Writing Wednesdays, Meditative Mondays and more…

Thanks so much for visiting my blog! Given what we’re facing as a world, I wanted to do my little bit to help out and so, here’s what I’m hoping and planning to do:

Every week, by Wednesday, I’ll be uploading a short writing prompt (in April, as it’s national poetry month, these will be poetry prompts) on YouTube and Twitter. My first prompt was included in last month’s blog post. The latest prompt (below) draws inspiration in part from William Wordsworth’s Daffodils (a poem quoted in my debut novel CLIMBING THE STAIRS because it was my mother’s favorite poem and the novel is loosely based on her life as a teenager in India during WWII). This writing prompt also draws inspiration from Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple‘s poetry book, EEK, YOU REEK!

Wondering how these two rather different-sounding quotes (” When oft upon my couch I lie /In vacant or in pensive mood/ They flash upon the inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude / And then my heart with pleasure fills / And dances with the daffodils” by Wordsworth and “Eek you reek / You make a funk / Where you have been / You stink stank stunk” by Yolen and Stemple) might be related? Watch:

I’m also planning to share a short, inspirational and motivational meditation on the writing life – or just more generally the creative life, every Monday, starting sometime this month.

In addition, so far and so long as I can, I’m hoping to host a book giveaway each month on twitter. We just received a stay-in-place order, so this means I will likely only be able to mail the winner a book once this order is lifted. This week, I am doing a paired book giveaway with my dear friend Leslie Connor. If you follow me on twitter (@padmatv) you’ll see that I’m giving away a signed copy of her latest, A HOME FOR GODDESSES AND DOGS and she’s giving away a signed copy of my latest, THE BRIDGE HOME on ig (heyleslieconnor).

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I recently received my first copy of THE BRIDGE HOME with the beautiful golden Walter Dean Myers Award seal on the cover, as you can see!

Given all that we’re facing right now as a nation, we’re in discussion about whether  to pause my monthly COOKING UP STORIES writing prompt (featuring a book and paired with a recipe by Chef Amanda) at Highlights Foundation for a few months, and resume it when things take a more positive turn. In the meantime, however, the Highlights Foundation is hosting many free online events. Last week, I had a wonderful chat hosted by my dear friend Sara Aronson for the Highlights Foundation’s community gathering last week (here’s the link).

This month, I’ll be participating in two afternoon panels at the Kweli conference online this Saturday, April 4th; and on Wednesday, April 8th at noon EST at the VCBF’s Facebook page (I’ll be doing a free webinar online that they’re hosting), and later in April, I’ll be contributing to the Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference online (April 20-21st). Maybe I’ll see you there?

I thought I’d also share some useful links I came across for school-aged kids (and parents and teachers) that provide useful scientific mini-lessons: NOAA is hosting webinars for school age children, including by my dear friend Catalina Martinez: https://seagrant.whoi.edu/suggested-educational-resources-for-use-during-school-closures/webinars-noaa-live/; here’s a link for those interested in meteorology : https://www.weather.gov/learning; and The Mosaic Expedition has put together a collection of resources on the Arctic:  https://mosaic.colorado.edu/education/mosaic-mondays/mosaic-monday-march-23-2019. So that’s for the oceanographer in me!

Finally, here’s a list of organizations that would surely be happy to have you contribute, if you can, at this  difficult times: No Kid Hungry which strives to provide every kid in the USA with at least a healthy lunch especially at this time when school lunches are being shut down because of COVID19, #FirstRespondersFirst which I’m told is doing its best to provide health care professionals with all they need, (and of course others I’ve mentioned earlier, such as ASHA for education , Books are Wings , The Concerned For Working Children, Sankara Eye Foundation, CRY, Freedom TrustV-excelCommunity Volunteers in Education, Engineers Without Borders, Environmental Energy Study Institute, Global Green Grants Fund, Southern Environmental Law Center, Wild Aid, Wild Net, kiva).

It’s a strange episode in the history of humanity that we’re living through right now, and I ardently hope that just as the characters in THE BRIDGE HOME are brought even closer together by the calamities they face, we’ll come together to work for peace in our world in the face of this new challenge we’re facing. It’s not easy for anyone right now, but if we can thinking of giving as much as we can (even giving something as small as a smile to a stranger while maintaining your physical distance), and not taking more than necessary (so avoiding to the urge to stockpile and not taking every last bit of any particular item), I think it helps.

Oh my gosh – I almost forgot to share some lovely news. THE BRIDGE HOME won the Paterson Prize! Award-winning and critically acclaimed author and poet Peter Johnson (AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH JR. AKA HOUDINI) referred to this as a “trifecta” of awards for THE BRIDGE HOME(the Paterson Prize, the SCBWI Golden Kite and the WNDB Walters Award). THE BRIDGE HOME is also on a few more children’s choice state awards lists, most notably in Virginia (a state where I lived for several years as a graduate student) and the Texas Bluebonnet, and on the Bank Street College of Education’s annual best book list, along with THANK U, a collection of poems edited by Miranda Paul, to which I contributed a tanka about a mathematical invention!

Until next month, when I plan to provide links in this monthly blogpost-newsletter to  Monday meditations and Wednesday Writing prompts posted in the interim! To leave comments, as always:

Thank U, stay safe, stay healthy, stay well! And in case you missed it, here’s a previous writing prompt about Sense of Place.

Going Viral while Cooking Up Stories

The past few weeks have been quite a shock for everyone, I’m sure. Not even my older friends or the senior citizens in my family have ever lived through a global pandemic. At this difficult time, it’s important to remember, I think, how lucky we are that this virus isn’t more virulent, and how fortunate some of us are to live in a part of the world where we can take our access to clean water and soap and food for granted.

Of course, not all of us, even in the United States, are doing well. So if you are a citizen of the United States, before I say anymore, I want to urge you, if you’re able, to consider donating to this organization, which is helping out with kids who are going hungry in the United States because of this global pandemic: NoKidHungry. As I’ve always said before, when I discussed THE BRIDGE HOME, hunger is a problem even here in the United States. It always has been. And now, because of this virus, it’s affecting more kids than before here – and, of course, all over the world. So, if anyone’s wondering if this virus is causing havoc, it is – globally. There are so many who are going to suffer so very much because of this pandemic, and we need to do all we can to prevent it from having an even greater negative impact.

Most understandably, of course, all my visits to schools and the festivals I was looking forward to this spring have been cancelled. Even the ceremony at which the Walters Award for Young Readers was to be presented for THE BRIDGE HOME was cancelled – and I completely understand, support and applaud WNDB’s decision.

Given I shan’t be seeing too many of you, thanks to the SCBWI, among other things, I’ve been inspired to create, with my child, a video we created, along with a Q & A about viruses (and explanations of exponential growth curves in her own words), a writing prompt and a recipe, and I’ll be posting one a day for 5 days, until next Wednesday, on my YouTube channel. Here’s the first one:

Next Wednesday, 25 March, I’m honored to’ve been invited by my dear author friend Sarah Aronson to be her guest on the Highlights Foundation‘s website for a #virtual community #HFGather interview at 10:00 a.m. United States EST.

As you know, I’ll continue to post a COOKING UP STORIES prompt, the first Friday of every month, paired with a recipe by Chef Amanda, also on the Highlights Foundation’s website (Foodie Fridays)! I hope you’ll enjoy the the most recent pairing, featuring MANGO, ABUELA AND ME by Meg Medina (illustrated by Angela Dominguez).

I’m hoping to do what little I can to help teachers and students around the world. On the 14th of April, I’ll be posting a writing challenge on Dr. Sarah J. Donovan’s website: www.ethicalela.com .

Before that, I’ll be doing a livestreaming session on the Virginia Children’s Book Festival’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vachildrensbookfestival so I hope to see you next week!

So stay safe, remember our moral responsibility is to act out of a sense of care for everyone around us. I really hope this difficult and unexpected challenge will help us come together as a world, so we may, with greater preparation and in a climate of peace, fight off some of the other challenges that face us in the future. For now, safety is all-important, and of the highest priority – so wash your hands, properly, isolate yourself physically as much as possible, learn what you can from reliable websites such as those belonging to the WHO, NIHCDC, or my dear old university Johns Hopkins, and remember that physical isolation doesn’t stop us from sending virtual hugs.

And if you have any questions, here’s a very short video (below) that shows you how to leave questions on this website. Briefly, here’s how you do it: 1. Click on the Blog Post’s Title (Either on this screen or on the right hand side column) and 2. You’ll be redirected to another screen featuring just this post. Scroll down, and you’ll see the box in which you may leave questions or comments. Thanks, everyone!

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Of Gold, Kites and Golden Kites

GK5One of the most unforgettable evenings of my life as an author came this February, when I was privileged to address the audience at SCBWI’s New York conference, and accept the Golden Kite award for Middle Grade Fiction, for THE BRIDGE HOME. While, on the one hand, I feel like I can’t express my gratitude even if I were to say thank you in every language I know how, I did, of course, have a go at trying to show my appreciation. And, before attending the gala, my daughter did a henna tattoo of kites, on both my hands!

Here’s my acceptance speech:

My first kite wasn’t golden. I tried to fly it, only to watch it fall repeatedly. Those failed attempts were the happier moments of a traumatic chBoy Peeping Into Foodildhood. We lived in a mansion until my dad forced my mum to move out, to an apartment in a concrete jungle. I was forced to meet him every weekend, though he could be abusive. Luckily, I had no self-pity because my mum, though struggling herself, volunteered at shelters for children who faced far worse, yet could share small joys and warm laughter. As I came to know them, some shared tales of horrors they’d survived.

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Decades later, in my head, I heard the voice of one sister, Viji, speaking to another. I had to discover why they’d been driven apart. I saw them run away from their violent father and thier village hoping for a better life in the city, struggle to cross city streets, adopt a stray, reach an abandoned bridge. There, befriended by two boys, they eke out a living.

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But Viji’s hopes of studying at school are dashed because every day, all day, from sunup to sundown, they’re forced to dig through mountains of rubbish – like this trash dump I photographed last summer – to salvage material to sell… until Viji’s sister, who has a disability, starts a bead business. The friends briefly enjoy a sense of family, home and freedom.

Then, all is threatened …

 

Imagine you were alone in a dark graveyard. How long would you stay? I give myself 10 minutes. Maybe. But my friend Indira was forced to stay in a graveyard night after night to escape men who wanted to enslave her. After telling me this, she asked, because she knew I wanted to be a writer – I was always scribbling – “Padma, will you write my story, one day?” “Yes,” I said. “I promise.” It’s taken methe bridge home - cover (1) forty years, but this book, THE BRIDGE HOME is that promise I gave her, as a child.

It would take me forty hours to thank all who helped me get here.Today, I’ll thank only those most important: My legendary editor, Nancy Paulsen, for believing in me and THE BRIDGE HOME when I was filled with fear and doubt, for patience, guidance, brilliant insights; My agent, Rob Weisbach, for wisdom, care, concern; Thotakar, Visalam chithi, I hope you’re watching; My speaking agent Phil Bildner of the AuthoGK2r Village, amazing author of HIGH FIVE FOR GLEN BURKE among other books; The judges who thought THE BRIDGE HOME worthy of recognition: C. Alexander London, I admire your scintillating plots and characterization, as well as the courage and kindness of your character; Angela Dominguez, my global read aloud sister, stellar inventor of Stella Diaz; Susan Fletcher, fantastic creator of Dragon Kyn. My spouse whom I love with all my soul: I respect your vital scientific research, your humility, your philanthropy, your dedication to reducing our carbon footprint that sometimes drives me batty. My daughter, you are everything to me; you made me a better person; I owe you so much.

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When I moved, all alone, to the States, below champagne sipping age, I wrote, even as I strove to prove myself as the only woman of color in my incoming graduate class. When my debut was released, 12 years ago, we diverse authors then had to fight far harder than now, thanks to the marvelous work done by We Need Diverse Books. There’s a long road ahead, and I’ll continue this battle I’ve been waging; so many other incredible authors before me. Some may remember the New England SCBWI conference celebrating diversity, led by Anna Jordon, where I was on a panel with Floyd Cooper and Bobbie Coombs. Before and after, I fought for diversity. Like my first kite, most attempts crashed. But I kept speaking and writing.

GK3This January, I received a phone call from Lin Oliver, whose Little Poems for Tiny Ears was one of my daughter’s first books. That day, I was too delighted for words. But that night, in joyous delirium, I wrote, just as I’d written through terror and tragedy growing up. Because that’s what writers do. We write. As the immortal Anne Frank said, “I’m grateful to God for giving me this gift, of expressing all that is in me.” It’s this gift that makes us writers. Not wonderful phone calls, honors or awards.

Marvelous as GK4material successes are, grateful as I am for these blessings, wondrous as it is to be with you all today, what makes us writers is what we do before and after unexpected calls. It’s time spent ignoring phones and focusing on pens, years of learning craft at conferences like this, honing skills not just by writing but by reading and re-reading books – purchased first hand, please, because buying a second hand or illegal copy is stealing a fellow-author’s money – coming in nurturing communities like ours here, pouring energy into words when alone.

We believe words have power — to fuel imagination, inspire invention, increase empathy, ignite change. And as people hoping for a better world, striving to create books for young readers, we’re equal. We write and watch our books drift away like kites whose paths we can’t control. And when – I say when because even Jane Yolen says she gets rejections –  when stormy skies rip up our kites, we must hold ourselves together and keep trying to fly, because we never know when the breeze will be just right, and our books shall soar or be gilded by others’ love. Most golden and important of all, perhaps our work will help a young person cross a bridge or rejoice in their homes and selves.

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Above is a photograph of the photograph I just bought (yes, paid for) from a newspaper article on my first school visit this February, thanks to @LibrarianMsG for arranging such a marvelous day and all the incredible students who gave me such wonderful gifts that I will always treasure.

Other notable moments this February – I was honored to see THE BRIDGE HOME included as an ALA Notable Book, ALSC Notable Audiobookt, and a Notable Book for a Global Society (ILA NGBS).

For those who love book giveaways, be on the lookout on twitter this week – I plan to do a giveaway of THE BRIDGE HOME and THE LOVELY WAR by Julie Berry, which won the Golden Kite for YA fiction. For those who love food, remember to use the search term foodie friday on Highlights foundation’s website to discover delectable recipes such as berry pavlova and best vanilla cupcakes (donated by Chef Amanda) paired with COOKING UP STORIES writing prompts from books I’ve enjoyed reading (donated by yours truly) – and there will be new recipe and writing prompt up next Friday, for March.

Finally, as always, leaving me comments on this website is a wee-bit complicated, but here’s how, if you wish – and of course, you can also follow me on twitter (@padmatv), ig / fb (venkatraman.padma). Thanks and have a wonderful whats-left-of-this-winter!

So grateful for the Walters and the Golden Kite Awards…

Didn’t expect I’d be taking a break from writing my next novel to write another post this month, but I realize I need to bubble over with gratitude before I can dive into my revising my next novel this morning. Over the past week, I developed an abiding empathy for champagne bottles under pressure because I heard the wonderful news about the Walters and the Golden Kite, both, last week – but wasn’t allowed to share anything publicly until the announcements were made on Tuesday afternoon. Now I am under no pressure to keep is secret and I wanted to share my immense gratitude to everyone who has loved and supported me and THE BRIDGE HOME. I’ll begin with family. My spouse, for his love and support, for his unwavering belief in my work, for the work he does every day to help our environment and our planet, his quiet commitment to increasing diversity in environmental chemistry & engineering & oceanography, his tremendous and absolute humility and his philanthropic nature, his dedication to reducing our carbon footprint – even though it sometimes drives even me batty! My child, who, among other things, makes these lovely, cute little videos for me – like this one that celebrates the gifts of the two awards I have been so lucky to receive:

There are so many people I want to thank – more than I can possibly mention in my award acceptance speeches. I also realize that I will probably keep revising this post, because my mind is sort of frozen now and I am SURE I can’t remember all the kind souls who helped me along the way, and I ask them to forgive me…

My legendary editor, Nancy Paulsen. My literary agent, Rob Weisbach.

My speaking agent, Phil Bildner (an author, too, whose book HIGH FIVE FOR GLEN BURKE is coming out this year). The three authors who judged the Golden Kite and decided THE BRIDGE HOME was worthy: C. Alexander London, Angela Dominguez, and Susan Fletcher!

As you can see, this is an evolving list! There are so many bookstores and librarians and teachers and educators to thank, but for this post, I’m going to restrict myself to  my author colleagues because the SCBWI award is given by authors:

Peter Johnson, Kathi Appelt, Kathy Erskine, Margarita Engle, Elly Swartz, Kristy Dempsey, Holly Thompson, Brian Lies, Chris Tebbetts, Dan Gemeinhart, Nancy Bo Flood, Janet Wong, Alison Green Myers, Ann Braden, Sally Reilly, Carolyn Coman, Jerry Spinelli, Donna Jo Napoli, Nancy Tupper Ling, Jennifer Jacobsen, Victoria Coe, Carole Vogel, Pam Vaughn, Julia Boyce, Krista Suprenatant ….

And the many authors who worked for diversity before me, because the Walters is given by WNDB:

Jackie Woodson, Mildred Taylor, Christopher Paul Curtis, …

And finally, congratulations to the winner of the Walter for YA @marikotamaki and all the finalists for MG and YA: @hirosemaryhello, @azemezi, @acevedowrites, @leeseray, @jasminewarga; as well as the winners of the Golden Kite in the other 6 categories: @julieberrywrites, @elizabethrusch, @DHeiligman, @HyewonYum @Remy_Lai, & Ashley Benham Yazdani, and all the finalists. So honored to join the  the current and past winners and honorees for the WNDB Walters and the Golden Kite

Building bridges in 2020

 

What a marvelous year 2019 was! Being part of #GRABridge and #GRA19 was one of the highlights of my entire writing career, and it touches me deeply that so many of my readers loved THE BRIDGE HOME and that some were moved enough to build bridges of their own, by taking action to help fight against hunger and homelessness and poverty. Just as important and unimaginably humbling, the lives of a few were changed for the better because they found the strength to move to safer situations after reading #TheBridgeHome. That is a blessing beyond all imagining to me, and makes every sacrifice I made to become a writer more than worthwhile.

I’m also deeply honored that the book is on so many best of year and award lists, in addition to the wonderful early reception. Here’s a video my daughter (and a friend) made for me, reflecting my thankfulness. I am immensely grateful to each and every reader for allowing Rukku, Muthu, Arul and Viji into your hearts. Thank you all for your love of the book, and all you’ve given me.

I’ve been wondering what I could give you in return that would be useful and interesting to you all. Here are 2 things I plan to do:

First, I’ll be posting a “cooking up stories” writing prompt paired with a book and a recipe (provided by Chef Amanda) at the Highlights Foundation’s blog the first Friday of every month. Here’s the first #foodiefriday episode (from last November), and yes, there’s one for December and January, too.

Second, I’ll be reading some of my favorite poetry aloud, so you can listen – and maybe write some poetry  – or do some art – of your own, inspired by the poem. This month, I didn’t record a poem – but I’d like to share an idea for something I’m calling a Bridge Poem. Here’s how you make one: 1. Find a partner. 2. Choose (each of you) a word or phrase from THE BRIDGE HOME (or another book you love) and write it down (using different colored ink) on an index card. 3. Now place these two like you’re starting to build a bridge (in the shape of the beginning of a bridge). 4. Take it in turns to find another word or phrase or line that grows out of one of those words, and place them like bricks that you’re using to build a bridge. (Or, for more of a challenge you can start at either end and try to find a way to come together, so that you build a bridge between the first two words that you chose).  Here’s an example, below that I created with poet Laura Shovan. I began with the word Trembling and she began with I told you, and then we alternated (the words/plrases I chose are in black, her choices are in pink) and together we created a poem in the shape of a bridge. 

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In the future, along with a poem I read aloud, I’ll be doing my best to provide prompts that are will be useful and interesting to readers of all ages – young and not-so-young. And I’ll be posting on this blog once a month, or so.

Thanks again, so much, for staying in touch. Here’s…

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… and finally, for you to enjoy the rest of this year, here’s a recipe for a pot of hot, spicy, chai (tea) from cold New England, where I now live (I posted this on twitter last year, but thought it ought to have a permanent home here)! 

THE BRIDGE HOME – honors and awards

* Nerdy Book Award Winner

* Cybil Awards

* Kirkus Best MG Bks 2019

* NYPL Best 2019

* Chicago Public Library Best Bks 2019

* Booklist Editor’s Choice Best Bks 2019

* Washington Post Best Bks 2019

* Mighty Girl Best Bks 2019

* TX Bluebonnet award nominee

* SLJ Top 10 Audio Bks 2019

* Bklist Editor’s Choice Best Audio 2019

* Jr Library Guild audio selection

* CSMCL Best Bks 2019

* GoodReads Best MG Bks 2019

*Audiophile Magazine Earphone Award

* Washington Post KidPost Summer Reading Selection

* Global Read Aloud, 2019

* ProjectLIT, 2019-20

* Ebony Teach Best Books 2019

* Betsy Bird’s 31 MG titles in SLJ

* Mighty Girl pick

* Today Show

* “a blisteringly beautiful book” – Starred Review, Kirkus

* “absorbing” – Starred Review, Booklist

* “stellar” – Starred Review, SLJ

* “a story that must be shared.” – Starred Review, SLC

*  “exquisitely narrated” – Starred Review, PW

* “moving” – Sound Commentary, Starred Review

* Venkatraman brings love, support and humor to a story undergirded by tough issues” – SLJ audio, Starred Review

* “beautifully rendered” – SF Chronicle

* “gorgeous storytelling” – NYT Book Review

* “will break hearts and inspire activist longings” – BCCB

* “this bittersweet novel is about breaking the cycle of abuse, reaching for your dreams and finding home ” – Horn Book

* “an amazing book” – Newsday

 

 

Week 6 #GRABridge Q&A video #TheBridgeHome

Hi, everyone! Can’t believe it’s the final week of #GRA19! It’s been a privilege to have shared #TheBridgeHome with you and an honor to be part of #GRABridge. I do hope you’ll stay in touch, by filling out the form at the very end of this post (for a chance to win a special thank you from me – and if I can, I will do my best to try and send a little something to every one who fills in the form). If you aren’t already doing so, I’d love for you to follow this blog (click follow on the right hand side of the screen) and staying in touch on social media (click the icons on the right or follow my posts on twitter @padmatv and youtube, fb or ig venkatraman.padma).

I’m sad that this is the last official #GRA19 week because I’ll miss getting those beautiful photographs of readers in classrooms all over the world, but there’s been lots of lovely news this week, which keeps me hopeful and joyful. THE BRIDGE HOME is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2019, a Texas BlueBonnet Award Nominee (speaking of TX, special thanks to Hutchinson School, TX, for your wonderful students who have consistently come up with insightful questions every week), and a Goodreads Choice Award best book of the year nominee! Here’s a link to the Goodreads voting page if you have an account and want to vote: http://bit.ly/32qIAB1

In the coming years, I plan to post a writing-related activity once a month on this blog. As always, if you have a question about my books or writing, click on the title of the post and you’ll be redirected to a screen featuring just this post and if you scroll to the bottom there will be a box in which you can leave the question for me to answer on a monthly basis. I’ve also started a regular guest blog column called COOKING UP STORIES, where I’ll provide a monthly writing prompt (associated with a book for young readers) which will be linked with a recipe provided by Chef Amanda at the Highlights foundation. So if you enjoy writing or reading or food or all three, visit me there the first Friday of every month: click here for the first #FoodieFriday post. I’ll link that on my monthly posts on this blog, too, of course.

Now for this week’s questions. Although I’m in excellent spirits, I’m not in the best of health (I have a sore throat). So some of these questions are answered in writing, although you will see a video as well, below. Sorry it’s not longer – but do please send me your wishes for good health, at least until I’m done with my NCTE/ALAN talks!

Rama, you asked about where I write. Here are some photographs showing places I like to write – the deck, the dock, and my study.

SAGES school, FoxLake, WI, you asked if the book is a letter from Viji to Rukku, and yes, it sort of is. “Sort of” because I find repeated short letters a bit of a trite way to create a book, usually, so that’s why it flows like one long letter. This way you hear Viji speaking to Rukku, just as I heard her voice in my head when I wrote THE BRIDGE HOME. So, yes, Colby Sharp and Matthew Winner and other wonderful librarians have indeed described it as one long letter.

Bettendorf Middle School, you, like many others, asked if I’d write a sequel. I don’t know, but here’s something I am planning to do for sure: in either my next middle grade book or the one that comes after, I will give the characters in THE BRIDGE HOME a cameo appearance, so you get a sense of what happened to them, okay?

Here’s a video with a few questions that came up again this week:

And here’s my call to action, with a few suggestions:

  1. Viji’s challenge. Viji loves books and yearns to go to school. Perhaps you could help other children who want an education (through an organization such as ASHA for education) or spread your love of reading. For example, maybe you could volunteer to spend time helping another child to read, or collect books for a library or school in need (as Books are Wings does in my home state of RI, USA).
  2.  Rukku’s challenge.The little family on the bridge enjoys independence and freedom and feels rich, thanks to Rukku’s bead business and the money that it generates. Maybe you can find a way to fund-raise for a cause you believe in, or collect money for an organization that you find important. Here are some organizations that were doing good work to the best of my knowledge, and I’m listing them because they are secular organizations that in some way connect with my writing and the characters and themes in THE BRIDGE HOME (but if you decide to donate to them or any other organization, please do check on them by conducting your own research as well): The Concerned For Working Children, Sankara Eye Foundation, CRY, Freedom TrustV-excelCommunity Volunteers in Education, Engineers Without Borders, Environmental Energy Study Institute, Global Green Grants Fund, Southern Environmental Law Center, Wild Aid, Wild Net, kiva.
  3. Arul’s challenge. Arul is quiet but strong. Arul keeps his promises and never breaks his word. Think about your behavior and your habits. Make a pledge to change the way you act, in order to help the environment and reduce waste – and keep your pledge.
  4. Muthu’s challenge. Muthu enjoys speaking up. In his honor, maybe you’d like to speak up about something that concerns you, or write an open letter with positive suggestions for solutions to a problem your community faces, or send a letter to the editor of a local newspaper or blog or a senator with specific ideas on how to help change a situation for the better.
  5.  Lalitha’s challenge. Lalitha loves art. Use art to raise awareness of a social justice issue faced by your community or country or the world – or just create art using recycled materials and think of kids like those in THE BRIDGE HOME and send them your best wishes as you work.
  6. THE BRIDGE HOME challenge. Build a bridge with words (or actions), maybe just with a smile or a sentence, and share with me what you said or did.

Those are just some ideas I have – you may have more.

Finally, a HUGE THANK YOU! If you would like a chance to win a little something from me to thank you for reading THE BRIDGE HOME, feel free to fill out this form with your Teacher’s Name, School Name, and Mailing address and you may get something from me in the post. So, I won’t say goodbye. I’ll say stay in touch. I look forward to hearing from you in the weeks and months and years to come.

Week 5 #GRABridge #GRA19 #TheBridgeHome Q & A video

Back home after a marvelous tour for The Bridge Home. So this week, I’m just going to post my video and say thanks again to you all for sharing Viji, Rukku, Muthu and Arul’s feelings and for befriending them and for your empathy. I loved how many people from all over the world told me how much they loved all the characters. I’ll try and post my final GRA Q & A video on Friday (or Sunday) and I’ll be posting a few ideas for ways you could help make the world a better place for kids (and for the adults you will become). As always, if you want to leave me questions, click on this post’s title (or click the title under recent posts on the right) and you’ll be redirected to a new screen featuring just this post alone and if you scroll down, you’ll see a box where you can leave me questions. Please, as before, word your questions carefully so you avoid spoiling the reading experience for others who haven’t yet had the chance to read the story. Many thanks, everyone!

Week 4 #GRABridge Q & A video

Hi everyone. Sorry for the delay this week, and for the confusion. I answered some of these questions on instagram today, but I’m uploading this video as well, and I may edit this post and add another video later with some of the same questions. I did this video the same way as last week, which one of you said sounded much better, so I hope the sound quality is good on this one as well. I wish I could close caption them, but I haven’t been able to figure out how.

Thanks for listening and reading, everyone – and for your excellent questions. Look forward to hearing more from you this week. You have all of Friday to ask questions, as I plan to post the next Q & A video on Sunday (for week 5). I do have an important request. PLEASE AVOID SPOILERS – please phrase your questions in such a way that you don’t give away major plot points – remember that other readers may not have read as much as you have and you don’t want to tell them what happens, because it’s important for each reader to discover the story on their own. Thanks again, Padma

Week 3 Q & A Video #GRA19 #GRABridge

Week 3! I can hardly believe we’re at the halfway mark already! Here are answers to some of your questions:

Now for some of the other questions I received this week.

How did I get the idea for Rukku selling necklaces? (Hutchinson Middle School, TX, USA)

I’ve grown up seeing bead sellers like this beautiful woman in the picture below (which was taken this summer in the city of Chennai or Madras, where I was born). They inspired that part of The Bridge Home.

MakingBeadNecklaces2

Why did I decide that Viji and Rukku would end up living on a bridge? (The Book Cavaliers, NC, USA)

Here’s a photograph, also taken this summer, of the very bridge that inspired that particular setting in the novel. When I was a child, the bridge was already falling into disrepair – but I remember seeing families sheltering on the bridge. Now, it’s been fenced off, so it was harder for me to get a good picture – and it’s also not as easy to live on it right now, but unfortunately, in most Indian cities, people live in places similar to this ruined bridge. Be sure to look at the photographic resource (a pdf file on my website’s resource page for The Bridge Home) – I annotated it, so you will have a better idea of how the pictures are connected to the novel.

GKP_2739

I just received another important question from a school in Lubbock TX about whether I’ve ever been bullied for my religious beliefs. I do want to address it – although this is much too brief a response today – because I have to run off in a moment to attend to some other commitments I have. It’s probably going to come out all jumbled, too – but then, you ought to know that even published and award-winning and acclaimed writers can write pages that aren’t polished or perfect.

Yes, I’ve sometimes met with derision because of my beliefs. The awful truth is that even adults engage in behavior that isn’t exactly admirable sometimes. Religious diversity needs to be celebrated in books and in the world. Part of that diversity is honoring those who are agnostic or atheistic. Arul, to answer another question I was asked, is deeply Christian – because I met children like him and I admire his faith immensely; I also respect, equally, Viji, who has an irreligious philosophy. Just as Arul and Viji respect one another and love each other and remain friends and family despite their very different views, we need to accept one another – whether we hold a certain faith or adhere to no faith at all – and we must respect one another if we hope to create peace as a world. In my books, spirituality always has an important place, because I think when we ignore religious diversity, we do ourselves a disservice. We need to respect one another and accept one another. Here’s an article I wrote about that for Kirkus Reviews that you might find interesting. My novel A TIME TO DANCE is the first novel that looks at a girl’s spiritual awakening through the Hindu lens. And, at the end of the day, I wish we could think of our various religions as lenses through which we attempt to capture something that is beyond us; something that cannot be completely described in words. I haven’t studied every religion in the world, but I believe that compassion and love and service to others are important aspects of all of religions; I also believe that atheists and agnostics can work just as much for peace and believe just as much in goodness and morality as people who are religious. If you are being bullied because of your religious beliefs, find someone you can trust and tell them what is happening. Sharing a problem doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong. You need to stand up for yourself and be compassionate to yourself and take good care of yourself – just as you need to be concerned about others’ needs. Make sure you stay safe, and take steps to protect yourself from bullies – of any and all kinds.

I did hear a great many wonderful questions that I’ve already answered one way or another – so please do have a listen to the videos I’ve been posting (since the week before the global read aloud began, as well as at the end of the first and second weeks). You’ll also find a page on my website with answers to some FAQs that might interest you.

As you can see, I’ve been having a bit of a cough, and that makes it hard for me to repeat myself as well. Do send me your get well wishes, please, everyone…I have a lot of events over the next few months! I’m going to be incredibly busy traveling, especially next week and the week after, which is wonderful – but it also means I’ll have to ask for your patience. I’ll have to try and create a video on Wednesday night next week, because Thursday will be impossible; I could try to squeeze another in on Friday, but I can’t promise that. So if you have questions, please do try and get them in early, alright?

On Monday, October 28th, I’m going to be doing my very best to have a Twitter chat, so that I can answer questions live. It will probably be 2:00-3:00 United States Eastern Daylight Savings Time (and I know that won’t work for everyone, but it’s one of the few times that I can manage it). Please do follow me on Twitter (see the button on the left) if you don’t already, to stay abreast of information on this event – it’s not quite confirmed yet but I am really hoping we can do this, if there’s enough interest (and again, look at my twitter feed for confirmation of date and time). I’ll also be answering questions via YouTube’s livestream (and will announce that on twitter as well).  to

As always, to leave questions on this website: 1. Click on the blog title or click on it on the title beneath “recent posts” (on the right hand side of this screen).  2. You’ll be redirected to a screen with just the post. 3. Scroll down and you’ll see the box where you may leave me your school’s name and location (city/town, state, country) and grade (class level), along with your questions. 4. To return to the “home page” at any time, click Padma, Author and Speaker (top left).

Have you been thinking of ways you might take action to help make the world a place where fewer young people are forced to face the sort of situations that Rukku, Muthu, Arul and Viji faced in THE BRIDGE HOME? I hope very much that in a few weeks, when we’re done with the global read aloud, you’ll spend time on one of the challenges I suggested last week. The project ideas I provided are just suggestions – I’d love to hear of any project you might decide to do that fits in with the themes of the challenges I outlined. Thanks again, so much, for journeying with Muthu, Arul, Rukku and Viji and for choosing to read THE BRIDGE HOME!

Photo credits: An Open Book Foundation for the two photographs in the first row above; Connecticut Head Shots for the portrait (bottom left).

 

Global Read Aloud Video, Week 2 #GRABridge #GRA19

TheBridgeHome_TeacherBadge_Twitter_19I’m so grateful to every teacher and every reader who has the courage and strength to read THE BRIDGE HOME. I hope you’ve all enjoyed laughing with Muthu, Arul, Rukku and Viji this week. I’ve had a wonderful week – it’s been such a joy to see photographs of readers from around the world. It’s also been a rather busy one. So please forgive me if I haven’t answered every question I received. I did try to answer most of them in the video below.

 

Have you made a poster for the #GRABridge contest yet? If you’d like to, there’s still a bit of time. To find out more about this competition, please visit the Global Read Aloud Website.

To leave comments on my website, please, as always:

  1. Click on the blog title (or on the title listed below recent posts to the right of this screen)
  2. You’ll be redirected to a new screen with just the blog post.
  3. Scroll down, and you’ll find a box where you can leave your school name, state, and country.

Finally, here’s something I’d love for all of you to start thinking about. I’m hoping every one of you reading THE BRIDGE HOME might consider doing something for children like Viji, Arul, Rukku and Muthu, after you finish reading the book (which is still a few weeks away). For now, I hope you’ll ponder and consider taking up one of the social justice challenges below:

  1. Viji’s challenge. Viji loves books and yearns to go to school. Perhaps you could help other children who need books or want an education or spread your love of reading. For example, maybe you could help another child to read, or collect books for a library or school in need, or discover a way to help children who want to attend school.
  2. Muthu’s challenge. Muthu is always happy to voice his thoughts. Perhaps you could speak up (respectfully and responsibly) about an issue that moves you strongly. Write an open letter (or a letter to a newspaper or maybe to a senator) about a problem that affects your community (such as hunger) or a challenge the whole world faces, with suggestions on how to create positive change.
  3.  Rukku’s challenge.The little family on the bridge enjoys independence and freedom and feels rich, thanks to Rukku’s bead business and the money that it generates. Maybe you can find a way to fund-raise for a cause you believe in, or collect money for an organization that you find important.
  4. Arul’s challenge. Arul is quiet but strong. Arul keeps his promises and never breaks his word. Think about your behavior and your habits. Make a pledge to change the way you act, in order to help the environment and reduce waste – and keep your pledge.
  5.  Lalitha’s challenge. Lalitha loves art. Use art to raise awareness of a problem faced by your community or country or the world – or just create art using recycled materials and think of kids like those in THE BRIDGE HOME and send them your best wishes as you work.

Those are just some ideas I have – you may have more. I’d love to hear what you decide to do – and you can start these challenges at any time in the next few weeks – or even the week after you finish reading the book. But first, here’s to hearing more from you as you dig deeper into THE BRIDGE HOME.