“I jumped into the swimming-pool today.”
“Fortunately, the pool was heated.”
“Unfortunately, I cannot swim.”
“Fortunately, it was not deep.”
Which beginning do you find more entertaining? I was very surprised to find that many, many girls at the Writers’ Club find the second story more promising. I would choose the first, any day.
How does this activity work? It’s a hugely entertaining one, which I learned from the book Creating Stories with Children by Andrew Wright. Someone begins the story, and then each of the other participants must contribute one sentence, alternating between beginning with ‘Fortunately’ and ‘Unfortunately’. It helps to introduce the idea of plotting and the wonder of surprising the reader.
Limericks are fun! Very often, during a short session on creative writing, we work with limericks. They’re good fun, sparking much conversation and laughter. Many, many children love limericks too – one of my students even wrote a short story in limericks, which is part of Flickering Flames – An Anthology of Poems and Short Stories. But that one deserves a post on its own, so I’ll come to it some other time.
I put a ten-rupee coin into the bubblegum machine
Soon, bubblegums flew out and hit my head!
For a moment, I wondered; then I realised
That I’d put a hundred-rupee coin into the machine instead!
– adapted from a poem written in about seven minutes by one of the participants at yesterday’s workshop.*
*If anyone who reads this knows the name of the writer, please share it in the comments below!
I love the Reading Challenge, and The Big Friendly Read is among my favourite themes.
“Could you name a book you enjoyed?” I asked.
“Grrr,” replied a serious-faced young participant.
For a moment, there was silence; then everyone burst out laughing.
“I’ve read it too!” cried one.
“I liked No!” said another.
Laughter and madness go hand-in-hand when we explore Roald Dahl, a range of other stories in the collection, and Sir Quentin Blake’s illustrations – what a lovely Sunday!
If you think children don’t find reading interesting anymore, think again. At Vidya Valley School’s Literature Festival, it was absolutely delightful to see children running around, roaring with excitement, thrilled to bits with the very idea of a lit fest! This was my second year at the festival, and it was even better than the first.
I was asked to talk about my railway adventures to class V, and the experience was invigorating. I was astounded by the number of children who knew how bullet trains run. I didn’t know a thing until I began this project!
“Magnets,” many said, quite coolly.
Still others said, even more comfortably, “Mag-lev – magnetic levitation.”
When I read out an excerpt from The Toy Train, I realised that bullet trains, being new and exciting aren’t the only things that are familiar to the children. They knew about the steam engine and the toy trains in Matheran, Ooty and Darjeeling.
I loved the rapt attention with which they listened, completely involved in the story, giggling at all the right places. The best part was the question, “But what happens next? How do the kids save the toy train?”
They have to read the book to find out!
I always come away from sessions like this charmed by the questions I’m asked. Here are a few that are still buzzing in my head and making my lips twitch:
Are you famous?
Are you going to make your books into movies?
If you do, can I act in them?
Why don’t you just tell all the bookstores to sell your books?
Can we buy your books now?
Can we buy all your books and get them signed?
My heart is full!
Every time I work with children, I realise how much I enjoy it! They are much more imaginative than others, and much less inhibited. When The Story Station asked me to conduct a writing session with children over the age of eight, I knew it would be fun.
For me, the highlight of the session was the story “The Dictionary” from my The Story-Catcher. It’s not the first time I’m working with this story, but it’s fun each time. I told the story of ten-year-old Sana, off to visit her grandparents for her holidays. In her favourite room at her grandparents’ place, the library, she discovers an old, old dictionary, in which she finds three letters. The first is from her great-grandfather, the second is from her grandfather, and the third is from her mother. They all begin with ‘Dear Reader’. Charmed, Sana begins to write a letter of her own.
At this point, I ask the children to write letters that they would like to put into books for others to read. My host Vaishali was wonderfully enthusiastic. The children wrote letters that they hid in books all over The Story Station. Here’s a glimpse of a couple of them. I wonder who’ll find them, and how the story will go on!
With children writing imaginative letters, poems and stories, I had a perfectly delightful morning, and I look forward to many, many more workshops like this!
The Story Station turns two!
The Story Station is a reading centre in Aundh, Pune, where adults and children can discover the love of books. A space that’s always bursting with energy, it hosts all kinds of activities, revolving around reading, storytelling and creative writing.
I’m delighted to be part of their birthday week fest. ‘The author in you’ is a creative writing workshop that I will be conducting this Sunday for children over the age of eight. See you there!
The first two days of the Asian Festival of Children’ Content were the highlights for me, but sessions here and there stood out too. On the first day of the teachers’ congress, I attended a lovely session on reading and empathy conducted by Maria Alessandrino. More than the first half of the session, I thoroughly enjoyed the second half, where we went through all kinds of books that build empathy in the reader. I have a whole new list of books that I am waiting to get my hands on. I ended up buying just one of the books Maria recommended – Where’s Grandma? – and I loved it!
Here are a few others I want to read …
… I could go on and on and on!
Another session I loved was Elaine Fong’s talk on reading in the digital age. Much of what she said does not apply to me in my reading programmes because we don’t have a public library system in place that supports reading outside school. Yet, her talk was fascinating because of the mixture of research and anecdotal information. The summer reading slide, for example, supported by the statistics and graphs, was something that made me say Yes, I need that! Sometimes, you need graphs to prove that what you’re saying is not all made up!
The AFCC is also a wonderful place to launch books, and I attended three or four book launches while I was there. Here are a couple …
Many of the others, including Where, oh where, is Monty Bear? and The Fix-It Man, are rather too expensive here in India, but were lovely too. I was particularly fascinated by an augmented reality book, and was very tempted to pick it up. The only thing that deterred me was the fact that it was in Mandarin!
Will soon be writing about the two precious books I picked up at the AFCC! Books, writing, listening … I look forward to many, many more lit fests. The energy at events like this is incredible!
This is probably the only time in my life when I signed a contract, committing to playing Illustrationary, the AFCC version of Pictionary, at a certain date and time. But when have I not enjoyed a game of Pictionary? I’m getting ahead of myself, though, because the highlight of the day was my book launch!
This charming little place called My Treehouse was where I launched Bholu and the Smart Card, the fifth in my series of railway adventures for young readers.
I began with a Connect the Dots activity, which everyone loved, much to my delight. I enjoyed it too, and was thrilled to see people from so many different countries come together there. Indonesia, Australia, Kenya, Singapore … It was so exciting! The challenge, though, was that I had a slot at the same time as the launch of the winning Scholastic picture books, so I did not have as large an audience as I could have hoped for. But it was my first international launch, so I’m not complaining!
The joy of the AFCC is meeting so many different people, and after the launch, I just spent some time chatting to people I met, exchanging ideas, and realising how similar we are. The obsession with roots for instance – it’s lovely to find kindred spirits who consider this as pointless as I do. And, of course, my agitation with the incessant question as to why I write in English … It was good!
Angelo Cerrito’s session on creating page-turning fiction was interesting, especially in the way she spoke about relationships being defined by whether certain emotions are shared or not. I attended a couple of storytelling sessions, and then took part in Illustrationary. Paired up with Mas Shafreen, and pitted against Sierra Mae Paraan and Melissa Tan, it was as much fun as it promised to be.
We had audience participation, which is what moved my team up from 2-nil down to victory!
When I went for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content last year, I wondered when – and whether – I would go again. Yes, it was a wonderful experience, but Singapore … Again … Expensive, and all that. But my paper ‘Writing about Us’ was accepted through the call for entries and then, how could I not go?
I began by attending a lively session on taking self-promotion back by Amy Ng. I particularly enjoyed the section on how not to write a query letter (and was mightily relieved to find that I’ve never written one of those!). She spoke about fairly familiar ideas, though, so it was more about reinforcement than learning something new. The big take-away was important, as always – don’t network for the sake of networking! That’s when it feels icky and forced!
Petra Nagyová Džerengová’s session on death, divorce and other difficult topics was lovely too. What struck me was the idea that children need to be aware of all the “difficult” issues before they encounter them. Why talk about death after a child begins to cope with something s/he does not understand? We went through a list of picture books that deal with death in various charming ways — but also discussed the stereotype of death being portrayed as black and angels as white. When will that change?
Then came my session; that was exciting! The room felt charged with emotion, especially when we came to a question about inclusivity having uncomfortable political connotations in some parts of the world. Homosexuality – does it have a place in children’s literature? Of course it does! The conversation then naturally led to the recent withdrawal of the books And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express from the libraries.
We spoke about diversity and inclusiveness, and the ways in which we understand these terms. Wai Chim, author of Freedom Swimmer, spoke about how sometimes, including diverse literature is just part of the agenda. Chinese literature? Check. Indian literature? Check. And worst of all, African literature? Check. I don’t know about the audience, but I certainly felt that an hour was too short to express ourselves!
Speed pitching and the writing critique were valuable too. There were only 13 submissions this year for the writers’ critique, and I simply cannot understand why! There’s so much to learn there, and the critique is anonymous after all!
Day one came to an end with a networking evening, and though I’m not great at networking, I enjoyed meeting people I met last year!
Do you see all the red marks? That’s what I attended at the Lit Bug Fest yesterday!
The first event of the day was a play written by a young girl and performed by Pushkar Rangmanch. A sweet story, performed with enthusiasm!
A few months ago, I invited Leela Gour Broome to address the Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s. Yesterday, I watched how she told a story to children of varied ages. I also watched Kakoli Bagchi tell a story for the first time. With lovely little puppets, they brought Mrs Broome’s story Red Kite Adventure to life! After that, she told the story of a shiny red ball that travels the globe … I enjoyed the story as much as the children did!
My event was next on the agenda, and I loved it! I did have a wide range of children there, and I’m afraid the older children weren’t as involved as the younger ones, but all in all, it was such fun! The children made a steam engine and jigsaw puzzles, and learned about different kinds of locomotives.
As I spoke to them about WAG9, I asked them, “What does A stand for?”
Promptly, a child responded, “Apple!”
He was right in one way; unfortunately, not in the case of an engine!
As I told the story of Bholu at the Level Crossing, children came closer and closer, listening, staring at the pictures … Ah, it was heart-warming!
Next on my agenda was the Kahani Project. Watching Ajay Dasgupta in action was simply wonderful! I love how animated he is, how star-struck the children are! I listened to his alternative endings to the story of the hare and the tortoise and began to wonder too … What if it had rained on the day of the race?
And then came Dharithri Krishnamurthy – she’s a child magnet! The children drew closer and closer to her as she spoke. There were whispered silences, as well as loud, enthusiastic involvement. It was awesome!
My day at the Lit Bug Fest came to an end with Deepak Dalal’s session introducing his new bird stories. An informative session, it awakened the travel bug in me. I can’t wait to travel to the wild again!
A new set of children and a new set of activities …
I was invited to conduct a reading camp for children in a society, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly! From word search puzzles to skits and storytelling, we packed as much as we could into eight hours. As always, the children were an enthusiastic bunch, willing to do everything together, without once complaining that they were bored or that reading was dull.
How many of us are familiar with Bholu the guard-elephant, mascot of the Indian Railways? Join me on an exploration of a series of railway adventures that will take us on thrilling train journeys all over India. Every story is accompanied by a unique activity – ranging from jigsaw puzzles and colouring books for young children, to building your own steam locomotive for older children. Listen to a story at the Lit Bug Fest, and discover the wonder of the railways!
There’s so much around the corner!
This month, apart from all the regular workshops, I’m going to be part of The Lit Bug Fest!
The Lit Bug Fest is a children’s literary fest to be held on the 29th of April at Persistent Systems, Bhageerath, Senapati Bapat Road. It is an all-day event, and I’m looking forward to it!
In May, I have wonderful things in store for me too. I’m going to be speaking at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, Singapore.
The first one on the list is Pictionary by another name. I can’t quite believe that I’m going to Singapore to officially play Pictionary.
The second is a panel discussion, which I’m looking forward to … We’re going to be talking about diversity and inclusiveness, and the challenges we face while writing in Asia – in English or in other languages.
I’m also going to be doing an official international launch for the first time!
Bholu and the Smart Card is the fifth railway adventure for young readers, and I’m going to be launching it at AFCC 2017! It is unfortunately at the same time as the launch of the picture book winners from 2015, but I hope there will be enough people at the festival for there to be a healthy turnout at both events!
Launching my railway adventures for children in a city in which I know very few children was bound to be a challenge, but it was such fun!
The event began with a college friend who came to show her support – and she made my day. I hadn’t met her for a decade, making her presence even more special.
As children started trickling in, we began to explore the series of railway advenures through the audio books and activity kits. The joy of each of the railway books is that it is sold both as a book and as part of a kit, making for wonderful activities with children at events like this!
And of course, for any writer, people who want to buy your book and get it signed just warm your heart!
I have two events coming up in Bengaluru this week – a book launch tomorrow, and a reading workshop on Saturday. I hope to see you there!
The British Library invited me to conduct writing workshops for the fourth and fifth standard students of Gurukul School, and what fun it was!
A student of mine introduced me to a lovely activity that I improvised for the fourth standard. I handed out sheets of paper to groups of children, and asked them to write six characters.
Here’s what they wrote:
I find the denture, toothbrush and fork the most interesting characters of all!
Then, I asked them to write six settings.
I like Crystaly! I wonder where it is.
Then, I asked them to write actions. Here’s what we got:
Each child comes forward and rolls the die three times. The die rolls determine the character, setting and action. All that remains is to write the story. It was delightful!
I love the concept of the language week that is held at Symbiosis International School. The students organised a language quiz; they explored the cultures associated with different languages; they had competitions … And I was invited my to conduct creative writing workshops for grade VIII. In November last year, I conducted reading workshops with grade VII and thoroughly enjoyed myself, so I was sure these would be fun too!
As I was going to be there anyway, I was also asked to judge an event, and it was wonderful! Students of the seventh grade dressed up as characters from books and made speeches or enacted scenes. It was such fun! From the moment each character walked into the room, my brain began to whir. Who could this be? What book is s/he from? From the prince and the pauper to Frankenstein, Ebenezer Scrooge, Elizabeth Bennett and Mark Antony, I had a lovely morning, immersed in stories of all kinds!
The workshop was lovely too – working on technique, structure and, of course, imagination. I love the creative energy that runs like a hot wire through the participants when they sit by themselves to write. We explored the process of creativity and why people write, or create art in any form. It was a wonderful day!
Last year, I attended the Asian Festival of Children’s Content for the first time because I was shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award. This year, I’ll be attending it again–as a speaker!
I’m speaking as part of a panel discussion titled “Writing about Us”. Here’s a little about where the whole thing came from.
At workshops I conduct, I find that participants rarely write about Indian children, especially when they write fantasy. I meet Harry, Lucy (sometimes even pronounced Lucky because the name isn’t real to the children) and Mary, and a few made-up names too, but almost no Indian ones. When the children write Indian tales, I find, repeatedly, a traditional storytelling pattern with a clear moral.
I originally believed that this came from what the children read. They talk about Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and Cassandra Clare, and when I ask what Indian literature they read, the answers I hear include Tenali Raman, Akbar and Birbal, and the Panchatantra.
Yet, this is only part of the answer to why they don’t write about Indian children. The problem is more deep-rooted and often comes down to stereotypes perpetuated by television as well as other kinds of problems we face when we write Indian stories in English.
Looking forward to a another lovely workshop in Singapore!
To attend the conference or find out more about it, click here.
The Reading Challenge is back at the British Library, Pune, and this time, the theme is ‘The Big Friendly Read’! Celebrating 100 years of Roald Dahl, we have a lovely collection of books as usual. Many feature Dahl characters that I fell in love with as a child, and of course, many others with the wonderful illustrations of Sir Quentin Blake. There are all kinds of stories, though, so even if you’ve read everything Dahl ever wrote, there will be something for you to read too!
For those who have never taken part in the Reading Challenge, it is an exciting programme conducted every year at the British Library, Pune. If you are anywhere between 5 and 13 years old, you can register. There are two sets of books – junior books and senior books – and all you need to do is finish reading six books in six weeks. If you do, you will get a certificate, maybe even a medal!
I will be conducting an orientation session on Sunday the 13th of November. Contact me if you need more details about it.
If you know already that you want to be part of the Big Friendly Read, then register! Write to email@example.com or contact the library at (020) 4100 5320. See you at the workshops!
When I was asked to speak about Shakespeare at a gathering of school principals and English teachers, I was more than a little nervous.
I borrowed and read books; I watched DVDs about his life; I pulled out notes from my Master’s course on Shakespeare … And I enjoyed myself thoroughly! Reading about Shakespeare again made me chuckle and wonder at the amount people have read and written about him. The interpretations people have come up with are amazing! From saying that he was (definitely) a moneylender to saying that he was a butcher’s son who would make a speech while killing a calf, I read a range of stories, and that’s why I decided to talk about just that – a few of the stories that make up the Shakespeare that we “know” today.
After my talk, Mr Sridhar Balan spoke about the First Folio, a delightful session that drew the audience in and explored Shakespeare’s journey towards publication. We concluded with a wonderfully lively session conduced by author Pervin Saket, who spoke about his words and works, bringing alive Shakespeare’s juicy and imaginative insults!
In Pune, I happened to be colour-coded with the venue. Needless to say, that was unplanned.
In Mumbai, I seem to have been a little colour-coded too, though I did not notice that. The number of people made me nervous, but that just added to the adrenalin rush!
I enjoyed reading this short, simple play by Caron Thomas, one of the girls at the Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s School. I’ve published it here for you to read (with her permission, of course).
The Puppy Who Wanted to Fly
A warm afternoon, under a tree. Stage right: A large field with many trees; stage left: a cottage
Puppy: I wish I could fly just like the birds.
(Goes around the tree and scratches his head)
Yes! I have decided. I will go to the birds and ask them to teach me how to fly.
(Looks at the tree)
Hey, hey everyone please teach me to fly.
Little bird: Ha, ha! How will you fly? You’re a dog, you don’t have beautiful wings like us!
(Puppy runs away making a sad face)
A warm afternoon in a cottage. Stage right: a dining table; stage left: the living room
Puppy: Mommy, Mommy! Why don’t I have wings like birds? I really want to fly.
Mother: Son, be happy, you are a cute little puppy. There are so many things that birds can’t do but you can.
Father: Son, you have soft and shiny fur. Then why do you need wings with feathers?
Mother: Now go back to the field and play with them.
Puppy: Yes, Mommy.
(Runs back to the field)
A cloudy dark evening in the field. Stage centre: Trees.
It starts raining.
Puppy: Ugh! I am wet, I should find my tree fast or else I will catch a cold.
(Looks at his tree, surprised)
Hey, What is this? A cat is taking shelter under my favourite tree.
Oh no, is that the little bird? Poor bird, she is trapped in the cat’s cage. I should save her somehow, she is my friend.
(Walks towards the cat)
Woof, Woof ,Woof.
(The cat screams and runs away)
Puppy: There now little bird, come out, don’t be scared, the cat’s gone, you’re free.
Little bird: Please forgive me for teasing you, you are my hero.
Going back to a school at which I was once a teacher was a whole new experience for me! Despite all the reasons I quit, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as I walked around the school. This time, I was not there an employee, but as an independent trainer from the British Council. Going to the buildings where I taught English and ToK, visiting the library and the refectory, and, most importantly, meeting all the lovely people I worked with … What a grand day!
MIT Gurukul has taken on the Reading Challenge, and I worked with the PYP section today, reading out stories and teaching the children about book reviews. With Grade 1, I did a book I had not read before – There’s a Shark in the Bath! It’s a delightful story, one of those that is enjoyed differently by each reader. What does young Dulcie do when she sees a shark in her bath? I chuckled as I read it aloud, sharing the open curiosity of the children who read with me. And right through the book, the illustrations made me grin!
|Title||There’s a Shark in the Bath|
|Rating (out of 5)||5|
With grade 2, I did another new story – The Deep, Dark Wood. This one definitely ranks high up among my favourite picture books. Very easy to read, full of wonderful illustrations, I enjoyed the book as I wondered with the
children how it would end. It did not disappoint me!
|Title||The Deep Dark Wood|
|Author||Algy Graig Hall, Ali Pye (illustrator)|
|Rating (out of 5)||5|
With grade 3, I did The Paper Dolls once more, and loved Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie just as much as I did last time. And finally, with Grade 4, I did another familiar story – The Great Cheese Robbery. This was rather easy for some of them, but others enjoyed it tremendously. More than anything, it helped me teach them how to write book reviews and fill in the Learner’s Diary required by in order to complete the Reading Challenge.
What a lovely day it was! Another full day lies ahead …
The authors of Flickering Flames, an anthology of short stories and poems, were part of the Pune International Literary Festival (PILF) 2016! The young girls, all in the age-group 11-13, got the opportunity to read excerpts from their work at an event that welcomed a range of eminent speakers and writers.
Of the thirteen members of the Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s, ten spoke at PILF 2016. One girl spoke of how Flickering Flames was born, after which each of the girls read a little of what they had written. They spoke of their journey with me, writing, rewriting and editing. The audience asked questions, engaging in a lively discussion with the young writers. This was just a beginning for them; I hope to see them with more books to their credit in the years to come!
The joy of travelling is when I can mix leisure with work. Last weekend was a long weekend, and in Karnataka, it was longer still because of Varralakshmi Poojai. Many were apparently traveeling, yet, several turned up for both workshops I conducted.
At Atta Galatta, Koramangala, I conducted a creative writing workshop for the age-group 9-13. It was lovely, exploring elements of a story, techniques and style. We did lots of activities and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly!
At The Kids Collective, Jayanagar, I conducted a reading-cum-storytelling workshop with children aged 7-10. We explored Bholu at the Level Crossing, Bholu at the School Excursion and many others. One child told me that her favourite part of the whole workshop was the story Bholu at the School Excursion; I was thrilled!
In the pouring rain, we made our way across the city to a school far, far away. It was beautiful. Greenery all around us, streams in the most unexpected places – this was not a part of the city I knew.
I’d heard about Vidya Valley, and met a few students from the school at other workshops. This time, though, I was visiting the school to conduct three sessions with the sixth standard as part of the build-up to the school’s very own lit fest.
Teaching creative writing to a whole class is always challenging. In a class of forty, if I’m lucky, eight enjoy writing. The rest couldn’t care less. When all forty are required to sit together in a classroom and write … I didn’t know what to expect. Yet, in a school with its own literature fest, I was hopeful.
The whole day was simply delightful! We talked about all kinds of books, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out about all the Indian books the children read. As we moved on with the workshop, one of the activities I set for the class was to imagine that any part of the school was a magical portal. The responses were brilliant!
One child wrote about the basketball court. When he scored a basket, he was transported into another world. But there was a catch – he could come back only if someone else scored a basket! And one day, he was in the other world, waiting, and no one scored. He called out for help, but who could hear him from across the portal? Finally, an alien called Zak came to his rescue. Zak had to practise for nearly an hour before he could score – but he finally did, and our hero was saved.
Another child wrote about a Marshall amplifier in the old basement. None of his friends had a Marshall amp, so what was it doing there? Curious, he turned it on. Immediately, music filled the room. As he drew closer, he was drawn through the amp into another world with other guitarists …
Ah, it was lovely!
On Saturday, the school has its all-day literature fest. I won’t be there, but I’m sure it will be simply wonderful considering how involved and enthusiastic the children and their parents are!
So now it’s time to do something else, something new! Conducting the Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s School has shown me how much I enjoy working with children who enjoy writing. It’s full of imagination, whacky ideas and magic!
Creative Writing Workshop for Children
Venue: Atta Galatta, Bengaluru
Dates: 13th and 14th August, 2016
Time: 11 am to 1 pm
Fees: Rs. 1,000 per participant
Contact me for more details or to register!
The Imagination Box, which I wrote about yesterday, as well as the books I’ll be writing about in the days ahead, were part of the Reading Challenge organised by the British Library. As always, I enjoyed myself thoroughly conducting a series of workshops at MGM Clover Dale High School in Aurangabad. The theme for their Reading Challenge was “Record Breakers”, and there were record breakers amongst them! A pair of twins read 16 books in the last three weeks because they enjoyed the challenge so much!
The first workshop, for younger children, was a lovely storytelling session. I introduced them to Julia Donaldson’s The Paper Dolls. We play-acted, read the story, and then even made the paper dolls as instructed at the end of the book!
The second session was with eight-year-olds who found that they were too old to read the collection for young readers. They chose to read books from the collection for older readers, which in itself was heart-warming for me! This one involved word puzzles and ended with a reading of “The Bicycle Race” from my collection, The Story-Catcher.
Post-lunch, we began with hilarious tongue twisters. That was fun! We stumbled over red-lorry-yellow-lorry and ‘tricky frisky snakes with sixty super scaly stripes’. We then had word games and written activities that everyone loved.
The day ended with lipograms, pangrams and whacky records that the children would like to set. All in all, it was a wonderful day!
Yesterday, the Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s School welcomed Leela Gour Broome, author of Flute in the Forest and Red Kite Adventure. Mrs Broome introduced the children to her two books and the process of writing them.
“I’m not a fan of fantasy,” said Mrs Broome when the children asked her what she reads. “I think we need more realistic Indian fiction that children can read!”
Her own books are inspired by experiences she’s had through her close interaction with nature, experiences that definitely help her stories ring true. “Even when you imagine, there’s a limit, right? For instance, you could write about a pony that is colourful and magical … Maybe the pony can fly. But would you be able to convince your readers that the pony can drive a car? Remember that the reader must be able to imagine with you, so don’t let your imagination get away with you!”
The children enjoyed interacting with her and asked a range of questions.
“Do you sometimes have a brilliant idea that you want to write down, but you forget before you get around to it?”
“Do you feel that your writing reveals what kind of person you are? If you write dark stories, does it mean that you have problems of some kind?”
What a lovely afternoon we had!
|Title||Flute in the Forest|
|Author||Leela Gour Broome|
|Title||Red Kite Adventure|
|Author||Leela Gour Broome|
The six-hour journey from Pune to Beed was lovely. I love travelling in the monsoon through pouring rain, looking at all the shades of green passing by. I love the hills in the rain. They’re so full of life, so different from the parched summer browns!
My workshop last weekend was with Gurukul English School in Beed. Like so many other schools, it is an English medium school that is attended by children from non English-speaking families. It’s a huge challenge for the teachers, one that we can barely begin to tackle. Walk through the corridors and you’ll hear a mix of Marathi and Hindi, with just about a word of English thrown in.
And so, my workshop was on Communicative English with Functional Grammar. Led by an enthusiastic vice principal, the teachers came forward to participate, interact and share. They laughed as they donned roles of reporters and sportspeople. They pushed their way through difficult word games, trying their best to express their ideas and explore language teaching through communication rather than grammar. Most importantly, they let go of their inhibitions right through the session.
They told me about their regular three-hour power cuts, in addition to unpredictable cuts when it rains or is windy. They told me about children coming from backgrounds where school is just something children attend, not something that is particularly important.
It was a learning experience for me, certainly!
People on the road selling karvand, mangoes and jackfruit. The lilting language that makes me listen to the tune rather than the meaning. The dark sand and the crashing waves.
And Mane’s International School was beautiful. It’s a small school as of now, just a baby. There are mango trees everywhere, and the principal spoke of how the children run round and round the trees as they play. Apparently, the rains night before last made the mangoes come crashing down, but until then, the boughs were heavy with fruit!
On the way to Ratnagiri, we stopped to buy karvand, offered to us in cups made of velvety leaves.
(What a city person I am! I don’t know what leaves they were …)
What was most charming was that each cup of fruit cost ten rupees. Some of the leaves were small, with the cups holding barely a dozen berries. Some were huge, with over thirty! But the rate was the same – 10 rupees for one leaf cup. And so we bought two drastically different cups and continued our journey to …