“Bring out the child in you to reach a child”

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said Manorama Jafa, secretary general of Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children, who has been tirelessly running the association for the last 31 years…and is still continuing to do so with the same zest. A prolific writer and a wonderful orator – Manorama Zara has played a pivotal role in the field of children literature in India. Here, in a tête-à-tête with Varsha Verma, she reveals the children author in her.

Manorama JafaFor Manorama Jafa, writing is a hobby, which she has refined and honed to become a prolific and recognized children author. “In 1972, I pursued a course in writing for children in America, when my husband was posted with UN. When I came back to India, Shankar of Children Book Trust (CBT) requested me to hold workshops for children, which were inaugurated by Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay. Later, I started editing the Journal of the Indian Section of The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) and started writing for children,” she told excitedly.

“It is very interesting to write for children; there are so many sub-technicalities involved. I feel happy to guide all the writers and ask them to be clearer on what they want to write and what exactly is needed,” she told. “When you write for small children, it is important to understand what children like and what they don’t. They should write according to the age of the child. You need to enter that age to write for that age group of children. What you remember when you were five years old? You probably remember your teacher, your fight with your best friend, the class bully, etc. Girls are very sensitive at this age as well and this needs to be considered while writing. There has to be a story, which is somebody’s story and it should have a climax and an end,” she added.

“Most importantly, when you write, prepare an outline first – which will become a formula for your writing,” stressed Manorama. “Also, I often stress in my workshops that first decide whether you wish to give a story or some information to the children. If it is a story, it should not be loaded with too much information; small moral or little information is fine but too much of it will lose its sheen.

After penning down a good 100 number of books for children, some of which have also been translated in India and abroad, Manorama tried her hand at novels and her first novel Devika was conferred with the Sahitya Akademi Award. “Four of my novels have already been published and two are in the pipeline,” she added enthusiastically. “In the morning I write for adults and in the evening, I write for children. I write in both Hindi and English and write almost 50 pages a day,” told Manorama as a simple fact. All her books are beautifully illustrated and printed. “I am blessed with a skill to evaluate manuscripts and illustrations. I simply go for the best,” she told.

Making touch books for children is another hobby which Manorama simple loves. “Whenever I am stressed and depressed, I quietly sit with a children book with a few coloured papers, bindis, fevicol, scissors, etc and decorate them – giving a feel to the characters of the book, which children can touch and feel. These books have been well received by handicap children and even others who love to touch the characters in the book,” told Manorama. Looking closer, we saw 2-3 books beautifully decorated with velvet paper and bindis etc, where she loves to flaunt her skills. “Everyone has a child inside you – you need to bring out that to reach the child,” she concluded.

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