Even though I enjoyed writing poetry since middle school, I didn’t think about being a writer until a few years ago when both my daughters were in school. Somebody should have tapped on my head with a pencil and shoved a notebook in my hand a long time ago.
I have been writing for eight years now. The first thing I wrote was Blue Jasmine. Of course, the first version was very different than the published work. After getting a few comments back from some very good and generous editors, I revised it. I also joined SCBWI and attended national and local meetings. I checked out books from the library and began reading about the craft of writing. All through this, I kept writing. Five years after I started writing, I had a contract with Hyperion.
My own journey from India to America and the need to tell that story in order to come full circle with the immigrant experience was a catalyst for my writing. I believe it is emotionally exhausting to leave one country and make a home in another. Writing about it has made me a stronger person.
Yes, I had to move twice when I was growing up. When I was eight, I moved from my grandparent’s house to my parent’s house. It was tough. I missed the garden (my parents lived in an apartment building in a large city), my Montessori school, and of course my grandparents, but I was happy to be with my parents, again.
When I was seventeen, I moved from India to the US to attend college. The move played an essential role when Seema sprang to life.
I relate to Seema, the main character of Blue Jasmine. The emotional journey of Blue Jasmine comes from my own move. I believe Seema’s story is part of me because her journey as an immigrant is my journey, too. I have a strong bond with Seema and that is why I gave her the last name Trivedi, which is also my maiden name.
One afternoon when I came home I had a message from Donna Bray, Executive Editor at Hyperion Books for Children. Since it was late in New York she had left for the day and I couldn’t talk to her. The next day when she called me and gave me the news, I tried not to scream.
I write about what I know and what I am passionate about and for that simple reason, my cultural background/history plays a big part in my story.
Not only does Blue Jasmine comes from my own immigrant experience, but my next YA is set in a city of Mumbai, where I spent some of my growing years. My picture book, Dadima’s Sari also reflects my cultural background.
I have tried to plot out a story, but it has not worked for me, so I guess I belong to the second group. I plunge in headfirst and write my way through. It doesn’t seem like an organized way to do it, but I know my characters well and they tell me their story.
I do not have a typical day. Each day is different, but I do try to write something every day. When I was in India last month, I didn’t work on any story, but kept a journal about my travels. I am sure some of those images and experiences will end up in future stories. I get my best writing done late at night when there are no phone calls and I can’t go anywhere.
I like to spend time with my family. We travel, cook and just sit and talk a lot. I also read, garden (when Wisconsin warms up a notch), do yoga, and go for walks.
I had been talking about writing for a couple of years (and hadn’t written a word) when my mom received a long letter from her cousin. She asked me to read the letter to her. When I finished reading the twenty-six pages, I knew my mother as a young child. It was as if I had been there all along.
When I told my husband about it he said, “You’ve talked about writing for a long time. Just get going.”
What inspired me to write in the first place are all the stories that my parents, grandparents, uncles, and neighbors told me while I was growing up. The myths, history, people, and places of those stories transport me back to my childhood. I am surprised by how much my heritage, tradition, the Gujarati language, and memories are part of my writing.
Reading to my daughters when they were young and then reading with them when they were older has not only been inspirational, but has played a critical role in my writing life.
I don’t have to worry about insomnia. If I can’t sleep, I can write. Seriously, the most important thing is taking the journey inward, to get to know who I am and what is truly important to me.
Like me, most of my characters’ first language is Gujarati, so it is difficult to translate their voice, expressions, cadence and diction into English.
Read, write, dream, revise, rejoice and celebrate your writing. Learn another language. It will make your writing richer.
A yet-untitled young adult novel from Hyperion Books for Children will come out in early 2006. My first picture book, Dadima’s Sari from Peachtree Publishers will also come out in 2006.
Yes, I do school visits. I used to teach Indian dance to children so I find working with children enjoyable and satisfying. I love the letters they write!
The information for the school visit is on my web site at www.kashmirasheth.com.