Archive for the ‘UTBTWork’ Category

Skype Session With Sandhya Rao

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My main motto behind the BUTTERFLIES book club for children 6 yrs – 9yrs of age is to expose them to many genres. Children often graduate from Amar Chitra Katha to Harry Potter steering clear of the other wonderful genres available for that age group. Humor, drama, biography, history all are cast aside in this hurry.

To make the club more interesting to this age group, I told the children that we are going to make a book. There will be a theme, some illustrations and some creative writing. When talking about the theme, we pulled some books from my suggested reading book list, read the blurb and placed every story in to a category or theme. ( Do I need to say that humor and adventure were popular and children immediately agreed that they are more likely to try those books?! )

To give them the basics of book making, how to take a theme and make it in to a book and to give the children a peek of what goes on in publishing houses, we had Sandhya Rao of Tulika publishers talk to the children through Skype.

From the time I put the idea across, Tulika and Sandhya were  enthusiastic and this enthusiasm truly translated in the quality of presentation they put together for our children.

Sandhya took our club members through the process of book making using various Tulika books to visually clue them in. She recounted her personal experience, writing her first book for her friend Radhika and how Tulika publishers came to be.

Highlights of the conversation, (NOT quoted verbatim)

Why must the text be musical?(Sandhya was talking about how the book is broken down in to a story board with what goes in to each page, placement, the text and the importance of the text being musical)

The text needs to have a nice rhythm to it. This is very important. When some one reads the book out loud, the audience can enjoy what they hear if the text is musical. Musical text is very catchy. Many of us have heard ‘Why this kolaveri?’ song and liked it? Its because it is catchy.

What is more important in picture books? Pictures or text?

For picture books, both are important. We need to break the story in to parts, decide how the the story is going to be presented. Then we need to decide how the pictures are going to look. In picture books the text and the picture go hand in hand. It is like the picture is going to tell half the story and the picture the rest.

Which is more difficult to make? Picture books or chapter books?

Both are not easy to make. Chapter books, also has pictures, but these pictures are not printed on the pages. As and when one reads a chapter book, the picture forms in the reader’s head. Such must be the style of writing and the plot. The author must use description and capture details so that the text makes up for the absence of visual clues. Many a times, I have read a book and have dreamt in detail about the characters and the situations in the book.

Do you do anything special while translating a book in to another language?

We do a lot of translation at Tulika. When there is a book that is widely loved, we like to take it to other languages. More than the process of translation being difficult, it is important to pick the right person to translate. This person, must not just convert the text from one language to another, but must be able to convey the mood and the context behind the text.

Apart from translating a book and taking it to different languages, we also do books in two languages. These are our bilingual books. One language is English and the other language is the mother tongue, the language spoken at home. This way one language helps the reader understand and read the other language.

How to become a writer? Any tips?

Maintain a journal.
When an idea comes to you immediately write it down.
Don’t worry if it connects to the other things that you have written down.
Just keep taking notes of the things that inspire you, make you laugh, makes you feel.
Then sit down and read what you have written.
May be there is a story in it already!
Daily before going to bed, try writing in detail about something that happened in your life.

Does Tulika have plans to release more books on science?

Yes, Tulika is in the process of coming out with books that incorporate science concepts. The book will be released very soon.


Thanks Sandhya, for a wonderful and informative session for our book club members at TreasureHouse.

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Knee Deep In To Sessions

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So its been a week.

I have finished my parent information sessions and started two of my book clubs.

So far the response has been good.

The parent information session – HOW TO RAISE A READER? spoke mostly about the early literacy skills that we are targeting by reading. I had a good mix of veteran parents and first time mothers. Good thing I was affirmed  of is that I can talk, not a big surprise if you know me, but I can talk with substance for an hour and beyond. Now that can be a surprise for people who know me :)

The MYTHOLOGY book club, I have about 12 children. So we got talking about Shiva. One child asked me if Shiva’s moon is so small that it is smaller than the snake around his neck or if the snake is huge, as big as the moon. My reply was, ‘May be it is a huge snake. May be it is a small moon. But if the snake is so huge, how big do you thing Shiva is and do you think he will still fit on Kailash?’ Then we got started taking about the what does the moon mean? Is the moon just a moon or is it a message that means something? What do you think peeps, small moon or big snake?!

My BUTTERFLIES CLUB for 6 – 9 is the best :) They are at the age that they look at you with so much admiration when you talk. So the story, ONCE UPON A LIBRARY, something I made up and sketched out for 20 min, went on for 30 min! Hey, they were listening, so I added more voices, more modulation and more drama. Couldn’t help it. Chula is in this club and Meija suddenly became joined to her at the hip. So they both were there. I had to place them at diagonally opposite corners of the room, of course, cardinal rule of managing siblings. But Chula was this, ‘Yes, I have read that. If you read that, you would love…., You HAVEN’T read even this?!!!! How come this is the best book ever. Amma, tell them about …… book. We own this no? I read it 10 -15 times, even if it is for age 10+, no problem, I have read it.’ Poor thing was genuinely interested, but it could be a overdose for other people. So had to keep her on a leash.

The coming week, my MYTHOLOGY club and BUTTERFLIES are having Skype sessions with Anu Kumar and Sandhya Rao respectively. Very excited.

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Interview With Deepa Kiran, Storyteller

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TreasureHouse opened its summer reading program with a story telling session by Deepa Kiran.

People who were present experienced the story of dasavatharam narrated in the harikatha tradition. I never knew that 40 children, under the age of 10, could sit still and be completely involved for an hour! Having picked MYTHOLOGY as a theme for my summer reading book club, this story telling was a perfect opening.


Matsya Avathar Deepa Kiran

Note how a child says, ‘I know this story’ and Deepa replies, ‘Very good, don’t tell any one. Its a secret. Okay?’ You can see that she is a dancer! Beautiful hand and facial expressions that make the story come alive. The helpers were her children. They were A-class.

An interview with Deepa Kiran.

A story teller, a dancer, writer, voice over artist and an education coach! Your’s is a diverse background, but comes together cohesively in your story telling session! Tell us in your own words how you became a story teller.

In the field of storytelling, we do slot ourselves for convenience of explaining ‘us’ to the world. But often the whole is larger than its parts. It seems like I had been playing with different bits of beautiful broken glass pieces and somehow the pieces were brought into this little tube with a peep-hole and wow I was enjoying my kaleidoscope! I’ve found myself in storytelling and I find telling stories joyful. Sometimes its only voice, at other times its voice and body, sometimes weaving in music and dance as well, and all along pitching at the right level comes from the education experience.
I have always been telling stories to family and friends and began to do so at the schools where I taught

Back in 2008 I was a young mother of two children, just about thirty plus and diagnosed with an ailment that was curable but whose side effects could be fatal. To see your cholesterol count read 656 suddenly one fine day puts life in a totally different perspective. I realized I was not the indispensable person I had fooled myself to believe I was. I realized life and my family would go on without me.  Though the ailment, the cholesterol count etc. were all eventually controlled with medication, the 8 months of steroid course would’ve all taken its toll on me, if not for storytelling. As I walked out of the hospital with the doctor’s reports in hand I had decided that I had to think of ‘me’ and of fighting the ailment. If time was running out, I thought I had better do that one thing which I most would not want to postpone. Storytelling it was. I found myself in storytelling and also my strength in it. For some reason I’ve always found storytelling to be an empowering experience. And so I feel drawn to it and choose to continue.

Do you do your own script and theme for story telling?

Yes, I do my own script (except in book launches). I do not and have not written my own stories as yet. But any story I tell is a thoughtfully scripted re-narration in a manner that is natural to me and ideal for the target audience. When the school/institution/corporate has a specific theme in mind for eg: illusion, powerful communication/community building etc. I definitely pick up stories to work around the theme.

Are there any factors that influence the theme that you pick?

I am a big fan of Folk wisdom. Am very fond of Folk Lore and Mythology and particularly Indian folk and mythology. However when the school/institution/corporate has a specific theme in mind for eg: illusion, powerful communication/community building etc. I work around picking up stories that highlight the theme (first priority is always folk stories though)

What inspires you? (In a story?)

Engaging plot, witty language, well-created charecters and experiences and most importantly it must touch my heart. Because it is only when I am touched by a story I feel inspired to own it and then to share it!

Your session at Treasure House’s SUMMER READING kick off was a treat for young an old alike. Do you have a target age group in mind when you design your story telling session.

Absolutely. It is very important to know your target audience and to cater to them accordingly.

(a) While scripting : I’ll elaborate on that. The theme of Dashavataara occured to me as I’d been working on a multi-art fusion production (adult audience) from Dec to Mar, with four artists from four different mediums. Loads of research, discussions and numerous revised drafts later, I had my script in place for the performance.  While all those revised drafts were useful reference material, the script for TH dashavattara was completly redone and an altogether different renarration, keeping in mind the child audience and the things they would connect with.Eg: for the adult performance, in Parasurama avataara the focus was on the pathos by highlighting the tragic self-immolation (Sati) of Parasurama’s mother, Renuka. While for the TH one, Parasurama is presented Super-hero and Robin-hood like- One who destroys mighty-rich and helps needy-poor.

(b) While telling : At TH on Sunday, seeing a good number of parents and some grand-parents as well, I made impromptu references once-in-a-while that the adults could connect with. It was also important to acknowledge the “knowledge” of some of the young listeners who knew a good deal and wanted to share it. That always calls for impromptu changes in script, which I believe is essential.

After all you are telling to the audience and need to keep them in mind, before and during the telling.

From your website I see that your group sizes vary with each session and place you conduct your story telling session. Are there any special techniques that you use to have control over a big group?

Yes, I have had the good fortune of telling stories to a wide range of audience from 2 year olds and 82 year olds.I’ve told stories to one child (at a bookstore once). The store hadn’t then marketing right and only 1 child turned up. I sat him down and told the story because he had come all the way to listen! I have told to large groups and the largest I’ve told is to a group of about 1000 primary school boys. As long I have a microphone  and un-distracted space I am fine. Being a public-speaking trainer, it comes easily to me to make small talk with a large audience. I guess that breaks the ice and then they join me on the journey.

What do you picture yourself doing in the next five years?

Do not have any specific agenda. I’ve always gone with the flow and life has unravelled beautifully. I’d say I’d like to be prepared to fully engage in and enjoy the opportunities that will come by.Some of the things I’d like to explore doing hopefully are:
a) re-narration of the Dashavataara for children (book with DVD/CD)
b) collaborate with other artists and tellers and work and learn in the process,
c) tell more stories, tell stories better,
d) hold workshops for parents/teachers ( I believe it is very essential to explore one’s storytelling potential)
e) Design and facilitate corporate storytelling modules
f) research and explore NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and its connect with storytelling
g) Touch lives through storytelling and through this all I hope ‘I’ discover ‘myself’

And Oh yes hopefully being more dilligent and regular with updating my work online. My friends are always complaining I’m too lazy with it!

The Dasavatharam story telling was inspired by Deepa’s Multi-art production on Dashavataara. Some sample clippings.

Narsimha Avataara

Krishna Avataara Krishna Avatar Multi-Media



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Treasure House can be called a children’s library, but the thing is, it is much more than just a library. When you are there you feel the 7000+ books being carefully cataloged and cared for, the bright and spacious rooms inviting you, the amazing art studio inspiring you. You will feel like bringing you child and just being there, reading and participating in the programs they offer. If you live in Hyderabad, check it out, you will love it.

This is where I am to be found this summer, if you are looking me that is :)

I am designing a Summer Reading Program for TreasureHouse.

The program is called Reading Bugs.

It is for children age infant – 15.

For parents of children age 0 – 5, I am offering a parent information work shop that talks about why reading is important, what are the early literacy skills that are targeted by reading to young children, what to read, when to read, how to read, why we are reading what we are reading.

For children age 6 – 9, THE BUTTERFLIES BOOK CLUB. The underlying goal of this book club is to make children aware of other genres. The world of books is not just magic, fantasy and what-ever-my-older-sibling/friend-is-reading. There is fiction, non-fiction, drama, picture books, chapter books, environmental issues, humor, classics, mythology, history, exploration/discovery/voyages…. and many more. Catch them young, when they have started reading independently and introduce them to the different choices so that they pause at their age level and explore choices at level instead of jumping to what is popular and run out of choices soon. I call this, my ‘prevent children from getting lost in the adventure/magic/mystery Bermuda triangle’ mission. Children will interact with Sridala Swami, author of Cheenu’s Gift and Sandhya Rao, editor of Tulika Publishers.

For children age 6 – 9, I am offering a workshop. MAKE YOUR READING BLOOM. The idea is to work with beginner and reluctant readers on certain skills that will improve comprehension and fluency. This will be a 5 session workshop.

For 10+ children, in keeping with my Bermuda triangle theory, I am doing THE MYTHOLOGY BOOK CLUB. This club will analyze mythology as a genre, compare elements from various mythologies, talk about mythological characters and beasts and has two author interaction sessions. Devdutt Pattanaik and Anu Kumar.

Excited. Terribly :)

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