Writing for Children, Writing as Children
Anoushka Sabnis, Maja Lunde, Paro Anand, Rohini Chowdhury in conversation with Manisha Chaudhry
by Arinnya Mukherjee, Official ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogger
It is very apt that a session on writing for children and writing as children featured perhaps the youngest author to ever speak at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. Among the eminent panellists at the event was the vibrant Anoushka Sabnis, already a successful writer at just 13 years old.
The panellists agreed that when it comes to literature for children, the adequacy of the content is constantly under question. Children’s author Paro Anand pointed out that before writing a book for children, she would always ensure to “take a walk in those shoes” and not think as a 60 year old person. In her book The Other, Anand noted that she had struggled to write the character of the grandmother because she was thinking as a child herself. She observed that “You got a teenager to write for teenagers” was the best compliment she has ever received.
13-year-old Anoushka Sabnis narrated her journey to becoming a published poet aged only 10 and how she aims to be a published novelist soon. She shared that her inspiration to write came from the simple bedtime stories that were narrated to her when she “was even younger.” Sabnis wrote her first story at the age of five. According to her, “It was a really short story.” Thereafter, poems took her interest, for, as she noted, “writing poems seems easier and seems more fun.”
Children’s writer and translator, Rohini Chowdhury also mentioned her early inspiration for writing and translating children’s stories emerged from her childhood, when she used to listen to tales from the Panchatantra ,and travel the realms through them. However, when she became a mother, all those stories seemed “inadequate.” Chowdhury believes that, “The stories in Panchatantra are lessons of living and not for children.” Elaborating further, she pointed out how informed children already are today, and that distinguishing writing on the edge of childhood and adulthood is not always necessary. Paro Anand added that it is also important to “make them ready for the path rather trying to pave the path for them.”
Author of the global best-seller, A History of Bees, Maja Lunde, felt that the primary focus in writing for children is “not about the target group, but about the story.” She was complimented by the session’s host, Manisha Chowdhury, for writing the highest-selling book in Norway. Lunde expressed that she was happy her book was the first children’s book to be the best-selling book in Norway since Harry Potter.
The session concluded with a discussion on whether curbing down content to be appropriate for children is a good idea. Anoushka Sabnis innocently replied that she does not read any book her teacher or librarian does not allow her to read, and that she does not have any “weird thoughts” while writing.