“I’m happy being a writer-editor-bookclubber-bookshopper and everything else in between!” Says Vidya Mani

After a long chase, Hippocampus finally pinned Vidya Mani to do an interview with us. Enjoy her witty responses and expert advice.

When was the first time you, as an adult, discovered a love for children’s literature?
I used to work for a review magazine many years ago. The magazine reviewed books for adults and children and I found myself pretty interested in the reviews of children’s books. I think that sparked off an interest in children’s literature. Subsequently, three of us friends got together and started off a children’s magazine called Chatterbox and life became children’s literature. Now, fifteen years later, I still love it and cannot live without it.

You edit, write, plan events with Bookalore, run a travelling bookshop and also conduct workshops for children. How did this evolution of Vidya Mani happen? Which do you enjoy doing most and why?
Oh gosh, people usually ask these evolution type questions when something is on the verge of or has become extinct! That said, most of the things I do are all linked to children’s books, be it writing them, editing them, doing events around them, selling them and managing a site that reviews them. As you can see, that’s a complete circle, isn’t it?

I absolutely enjoy working with new ideas, so writing and editing would top my list, but I think I really like juggling many hats, so I’m happy being a writer-editor-bookclubber-bookshopper and everything else in between!

Do you remember the first person who read a book to you? Would you like to tell us a little about that experience?

Mum’s the word! I can’t remember that experience specifically because I must have been a baby, but I know my mum filled every room in our house with books. My parents read to me, told me stories, took me to libraries and bookshops, so books were never out of reach. That’s all it usually takes to become a reader for life.

Tell us about a book that you enjoyed as a child and that you revisit even today.
The Just William books by Richmal Crompton were and are absolute favourites. I read them voraciously as a child and find myself reading them as pleasurably again with my nephews now. I grew up in Calcutta, so had I heard the entertaining story of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne and also seen the movie. That’s a children’s book I enjoyed reading very much recently.

What are three effective ways in which schools can promote reading for joy?
– By allowing children to read for fun
– By introducing children to every kind of book that can be read for fun
– By just letting children be around books for fun

Which 5 books -according to you – should every school library own?
Annual Haircut Day by Noni (Pratham)
Tiger on a Tree by Anushka Ravishankar (Tara)
The Why-Why Girl by Mahashweta Devi (Tulika)
Tigers for Dinner by Ruskin Bond (Red Turtle)
Survival Tips for Lunatics by Shandana Minhas (Hachette)

If you could become any book character for a day, who would you choose to be?
Moyna from The Why-Why Girl – but don’t ask me why!

Vidya Mani is a children’s writer and editor, who wears many hats. She runs a content and design studio called Melting Pot that creates children’s books and magazines for publishers and NGOs. She is one of the founder-members of Bookalore, a Bangalore-based children’s book club. She along with a friend runs a travelling bookshop called Funky Rainbow that stocks and sells a curated collection of Indian children’s books at events. She is also the managing editor of the children’s book review site, Goodbooks.

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