"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another vignette from Incredible India !

It's been a while since I posted a vignette about India, the land of contrasts ! Here is what I saw, the other day, on a very busy road going from Hyderabad to Secunderabad. Actually, I didn't quite know how to take a picture, as I was in my car, and the traffic was really bad, but then, the man riding that bullock cart had the great idea to turn on a sideroad, and we were able to park and I jumped out.

Need to come closer to believe it ? Here we go :

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Tips to promote your book

Mitali Perkins wrote an informative post about how to promote one's book, in her blog, Mitali's Fire Escape.

Anyone interested or concerned should check it out : http://www.mitaliblog.com/2008/01/pajama-promotion-ten-tips-for-writers.html

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A blurb from Andrea Davis Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney is v-p and editor-at-large at Scholastics, and here is what she says :

"Amadi's Snowman is a beautiful tribute to the power of reading and one boy's journey of self-discovery through books. Dimitrea Tokunbo's evocative illustrations underscore the loving interchange between a mother and son. The richly hued paintings invite us to enjoy Nigeria's many splendors and provide the perfect stage for Katia Novet Saint-Lot's imaginative story."

Thank you, Andrea Davis Pinkney !

I will soon post the cover of the book. I need to figure out how to convert it from a .pdf file into .jpg. Anyone out there who is a bit more computer savvy than me - in other words, basically everybody ?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Author picture : done !

Well, in the end, and even though I did ask the kids and my husband - each one had a different favorite - and a few friends - and there again, no consensus - I made my own decision. I'm the one who has to live with that picture for a while... hopefully. So, here it is.

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Now, I really need to work on the website, and I don't know where to start. I bought "Building a website for Dummies" and I'm sorry to have to say that I don't understand half of it - not that I read it all, but I was hoping I would kind of ... get into it. Ha ! I'm even dummier than the worst dummies ! So, I must now find a web designer, finish to write the website content, and get this out of the way.

And just to make sure I don't forget to write, in the middle of it all, I'm taking Uma's new manuscript workshop, starting at the end of the week. Yippee !

Saturday, January 19, 2008

They need my pic ! MY PIC ? Oh, my !

Well, this is a time when I can be vain and act all important about it, because, you see, it's for the book.

Months ago, I was asked to send an author's picture, but I promptly forgot about it. And then, I cut my hair, last summer. This is something I do every two, three years. I let my hair grow below my shoulders usually, and by then, the time that it took for it to grow has worn my patience out and I can't wait to get a new face and I usually chop it off. The scenario can change, here. Sometimes, I go from long to really short all at once. Chop chop ! Other times, I do it gradually. Well, this time, I did it gradually from November until July, last summer, when I decided that now, I wanted it really SHORT. Not quite crew cut short, but almost. I liked it for a while - not sure anyone else did, though :) - but then, I started longing for my long hair again. So, it's been growing and no way was I going to have my author picture taken in that in-between-time. Now, it's reached an acceptable length, and anyway, I can't wait any longer. So, my husband was appointed official photographer, today, and I sat in different spots in the garden, squinting at the sun - to bring the blue out of my eyes, you know, I'm telling you, this is my very vain moment - while he took one picture after another. And now, of course, I don't know which one to send to Tilbury. But that's OK. It's fun and exciting. I think I'll get the girls and the official photographer to help me choose, tomorrow.

A couple of days ago, I sent the author bio as well. It does look as if this is really happening...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Update on my coming picture book

Much has happened over the past few weeks regarding the publication of my picture book, to be released sometime in May 2008 : Amadi's Snowman.

The illustrations are done and I'm now anxiously waiting to see the proofs - I've only seen the dummy, so far. The good news is that I received a first positive critique from Michael Afolayan, Ph. D. who was consulted for authenticity's sake (the story is set in Nigeria and the characters are Igbo.) Here is what he said :

"This write-up is respectful of the culture in which it is set. It is a breath of fresh air to read of a children fiction set in Africa that does not irritate the eye of the African reader with condescending language and stereotypical depictions. After all, when was the last time we read an African children fiction whose theme is literacy with a good end? For these and some other reasons, I think this is a story book that is worth reading."

Not too bad, hey?

And so, the waiting game continues.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rajasthan, Udaipur

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Udaipur was also founded on a spot where a hermit was meditating, but this time, the hermit blessed the prince Rama Udai Singh II - this is the year 1559 - and told him that this would be an auspicious spot to build a new city. Surrounded by hills, and on the shores of the lake Pichola, Udaipur is truly magical. Here we see the Lake Palace on the left - of James Bond fame : Octopussy, with Roger Moore, was filmed here - and the City Palace on the right.

The next two pictures are of the City Palace, seen from the lake.

This is another view of the Lake Palace from inside the City Palace, this time.

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I loved how the sun played with the sheer colorful fabrics of the women's saris. This is a window of the City Palace overlooking one of the gorgeously decorated courtyards, as seen in the picture below.

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Here I'm, below, with my little one, exploring the streets of Udaipur.

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And this concludes our little tour of Rajasthan.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Continuing with Rajasthan : Deogarh

Deogarh is a charming little town set in the hills, north of Udaipur, and we spent New Year's Eve there - or what was left of it, as we only got there after 9.30 PM, after a car journey that lasted
two hours more than expected. Here is the beautiful Deogarh Mahal all decked out for the new year's festivities. The party happened on the courtyard on he first floor, with much dancing on the tunes of the last Bollywood movies - and a good thing, too, because it was freezing cold.

This is the entrance gate, with its wall mural.

The following morning, we walked around the village, drawing lots of attention from everyone. I'm used to it, and tend to oscillate between feeling amused and ignoring it - pretty much like all the people who see us walking around, I suppose. We are, after all, as curious about them as they are about us. Still, with the children, it's a little harder, in part due to the Indian habit of pinching children's cheeks. Our kids hate that, and it's not always easy to explain that we/they don't want people putting their hands on their faces AND pinching them. Although our little one has become quite good at clamoring her discontent or dodging any approaching hand. Still, people are usually welcoming, and most of them love having their pictures taken - children actually ask for it, and are then delighted to be able to see themselves on the little screen. That's the marvel of digital cameras. We took dozens of photographs, of course. Here is one of a lady decorating clay pots.

Elderly gentlemen conversing in the sun.

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A man frying some of those delicious - and, oh, so fattening! - Indian sweets.
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And finally, a smiling lady showing off her little goat.

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Tomorrow, we continue with yet another amazing fort, Kumbhalgarh, and Udaipur.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Year Resolutions !

I used to refuse to make new year resolutions. Some part of me continues to balk at the prospect of writing down a list of things to do. I'm not good with lists, anyway. Once upon a time, when I was an overweight teenager, I used to make lists with the week days and the number of grams I had decided I was going to loose, each day. Of course, it never worked. To this day, when I write a shopping list, I leave the shop without even looking at it. That said, the process of writing the list has an undeniable advantage : it reminds me to check inside the fridge and the pantry to see what I need before I rush to the shop - I hate grocery shopping and usually try to get rid of the chore as fast as I possibly can. So, this year again, I will not write any list, BUT I will look inside my personal pantry and try and see what could use a little work, what may benefit from a little extra attention, what needs to be focused upon, etc. And I can also write random thoughts and wishes, as a reminder of things that I'd like to see happen or done, not necessarily within a 12 months time frame, but somehow down the line, when the time is right. Call me an underachiever, maybe. I can take it :)

Wishes :

I'd love to get into the MFA Vermont Program. That's a wish I've had for a while. I never completed my studies, having gone in a direction that was so totally NOT me - Law, for Pete's sake ! What was I thinking? Probably, I wasn't thinking, actually - but I've always had that longing to return to some sort of academic studies. Ever since I've heard of that course, I've felt it was just perfect for me. There are great teachers, it's low residency, which means it can be done even when one has children and doesn't even live in the US, and imagine : you get to write for children, and in the end, you get a diploma. Doesn't get any better than that, does it? If only the process to get into an American university wasn't so complicated - not to mention outrageously expensive - especially as a foreigner... Still, this is definitely on my list of things to be done, maybe not in 2008, but sometime, hopefully soon.

I need to work more on writing magazine pieces.

I need to get out of my house, more. I live like a hermit, almost. Sometimes, two weeks go by without my going anywhere, if anyone can believe that. And I need to exercise, to get some fresh air. My problem is that as soon as I get up, the urge to sit in front of the computer to check emails, read blogs, etc, becomes irresistible. With the difference of time, most emails from the US appear during the time that I sleep, and so, my inbox is usually at its fullest early in the morning. And once I'm sitting at the computer, there is always something to do - work on a translation, write, read emails, do research, etc - and before I know it, evening has come and another day is gone. Another problem I have is that the great park not too far from our house is only open until 8.30 am in the morning, and then again in the late afternoon. I could never understand that policy, but that's the way it is. And don't ask me to take a walk before 8.30 in the morning. I'm barely alive, at that time. And of course, late afternoon is the time for homework, bath, kids' dinner, etc. Still, I need to do something, because I know it would be good for my mind, not to mention my flabby body.

Last but not least, I'd like to worry a little less about anything and everything under the sun, and to enjoy myself a little more. I'm not very good at that. Carpe Diem, and all that jazz. This is probably the hardest for me. Relax, and smell the roses.

So, there : inner pantry all checked for now. The "this-is-not-a-list" is tucked somewhere in my mind. Let's see what this new year brings. 2007 was the year that my first book was accepted. 2008 will see said book out, and I'll be attending the SCBWI conference in LA, again, this coming summer. I have two picture book manuscripts doing the rounds. One project that may or may not become a novel or a short story - I need to make a decision. I'm so scared to even think that I want to write a novel. A couple of picture books on the works. And another project that may or may not become a chapter book. So, enough blabbering about what I'd like to do. Let's get down to work, now.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Our trip to Rajasthan. First stop : Jodhpur

After three and half years in India, we have finally been where everyone rushes first : Rajasthan. It was well worth the wait. Unfortunately, we had to cancel Jaisalmer because our little one became quite ill on Christmas Eve and ended up spending two days in hospital to fight dehydration. I still hope we can see Jaisalmer, the desert city, before we leave India. But for now, and considering how we had to reschedule several flights, hotels and everything at the last minute, I feel lucky that we managed to get to Jodhpur, Deogahr, Kumbalgarh Fort, and finally, truly magical Udaipur. I'll share a few of the 800 + pictures my husband and I took.

Above is the mighty - but cursed, more about that below - Mehrangarh Fort, perched on its rocky cliff, 400 feet above the plain. It seems to grow out of the rock itself, and in some parts, the rock face was hewn to create its ramparts. It's quite a walk, all the way up, and there is an elevator for those who don't want to make the effort. We didn't mind, but it's a good thing that it was cool outside. I can't imagine the climb in the blistering heat of summer.

This young boy who couldn't be more than 4 years old was inside the Mehrangarh Fort, between the first and the second gate, with his father who played the ravanhatta. He welcomed us in about half a dozen languages - Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Ciao, Gutten Tag, etc - before he proceeded to ask - repeatedly, this young chap was on a mission - for a "baksheesh" and apparently, that word needed no translation. He sang, he danced, he charmed everyone who came near him, and seemed to take a liking to our smallest daughter, who was her height, and when his father got up a few minutes, he promptly replaced him with the instrument. He didn't really play, but he was just as good at pretending.

Below are the roofs of Jodhpur, aptly-named "the blue city." The blue houses were originally for Jodhpuri Brahmins, as they'd discovered that the light indigo color deflects the heat and wards off mosquitoes. Soon, non-Brahmins joined in. All these blue roofs and walls are quite a sight, from the fort.

This is one facade of the palace apartments inside the fort, with its delicately latticed balconies. We took the audio tour, and really enjoyed it, in spite - or because - of some of the gruesome stories connected to the fort. For instance, a hermit meditated on this plot of land and had to move out so the foundation could be laid. Not too happy to be forced out of his chosen spot and deprived of such a lovely view, no doubt, said hermit cursed the land. To date, Jodhpur suffers from shortage of water - due to this curse, says the legend. In order to keep the fort safe, a human sacrifice was required, and a man called Raja Ram Medhwal volunteered to be buried alive in the foundation. A tiny plaque mentions the valour of Raja Ram. Makes you shudder.

This camel was patiently waiting outside the first entrance to the fort, all decorated, with his lunch laid out in front of him.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Happy New Year !

While in Delhi, on our way to Rajasthan, we visited the Baha'i House of Worship. I like the idea of posting a picture of the beautiful lotus shaped temple in the first post of this new year. I loved getting in line, barefoot (in spite of the very cold ground) among all these people who came from everywhere, people from all and any faith on earth, and to feel the gentle spirit of the international cast of volunteers who guided and explained the rules of the place in several languages, so everyone could understand.
The Baha'i faith is an independent world religion with basic teachings such as : "oneness of humanity, of religion and of God, the abandonment of all prejudices, the agreement of science and religion, promoting universal education, the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, equality of men and women."
Sounds good to me.
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