Parag’s Big Little Book Award (BLBA) and KathaVana – Azim Premji University (APU) have collaborated to rejuvenate contemporary children’s literature in Kannada through writing workshops, translations, and recommended book lists.
BLBA recognizes and honour significant contribution of authors and illustrators to children’s literature in Indian language(s), followed by outreach work in the chosen language for sector enhancement. In 2018, Kannada was chosen as the language and Nagesh Hegde received the award.
Kathavana is an annual children’s literature festival organized to promote reading among children and to expose them to stories in English and Kannada. The festival has book exhibitions, storytelling and story reading sessions, workshops for teachers and librarians, panel discussions on topics of relevance to children’s literature, and many engaging activities.
As a part of the collaboration, a writing workshop in Kannada followed by a 3-month mentorship program was organized for aspiring writers. With the main objectives as:
We invited Vasudhendra (author, publisher, LGBT activist), Thejaswi Shivanand (library educator and an avid reader), and Mini Shrinivasan (educationist and author) as mentors for the workshop who would also be conducting the workshop sessions.
We announced the call for manuscripts in February, in the Kannada Sahitya Sammelana held in Kalaburgi on 5th to 7th February. For selection, applicants were to send an original manuscript written for children 6-14 years, any genre.
The screening process to select participants was twofold– first by a team of three children’s literature experts who selected contemporary and creatively written pieces, and thereafter by the workshop mentors for the final candidates. We received a total of 150 applications, and 9 participants were selected.
The workshop was visualized to be residential. However, due the pandemic we switch to online mode. We looked for ways to adapt and came up with the idea of putting up a digital library with non-downloadable children’s books in English. The mentors suggested a list of good books in Kannada which were sent to the participants before the workshop commenced. While we wanted to expose participants to as many good books as possible we were aware of the challenges that the English books might bring. A conscious effort was made to pick books with very simple text so that they could read and understand easily. Now, even after the workshop, the participants have been regularly reading on the digital library and drawing inspiration for their final manuscript.
The workshop sessions exposed our participants to many foundations of children’s literature along with writing exercises. Though online, all workshop sessions were interactive. Some of the sessions were – what is a good book, role of illustrations in books, themes to write for children. There were also 2 special sessions by guest authors, illustrator and publishers – Anushka Ravishankar and Nagesh Hegde; they spoke about their writing practices and their inspiration for writing. Priya Kuriyan shared her journey as an illustrator and spoke about wordless picture books where the illustrator is also the author. Radhika Menon of Tulika Books and Ramesh Udupa of Navakarnataka presented the publishers’ perspective of their role in the making of a book, the demands of the market and what kind of stories they like to publish.
We are hopeful that writing will emerge out of this collective effort, now and in future. This has been a meaningful beginning to a long journey.