Interview: Sakshi Sharma- Fiction and Children’s Books Author

We caught up with Sakshi Sharma, the author of two books at the Pothi Store: Maya Wants to be a Baker and Kismat and Karma.

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.

Beatrix Potter- The Writer-Illustrator of the Natural World

Helen Beatrix Potter was born on this day in 1866. We all remember her for her remarkable children’s books featuring animals such as Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle but she was also a natural scientist, mycologist, prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep, farmer and conservationist. Her family had inherited the wealth that came from the Lancashire cotton mills, the infamous industry that crippled India’s textile economy. The Potters preferred to ignore their past and live a life of upper-middle-class comfort.

Beatrix Potter and her brother Bertram led a life where art and imagination held sway. They were deeply connected with animals and owned several rabbits, squirrels, bats, birds and insects. Potter’s early sketches paved the way for her future as illustrator with no rival. From a young age, she journaled and was privately tutored in astronomy, botany, entomology, etc.

She had a scientific bent of mind and her detailed drawings of fungi reveal her keen interest in pursuing her scientific passion but it was not to be.

Her keen interest in fairytales and fantasy and her wide reading enabled her to start her career as author-illustrator. She was fiercely independent and was enterprising enough to design Christmas cards and sell them.

She also wrote detailed letters filled with the germ of her future stories. One such letter to a sick child featured the famous bunnies Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter – this letter was self-published as The Tale of Peter Rabbit. After multiple rejections by publishers, her book was later acquired by Frederick Warne & Company.

She even patented the Peter Rabbit doll and introduced the idea of character-based merchandise such as wallpaper, games and toys. She authored 30 books and her books continue to sell throughout the world in different languages and were adapted in songs, films and even ballet.

Later in her life, her interests were aligned with the conservation of the Lake District where she lived with her husband.

How to Write a Good Sentence

Many times those of you are in the business of writing worry about making that word count. ‘How will I write 80,000 words?’ is a question you ask yourself.

What you really ought to worry about though is how you will write a good sentence.

A sentence is made up of words and words don’t just come one after the other. They indicate a particular situation or action. These sentences make up a paragraph. So they are the building blocks of your novel and for that reason ought to be well thought out and well-connected to each other and the overall story.

There are so many aspects to sentence making. This is where the grammar of the sentence comes in.  There are simple, compound and complex sentences. Then there are clauses, prepositions and phrases.  Even the seasoned writer can have grammatical doubts. Always carry a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

And be in doubt; this is very important. Just because something is in print doesn’t mean it is correct. You should double check to see if your sentences are correct. Also if you are reading a copy of popular books in the market today, keep your eyes open for any obvious errors! You can learn from the mistakes of others.

 

sentence

What should you keep in mind when you write a sentence?

Besides grammar like sticking more to active than passive voice, a great deal goes into a sentence. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What do you really want to say?
  • Is it best to use the vocabulary you have at your fingertips or do you need to visit the thesaurus?
  • Has someone else been able to express the sentiment you have better than you have? Read it.
  • Is a long sentence going to help you describe better?
  • Is a short sentence sufficient to express a strong emotion like a mother’s grief at losing her child?
  • Does this sentence deserve to stand alone, separate from the rest of the paragraph?
  • Is this sentence good enough to start your essay or novel or is it a better ending?

Being conscientious about every sentence that you write will make the prose flow and whether your book is a commercial or literary one, it should be readable. For this, the sentences should flow.

Some links to help you write good sentences:

http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2011/02/write-sentence-comes

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/25/133214521/stanley-fish-demystifies-how-to-write-a-sentence

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/business-legal-matters/sentence-sleuth-0608

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-write-clear-sentences

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/write-sentence

PS: Check out this Twitter post that explains the difference between short, medium and long sentences: https://twitter.com/lfoulkesy/status/715077404700631041