Inside an author’s mind – Dr Ira Saxena

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How does an author thinks? Is he/she different from us? Does he/she faces day-to-day challenges like us? Here Dr Ira Saxena, popular child psychologist and a well-known children author, discusses her journey as an author, her triumphs and tribulations, etc. Books present a package for the senses and visual imagery to the mind, like a grandmother’s tale describing the scene with colloquial expressions to create enchantment and fun. The magic of words a book paints the complete picture beyond the story plot.

Reading pleasure and love for books is transmitted by the seniors in the family; the habit is caught – not taught. With so many options for pleasure, the book probably is the simplest design. In social groups, in school’s book games, story quiz adds a special interest in book reading. Teachers are innovative in devising attractive techniques to enchant new readers.

Writing- an extension of hobby…

I kept writing as per the dictates of my inner thoughts and getting it published in the process. It’s been like a continuous tracking of one’s hobby. I don’t see myself like a professional writer. I wanted to express myself through fiction and also present my analysis with respect to children’s literature of India in my papers at conferences and seminars.

Writing for children- what’s important?

Love and understanding of childhood is the undercurrent of all children’s writing, where there is no room for talking down, rather it is cardinal to stay on the same footing as the child. It is important to understand the child’s mind, interests, comprehension level, aspects of his behaviour – like a child must talk like a child, in keeping with his age, and an older character need not rattle like a child. The children’s literature, unlike adult fiction, is purposive, educative, to a certain extent moralistic (the anti-hero does not become the hero) which is given to the reader like a sugar-coated pill, in the garb of entertaining and pleasure reading material.

Honesty in writing impacts. Even in creating fantasies of parallel worlds, honest expressions and portrayal of characters emerge as the X factor. In realistic fiction, as I have been mostly sticking to, the plots picture reality in its true demeanour.

Characters inspired from life…

People around me always fascinated me as I drew images in the shape of story characters – at all times alive and kicking. They are not always super achievers, generally normal small town dwellers struggling with local stresses yet capable of dwarfing their inadequacies with their accomplishments. Here I’d like to emphasize that heartland of India is in small towns, moufasils, kasba’s, and villages, the majority population consists not of English medium educated children but children acquiring knowledge in small schools. Their problems differ; their dreams speak of grassroots reality of day-to-day survival. Our literature needs to depict their images, problems and aspirations. The study of psychology never failed me to mould characters behaving consistent with their basic nature. I tried to capture my readers by infusing the ordinary situations, racy sequences and actions loaded with the excitement of adventure.

Most difficult part of writing…

In my view, the first sentence and the first sequence is the hardest to write; the remaining story follows smoothly once it has been launched effectively. The first sentence preceding the beginning sequence is the launching pad into a story or a novel. I had completed the draft of The Virus Trap and after reading the entire script I felt uncomfortable as if there was some important element missing. The story seemed to trip and then I added the beginning para. My intuition told me, ‘now it’s a winner’; eventually it did fetch an award. The proportion and size of the beginning depends largely on the format of the writing – a novel or a story.

Challenges – creative, technological and otherwise…

Creative challenges, like, having a book published after magazine publishing to be called an author, testing my writing for its impact on my own sons first and then a larger set of audience, upgrading my technological information level from the start, kept pushing me in my writing journey. Even today I do not feel that I am a professional enough to write on demand following the rigmaroles professional writing. I continue to encounter challenges to overcome, first in writing and then to get it published.

The greatest challenge that crossed my way a decade ago, when the wired society of optic fiber pathways heralded the onslaught of internet technology, it sounded fascinating enough like parallel domains of extra-terrestrials. My books Caught by Computer and then The Virus Trap lifted my dreams just as it caught the imagination of the young readers into technological wonders that exist around them. My husband, a computer expert guided me with stacks of books on trends in computer science and its future. For sure, I equipped myself with adequate information realizing that a story is an effective tool to educate – an education which sticks to the memory. The technological details were daunting for a non-technical person like me but essential if I had to write for the young readers who are fully loaded with the latest. As I read, the concept laid bare the spellbinding mystery and riddles modern technology has in store for fascinating adventures. Now, when I receive mails acknowledging the impressions my computer crime tales had in shaping their career choice, it is more rewarding than the awards for writing I earned. I sought varied settings to shape more adventures – the most appealing genre for young readers.

Another milestone challenge was writing humour – humour that doesn’t hurt anyone’s sentiment just like natural mirth of growing years. I love to create characters in real flesh and blood which sound plausible. The carefree Uncle along with his nephews surfaced from the family bonding of Indian system and small town delights. The anecdotes of Mama ji (Manmauji Mama ji) and recently Mama ji ne Musibat Paali ring with revelry and circumstances made funny. The books have been well accepted.

Favourite piece of writing…

Short story has been my all-time favourite. I think it is equally testing and thought provoking like writing a novel – only the canvas size reduces, the intensity and sensitivity stays on. At times it is more laboured intensive and tricky to conjure up the thoughtfulness on a small canvas. Most writing, I feel, is inspired from within that determines the course of presentations and the format, whether to write a novel or a short story collection.

What next?

Presently I am preparing a short story collection of pet stories for young readers. Having published some short stories for adults in collections, I am currently working on a full length adult fiction – a period setting and a vigorous heroine. This fiction has given me tremendous writing contentment, a sense of fulfilment.

(Dr Ira Saxena is a graduate in Psychology and has a doctorate in Child Psychology. She has won many awards for her stories and books, the most prestigious being Shankar’s Award for Writing 1996 (Gajmukta ki Talaash) and White Raven’s Selection 2000, Germany (The Virus Trap). She is one of the founding members of the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC) which is the Indian section of IBBY. She has been actively involved, now for the last twenty five years, in various programmes of AWIC, first as a treasurer and then as the secretary, organising seminars, exhibitions, developing and editing books.)

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