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Young adults look at the world through lenses of their personal emotions

Life&More February 5, 2019
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Author-teacher Reshma K Barshikar on her latest creative venture, her life, why is it important to write fiction for young adults and while at it, she makes a few honest confessions…

On my book, The Hidden Children
The Hidden Children is about a girl who wants to speak to a butterfly, and how far she will go to acquire that extraordinary power and how she handles the impact of this journey on her friends and family. It’s a coming of age story told against the backdrop of a magical world that lives alongside ours and the secrets she learns once she enters the world. Because this journey culminates in a quest for a precious object, there is mystery, suspense, love, friendship. At its heart, the book explores the intensity of young adult friendship and explores a the most formative period of a person’s life.


On writing for young adults…
Young adults are true narcissists and look at the world through the lenses of their personal emotions. They feel everything very intensely — from a song to a fight to tasting a new ice cream. Even boredom is an intense emotion for them because the world truly is their oyster. Grownups are part of their world but at the periphery looking in- they are the bridge to real life in that sense so I keep that in mind when I write. I remember my teenage years very vividly and that helps a lot. Even though technology has evolved the teenage heart remains the same and while the issues play out on different platforms, love and hate on an iPad is still love and hate.

On workshops for young adults to develop writing skills…
My Imagination workshops — Soar Write In are held for two age groups — 8-12 and 13-17. I teach them how to work their imagination and sharpen their wordsmithing through prompts and graphic organisers. The workshop introduces children to the six traits of writing and creates a stress free platform for word play and intrepid expression, while building a discipline of writing craft. Much like the rest of your body, the imagination needs to flex its muscles or it atrophies. The key is to write what you please, when you please, and how you please. The workshop teaches children to have fun writing using Graphic Organisers which enable them to organise their thoughts using innovative prompts and helps create a culture where the blank page is something that inspires and builds both confidence, and more importantly, create a lifelong passion for expression through the written word. So I have held workshops at the Jaipur Bookeroo, Vizag Junior Literary festival, Hyderabad Literary Festival and of course, multiple locations across Mumbai.

On being different from other authors…
I think we are all the same. We write for a living — very different to writing as a hobby because to us it is a job. We all are unique as we all write differently.

If I were to be the original author of a published work…
There are so many. But probably Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Tolkien’s Hobbit.

What if my creative work didn’t get good reviews…
It hasn’t happened in the past but I am very pleased The Hidden Children is being so well received. I honestly didn’t expect such wonderful reviews but critical feedback can be very useful. In the end, however, this is a calling for most part and you put out your best work. After that, you need to let it go out into the world.

One thing which is the most important part of a book…
The story.

Writing is both energising or exhausting…
Energising. Just one great paragraph can make me ecstatic. I love making things up, worlds, characters, conflict, people. I love that I have control — at least until a character goes rogue which they often do. Editing, however, is exhausting.

The word “creative” to me is…
Imagination.


My ideas germinate from…
Dreams, words, songs, anything really. I live in my head a lot.

Best way to market a creative work…
Hire a good PR person I think but also understand what is special about your book.

Writer’s block to me is…
I have been fortunate to not experience it so far but it probably does exist. Much like God, magic, the power of ritual and aliens, can a thing that so many people believe in not exist at all?

When I am not writing, I am…
Reading, marketing my book, playing with my toddler, working out, trying to play the guitar – a futile endevour, and listening to music.

A book that inspired me to take up writing…
Lots of books inspire me to be a better writer but none made me a writer. Reading On Writing by Stephen Kind makes me a better writer.

To be good storyteller, one must…
… love the world and people and always look for motive. For me, curiosity and a childlike innocence is critical to being a good storyteller. Anything can happen, why shouldn’t it? And that’s where good stories come from. Why did this happen? What happens next? When will it happen? Who does it happen to?

Book covers matter as much as the content…
Until The Hidden Children came out, I really never paid attention to a good cover. But now, I say yes because one of the reasons book stores say it’s doing well is because it stands out on a shelf. So while it probably doesn’t matter as much as the content, it’s important to understand the genre and keep in mind the reader’s needs.

An advice for existing authors…
Hmmm…be nice to other authors? It’s not some zero game. We can learn more from each other than we can take in an interaction.

An advice for budding authors…
Read more, write more, finish the project you are working on.

I am, at present, reading…
Three books — A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman for my book club, The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying and for the nth time, The Lord of The Rings by Tolkien.

One thing I would want to change about myself…
I think I would like to be less distracted by the world …

A bit about myself…
I used to be an investment banker until I realised I couldn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. I am from Coimbatore and my parents still live there. I studied in Coimbatore and the Nilgiris until I left for England to do my A levels and then went on to get a BA (Hons) from Oxford Brookes University. The years between 11 and 19 were my most formative and I can trace back everything. I am to what I listened, saw, read and experienced during that time which is why I think Young Adult fiction is so important.

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