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  • Writer's pictureSrividhya Venkat

2023 - THE YEAR THAT WAS

Updated: Jan 2

Can you believe 2023 is almost over?! I hope it was a good year for you.

Here were some key highlights for me:


FIRST WINTER BACK!


2023 began with a cold winter blast. It was my family's first winter in Chicago since our move back to the US. Though the extreme cold was gruelling after having experienced tropical weather for 13 years, I felt like a kid re-discovering how beautiful snow is. I love how the appearance of the world transforms after a snowfall.


KIDLIT CONNECTIONS

Being a part of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), really eased my transition back to life in the US. This year, I continued to connect with the SCBWI community at book launches and other local events, such as the Andersen’s Bookshop Children’s Breakfast, the American Library Association (ALA) Conference, and through monthly virtual meetings. I’m also grateful to my writing partners for being there for me. Writing is a lonely profession and it’s these connections that keep me going.


NEW PICTURE BOOKS

A huge highlight was the release of two picture books – LIST-O-MANIA in India (illustrated by Shailja Jain Chougule, published by Tota Books), and GIRLS ON WHEELS (illustrated by Kate Wadsworth, published by Kokila Books/Penguin) in the US. 'List-O-Mania' is my third collaboration with Shailja and Tota Books. The others were 'Pickle Mania' and 'Lunch-Friends'.

I was excited to meet Kate this summer. For those who may not be aware, the author and the illustrator don't communicate directly (in traditional publishing) during the making of the book. Since the book was ready and we were awaiting its release, Kate and I had much to talk about, especially regarding our experiences of working on 'Girls On Wheels'.  Learning about her side of the book journey, inspiration, and techniques, was astounding.


BOOK MARKETING

With inspiration from marketing webinars and peers in my author marketing group, I learned much about promoting books this year. I've had other book releases in the past, but all I've done is share social media posts about book launch events.

It was for my U.S. debut with DANCING IN THATHA'S FOOTSTEPS in 2021, that I began to build on my pre-publication marketing skills on social media. Fast forward to 2023, my head was buzzing with ideas for GIRLS ON WHEELS. I created social media posts, wrote articles for popular blogs, recorded podcasts and interview responses, designed swag materials, and prepped for bookstore events. Using Canva to create social media posts is a fun, new skill I developed this year, but I still have a long way to go (exploring BookTok and more IG features). I find juggling with multiple platforms a bit overwhelming, and prefer to stick to one or two.

While I enjoyed new learnings, the pre-release period (for 'Girls On Wheels') was exhausting. But when I look back, I feel proud of my marketing efforts even though I would have liked to do more.

I've concluded that while pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is a good thing, it's also okay to have limits. Do what works for you without stressing yourself out.


And now, let's talk about my most favorite part...


MEETING YOUNG READERS

For a children's author, sharing their book with young readers is somewhat like reaching their destination after a long journey (of writing and publication which could take 2+ years). This year, I was happy to take my books to audiences, young and old, at bookstores and schools. I especially enjoy interacting with children in schools because they ask great questions. Always.


 








UPCOMING PICTURE BOOK

 My next book – SEEKER OF TRUTH: KAILASH SATYARTHI'S FIGHT TO END CHILD LABOR, a picture book biography about social reformer, child rights activist, and Nobel Peace laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, was announced this year. Published by Little Bee Books and illustrated by Danica da Silva Pereira, this book involved a ton of research and is by far, the most challenging project I've worked on. I can't wait to share more with you in 2024.

 

OTHER

On the personal front:

I've completed five decades on this planet, and have spent several moments in nostalgia, looking at childhood photos and wondering about my thoughts and interests at each age. While I do occasionally indulge in writing exercises about my childhood memories, having those photos to look at has been really inspiring !

My daughter graduated from Indiana University and is now a working woman! She was one of the key players in leading me into children's writing - a career I cherish!

 Apart from an amazing visit to Hawaii and a weekend getaway to Springfield (capital of Illinois), my family and I enjoyed re-discovering Chicago, making new memories and reliving old ones from our earlier years here.  













All the above being said, the state of the world has been heartrending due to hatred, violence, and suffering. I have been feeling lost and helpless, and trying to gain inspiration and strength from those raising their voices who have shown me that there's more than one way to be an 'activist'. I'm figuring out my own way by joining fundraising efforts, creating awareness, and offering insights and inspiration through social media.


I strongly hope that 2024 will be a year when people will cast aside their differences and work together for the sake of humanity, our children, and our planet.


Sending you warmth, strength, peace, and prayers for the new year.




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