If Cinderella was the stepchild of her family, then children’s books are sometimes treated as the step kids of the publishing industry. Whether it’s lit-fests or advances, kid-lit authors, editors and illustrators find themselves lower on the rung, a marked departure from the international scene.
This is why I asked some of India’s best children’s books writers and illustrators about the reactions they get when people find out about their “peculiar” career of choice. Here’s a sampling.
Make pictures? For children’s books? Like A for Apple… then you draw apple?
My child did the funniest thing the other day. I should make a book and of course, you can draw the pictures!
Don’t act so weird or you will find yourself a character in uncle’s next picture book.
Oh, that’s so sweet.
Means you draw for text books aa?
“What?”. When I repeat “Illustrator”, a blank look for a few seconds and then quickly changes topic
How exciting! But how do you get work? How do the authors find out about you?
Best no? You can have lots of free time then!
Ah, that’s brave. Especially if you’re used to being a rich banker type before.
Jab bachhon ke liye chutkule hi likhna tha to itni padhai kyon ki?
(When you writing kids stories why did you need to study so much?)
Oh. You don’t look like an author.
Okay. Published or writing just for fun?
Kids book? Accha, then you do a workshop, okay? Hundred kids possible?
Not bad. The royalties will make you a rich woman!
Miss, you are an author, you must be very rich! Which car do you have?
My daughter has written this most amazing book. I am sure you will publish it right away, it’s that good! She’s only 11.
When I retire, I am also going to write a book on my life story.
So, you work on the computer from home? That gives you some pocket money?
How much do you earn by doing these books?
Ah! Ravi Subramanian is writing a children’s books na? Same thing you do?
Errr…. feminist children’s book? Good luck with that then.
So, when are you planning to move on to real books?
No wonder you write for children! After that PhD in history, you obviously wanted something mindless to do. Something easy that doesn’t tax your mind.
When are you going to going to graduate to real writing? Proper writing? This kids’ stuff isn’t worth your while.
When I grow up, I want to be like you. I want to talk like you, wave my hands like you and smile like you. Because I love your books and I want to write just like you.
Your kids are older now. So, are you planning to write proper books now?
So, this is what the wife of a guy in financial services does now to keep busy!
You know I’ve been thinking of writing a book also. I think I’ll also write something for kids. Will be a change from all this consulting stuff.
Oh, I write real novels. But writing for children sounds easy!
Will you judge my school creative writing contest?
Will you come and tell a story to my students?
But you don’t even like children.
So, you make these stories inside your head? Just like that?
I hate reading. I find it the most boring thing in the world. My kid also doesn’t like reading.
Can you read at my kid’s birthday party?
Oh! You are an author? How cool! What kinds of books do you write? Oh… for kids…
So, you just sit and write? That’s all you do?
We’d like you to come read to the kids. But it cannot be a promotional activity about your books.
You write books for children? Very good. Very good. But kitna market hoga? You know, erotica is the big seller now. I was reading about it in the newspaper. Will you ever consider writing that? After all, it is also writing.
An editor of children’s books? Will you evaluate my 10-year-old’s book?
There is no writing for children in India other than epics and folktales.
So, what do you do exactly? Move commas and correct spellings?
Oh! So, when you give feedback the author listens to you?
I am so tired of writing these long complex books, and when I went out to buy something for my nephew I found nothing in the stores that he could read, so my next book will be for children and finally Indian kids will have something good to read.
What do you mean you manage a children’s imprint? What is there to manage? What is an imprint?
Editor? Means? Newspaper? No, children’s books. Means?
Oh… wow, you do that for a living?
P.S. I got inundated by responses, and am seriously considering a Tumblr for this now.