HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8My Writing and Reading Life: Veera Hiranandani, Author of The Night Diary
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My Writing and Reading Life: Veera Hiranandani, Author of The Night Diary

The Children’s Book Review | February 7, 2018

Veera Hiranandani earned her MFA in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of The Whole Story of Half a Girl, which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asian Book Award Finalist. A former book editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and Writopia Lab.

I write because …

I’ve had a mysterious drive to do so for as long as I can remember. I guess it’s been my way to understand myself and the world. I was shy growing up and sometimes felt left out from the social center, so creating stories felt empowering. I have always loved to make things: stories, art, crafts, and food. When I was a kid, it didn’t matter if what I made was good. I’d write a poem or a story, paint a picture, make a cake, and step back. I made that, I would say to myself, and feel satisfied. I think we all have a desire to say I am here in whatever way we can. The fact that the work might have been bad or good (trust me, a lot more bad than good) was secondary when I was young. Now, more self-doubt creeps in, but I still have that private satisfaction when I finish a project.

I read because …

… it keeps me from being lonely. I believe that’s the first reason why I fell in love with books. I don’t usually feel lonely now in my life and I’m lucky. In fact, I’m often trying to find more time to be alone! But loneliness isn’t solved just by being around people. We can feel lonely in a large group of people and completely connected when we are alone. I think it has to do with carrying around a general feeling of being seen and heard. That’s why diverse voices are so important. If more people, especially young people, feel seen and heard in the books they read, it’s a tremendously validating experience. But I also read to learn everything I can about writing. I love that there is an endless amount I can learn and explore. I find comfort in that.

My latest published book …

… is The Night Diary (March 6, 2018, Dial)

I wrote this book because …

I needed to. It was a story I had inside me for a while, in different variations. My father grew up in India and experienced the Partition of India in 1947, when India divided into two countries, India and Pakistan. This happened at the same time India became independent from the British Empire. My father and his family lost their home, their community, and had to start over as refugees. The country he was born in became another country overnight. It’s hard to imagine which is why I wanted to try. The events surrounding Partition is staggering in its scope, its violence, its bravery, its sadness. It was supposed to be a triumphant time for the country and instead became a nightmare which still affects both India and Pakistan today. I read about the history, talked to my father, and thought about it for many years before I felt like I could approach it. Finally, one day, I opened up my laptop and starting writing.

Best moment …

Best moment in writing or in life? In writing there are so many ups and downs, but I certainly enjoy the release day of a book. It’s a relief in a way. It takes a long time to write and publish a book, and part of me wonders if it’s really going to happen up until the last minute. Another great moment is when I hear the first positive reaction from a young reader. That’s what makes the book real. I tend to hear from adults in the beginning, my editor, reviewers, my friends, my family. So the first time I get positive feedback from a young reader when the book has finally reached its intended audience, the communication cycle from writer to reader has been accomplished. It’s like crossing a finish line of a marathon. In life, my best moment times two, would be my kids being born.

My special place to write is …

My attic office. It’s on the third floor and looks over the tops of many trees. In the winter, I can see the Hudson River. I have lots of piles of books around and an easel that I wish I used more. I also have a wicker desk chair from Pier 1 that I bought for $50 when I lived in Manhattan eighteen years ago. I couldn’t fit it in a cab, so I carried it upside down on my head for ten blocks to my apartment. When you have an experience like that, you keep the chair forever.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

Other than coffee? Is there a necessary writing tool other than coffee? Sometime I play music to create a certain atmosphere I’m looking for. Did I mention coffee?

The person who has been my greatest writing teacher or inspiration …

… is probably every author of every book I’ve enjoyed. But years ago, I had a tremendously insightful and generous teacher in my graduate program at Sarah Lawrence College named Lucy Rosenthal. She balanced honest feedback with encouragement so well. Thanks, Lucy.

Currently reading …

I just started Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly. I wanted to read some of her older work. Two other books I’ve read most recently are Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. They both blew my mind in different ways.

Favorite bookshop …

So many. There’s nothing I like better than a cozy bookshop. I’ve had a few book events at The Voracious Reader in Larchmont, NY, one of the best shops dedicated to children’s books I’ve found. I also enjoy my hometown’s Galapagos Books. I love Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY. And I’ve also been lucky enough to visit the wonderful Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Martha’s Vineyard a few times.

All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t write …

Also, so many, I can’t choose one. I greatly admire economy in writing. Maybe it’s because I’m an impatient person, but when I read a book that works well in a small space, I know how hard that is to do. The Giver by Lois Lowry is one of my favorite examples of that. I’ve read it a few times and it always delivers.

Favorite illustrator …

I was recently at a book fair with Caldecott winner, Ed Young. During some quiet time at the fair, I had the honor to chat with him. He went through many of his books and talked about his process. I was in awe. I love his mix of paint and collage and how his work can be both specific and abstract at the same time. He’s also a lovely person.

A literary character I would like to vacation with …

This is hard. Does Snoopy count? I was a huge Peanuts fan when I was a kid and Snoopy was always trying new things, using his imagination, finding the humor in everything, and not worrying about what anyone thought. That’s good vacation mode. That’s good life mode. He was also trying to write a great novel, so there’s that.

When I am not reading or writing …

I’m spending time with my husband and kids, curling up with my cat, or cooking (and cleaning up!). I paint or draw occasionally. And sometimes you might find me staring out the window, day-dreaming, one of my favorite hobbies.

The-Night-DiaryThe Night Diary

Written by Veera Hiranandani

Publisher’s Synopsis: In the vein of Inside Out and Back Again and The War That Saved My Life comes a poignant, personal, and hopeful tale of India’s partition, and of one girl’s journey to find a new home in a divided country

It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

Told through Nisha’s letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl’s search for home, for her own identity…and for a hopeful future.

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Dial Books | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0735228511

Available Here: 

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Discover more books like The Night Diary, written by Veera Hiranandani, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with , and ; plus, be sure to follow along with our Writing and Reading Life series.

The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literacy. We publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. We also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to grow readers. This article was written and provided by a guest author.

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