polite query letter is usually the first step.
Does that help?

Dee said...

Hi Padma,
I have heard good things about your writing style from more than a couple of my friends. Hope to read your work soon :)


shweta said...

Hi Padma,
Loved your post & your tips.Thanks for taking the time to do so :) Will read your book pretty soon.

Kay said...

Hey Padma, So nice to have you here. Thanks for all the wonderful tips. I sure can use all of those tips.

Trishna said...

Hey Padma,
Congratulations and I really truly enjoyed reading your post and I am surely going to stop by your blog and also look for your book :)
After reading your post,I realised that may be my dream of writing may come true,if only I try :) So,Thank YOU!

Kausalya Saptharishi said...

Dear Padma,

Congrats on writing such a superb book!
You’re a quiet achiever and that’s what I most admire about you. It’s amazing that you have managed to remain such a prolific writer in spite of the demands of your scientific career.

Seeing you adeptly juggle so many diverse roles truly inspires me to do the same (barring the Indian Ocean bit!)

May your ink continue to flow.