Sakshi Sharma is a finance professional with past experience in companies including Johnson & Johnson, Penguin Random House and Columbia University Press in New York City. She is passionate about writing and reading and has a 8k+ subscriber base across her media platforms (@mere_meer on Instagram). As a mother of a three-year-old, Sakshi was very keen to enter the children’s book space. Maya Wants to Be a Baker is her first children’s book.
Pothi.com: Tell about how you zeroed in on such a unique topic for your children’s book ‘Maya wants to be a baker’.
Sakshi Sharma: During the pandemic, my husband did a lot of baking and I saw my three-year-old daughter taking great interest in baking donuts and chocolate cakes with her father. She really enjoyed being his sous chef.
This inspired me to write a book to introduce young minds like my daughter to unique career paths. Through this book, I wanted kids to feel that they have the freedom to become what their heart so desires, even if it is something non-traditional like a baker.
Pothi.com: You’ve written an adult fiction called Kismat and Karma. Tell us about the transition from writing books for adults to writing for kids. Why did you make this transition?
Sakshi Sharma: My daughter, Meera, loves reading new books and I’ve always wanted to pen a book for kids. Though my overall passion is writing fiction and creating new stories centered around women, I was also very keen to pen a story with a little girl as the protagonist.
Pothi.com: Tell us a little about Kismat and Karma.
Sakshi Sharma: Kismat and Karma is a modern take on the Bhagavad Gita. It is about two women, Kismat and Karma, who attempt to answer an intriguing question: “Are we resigned to our fate, or can we change it through our noble actions?”
Kismat and Karma hail from opposite sides of India. They have varied, yet almost parallel experiences of immigrating abroad (New York/London), finding love (arranged and unrequited) and facing loss and trauma. Destiny brings them together in New Delhi.
Essentially, Kismat and Karma is a women’s take on Krishna and Arjuna, wherein one woman mentors the other, but both play an essential role in shaping each other’s life.
Pothi.com: You’ve spent a larger part of your work life in the corporate space. What made you migrate to writing?
Sakshi Sharma: I’ve always wanted to be writer. I studied finance and worked as an Analyst and Accountant for several years in New Jersey and New York City.
But writing is for the soul. Some of my poems have been published in Hindustan Times and I also wrote poetry for my University magazine.
Ms. Catherine Sameh, one of my University Professors at Rutgers New Brunswick, awarded me the only “A” in her Writing class. She confided that she typically did not award A’s but that I merited the grade with the final paper I submitted to her. I still have that essay with her notes and markings. That set the foundation for me to actually think I could be a writer someday.
In 2013, I started my own blog/website when I was still working in the corporate space in the States; penning short stories, poems, and humour pieces about love, marriage and motherhood. Today, I have two published books and I am working on a thriller next!
Pothi.com: What has your experience of writing and collaborating with an illustrator been like? As a writer, how do you best advise children’s writers to collaborate with illustrators?
Sakshi Sharma: My husband connected me to Supriya, who is an extremely talented illustrator. She created sample illustrations of Maya and her baking adventures. The pictures came out better than I could ever imagine.
Writers can connect with illustrators on platforms like Reedsy, Upwork and Pothi. Another great source is to directly connect with budding illustrators on Instagram. You can see their work and engage with them directly. Look under appropriate tags like #childrensbook and #illustratorsofinstagram etc.
I was able to find a wonderful illustrator for my fiction book Kismat and Karma. He was able to create the cover for my book exactly to the specifications I wanted. He created the silhouettes of two women, one in modern and the other in traditional attire; highlighting my two female protagonists. In addition, he hid the word ‘Krishna’ in Hindi in nine different places in the front cover. The number “nine” is quite symbolic in my novel as well as the significance of Krishna as my book pays homage to the Gita.
Overall, it is important to effectively communicate your expectations with your illustrator and understand the kind of output you will be getting for the price quoted by the illustrator.
Pothi.com: What is your advice to every aspiring writer who is hesitant to self-publish?
Traditional publishing is a dream avenue for many, but there are many roadblocks to it. For example, it can take months, or even years to get a solid response from a literary agent who can then pitch you to a leading publishing house. The turnaround is slow and you may lose out on the freshness of your story.
I would advise aspiring authors to develop their own brand by creating a blog/website/media page and posting engaging and quality content regularly to build an audience base. When their manuscript is ready, I would encourage them to hire a quality editor to refine their story. Once it is edited and ready for publishing, they can easily self-publish and market their book in their circle and social media handles. There are plenty of authors who have been picked up by traditional houses because of the success of their published work!
Many years ago, authors did not have such opportunities and they suppressed their dreams of becoming published authors. I would encourage every author to self-publish. The feeling of seeing my daughter reading my own book is priceless.
Pothi.com: What has your experience with Pothi.com been like?
Sakshi Sharma: The Pothi team have been instrumental in helping my fiction novel and children’s book become available for paperback printing in India. The Pothi website is extremely user-friendly and has easy-to-follow instructions. Whenever I had any queries and issues in uploading my files, the team responded quickly and addressed my concerns. They have a cool Cover Creator which helps any novice create/edit their own book cover. During this pandemic, I really wanted to launch Kismat and Karma and Maya Wants to Be a Baker for everyone to read and Pothi made that dream a reality for me. Highly recommend Pothi to all aspiring authors!
Pothi.com: Thanks so much Sakshi Sharma! We wish you luck on your publishing journey!
Catch us chatting with Sakshi Sharma on IG Live on Nov 25 at 4 pm IST! Our insta handle is pothidotcom.