Today I am pleased to welcome Darshana Khiani to the Tuesday 12 x 12 series.  Darshana is a very active member of the 12 x 12 community and is always one of the first to share knowledge or provide encouragement.  She does fabulous reviews of children’s books, from picture books to middle grade, on her blog Flowering Minds, making it a great resource for writers, parents, teachers and librarians.  Thanks to Darshana for being here today.

I often find myself asking this question: “Am I a Writer or am I just a wannabe?” After all, I have two degrees in Computer Engineering and I help solve issues on multi-million dollar customer accounts.  So why am I doing a 180 degree departure from the left side of the brain to the right? These are the thoughts that often run through my head as I struggle to find the beginning, middle, or end of a story.

The thing is, I LOVE children’s books – especially picture books and middle-grade novels. As many others in our 12 x 12 group, I rediscovered my love for children’s books after I had my own children. About two years ago I decided to try my hand at writing a picture book. Can’t be so hard right? WRONG! Honestly, I didn’t have the faintest clue of where to get an idea.

I did PiBoIdMo in 2010 and, after falling behind, I finished with only seven ideas instead of thirty. After the dismal finish, I switched gears a little and started a blog since I love to recommend books to my friends and family. Four months later, I finally had a first draft of a PB and got myself into a critique group.

Then I attended my first SCBWI conference –  the big one in LA and attended one of their round table critiques. Let’s just say the story got ripped to shreds, or so it felt. I left the conference on the verge of tears, wondering what in the world I was doing. With only one story, which I was clearly told was not a PB, even though it was under 800 words, I stuffed the story in a drawer and didn’t even think about it.

Instead, I focused back on my love of blogging about books, and was fortunate to land a position as a first round judge of Easy Reader/Chapter Books for the Cybil Awards. This was a wonderful experience as I got to meet some great folks (mommy bloggers, librarians, literacy advocates). After a while, I got my groove back and did PiBoIdMo 2011.This time I actually finished, and the best parts were meeting a lot of new writers via the FB page, getting involved with Perfect Picture Book Friday by Susanna Hill, and learning about the 12 x 12 from Julie Hedlund.

By January, I was ready to take a look at the MS that was in the recess of my drawer. I sent it to Rate Your Story expecting to get a 10. After all, I was told it wasn’t a PB. Instead I received a 7 with lots of useful line edits and I was thrilled. I knew what I had to fix. In fact when I now look back at the draft that went to the conference, I agree it sucked. So somewhere in the process of the six months I grew in my writing. That was the best feeling in the world. For that reason, I save every single draft of anything I have ever written.

I recently heard an author say that the path to publication isn’t an upward diagonal line to the right, but rather, a squiggly road. I definitely think I am on some sort of circuitous path. I still love dissecting picture books and critiquing more than coming up with my own stories. However, I am willing to keep trying to write for now. Being in the 12 x 12 certainly helps keep me focused on writing.

I would like to thank everyone in the 12 x 12 group for their wonderful, encouraging spirit and willingness to share information. I am learning so much and, well, probably spending more time on FB than I should. Thank you all. I wish all of you the best on whatever squiggly writing path you are on. Embrace the twists and turns, and ups and downs –  there is something to be learned from every experience. So to answer my question, yes I think I am a writer on my own special journey just as you are on your own special journey.

Darshana Khiani works in high-tech by day and dreams of becoming a published author by night. Her favorite activity is browsing the picture book shelves of her local library searching for the next great story. Check out her book reviews at Flowering Minds, and keep up to date on the latest in the kidlit world by “Liking” her on FaceBook.

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Goals, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , ,

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68 Comments

  1. Lovely interview, Darshana and Julie! I agree…your web site offers lots of great, helpful tips. It must be like day and night going from your intense job to writing in your spare time. I’m glad you’re in the 12×12 with us.

  2. This was a very sweet post by Darshana, I loved hearing her thoughts and learning her experiences. I was so delighted to hear you sent the manuscript to WYS Darshana, good for you. Like you I juggle a full time job of long hours with writing by candlelit….lol.

  3. I love Darshana’s blog and I am so impressed that you do such a high powered left brain job by day and switch to creative mode at night! Wow, you have been involved with the Cybils, that is really cool. To that continued squiggly journey and your future published books!

  4. Lovely post, Darshana! I’m so glad to learn about your two very different lives and the questions you ask yourself — I can relate! Whether you publish a PB or not, you are already contributing to the kidlit world with your stellar blog. You have such a talent for critique and review, and are building an eminently useful resource over there! 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Darshana. It’s encouraging to read about your not-straight-line path…. and your book blog is great. And not just about books, either.

  6. Thanks for sharing your squiggly road. We’re all on it together. Plus, I met several computer engineers who were writing and getting their work published. Perhaps it’s not a departure at all.

    • Really you have met other computer engineers ?!?! I need to learn more about how they do it switching from one side of the brain to the other, and finding time.
      Thanks Stacy, I am glad we are all in it together.

  7. Thanks for sharing your writing journey with us. I found your piece very inspiring. I’m right there with you on the squiggly road. Keep at it and I’m sure we’ll be seeing your name on the front of a lovely picture book one day. I’ll be popping over to your blog next.

  8. Beth Gallagher

    What a great post, Darshana! Thanks for your insight. I too am a technical manager (or was for the 17 years before my children arrived) and LOVE children’s books. I follow your blog and will continue to gather fabulous recommendations and inspiration from it. Thanks!

  9. I feel privileged to have met you that first nervous morning at SCBWI — encountering you and your smile in the hallways throughout the conference never failed to brighten my spirits. Thank you.

    I am so glad you didn’t let that critique experience push away your dream. You have the talent within you, and you’re doing well on that squiggly road to success. Your blog is a gift, not only to your readers, but to yourself, I believe, as I am sure you have learned a great deal from your examination of books. And you are a gift to us in 12×12 — I so appreciate being in the same critique group as you!

    Thank you, Darshana!

    • Wow Beth, you have a lovely way with words. **blushing**. I am so glad we met at orientation. Yes, I do enjoy the blog very much and being able to connect with all of you.

  10. Hi Darshana! I totally agree with you about the journey being a squiggly line. If it weren’t that way, I would never learn to grow as a writer, that’s for sure. My first RYS came back the same as yours and I’m so glad they didn’t sugarcoat anything and grateful for their service. Wonderful post ladies 🙂

  11. Analyzing picture books is one of the best ways to understand how to write a successful PB story. Keep at it, Darshana!

    And yes, the line can be very squiggly, but it’s more fun that way!

  12. Margaret Greanias

    Great post, Darshana and Julie. Darshana, I have been very impressed by your involvement with the writing world and your blog. I don’t know how you are able to balance your work life with your writing life. I can testify that your squiggly path is going up and to the right — your last manuscript was really quite good.

    • Thanks Margaret! I enjoy being in a critique group with you and our involvement in 12×12. I definitely aspire to write as quirky and humorously as you do.

  13. I enjoyed learning more about you Darshana, and I think “Flowering Minds” is a fabulous blog!

    I, too, fell in love with picture books as a result of sharing my childhood favorites with my own children. Then I became mesmerized by the wonderful talent and creativity bursting forth in contemporary PB’s. I am sure that my daughter is 50% funnier because she faithfully ingested her recommended daily allowance of Mo Willems from ages 2-7. How I wonder what our children’s children will be reading about!

    Best wishes to you as we squiggle on our journeys!

    • What our grandkids will be reading about .. yikes! hopefully they will still have hardcover pbs still, but you never know. I am sure the stories will be even more whimsical and crazier than ever. Though I do hope they will be reading the stories of the 12x12ers. 😉

  14. Patricia Nozell

    A lovely post, Darshana & Julie. I love the image of the squiggly road towards becoming a published children’s book writer. So many days it feels as if my road points downwards, away from my goal. Realising that at these times I may just be on the downward swirl of the squiggly brings hope. And Darshana, I never would have guessed that your first attempt was “torn to shreds” as you relate. From the drafts I have had the pleasure to read, it’s clear you have a story, probably many stories, to share!

    • Yes downward appearing spirals are only temporary. It is a joy to be in a critique group with you. Actually you have read the story but it was two revisions later than the one submitted at the conference.

  15. Darshana! So fun to read the backstory to meeting you that morning at SCBWI! Love your blog, love your sparkle, can’t wait to love your books.

  16. Thanks for sharing, Darshana! So proud to be in a crit. group with you and glad to hear Rate Your Story was a good experience for you. I know where to direct my hi-tech questions, now, so watch out! ~Miranda

    • Thanks Miranda! I really enjoy working with you in our critique group as well. You always have such insightful feedback. A BIG thank you for creating RYS. When I don’t know what else needs fixing I can always trust RYS to find something that hasn’t been unearthed yet.

  17. Wonderful post, Darshana! Thanks so much for sharing. And keep up the good work – in your writing and in your blog! 🙂

  18. Darshana, thanks for this beautiful post. If we knew the end from the beginning, the writing path might be more profitable, but perhaps not as interesting. You reminded me to be thankful for the squiggles today. (And I have a degree in civil engineering… I don’t think the left and right brain are as separate as people like to think. Perhaps the technical fields require more data mining, but what you do with that data is just as important as the placement of letters and words on the page. Maybe your technical background is the reason you are such a talented blogger/writer.)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Hannah. Thanks for the perspective about data and placement of words. Will have to ponder that one.

  19. Wonderful interview! Nice to hear more about you Darshana.

  20. Excellent post Darshana! I’m on the squiggle path, for sure. *sigh* I guess we are all. But figuring out picture books by reading the great ones is the best way to learn how to write them. I am sending good luck wishes to you. It sounds to me like you are definitely on the right road. Thanks for having Darshana, Julie! Waves *peace sign*

    • It has been a pleasure to get to know you on the squiggle path. 🙂 Yes sometimes I sleep on the great children’s books hoping osmosis will work its magic. J/K. Actually my 4 year old does this with her “BOB books”, not sure if it is really working though.

  21. Thank you for sharing your writing journey with all of us! Keep it up!

  22. Darshana, I think your “left-brain” thinking could be a great gift to the picture book world. The joy of writing picture books is the ability to look at things in a different way, and you definitely bring that to the table. Best of luck on your journey!

  23. Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

    I am so impressed with all that you have done Darshana In the world of kid lit! You seem to be off to an amazing start! I am so glad to have met you online and really appreciate all of the helpful information you contribute! 🙂

    • Thanks Elizabeth. Me .. you are the one off to an amazing start. It has been wonderful getting to know you through your blog.

  24. Great interview ladies! I have a ‘little engineer’ in the making (16 now, but has professed this dream since he was 9) and I believe that creativity will be a great asset in his future. Would love to hear your thoughts on how the writing has affected your tech work too!

    • Thanks Julie! Hmm writing affecting my tech work. Hadn’t really thought about that, will have to ponder. I know all of Julie Hedlund’s talk about gratitude and the sharing aspect of the kidlit community has permeated into my life in general. In addition I have brought up the issue “lack of gratitude” that exists in our corporate culture and how that needs to change.

  25. I very much enjoyed your post Darshana. I related to your experiences as I have been told numerous times that my ideas are not “Picture Books”. Many of my stories sit collecting dust in a drawer — I am very afraid to pull some of them out!

    Your blog is very good and it was nice to get to know you a little better! Good luck with your manuscripts!

    • Thanks Eric! I’d recommend you pull out some of those stories and take a long again and see if your opinion has changed, maybe you will see a new angle to the story or maybe a story within a story. Who knows what you might find. It has been great getting to know you. Good Luck to you too.

  26. Hi Darshana, I too went through the wringer with my first story, but I never gave up. I reworked it and reworked it until I was finally happy with it. I wish you the best of luck with yours. I know you will do well. You seem to naturally know what’s good. 🙂

    • Thanks Brenda! Yes I am feeling a bit more confident about my writing thanks to all the people like yourself and others in this great group. But I am sure somewhere in the future I will have those pangs of doubt of again. I just keep reminding myself its a squiggly road.

  27. Darshana,
    thanks for the great post and sharing.
    In your line, “I recently heard an author say that the path to publication isn’t an upward diagonal line to the right, but rather, a squiggly road.” you described the exact thing I had begun to realize must be the reality of those of us beginning the journey. Sometimes that squiggly line crosses over itself again! Thanks again, Damon Dean

    • Thanks Damon. Yes the squiggly road has all sorts of twists and turns. Enjoy the ride, for I do believe there is something to be learned from every experience.

  28. Thanks for sharing your story, Darshana…I’m on a squiggly path as well, but, as long as I move forward, I’m happy! Glad to have you with us, and I’ll look forward to visiting you on your website…

  29. Thanks for the introduction Julie! I will check out her blog!

  30. Thank you, Julie, for this great interview! Darshana, I appreciate your sharing your writing experiences…congratulations on the Cheerios book…that is AWESOME! And thank you for mentioning rateyourstory…what a wonderful site. 🙂

  31. Thanks Vivian! Yes RYS is a pretty great service. Cheerios book .. that would be pretty cool someday.

  32. Thanks for sharing Darshana. It’s nice to read about you and your progress. Your growth in this field is definitely noteworthy.

  33. Lovely post, Darshana. I loved reading about the growth you experienced in your writing and the journey you’re on. There’s so much in there to encourage the rest of us! You’re on a great path! Have a great trip.

  34. Darshana-Thank you so much for sharing. I could really relate to many parts of your journey…especially the feeling of having your story ripped to shreds by a critique, and then later realizing it sucked :•) and seeing the growth in your writing. I really enjoyed your post.

    • Thanks Penny! It was so difficult to hear that it wasn’t a pb, when really it just needed a lot of work. But I enjoy looking back to see how far I have come, gives me hope that I can do this.

  35. Rate Your Story, what a scary and awesome concept! Thanks for letting me (us) know about this.

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