My Journey to Publication – You’re Safe With Me
As many of you know, I’m not a debut writer. My first book was published in 2003 in Singapore and my first picture book was published in 2006 in India. After a four year wait, my first book in the UK came out in 2010, with Walker Books.
I kept writing and submitting – to both publishers and agents and I had no luck. Pretty much everything I sent was rejected and about two times I came very close to being taken on by an agent only for things to change at the last minute.
In 2012, I took a conscious decision to explore children’s publishing in India. It’s a nascent industry in India (find out more here) and I wanted to be published in the country I was born in. I had two specific publishers in mind – Karadi Tales and Tulika.
Long story short, I had 3 manuscripts accepted by these two publishers and Farmer Falgu was on his way to becoming a celebrity by 2013/14.
But still publishing in the UK eluded me.
I was constantly posting news about my Indian successes on social media that brought me to the attention of Janetta OtterBarry of OtterBarry Books. Then she was with Frances Lincoln, where she published diverse stories and poetry to great success. Janetta asked me to write for her new imprint OtterBarry Books and Pattan’s Pumpkin was born.
At the same time, I met with Alice Curry from Lantana Publishing who wanted to publish culturally inclusive picture books. This was the time I was working on a story called Once Upon a Time and I submitted it to her.
Alice liked the story but she said she’d prefer a child protagonist. Especially after their very beautiful debut – Chicken in the Kitchen. And so I went back to writing and soon I was writing A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice for Walker Books.
As luck would have it, my mum calls it fate or destiny, Alice met Poonam Mistry, an illustrator of Indian origin, whose art had impressed her. Poonam’s favourite subject – animals. And so Alice remembered my story and came back for it. By this time, with the help of my wonderful critique group, I had changed the story a bit and the title to You’re Safe With Me.
Alice loved the new title and suggested some structural changes to the story which were very astute and helpful. We then sent off the story to Poonam for illustration after a few iterations. Poonam has done an incredible job in a short time frame. This story was still in manuscript stage last May and its advance copies were available in December last year – that would have taken super-human effort from both Poonam and Alice and I’m incredibly grateful to them for loving my story as much as I do.
As a writer, my biggest takeaway from this experience is – keep writing, keep working on new projects while waiting for responses or for change of luck. It’s not just to create a portfolio which every writer should, but also as a craft practice. The quiet times of not being published is the time to experiment and innovate. As soon as you’re published, the book gets a life of its own and your next books might become a collaborative project that you could discuss with your editor or agent or illustrator.
So while you’re left to your own devices, play!
Chitra Soundar’s picture book You’re Safe With Me (illustrated by Poonam Mistry) will be out in May 2018 with Lantana Publishing. Find out more about Chitra at www.chitrasoundar.com and follow her on Twitter at @csoundar