Author Spotlight: Suma Subramaniam
October 7, 2022
We're excited to feature author Suma Subramaniam's picture book, SHE SANG FOR INDIA: HOW M.S. SUBBULAKSHMI USED HER VOICE FOR CHANGE, illustrated by Shreya Gupta (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR) (November 8, 2022). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Thank you so much for having me on Kidlit 411. I write STEM/STEAM based for children and young adults, mostly centered about India or Indian heritage. In 2010, I attended my first SCBWI Conference in Redmond, Washington. There I met some wonderful authors who urged me to keep writing.
I followed their advice, and twelve years later, I’m now a published author.
Congrats on your picture book, She Sang For India: How M.S. Subbulakshmi Used Her Voice For Change! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thank you so much! She Sang for India: How M.S. Subbulakshmi Used her Voice for Change is a picture book biography about the first Indian musician who performed at the United Nations.
The inspiration for this story came from listening to M.S. Subbulakshmi’s voice every day of my childhood. Her life is an example of how little children can use their power and their voice for the good of the world.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
The road has been long and winding with several happy and sad surprises, countless. rejections, and pleasant acceptances along the way. I started writing for children in 2010. In 2014, I got accepted to the MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. In 2017, my short story won the We Need Diverse Books short story contest. In 2019, The Hero Next Door (Penguin Random House), was released. The same year, I landed a publishing deal for Namaste is a Greeting and signed with my wonderful agent, Miranda Paul. Namaste is a Greeting releases on October 11th this year, followed by She Sang for India which releases on November 8th.
What are some of your favorite classic picture books? recent ones?
My favorite author as a child was R.K. Narayan. He wrote a collection of short stories called Malgudi Days. The language in the book is simple. The first version was published in pre-independent India. It was later republished by Penguin Classics many years later.
Another favorite is Amar Chitra Katha books which are a series of comics and graphic magazines based on religious legends, folklore, epics, and biographies from Indian culture.
Recently, I loved Thirst by Varsha Bajaj. It transported me straight to Mumbai. I also loved the picture book, The Moon From Dehradun by Shirin Shamsi, illustrated by Tarun Lak (Simon and Schuster, 2022).
What projects are you working on now?
My debut fiction picture book, Namaste is a Greeting, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (Candlewick Press) releases on October 11th this year. Other than that, I have quite a few upcoming projects in the works.
The Runaway Dosa, illustrated by Parvati Pillai (Little Bee Books), releases in fall next year. It’s a fairy tale mash-up of “The Gingerbread Man” and the Tamil rhyme “Dosai Amma Dosai.”
In 2024, I have three books:
A Bindi is a Dot, illustrated by Kamala Nair (Kids Can Press), releases in spring 2024. This picture book is a celebration of the beauty and cultural significance of bindis that explores the different names for bindis, when and how they are worn, and how they are made.
My Name is Long As a River, illustrated by Tara Anand (Penguin Workshop), releases in fall 2024. The picture book follows young Kaveri—who insists on a nickname—as she and her Paati take a journey along the Kaveri River. As they travel, stories of how Kaveri got her long name unfold, deepening her understanding of who she is.
The first of my middle grade series, V. Malar: Pongal Super Host releases in 2024 and the second book is slated for release in 2025.
I have one more book that is yet to be announced.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Find your joy in the journey.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I read a picture book every day.
Where can people find you online?
Suma Subramaniam’s interests and passions in writing for children are mostly centered around STEM/STEAM related topics as well as India and Indian heritage. When she’s not recruiting or writing, she’s volunteering for We Need Diverse Books and SCBWI. Suma was the short story contest winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest.
She is also the author of Namaste is a Greeting, She Sang For India, and other books for children and young adults. Suma has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Learn more on her website.
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