Sarah Rose, the 9-year-old co-author of A Very Naughty Dragon on what motivates her to write.

`Whoosh’ a door in my head opens and spills out characters, people, names, places, words which end up coming to the edge of my lips and the tips of my fingers, by falling, tumbling, rolling down as if you are falling down a waterfall. And when I feel emotions staying inside like water stored in a bottle or when my emotions flood inside me like water flooding a city, that water (my emotions) get to my hands and that water flows out, just flows out, goes onto paper and pen, finally the flooding stopped, no more water in the city! Yay! All the water ( my emotions) are out and nobody got hurt.

Sometimes the memory door in my head gets too full, but if I say it all out or write it all down, the door will start to have some space for the other memories to come in and start partying!

I earlier picked up a book, I found that it was a book of facts. I wanted to make some kind of story. So I turned the book up-side down, all the words changed direction and meaning too! The fact about Komodo Dragons can’t climb trees, only babies, turned into, only adults climb trees, not babies. Looks like I just turned fact into fiction! Where fact is no more fact, but turned around to become fiction. The next day I took a notebook to a lecture and a field trip to take down my notes because I sometimes forget what I saw and what I heard at the lecture. Sometimes the memory door in my head gets too full, but if I say it all out or write it all down, the door will start to have some space for the other memories to come in and start partying! And while they are partying, they slowly started to trickle down to my hands to write and my lips to say. You see because they get into the door and when they trickle down to my lips and hands I get to remember what I saw and heard. Now I can reflect and write on my field trip. This is the impact that writing gives me.

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Paro Anand, co-author of A Very Naughty Dragon on her writing journey.

I fell into the rabbit hole of writing quite like Alice. I was bored, thought my life was too dull and would spice it up by telling all kinds of fantastical tales. Once, when asked what pets we had, I told the class that I had a pet monkey instead of the ancient dog we actually had. Impressed, the teacher asked me to tell the class more. Without hesitation, I rolled off facts about this fictitious monkey, holding my classmates in enthral. While I was rattling off monkey facts, in my head I’m thinking, “Wow, Paro you’re so good at this.” My fame spread as the girl who had a monkey. Until it, all went south when the principal asked me to bring the monkey to school. The imaginary monkey died a tragic death! And I realized that this was my core talent.

 Paro Anand Sarah Rose
A Very Naughty Dragon by Paro Anand and Sarah Rose

So, I started off spinning yarns and telling lies in the form of stories. As with many writers back then, I too relied on some of our ancient treasure of stories. But then, I started teaching drama and found there were no contemporary stories that represented our own lives and kids. So that’s how I began writing original content.

I did feel, though that my work and words were not reaching my intended audience. It was disheartening. But I got the chance of working with young people who were in very difficult circumstances. Whether they were special needs children, very disadvantaged, tribal children, those in reform homes or those impacted by violence and conflict whether in their own homes or the political scenarios into which they were born. These were also children who had no platform to talk about their own hopes and dreams or challenges. I knew these were the stories that I wanted to write.

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So I turned to reality fiction, mostly that which deals with the kind of challenges that young people face in their lives. Their crises and how they may find ways to deal with them. I found that these stories provided a safe space to talk about issues that they were confronted with, things that they were dealing with in the best ways they could. For example, after hearing a story about domestic violence, my audience often talks about their own difficult circumstances. Often, it is the first time that they can talk about this with an adult. And we try and come up with ways of dealing with it through open-hearted discussion. Had the topic come up, most likely, none of them would have been willing to admit their personal experience of this taboo topic. Stories and the characters in them create an awareness and an empathy that goes far beyond just an enjoyable read.

Young people are exposed to a plethora of information and they need a safe, sensible way to be able to understand.

I started a program Literature in Action that engages young people in issue-based stories and discussion. Often, children themselves demand that I write books on certain topics and I will try and get that done. So my stories on religion-based hatred, non-binary gender, sexual assault have all come out of young people expressing that they needed these stories. Sometimes, people want their stories told and feel incapable of writing and reaching audiences themselves. My Kashmir stories are inspired by children I have worked with in the Valley. My forthcoming book, Nomads Land comes from a Kashmiri Pandit girl who asked, “But what about my story?”

Also Read: Why I Write: To Begin A Conversation And Finish What Was Left Unsaid

Because of the subjects I write on, sometimes my books become banned out of some schools. But I think that happens because parents don’t know how they will handle the ensuing questions and discussions and lean on the school to take it out of school reading. But this is very short-sighted in my opinion. Because young people are exposed to a plethora of information and they need a safe, sensible way to be able to understand.

Does this mean that I only write gloom and doom? Not at all, there are joyful books like A Very Naughty Dragon that, while being fun, also create an atmosphere of greater understanding and empathy.

So, from starting out being an expert liar, I have become, what one journalist described, “A writer who dares to tell the truth.”

Sarah Rose: Sarah Rose is 9 years old and this her first ever book. She loves Komodo dragons and reptiles. She loves almost all scary, dangerous, scaly, toothy, poisonous animals. She is athletic and she loves playing squash. In her spare time, she reads, sings and sometimes even bakes!

Paro Anand: Sahitya Akademi award winner for Children’s Literature, Paro Anand is a writer and works extensively with children, especially those in difficult circumstances through her programme, “Literature in Action”.

The views expressed are the authors’ own.

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