Author Spotlight: Anita Nahta Amin
Oct. 16, 2020
We are excited to feature picture book author Anita Nahta Amin and her debut picture book, RAJA'S PET CAMEL: THE MAGIC OF HOPE illustrated by illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Cardinal Rule Press, Oct. 1, 2020). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I definitely took some detours before writing for children. As a kid, I wrote short stories every day. I wanted to be a writer. But science and math were always easier for me, and so I chose the easier route once I started college. I ended up in information technology as a business consultant for a number of years.
When I left my first career in 2006, I remembered my childhood passion and started writing again for fun. Eventually, I started wondering if I could get a story published, and that’s when I became a serious writer. I took some classes and focused on the magazine market for about 13 years.
During that time, my twins were born. They love listening to picture books. As a mom, I wanted them to learn more about their Indian heritage. I looked for books to share with them. But guess what? There were only a handful of books featuring the Indian culture. So, I thought maybe I should write one. But I didn’t actually do that until about three years ago, when I realized one of my short story ideas might make a better picture book. That idea evolved into RAJA’S PET CAMEL: THE MAGIC OF HOPE.
Congratulations on your debut picture book, RAJA'S PET CAMEL: THE MAGIC OF HOPE. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
RAJA’S PET CAMEL: THE MAGIC OF HOPE, written by me and illustrated by Parwinder Singh, is a picture book set in India. Raja is a little boy who wants to keep a stray baby camel as a pet. But the camel is so mischievous, Raja’s dad decides to sell her at the next fair. Raja has to find a way to keep her and trains her to try and win the camel race at the fair. It’s a story about hope and perseverance.
My Dad’s hometown in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India inspired this story. The desert often brings images of dry, barren land, but in my family village, the desert is actually full of life – so many humble, hard-working people and many roaming animals including camels. I was always struck by how animals in India have jobs to do, such as transportation, rather than play. And then when I ran across an old photo of a little boy playing with his camel, it all came together.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
For RAJA’S PET CAMEL: THE MAGIC OF HOPE the road to publication was surprisingly short. The first publisher I submitted to - Cardinal Rule Press – bought the book! I almost missed their submissions window too. They’re open to submissions November-February each year. The last week of February 2018, a friend told me about them, but I sat on my manuscript debating whether I felt courageous enough to send my story. I sent it the last day of their submission window. Imagine my surprise when they made me an offer a month later! Cardinal Rule press is a small traditional publisher with extraordinarily wide market reach; they only publish a select number of manuscripts, so I feel very lucky that my story was chosen.
I will also have 20 leveled readers and short chapter books published through work-for-hire by the end of 2021. These are not slush pile publications, but work-for-hire has been another path to publication, which has been relatively short and sweet for me. I started with work-for-hire in December 2018. Getting selected to write the book can sometimes be a long wait – up to a year for some of my projects – if it happens at all. Once a project is set, the typical timeframe is one month to write the book and then up to a year to wait for publication.
In general, though, publication has been hard for me – especially if it involves the slush pile or getting started in a specific children’s market - which is to be expected given the acceptance statistics. For example, my first publication in Highlights magazine came after I had tried submitting short stories to them over four years. I even gave up for a year and a half during that time. Then I wrote something for an ezine, missed their deadline, and decided to submit my story to Highlights because I liked my story and thought maybe I’ll try once more (but without a lot of hope). Imagine my surprise when they bought the story! They published “A Valentine for Nanima” in 2013 (two years after acceptance). Since then, I’ve sold more than 100 short stories to magazines and educational resources, including a number of build-a-book stories for Humpty Dumpty magazine.
What projects are you working on now?
In addition to post-launch events and interviews for RAJA’S PET CAMEL, I’m working on several other projects, including revising another #ownvoices picture book set in India. I’m also writing several work-for-hire STEM and diverse leveled reader books, some short stories, and brainstorming a middle grade diverse novel.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same that you would give to aspiring authors?
Writing can be very lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. My advice is to connect with the #kidlit writing community – when you feel ready. It is such a kind and supportive community. Kidlit members, who I’ve never met, have become good friends. Writers understand what other writers are going through. Through the kidlit community, I’ve learned more about craft, market, opportunities, and more. The kidlit community can be found in many places – in private groups such as KidLit411, on social media, in organizations such as 12 x 12 and SCBWI, and others.
What is something most people don't know about you?
When I was three years old, I visited Rajasthan and really wanted to ride a camel. But when it stood up, I started screaming and crying. It was way too high for me! This was when I found out I’m terrified of heights – and still am.
How can people find you online?
I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line through my website www.AnitaAminBooks.com or social media. I’m active on Twitter and Instagram (@AnitaAminKidLit for both).
Anita Nahta Amin is the author of fiction and nonfiction children's books and over 100 short stories published in children’s magazines and educational resources. She is a first-generation-born Indian American, and her family roots stretch across India, from the vibrant desert of royal Rajasthan to the bustling river city of Kolkata. A former information technology business consultant, she often writes about STEM or diversity, with the hope that each reader will discover that their own potential is limitless. RAJA’S PET CAMEL: THE MAGIC OF HOPE (Cardinal Rule Press, Oct 1, 2020) is her debut picture book.
a Rafflecopter giveaway