Providing a place for young writers to showcase their creative expression is this publishing house called Timbuktoo that started in 2013. Brainchild of Aparna Raman, India’s first kids-for-kids indie publishing house has published 9 books and 58 authors, so far, across India (Bangalore, Coimbatore, Dehradun, Mumbai), Colombo, London and Singapore. And now Raman has gone on to publish another anthology named Make Believe.
The anthology is a collection of 8 stories written by 8 young authors aged between 8 and 13. Based on the insight that children have special relationships with non-humans, be it talking animals, E.T.s or natural elements, each child has written about a unique experience. From children mediating amongst planets in outer space to falling into the sea with the sky, connecting with lost family in aboriginal Australia to reassuring dodos in the park, lending a hand to dizzy Mother Earth to battling ill-intentioned chips packets, saving the world from an apocalypse to supporting plant loving aliens, this anthology will interest both children and adults.
So we got talking to the Aparna about her journey, and the eight children about their short stories, inspiration and other interests.
Let’s rewind a little. Before Aparna Raman became an entrepreneur, she worked as an advertising and design professional, writing catchy slogans and designing brands. But it was not too late before she quit her job to start something of her own. “A couple of factors here. The first, by watching my son, Rohan who from an early age was creating comic strips and writing stories. I would see all these wonderful scraps of paper lying around and started filing them for posterity. Soon after, I started creative writing classes and would post the kids' work on social media. Seeing the terrific response I received from viewers and the confidence it gave the children, I decided to start a publishing platform for them,” she says.
She further adds, “It has given children enormous confidence and happiness to see their work in printed form and has encouraged them to read and write further. Most authors become well known in their schools and their books get presented before an audience. The opportunity to present their idea and speak before an audience also does a world of good.”
But nothing comes without challenges, right? She did face a few challenges initially as being a completely new market, buying books authored by kids was unheard of. Though it's still mostly the parents who order copies, she says this is slowly changing. “In Mumbai, recently, a distributor picked up multiple copies to be taken to schools. Many retailers are asking for my books and I intend to introduce them as part of lesson plans, too,” adds Raman.
Idea For Make Believe Anthology: Some of the 8 authors had reached out to me earlier with an intent to get published. When I thought of the theme of Make believe - about a child's association with the non-human world, I got back in touch with them to ask them if the theme interested them. Each of them interpreted the task and wrote a story based on how they understood it.
Future Plans: There's a lot to look forward to. Wider distribution. International workshops and publishing. Books written and curated by myself for schools. A new music vertical. And hell, lots more (laughs).
In Conversation With The Eight Authors
A voracious reader, Aaroshi Rao started writing at the age of six, with her first story being about a penguin and an evil Eskimo, who lived in the land of earthquakes. The creativity and amazing imagination of this 13-year-old lead her to write a short story for the anthology. Talking about her short story, Xandra The One, she says “It took me about a week, I think! I wrote the story all by myself with a few pointers and comments from my mother."
The story is about a girl named Xandra, who leads a pretty normal life until one day, a talking dog named Douglas comes to tell her about the truth behind how the Earth came to be. And before she knows it, she has a job to do. A responsibility bigger than she ever thought, she could handle is thrust upon her. “My inspiration comes from a mixture of the stories I read and the everyday happenings of my life. I enjoyed writing the dialogues for the two main characters of my story. Oh! And I am also quite proud of the first and the last lines of the story,” she enthuses.
Favourite Book/Story: Anne Of Green Gables by L M Montgomery. Because it has been written using a colourful, descriptive language.
Favourite Author: J K Rowling
Other Interests: I read, sing and play the guitar
If You Had A Superpower: It would be the power to read minds
Joe Arya R
Joe Arya R first began expressing story ideas in art at the age of two and a half. All his illustrations and writings has a beautiful meaning or story behind it – be it his first illustration where he features a snake dropping the diamond necklace of a princess in a bird’s nest or even his short story for the anthology named Arya and The Alien Bot, where he writes about an alien who comes to Earth and makes the place green. “I love to draw Aliens and transformers very much, and that’s why I choose to write this story,” says the 7-year-old. Initially, he had written 10 lines as a school assignment, “And then my mom asked me to make a bigger story by including characters of villains”.
His first story, Jack The Unicorn, was written when he was in UKG
Favourite Book/Story: Goosebumps Horrorland by RL Steine and Bondapalli by Shamim Padamsee.
Favourite Author: Beatrix Potter
Other Interests: I love swimming and martial arts, playing chess and games on the iPad.
If You Had A Superpower: I want the power to be good always
This seven-year-old got the idea for her short story when on her way to the park she noticed some people carelessly throwing garbage on the footpath. “It was during April and the weather was too hot. Looking at them I felt sick, and I wondered how mother Earth would be feeling. That’s how I came up with the story and the name, The Dizzy Earth,” says Khushi Deepak.
It took her one hour to write the story outline and about two days to write the proper story with a little help from her parents. She adds, “In my story, I like how animals and humans can talk to each other and how we could all together make mother Earth a better place to live in.” She first started writing in Prep II (Upper KG), and has written about 10 stories so far.
Favourite Book/Story: Colour Colour Kamini, Charlie Has Asthama, Metilda and all princess stories.
Favourite Author: I love all Tulika publications books, Lady bird books & Roald Dahls books.
Other Interests: I love to paint and illustrate, I love to cycle and I'm learning to play the guitar now.
If You Had A Superpower: I would love to fly like a bird
Roald Dahl stories has always fascinated this 13-year-old, and that was her inspiration behind using the idea of other creatures mingling with humans, in her short story named The Earth's Ambassador. “I also like using alliteration in titles,” adds Mahima Prasanna. The story is about a young girl who gets chosen to represent Earth in an outer space conference. “I spent a few hours over a week to write it,” she says, adding that the part where the planets are personified, keeping in mind their properties, is her favourite.
She recalls that her first poem was at the age of 8 and she also wrote a book called Treasure@Tartarus at the age of 12. “I have been recording my holiday trips/visits since a young age,” she adds.
Favourite Book/Story: The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
Other Interests: I like art and craft. I also play badminton. My creative work has been uploaded on my web page - mahimaprasanna.wordpress.com
If You Had A Superpower: A special power to talk to animals and understand them
Author of the short story, Ram in Candyland, Mamatha Shastri says, “My story is about a doughnut loving boy who saves a 'sweet' planet. I like that my main character is sweet-toothed like me. My inspiration for the title and story is from the old classic The Gingerbread Man.”
The 10-year-old writer took about 15 minutes to plan the body and plot, and 30 minutes to type it. She adds, Aparna Ma’am helped me add more life to the story.
Her love for writing started at the age of six when she wrote her first poem for her mother’s birthday.
Favourite Book: The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond.
Favourite Author: I like Ruskin Bond's short stories and Roald Dahl's fiction novels
If You Had A Superpower: It would be to read other's minds
An avid reader, Manya Ganapathy’s Sunday mornings are typically spent on the bed with a stack of books around her! She enjoys reading to her pets as well. Her short story, Mystery at Midday, set in the mystical Uluru in the Australian Outback is a beautiful blend of her own experience and imagination.
“It is about a little girl who lives with her foster parents in England and comes to the Australian outback for vacation and finds her real family,” says the 10-year-old. Further adding, “It took me a couple of hours to write, without much help.”
Favourite Book/Author: I do not really have a favourite book or author because all books are different and all the authors write differently.
Other Interests: Playing the piano, singing and playing basketball
If You Had A Superpower: To fly
At the age of four, Suhani Thaly composed her first set of poems. Even with over thirty poems in her journal, she is far from done. In fact, from the age of six, she has harboured a dream of becoming an author and has firmly believed in it. A voracious reader, Suhani has dedicated her story to all the little children who are discovering the joys of reading.
Inspired by a paragraph she had written about a dinosaur in her garden, in school, the 10-year-old came up with the idea of dodos in the park. “The story is about my friends and I playing in the park with our toy guns when we have an encounter with the Dodos and they accuse us of shooting their ancestors. As the story proceeds the dodos realise that they are mistaken. But you will have to read ahead to find out what happens next,” she says (smiles). Her first draft took her about 20 mins and the next few weeks she spent time working on the final version of the story.
Favourite Book/Story: The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
Other Interests: I read most of the time! I also skate, swim, spend time doing art and craft.
If You Had A Superpower: I would want my imagination to come to life
Veda Kini Radhakrishnan
Author of the short story, Sky in the Sea, Veda Kini Radhakrishnan says her idea for the story was based on a drawing she did with her eyes closed – random scribbles. Sounds crazy and interesting! “It’s about the sky falling into the sea! It’s got birds, fish, even bird-fish! It’s my adventure in a sort of fantasy land, which you should read,” says the 10-year-old.
Favourite Book/Story: I like The Witches and also the Malory Towers series.
Favourite Author: Roald Dhal and Enid Blighton
Other Interests: Reading, trekking, climbing rocks, watching movies, and playing with my cat
If You Had A Superpower: The power to turn into a cat whenever I feel like. I would run up trees, laze around on the sofa, and scratch the carpet, but not too keen on eating rats (laughs).