Age no bar for writing…
What could six-year old authors really write about? Anything, as their imagination soars beyond the skies, affirms Aparna Raman, founder, Timbuktoo Publishing. In a chat with her, Janani Rajeswari S delves more into the world of writing for children and the challenges involved. Timbuktoo is an imaginary place that is distant. “It represents imagination beyond borders,” says Aparna Raman. She owes the creation of her ‘Timbuktoo’ (publishing house) to her son, Rohan. “I noticed that he was extremely creative and I wanted to preserve all his works. Then, I thought why not create a memoir of children’s work that would show their creative growth,” she explains. Aparna is a creative and corporate writer who is also into advertising and design. Her interest in working with children and publishing their creations took shape in 2013. Timbuktoo Publishing comprises of a small team of a designer, an illustrator and a vendor. Mentored by Aparna, Timbuktoo has already published works by 24 authors.
Tapping their imagination
Aparna RamanCreative writing sessions have been quite effective in bringing out the imagination in children. “They are young and their minds are filled with ideas. So, my creative writing workshops focus on imagination building that needs to be effectively harnessed along with vocabulary building exercises,” adds Aparna. So, how does one work with a writer who is barely six years old? “At their level, words are fewer but they are very powerful. So, it’s essential to reach out to them through visuals,” she adds. One such session for a group of seven kids from Bangalore (5+ to 8 years) proved to be the fodder for her first publication. She had asked the children to put down their ideas if they were different things such as a song, food, shoe, holiday and so on. She decided to compile their writings into a book called ‘My Book of Me’. Aparna edited the content and it was launched in December 2013.
“I first put their writings on the social media. The overwhelming response encouraged me to publish it as a book,” she points out. However, children’s writing by kids is not a genre that has been much explored so far. Being a trendsetter, ‘Book by me’ definitely caught the attention of the media and readers.
A road less travelled
So, why has this genre of children writing for children not really been much explored? “Purely from the parents’ point of view, they believe that children learn through adult writing for children. However, there should be a market for ‘children’s writing by children’ too. It paves for culture scene assimilation. It’s also a genre that has great potential,” says Aparna.
Take for instance, Shaun Sharma, a 7-year old, London based writer published by Aparna. “We published his compilation of stories titled ‘Happy Stories’ in August 2014. He was our first international writer,” says Aparna. ‘Happy Stories’ comprises of tales of an ice cream robot and even an alien who is befriended by a cub. Another 12-year old girl, Anaya from Singapore got her collection of poems published through Timbuktoo Publishing. “They were indeed introspective,” reminisces Aparna.
Her first young adult writer came in the form of a girl from Dehradun who did some fiction writing.
She also got a chance to work with a group of 15 children from Sri Lanka. Briefed through an e-mail, the kids sent in their stories, “The book was called Sri Lankan Chronicles. Interestingly, the children hailed from various backgrounds and nationalities. Sri Lankan Chronicles encouraged children to write on Sri Lankan themes related to history, mythology, wildlife, art and so on. They were launched through an event called ‘Authored by’ in Colombo. That is not all. The 15 best writings from Aparna’s creative writing workshops get featured in the year end anthology of Timbuktoo called Whackalicious.
Challenges and response
Aparna points out the journey so far has been extremely exciting and so has been the response. “It’s been a learning experience. It’s about making a difference socio-culturally and education-wise too. People definitely appreciate the works of children they have never met,” says Aparna. She adds that ‘Timbuktoo Young Authors’ is on a drive to foster cultural assimilation amongst young people.
The greatest challenge came in the form of creating awareness among children about reading books by children. So far, ‘Timbuktoo Publishing’ has mainly focused on distribution in metro cities and would now like to expand its horizon. “The first step could be going deeper into the hinterland. I strongly believe that writing should not be restricted only to the privileged. A lot of people are waiting to be heard,” says Aparna. She would also like to reach out retailers in smaller cities.
Her other goal is to go international. This would begin by creating a ‘Global library’, which is now underway. “This would be through my blog. Parents and kids from different parts of the world could upload their stories,” she adds.
The Kovai connection
Aparna was recently in Coimbatore for a creative writing workshop at Book Mark Library and Activity Centre. “The thought of a Coimbatore Chronicle came up during this workshop. In the workshop, the children used history, ancient temples, landscape of mountains and river legends to create charming folk tales set in the old Kovai,” she recalls.
The book will be called Kovai Sketches and will be professionally illustrated and designed by Timbuktoo and launched in a few months. This will be an anthology that will be culturally anchored to describing Coimbatore’s history.
Aparna is also looking at graphic novel by autistic children. The future goals include merchandising and personalising the characters created by the kids in their stories. Intending to give a digital platform to the writers, she would like to partner with some digital companies to create e–books and digital applications. “I am very grateful for the love and reception over a short span of time. I would like to do more for the community,” concludes Aparna.