Author Spotlight: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Sept. 5, 2014KidLit411 is very excited to present author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen! Sudipta is the co-founder of Kidlit Summer School and an award-winning author whose books include DUCK DUCK MOOSE, TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS, ORANGUTANGLED, and over thirty more books. Be sure to enter her giveaway at the end of this interview to win a signed copy of DUCK DUCK MOOSE or to win a 20 minute critique via Skype or phone!
Thanks for joining us, Sudipta!
What were you like at school? Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was the biggest nerd EVER. Seriously. I was one of those annoying kids who always complained about failing a test that she ended up getting a 103 on. Looking back, though, I realize that all that "annoying" behavior stemmed from my discomfort with being smart. For some horrible reason, intelligence in children is something that is mocked by their peers -- and it is often a mockery ignored by adults who should be disciplining those peers. If there is one thing I want to do for kids when I visit schools, it is to reinforce that being smart is something to be proud of, and that labels like "nerdy" or "brainy" just mean that later your life will be better than the kids hurling those names at you.
What are you working on at the moment?
Believe it or not, I am working on two big new things -- both of which are so top secret I had to sign non-disclosure agreements!
Tell us about your new course offering, it looks spectacular!
I'm so proud to announce that my latest project is not so much writing as it is writing-related: I've just launched a new venture called Kidlit Writing School and we have opened registration for our Fall 2014 classes. I'm going to be teaching a picture book course called Picture Book A to Z's: Plotting in Picture Books. This course (obviously) will cover the nuances of the picture book plot, and I truly feel that after you take it, you will never look at plots the same again!
What's extra exciting is that this is the first in a series of master classes on picture book craft. Each course stands alone, but taken together -- well, I think we'll cover more about picture books than you ever thought you could know! Here's the link for my class: KidLit Writing School: Picture Book A to Z's: Plotting in Picture Books
My partner, Kami Kinard, is also offering a Fall 2014 class in conjunction with the fabulous Rebecca Petruck called Crafting the Kidlit Novel: KidLit Writing School
We have a very particular goal in mind with our school -- we want to create an environment that is nurturing and encouraging but that is grounded in reality. We want to maximize the potential for our students to get published. That's one of the reasons that all of our instructors are published authors (and by published, I mean recently published) who can guide you through both the craft of writing for children and the business of children's publishing. This is really important to us. We want to encourage people to follow their dreams, but we want to help make sure that no one is pursuing a pipe dream. And if you are ready to learn, we will offer you as much teaching as you can handle.
If anyone is interested in joining one of our classes, I just want to let you know that registering before September 20 gets you a really nice bonus -- a free 20 minute manuscript review with me or with Kami!
When did you decide to become a writer?
I didn’t start writing until pretty late in life since becoming a writer was just about the last thing I ever expected to be doing. I was a PhD candidate in developmental neurobiology at Caltech when I had one baby. And then 14 months later, I had another baby. Babies have this way of changing your life and turning everything you had planned on its ear. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to be a biologist so much as I wanted to be a mother.
About six months after Brooklyn (my second) was born, I decided that just being home being a mom wasn’t what I wanted – I definitely cherished my time with my kids, but I wanted to have something more, something that was mine. I thought I could write with two babies in the house – which was utterly silly because you can’t do anything with two babies in the house!
Can you tell KidLit411 something that no one else knows about you? A special ritual you have?
While most of my income, like everyone else's, goes to the important things like the mortgage and the bills and saving for college, after every contract I sign, I buy myself something frivolous to celebrate that particular book. That way long after the excitement of the contract has faded, I still have a little reminder that brings a smile to my face and a tangible bit of good that has resulted from my book.
I've got a hot pink HAMPIRE purse and snake skin DUCK DUCK MOOSE stilettos. I have a RUTABAGA BOO painting from Paris and a pair of SNORING BEAUTY earrings. These things keep me positive and motivated about my work!
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
In terms of writing on a schedule, I really don’t have that luxury. I write when I can or when I have to – I think that is pretty common for working mothers!
Do you write every day, 5 days a week?
I write every day, SEVEN days a week!
What is the hardest thing about writing?
That no matter how much of my heart I put into something, I have zero control over how it will be received. All I can do is to do my very best and be proud of my words. But even that is not always enough to earn the approval of others.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
Of course! Anyone who writes for a living gets writer's block. In fact, I'd venture to say that until you regularly suffer from writer's block you are not a professional writer!
Here's my standard tip to fight writer's block as a picture book writer: I recommend getting a list of about 6 ideas to work on at a given time. When you get stuck on the first, move to the second. When you get stuck on that one, move to the next. By the time you get stuck on idea #6, I'd bet you'll be ready for the first idea once again!
How do you relax?
What is this thing you call 'relax'?
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
I don't know if this is the traditional answer to motivational phrase, but here's something that keeps me going: "Troubles may ofttimes be so dire that they cannot get better. But they are never so dire that they still cannot get worse." I read that in a novel by Sharon Kay Penman -- she says it is a Welsh proverb, but I'm not sure if that is historically accurate. What I do know is that this phrase reminds me to be thankful for the little things, even in a bleak situation -- because, after all, they could always get worse.
What is your favorite positive saying?
In the immortal words of Kelly Clarkson (or her songwriter), "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
What advice would you give to other writers?
Learn the industry. Being an author is a business as well as a creative endeavor. It is not enough to write beautiful books – as authors we must find our audience. I always tell people that they need to decide whether they want to be writers or authors. Writers write whatever is in their hearts, regardless of the market or marketability. Authors write what they can sell. There is no shame in either, but know who you are. I am an author, and proud of it.
A bonus piece of advice is that you should enjoy the ride. In my job, I get to create something from nothing. Most jobs involve pushing papers from one end of your desk to the other, or executing against someone else’s list of deliverables. In what I do, I start with what is in my mind and my heart and I turn it into something real that hopefully will touch the lives of my readers. If that is not something worth cherishing, I don’t know what is.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
As part of our launch celebrations for Kidlit Writing School, we are hosting a free webinar where registrants can submit a pitch or an excerpt for critique by me and Kami. We did a lot of webinars for our summer program, Kidlit Summer School, which were so much fun, and so we are excited to do another!
The free webinar is scheduled for September 15 at 9 p.m. Eastern. If anyone would like to register, please visit www.kidlitwritingschool.com and click on the yellow box that says Free Webinar.
Sudipta is the co-founder of Kidlit Summer School and an award-winning author whose books include DUCK DUCK MOOSE, TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS, ORANGUTANGLED, and over thirty more books. Her books have been named to the Junior Library Guild, the California Reader’s Collection, the Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year lists and the Amelia Bloomer list. Find out more about her by visiting www.sudipta.com or her blogs www.NerdyChicksRule.com and NerdyChicksWrite.wordpress.com.
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