says Dheera Kitchlu – an amazing children's writer and artist who likes to paint on canvases and glass bottles. With 12 published titles to her credit, Dheera has once again proven that being dyslexic does not mean the end of the world. With her hard work and sheer determination, she has set an example for all. The beginning...
“When I discovered the reason for my ‘slowness’ at ‘reading and writing’ – was because of a malady and not because I was incapable of it, I started writing. It was a happy revelation which came so late in life. I just knew then that I had a lot to offer through my stories and so I had to write professionally,” shares Dheera, a children author based in New Delhi.
Journey so far...
“It has been a happy journey but an unconventional one. Happy because to me writing is a gift. I was never able to write or read fluently during my growing years because I am dyslexic. So all the stories stored in my mind are born out of observation and experience along with a big dollop of fantasy, not from books and reading like for most authors.
I gave myself the tool kit for writing through online courses, reading and dedicated practice,” shares Dheera Kitchlu.
“The journey has been unconventional because I don’t like offering my work to publishers. For the first few books, I did meet publishers but more and more I found that I didn’t enjoy the process. It made me feel undermined and took the joy out of writing, an activity as vital to me as breathing,” she adds.
Today, Dheera has 12 published titles (No Dogs Please! Out Now, Maya, My Friend Sadhu Shiva, Fun with Alphabet Stories, etc), including two e-books. “I am content with what I have done so far and have many more ideas taking shape,” she shares. Her characters in her books are sometimes inspired from life and sometimes totally fictitious.
Writing – a gift...
“For me everything about reading and writing is hard because I have to labour over each word. Some days I can’t write at all because the words float away and make no sense. So I just take the day off and do something else. Earlier, before I knew I was dyslexic, I would worry and wonder why this was happening but now I rejoice on the days I can write and feel humbled and grateful,” tells Dheera.
Writing for children...
So, what factors does Dheera keeps in mind while writing for children? “First of all, there should be no preaching. A lot of research needs to be done, so that each fact is correct. There should be space for vivid imagination. Magic interests children but it must sound authentic. The sentences need to be short and there should be an economy of words. Use rhyme if possible. Besides, I take care that I do not give too much of description,” comes a prompt reply from Dheera.
But, it is not just text she is concerned about; she is equally concerned about the design and layout. “Make sure there are white spaces on each page, through dialogue or paragraph changes. Show the sunlight coming in through a dusty glass pane, don’t say, ‘it was a sunny day.’ Use all five senses as far as possible,” she conveys.
Ninety percent of people who love to write, love to read as well and Dheera is no exception. “Roald Dahl is my all time inspiration for children’s books, as are CS Lewis, EB White, Ruskin Bond and Quentin Blake. The last, also for his awesome illustrations. Currently, I am re-reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I find this book gives me the additional boost I need to stay on writing track. Besides, I read a lot of books on ‘writing’ and I find some of those, like, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers, Writing Past the Dark by Bonnie Friedman, just to mention a few, very informative and useful,” she says.
“Roald Dahl’s Matilda had a great influence on me. I was awed by the fact of a little genius of five years reading like Matilda did, perhaps because of my own handicap. I just loved the characters...the story progression...everything actually. I like it today as a writer, for its technical skill. To me Matilda is an example of superb story writing,” shares Dheera.
Advice to young readers...
We live in a time when young people have numerous choices for entertainment, so how can we motivate children to read? “Pick a book on a topic you love, try it, most probably you’ll get bitten by the reading bug. If you have a book at hand you can never be lonely or bored,” tells Dheera.
Helping children write...
Dheera is not just writing herself but is also helping children express their thoughts too and get them published as well. “In association with the publisher, Serene Woods, I have launched Anyone Can Write, an initiative for children. This encourages the children of ten years and above to send their writings for online advice. We work on their writings together and when they are as good as they can get, Serene Woods publishes them as a collection of children’s writings. The first volume with 55 writings from children all over India, was released in Shimla this May, as part of the centenary celebrations of St. Thomas’ School, Shimla,” she tells proudly. “My advice to writers is to write everyday consistently and to read a lot."
Dheera as a person...
Dheera is a person with many interests. She knits toys for charity, paints bottles for gifts, and paints on canvas too. “Water colour painting generally happens as part of my illustration for books. Besides, I love watching shows like The Tudors, Downton Abby, Grey’s Anatomy and several others. I am an exercise fiend. I walk everyday and do yoga. I practice Bach Flower remedies and spend time reading about it most days. I do a lot of self learning. I still have a problem with spelling and my writing is slow and laboured. But to me writing is not a lonely experience or a troubling one. It is my lifeline to sanity. I can deal with life’s issues as long as I can go back to my computer or notebook,” she shares. “A book on short stories for adults is in the oven right now. I hope it will be ready for release early 2013,” she concludes.
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