Rashmi Sirdeshpande - Our Graduate's StoryOct 30, 2021
From the desk of Rashmi Sirdesphande. A published author of children's fiction and graduate of The Novelry's courses, Rashmi is published by Puffin Books (Penguin Random House).
Do you make it a habit to sometimes pause and reflect on how far you’ve come? I love the idea but I don’t do it enough. I’ll add it to my list of writerly sins along with deleting old drafts, impulsively hitting ‘send’, and being useless at celebrating milestones.
But when I do stop and look back at this writing journey, it really does take my breath away. I’ve been published for just over 2 years and I have 6 children’s books out already. I’ve worked with some fantastic illustrators and 5 of our books have been up for awards (my debut picture book with Diane Ewen managed to scoop up a win too), two were Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller, one (Dosh/Cash) was a Times/Sunday Times Best Children’s Book of 2020, and one (Good News) was listed in The Guardian’s 50 Hottest New Books Everyone Should Read (2021). I couldn’t have written a better start to my writing career.
How does it feel? I can’t process it. I really can’t. If I did, I’d explode. And that’s just some of the amazing stuff that has happened. The books I’ve worked on have been translated into various different languages and are being published, read, and loved around the world. I’ve had classes named after me in primary schools (whaaat?!). I’ve been invited to speak at major literature festivals like Hay, Edinburgh, Bath, and Cheltenham. I’ve done multi-school events with thousands of children. And now I’m an official World Book Day author for 2022 with a £1 book that will reach more young readers than I could ever have dreamed possible. How does this happen?! In so little time?
I used to feel shy talking about all these achievements but now I’ll own them. Because I didn’t make these books alone. All these accolades belong to the whole team: agents, illustrators, editors, designers, copyeditors, proofreaders, production, PR, sales, marketing, rights, and everyone who has helped to bring these books to life. LUCK has been a huge factor too. I always say that. Not to take away from the hard work of all the people I’ve created these books with, but hard work is not enough in this industry. You need luck. I’ve had a lot of that. I’ve been in the right place at the right time and I’ve met people at every single stage who have opened my eyes, opened doors, made space for me, and supported me. I count my friends at The Novelry here too, where I started my journey. I’ve met an agent and editors who get what I’m trying to do with representation and reflecting our world on the page. I’m very conscious that not all writers get this lucky. Certainly not so fast.
It’s business. But it’s also personal.
Everything I’ve mentioned so far is just the industry piece. Of course we all keep the reader in mind when we write but somehow, we can still get caught up in the craft and the deadlines and that all-consuming anxiety.
But when I hear that a child has read and loved my book, I’m suddenly pulled back into my WHY. Every single time. Nothing prepared me for the personal side. It’s one thing seeing a trade review or a picture of your book in a bookshop (and yes, that is amazing!), but having a parent or teacher or librarian say that a child keeps asking for your books or won’t stop talking about them is just WOW. Hearing that a child sees themselves and their friends and their dreams in my books is something I’ll never get over. It makes it real. It makes it worth it.
Tips on writing for children.
The text needs to be clean and sparse, which Louise Dean talks about on The Novelry's writing courses – she is so spot on! This is especially true for picture books where every single word must earn its place on the page. Non-fiction, too.
You need tight text that somehow conveys all the facts accurately and in an age-appropriate way with a fantastic VOICE, maybe some humour, some style, some excitement and intrigue.
It’s a lot to ask.
It’s not an easy thing writing for children. These books are a nightmare to sell and quite an ordeal to write. It may just be me but I’ll hold my hands up and say I struggle with it. I do a great deal of messing up and a great deal of redrafting. I have to. The bar is set high by my peers in what feels like a golden age for children’s books.
I'm not a great writer, I'm a great learner.
Write, learn, stretch, grow, repeat.
I may be bad at reflecting and celebrating but I am very much aware of how amazing it is that I’m able to make books in this tricky industry. Thanks to that generous sprinkling of luck, I’ve got my foot in the door and I plan to hold it open for as many other writers as I can. I’m grateful to be here and to be writing (and eventing and filming and doing all these things I had no idea were part of being a children’s writer).
More importantly, I’m grateful to be growing. Constantly. Shaping clay, polishing diamonds - roll with the analogy that works for you. It works for story and it works for the writer. You write, learn, stretch, grow, repeat.
Wondrous things happen along the way but you keep your head down and you keep working. That’s my plan anyway. I know that every so often I will be stuck and scrunch up my work and bang my head against my desk and compare myself to real writers. But then a parent or teacher or librarian will tell me about a child who really needed one of my books and I’ll come back to my WHY again. And I’ll listen. And I’ll cry. Instantly. Then I’ll get back to work.
Rashmi Sirdeshpande took The Classic Course and The Ninety-Day Novel® at The Novelry. Both courses are available separately or bundled together in The Novel Kickstarter Plan. Start today! Members can enjoy a recorded live session with Rashmi in our Catch Up TV area.