10 year old Author Ananya and her ‘9 Chocolatey Bites’

Ananya with KiranBedi

The search query ‘How to make my 10 year old read’ has about 20 crore search results in Google, it is apparently one of the biggest problems faced by today’s parents. So I was thrilled to meet Ananya, a 10 year old published author.

There were many things I wanted to do and be when I was a 10 year old including being an astronaut, teacher and doctor, all at the same time, however publishing a book wasn’t one thing that had crossed my mind then. Even today the task is so mind boggling, that I never get around and even start it.

Ananya has published her first book ‘ 9 Chocolatey Bites‘ – A collection of short stories which is now available in Amazon.com, Amazon.in, Kindle, Flipkart Google Play books and in stores near you like Odyssey. A commendable feat at any age.

Kids reading Choclatey Bites
Kids reading Chocolatey Bites

I jumped upon the opportunity to learn from Ananya about her journey towards becoming a published author – a story worth telling by the master story teller Ananya.

10 year old Kids are creative. But it is not often that we see the creativity channelized into writing a book, skits and plays. Your command of language and ability to express your ideas have been impressive. What are some of the daily habits and doses of inspiration that lead to the channelizing of your creativity?

I am a avid reader from a young age and read from Amar Chitra Kathas to chapter books by Enid Blyton, J.K.Rowling, Wendy Mass.

We have a no TV rule at home on weekdays (I know, right!! :-)), so as soon I am home, I pick up a book and read for an hour or two before any of my classes (music, dance, basketball). Then again at bed time I need to read a book or hear stories from my grand mother, otherwise I cannot go to sleep.  I started reading small books by the age of 2 and Enid Blyton by the age of 5. I have read the entire series over 50 times now.

Ananya with her Family
Ananya with her Family

When did you start writing? How was the decision to publish this short story collection made?

I started writing as a 7-year old (small stories). My parents & teachers always encouraged me to write more. One day I wrote the story “The Messy Desk”, my parents were amazed at the imagination & creativity of that story. The idea of making me write stories to put it as a book may have started at that time.

I kept writing stories, we had forgotten about the book. Then on my 10th birthday we remembered & decided that we should have a goal to publish a book as a 10-year old within the next year.

Once we decided to publish a book, we put together a manuscript and started editing it. During the editing process, we decided some stories didn’t fit in (they were too predictable, too small and one was particularly way too long). And my parents asked me to write a few new stories – Secret Scribes, A Bowl of Happiness, King’s Secret were all written in 2016.

How did you manage to get the writing, re-writing, editing, illustrating etc done together with your school work and other activities?

Most of the stories in the book were written over a period of time, except a few that I wrote once we decided to publish. So it wasn’t too much work all at the same time. It was a couple of hours of evening activity for my parents & me for two-three weeks to finalize the first draft of the manuscript. We worked on it, after school in the time that was available outside of my classes and home work. (and like I said earlier, we don’t watch TV during weekdays 🙂 )

It was a fun process to decide which stories were in the book and which stories weren’t in. There were some stories that I felt were too kiddish (I know what you are thinking, but still 🙂 ), but my parents insisted they were cute and should be in the book. I was surprised how many people quoted those stories as their favorite. My parents and a few of their friends did the editing to catch any mistakes.

I like drawing cartoons. When we decided we needed the illustrations for the story, my mom said “why won’t you draw them yourself?”. I picked certain moments from the story and did the illustrations. I even illustrated the cover and we gave that as a concept to the publishers. They used that to create the actual cover which I loved.

Writing a good book involves taking feedback from different people and lots of re-writing. What kept you going through this process ?

My parents are my first critics. They would explain what isn’t working and would ask me if I could change something – add more description around something or change the ending. Sometimes it would frustrate or disappoint me. But they would encourage me to think differently and once we crack a new idea I would be all happy again.

How did you go about looking for a publisher and finalise on one? What are the things that the publisher help you with ? How were decisions like pricing of the various editions and formats of the book decided?

We ran into the NotionPress stall at the book fair in January by chance. We got interested in the idea of self-publishing because it was a new concept and NotionPress seemed like a good choice for self-publishing. My grandfather was a writer and my mom has told me about how traditional publishing takes a long time. My parents worked with NotionPress to decide what they would help us with – cover design, e-book and online publishing & print version of the book. The publisher suggested pricing and my parents discussed with me and finalized.

They involved me and took my opinion on all decisions. We decided to edit the book ourselves – my parents didn’t want a child’s voice to be changed/lost if someone else edits it. A lot of marketing work is being done by my parents and the publisher. We created a Facebook page for myself where I have friends from my apartments, school etc. We are asking our friends to share on their facebook page. For interviews etc. my parents are asking help through their contacts also the publisher is helping too. We’re also asking for help from our friends to visit their school to share with other children.

How were the choice of illustration for the stories made.

Since I could draw decently my parents asked me ‘why don’t I illustrate myself’. As we were self-publishing, we didn’t want to spend for illustrations unless it was necessary. I just chose the most humourous or cute part of the story and did a few illustrations.  My parents discussed with me to pick the best since we were allowed only one illustration per story.

You’ve been covered in a number of print and online media and also gave a radio interview. You’ve also got Foreword of the book written by Dr. Kiran Bedi. That’s really impressive for a first time author. Please tell us about the marketing efforts behind this.

A lot of marketing work is being done by my parents and the publisher. We created a facebook page for me where I have people from my apartments, school etc. added as friends. We are asking our friends to share on their facebook page. For interviews etc my parents are asking help through their contacts and also the publisher is helping as well. My mom is very organized and she keeps following up until it happens.

My parents reached out to Dr.Kiran Bedi requesting for a foreword. Being the Lt.Governor of Puducherry, it is amazing she took the time for the foreword as well as to meet me. She was so warm and kind. She asked me never stop reading and writing. It was a very memorable day.

Your book already has 31 reviews in Amazon.in and 12 in Amazon.com and growing every day, most being 4 and 5 star reviews. What is the secret of so many raving reviews?

The book is a fun short story collection that can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike. It brings out the humour in each situation and makes the reader laugh out loud. The stories reflects a few of my experiences and has vivid description that you can see everything happening before your eyes. The book has stories that has wonderful positive messages and most of the stories are connected to my real life experiences and travels. That way it makes it easier for readers to be able to connect and appreciate each story because they would have had similar experiences. I think people are able to relate to the situations in the story and people are liking it. I love to see each new review – there are totally 46 reviews online now (31 in amazon.in, 12 in amazon.com, 2 in amazon.co.uk and 1 in flipkart) and the book is also available at Odyssey Adyar. It was a great moment to see my book at the shelf in a book store.

What are some of the ways in which publishing a book required you to step up? How did your parents, family & school support you in the journey? Share your experience and learning.

It has helped me to be more disciplined with time. But because I enjoy writing I didn’t mind doing it. I also learnt to take both positive and negative feedback, and understood it was to make things better. I also learnt that one shouldn’t easily give up. Since I saw my mom never give up until she got the best that she wanted – be it the font in the book, or the cover design color, or getting editing mistakes fixed.

My teachers at school encouraged me to write since 3rd grade, when they saw my creative writing work in English class. I was heavily influenced by Enid Blyton and all my stories had British or even American characters. One of my English teachers asked me write a story with Indian characters and situations. That’s how I wrote Mango Pickle. They have been guiding me to think about plot developments, characters, and surprise endings.

My parents have been hugely supportive right from encouraging me to read by buying hundreds of books to feed my interest and giving me confidence in my writing by motivating me to write more. They did a lot of work to get the book published. My grandmother is a great story teller and she has definitely helped me to be creative with my stories. My mom tells me that my grandfather’s genes have passed on to me (he was a writer).

Looking back at your publishing journey, what do you think you would do differently now from the way you did.

We kept the book a secret until it came out. May be we could have created more buzz for the book if we had shared before the book came out.

What would your advice and recommendations be to other aspiring Child and adult authors?

A reading habit is very important. It’s sad to see some book stores closing. I think every day one hour of book reading should be encouraged. Also, one needs to know your characters in depth so your story is rich.

Ananya’s responses – both context and choice of words often left me wondering if I was even talking with a 10 year old. More power to you Ananya. Looking forward to more wisdom and inspiration from you.

Published by

Priya Krishnamoorthy

Exploring the Journey of life everyday with a new outlook

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