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One Line at a Time

Sowmya Rajendran

A children’s writer in India often gets asked why s/he does not write for adults. Why not make some progress from writing a line a page and produce something…more substantial? To most, a children’s writer is a frog who’s waiting for the moment of magic that’ll transform him/her into publishing royalty.  The children’s writer might croak in response that s/he is not really waiting for such a graduation day. In which case, the listeners get a knowing ‘hmph sour grapes’ expression on their faces. This dismissive attitude is but a symptom of a much larger malady: the negligence and undervaluation of a genre of literature that is, perhaps, the most liberating of all to create and consume. Though wehave had literary giants like Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, RuskinBond, and R.K. Narayan write for children, the genre has still not received its due consideration. Children’s writers in India don’t make too much money. The pay cheques are modest. Most have regular fulltime jobs that may or may not have to do with writing. Most are read by small(though growing) audiences and almost never figure in bestseller lists.They hardly win any award or occupy column space in the nation’s widely-read newspapers. A psychologist analysing these statements would undoubtedly conclude that an Indian children’s writer must either have masochistic tendencies or an unreal optimism that’s bordering on the foolish. For, why would anyone write if not to be read?A part of me wants to give you a detailed intellectual response to this question. Something that will put me on par with someone who’s written a real (read adult) book. But rather than churn my brain to impress you, I shall tell you the short truth: because it’s fun. Writing for children is at once a huge responsibility and an invite to the Mad Hatter’s party. It’s an opportunity for you to become a part of a child’s treasured memory. It could also become criteria for how the child develops its reading in the years to come. If you commit the unforgivable sin of boring a child with your story, you might turn him/her away from books for a long, long time. On the other hand, if thepages of your book turn old and frayed with use and love, you ...

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