Nandini Nayar is a prolific children’s author, having written over 50 books for children of all ages. Her postal code may say she lives in Hyderabad but in fact, she inhabits multiple worlds.
We managed to catch up with the celebrated children’s author for a quick chat about her new book, ‘Not My Long Blue Skirt‘. Illustrated by Darshika Varma and published by Ms Moochie, it is a touching tale about the importance of sharing and letting go.
Read our interview with this incredibly creative and talented children’s author below.
Q: How did you finalize the idea for ‘Not My Long Blue Skirt’? This story happens in a palace, with only two characters- a Queen and a Princess. Is there a reason for this?
“I got the idea for ‘Not My Long Blue Skirt’ from my own family. In India, ‘Jugaad’ is generally an admirable quality. Let nothing go to waste!”
I wanted to write an Indian story, something that every child would relate to. In India, ‘Jugaad’ is generally an admirable quality. Let nothing go to waste! I got the idea for ‘Not My Long Blue Skirt’ from my own family.
The idea of reusing things is an essential part of our life. My mother made her own clothes and later, I did the same. To this day, I never throw anything away. I feel that these days, the younger generation has not had the need to think about reusing things. They don’t need to because every child is a princess! Metaphorically, of course.
In my mind, these discussions are usually between a mother and a child. Mothers tend to broach what I think of as ‘difficult’ topics. And like every mother, I have had to negotiate with my son to give away his books and toys.
Q: As a children’s author, do you think about whether a story translates well as a storytelling piece while you write?
No, I do not think about the storytelling aspect, but instead, I focus on what the girl/children in the story would feel. I concentrate on the emotions and thought process of the characters.
The little girl wants to hold onto her skirt simply because it is hers. She associates it with the special feeling she experienced when she wore it. While writing the story, the focus was never about how the story would sound in a storytelling session, but about how the character in the story develops and deals with the situations.
Q: Once you have decided on a story, what is the process that you follow to bring it to completion?
An idea normally begins with an image or a concept. I make a note of it in my book and think about it. When I feel I am ready, I write it down. Usually, I end up with multiple drafts before I am satisfied. Then I put the story away and look at it later. This particular story was first written over 2-3 years ago.
I felt that the idea of reusing things was very Indian and prevalent in many households. I thought it would be good to write about this aspect. I think that girls have a stronger connect and remember how it feels to wear a particular dress. They tend to hold on to these material objects for the comfort of memory. I can still remember how special it felt to wear a long skirt as a child.
Q: Where do you come up with ideas for storybooks, since you mentioned that you don’t have a ‘Great Idea Factory‘ in you?
Most of my early books are inspired by conversations with my son or are stories that I made up for him.
For example, ‘Where is Amma?’ and ‘Pranav’s Picture‘ are both stories I first narrated to my son. Many of my stories have Pranav as the central character, which means that the protagonist was mainly a boy. But I have managed to balance this out by introducing female protagonists in my later books.
Q: “What did you see? What could it be? What will you give me? Where shall we go? ” – You have written several question books! How did this happen?
It’s true! Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that I am a very curious person. But actually, I never set out to write question books. I find it very difficult to think of titles for my books and sometimes my editors or my family has to step in to help me along. For example, my book The Curious Case of the Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop was initially titled ‘The Shop Around the Corner’, The Great River Magic was titled ‘Number Magic’.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a children’s author? How did you start writing children’s books?
My first foray into writing for children was nearly twenty years ago when Deccan herald published a story of mine. This made me realise that I could translate my dreams into reality and since then, I simply continued writing. From short stories I moved to picture books, then middle-grade fiction and now chapter books. Writing for children is a conscious choice because it is something that I thoroughly enjoy. It is one of my dreams that has finally materialised- to write stories that allow me to explore various aspects of childhood.
Grab your copy of ‘Not My Long Blue Skirt’ now!
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