From SCBWI India, Natasha's book won for the Middle East, India and Asia division.
|Award-Winning Author Natasha Sharma|
I contacted Natasha to learn more...
Lee: Please tell us about your book!
Natasha: Bonkers! (published by Duckbill Books) is a story that follows the adventures of a boy named Armaan with his long awaited, newly acquired puppy, Bonkers. Life for Armaan has been difficult with a bully named TT, leader of the Ghastly Groundhog Gang, always on his heels. And while he hoped for a dog that would protect him and sort out his life, insanity further prevails with the puppy around. Instead of being protector of hearth and kin, the dog proceeds to chew up Armaan’s spectacles, eat up his favourite shoe, mess with a game of cricket being played by the bully and essentially turns the boy’s life upside down. Will things ever get back to normal?
The story is as much about discovering your inner reserve of courage as it is about laughing alongside crazy episodes with the boy and his dog. For Armaan, that happens when his dog is in trouble. It is about understanding that even bullies have their own fears. But at the heart of it, it’s a book that can best be described as bonkers!
This story had to be written. I grew up in a home with 40 animals (it wasn’t a farm). Amongst the many horses, buffaloes, rabbits, ducks and hens were my four dogs, often accompanied by a litter of puppies. My dogs were the center of my life growing up – my friends, my protectors and my go-to when I was upset, always ready to sit patiently and hear me out. I’ve woken up with puppies dangling off my braids, rescued them off windowsills and stood between dog and parent when the dog ate my wedding cards before they were mailed (eating homework was too low grade). There’s so much in my head to inspire me that it took time to sift through what I wanted to use!
Lee: Wow - 40 animals! Sounds like you had a lot of real-life inspiration to pull from in making one puppy turn your character's life Bonkers!
How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?
Natasha: I’ve been a member with the SCBWI since 2011. The India chapter is rapidly growing and the SCBWI provides an easy way to connect with other writers. Events like First Pages provide fabulous feedback on one’s own work and since it was online, it was great to see what was working or not in other openings. A writing workshop on picture books by Ann Whitford Paul who was visiting India at the time from the US, were much easier to pull together with the support of the SCBWI and turned out to be a fabulous talk.
As the India chapter grows, we are excited to have a platform to garner resources and make it available to the children’s book community at large. I have to say that I love reading the bulletin – it gives nuggets of information that are so useful. Above all, as a writer, SCBWI helps me, as it has in this case, to go beyond the market I am publishing in and reach out to a wider peer group and audience.
Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?
Natasha: Keep at it. Whether you are brimming with ideas, stuck in your plot, clueless where you are going - keep at it. Keep learning, evaluating, writing, illustrating and improving your own skills. And through the most frustrating moments, remember why you write or illustrate. I believe we are people who are driven by an impossible bug in our brain to put down what is going on in our head. It gives me the greatest joy to write. I simply try and remember that always.
Lee: "it gives me the greatest joy to write." Love that, and YES!
I also connected with SCBWI India's Regional Advisor, Anushka Ravishankar, to find out more about Natasha's win and their region. Here's what Anushka wrote:
Natasha Sharma has only been writing for children for a few years, but what productive years they have been! She now has ten books published, and they have all been getting great reviews. She does elaborately, creatively and lovingly planned sessions with children in bookstores and schools, and is a hugely popular writer/ performer at litfests and school book weeks. She is also meticulous about keeping her blog and her website current and updated, which is something all authors can learn from!
Her award-winning book, Bonkers!, is, she says, a tribute to her dog who was just as mad and loveable as the dog in her book. With wit and aplomb, she has also woven in the theme of bullying in a book which at no moment reads like a treatise against bullying, but shows children that bullies need not be scary, after all.
Natasha is an enthusiastic member of SCBWI India. Since we are so spread out geographically, we need volunteers in different cities and Natasha has willingly taken on the onus of doing programmes in Mumbai. She has already organised one -a picture book workshop by visiting SCBWI member Ann Whitford Paul, which was a great success.
It's been a little over a year since SCBWI India was restarted. Working with a wonderful advisory group, and some very dedicated members, we have had many workshops, talks, discussions and meetings.
Visiting SCBWI authors like Holly Thompson, Christopher Cheng and Ann Whitford Paul have held workshops on writing novels, non-fiction and picture books. They have all garnered massive and enthusiastic attendance and praise.
We also have events which the members specifically want - like discussions on contracts, talks on digital books and so on.
As our members are spread out over the country we try and do detailed reports on each event which go up on our blog firstname.lastname@example.org. Some members, like Tanushree Dahiya Singh in Delhi and Natasha Sharma in Mumbai and Arundhati Subramaniam in Bangalore have been very enthusiastic about writing these reports.
Our most successful events by far have been the online first pages, of which we have had two. We do it through Facebook, and have had editors, writers and critics from India, Malaysia, the UK and USA, which makes it very attractive. This is for members only.
We now have an IC, Oriya Kuriyan, who has many plans up her sleeve. So far we have had one picture book workshop for illustrators, which went off swimmingly.
With many events planned in the coming year, we hope SCBWI India will grow and grow!
Thanks so much to Natasha and Anushka, and cheers to Natasha for BONKERS! winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!
You can find out more about Natasha and her books at her website here.
And learn more about SCBWI India and all they offer at their online home.
Illustrate and Write On,