Monday, June 30, 2014

Ready. Set. Write! Week 4

I did not achieve all my goals last week, but I feel as though I got a lot done. I always set my goals higher than I actually believe I can achieve. I might feel like I failed in getting everything done, but when I look at my actual achievements I'm usually pretty happy. My toddler is sleeping, I have a mug full of coffee, so let's get this "Ready. Set. Write!|" post written! Oh wait, let me refill my mug...


My goals for last week:

Work on dummies and layout illustrations.
Send out and work on more spot illustrations.
Send out lots of interview questions. 

Set up my portfolio website.

I thought I was at the point where I had my dummy all ready to go. I scanned in every page and opened them all to edit them. Problem was the pencil lines weren't dark enough, so I have to go over all the lines in pencil again. I'm almost done with this, though!

I wasn't able to work on on interview questions or my website. I did send out three illustrations to the SCBWI bulletin (The new one just came out, so I won't know if they will make it to the next issue until August). I also sent out a guest blog post for Julie Hedlund's 12x12! Fingers crossed that I get good response from both of these submissions.


Continue to work on dummies and layout illustrations.
Work on new spot illustrations.
Send out interview questions. 

Set up my portfolio website.


Submissions ahoy!


Just the sheer amount of work that I need to get done. I'm working, but it is taking a lot of time! Hopefully I'll have lots of progress done for next week.


That the darkening of the lines, though brutal, aren't taking that long to do!

This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerKaty UppermanErin Funk, and Jamie Morrow. Please visit their blogs to help continue great events such as this!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Interview With Terry Lynn Johnson

Meet Terry Lynn Johnson!
Every time I go to Terry Lynn Johnson's website I get a shiver down my spine. Not because it's a scary website, but because the atmosphere there is beautifully cold. The shiver is also there because I love stories about animals, and I think dog stories are my favorite. Terry's stories aren't ordinary stories about dogs and cold, but stories where you can learn about dogs, dog mushing, survival, and the bond between a dog and human. I loved receiving this interview if only for the pictures that Terry included. Many of the pictures are humourous but more importantly show how passionate Terry is about her work.


Terry's Latest Book

Dani: Tell us a bit about the beginning of your writing journey.

Terry: I thought I’d like to write a memoir about my adventures working for 12 years in a wilderness park as a ranger, and running my team of sled dogs. So I took an online writing course for 6 weeks. During that course, I had a very helpful tutor who read my stuff and suggested I might like to try writing fiction for young readers. I’m so glad because that is what set me on my path.

Dani: Do you have a favourite flavour of ice cream?

Terry: Brownie

Dani: Which of your sled dogs had the biggest impact on your life?

Terry: There were two dogs really. One was my leader, Apollo who I learned a great deal from and who probably saved my life a time or two getting me home in blizzards. But there was also a mild mannered, quiet dog who was not very smart, but for some reason, I had a deep connection to. I found Denali in a large kennel and he was painfully shy, but he took right to me. This may sound all mystical, but when I dreamt of the dogs, he would actually speak to me. He’s the only dog who ever did in my dreams. And over ten years later, I’m still dreaming about him. I can’t explain that kind of connection.

Dani: I'm sure you get asked many questions about dogs. What question do you get asked the most?
Terry and her Dogs

Terry: The question I got asked the most was the one that baffled me the most. People wanted to know how I could tell the difference between my dogs. I had quite a few white dogs and I guess they looked similar. But any musher knows each of their dogs inside and out. I could tell them apart in the dark by the way their shapes looked when they ran, the way one held their ears or their tail, if they were a pacer or a trotter. I could tell their voices apart when they howled at night. Their personalities shine through in their expressions too. Each dog was unique in their likes and dislikes and attitude and preferences.

Dani: How does “Ice Dogs” differ from “Dogsled Dreams”?

Terry: Dogsled Dreams was my first humble novel and it’s geared more for younger readers 7 – 10. It is the simple story of a girl wanting to run a race and how she prepares with her puppies who grow into team members. Ice Dogs is for 8 – 12 year old readers. It’s a survival story. Both novels show the relationship a musher has with their dogs and a reader will hopefully come away with some knowledge of mushing.

Dani: What do you hope that readers get from your book “Ice Dogs”?

Terry: I mostly wanted to write a book to show how important the dogs are, but also hopefully they’ll pick up some tips on winter survival and have some thoughts about friendship and living a fulfilling life.

Dani: Do you have plans for any books in the near future?

Terry: I’m working on a few right now. Any future books will be set in the outdoors, something I have experience with.


Find out more about Terry Lynn Johnson:


Thursday, June 26, 2014

What's Up!

I had a bout of utter exhaustion last night and passed out without posting. I kept telling myself to make a post, but I failed. Silly mushy mind!

What I'm Reading
All these sites about PHP and Wordpress so that I can get my website set up!

What I'm Writing/Drawing 

I was about to give up on my website earlier this week. Wordpress is great as a blog, but very difficult (especially if you aren't use to Wordpress) for making websites. I did figure out what to do to get my website to look like I want it to look for the most part, but it took a lot of reading to figure it out. I still don't understand PHP. I do understand HTML so this helps a lot in setting up my site!

I have not been able to send out any new interviews this week. I'm hoping that next week will be better for this!

I've been working on my dummy again. It's getting close so I'll be sharing it soon with my critique group. I have one picture left to do, and another one I need to find. I'm hoping there are no major corrections that need to be made!

Every Day Possible
Work on spot illustrations and dummy creation.

Wed 06/25
- What's Up Wednesday Post. Done Thursday.

Thursday 06/26
-Working on dummy/illustration work.

Friday 06/27
- Interview with Terry Lynn Johnson! I also have interviews with Wendy Decker, Marcia Strykowski and Cynthia Henzel coming soon!
- LADIE'S NIGHT! At a friends house with jewellery. Be jealous!

Saturday 06/28
Finishing and sending out my dummy to my critique groups.

Sunday 06/29
- A bit of work on art or my website

Write down some interview questions

Monday 06/30
Monday, monday can't trust that day!

Tuesday 07/01

- Hanging out with good friends, hopefully!

Wednesday 07/02

- What's Up Wednesday!

What Inspires Me Right Now
- The fact that I didn't have to pour myself coffee just now. Husbands are very useful sometimes. <3

What Else I've Been Up To

Toddler Minding 
He's eating me out of house and home!

Been working out. Also found that I can schedule my lab appointments online. The whole appointment took 15 minutes, 15 MINUTES! Gotta love that!

*What's up Wednesday is part of Jamie Morrow's summer writing intensive: "Ready. Set. WRITE!" There are other host blogs including: Erin L. FunkAlison MillerKaty Upperman, and Elodie Nowodazkij.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fairy Drawing: Mermaid and Dolphin Doodle

Just a quick five minute doodle... okay maybe it took me three minutes... or was that two? Point is that I didn't time myself on this doodle. I also did it right in permanent marker. No takesies backsies and lots of mistakes. I promise to spend at least twice as long on next week's drawing as I think I probably spent on this one.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ready. Set. Write! Week 3

I've remembered and forgot about this post at least a dozen times today. It's open on my laptop so I'm sure to finish it. I've got about 10 minutes now until I have to make supper!


My goals for last week:

Work on finishing up my current dummy & start on the illustrations. 
Get my portfolio website up and running. 
Send out lots of interview questions. 

Got exactly none of them done! I'm off to a great start. I wasn't able to send out any questions, but I've still got about 4 weeks of interviews lined up so that's good. Instead of working on my current dummy I did some work on a second dummy I want to have finished before I send out the first. It's always good to have a backup. Getting my portfolio website set up was a no go. I had a lot of trouble with getting used to using wordpress to set up a website... I've got it figured out so I think things should go better from now on.

I was able to get a few spot illustrations done and will be sending three of those out to the SCBWI bulletin soon. The fourth one I finished will be added to my portfolio soon.


Work on dummies and layout illustrations.
Send out and work on more spot illustrations.
Send out lots of interview questions. 

Set up my portfolio website.


Ink on paper. (Riveting I know!)


Trying to find time to do all the things. Seemed to be rather short on time this week. Hopefully next week will be better.


Still that my first is almost done, but that I have a second that I love. <3

Friday, June 20, 2014

Interview With Debra Daugherty

Debra wrapped in red.
Debra Daugherty is one of the many wonderful people I've had the chance to meet in my time in the SCBWI. Her blog is fun to read and talks about her journey as a writer. Her blog also contains great resources for writers in both her text and in the links. She has also has a lovely kid's blog (Kids Korner 2014) for all the young ones who want to know more about Debra! She has been published in the ezine "Guardian Angel Kids".

 Her book the Pastry Princess can be found here. Debra is the author of Calamity Cat, an eBook about a crazy cat and his girl Callie. The illustrations (done by Lucy Mara) are fantastic! You can find Debra's website here:

Dani: Which books did you love as a kid?

"My dog Honey. I rescued the shyest dog in the pound.
Honey sleeps at my feet when I write;
 and when most writers listen to music as they work,
I listen to the sound of Honey snoring."
Debra: The first books I remember are the ones by Dr. Seuss. My mother ordered them by mail, and as soon as one arrived, I would start reading it over and over. “The Cat in the Hat” always cracked me up. When older, I loved reading “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. The idea of my wanting to be a writer came from the character Jo in the story. She was a writer; I wanted to be one, too. I also loved getting lost with “Alice in Wonderland”. What a wonderful, magical place! I read so many books growing up; I just can’t mention them all. My family would actually get upset with me because I always had a book in my hand.

Dani: Apples or Oranges?

Debra: Bananas. The last time I bit into an apple, I had to go to the dentist to have a tooth pulled. So much for the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Oranges are too messy. First you have to peel away the skin, and then when you bite into the orange slice, juice squirts in your eye. I prefer bananas, and I eat at least four a week. I still eat apples, but only in pie, and as for my vitamin C, I prefer it in liquid form.

Dani: When did you start your writing journey?

Debra: As I mentioned before, Jo March in “Little Women” gave me the idea that I could write, but I didn't put this idea into focus until middle grade. My school had a newspaper and several of my stories and poems were published in it. Also, my eighth grade teacher encouraged me to write. It helps when someone believes you can do something. You start believing it, too. Over the years I kept writing, mostly for myself. It wasn't until I joined SCBWI that I seriously started putting myself out there. Attending conferences and joining a writers group taught me what I was doing wrong and what I needed to be doing to become published. Also, the encouragement from my writers group has spurred me on to keep trying, to not give up.

Dani: What was it that drew you to write for the online e-zine “Guardian Angel Kids?”

Debra: I read about this e-zine either in Children’s Writers or on a website and checked them out. I immediately liked what I saw. Mary Sue Roberts does an excellent job publishing and editing this magazine. Each issue has a theme; bullying, special kids, mystery, etc. Under submissions I saw the deadline to submit for the August, 2013 issue on aviation was close. I remember as a child swinging in my backyard and watching the planes pass over head. Like Mikayla in my story, I kept swinging higher and higher until I felt like I was flying. I sat down at my PC and wrote “Let Your Imagination Soar!” and submitted it that day. I was both thrilled and amazed when it was accepted.

Dani: Tell us about your new book “Calamity Cat”.

Debra: “Calamity Cat” is about a cat that is always making messes, knocking over a glass of milk and causing havoc in the laundry room and bathroom. His owner is a little girl named Callie, and Callie’s mother tells her if Calamity keeps making messes, he will have to go. I won’t give away the ending. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

This is how “Calamity Cat” came to be. At my writers’ group meeting in January, 2013, one of the members, Louanne Brown, mentioned something about February being Picture Book month and writing a Picture Book a day. I love challenges. Every day in February I spent 1-2 hours writing a PB, keeping my word count under 1,000. Some days were a struggle to come up with an idea, but I did it. I had 28 stories! In March I learned about MeeGenius, an online publisher of e-books. I debated whether to send in one of my stories right away or wait until their MeeGenius Author Challenge where they pay a winning author $1,000.00 and give them a contract. I decided to submit and not wait for their contest, and sent in my Day 18th PB, “Calamity Cat”. By the end of April, I had a contract, and by December of that year, it was published on their website. Lucy Mara was hired to do the illustrations and I was pleased at how the book turned out.

Dani: What are some of the pitfalls you had in writing “Calamity Cat”?

Debra: I’m almost embarrassed to admit, I had none. I wrote it in a couple of hours, did a small amount of editing, and submitted it. I was so surprised when it was accepted. Even the editing on it after that was not much, I just needed to add a comma or two and make a contraction from two words. I know this is not the norm, and consider myself very lucky. Believe me, I know the struggles of being a writer, I have a file drawer filled with rejections. “Calamity Cat” turned out to be an exception.

Dani: Do you have any advice for writers struggling to get their manuscripts published?

Debra: Don’t give up. Keep writing, if it’s only notes in a journal. Read books in the genre you write, attend writers’ conferences, and join the SCBWI or a writers group. Read other writers blogs, like Dani’s, and learn from them. When you submit, first find out all you can about the agent or publisher and see if your story fits their criteria. Follow their guidelines and then submit your best work, and don’t be discouraged when rejections come. My writers group celebrate rejections because they show we are trying, we are putting our work out there. Remember, the best and most famous writers in the world have all received rejections.

Also, check out the MeeGenius website, as they are preparing to offer another Author’s Challenge. Send in your PB, and you could become the newest MeeGenius author. Good luck!

Dani, thank you for this opportunity, I greatly enjoyed doing this interview.


Debra Daugherty

Find out more about Debra:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What's Up Thursday!

I think my cold is actually relinquishing it's grasp on me. Unfortunately it wasn't soon enough for me to publish my What's Up! post on Wednesday. Oh well, I guess the day doesn't matter as long as I'm getting things done. 

What I'm Reading

Between my husband and I -- we've read this book to my son about 100 times. We picked it up at a garage sale. I've been looking for a potty book for my son, but hadn't had any luck finding one I liked. My son likes being read this book even when he's on the potty. Unfortunately, he's still not using his potty yet, but I have hope. This book is very short and very cute. If you have a little boy using the potty get this one! I saw there was a similar book for little girls as well.

What I'm Writing/Drawing 

I finished and submitted my Tomie Contest entry with time to spare! I do not want to share the entry here. I'm not even sure if it's against the rules. I feel like these contests should be as impartial as possible. I didn't even sign my work before sending it in -- not that many people would recognize my signature. Here's contest link if you missed it:

I finally broke down and purchased a domain name and website hosting for a portfolio website and my Pattern Pals web comic. I have to build the whole thing in Wordpress so I'm not sure how fast I can build everything. I have a bit of experience creating websites. I took a class in HTML/CSS and I do have an idea of what I'm doing. The thing is that Wordpress is different than this and I have to figure out how to force it to do what I want. I could build the whole thing in HTML, but that's really boring and a bit stressful. I hope I can find some information online to help make this website creation go smoothly.

I got a lot of interviews sent out Monday and I already got replies which will keep the interviews going on my blog for the next 3-4 weeks. I can't get lazy now. I have about 5 more people I need to send interviews out to this week!

The more I get done the more I see I have tons to do! Besides getting my website set up (which includes making a few new images) I also need to finish my dummy; illustrate 3 spreads for my dummy; start on a second dummy/illustration packet, work on spot illustrations, and design and print post cards. These things all just need to be done at once! I feel like I need at least two books to pitch before I start pitching books (in case an editor/agent wants to know what else I'm working on). Ideally I'll also be printed in a magazine or two at this time. I can do this. I can do this.. just remember to breathe!  

Every Day Possible
Work on spot illustrations and dummy creation.

Wed 06/18
- What's Up Wednesday Post. Done Thursday.

Thursday 06/19
-Working on dummy/illustration work.
-Spot illustrations for magazines.

Friday 06/20
- Illustration work.
- Interview with Debra Daugherty! I also have interviews with Terry Lynn Johnson, Wendy Decker and Marcia Strykowski coming soon!

Saturday 06/21
- Possibly having dinner with some friends!

Sunday 06/22
- A bit of work on art or my website

Write down some interview questions

Monday 06/23
- Meeting strange people, because people are strange when you're a stranger. When you're a stranger -- people are strange.

Tuesday 06/24

- Going to the beach?

Wednesday 06/25

- What's Up Wednesday!

What Inspires Me Right Now
- The ability to do things for other people just because I can.

What Else I've Been Up To

Toddler Minding 
Up half the night with a screaming hungry toddler!

Hoping to be able to fit in some workouts this week.

*What's up Wednesday is part of Jamie Morrow's summer writing intensive: "Ready. Set. WRITE!" There are other host blogs including: Erin L. FunkAlison MillerKaty Upperman, and Elodie Nowodazkij.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Quick Colour Fairy

My fairy today is just a quick colour fairy. This paper does not like watercolours so much. David was painting so I grabbed the closest paper to me. I think I might try coloured pencils next week.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ready. Set. Write! Week Twoish

So I did say that I was going to post my fairy drawings on Mondays. I'm going to switch this to Tuesdays (I do have one done) so that I can participate in Ready. Set. Write! I will be talking about my art goals as well as my writing goals. I missed last week's post on Monday because of my Tomie work.


I technically didn't do a post last week, so I'll briefly talk about my goals from Wednesday:

I got my Tomie Illustration finished and submitted officially and to the unofficial gallery! It wasn't officially a goal but I purchased a domain/hosting for a portfolio website. I also have the same purchased for The Pattern Pals web comic, but it will take some time to set that up for weekly posts.


Work on finishing up my current dummy & start on the illustrations.
Get my portfolio website up and running.
Send out lots of interview questions.




Getting over this cold and it makes it hard to get up in the morning. Most of the symptoms are gone, but still working through the exhaustion. I do need to get to bed earlier, but even when I sleep a lot I still feel tired.


That my dummy is almost done! <3

Friday, June 13, 2014

Interview with Sue Frye

Sue Frye is a wonderful Author and Illustrator I met because of the 12 x12. Sue  I love the line quality in Sue's illustration work. Not many people work like she does in computer illustration and I think this is going to give her an advantage in her illustration future! 

Sue is also a rhymer (a good rhymer to boot). She was a finalist in a rhyming picture book contest! You can view the book here: The illutrations were done by Cat_alogue:

Dani: Tell us a little bit about your writing journey.

Sue: I dived into fiction as a child, but I didn't write until several years later. First, I was a storyteller, sharing my imaginary characters and plots with anyone who would listen. Soon I became hooked on creating my very own adventures and the idea of actually being an author. I jumped into writing like a duck into water. The story ninja—that was me! Hey, that’s a good title for a book! I wrote about anything that popped into my mind while reading everything I could get my hands on to learn more about the craft of writing children’s books.

Today nothing has changed. My days and nights are consumed with reading, writing and learning that’s why I recently became interested in writing nonfiction picture books. I read an article by Kristen Fulton who had just formed an online group on Facebook called WOW. After joining the group, I became even more excited about the genre, and so I signed up for one of her fabulous classes—and I’m so glad I did. Kristen is very personable and eager to share her knowledge. Her Nonfiction Archaeology class proved to be more than I expected. I’m still learning from that class. Find more about Kristen and Nonfiction here:

Now I love nonfiction so much, I don’t want to write anything else!

My historical nonfiction picture book RUN! RUN! RUN! won honorable mention in a writing contest at

Dani: Do you prefer sand or snow?

Sue: I love them both. Sandy beaches are fabulous, digging my toes into the sand inspires my inner writer like crazy. On the other hand, my imagination goes wild when icy snow flakes tickle my nose. I love nature and the outdoors. A walk in the woods, a thunder storm or black rolling ocean waves, cause me to write like a Mad Hatter.

Dani: Tell us a bit about your Black Hen Holiday Contest win!

Sue: Oh, thanks so much for mentioning my contest win—it was my first time! I've always been fascinated with art, and I love to draw (mostly doodles). So when I heard about the contest, I knew I had to enter. At first, I was unsure of which way to go with the art. The directions were simple, but they wanted a Christmas hen, and I figured most of the contestants would probably be drawing the hen with Christmas lights, trees, etc. I had to focus. I grabbed a pad and pencil and drew several pages of thumbnail sized hens. This took several days. When I drew one that I felt good about, I drew a larger picture and copied it to my computer to color digitally. After that, I saved the file and sent it as an attachment to Hen & Ink.
Several weeks later, I received an email from Erzi Deak. I took a deep breath and clicked on the email. I expected the worst after years of rejections. I read the first sentence. I read the second sentence. I quickly skimmed through the complete letter. SHE LOVED MY SKATING HEN WITH THE BERET! I read it again and again in disbelief. But it was true. I ran through the hallway and told my family. I. Did. The. Happy. Dance!

I was both surprised and grateful when my little hen was picked as the winner by Erzi Keak at Hen & Ink Literary Studio!

Take a look here:

Dani: Your yoga cat book is so cute, what inspired you to write this?

Sue: Thanks for taking a look at my yoga cat, Dani! It was definitely the art that set my writing wheel in motion! A couple of years ago, I joined a fabulously fun website called Storybird at http://www.storybird where a large group of artists share their beautiful illustrations with writers to produce stories for children.

One day while scanning through page after page of Storybird art, I saw a collection of cat illustrations and fell in love with them. The words to the story begin to flow as I looked at each illustration. This one was definitely a rhymer. I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Thanks to all the wonderful artists at Storybird, I've written several stories, most all of them rhyming.

Dani: What are some of the challenges you are facing in your writing career?

Sue: I can’t imagine anything about writing being a challenge but there is one thing that bothers me and every other write--the submission process. I think most authors will agree that the long waits between submitting and hearing back from agents is grueling. Waiting drives me daffy, but instead of twiddling my thumbs between submissions, I work on new projects, do revisions and read.

Dani: What are you working on now?

Sue: I have finished three new nonfiction picture books and many more on the table. As I think about new plots and characters, I use my free time to sketch--the drawing process helps me organize my thoughts and provides new ideas for other stories. I have several art projects in the works, one for an Alice in Wonderland anthology, one for mermaids and one for a SCBWI contest. I'm also working on two sets of nonfiction series picture books that I am very excited about.

Dani: What is your goal for this year?

Sue: This year I’ll write at least seven new nonfiction picture books, enter more writing and illustrating contests and keep up my author’s blog. Then in my spare time, I’ll scribble in my notebook to keep a record of every quirky title, funny plot, loveable character or new storyline that pops into my mind wherever I may go.

Learn more about Sue Frye, her books and her art at:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's Up Wednesday!

The evil cold is not relinquishing it's grasp on me. My ear is bothering me right now as is my back. Been feeling pretty old these last few weeks! I'm hoping next week will be better. The What's Up Wednesday illustration on my blog right now is not mine, but I (along with the other What's Up Wednesday! peeps) have been given permission to use this on our blogs. There are a lot of these to choose from so I'm going to mix things up. Yes, I know I'm talking crazy talk here, but I just can't help myself.

What I'm Reading
Picked up the Authorised Graphic Biography of Anne Frank at a library book sale (along with several other books). It looks neat. I'm going to read it this week... hopefully! 

What I'm Writing/Drawing 

I'm almost done with my Tomie dePaola contest entry! Just need to add a little shading to the white parts of my painting. I had about four or five ideas (that I'll likely use for picture books or other portfolio work later) that just didn't pan out. The restrictions are rough, but it makes for a good challenge. I think I have a good chance, actually. Here's the award information if you want to read about this:

Every Day Possible
Back on the picture book wagon again! 

Wed 06/11
- What's Up Wednesday Post DONE!

Thursday 06/12
- They're only toddlers and can't kill me. They're only toddlers and can't kill me..
- Hopefully scanning my Tomie entry.

Friday 06/13
- Working on some illustrations.
- Interview with Sue Frye!

Saturday 06/14
- Celebrating Father's Day a day early!

Sunday 06/15
- Hopefully submitting the Tomie successfully!

Write down some interview questions

Monday 06/16
- Someone owes me chocolate on this day!

Tuesday 06/17

- Watching my son bust a move.

Wednesday 06/18

- What's Up Wednesday!

What Inspires Me Right Now
- Almost having my Tomie finished!

What Else I've Been Up To

Toddler Minding 
Sleep is a thing of the past.

I hope I sleep well tonight!

*What's up Wednesday is part of Jamie Morrow's summer writing intensive: "Ready. Set. WRITE!" There are other host blogs including: Erin L. FunkAlison MillerKaty Upperman, and Elodie Nowodazkij.

Monday, June 9, 2014


I just remembered I forgot to draw a fairy for today! I don't have time to go and draw a new one. So for today here is a really old painting of a fairy I drew!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Radhika Meganathan

Radhika Meganathan has published 12 picture books, with 20 more under production.
Radhika on Baker's Street
She was the 2004 recipient of Highlights Foundations for Children’s Writers’ fellowship (USA) and one of the judges at Disney’s Pitchkiaow, a national talent search in Mumbai (2011). She owns the retreat planning company Smara Creative Escapes and co-owns MKS Author Solutions, which offers pre-publishing and manuscript guidance to authors.

Radhika is the host of the writing challenges Short Story 12×12 and Chapter Book 12×12; she has pledged to write one chapter book in 2014 and so far been successful! A global group of writers accompany her in her journey to write one short story a month, and an anthology is in the works. She writes kidlit under her real name, and YA fiction using the pseudonym Smara. Check out her blog at


Dani: What do you feel is the most important part of your position as a writer?

Radhika: As a children’s writer in India, I feel I should be honest and not hide behind conventions or “children should be protected from knowing all evil” propaganda. This has not made me very popular, lol, since I live in a fairly conservative society… a few local bloggers/parents some raised objections for a story I wrote about a 14-year old’s budding sexuality. Their comments have only made me stronger to be true to my art.

After eight years of inactivity (I was too busy for writing, or so I told myself) and then a semester of binge writing, I have learnt that faith is most important, in yourself, in your talent. Every one is talented; either by divine intervention or plain serendipity, yours is the gift of words - if you do not respect it the way it should be respected (, if you do not make use of it as early and as effective as possible, it turns on you.

I believe all creative people have this problem. Their gift is also their curse. If they ignore it or don’t give it the right kind of work it is capable of doing, first it goes feral, then it starts cutting the very flesh that’s hosting it. I have written a longer post on this, at

So right now, my job is to just show up and let the magic happen. It may be very low inferior magic (writers are born insecure) but it is magic never the less – how else can you explain the birth of a story? Ironically, the cure is in the sickness - the more you write, the clearer it all becomes.

Dani: Tell us about the books you write.

Radhika: I started my career writing picture books and comic books. I don’t do PB anymore, largely because I personally find short stories and novels more challenging and satisfying. That said, I love writing scripts and I still do for a lot of (paying) clients.

For the past few years, I have been working on an 8-part graphic novel series on Indian history and a YA historical thriller based on the same… due to its subject matter, the research has taken me forever. I think it’s partly the reason why I chose to write a chapter book a month in 2014, because I desperately wanted to know if I could actually finish a book!

I am most interested in writing from a kid’s / teen’s perspective about life in India. I myself had a very uneventful (boring?) childhood so I guess I kind of compensate for that by drawing out some very unusual dilemmas for my characters!

In MAANJA MADNESS, my protagonist is plagued by his funny, competitive and devious neighbour friend; in THE DIARY OF DDLJ, an uptight dog becomes a temporary companion of a canine-hating, messy boy; in STIR, my heroine struggles to make sense of her obsession with a boy in her school, even after knowing that he is not a “good” boy. More details at my blog,

Dani: What is your favorite age/genre to write?

Radhika: Tween and young adult. I write both contemporary humour and fantasy.

Dani: What is it that made you want to host not one but two challenges?

Writer's Retreat in Auroville 1
Radhika: Well, the chapter book challenge came first because I was sick of having all these ideas but so undisciplined and disorganized. I was also physically ill around that time and at one point it looked like I was going to die without having writing a single novel. That was the best wakeup call a lazy bum like me could ever have, ha.

So I vowed to clean up my act and make be more serious about my craft, if only God saved my life (jaundice is known to cause paranoia and hallucinations!). I started getting better, and in that initial frenzy, I wrote my first chapter book ( The very next month, I signed up for Picture Book Idea Month, and realized that challenges are the secret... they are actually goals on deadlines, and I needed them desperately.

Writer's Retreat in Auroville 2
So I created the Chapter Book Challenge (CBC) 12x12, hoping I could have a small group of writers who could motivate each other. Nobody signed up for it. Obviously, I mean, it is a bloody tall order, as I have come to realise. Just because it took me only 2 weeks to write my first chapter book, I thought I could do it every month. Gah! It has been extremely challenging, and I am making it only by the skin off my teeth...

Short stories, on the other hand, were easier. I identify myself as a short story writer first, and created the Short Story Challenge at the same time as CBC 12X12. 12 writers immediately joined and we are now an e-community with regular participation. Since I do not work full time (a million thanks to my hubby for financially supporting me!), I am able to – barely - manage both challenges at the same time. But I am not sure I will do these twin challenges next year!

Dani: Could you tell us a little bit about your Chapter Book and Short Story Challenges?

Creative Writing Camp for Kids
Radhika: In CBC 12x12, I write one chapter book a day. That is, I just get the story on the paper (figuratively, I work on MS Word!)… the raw draft that comes straight from the heart of your craft. No edits whatsoever. I don't think I can do anything more, lol. So far, I have completed several short story compilations, two original chapter books and a couple of translations. These all are strictly raw drafts, I anticipate spending several weeks editing them in the future.

Short Story 12x12 is a community-based challenge ( The goal is to write and submit at least the first draft every month. First draft, in my definition, is one-time-read-through, spell-checked and grammar-checked raw draft. The deadline for participants to submit their stories is the 10th of every month; and the critiques should be done by the end of that month.

The beauty is, I can clearly see every one (including me!) improving by leaps and bounds... the difference between a story submitted in Jan and one in May is phenomenal. Stories are becoming more nuanced, well-narrated and edited. And even though crits are not compulsory, almost everyone crits all incoming submissions because they have realised that by critting others' works, you improve your own.

It helped, of course, that we are only 12 writers. Next year, I plan to have more writers, since a lot of them were on waiting list year and I was unable to include them – I didn't want my current batch to be overwhelmed. This is, after all, a pilot venture and I had to be careful.

Highlights Workshop at Chautauqua 2004
We have had a few dropouts (they hated to leave and only did so because of insane schedules and/or illnesses). Though, there is this member who has a life-threatening condition and is strapped on 24/7 oxygen support, and she is the first to submit a story, every month. It all comes down to prioritization :-)

There is an option where you can just turn in a story every month and not critique other’s stories; the downside is that your story too will not be critiqued. This does work, at least for a couple of members, because all they were looking for was a deadline to get things done.

An e-anthology is in the works, featuring the stories of all those who win this challenge, and only those who have critted each others’ stories at east every other month are eligible to submit. Everyone’s excited about it and you can expect it to be published on Kindle by the end of this year!

Dani: What goes into preparing for a challenge?

Radhika in Bali
Radhika: Definitely a lot. First is time management. If you are working full time, an hour a day might be the most you can give to a Writing Challenge, and it is good enough if it is the right block of time. Figure out your best writing time of the day, in terms of clarity, accessibility and isolation.

For me, 1-2 hours on waking up worked, because that's the one block of time that cannot by derailed by personal or professional obligations (and strangely, writing on an empty stomach makes me feel more alert and clear – weird, I know!). A tip: Unplug the internet during this time, it just doesn’t help.

Secondly, discipline. No compromises. You set a goal to write 2 pages a day, or 1000 words a day, or whatever is required to win the challenge, and you meet it every day. Even if you let it slide a single day, it accumulates and will overwhelm you.

The very first month, it almost happened to me... Crippled with doubts and incessant "ideating", I didn't start writing until the fourth week of Jan, and I swear, I absolutely had no idea where all the ti
me went. Then I had to do a marathon writing session to finish MAANJA MADNESS AND OTHER STORIES, the very first book I wrote for CBC 12x12 (

Thailand Pic
Finally, a list of titles is ideal. In Dec last year, I drew up a project timetable, assigning one book for every month. I had so many ideas, it was not that difficult! So I spent a whole month prepping and jotting down plot lines an generally getting myself ready for the challenge.

I ultimately didn't follow the time table (discovered I was not that disciplined) but because I had already drawn plot diagrams and character charts for each book, I could just select one and start writing. This homework alleviated a little of the terror and made the challenge more palatable!

Here are some of my posts that will help you get prepared for a similar challenge:

Planning your CBC 12x12 -

How to write a chapter book in 30 days -

Editing your raw draft -

Dani: What is your favorite method of travel?

Radhika in Venice
Radhika: Thank you for acknowledging my eternal wanderlust! For every trip, I research a lot and come up with an outline of “things to do”… without that blueprint, I always fear I will ‘waste’ my time. But then I end up doing only half on that list… So my personal style is a mix of manic planning and chilled out stuff. I also am not too picky.

I like the buzz of city life, its vibrancy and humanity. I'm essentially a city girl at heart, even though I retire by 10pm and have never done the bar/club/night scene (never had the right crowd to go out with!). If I could take a holiday tomorrow, it will be to London or NYC, two cities I lived during my late 20s.

Of course cost is a sore factor, as always, so it is more often Singapore than Tokyo. But I also need my regular fix of ‘green’ and ‘blue’, i.e., mountains and oceans, and luckily India has a lot of those… so I alternate my holidays between city breaks and nature breaks!

I have not met one writer who doesn't like travel. Clearly because the more you travel and explore and connect with people and realms, the more your mind stores up on fodder for future stories :). I planned the first women’s writing retreat in India ( and loved the experience. That’s why I started Smara Creative Escapes (, offering affordable literary retreats for local and overseas clients. Do write to me if you’d like to know more!

Get in touch with Radhika: