amwriting, author interview, books, children's books, children's writing, creativity, Emma Pearl, imagination, Mending the Moon, Page Street Books, picture book author, Roald Dahl, story starters, Storystorm, wip, writing life

An Author’s Insights

On this the first week of 2023, I’m excited to share with you my interview with debut picture book author, Emma Pearl.

The questions I posed Emma, to a one, revolved around the kindling of the imaginative spark. I felt this focus was just the thing to accompany the sense of possibility and new opportunities that the new year brings.

Interview Q&A with author Emma Pearl

Emma, after finishing a project do you ever feel lost as to what project you’ll do next?

No, I don’t really find this a problem. I write for all ages and have far more ideas/projects/WIPs on the go than I could ever hope to complete in a lifetime! I’m usually drawn to the next one naturally when I finish something, but if I’m ever in doubt I just read through my endless files, lists and notes until something shouts ‘WRITE ME!’

I currently have a YA novel about to go out on submission in the new year so I’ve just finished final revisions on that. I’ve also just finished the first draft of my next novel – a YA with similar themes/synergy – so will be tidying that up before sending it to my agent. And I have a sequel for that one planned too, which may or may not be the next one I write. I’d like to get an MG novel out on submission next year too – I have one completed that needs a rewrite and several more that I’m keen to work on – I’ll be discussing with my agent which one to focus on.

I have quite a lot of picture book texts ready to submit and am waiting on my agent to look at them all (I intend to keep her quite busy next year!). I love writing PBs because they require such a different skill set to novels and completion can be achieved in a relatively short space of time, so I often work on them in between novels or when I get stuck in the middle of a novel.

It sounds like you are super busy!

Do you have any brainstorming techniques to get your ideas flowing?

I’ve gathered so many ideas over the years that I don’t actively need to look for them any more. But I do make sure to write them down when I get them – ideas usually come from reading other books, watching movies or conversations. There will be a nugget of something that I find fascinating and then ideas will spin off from that. Also, I constantly mine my childhood memories – what were the things that made me feel the biggest emotions? Even the most ordinary events, habits or people can be turned into amazing stories if you can identify and connect the emotions associated with them.

I also highly recommend taking part in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm in January ( – it’s really great for generating not only ideas for stories but also ideas for where to find inspiration. This post from author Brian Gehrlein has some brilliant brainstorming techniques too:

I agree, Storystorm is a great way to kick off the year with ideas and inspiration!

Emma, Do you have any routines that encourage your writing process?  

Not really. I write as often and as much as I can, which is most days, but there’s not a strict routine (life tends to get in the way of that!), and there’s a lot of time spent on things that are essential to my writing career (which is still very much fledgling) that are not writing per se – admin, marketing and promotion, networking, learning, mentoring, critiquing… etc. I am most productive in the mornings from about 9 to 12 so try to maximize writing time then whenever possible.

What have you found to be the best writing advice you ever received?

I’m not sure which one of these is the best, but all of the following have been invaluable:

– avoid filtering language, i.e. words that draw attention to any of the five senses. This is a quick and concise guide

Abie Longstaff’s picture book 101 free course covers all the basics thoroughly and efficiently. I often find myself referring back to it.

– first drafts are supposed to be rubbish! I spent many years not getting anywhere with my writing because I was scared of writing rubbish. But a very important lesson was learning to write anyway. You can improve a badly written story but a blank page is worth nothing.

– there is no set of rules, no one way of doing anything, no set path to follow. There are a huge number of amazing resources available, and many of them are free. Find whatever works for you and don’t be distracted by anyone else… but also:

connect with other writers whenever possible, they will be your greatest comfort/support/cheerleaders/learning… etc.

Thank you Emma, for sharing your excellent suggestions and links to helpful resources!

There was one last question I asked Emma. It was in regards to her great uncle, Roald Dahl. 

Emma, I read that Roald Dahl dedicated The Twits to you and I wondered if it was your favorite book of his, or was there a different one that was your favorite?

Great question on the Roald Dahl books! Of course I loved The Twits. It was so very exciting to have a book dedicated to me – I was a real bookworm as a kid and it was just about the best thing ever. It’s a wonderful story of oppression, courage and just desserts, and I’ve loved monkeys ever since! But in all honesty, I think I loved reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory more. I read that countless times, over and over from a very young age (well before The Twits was published). I also loved Fantastic Mr Fox and Danny (I used to play in the gypsy caravan that inspired the story). But my favorite now, as an adult, is Matilda. I think I was 13 or 14 when that came out so it wasn’t part of my childhood as such. But I have a suspicion (that might be completely ill-founded) that there is the tiniest part of Matilda that was in some small way inspired by me. Roald was very close to all three of his sisters, one of whom was my grandmother, and I was the first grandchild to be born to any of them, so I was a little bit spoiled and doted on by them all! I was a huge bookworm and reading long before I started school (not War and Peace, mind you!). Also, a little later on I had a very scary teacher who bore a striking resemblance to Miss Trunchbull (my teacher was also an ex-Olympian shot-putter!). So even if just a tenuous link, I’ve always felt a connection with the character of Matilda, who is one of my favorite females in all of children’s literature and always fills me (and countless others) with inspiration.

I’ve attached a link to 10 year old Emma’s (she’s the little girl at the center of the photo) interview of Roald Dahl. It brought a smile to my face and I hope it does the same for you.


Emma Pearl writes fiction for all ages and is represented by Sera Rivers at Speilburg Literary. Mending the Moon is her debut picture book, and Saving the Sun will be published by Page Street Kids in September 2023. Emma is a picture book mentor for WriteMentor (2021/22) and a freelance editorial consultant for picture books. She lives with her family in New Zealand.

Twitter/IG: @emmspearl

Purchase links to Mending the Moon, Emma’s debut picture book:

Barnes and Noble US


Amazon US

Waterstones UK

Amazon UK

amwriting, author interview, books, children's books, PathBinder Publishing, picture book author, picture books, Ritu Anand, support an author, writing journey

Kara’s Dreams

I have some good news to share in this week’s post. A fellow writer, Ritu Anand, who I had the good fortune to meet online while we were both participating in Renee M LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab course, is welcoming a new book into the world.

Kara’s Dreams is about a little tree, Kara, who dreams of standing as tall and as strong as Utsa, an elder tree, who’d been standing for more than 200 years. Kara fears that she won’t be able to make her dreams come true.

Kara is frightened of wind, of water, of earth, and of night

Kara seeks out Utsa for guidance. The elder tree gives Kara the strength to overcome her fears, and to believe that she will reach her dreams.

Kara’s Dreams is available at Barnes & Nobles.

It will also be available from Amazon on March 15th, at

Ritu graciously agreed to share a little bit about herself, and her book journey with us.

About the author:

Ritu Anand started writing when she could hold a pencil, but life kept getting in the way. For the past four years, she has chosen writing as her career. She draws her inspiration from nature and her scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahibjee.

Ritu lives in Sarasota Florida with her loving husband. Her interests include reading, writing, singing Indian classical music, dancing to Bollywood music, traveling and playing golf.

Interview Questions:

Do you write every day?

Yes, I write every day, before the world starts chatting with me. I jot story ideas while watching kids dig the white sand, on Siesta beach.

When did you start writing? What drew you to writing?

I started writing when I could hold a pencil. As a young girl, I used to write on newspapers, inside old books, new ones, on walls and even furniture. My muse made me do it.

At a very young age, I was drawn to words on a page. Words moved me. They seeped through me, made me happy, sad or thoughtful. Secretly, I thanked authors for giving me the privilege to belong to their world.

What was the first piece you published?

The first piece I published was a literary translation of an excerpt of a speech in Punjabi. My grandfather delivered a riveting message about the concept of Universal Brotherhood of Man. A Sikh Journal published my article and it was distributed to all the Sikh temples.

Do you have a special place where you prefer to write?

My preferred spot at home is the big chair in the corner of my living room.

Do you have a critique group?

Yes, I belong to more than one critique group. When I attended the Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Academy, I befriended Heidi Yates, Lakshmi Thamizhmani, Connie Dow and Adrienne Pankey. They were my first critique group. Their critiquing of Kara’s Dreams was beyond helpful and I gained tremendous strength from their words of encouragement.

Meera Sriram, award winner author of Dumpling Day, A Gift for Amma, The Yellow Suitcase and other books, guided me as a developmental editor. I feel privileged to be able to reach out to her and view her as my mentor.

As I am working on writing a middle grade novel, I joined another group formed by Mindy Weiss of the Florida SCBWI.

Without the help of critique partners, I wouldn’t be able to improve my writing.

How has your writing changed over the years?

I feel passionate about writing and bring my heart to it. I just have to feel my own writing. When I first started writing, I had a hard time recognizing myself in my writing. I didn’t know how to connect with the world through my writing. Once I decided to focus on the immediate, the tangible, I found a way to communicate with the world. I have a broad view of the world we live in. I always see the forest first, then the trees. But once I started seeing, smelling, hearing, touching and tasting the immediate, I started to recognize ‘me’ in my little world and that led me to expand my view to the bigger outer world.

Do you have any writing advice that has helped you?

Read, read and read. In my imagination, I love living in the fictitious world of my characters, talking to them, and riding the waves of enchanting discoveries. Unleash your imaginative power. Observe sounds in nature. Watch an iguana project his tongue forward and retract it inside his body. Compare him to the way humans project their tongues forward to lick dripping ice cream, and slurp it in their mouths.

Thank you, Ritu, for sharing your writing journey and your good news about Kara’s Dreams.

amwriting, author interview, books, children's books, children's writing, Clear Fork Publishing, Lee Y. Miao, middle grade books, support an author, WEI TO GO!, writing journey


I have good news to announce! My good friend Lee Y. Miao has recently revealed the cover of her debut middle-grade story, WEI TO GO!

I was privileged to enjoy reading an advanced copy and can tell you that it has believable characters you want to root for, a layered and fast-paced plot that keeps pages turning, and a whole bunch of heart. Lee has very generously agreed to an interview and to sharing her book journey with us on this week’s blog post.

Book Description:

WEI TO GO! is about what happens when twelve-year-old Ellie W. Pettit decides to save her dad’s California company, under a mysterious takeover threat. Ellie takes her teacher’s advice to meet a secretive CEO in Hong Kong, while on a trip with her family, and finds she’s at a crossroads. Annoying brother, unexpected weather, new customs, a hovering mom—it’ll take everything she’s got to solve the mystery.

WEI TO GO! will be released on April 5, 2022, by Clear Fork Publishing.

It is available for pre-order on Amazon:

and at Barnes and Noble:

INTERVIEW with Lee Y. Miao:

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

I hope ten to twelve-year-olds who like mysteries and are curious about the world will discover this novel. If they’re on the cusp of being independent and like competitive sports and humor, maybe they’ll also see parts of themselves on the pages. Fingers crossed!

I think they definitely will, Lee, on both occasions.

Tell us, what inspired you to write this book?

The last time I traveled overseas, I realized how challenging or comical it can be to navigate mass transportation or even dine out. I wanted to capture this setting from a middle-schooler’s perspective as the main character chases down a mystery.

What makes your characters unique?

Ellie, the main character, and her pesky brother are third-generation, with partial Chinese heritage. They are pretty much all American and know little Chinese. Ellie isn’t always obedient, and English is her forte, not math and science. Her brother Kipp excels in competitive sports.

What techniques did you use to get to know your main characters?

I tried to capture how kids manage relationships with their parents and each other in changing situations. Sometimes they step up to the plate, and other times they strike out. Like real life, both are absolutely fine.

Did you face any challenges to writing this story?

I was used to being an absurd punctuation and grammar nerd while writing nonfiction for K-12 English language arts projects. When I delved into fiction, I was initially afraid to use slang or lose the occasional comma in kids’ dialogue. Once I did, boy did I feel liberated.

What’s been easy and/or difficult on your writing journey?

Writing middle-grade fiction was hard but made easier as I love to write, especially in my favorite genre. The difficulty was engaging on social media—worried about privacy and not even knowing how to do a DM. Plus, I rarely take pictures. So far, I’ve hobbled along primarily because a few core followers offer unwavering support.

Do you write every day?  When do you prefer to write?   Do you ever find it difficult to start writing? If so, what do you do to get yourself going?

My best time to write is in the mornings when I’m usually alert. I’ll try to write a different chapter in the afternoons or evenings. In between, I do email, social media, read, and all the other things that writers do. Most importantly, I don’t need any excuses to take multiple breaks.

How long has it taken WEI TO GO! to get from submission to publication?

I started writing intermittently about five years ago because I had a full-time day job back then.

Do you have any advice for other middle grade authors who are looking to get their manuscripts published?

I looked for opportunities to improve my writing craft when selecting workshops and conferences. This helps to submit a polished manuscript to agents or editors. Also, I liked meeting other writers to hopefully exchange critical feedback on our manuscripts.

How do you polish your writing?

I apply my notes from workshops or books on writing craft to chapters, scenes, and characters. After my critique partners review them, I inevitably make revisions, even if I initially resist the majority opinion. After all, they always look out for your best interests.

Who are your favorite authors?   What are your favorite books?

My favorites books include the Run with the Horsemen trilogy by Ferrol Sams. I love any books by Gary Schmidt, especially The Wednesday Wars. My all-time favorite, for kids or grown-ups, is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

Are you  presently working on another project? If so, can you share a little bit about what it is?

I’m finishing a manuscript related to WEI TO GO! It’s actually a prequel about Ellie’s bestie, Cat, who’s a dead ringer for a Raphael portrait painted during Renaissance Italy.

What do you do for fun?

Concerts, travel and spectator sports are my favorites. I swim regularly and walk my dog. Some day I’d like to resume playing the piano, except I’ve been on beginner book II for more than a decade. My piano teacher is deliriously happy I’m on a lengthy hiatus.

Lee Y. Miao is the debut author of Wei To Go! To find out more about Lee check out her Instagram account @leeymiao.writer and her website

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and your book journey with us, Lee! Best of luck with your writing and WEI TO GO!

Amal, author interview, Author/Illustrators, books, children's books, children's writing, Clavis Publishing, illustration, Key Colors Competition, picture book author, picture book illustrators, picture books, support an author


I’ve been away from my blog for awhile, but I’m very happy to be back at it, especially because today I’m posting to share the news of a good friend’s well earned success. Below is the cover of her newest picture book which won the Gold Medal in the Key Colors Competition hosted by Clavis Publishing, Inc.

Book description:
When two ordinary objects land on a city sidewalk a little girl’s dull day becomes an odyssey of new places and unusual faces. Led to the library on a dragon boat she spies erudite elephants who open her eyes to the beauty of books, faraway lands, and a group of bats with hidden musical ambitions—who need her assistance.

My Key is available through these two sites as well in most bookstores:


Link to Indie books stores:

Author/Illustrator Bio:

Amal’s work covers a spectrum of books, magazines, posters and cover art. Her work is influenced by a lifelong interest in multi-culturalism and any excuse to research a good story.
Her fascination with various materials stems from her studies in the conservation of art on paper and is often incorporated into her work. Amal’s art has been featured in museums that include pieces now held in private collections. She received her MFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco and is the 2020 Gold Medal Winner of Clavis Publishing’s Key Colors Competition. Her work in children’s books has been recently shortlisted for a regional IBBY Award. To learn more about Amal check out her website and Instagram.

As I thought many readers would be interested in Amal’s creative process along with the book journey of MY KEY, Amal very generously agreed to an interview as well.


 Do you remember what drew you to illustration initially? And later on, what made you choose a career as an author/illustrator?

I’d an older sister with a unique method of babysitting: She’d leave me either in the local Baltimore library or Walters Art Museum where, in both places, I was most attracted to large books. Those in the museum were under glass because of their delicate pictures while those in library seemed to cry out for any picture at all. I felt I had at least one task in life…

Do you write/illustrate every day?
I draw just about every day but it doesn’t necessarily translate into an illustration. And I write every morning.

Do you have a special place that you prefer to write, or to illustrate? How do you break up the two creative tasks or do you combine them? Would you be comfortable with providing a photo of that place?

I’ve taken over what we never called a living room and created a studio for writing and illustration in the same spot, more or less. I write on one side of the room then swivel around to my drafting table to swap jobs.
For the most part the day is split between writing in the morning and drawing/painting in the afternoon.

Do you flesh out the setting of your stories completely before sitting down to write or to illustrate? Do you have any techniques that you use to help you see your character’s world view?

The setting is often the place that helps prompt the story so it’s often there already, but a physical loose outline, where I can insert pages as needed and some sort of map—literally a map that moves the character from point to point—is incredibly useful.
Before getting into an illustration though I go over the text several times, then close my eyes to all distractions. Something always appears, eventually, but no real special technique for world view other than experience and observation. There are probably better ways to go about it but these are tools already at out fingertips.

Do you handwrite your first drafts or go straight to the computer? Similarly, what is your illustration process?

I do hand write the ideas because I use the computer as little as possible—my eyes hurt. Illustration is usually totally done with traditional materials: paper, pencil, charcoal, canvas, paints… When visual adjustments need to be made I try and do this by hand as well unless there are spots within the composition where I’d like to add layers and for these I do some stitching in either Photoshop or Procreate to do it.

How many drafts on average does it take for you to feel comfortable that you have a finished piece?

Two billion?

How has your writing/ your illustration changed over the years?

In both cases I started off doing a lot of work for educational publishes with tight parameters that at first you think, well,  there’s no way I can get anything interesting out of what feels like a myriad of rules, but then you do and quickly realize the benefits of limitations. The danger happens when the shackles are off—I now apply my own limits or rules which frees me up from a lot of potential confusion and, weirdly, gives space I didn’t before feel I had to both the writing and the art.

Where did you get the idea for My Key from?

It was the memory of a day when I was so bored I thought I’d split in two and I wondered how I’d go about making an illustration that depicted boredom. Redrawing from original sketches I got to a place that felt right and the story took off from there.

Are you presently working on another project?

I’m working on a rather hefty illustrated middle-grade novel.

 Is there any genre that you’d like to try that you haven’t, as yet?

Loads. I really haven’t worked in a wide variety of genres and if were up to me it would be mysteries all the way!

Is there anything you would suggest to those who are beginning their careers in writing or illustrating?

Don’t bother to procrastinate, don’t even clean the dishes, you’ll just get them dirty again. Start a routine where you begin your work soon after waking up rather than worrying about making time to work and not actually getting to it. Stop at the same time too.

Is there anything you would like to share with those who might be wondering if they should persevere?

If you feel queasy when you’re not doing it then your only option is to move forward. 

author interview, Born Behind Bars, children's books, middle grade books, Nancy Paulsen Books, Padma Venkatraman, support an author, writing journey

An Interview with Padma Venkatraman

This week I have the pleasure to share with you an interview I did with the author Padma Venkatraman, on her writing process and the release of her newest book, Born Behind Bars, published by Nancy Paulsen Books, which debuts, September 7, 2021.

BORN BEHIND BARS preorder link: * Junior Library Guild Selection * Starred Review, Kirkus:  “…compelling novel… evocative details…full of action. A gritty story filled with hope and idealism.” 

Book Description: (taken from

Kabir has been in jail since the day he was born, because his mom is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. He’s never met his dad, so the only family he’s got are their cellmates, and the only place he feels the least bit free is in the classroom, where his kind teacher regales him with stories of the wonders of the outside world. Then one day a new warden arrives and announces Kabir is too old to stay. He gets handed over to a long-lost “uncle” who unfortunately turns out to be a fraud, and intends to sell Kabir. So Kabir does the only thing he can–run away as fast as his legs will take him. How does a boy with nowhere to go and no connections make his way? Fortunately, he befriends Rani, another street kid, and she takes him under her wing. But plotting their next move is hard–and fraught with danger–in a world that cares little for homeless, low caste children. This is not the world Kabir dreamed of–but he’s discovered he’s not the type to give up. Kabir is ready to show the world that he–and his mother–deserve a place in it.


Padma, I read that you wrote poetry at a young age and in the Q&A on your website that a poem you wrote was published when you were only 12. Do you remember what drew you to writing initially? 

No. But I can’t remember not writing – I feel like I always was writing in my head, at least, and listening to poems in my head.

And later on, after you had worked as an oceanographer, and a director of a school, what made you choose a career as a writer?

I felt that just presenting facts to people wasn’t necessarily enough – to make our world a better place we need to cultivate compassion – and I felt I could do that via my creative writing – help people understand and respect one another and value our world together. 

Do you have a special place that you prefer to write?

I write in a lot of places! Sometimes on my deck. Sometimes on the dock.

Do you have a critique group?

Never have. Guess I never will. That said, I informally always get feedback and critical reads. For BORN BEHIND BARS, I really wanted  wonderful new and up and coming writer Saadia Faruqui to read, because I wanted her honest thoughts on Kabir, the lead character, who is half Muslim. I also asked 7 other friends and family who aren’t writers for feedback because they are Muslim. And I had people who are incarcerated or work with incarcerated people look it over, including author Dede Fox.  And my dear friend author friends Elly Swartz and Victoria J Coe – although they weren’t beta readers, for this novel, they were early readers. I guess you might say I get critiques from different groups of people based on what I’m working on – mostly in the early draft stage. Then, I work closely with my brilliant editor Nancy Paulsen (who edits the legendary Jacqueline Woodson, and Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Ann Braden, Aisha Saeed, Torrey Maldonado and so many other wonderful writers) and she’s my one person critique group as the novels progress!

You’ve said that your characters, in a way, possess you so that you see and feel what they might. Do you take notes on who they are, how they see the world? Have you ever interviewed a character you’ve written about?

No. I just try to listen to them when they speak to me. It’s a very organic process and a lot of it happens while I’m dreaming or day dreaming or meditating. 

Do you handwrite your first drafts or go straight to the computer?

These days because of health issues I have been hand writing parts of my work, but I do often write straight on the computer.

How many drafts on average does it take for you to feel comfortable that you have a finished piece?

Gosh. It depends. I’m not the fastest, I’ll say that. I need my own time to take care of my mental health and maybe because of that, I am slow. I don’t know. 

I’ve read that the idea for Born Behind Bars came from a newspaper article you had read as well as hearing a young boy singing a snatch of song and that your other titles were similarly created from a kernel of fact. How did you sense that each of those kernels needed to become a story?

I never plant the seeds of any story in a conscious way. It’s more like these seeds start to grow without my knowledge. Suddenly, there it is – a little plant, trying to establish itself and then it’s my job to help strengthen it and make it the tree it can be. I guess it’s always a character, really – a voice that I hear and that gets louder than the rest of the static in my mind.

In Born Behind Bars, Kabir gives names to the women and the girl in the prison by how he perceives them, which is an easily identifiable childlike behavior and gives the reader immediate insight into how those characters present themselves. Similarly, in The Bridge Home, Viji names the adults she and Rukku meet from where they’ve met them, like Teashop Aunty. How do you choose your main character’s names? How do you know that Viji can only be Viji or Kabir only Kabir? Have you ever started a story where the character had one name and you changed it?

Wow. I’m not sure. It’s like the characters, as they grow, they tell me who they are, maybe? The name isn’t that important to me in the beginning, it’s the voice I hear – words – snatches of sentences – paragraphs – passing photographs in my brain that then become scenes in a movie…somewhere along the line my characters acquire names…

In The Bridge Home, each of the main characters’ perspectives are as varied as their personalities. Though their circumstances are difficult, each carry a sense of hope within them and each in their own way display compassion. How might the characters in Born Behind Bars be similar to the ones in The Bridge Home?

Two of the main characters in BORN BEHIND BARS are kids who are, for a time, homeless and forced to live on the streets of a city. I guess that’s something they share with the kids in THE BRIDGE HOME. Another thing both books share that’s important to me is humor. Retaining a sense of humor was vital to my survival of childhood trauma and it’s vital to the kids in both books as well. 

I appreciated your portrayal of Rukku and her ability to do much more than what others might expect her to. It’s such an important message and you’ve done it so well.

Thank you. I have an invisible disabilty – and maybe because of that – and the fact that I have many in my family who are people with disabilities, too, it’s important to me to see people with disability portrayed as main characters in books. 

Do you purposely plan to write about spirituality in its many divergent forms?

Spirituality is important to me, as you say, in its many divergent forms. So when I wrote my first novel, CLIMBING THE STAIRS, it was sort of ground-breaking in a way because until then very few people were writing about spirituality in books for young people. I was told that A TIME TO DANCE was the first novel to center the theme of a young Hindu girl’s spiritual awakening. My family includes Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. Many of my dearest friends are Jewish. My child is raised not only multilingual but also multi-religious. I’ve always been drawn to the philosophy and the core spiritual beliefs that I feel can unite us despite religious differences. When I was invited to contribute an article to Kirkus Reviews a while ago, I wrote one called Accept, Don’t Tolerate, which is about this aspect of my books and books in general. I do think it’s an aspect of my work that I strengthen and give attention to as I revise. 

You’ve written fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Is there any genre, that you’d like to try that you haven’t as yet?


Are you presently working on another project? As an off shoot of that question, how do you balance your creative work and the promotion of your work?

So hard, but I try to just be involved with the kidlit community, help other authors, and not worry about promotion. In fact, when  book is released, the really shy and scared part of me emerges in full force and I actually do less online – I tend to bury my head in the sands of another novel as quickly as I can. I suppose you might say I become a sort of writer-ostrich right around now when BORN BEHIND BARS is scheduled for release, for example! I’m working on a couple of projects – another middle grade novel, and a nonfiction book for adults. 

Is there any age group that you’d like to write for that you haven’t written for as of yet?

I’d love to write a picture book. Jackie Woodson once told me she thinks of a picture book as a poem, and I love that way of thinking of them. I do think I have a few poems that could be picture books someday… but they’re harder to write than they appear and so far my attention has focused on the characters who have so much to share with me that I need a novel for their stories! 

In your website’s Q&A, you’ve advised those who aspire to write to read widely and read well. What would you say at this point in your life are your three favorite books?

Oh, it’s so hard for me to choose favorite books. Or even favorite authors. I love and respect so many. Some names at the forefront of my mind – Jacqueline Woodson, Nikki Grimes, Margarita Engle, Kathy Erskine, Laurie Halse Anderson, Phil Bildner, Tracey Baptiste – but already I want to make this list so much longer – many I love and hold dear. 

You’ve also said to acknowledge the two parts of what makes a writer (the creative, spilling out the story and the corrective editor) and to allow them to respectfully coexist. Is there anything else you would suggest to those who are beginning their careers in writing? Is there anything you would like to share with those who might be wondering if they should persevere?

Write for your characters. They deserve the best story you can create for them. As for the rest, you can’t control any of it. Many brilliant books don’t get the recognition they deserve. Success is a lot of luck. So don’t worry about it. Just try to concentrate and be contented with the creative process. 

Author website: ; @padmatv (twitter); venkatraman.padma (ig, fb)

THE BRIDGE HOME (2019) * WNDB Walter Award winner * SCBWI Golden Kite Award winner * South Asia Book Award winner  * Paterson Prize winner * Crystal Kite winner * Nerdy Book Award winner *Audiophile Earphone Award winner * 2019 Global Read Aloud * 8 Stars * ALA Notable book * ALSC notable audiobook * NEA Read Across America selection * Junior Library Guild & audiobook * Nominee for TX Bluebonnet, FL SSYRA, VA, RI, GA, MN, WI, KY, VT, ME, NB, SC, WA state awards * Finalist for Japan’s Sakura Medal, Le Prix des libraires du Québec, Cybil, Malka Penn and Litterado Award * National Book Festival award Library of Congress Great Reads from Great Places * Translated into Farsi, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese and French  ~ Padma Venkatraman (she/ her) frequently dictates emails & texts due to health issues. Please excuse errors, typos, brevity etc.  

Thank you Padma, for your thoughtful answers to my questions, and for your beautiful writing.