1) How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you
have learned from being in SCBWI?
I have been a member of SCBWI since 2000.
2) What genres do you write in?
Picture book and Middle Grade are my two genres, as well as the educational market.
3) What is your writing process like?
I teach full time, so I have to carve out moments to write. I have tried a schedule and a routine, but over the years, I have learned to be kind to myself. This means I make writing a priority and it can look different every day.
Sometimes I write before school or in the evening.
Sometimes I research and read books about the craft of writing.
Sometimes I go on “artist dates” to the library, art gallery, bookshops, or park.
Sometimes I PLAY and recharge my creativity.
Sometimes I draw my characters, create maps of my worlds, or plan and plot my stories
Sometimes I read for fun.
The key is I devote a little time every day to my writing world.
4) How long have you been writing? How did you first get into writing for children?
I consider myself a life-longer writer. From a young age I kept journals and crafted stories. My push to write books emerged from the lack of diverse books available to my
first and second grade students and their lack of awareness and understanding of cultures different from their own. This pushed me to write emergent readers for BeBop Books (Lee and Low). While the stories were intended to provide instruction in reading, the illustrations opened up a new world to my students.
5) Did you go to school for writing or take classes?
After joining SCBWI, I attended conferences through the SOCAL and San Diego regions, which I credit for helping me feel a part of a community. Then I started taking online classes and today, I still take classes, because learning never stops.
6) Do you have a dedicated writing space?
I write where my mood takes me…
-In an office space from a converted wardrobe.
-In the garden under the sunshine or drumming of rain
-At the dining table, where I am close to fridge for snacks needed during contemplation
7) What would be your dream book to write and get published?
I would love to write a fantasy series similar to Magyk by Angie Sage, but inspired by my South Asian background.
8) Are you working on any fun projects now?
I have a few projects right now... A MG fantasy book (Yes, I am working on that dream book) and a picture book set in Nairobi.
9) Do you illustrate as well or have any plans to do so?
My daughter is the artist in the family and I often ask her to sketch my characters when I am crafting a new story. It helps my creative process to see my character.
10) Any tips for writers that are starting out?
Find a community of writers to support you on your writing journey. SCBWI has many regional areas where you can connect with other writers and join critique groups.
Most importantly-have FUN and remember to celebrate the small steps. Those little accomplishments that often get overlooked along the way. It is fine to keep your eye on the big picture—the published book—but don’t lose sight of the journey.
11) Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?
I count myself luck to be represented by Andrea Cascardi from TransAtlantic Agency. Our collaboration came about after my debut MG book sale was announced in
Publishers Weekly. I wasn’t represented when that manuscript was acquired and Andrea reached out to me. After several conversations, she offered representation and I was thrilled to accept.
12) Have you won any writer awards?
Orange For the Sunsets was awarded the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young Readers by the Canadian Book Counsel. The first fifteen pages of an
early draft of the same story was award an SCBWI WIP grant. That grant was motivating and gave me the boost to continue writing and revising despite the story being rejected many times.
13) List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself.
My first language was Swahili.
I kept all 30 paper copy rejections for my debut MG book. (Yes, back when I was sending Orange for The Sunsets out on unsolicited submission, it was done
through the regular post and the responses were mailed back) I received some really lovely rejections and I followed the careers of those editors as they advanced in the field of publishing.
After winning the award for my MG book, I had the pleasure of being on the reading jury to help select the recipient of the award for the next year.
My comfort foods include a hot chapatti, fresh from the frying pan, and slathered in butter. A cup of tea served with a hot scone and clotted cream. Or a slice of crusty bread fresh from my oven.
I love promoting picture books and hi-light writers on my IG account- https://www.instagram.com/tinaplansandplots/ Reach out if interested.
14) Where can people find you?
Instagram accounts: https://www.instagram.com/tinaplansandplots/
Newsletter: A Meandering Mind: https://www.tinaathaide.com/blog/a-meandering-mind