Sandhya Acharya is a children's book author and writer based in Santa Clara, California. Her book, 10 Gulab Jamuns, has been reviewed by Publishers Weekly. Booklist Online, Asian and Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), Mid-west Book Review, among others, and was also selected as part of the curriculum at Children's Literacy Initiative (CLI), a U.S Department of Education grantee. Her articles and short stories have featured in Washington Post, NPR(KQED), India Currents, Peacock Journal, Lost Balloon, and Aaduna. When she is not writing, she is busy training for marathons, learning a form of Indian classical dance, volunteering, and enjoying the childhood of her young sons. She blogs regularly at www.sandhyaacharya.com.
10 Gulab Jamuns is such a ‘sweet’ book about two mischievous brothers discovering how delicious their mother’s gulab jamuns are while also learning how to count. It’s a book I wish I had growing up! What inspired you to write this story?
10 Gulab Jamuns was inspired by a true story. In my book, two young kids can't keep away from gulab jamuns and devour them before the guests arrive. In reality, it was me as a kid who stole the gulab jamuns. I just blamed it on the characters inspired by my sons in the story! The story of me stealing my mom's gulab jamuns was something she never tired of telling me, so yeah, it was stuck in me somewhere and when I decided to write a story this is what came out!
I also believe we need stories of all cultures in our world. We come from such diverse backgrounds in this country, it is a beautiful thing to share. Finally, I wanted my kids to have books that showed characters that looked like them, ate foods like them, and had names like them.
Sandhya, you worked in corporate finance for many years, what made you pursue writing and leave that world behind?
I have always loved to write - mostly for myself. Though I enjoyed my professional life in finance, it was a matter of time before I turned to writing and sharing it with the world. I just decided to give myself the permission to give it more structure now, learn and grow as a writer and live my dreams. I owed it to myself.
I love the way my kid holds and feels a book, reading and re-reading it when he loves the story.
I read your wonderful article We Will Love Again about the pandemic and its effect on young children. How do you see the aftermath of the current situation on young minds? How can picture books play a role?
I am so glad you bring this up. It has been so interesting to see how kids are coping with the changes the pandemic has brought about. I have to say, I think kids are coping much better than a lot of adults! I believe we have to understand that the lessons our kids have learned may not have come from textbooks and worksheets this year, it is deeper, richer, and will teach them more about life than anything else. They have learned about empathy, doing things for others, patience, family. These are values that will be with them for a long time. Picture books are a great source of comfort in my family. They bring wonder into the child's life and are able to talk about values in a way that is relatable to kids. I love the way my kid holds and feels a book, reading and re-reading it when he loves the story. In fact, a lot of times, I find picture books fascinating, deep, and profound. Picture books are more than just for the kids - they are humor, soul, poetry, art and so much more.
Are there any discussion questions, curriculum, videos, or other materials that would help readers engage with your picture books?
I would encourage readers to find me on social media and subscribe to my blog. I post videos, curriculum pointers, upcoming readings and events, and other writing. And I love to engage with my community.
What do you find to be the most difficult part of creating children’s books today and what is the most rewarding?
The most difficult part is probably figuring out the logistics of it - the distribution element (since my book is independently published) and also reaching out to the world to let them know you have a great product. It is a skill I am still learning. And of course, figuring out how to make a living financially as a writer is hard.
The most rewarding - I have to say I love every aspect of it even the difficult ones. I love coming up with an idea, writing the first draft, revising it and seeing it take shape, sharing it with critique partners, and making it stronger. I love seeing the story come to life with illustrations and finally in a book. And even though marketing it is hard, it has enabled me to connect with my readers and be creative with other content. I don't feel like I am doing a job when I am writing or doing any aspect of bringing my writing to life. It is exciting and joyful. And that, I think, is its biggest reward.
Are you working on anything now?
I am working on several manuscripts that I hope to bring out soon.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I used to love reading Amar Chitra Katha, a graphic novel series based on Indian mythology stories, and Enid Blyton books.
And last, can you share your gulab jamun recipe with us?
My gulab jamuns recipe is often to drive out to the closest Indian/South Asian grocery store and buy a can or box of it! Or of course, ask my Mom to make it when I visit. I wish I could cook like I write. But thankfully, there is a recipe in the book by a talented blogger and food recipe developer Hetal Vasavada and that should give you the same sumptuous gulab jamuns as in my story.
Idu (Ee-doo) and Adu (Aa-doo) are very excited. Guests are coming over for dinner and their Mamma has already cooked a lot. Next, she is cooking Gulab jamuns, but Idu and Adu don't know what Gulab jamuns are. Before long, they discover just how good these wonderful golden, sugary syrup-soaked balls are and how quickly they melt in their mouths. But Mamma has only made 10 Gulab jamuns. Will they last until their guests come?--Back cover