Author Spotlight: Jyoti Rajan Gopal
Nov. 18, 2022
We are excited to feature author Jyoti Rajan Gopal and her two picture books, AMERICAN DESI, illustrated by Supriya Kelkar (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 2022), and MY PAATI'S SARIS, illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila, Nov. 8, 2022). Enter to win a copy of MY PAATI'S SARIS!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I grew up mainly in Bangkok and Jakarta, attending international schools, and straddling multiple cultures, but I also lived in Myanmar, China and India. It was the classic third culture experience. Home was everywhere and nowhere all at once. Much of my writing comes from this place. Wanting to tell stories about community and belonging and home.
Congrats on your two picture books, American Desi and My Paati's Saris! Tell us about these stories and what inspired you.
American Desi was inspired by my own childhood straddling cultures, and by my daughters’ experiences with what being Indian and American meant to them. Being a third culture kid provided me with the unique gift of being a global citizen and yet it also created profound moments of alienation and feelings of displacement, and I know that bleeds into my writing in conscious and unconscious ways.
My love for saris was passed down to me by my mom and my grandmom and I knew I wanted to write a story about this timeless garment, it’s beauty and versatility.
|spread from American Desi|
My Paati’s Saris was inspired by a small moment that I witnessed in my classroom, and memories of my brother and I playing dress up. The story celebrates the tradition and beauty of the sari but is also rooted in my feelings of connection and home and how places and people that cherish and love you can provide you safe harbors. Through Paati and her grandson, I was able to explore all those themes.
|spread from My Paatti's Saris|
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Although I wrote my first manuscript many, many years ago, it sat on my computer doing absolutely nothing for a long time. I periodically dipped my toes into the publishing industry but was always intimidated by the enormity of what I didn’t know and would stash the idea away. But finally in 2018, I decided to get serious, researching the publishing industry and connecting with the writing community. I took classes, sent out my manuscripts to professionals for feedback, and wrote more stories. I received my first offer in 2019. But the book ended up being pulled and I had to resubmit it elsewhere. Thanks to my agent, Wendi Gu, it found a home again almost immediately. Now, I have 7 books under contract, two unannounced, and a couple out on submission!
What projects are you working on now?
’m focusing on several nonfiction manuscripts that I would love to get out in the world. A couple are picture book biographies, and a couple are related to my passion for the environment and conservation.
What advice would you give to aspiring picture book authors?
If you don’t write every day, don’t worry. Every writer has their own process. Honor what works for you.
Take artist breaks – go out in nature, visit museums, watch cool documentaries, take long hikes, follow your curiosity. You never know where an idea may pop out at you.
Read lots of different kinds of books – picture books yes, definitely picture books, but lots of other kinds of books too, fiction and non-fiction.
Find your community of fellow writers – those you can celebrate with and commiserate with.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I acted with Sharukh Khan (yes, THE Sharukh Khan, mega Bollywood star) back when we were both in college in Delhi. I played a cowgirl, he played a cowboy, in a production of Annie Get Your Gun. Yep. Fact.
Where can people find you online?
I love to connect with anyone who loves books! You can find me on:
Growing up, Jyoti lived in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, China and India. She finally settled in New York where she raised two daughters with her husband, who also grew up all over the world. As a child, she adored and devoured books but did not enjoy writing. At all.
As a grown up, she is a forever kindergarten teacher and mom. She still adores and devours books. But now, she likes to write!
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