Thursday, July 17, 2008

Left of Write - July 17, 2008 - A Report

When I conceptualized and developed the premise for this workshop, I hadn’t the grimmest idea that some of my “students” would be authors with a fan following in their own merit, not to mention monstrous, thick-walled libraries at their service, willing to stock their “books.” Some of the little ones I interacted with in today’s workshop had had their stories chosen for “Young Authors” projects, some even laudable enough to bring in the awards.

Before Doris Lessing came to be well-acclaimed for her work, I humbly admit, I hadn’t as much as heard of her in literary circles. I then read her, was completely mesmerized, and I also read someplace that she didn’t think much of “creative writing programs.”

“I don’t know much about them,” she has said, “but they're not telling the truth if they don't teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.”

Although that is not counsel I’d regard highly to dole out at a workshop such as “Left of Write,” it opened my eyes to a new perspective of looking at the entire process of writing “creatively” for what it’s worth. Writing is hard work. And you do have to give up a great deal in order to become a good one. But what about these eager, ingenuous, innovative minds that were waiting to be harnessed? By enticing the children’s attention to my collaboration with Skipping Stones, I was able to generate some positive energy and the ripple effect from that was going to have to suffice for the interim. Perhaps when the stories spill in, one shall be able to, at the least, substantiate the effect of that positiveness and comprehend the power of having fashioned a basic framework on which rests the import of following a strict regimen.

There was this one particular girl in class - Rhea - who was daring enough to defy convention and proclaim that she liked “realistic fiction.”

“A lot of people wonder what the point of reading fiction is if its realistic,” she wrote, as part of her warm-up exercise (Cues: Group A (eight - 12) write a paragraph on your favorite person/ thing; Group B (13-16) - write a paragraph or two about an incident that made a difference in your life). “And I always say the same thing – I like the fact that the things in these books can actually happen. When I was little, I loved fairy tales. But when I was about seven, or eight, the fact that fairies don’t come to rescue you when a bully is around really bothered me. I told my parents about my concern, and my mom picked out some ‘realistic fiction’ books for me and I fell in love with them. Grumpy teachers who acted as villains so you could be the HERO, came from Frindle…I had first hand experience, and I loved reading…” she continued, concluding rather appositely with, “…I wish now that I could read a book or meet its author…”

Amazing, wouldn’t you say? I found that by endorsing the notion that a small thought, a sudden dream, a secret whisper…could trigger a story, and by breaking the ice in a class filled an eclectic mix of eight-16 year olds with a simple warm-up exercise, I was able to elicit some rather compos mentis reflections from these children. Some wrote at length about the intrinsic worth of being able to discern the wit in sarcasm, which makes it a rare quality in someone they admire, and some others about junk food, saints, brothers, dads, colors, and even unfortunate accidents.

From a motley of responses, mixed reactions, anticipation, to a feeling of triumph, a sense of pride, a fair idea of what should ensue, and then, until the stories pour in, the restiveness of waiting…what I felt and continue to experience is heavy. So many sensations, each folding into another…to say the least…I am truly overwhelmed.

I’d like to extend a warm thank you to Mr. Dheerendra, Mrs. Sharada Venkataraman, Mr. Rao, the children, Mr. Arun Toke, and last, but not least - my wonderful hubby, and baby D for making this happen. More workshops are in the offing, details anon…for now, here’s to looking at the world of contemporary, multicultural children’s literature from the more popular, more significant, LEFT side…here’s to being on the Left of Write!

Note to self: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is def worth talking about in forthcoming workshops. Not only is it a fun read, but it also ricochets Lessing’s ideology - writing is hard work; writing everyday in a diary, even so. But it doesn’t hurt when it becomes all the rage and every kid in town is scrambling to grab a copy. Yes, big kids included :)

Monday, July 7, 2008


To schedule a Left of Write workshop near you, or to collaborate with me on a project, please send me an email or leave me a note.

I am usually prompt with my responses, but when the going gets tough, especially with playing the SuperMommy part, things do fall through the cracks on occasion. Feel free to hound me with messages, should that happen, and I will spring back in action right away :)

Contest Promotion

FunHonee is proud to promote Skipping Stones's Twenty is a Charm contest for students. For more information, please visit Skipping Stones.

And please get the buzz around!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On the Road...!

Left of Write is hitting the road running with its first workshop schedule this summer, and is proud to be a part of the Summer Youth Camp at the Balaji Temple of Greater Chicago, in Aurora, IL. For more information, shoot me an e-mail at and I will be happy to answer your questions.

Arun Toke of Skipping Stones is collaborating with me on a special incentive. He has kindly agreed to review the products of the workshop for possible publishing in his highly acclaimed magazine. “Skipping Stones” is an award-winning children’s resource in multicultural education.

Watch this space for new announcements and schedules!

Left of Write

FunHonee is proud to present Left of Write - creative writing workshops for children in America that aim to foster a healthy awareness on writing as a career by breaking ethnological barriers, and to enable these little voices to be heard loud and clear amid the din of budding multicultural talent the world over.

Left of Write - Snapshots

Stories, where do they start?

Perhaps at the beginning where something was lost, or found!

Stories, where do they end?
In a place that was never discovered, or a nook exclusive to us!

What’s the lure of a story?

It could be a secret that was never told or a tale that must be shared a thousand times over.

Who should be the teller?
A voice from within me, or someone I met ages ago.

Who can join us on this adventure, spinning the wheel of tales?
People from all around - such as the next-door neighbor or the street vagabond, friends or a smart dog, our parents or an uncle almost unheard of, the stranger spotted in the schoolyard, or the girl who helped us all!

What could our stories be about?

About this and that - like issues that bother us or humor that paints our walls, about the mundane or the gross, the puzzles that disturb us or a family lore, about the lack of adventure or the pursuit of a dream, about absolutely anything that is interesting and must be told.

The Workshop:

1) Getting started - giving form and meaning to ideas, emotions, personal experiences, “cultural/ regional” words that resonate with you, your family and friends.
2) Beginning, Middle, End - Outline, Theme, Plot, Problems, Solutions.
3) Dialogues, appearance, disposition - of characters.
4) Solidifying, fine-tuning.

Left of Write invites children (ages five - fifteen) to contribute tales of imagination or anecdotes from real life using some basic support to help put their ideas down on paper.

About Me

I'm a communications professional with over nine years of rich experience writing and editing copy, web content, children’s stories, journalistic features, producing innovative ad campaigns, managing client relationships, and reinforcing media relations activities, in the traditional and online media, advertising, and not-for-profit markets.

In my writing career, I have covered a range of topics over the years, from culture, and children’s literature, to current affairs, and my newfound passions are humor, and expatriate life. Several of my writings can be read in Deccan Herald (a Bangalore newsdaily), The Hindu (India’s national newspaper), and my on-going column, “Chicago Blues,” in the North American edition of the Indian Express.

When I'm not writing my columns, or taking up new freelance projects, I am playing with my toddler, dabbling in arts, experimenting with bakes, and looking for new stories. I have a children’s book in the making and am looking eagerly forward to its receptiveness in the SouthAsian-American readership.

Welcome to FunHonee!

The Buzz

In a world where Potter Mania rules the roost, and the ancient art of story telling is deliberately folded into the depths of standardized categories - ancient folklore, or mythology - children across borders are left with little to no choice to make a connect with their rich ethnological heritage. While contemporary literature is slowly and steadily snaking its way through the din of multiculturalism, there are many voices that go unheard, either for the sheer lack of hegemony, support, or conduits; or for the simple reason that many of these writings are typically formulated to ape the much-hyped Western fantasy-fiction genre, or a little too goody or sterilized for the real-world thirst of these young minds.

That’s where we come in. FunHonee is a literary and creative initiative for children that hopes to break multicultural barriers. While we’re still taking our baby steps, and exploring parts of the United States in our current endeavors, we hope to make this a global drive as we move on.

This initiative has primarily been established with the idea to encourage children to bond across borders and build sensitivity and awareness by sharing literature from all over the world, reviewing multicultural stories that they enjoyed and can relate to, and writing effectively from within the precincts of their culture.

Special thanks to:

Shalini Pattabiraman, of Learning Initiatives, and The Talking Gallery, for her invaluable counsel and support in conceptualizing this initiative.

Arun Toke, of Skipping Stones, for his cordial approbation of FunHonee's programs.