Far From the Madding Crowd

The official blog of Dogears Etc., CinnamonTeal Publishing and fivex5

How I began writing

In April 2011, CinnamonTeal published Shruti Swaminathan, who was then and still is the youngest author we have published. Impressed by her command over the English language at such a young age, we asked her to tell us what inspires her to write. Here is her story.

I began writing at the age of six. It all started off like this.

When I had begun to read, at the age of four, I used to read small storybooks. When I could not pronounce a word in that book, I would completely lose interest in the book and keep it away. My mother saw this and then started rewriting all the fairy tales and Jataka Tales in simple language on the laptop with matching images on every page. I used to read them at first with my mother and then by myself. That’s how, today, I can read very well.

Soon, I started helping her in looking for suitable pictures for more fairy tales, on the Internet. I would also suggest sentences for the stories. I used to enjoy that a lot.

I shifted to Chennai from Mumbai when I was six years old. I started living in Madhuban Apartments. In the same apartments lived another boy – seven months older than myself. We made friends with each other and started making up plays. We enjoyed acting out our own plays and actually, it was quite a lot of fun. These plays were written down in a thick-bound diary by me in the form of prose and not drama.

My parents discovered my talent and encouraged me to type out my stories on the laptop. Since then, I have been writing many, many stories.

I’ve got a collection of hundred and more – but, there are some which have no ending, some which I have not even begun yet!! I am at the laptop for an hour everyday – even during exam-time!! I manage to type something everyday except if I have ‘writer’s block’.

I love to read and re-read books. My book-reading habit started off with Enid Blyton, went on to Charles Dickens, Ruskin Bond, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, RK Laxman and JK Rowling. My favourite personality is Anne Frank and I have read her diary (unabridged version).

I never knew I had a talent when I was six years old. Actually, I came to know of it only when I was in Class Three. And now, I’m quite proud of it. It’s quite special to me – it’s a completely different line.

I sometimes draw my inspiration from real life incidents and experiences. When I was traveling by air to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, I looked out of the window and saw the clouds and that inspired me to write a story on Fairyland. When I read about Libya and the protests against Gathafi (Gaddafi), I wrote a school story involving my toy-dog, Timmy.

My first book called ‘Straight from a Child’s Heart’ was published by CinnamonTeal Publishers, Margao Goa in April 2011 on my tenth birthday. My parents are planning the second book for this year, again with CinnamonTeal.

Before I dash off my signature below this article, I’d like to say something to all the young writers like me: Remember, writing stories is not a crime. You can always make it your career with something side-by-side, like being an English Literature Professor. Writing stories is a completely different line – so consider it special and never lose an opportunity to write!

Shruti Swaminathan

Her parents say…

She writes on a variety of topics – school stories, her father’s childhood memories, mystery stories, apartment stories and anything that kindles her imagination.

She continues to read voraciously. Her favourite books and authors include The Malgudi Days, Ruskin Bond, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Diary of Anne Frank, David Copperfield and The Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Sometimes, her writings display a combination of imagination and real-life incidents, experiences and news events, for example, the recent strife in Libya. This is, in great measure, due to her habit of poring over the newspaper before leaving for school and watching the news channel with us in the evening. Her interest in reading makes her literally pore over any printed matter. This has improved not only her vocabulary but also her levels of general awareness. Even her father’s office magazine is gone through thoroughly and scanned for interesting information.

We now find that her reading habits have helped her in her academic performance also. She doesn’t have to prepare for creative writing exercises in school (paragraphs, letters or articles) – her reading gives her sufficient material to write on any topic. Since her comfort levels with English are fairly high, it has helped her to move away from rote-learning, to understanding the subject and writing the answers in her own words.

Her writing skills have helped her to gain recognition in school and she is invited to contribute stories for the Annual Magazine and participate in story-writing contests.

The only area where we can take credit as parents is being always available as ready-for-reference dictionaries and encyclopedias for her. We have also actively encouraged her to read story books and not viewed it as a distraction. As a result, Shruti has had many teachers guiding her and helping hone her vocabulary and writing skills – at home, at school and authors such as Enid Blyton, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan, to name a few.

A good command of the language has also had a positive impact on her levels of self-confidence and she is comfortable interacting with adults, both in the spoken and written form. Queenie Rodrigues, of CinnamonTeal, herself has been at the receiving end – Shruti sends e-mails to her very willingly even though she has never met her.

I, as a parent, have realised the immense potential of reading, having seen the tremendous progress that Shruti has made in six years. I believe that inculcating reading skills among children, an area neglected in most schools today, holds the key to an enriching education and would make our children a lot more successful than they are today.

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