Interview with Darshana Khiani

I’m excited to introduce all of you to Darshana. She is the mastermind behind the blog Floweringminds.com where she features authors and promotes diversity in kidlit. My kind of gal.

Hi, Darshana! I’m excited to get to know you better because we share a love of Richard Scarry and Blondie. That pretty much sums up my childhood!

I’d like to focus on diversity since that’s what you advocate. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen recently in books for children.

Thank you very much for having me. I’m happy to be discussing diversity here.

Ever since the We Need Diverse Books organization came onto the scene in 2014, there has been an uptick in diverse books being published, more discussions on the topic of diversity at conferences, and publishers understanding the need for sensitivity readers. It is an exciting time; I hope this momentum continues and doesn’t get relegated to a trend. We are a diverse nation and our children’s literature should continue to reflect that.

What are some changes you project to be in the pipelines in the future?

I would like to see the continued breadth of stories within the various diverse categories. This will help break down stereotypes and give readers a richer experience. Nigerian author, Chimamada Adiche, gave an eloquent speech on “The Danger of a Single-Story”. Her talk struck a chord with me, as I remembered having to defend and explain my summer holidays in Kenya and India to fellow students when I was a child. Looking back, can I blame my classmates for their unawareness when the only images they saw of those countries were of malnourished, poor, and hungry children on fundraising infomercials? Within any diverse group, there will be a range of people and experiences and it is important for there to be a body of literature to show the full spectrum.

With the political climate being what it is today, there is a need for books where multiculturalism is at the forefront, discussing inclusivity and understanding. As our nation’s awareness increases, I hope we can see more stories with diverse characters where the primary focus is a universal truth and the multicultural part is secondary.

Are there any topics you’d love to read about that you haven’t read yet?

While there is a lot of discussion around racial, gender, religious diversity and neurodiversity, there isn’t much about economic diversity. There has been a smattering of books in MG and YA dealing with economic hardship but not enough. Back in 2008, I remember watching a 60 Minutes segment about the high percentage of homeless kids in Florida wondering if there were books that reflected their reality. Recently, there was a picture book, STILL A FAMILY by Brenda Sturgis, that had a lovely message of still being a family even though the father had to stay at a men’s shelter while the young daughter and mother were at the women’s shelter. Katherine Applegate’s MG novel, CRENSHAW, touched on childhood hunger.

Across the various diverse groups there has been an increase of books coming out in the YA and MG categories, but I’d like to see that diversity also reflected in both Picture Books and Early Chapter Books.

What’s your dream book that you’d like to read or even write?

As for my dream book to read, I’ll let you know once I find it. As for writing, one of the things on my writing bucket list is to create a modern rendition of the Akbar and Birbal Indian folktales. I loved the wit and wisdom in those stories.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m learning the craft of early chapter books as I try to convert one of my picture book South Asian characters into the longer format. I’m also constantly writing and revising picture books.

Also, I know you work with the We Need Diverse Books campaign as a picture book application reader. Do you have any advice for authors writing PBs?

Perfect timing! The We Need Diverse Books organization is currently accepting applications for readers until the end of August. Whether you are a picture book writer or a novelist, I highly recommend taking advantage of any opportunity that has you reading many stories in the category that you write. You will gain an appreciation of how fresh, original, and well-crafted a story needs to be in order to stand out.

 Additionally, for picture book writers, I would recommend reading as many current picture books as possible. I read about 250 a year. When I started back in 2011, the focus was on character-driven stories, then quirky and subversive – the market is constantly changing. Finally, of course: write, write, write. Picture books are a bit of a numbers game. The more stories you have out there, the better shot you have at something getting picked up. Kate Messner wrote an awesome post a while back titled “Picture Book Math”, where she discusses her productivity over a year.

On that note, I had better get back to my stories! Happy Writing!

Thank you so much, Darshana for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share with us. 

You can find out more about Darshana on her blog, twitter, Instagram: @dkwriter and Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/floweringminds/

Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out August 15th 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR. She is represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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DIY Infographics and other Cool Marketing Things

If you’ve spent any time online recently (which, yeah, maybe you’ve been avoiding it as much as we have!), you’ve probably seen these cool graphic communication tools known as infographics.

A practice infographic on how writers can use different social media platforms

Infographic is really just a fancy way of saying “a picture and a few words working together to communicate key information or important messaging.” They give people an easy, at-a-glance way of gathering info, and they’re a great nod to those people who grasp pictures faster than they do words.

I’m a non-visual thinker — give me words any day! — but even so, I’ve grown to appreciate their amazing ability to communicate big complex ideas in a flash. So I wondered if I could learn how to make them.

The short answer is YES — anyone can learn to make an infographic, and depending on how fast you can pull together the content, can do it in 15-20 minutes! The longer answer…well, that’s what this blog post is for!

The Tools

There are at least half a dozen platforms that can help you design your own infographics. Most of them are free for the basics, paying if you want to get really fancy and customized. I found a great rundown of the major players here.

I used Canva to create both the samples I’m posting here. You can scroll through dozens of templates — some free, some paid — and find one that gives you the general look you want. The designs can be changed with photos, colors, textures, etc. I have only just started to play around, and found it easy and fun to mess around.

You’ll also want to have your statistics, facts, sources, images and a general outline ready before you start. I just dove in for the first one I created, and while I wasn’t trying to really create something I would use again and again, it took a lot more time than it could have.

And there aren’t only infographic templates available. You can use these platforms to design anything from wedding invitations to brochures to social media graphics and more.

The Whys

Which brings me to all the reasons you might want to get familiar with infographics.

Marketing. One Penny used Canva to create marketing materials for her upcoming book, saying, “I just took a stab at it, and take this from someone who HATES, no, abhors all forms of fiddly technology– I made a cool pamphlet in half an hour!! It still needs some tweaking, but it looks so much more professional than my 1st attempt using a word doc.”

Reaching readers. Kids are geared to accept visual ways of communicating, and as kidlit writers, it’s to our benefit if we can reach them in the ways they like to be reached. If you have a message for your readers, see if you can put it in infographic form.

Another practice with more in-depth information and graphics

Blog posts. As a blog reader and a blog writer, it can be really refreshing to see information presented visually. Instead of writing 500 words on writing great dialogue, why not try a graphic that explains what makes dialogue great?

Presentations. I occasionally give talks in my professional life and to school-aged kids. Infographics are a fantastic way to underscore the information you’re presenting orally — and help you stay away from the curse of the three-bullet-point Powerpoint slide!

Play around with a couple of the platforms to see which one works best for you. Once I tried one, the ideas started coming fast and furious. I’m looking forward to creating more and finding more ways to use them!