Thursday, October 27, 2011

My experience as a Human Book

This past Saturday, Oct 22, 2011, I had the priviledge of being a Human Book at the Thorncliffe Public Library. I'd never heard of this concept before but after I agreed, out of curiosity, I had to find out more. Here's a brief History:

Living Libraries” were first launched in Copenhagen in the early 1990s. A youth organization called “Stop The Violence” was formed after a youth was stabbed and a group of young people wanted to do something to raise awareness through oneonone dialogue. The first human library was then born.
Over 30 countries around the world now hold human libraries and some public libraries even have permanent collections. Countries expected to start their own programs include Brazil, China, Columbia, Cyprus, Malaysia and South Africa.
In May 2010, Hamilton Public Library hosted its inaugural Human Library event, the first public library project in Ontario.  

To learn more about human libraries around the world, visit

This was an extremely well organized event by the staff of the library. Each of the authors invited to be a Human Book had an inspirational story to share. Over the period of four hours we all spoke to various members of the community, and were "read" for half an hour with a break of half an hour.
I personally met with students eager to hear about my writing experience and adults who asked me about the process of settling into Canada. This was where I started my journey in Canada, and it was a wonderful opportunity to pay it forward.
Here are some of my"readers."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Q&Q Writer Series featuring Uma Krishnaswami

Hello All,

This weekend I'm excited to present a very special guest: Uma Krishnaswami.

Uma is a writer, teacher at Vermont College, MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and was my mentor for The Silver Anklet. My favourites from her brillaint repertoire are Naming Maya (and the poignant concept of the Two-Gift which I love!) and Monsoon (the word evokes such beautiful memories.)

Her latest book called The Grand Plan to Fix Everything was published by Atheneum, May 2011. Would that we could have such a plan! It has received starred reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly!

And here are her anwers to my crazy questions:

1) In one word, how would you describe your personality?
===One word? How about changeable? I'm mostly quiet and introverted, but I can be selectively outgoing and social given the right company! 

2) What is your deepest desire?
===Probably world peace, but that seems unrealizable so most days I would probably settle for a clean desk.

3) Your greatest fear?
===I'll tell you a writing fear that really gets in the way. It's a fear of being unable to deliver on a promise. I suppose in some ways it relates to the fraud factor, right? The fear that so many writers have that they simply don't know enough, that someday someone's going to come along and expose them for the fakes they are. However, I tell myself I'm not alone in this: 

4) Your favourite colour?
===That changes too. Right now it's purple.

5) A song you can't help singing along with, every time you hear it?
===I don't sing along with songs. Is that a character flaw? They do get stuck in my head sometimes but I can't think of one that's lodged there right now. 

6) A movie that made you cry?
===I'm hopeless in this--I cry easily! Deepa Mehta's film, Water, reduced me to sniveling incoherence. And most recently, I cried at the documentary, The Story of the Weeping Camel. If you haven't seen it, it's about a Mongolian camel rejecting her newborn white colt. Two young boys travel across the desert to find a healing musician. After the musician has done his work, there's a scene where they place a bridle on the colt. It resists quite a bit, and they have to force it on. Part of me flinched at that. The camera didn't waver either, from the obvious discomfort of the colt. Then the elderly man blesses the camel colt. "May your humps grow straight," he says, "may your hooves grow strong." And I realized, this was the point of the whole film. That these people would not live without those camels, and this camel would not have lived without these people trying so hard, and at such cost to themselves, to get the mother to accept it. I just melted. I'm tearing up thinking about it now.

7) A book you have read more than five times? Or a book that influenced you the most?
===Several--may I cheat and mention more than one? 
Tagore's Geetanjali, the one with the Yeats foreword--I wish I knew Bangla so I could read it in the original but even in translation it sings.
Yeats, collected works
Pride and Prejudice
Summer Lightning by P.G.Wodehouse (the preface alone is a monument to humor and goodwill!)
Alice in Wonderland
All right, that's five that I've read more than five times so I'll stop.

8) From your own oeuvre: your favorite child?
===I think Dini in the novels I'm working on now, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (to be published in May 2011) and its sequel due out the year after. It's the first time I'm working with a single set of characters over more than one book and I'm coming to love this girl for her larger-than-life, eccentric view of the world!

(Mahtab's note: I am a few months late posting this interview, but hey, on the bright side, we don't have to wait to read about Dini!)
9) One thing you hate about being a writer?
===Having to buy my own health insurance.

10) One thing no one knows about you (and now will)?
===Thanks to my friend and colleague Rita Williams-Garcia, and several other knitters at Vermont College residencies, I have taken up knitting! That's not the secret, as a hundred odd people saw me hauling yarn around campus in January. What no one knows is that it has become a necessity for me to knit while I'm working out knots in a story. The problem is that I can only knit rectangles and triangles. This is because I can't concentrate too much on the knitting. It needs to be a tool to help the story take shape, and if I focus on a pattern instead it just becomes a distraction. It turns out, fortunately, that you can do a lot with those two shapes so we'll see where it leads me.

Thank you, Uma. These were fun!