Aparna Kapur, Assistant Editor, Pratham Books recalls our recent writing workshop with conservationists and research scholars at the Nature Conservation Foundation, India.

I’m less than two months old in Pratham Books and have heard all about the various writing, translating, outreach workshops conducted by the team. So when I was asked if I wanted to tag along to a workshop about making Level 1 and Level 2 picture books, I was keen to observe and said yes immediately. Of course, the luxury of silent observing was not given to me and I was assigned an activity to conduct. Trying to create an illusion of choice, I happily agreed.

The workshop was being conducted for the members of the Nature Conservation Foundation. The NCF office is located on a quiet street that’s lined with trees, and when we walked in we were immediately met with the bustle of breakfast time. We were then ushered into a room, which would soon contain eleven workshop participants and four workshop conductors. Once we figured out the logistics of seating (the view was beautiful but the room was snug) and the mechanics of projecting (acquiring the right wire), we were ready!

As way of introduction, we went around the room telling everyone who our favourite children’s book character is, which is how I think we all should introduce ourselves from now on.

Then we talked about Pratham Books and picture books, and read out some titles from StoryWeaver. This was followed by a quick tour of the StoryWeaver website where we showed them how to browse the site, search for images and create books. The NCF folk were involved and enthusiastic.

This was followed by a coffee break where everyone got to enjoy the generous collection of picture books that Bijal Vachharajani, Consultant Editor, Pratham Books had brought along. After coffee, we divided the eleven of them into groups for the first activity. Each group was given a list of rules for making a picture book, and had to arrange them in the order they considered most important. This led to some fascinating debates about the balance of text and images, the necessity of morals and optimism, and the need for rhythm and rhyme.

After that we told the groups to come up with a simple story based on eight random pictures. We had delightedly strung an outlandish sequence of pictures the previous day, and this served as their framework. Each time we moved to the next picture, the teams let out a groan and we smiled in (evil) satisfaction. The three stories we got at the end of it, however, were amusing and coherent. That’s when I realised that each of these eleven people had a knack for storytelling!

My realisation was confirmed when we they began to think of ideas. Considering their work, we did expect interesting environmental themes. But we were an excited group of editors when their pitches included carnivorous plants, geckos, and misunderstood wolves!

After a well-earned lunch, we all went back to work. And by all, I mean the NCF people worked on the drafts of their stories while we sat like invigilators, reading their drafts and occasionally helping them find their way out of tricky spots in their manuscripts.

Finally, everyone read out their stories. Some employees who were not attending the workshop had given us explicit instructions to invite them for the idea-sharing and storytelling part of the workshop. They ended up being a participative and enthusiastic audience. We trust that this workshop gave the NCF team a foundation on which they will go on to write many many picture books. In return they gave us some fantastic ideas and superb stories!

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Meet the finalists of Retell, Remix and Rejoice 2017!

Posted by Menaka Raman on July 10, 2017

                                                                      

The result for Pratham Books’ Retell, Remix and Rejoice contest 2017 is finally here! A big thank you to all the participants for taking part, and being super patient with us as the judges read through each of your wonderful stories.

This year, Retell, Remix and Rejoice was in a slightly different avatar as we asked our community to weave level 1 and 2 stories around certain themes. We received 66 entries: 39 in English, 26 in Hindi and 1 Tamil story. This was the most number of Hindi stories we ever received for the contest.

Drum roll please

And now, on to the results! This year, we have 3 winning finalists:

Each finalist will receive a gift hamper of books from Pratham Books and will get one hour with a Pratham Books editor, who will share their editorial feedback on the story. One final story will then be chosen for re-illustration.

Meet the judges

Rajesh Khar is a senior editor at Pratham Books. Through these years, he has not only edited and translated books but also coordinated lit fests like Bookaroo, JLF, Samanvay, New Delhi World Book Fairs and joined hands with organisations like Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, CBSE, NEOR by NCERT and a host of non-profits. He has been supervising books in many Northern & Eastern Indian languages and also have had opportunity to be a part of the Adikahaani Series and the Urdu programme. His interests are music, classical performing arts, casual writing, theater and film making. He loves spending time with children and young people and basically has a lot of fun in whatever he does.

This is what Rajesh had to say about the entries this year: “I enjoyed reading all the stories very much and while reading the thoughts that came into my mind were a mixed lot - sometimes those of pleasure, at times a little sadness. Why sadness? Well, in some of the stories I wished that the authors had sustained that creative energy till the last word. Animal Symphony was a lovely story that highlighted the need to provide children ample opportunities to bond with nature alone.  My Grandma Has a Tail and Toot'ta Tara both displayed out-of-the-box thinking and creativity. Joy, happiness and love together make every childhood memorable and create individual secure little universes. This subconsciously builds the foundations for a happy and healthy future life. I was happily reminded of this while reading A Special Journey.”

Our second judge, Kanchan Banerjee is a Managing Trustee of Akshara Foundation where she develops strategy and designs learning material. She founded Jyoshika, an NGO which works for the enrichments of children's learning in their early years. She enjoys writing for children. Under a UNICEF projects she developed graded readers in Kannada for children in Karnataka and in Hindi for children in Chattisgarh. She had this to say about the entries received this year:  “It was delightful to read a variety of imaginative entries. Truly, writers can fire the creativity of young children and move them to a different space away from moralizing.”

Congratulations to the winners. You’ll be hearing from us shortly about your one on one session with a Pratham Books editor.

Read all the Retell, Remix and Rejoice entries.

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In conversation with writer, editor Payal Dhar

Posted by Menaka Raman on July 04, 2017

Payal Dhar is a writer and editor. She writes on computers, technology, books, reading, games and travel, and has written on sport in the past. She also writes fiction for children and young adults, and has a number of books under her belt. You can read more about her on her website: http://writeside.net. Payal edited a number of titles from our set of STEM books, and we caught up with her about her experience. 

You commissioned and edited picture books that explored science, technology and engineering topics. As an Editor, how did you make these stories appealing for early readers?

Well, it’s probably fairer to say that we tried our best to make them appealing for young readers—whether we succeeded or not is quite another story. I was lucky to be able to entice a bunch of enthusiastic, eperienced and talented writers to work with, who understood what we were trying to achieve and were fully on board with it. That really made my work easy. The illustrators also played their role in making the stories well rounded and entertaining. I think that what we were all (writers, illustrators, editors and you good folks at StoryWeaver) completely clear about from the start was what we didn’t want, that is, no lessons disguised as stories. The rest was (relatively) easy.

What did you enjoy most about the process?

Figuring out a way to stick to a subject or broad theme without being that aforementioned lesson-disguised-as-story. The ones I enjoyed most were what I call the ‘fictionalised non-fiction’, especially Roopa Pai’s Bonda and Devi, Anil Menon’s Manikantan Has Enough and Richa Jha’s Gul in Space.

What were the challenges?

In the first year of commissioning I did struggle with finding a balance between keeping things simple and not making them simplistic because of the particular demographic that Pratham Books caters to. I couldn’t exactly say that I’ve figured it out since, but it has certainly become a bit clearer. The other challenge, of course, that always crops up in projects of this sort, was dealing with difficult authors. But that was a very small minority, so no blood was shed. :)

Which are your favourite STEM books for children?

Among others, Esther Porter’s Peeking under the City; the Nick and Tesla books by Bob Pflugfelder; and David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work.

The books that you’ve worked on are so diverse in themes, style and structure. Tell us a little about working with so many different writers and your approach as an editor. 

I was pretty privileged in working with writers who were already pretty experienced—you could say I had it easy in that regard—so there was little or no hand-holding required. Most of the writers understood the brief immediately and came up with brilliant ideas of their own. Most of them were able to self-reflect and improve on their own work as well, and this was critical in the revisions. All in all, despite a few roadblocks, I had a pretty uncomplicated time of it.

Read  our STEM titles in English and a range of Indian languages for free on StoryWeaver.

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