How do you edit yourself?


So you have finished writing your first draft. Congratulations! You have come further than many people will ever do. But this is not it. There is more work to be done.

Find out from three well-known and seasoned writers how to transform that first draft into something that will have publishers making extravagant promises and make readers go wild with joy.

Paro Anand is the author of several prize-winning books for children and young adults, including No Guns at My Son’s Funeral and Weed. She works extensively with children.

Devika Rangachari is the author of several prize-winning books for children and young adults, including Queen of Ice, the most recent.


Rupa Gulab is the author of several novels for adults and teens, including Hot Chocolate is Thicker than Blood and Daddy Come Lately.

At Max Muller Bhavan, No.3, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Near Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001, at 5.30 pm, 30 January 2017.

Call for Applications: Children Understand More … !

A workshop for illustrators, graphic artists and authors on creating new and different books for children
The Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan and Zubaan are organizing a workshop for illustrators/graphic artists and writers of books for children in December 2016 (from the 5 the 15th). The workshop will be conducted by a well-known writer from India and two illustrators from Germany and will be held near Kolkata.
Single parenthood, patchwork families, the relationship to one’s body, disabilities, sex education, sexuality, same-sex love, trans- and intersexuality, death, (religious) fanaticism, environmental issues – these are all realities we live with every day of our lives. And yet, there seems to be an unspoken pact among adults, no matter what class, region, country or religion they belong to, that children must be protected from these ‘difficult’ realities. Children prove themselves to be more resilient than adults give them credit for, and remain curious about everything. Whom does it serve, then, to shield them from these realities? Is it time to begin thinking of how we can address such issues in sensitive, accessible, responsible ways?
This workshop aims to make just such a start by bringing together illustrators, artists, writers and resource persons over a period of a week, to create stories, discuss and distill them with peers, and to begin the process of publishing a body of work that engages with difference, with the ‘othered’, and with the many difficulties of reality.
The Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, together with its partner Zubaan, New Delhi, would like to show, in a literature project with children’s books authors and illustrators, how children’s questions in these areas can be answered comprehensibly and engagedly in an Indian context.
Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, in cooperation with the publishing house Zubaan in New Delhi and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), will organize a 10-day workshop in/near Kolkata with 10–16 Indian children’s book authors and illustrators in December 2016. The workshop will offer the opportunity to develop stories, and to discuss ideas and questions of how to create narratives for graphic stories/novels.
Three experts – a renowned children’s book author from India and illustrators from Germany – will conduct the workshop. Extensive discussions, hands-on exercises and detailed feedback will offer participants the possibility to work in a collaborative way and to expand
and deepen their knowledge about art, aesthetics, design and networking. Participants and workshop leaders will be located on-site.
The workshop will start with an introduction to the (social) situation of children in India and child psychology, as well as the position of children’s books in India. In the following days the authors and illustrators will decide which topics they would like to tackle and start developing the stories in illustrator/writer teams, in close collaboration with each other. The Indian and German workshop conductors will guide the discussions during this process and offer professional advice.
The project partners will present selected works produced during the workshop to publishing houses in India which might be interested to publish them. Selections will be made by a panel consisting of representatives from Zubaan, SCBWI and Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, in consultation with the workshop leaders, on the basis of work submitted.
Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan will provide accommodation, three meals/day and a travel subsidy.
The workshop will take place from 5 to 15 December 2016 (inclusive).
Only artists in their final year of study, or who have graduated, or are accomplished authors/ illustrators can apply. Ideally, a mix of all three groups would create an inspiring atmosphere for all participants. Participants are required to spend the full 10 days at the workshop and to live on-site, arriving the day before the workshop begins and departing the day after it ends. Accommodation can be on a twin-sharing basis. The workshop will be conducted in English.
Up to 16 participants (5-8 authors, 5-8 illustrators) will be selected via this call for applications. Submissions should include a curated selection of their works and potential story ideas. All applications must be sent to, containing:
– a brief CV;
– representative samples of your work (as .pdf or .jpg attachments);
– suggestions for relevant topics; and
– a brief idea for a story on one of these relevant topics presented in text or illustration, which you would like to work on during your stay
We look forward to hearing from you.
Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Zubaan Books

Online First Pages, 17 June, 2016: Introducing the Panelists

Shobha Viswanath

Shobha Viswanath is the Publishing Director, Karadi Tales, a publishing house based in Chennai who publish audio books, picture books and illustrated books for children. She has also written several illustrated and picture books for children including Little Vinayak, The Lizard’s Tail and Insect Boy.


Shilpa Ranade is an animator and illustrator. She teaches Animation Design and Theory at IDC School of Design, IIT Mumbai. She has made several animated films, including an animated feature film, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, and has illustrated numerous books for children.


Bena Sareen

Bena Sareen did an M.Phil in Sociology, to eventually become a book designer at a time when book designers were a rare species in India. She has worked at Penguin Books India for twelve years, overseeing the birth of Puffin and Ladybird India books. Currently she consults with Aleph Book Company and runs her own design studio.

Online Portfolio Review, June 17 2016

Want to illustrate children’s books and don’t know where to begin? Send your portfolio to the SCBWI India Online Portfolio Review!

A panel of experts will tell you whether your style will work for children’s books, and give you tips to help you hone your craft. So send in your portfolio and our panel will give you live feedback on 17 June 2016 at 5 pm, IST, online in a closed Facebook group: SCBWI India Portfolio Review.

The panel comprises of Shobha Viswanath, Publishing Director, Karadi Tales; Bena Sareen, Consulting Creative Director, Aleph Book Company and Shilpa Ranade, Illustrator & Professor, IDC-IIT Powaii.

Please send:

  1. An online link (behance, wordpress site, tumblr or any other platform) to your work (strictly) in children’s books, with a selection of what you consider your best work. It could include picture books, work for children’s. Any unpublished, hypothetical children’s book projects you have worked on can also be included.

A PDF of a selection of your best work, not more than 5 MB. Please make sure the images are not too small. (If you’d like your entry to be anonymous, you should choose this option).


  1. An A5 size, 72 dpi, RGB, horizontal collage image of a few of your ilustrations, which preferably includes one black and white image (see the example below). We will need a jpg, as it has to be uploaded on the Facebook page.SCBWI collage for portfolio review


  1. The first fifteen eligible entries will be displayed and commented on. If there is time, more might be commented on.
  2. All entries need to be sent by 10 June, noon IST to

Note: SCBWI online events are usually for members only. This is a one-off opportunity for non-members to participate.

Online First Pages, 13 May 2016: The Panelists

Introducing the panelists:

Anita Roy set up and ran the Young Zubaan list for 12 years. She now lives in Somerset in order to spend more time with her wellington boots. She writes and muses at

Ken Spillman has written more than 60 books, published in many languages and more than a dozen countries. Around 40 of his books are for children or young adults.

Sayoni Basu is a platypus and publisher at Duckbill Books.

Online First Pages, 13 May 2016

Writing something? Not sure how it is going? Send it to the SCBWI India First Pages!

Three experts will tell you whether your first page has piqued their interest enough to turn the page and read on. So send in the first page of the book you are working on, and our panel will give you live feedback on it on 13 May 2016 at 5.00 pm online in a closed Facebook group.

1. You need to send in only the first page of your book to Please send it in as a Word document, and remember to include the title of your book.

2. SCBWI India members can send in up to three pieces. Non-members can send only one. The first fifteen eligible entries will be read and commented on. If there is time, more might be commented on.

3. Please label your entry in one of the following categories:

Picture book
Chapter book
Middle-grade storybook
YA novel

4. The maximum word count should be no more than

Picture book: 50 words
Chapter book: 100 words
Middle-grade storybook: 200 words
YA novel: 200 words

5. Do not include the author’s name or title in the document.

All entries need to be sent by 8 May, noon IST.

SCBWI First Pages is usually for members only. This is a one-off opportunity for non-members to participate.

The panel comprises of three experienced editors/writers, whose names will be announced shortly.

How to Win Readers and Influence Schools

Richa Jha tells us about the session by Paro Anand on April 7, 2016.

In an engaging and entertaining session at the Goethe Institute Library, New Delhi, author Paro Anand, a great favourite with schools and literary festivals in India and internationally, showed us exactly why schools love to have her talk to students.

And while, alas, we cannot reproduce the magic or fun of her enactments, here are some of the useful points she discussed.

It is crucial to do school sessions, Paro emphasized. It is not enough to publish a book and hope it will sell. Especially in the case of children’s books, the author has to engage with prospective readers by being out and about with your books at sessions at schools or at literary festivals.

A successful session requires a lot of planning and work. These are some of Paro’s tips for preparing for a session.

The first stage in planning is to find out about the audience, especially in a school session. At a literary festival, you can expect the audience to be more mixed, and perhaps also include adults.
• Find out about your audience beforehand—age group and level of fluency in the language of the book. And choose the story or book accordingly.
• Inform the school beforehand if you want the students placed in a certain way—for example, in a semicircle at the same level, rather than a proscenium arrangement where there is automatically greater distance between the speaker and the listener.
• See if a collar mike can be arranged. Your hands are then free during the presentation. Also, if you need any other equipment, make sure you inform the school in advance.
• The sessions are more enriching for the children if they have read the story/book before the interaction with the author. Ask the school if that might be possible.

The second stage in planning is to decide what you are going to be doing. There are several things you need to keep in mind when planning the session:
• Age group of the students: You need to pick the book you are presenting depending on the age group of the students. The kind of presentation depends on the audience. Generally speaking, it needs to be more animated for a younger group and quieter for older students.
• Not all stories can be read out. If your book is one that does not lend itself to being read out, you can try a character-focussed approach. Engage the audience by talking (or asking) about the characters and use that to drive session forward.
• Never tell the entire story. Instead, get the audience under the skin of the character and have them hankering for more. You are creating readers; you want them to step out and buy the book.
• Picture books can be read out from beginning to end in an interesting way.
• Decide if you want to use props. If you are using props, keep them as simple as possible, objects from our everyday life. Since you want the teachers to be able to conduct a similar session with your book in the years to come, this will make it less intimidating for them to take it forward with their classes later.

As with any other performance, Paro emphasizes the importance of preparation and rehearsal.
• Rehearse thoroughly.
• Read the text several times before the session. Knowing the text means that you do not have to read every word from the book, which gives you the freedom to focus on movements, voice modulations and eye contact with the audience.
• However, your presentation should look spontaneous, not rehearsed.
• Time yourself.
• Have a designated reading copy of your book. Select the passages carefully—and leave out sentences and paragraphs that would not work when reading aloud. Mark the text in your reading copy so that you don’t have to fumble for the passages during the session.

At the start of the session:
• As your audience files in, chat with them informally about their interests, reading habits, books they like and so on. Get a sense of their language comprehension levels. And be ready to make adjustments in your presentation accordingly.
• Make the audience sit in the way you want them to sit, and in such a manner that allows you to ‘get down and dirty’ with them; it’ll keep them engaged and lively.

During the session:
• Be prepared to improvise and think on your feet.
• Make good use of voice modulation, pauses and silence to keep the audience engaged.
• Try variations in tone and modulation to keep the audience tuned in. Speaking in the same pitch can make you lose their attention.
• If the students get fidgety, use your voice to draw them back in – not by getting louder, but by lowering your voice and going softer and softer until they HAVE to become quiet to listen to you.
• Make use of the physical space available to you: move about, go close to the audience, be free with your hands and body movements.
• Draw the audience in by making them a part of the presentation. For example, if the story is set in a jungle, divide the audience into groups and make each group make the sounds of one animal. With the different groups making different animal sounds, the classroom can be converted into a jungle.
• Keep throwing questions at the audience.
• Use a few words from local languages to draw your audience in –eg., ‘shaadi jewellery’ instead of ‘wedding jewellery’.
• Be authentic, not fake. The more you believe in what you’ll be presenting, the more authentic you will be.
• There is often disruptive child in the group. You need to deal with this. Don’t let him/her distract you. Try to tune him out. Or pin him with your stare. Or block him out by turning your back at him.

Paro believes that it is important for authors to charge for school sessions. (One can always make an exception for schools where one believes that there may be a financial constraint.) For authors, writing is their profession and it is important that their time and work is taken seriously.

You should charge even for Skype sessions. Paro charges 5K per hour. Or, the school needs to buy 150 to 200 copies of her books. Be upfront and firm and transparent about your charges; do not negotiate. For daylong workshops or those over a longer duration, propose a package deal.

‘Writing is your profession, and it is out of respect for literature that you’re charging. Stop apologizing about it,’ she says.

A Practical Guide to Nonsense


, , , ,

SCBWI member Tanushree Singh writes about the event held on May 21, 2015, in the lovely library of the Max Mueller Bhavan.

Nonsense can be intimidating. Because it defies logic, it has nothing to do with the conventional story arc, and it is disturbing since it challenges all norms known to mankind. I shied away from nonsense literature for the longest time till my younger one dragged me to Michael Heyman’s session on ‘This book Makes no Sense,’ a few years back. ‘He is utterly nonsensical!’ He squealed in delight and I froze. I quickly checked to see if he had been overheard.

Years later, a few days back, I had the opportunity to meet the nonsensical man again at the SCBWI event – A Guide to Practical Nonsense. Any talk that starts with ‘your mother called me to tell you all about nonsense,’ is bound to captivate the audience. And if Michael Heyman is at the helm of things, they turn up in large numbers too. Michael is a professor in English at Berklee College of Music, Boston. He has edited and contributed to two books for children, The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense and This Book Makes No Sense: Nonsense Poems and Worse. His poems and stories have been published inThe Puffin Book of Bedtime Stories, The Moustache Maharishi and Other Unlikely Stories, as well as in This Book Makes No Sense.


Michael Heyman tells us what nonsense is not.


We started off with an interesting anecdote about Vinda Karandikar offence at his work being called nonsense! That is the curse nonsense literature drags with it – sometimes its creators, unlike Michael, have trouble accepting the nomenclature. Before we got to rules, we were shown an object that was to be central to the prose/poetry that we’d write during the course of the workshop – a grandmother’s spoon. The next minute saw everyone furiously scribbling about the ever so important spoon.

One hour is nowhere near enough to even get a brief glimpse into the world of nonsense. However, Michael being Michael not only took us through the basics but also got us to write some nonsense of our own. So I’ll try to present Michael’s words as briefly as possible – some made sense and some were utter nonsense!

A great way to define something that evades a comprehensive definition is to explain by way of negatives. And that is exactly what Michael did. A joke or a riddle is not nonsense. Nonsense is not a fantasy though it can very well live within a world of fantasy, one of the best examples, as quoted by Michael, is Alice in Wonderland. Gibberish is definitely not nonsense. So Michael’s composition (xpttwwbuu rrptwiypo dillydilldyilly) that he shared with us to make a point definitely doesn’t qualify as nonsense!

Then what exactly is nonsense? It can be thought of as a parasite of sorts. It can appear anywhere – in a song, a piece of poetry, a prose, and even recipes. This was interesting, because most of us saw nonsense as something that can exist only independently and not sneak in other forms of literature. The examples that we discussed demystified it further. Glimpses of nonsense can be seen a large chunk of literature out there – effortlessly woven in.

To wrap our heads around nonsense, it was essential to explore some of the characteristics that set it apart from the rest. We started with ‘sound over sense.’ In nonsense, sound is as important as the meaning of the word. So ‘glad glusician’ sounds just right in Sukumar Ray’s Glibberish Gibberish. The words have to feel right while they roll in our mouth and sound perfect as they are said out aloud. They need to sound purposeful. There also has to be a balance between sense and nonsense which is seen in Anushka Ravishankar’s Uncle Tettra Hedran as he lists the points he wants make. Nonsense does not ride solely on outraging sense. A good piece is a balancing act between the two.

Among other characteristics are sense implication, game, and strict partial formalism. Good nonsense makes the reader look for traditional sense only to be frustrated by the attempt. It can be seen as a game with certain rules that are intentionally broken.

There are numerous nonsense techniques out there, and Michael introduced quite a few of them to the audience, starting with Neologism. We saw some wonderful examples of neologism being used by the participants in the second part of the writing exercise where we gave our story a nonsensical twist. Michael walked us through other techniques like portmanteau words, simultaneity and arbitrariness among others.

Illustrations play an important role in nonsense literature. One look at Edward Gorey’s work and we know why. Michael elaborated on how being in black and white, and having a Victorian feel to them, Gorey’s illustrations tempt the reader to find some sense in them. However, a closer look defeats all conventional sense of logic.


The audience try their hand at writing nonsense.


The session was rounded off with the final writing exercise of giving sense to the nonsense written around the legendary spoon. The audience bravely read out their pieces of prose and poetry about spiders, grandmas and of course the protagonist. To quote a participant, Michael’s introduction to Nonsense was absolutely ‘globdonkulous.’

How many of us actually end up writing some nonsense remains to be seen. The number of spoons that see the silvery night in a book of their own is also somewhat debatable. But what remains unquestionable is the fact that we all took a bit of nonsense away from the session, and came out a bit braver in our attempts to pen some sensible nonsense. And we thank Michael Heyman for showing us the light!

LSD: Love Sex and Darkness in Children’s Literature

On Dec 27, 2014, SCBWI India, in collaboration with Max Mueller Bhavan, and with the help of the organisers of Bookaroo, brought together a group of writers, illustrators, storytellers, publishers and other people interested in children’s books, to discuss the boundaries in literature for children. Tanushree Singh reports.

This could not have come at a better time. A lot of children around me are stepping into a phase where their reading tastes are increasingly getting more complex. One look at the newspaper reflects an unnatural moral stance in society that unfairly encompasses books, some for fairly innocuous reasons. There is a disconnect between what is out there and what we ‘want’ the young readers to read. So it is only fair to explore what the boundaries should be. Should themes like love, sex, violence, mental illness, addiction, suicide, and sexual abuse find space in children’s literature? Or are we adding to the turmoil that a child already faces trying to adjust to the demands of the world?

Dr. Shalini Advani, Director of Pathways School, Noida kickstarted the discussion. Having worked with children closely, she rightly pointed out that kids are eager to enter adulthood and are constantly underestimated by know-all adults.

Priya Kuriyan, an independent animation film-maker and illustrator, and Samina Mishra, an independent film-maker and writer, then introduced excerpts from various books that are considered to be dark for one reason or another. From our good old Amar Chitra Katha to the Hunger Games, each book had material that could be considered unsuitable for children or young adults. Take, for example, ACK – we never see the illustrations as titillating or exceptionally violent, probably because we let mythology and history take some liberties. Then why do books that talk or hint at sexuality, or for that matter use violence as a backdrop, do not go down very well with us? That formed a point of thought.

The group was a mix of parents, teachers, authors, illustrators, story-tellers and publishers. So the perspectives that were thrown up were varied and added interesting dimensions. Writer Ranjit Lal, Jamila Gavin and Devika Rangachari, storyteller Ameen Haque, publishers Anita Roy and Sayoni Basu, were among those who had strong opinions to voice.

Sometimes as grown ups and the self appointed custodians of what enters the ‘fragile minds’ we tend to be over cautious. That reflects in the stories we write. As Himanjali Sankar pointed out, while writing, she did not think of Talking of Muskaan as dark, she saw it as a story.

Shouldn’t there be some things that ought to be taboo as far as children’s books are concerned? Ranjit Lal disagreed. And rightly so. Newspapers have it all. Whatever we are trying to protect children from is printed each day and delivered to our houses. In fact they read the gorier version there.

Anita Roy related her experience, as publisher at Zubaan, while editing My Body Book. An NGO in Mumbai that works extensively with victims of sexual abuse were concerned with the images used to explain the body parts. They suggested that the illustrations of the body be covered in swimsuits. Their concern was that the books would not get past the guardians, if the parents or teachers found them inappropriate or threatening in any manner.

Dr. Shalini pointed out that children develop sexuality earlier than is commonly assumed, and we need to respect the child’s privacy, his or her desire to share. A dialogue goes a longer way than banning texts or being condescending.

Another point that came up was the use of crude language in books. Are cuss words unavoidable? There were a few of us who thought it could be spared but then again Dr Shalini rightly said, ‘we need to accept the callousness of youth, even cruelty. For them it is normal.’ Encouragement obviously is not a logical corollary of acceptance.

Another concern was promotion of violence through books. Do books promote violence? Should there be boundaries? Rupa Gulab pointed out that there are no boundaries in real life. Showing violence in books should not, therefore, be a problem.

Sayoni Basu rounded up the session, with a presentation that showed some books that were banned when they were first published—a surprising list, consisting of the likes of Dr Seuss, Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein, whom we would be proud to have in any children’s library today. In contrast, a book like the German Struwwelpeter, which was acceptable many years ago, would be unacceptable now. So, suggested Sayoni, we adults should stop taking ourselves seriously, and let children read what they like.

In conclusion, love, sex, and darkness are a part of who we are, it is around us, and our little ‘angels’ are aware of it all. They will learn anyhow, and they are capable of handling stuff much more maturely than we give them credit for. The question is what would we rather have as their source of information—speculative hushed whispers in classroom from equally misinformed classmates or facts from us? The choice is ours to make.

LSD: Love, Sex and Darkness in Books for Children


Should children’s books only deal with happy things? What about death, violence and sexuality? What about darkness and ugliness? Some people think we should protect children from the nasty things in life for as long as possible, whereas others hold that books can help children understand reality and learn to deal with it. SCBWI India would like to throw this question open to authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, teachers, librarians and other stakeholders in children’s literature.

We will look at specific texts and illustrations and argue about their appropriateness for children and young adults.

In partnership with Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi.
Supported by

Introduction by Shalini Advani

Dr Shalini Advani is Director of Pathways School Noida. Previously she has been Principal of the British School, New Delhi and Director Education of Learn Today.

She was a member of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Steering Committee for the revised English Curriculum; on the editorial group for its English textbooks and a member of NCERT Special Committee to develop reading cells in government schools in Mathura district. Her publications include Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow,(Orient Longman) Educating the National Imagination (OUP) and the essay ‘Childhood Sexuality: History, Memory, Mythology’ in The Dark Room (Harper Collins).

She will introduce the event and set the context for the discussion at LSD.

Moderated by Samina Mishra and Priya Kuriyan

Samina Mishra is an independent film-maker and writer based in Delhi.

Priya Kuriyan is an independent animation film maker and illustrator based in Delhi. She has directed educational films for the Sesame Street show (Galli Galli Sim Sim) and has also co-directed a short animation film for the CFSI. Over the past five years, she has also been illustrating for a number of children’s books and comics.

Summary and conclusion by Sayoni Basu

Sayoni Basu is the principal platypus at Duckbill Books.

The discussion will be with authors, illustrators, booksellers, publishers and editors, teachers and librarians, and other stakeholders in children’s books. We particularly urge teachers and librarians to join us to present their point of view.


scbwi image