Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jump Start: Join the Dots

 Words of Wisdom. Now you know why publishers never lend and why people don't return. 

It was a festival of writers, editors, publishers, illustrators, teachers, librarians and children. The two-day Jump Start: Join the Dots fest organised in Delhi in August by the German Book Office had interesting workshops, interactions and seminars. The discussions included those on illustrations for children's books, graphic novels, e-readers and also contracts between editors and publishers. For me personally, it was an opportunity to meet up with new publishers as well as understand the industry moods and mechanisms.

That is story teller Paro Anand. She mesmerises children and spins tales too. Reading stories to children helps build mental and emotional images for them.

Why is it important to read stories to children? Because, it develops listening skills in children, increases their attention span, stimulates creativity and imagination, improves their vocabulary and they learn problem solving skills. Neel Chaudhuri from The Tadpole Repertory said: "A narrator's voice has to be friend. Repetition is the key to reading stories to children. That was something that Paro Anand, writer and story-teller agreed with: "Children read the same story again and again just because they like that story."

This is how a message board of the non-virtual world is.

Swati Mehta from Gali Gali Sim Sim (Sesme Street) said: "It is equally important for children to tell a story as it builds confidence in them, they learn to express themselves and present ideas in a linked-manner." It also helps them build vocabulary and improves diction.

Adults play games too. Story telling for children at the two-day fest. Watching them on the extreme left is Swati Mehta from Gali Gali Sim Sim (Sesme Street).

There was an interesting observation on the reading habits in children by a member of the audience. She said: "Parents now prefer activity books for their children and have started to avoid story books and fiction." Panelist Nina Sehgal said that even though the variety of books for children has been increasing, the variety for Hindi books remains woefully small. "It is here that a big audience exists which is not being tapped by the publishers." Judith Gueyfier, an illustrator from France who does children's books said that in her country there is a tradition to take stories from Africa and India. "I meet a lot of kids and I learn a lot from them."

This is one of Sekhar Mukherjee's works.

Teacher at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Sekhar Mukherjee, who has filled up his home with doodles, is working on a picture book in collaboration with his daughter. "I am making the drawings while she is giving me the ideas." Writer Anushka Ravishankar said: "A picture book is all about balancing text and pictures. Even the illustrations have sub-plots and we as writers have to given space to illustrators for them to be able to add value to the book."

The audience at the session on rights and contracts between authors and publishers. The role of literary agents too was discussed. 

A piece of advice for authors while negotiating a price for their books. "Be selective about your rights and limit the terms and terrritories. The rights for printed books, e-books and audio books have to be negotiated separately. The selling of sub-rights to third parties can be in the original language or another language." says Renate Reichstein.

Don't go by the written word!!  The name plates on the panelists table are wrong thanks to the angle of the camera.

Writer and publisher, Urvashi Butalia from Zubaan Books tread the path cautiously as she listed out how publishers make money. "They get money from two sources. Through the sale of their books and also by selling the rights of books to other publishers and overseas markets." And how do publishers and their editors actually select books? India's first literary agent, Jayapriya Vasudevan who is now based in Singapore, says: "We look at books that are universally acceptable. Also, we withhold the e-book rights on the request of the authors."

Gautam John, Ameena Batada, Akshaya Pathak, Arti Jain and Binoo John at the discussion on new technologies. And I had thought that new technologies have by now become old.

Technology issues and digital divide too came under the scanner. As Ameena Batada from Gali Gali Sim Sim (Sesme Street) asked: "Should children's story books need batteries?" At the same time, her own organisation is moving into audio books, internet story books and even internet-based read aloud books.
But Gautam John from education NGO Pratham pointed out that digital books are being downloaded and printed. Their books are being read by children who are visually-challenged and technology is helping generate volume and content.

Wink, India's own second-e-book reader was represented by their content person Binoo John, whose company is looking at generating content through tie-ups with Indian publishers and also directly from the authors. "Books on e-readers are 25 per cent lesser than the printed versions. We will also ensure that the books on our e-reader cannot be forwarded," John said.

It is a comic. It is a novel. No, it is a graphic novel.

In the session on graphic novels, it seems nobody asked, and because nobody asked nobody tried explaining how are graphic novels different from comics, if at all they are different? We too will leave it at that. But we had interesting discussions as illustrators and 'graphic-novelists' dwelt on why they were doing what they were doing. Some used their illustrations to ask and explore, the others to repackage Indian mythical stuff into six-pack abs (to gain a universal audience) and some dwelt on the tenuous relations between man, environment and the society.
Actor Danish Husain from the movie Peepli Live

On creating stories that hold the attention of people, actor Danish Husain said: "You make a story with 10 per cent skills and 90 per cent passion." What he probably missed was that passion is the only ingredient that is de rigueur for any measure of success in any sphere.

These children made presentations on their reading habits, favourite books and their hobbies.
The event was as much for children as it was for the publishing industry and writers. Young book worms made a presentation at the Pecha Kucha evening on their W's of reading - what, why and also why they are not reading certain books and authors. What was noteworthy was their confidence and their wide range of reading.

Another story reading, but for the seniors this time. The Tadpole Repertory at work.

It was here, at the close of a two-day session, that I leant two things. Either that I suffer from an attention deficit disorder or that long book readings should be held only for children, povided they do not scoot out to play hop scotch.

This is called an APOLOGY. For those speakers, writers, authors, publishers and children, and of course the organisers, that I may have missed out in my writing or my photos. I am sure I have indeed overlooked many creative and excellent people as the event was not small and had many parallel sessions running alongside. Many times I wish I could clone myself.

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