Showing posts with label Savita Kalhan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Savita Kalhan. Show all posts

Monday, 5 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Deferred by Savita Kalhan

I wrote in my last blog about the pressures of being a children’s writer today, all the hats we have to wear, the endless publicity we have to do, and the social media platforms we should engage with. All of that remains true. I ended with the point that the main focus of being a writer must always be the next story that needs to be written. It’s November, which means it is NaNoWriMo at the moment. Sadly, I know that, because of all of the non-writing activities I've mentioned and editing the current book, I won’t be able to spend the time I would like on writing the next book.

So I am deferring NaNoWriMo until January. Taking a hiatus from social media will feel strange to begin with, I am sure, and I will inevitably have to scratch that itch occasionally, but I intend to limit it to a few minutes now and then, hopeful optimist that I am.
In the meantime, there are lots of wonderful things going on with my book, and it is beginning to reach readers far and wide, which is an amazing feeling. My book is on an international blog tour at the moment, which means that it is being reviewed by YA bloggers from India, Canada, the US, UK, Romania and the Philippines.
The reviews from the past couple of days have reminded me why I write, and I actually got quite emotional reading them - Reading through InfinityThe Cursed Books blog

I have also been immensely lucky to have been paired up with some great schools and librarians as part of the #BookPenPals scheme on Twitter, the brainchild of @KateScottwiter and @Saramoohead. One of the school librarians in the scheme has just been awarded The School Librarian of 2018 award, so huge congratulations to Emma Suffield for winning it, and to all the inspiring librarians around the world for caring about reading and sharing their passion for books with children!

Emma asked me what libraries meant to me. When I was growing up, my parents  couldn’t afford to buy me books, so I practically lived in the library. But how to put into a few words how much they have meant to me, and why they are so important for every child.

Here’s what I wrote for her school –

Go cosmic and take a space ship to the moon,
Fly a hot-air balloon around the world,
Sail to the islands at the end of everything,
Board a train to Hogwarts,
Whoosh through universes on the Great Network,
Walk through a wardrobe to a world of snow,
Dive down a rabbit hole, play Noughts and Crosses,
Learn to fly a dragon, but never laugh at a live one,
Wherever you go, whatever portal you use, the keys are in your library.
The library is where all your adventures begin...
...It’s where all mine began.

And if anyone is up for NaNoWriMo in January, let me know!

Happy writing and stay safe if you’re venturing out to the fireworks tonight!

PS The Carnegie Medal nominations have just been announced and I am so chuffed that The Girl in the Broken Mirror has been nominated! Congratulations to all my fellow nominees! Happy Monday!
Savita's website

Savita on Twitter @savitakalhan

Friday, 5 October 2018

This is Me Not Shouting - Savita Kalhan

When my book, The Girl in the Broken Mirror, was published this year I had no idea that I would be
spending so much time and energy on all things not Work-in-Progress.

Publicising your book while not shouting about it is an art, I’ve realised. Clearly many authors with bigger publishing houses benefit from publicity departments setting up events, festivals, school visits, blogger events, blog tours etc. But those of us with smaller publishing houses are largely on our own, unless we can afford to hire a publicity person. 

When you see your peers invited to speak at various events, appearing at literary festivals, and so on, you do feel a certain amount of pressure. Shouldn’t you be doing those things too? Networking, blogging, tweeting, instagramming etc. How else will readers be aware of your book? Will your book ‘disappear’, unnoticed, unread, if you don’t step up?

Hiring someone to do the PR isn't an option for most writers, for obvious financial reasons. But the amount of work involved in being your own PR person can be immense, particularly if you are editing another book and trying to work on a WIP, and trying to have a life too...

Some of those non-WIP-writing things involve sending out hundreds of emails to bloggers to create interest in your book, and then organising your own blog tour, then follow up emails, arranging the dates, the guest posts etc. Writing guest posts for blog tours can take up a lot of time, depending on how long the blog tour is.

For me, the blog tours are well worth it. There are some amazing book bloggers out there and I was very lucky to have come across some champions of my book. I have an an international blog tour starting on November 1st with another group of YA bloggers.

So how much of all the non-WIP-writing and PR work is actually worth the time? Personally, I would say that most of it has been worth the extra effort. Maybe it will become easier if I’m lucky enough to have another book published. I just have to be a little bit more organised and also not bite off more than I can chew. It’s about working out how much I want to do and how much I can physically and mentally achieve without over-stretching myself.

September was great for non-WIP-writing events. I was in the Waterstones tent at Berkofest on Saturday 8th September, with Tamsyn Murray. I got to meet lots of adult authors too and hear Erin Kelly talking about her next psychological thriller.

I loved the YA Lit Cardiff event on 29th September! I was on a panel discussing identity in our books with Tracy Darnton and Katherine Webber (more on these events in my next blog in November). It's a new event organised by Karen Bultiauw and Claire Fayers, and it's set to be a great addition to the YA scene.

I was also invited to a school in Paris for an Erasmus Plus event, which included talks and workshops on my book with students from several countries across Europe,

I'm juggling hats - every writer has to do this - because book sales are important. I'm still trying to keep it fun.  

But, above all, there are stories I want to tell, and this is what I'm trying to remember - to make time to write.

The Girl in the Broken Mirror by Savita Kalhan, pub by Troika Books, 2018

Sunday, 5 August 2018

#ReflectingRealities by Savita Kalhan

As a child growing up in the UK to first generation Indian parents, I read my way through the children’s library but never encountered a single Asian writer. Ever. I did encounter many other amazing writers, and thousands of amazing books. I read voraciously - I learnt to read in the library.

I grew up reading Enid Blyton, and didn’t even pause to think about the implied and overt racism in some of her books. That kind of racism was instilled deeply into society; and that ‘we are better than you’ thinking, subconscious or conscious, surrounded me. It was the norm.

One of my favourite books when I was very young was Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree, and many years later I gave it to my son to read. He loved it too, maybe because he knew his mum had loved the book. He’s growing up in a slightly different world to mine. 

Or so I thought.

When I was growing up I did not think I could ever become a writer because I had encountered no British Asian women writers, no Asian writers, not as a young child, not as a teen, and not as a young adult. This all changed when I became an adult. I discovered writers from all across the world, and there were Asian writers too, and a wealth of stories that were so enriching that it made me wonder why children were being denied them.

Move forwards forty, fifty years and what has changed?

While many diverse voices are represented in adult fiction, the same is not true of children’s fiction. Sure, there are lots of ‘good people’ talking about it, and various bodies and industry people making a lot of noise. But much of the noise is lip service and hot air as recent studies show. Over the last few weeks the studies that have been published on diversity in children’s fiction are telling us that not much has changed.  

CLPE's #ReflectingRealities report published a couple of weeks ago.

The Reflecting Realities report was followed by Dr. Melanie Ramdarshan Bold's excellent study - The Eight Percent Problem:Authors of Colour in the British Young Adult Market (2006-2016).

The Guardian article picked up the report in their article by Alison Flood Dire Statistics Show YA Fiction Becoming Less Diverse

Enid Blyton was part of my history. Her writing was for me a form of fantasy and bore little resemblance to the world of my childhood. Would her writing be published now? I think not. So maybe we have been informed by the past, maybe we have taken some small steps to a different way of thinking and writing.

But the voices that need to be present in children’s fiction, from picture books to YA, are clearly still so very few and far between, and I speak as the only British Asian woman to have a teen/young adult book published so far this year. 

I wish I didn't have to write this at all. Diversity and inclusivity in children's literature have been much talked about. It's an ongoing discourse, or struggle, depending on who you are. Is equality and equal representation really so hard to achieve? It would appear that the answer to this, sadly, is still yes. 

The Girl in the Broken Mirror, pub May 2018, Troika Books

Savita's website


Thursday, 5 July 2018

Looking at Teenage Homelessness by Miriam Halahmy

Today I have the great pleasure of having Miriam Halahmy as my guest here. Miriam is the author of the award winning novel Hidden, which is currently being staged for the theatre, and her new teen/ young adult novel Behind Closed Doors will be published by Firefly in July.

Over to Miriam Halahmy:

My new novel, Behind Closed Doors, ( Firefly Press, July 2018) explores what home means. What should a home provide and what happens to young people when home is no longer a safe place? The book is in the voices of two fifteen year old girls, Josie Tate and Tasha Brown, who go to the same school but are not friends.

Josie’s mother calls herself a collector and she is saving the planet by ‘recyling’ and rescuing things which are thrown away.

Do you collect anything? I collect fossils, books and motto ware pottery -


Paula Salischiker
Inside all of us there is a little collector but when a collection gets out of hand it can look like this:-

Paula Salischiker

In reality Josie’s mother is a hoarder. As the book opens, Josie is already saving up to move out. When she returns home from school in Chapter 1 she finds that mum has finally taken over her room and filled it to the ceiling. Her bedroom was Josie’s last place of refuge in a home stuffed to the brim. 

Paula Salischiker
The kitchen has been a no-go area for five years and the bathroom has only the toilet and half the sink in use. Josie showers in the PE block at school. Children of hoarders often leave home by the time they are fourteen or fifteen years old, rendering them homeless and vulnerable at a very young age.

Photographer Geoff Johnson was forced to move out of his mother’s house as a teenager. He has created an amazing and very moving series of photos to show what it was like as a child in a hoarder home. You can view the photos and read the article at this link :

Tasha’s mother provides a neat clean home, regular meals and all the trappings a teenage girl would wish for; clothes, laptop, phone, WiFi, pocket money. But Tasha’s mum has a new boyfriend and he is starting to take an unhealthy interest in Tasha. Finally one night during a terrible thunder storm, Tasha has to run to keep herself safe. Her mother ignores the issue.

Tasha finds herself outside Josie’s door. Josie and her mother never open the door or let anyone into the house but Tasha manages to get inside. This is the start of an unlikely friendship between these two girls, both threatened with homelessness and both without the safety net of responsible parents/carers.
“We stare at each other and in that moment everything between us changes. Tasha with the mum who doesn't protect her and me with the mum in prison, neither of us with a proper home."

According to the Joseph Rowntree Association, around 75,000 young people contact homeless services each year. The main trigger for youth homelessness is relationship breakdown. Young people are so vulnerable on the streets that some schools have even opened accommodation for pupils forced out of home. Many young people ‘sofa surf’– sleep on a friend’s couch – to avoid sleeping rough.

In 1966, the film, Cathy Come Home, by Ken Loach was shown on British TV. It depicted the slide into homelessness by a young couple and the loss of their children into Care. The film shocked the nation and the charity, Shelter, was set up the following year to help the homeless.

This film triggered a lifelong concern in me for homeless people. I initiated fund raising events for Shelter as a young person. As a teacher I worked in the Kings Cross area in the 1980s, notorious for horrible bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families. Mothers would tell me how they were often placed on a different floor to their teenage children. I have also run writing workshops for homeless people and listened to their stories.

An Nabeshima, 17 yrs, from Japan, comments, This book has completely changed my way of grasping the word 'home' will realise what 'home' is and where your real 'home' is by the end.

Behind Closed Doors looks at the issue of modern teenage homelessness and asks, where do you go when home is no longer a safe place?

Huge thank you to Miriam for coming on the blog today and talking about her book. I was lucky to get an advance copy of Behind Closed Doors, so I've read this amazing book. It will be published on July 12th by Firefly Press, and is available for pre-order now, so don't miss it!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

When the Blog Tour Ends... by Savita Kalhan

If you have ever organised a blog tour for your book then you will know that it can require months of work, researching book blogs, finding the blogs that a relevant to your area/age group, sending out enquiries to those bloggers, waiting for responses, (wondering whether anyone will ever get around to responding...). I was very lucky that fourteen bloggers wanted to be part of the blog tour and several others wanted to review the book on their blog. And that's only phase one.

Phase two involved organising the schedule, the dates, the blog tour banner, collecting the bloggers’ addresses, making sure review copies were sent to each of them ahead of time. This is not even taking into account the content I had to write for each guest post of the blog tour. 

But it was amazing. It was like stepping on a roller-coaster – each day it went somewhere else, spreading the word about my book, which was a fantastic feeling. I have a lot of respect for YA bloggers – they read voraciously, they review the books, they tweet and instagram them and spread the word about books they love. Some of them spend a lot of time on graphics like these photos by OLIVIA SAVANNAH 

So when it all comes to an end, what do you do? I decided to get away. First stop was a remote hilltop in Shropshire - and working out an internet connection for the live Twitter chat on my new book THE GIRL IN THE BROKEN MIRROR for #OHYABOOKCLUB hosted by the most enthusiastic school librarian Lucas Maxwell. Connection sorted, I spent an amazing hour answering questions on the book on Twitter. 

Okay, so 'getting away' from social media had to be deferred until the Friday!

A rainy day dawned, so a long hill walk was out of the question. A stroll around Bishops Castle was much more inviting, and here I fell in love with this beautiful metal work warrior fairy. The place outside which she was walking was closed, so I'm working finding her origins. 

I stepped further back into time and went on walking tour in and around Aberystwyth, where I went to Uni, with a reunion thrown in too. And I discovered things there that I could not believe I had missed out on doing as a student. I had never been on the Vale of Rheidol, a narrow steam guage train between Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge, so I did that. It’s a stunning one hour train journey that takes you along a track cut into the steep banks of the hillsides.

Devil’s Bridge is the setting for an episode of Hinterland – a brooding, dark and disturbing episode!

I had also never heard of the Hafod Estate, out near Devil’s Bridge. If you are ever in want of inspiration it is the place to go. It is a stunningly beautiful place. The mansion that once sat on the acres of land has long since gone, but the walks remain. 

You can choose from easier short trails, such as the 3.64 km Lady’s Walk, to the more challenging 6 km walk, The Gentleman’s Walk, which we did, where the distance is not the strenuous factor but the narrow, steep paths that wind around the hills, across rope bridges and waterfalls, and tracks that have you teetering on the edge of long drops down to the gorge!

Entrance to an old mine shaft

Robbers Cave

Cascade Falls from inside Robbers Cave

Where ever you are on the estate, the beauty of Hafod will take your breath away. 

And then sun came out for the weekend. Ynyslas beach, a couple of miles north of Aberystwyth is a huge stretch of sand and sand dunes. What could be more perfect?

Whether it’s a break you need, or inspiration, or a place to go to walk and write and think, a place of natural beauty is where I would go. Where would you go?

THE GIRL IN THE BROKEN MIRROR by Savita Kalhan was published by Troika Books on 1st May 2018

Savita's Website


Saturday, 5 May 2018

The Girl in the Broken Mirror is out! by Savita Kalhan

My book, The Girl in the Broken Mirror, was published by Troika Books on Tuesday 1st May! 

It’s such an exciting time, and a very busy one too. But of course it’s also a nervous time - the book is being read, which means that it’s being reviewed, which means that I’m getting feedback. Luckily, most of the feedback has been very good, and some of it has been amazing. The different views and takes on the book have been interesting too. 

One of the things that has really surprised me is how the bloggers have really enjoyed the relationship between Jay, the 15 year old protagonist in the book, and her mother. There seems to be a general feeling that parent/teen relationships are too absent from teen and YA books.

I’m in the middle of a fourteen-stop blog tour at the moment with UKYA book bloggers. The blog tour started on 30th April. So I have had to write fourteen separate guest blog posts, ranging from a soundtrack for the book, a blog about my favourite authors, three Q&As, a couple of extracts from the book, a blog about writing tips, another one about what inspired the book, and two in-depth interviews!

The big publishing houses have a publicity team who contact and arrange the blog tour for their new book. My publisher is a smaller independent publisher, so I decided to arrange it myself. It definitely requires a fair amount of work and lots and lots of emails – and that’s not even taking into account the time needed to write all the guests posts.

I was also very lucky to be interviewed by The Asian Writer. You can read the interview here THE ASIAN WRITER

And then I found out that The Girl in the Broken Mirror is Love Reading 4 Kids YA Book of the Month for May, which is thrilling. If you’d like to read the review, it’s here – LOVE READING 4 KIDS

Here’s my blog tour banner:

If you would like to read any of the posts, they’re all there, and on Twitter and my Facebook page. Hope you enjoy them!

Twitter @savitakalhan

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The Girl in the Broken Mirror by Savita kalhan

 It’s not often that I get to share good news – good book news – with the world. But today is one of those precious days! I have a book being published on May 1st by Troika Books. 

Yes there was a lot of singing and dancing and generally making an idiot of myself – but it was okay as no one else was at home when the package from my publisher came through the letter box and landed on my door mat. I knew exactly what was inside: the first review copy of my book – so I took my time tearing open the package, well, all of about three seconds flat!

So here’s a picture of the very same book.

And here’s one of me flicking through it, with added sparkles. If the video doesn't work, then follow this link to The Girl in the Broken Mirror

So what is The Girl in the Broken Mirror about? It’s about Jay, a fifteen year old British Asian girl, who is struggling with a major culture clash after she and her mum are forced to move in with distant relatives. The relatives are extremely strict – strict about Indian girls, what they can and can’t do, how they should dress, how they should behave, who their friends should be. Boys get to do what they like, which Jay thinks is so unfair. And then she is raped.

I started writing the book about twelve years ago, before I wrote The Long Weekend, and then I set it aside to write The Long Weekend. I came back to it many times and it went through several titles and rewritings over the years, but the main core scenes of the book remained untouched. 

Rape and sexual abuse are difficult to write about – and even more difficult to write about for teenagers and young adults.

I know of three other books that deal with the subject of rape, all very different, all excellent:

No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

Asking for it by Louise O’Neill

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I think it’s important that these are books out there, particularly when you look at the horrific rape stats for rapes and sexual abuse reported by under eighteen year olds. I think it’s also important for teenagers to know that there is help out there for them, that they are not alone, that there is light at the end of the darkness.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Penguin Women Writers - From Across the World by Savita Kalhan

Last week I braved the arctic weather and went into London to an event at Waterstones Gower Street. Kamila Shamsie and Penelope Lively are part of an interesting project with Penguin to mark the hundredth anniversary of women’s suffrage. The idea behind the project was for each of the two authors to rediscover two books written by women that had gone out of print over the years, which would then be republished by Penguin. 

Kamila Shamsie’s choices were Meatless Days by Sara Suleri and Lifting the Veil by Ismat Chughtai. Penelope Lively’s choices were Mary McMarthy’s Birds of America and The Lark by E Nesbit. 

During the course of the evening, Penelope Lively and Kamila Shamsie discussed why they chose these particular books to bring back into print. All four books have something to say about women and the people around them, about their lives, their choices, their experiences, all of them evocative of the different times and places of their setting. Women and women's suffrage remained at the heart of their choices, whether locally, or more globally.

Edith Nesbit was a firm favourite of mine when I was growing up. I devoured Five Children and It, The Railway Children, The Story of the Treasure Seekers, and many others. But I wasn’t aware of The Lark, a novel for adults. Edith Nesbit was a prolific writer, a political activist, and, at the time, her writing was considered innovative. She inspired many great writers,  including Dianne Wynne Jones, C S Lewis, and more.

First published in 1922, The Lark is about two girls, orphaned, left without anything, save a small cottage and their wits, to make a living.
‘"When did two girls of our age have such a chance as we've got - to have a lark entirely on our own? No chaperone, no rules, no..."
"No present income or future prospects," said Lucilla.’

Mary McMarthy was a prolific American writer. First published in 1971, her Birds of America, is a coming-of-age novel about a young man, Peter Levi, and his mother, set in a time of political unrest and change. The 19 year old protagonist moves to Paris to study at the Sorbonne in the 1960's. “...the positive was so rare here for a foreigner that you felt like falling on your knees and kissing the hem of the garment of anybody who was kind to you,” he says. It’s a statement that is still true of any time and any place.

First published in 1989, Meatless Days is a memoir set in the time of newly created post-colonial Pakistan. ‘Some of the more heart-shaking writing about love and grief I've ever read,’ Kamila Shamsie says in the Introduction. It is an exploration of what it is to be a woman when your life revolves around your roles in relation to other people – wife, mother, sister, daughter; it is about loss and grief, and about new beginnings in a new language. This was the only book of the four books presented that evening that I had read.

Lifting the Veil by Ismat Chughtai is a collection of stories which were considered extremely provocative and dangerous at the time. Born in 1911 in India, Chugthai was a feminist writer who pushed boundaries. She wrote in secret at first because it was frowned upon by her traditional community. She was a liberal Muslim whose daughter, nephew and niece were married to Hindus. In her own words, Chughtai came from a family of "Hindus, Muslims and Christians who all live peacefully". She said she read not only the Qur’an, but also the Bhagadvad Gita and the Bible with openness. Over the years, many of her books were banned in South Asia. They were never translated well from Urdu for an English speaking audience. So it’s great to see this book in print again with a good translation.

I look forward to seeing more in this new series of books. Are there any books that are out of print that you would like to see back in print?

Thursday 8th March is International Women's Day. Penguin are opening Like a Woman bookshop, a pop-up shop, from 5th-9th March in Shoreditch, which will stock books written by women. A series of talks will also take place in the space, and all proceeds from ticket sales from the talks will go to the charity Solace Women's Aid. You can also buy books to donate to refugees. Here's a link for more information - LIKE A WOMAN - PENGUIN

Monday, 5 February 2018

Do You Read your Reviews? by Savita Kalhan

Some actors, artists and writers say that the only thing worse than a bad review is no review. Is it?
And, good or bad, would you, do you, read your reviews?

Lots of people don’t read their reviews. AL Kennedy leaves it to her publisher to read and tell her about, but she won’t read them for herself.

Newspaper reviews and magazine reviews of your work, if they are good, are often used on the book, either on the back or on the inside. Otherwise they are generally forgotten over time. When it comes to Amazon and Goodreads the story is a little different. The reviews, the ratings, given for a book stay there forever.

Reading some of the reviews on these websites, it becomes clear that  there are some great reviews from people who have read the book and enjoyed it, and there are those who read the book but don't connect with it for reasons they discuss intelligently. This is all fine because the enjoyment of a book is subjective and reviewers will have their own opinion.

But not everyone who leaves a review or a rating has necessarily actually read the book, If they had, that would be different! As a writer it is incredibly galling to see one star reviews being given for reasons such as the book being delivered late or arriving damaged. Why do people do that?

Take 1984 by George Orwell. The reviewers who gave it one star were for these reasons: 'there were lots of typos', 'the copy was in German not English', and 'the pages were marked', etc. There were a few reviewers who did review the book itself before giving it a one star: 'Unbelievably boring' and 'a dystopian snoozefest', are a sample of these. Somehow I don't think any of this would have bothered Orwell.

I know authors who make it a policy not to read their reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. I’m beginning to think they’re right. Someone left a two star rating on Goodreads for my next book. The book hasn’t even been printed yet - even I don't have a copy of it! Fellow writers have advised me not to respond to the reviewer.

Over the years, authors who have responded to reviewers on Goodreads have come off very badly. It’s a lose-lose situation as the reviewer has nothing to lose, and the writer can come off sounding peevish, precious and, in some cases, abusive towards the reviewer. Here’s a link to an article where the writer responded to the reviewer – it went viral, and did not end well for the writer - HOW NOT TO RESPOND

Writers have to develop a thick skin early on. Their writing is critiqued by themselves, their agents, their crit group, their publisher etc. But the kind of thick skin you need to read some of the reviews that are left on Amazon and Goodreads, well, I'm not sure I will ever be able to grow skin thick enough to handle them. So come the time when reviews for my book start going up, which will be in a month’s time when the book goes out to reviewers pre-publication date, will I read them? Or will I leave it to my publisher or my agent, or a kindly friend to read and sift through to the ones I need to know about, and the ones I really don’t!

So, if you are ever tempted to respond to a bad review, take a deep breath and think again. Go for a walk. Beat up a pillow, vent to your friends, go and play with kittens or puppies, but don't respond to the reviewer on Goodreads who gave your book a two star rating, or comment on your one star review on Amazon. 

Of course, in your head, your book will always be a 5 star book.