So long and thanks for everything

When we started Tender Leaves in 2010, we believed that books and libraries still hold an important place in our lives and society. We also set continuous high targets for ourselves to exceed your expectations.

The positive feedback we received from you kept telling us that we were doing something right and our biggest pat on the back was on the day when we issued our 50,000th book.

But in the last year, because of the prevailing business climate, we felt we weren’t able to meet our own exacting standards and have reached a point where it has become commercially unaffordable for us to maintain the same levels of service that you have got used to, with us.

We don’t want to cut corners or under-deliver on the promises made to you and to ourselves. So our Board has come to the painful decision that we will discontinue our library operations with immediate effect, i.e. 11/11/2013.

It has been a great journey for us and we are grateful to you for having given us the opportunity to serve you. I and my team will always be indebted to you and will treasure this experience.

If you use our service through your employer’s corporate library subscription account, please mark your books for return and drop them in the drop-box by 14/11/2013.

If you have subscribed to our service directly, mark your books for return and we’ll pick up the books and return your refundable deposit and the amount for the remaining duration of your subscription. (You’d have already received an email with details of the refund)

Before we sign off, we’d like to point to this fantastic article by Neil Gaiman on the importance of libraries and why our future depends on them.

Thank you!!

Interesting Stuff – 2

Today we will talk about couple of our crappy but green friends.😛

Gobar Times not only has an interesting name but the work they do is also quite fun (fundung as they would put it). It is an initiative of the Centre for Science and Environment and the Global Schools Program is doing some nice work to get school students to become eco-friendly. Being eco-friendly is not just a fancy thing to be – we feel it is as important as teaching the kids to do their addition, read A,B,C and speaking the truth. Gobar Times has some cool sections and is available in the e-magazine format as well. Do check it out. (Hat tip to Sanasi K)

Our other green friend that we would like to introduce to you is dailydump. Dailydump is based in Bengaluru and are doing great work in tackling some of the critical problems of  urban India – like waste management. They have some nice designs for pots to be used for composting and also provide lot of tips which will help you and me contribute our bit to solving the problem of waste disposal. The best part is – when we solve the problem, we not only address the problem (waste disposal) but we get something good to help us in another area (manure for plants, support for potters). They have distributors in quite a few cities in India and can help you get started immediately.

Wishing you all a colourful Holi, a blessed Good Friday and a happy Easter.

Monthly InGenius meet-up

We have been thinking about this for some time now and finally decided to act! Yay!

We create lot of interesting content – quizzes, workshops and also come across LOT of interesting content created by others (TED talks, books, websites, apps, games, a new hobby, presentation style like pecha kucha) which are not just to be shared but also actively discussed and worked upon, with – yes, you guessed it right, kids. We had been dithering on scheduling something regular because we wanted to get it perfect – a cool venue, projector, accessible to parents, we wanted to get the timing right etc. etc. Then we figured out that the great stuff and the kids shouldn’t be denied each other because of stupid reasons like infrastructure. While we will continue to share stuff online on our blog with the Interesting Stuff series of posts and we will also have our more formally defined workshops like Summer Camps (incidentally our April batch is starting on 15th April – the official announcement will be up very soon), we are going to start our monthly meet-ups which we call InGenius meet-ups. While the agenda is not going to be set in stone, you can be assured that we don’t do anything without an objective or an outcome in mind:-)

So what will be the outcome from the InGenius meet-ups?

Children will become

  • better informed about the world around them
  • better equipped to work on ‘projects’
  • better judges of what they are good at and what they like
  • more inquisitive
  • better communicators.

We may eventually have a TEDx of our own!

So how will an InGenius meet-up look like?

We’ll have ~10 participants at a cafe/meeting room/classroom. One facilitator will come along with a laptop. We’ll show a video/website/game/app/article/news item/presentation which will be the central theme for the day. And then the participants will drive the remainder of the meet-up. We could simply discuss and debate the Israel conflict, we could answer questions of a mythology quiz, we could learn to present using Prezi, we could discuss the chances of Pune FC in the football league. The facilitators will look to challenge the participants in every which way and try to get them to ‘take things forward’ e.g.create a Prezi on your favourite topic, write a Wikipedia page on each player of Pune FC, create a working model of a battery operated aeroplane. There will be considerable project work that will be required to be done outside the meet-ups. Things are not going to be mandatory but (I hope) there will be social pressure to fulfill commitments made to team-mates.

The group will decide what we work on. We will only give pointers to what we can offer.

Who is invited?

Anyone in the age-group of 8-14 years. You want to learn; you want to share what you know.

Who is not invited?

  • Parents who can’t handle a child who questions status quo (You must think this through. It is not easy to answer a child who questions stuff you have learned to accept without giving a lot of thought)

Logistics

We haven’t decided on the venue yet. For starters, we are looking at Baner/Aundh areas. We’ll be happy with any restaurant/CCD kind of a place that is decently accessible. We are looking for options – so please suggest if you know of any place.

Venue: Cafe Peter Donuts, near Gaekwad Petrol Pump, Aundh, Pune.

Date: 16/03/2013

Time: 10:30 AM to 12 noon

Charges: Whatever the owner asks – could be 1 donut each/1 iced tea for the facilitator/mention on this blog. All we’d recommend is we should be nice to the owners for allowing us to use their facilities. We should be able to get started with a group-size of anywhere from 1 to 10.

How do you register?

Drop us a mail on harish(AT)tenderleaves(DOT)com or leave a comment. We’ll get back to you.

Interesting Stuff #1

We are starting a series of posts for our young readers and their parents. We will be sharing interesting stuff that should be useful for our readers in the age group of 4-14 years. These could be about tools you could learn, competitions you could participate in, information you could benefit from, games you could play, TV shows you could watch, websites you could follow and of course, books you could read. Since what we will be sharing will have one prominent quality – a high interestingness quotient, we are sure others (whom we call enlightened lifelong learner souls) will also enjoy. We will also try to give an Interestingness Quotient rating every time we share something with you.

Scratch – we are starting our series by sharing about Scratch. We were introduced to Scratch by a dear friend last month. Scratch comes from the MIT Media Lab. So it has got excellent credentials to go by.:-)

From its About Scratch page,

Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web.

We found it to be an excellent tool to get someone started with the basics of programming. We are big believers and proponents of the fact that you take personal responsibility for your learning when you are interested and that’s the only way you can learn something permanently. If you are learning something to pass an exam or because someone is telling you to, you may get the result (read test score) but you wouldn’t have learned enough to master the skill.

Scratch allows you to actually give a form to what you can imagine. We recommend this to every parent and we hope to see lot of the imaginations of our readers being put up on their site. You need to download the Scratch package and get started. You can also get started on the online editor. Our friend who introduced us to Scratch is already using it in the school he runs. We’re sure the kids enjoy it.

If you or someone you know has been using Scratch, please share your experience and projects in the comments section.

Interestingness Quotient : 5/5.

New Chip on the Block – Amrita Anand Nayak

New Chip on the Block features upcoming writers. Today we meet Amrita Anand Nayak, author of Polka Dots, Pony Tails and Purple Pouts.

About the author:  Amrita Anand Nayak is an IT professional working with BMC Software, Pune who has lived in many parts of India. She completed her education in Delhi and moved to Pune for her first job with Infosys in 2003 and has since adopted the city as her own.  At present, she is juggling between her job and family and struggling to keep her sanity and balance intact because according to  her, ‘the little bundles of joy in our lives mostly come with huge bundles of responsibility and promise of countless sleepless nights’. Besides story-telling, she enjoys anchoring, dramatics, sketching. She  is an avid reader and book-lover herself.

Polka Dots, Pony Tails and Purple Pouts is her first book.

Interview:

You are an IT professional by day, author by night. When did you decide to give writing serious thought?

As professionals, we are always bounded by deadlines, work pressures and competition. So, though I was bitten by the writing bug long time back, I was never able to pursue my hobby seriously, as there were practical limitations for devoting time to writing.  Thankfully, such a time did come for me when I could carve out some spare time! It was the period of my maternity leave. I started penning down my thoughts and framed the plot of my debut novel then.  In between the rounds of feeding, soothing, changing diapers and general babysitting – believe it or not, I did get some time, and writing for me was the best form of relaxation. Once I started, there was no looking back. I continued even after my maternity leave was over and in a span of five months, I was able to complete the book!

Managing time between work, commute and writing must have been rather difficult. What was your routine like?

Well, I am a morning person. For the book, I used to get up early in the morning and write for an hour or two. After Office hours, I would come back and spend time with my little one and rest of the family. Once everybody went off to sleep, I would write again, as long as my eyelids endured being open and my brain functioned. I would eagerly wait for the weekends, when I would go and sit in the neighbourhood coffee shop and write to my heart’s content with no one to disturb me and a steaming cup of coffee to keep me going! My family really helped me a lot by taking care of my baby in my absence and cheering me on throughout.

Your first book – Polka Dots, Pony Tails and Purple Pouts is now available. What is the book all about?

The book is a tale of three froomies (friends-cum-roomies), Leena, Tia and Jasmine, who share an apartment and along with the apartment, they share many wonderful moments of laughter, tears, adventures, heartaches etc. besides sheer gossip! There are many more characters – boyfriends, parents, friends, relatives, colleagues, acquaintances et al who spice up the story.  The story travels from Pune to Japan, from USA to a remote village in Haryana, from Mumbai to Kerela and the list goes on. From Fashion shows to Khaap Panchayat, from casual affair to true love, from Church choir to discotheques – the reader is taken on a whirlwind tour, a tour as much of emotions as of places. Among the protagonists, while Leena and Jasmine’s present is greatly affected by their past, Tia always weighs her actions keeping in mind the future she desires. It’s to be seen, whether they manage to break free of their inhibitions and listen to their hearts when it comes to finally shaping their lives. All along the way, they stand by each other dutifully and face the challenges of life with style and chutzpah. Leena, Tia and Jasmine are three modern-day girls hailing from three different cultural divisions of India whose lives are joined by one common thread – the fact that they are room-mates and best friends for life.

The story is set in Pune. How have you felt about this city ever since you moved here from Delhi?

I love living in Pune. When I first moved here from Delhi nine years back, I was ready to go back to Delhi with all my bags packed, within a couple of months. But I could not go back because my job had a year-long contract clause. So, I had to wait for a year. But by the time the year ended, I was in love with the city! I discovered Pune along the way. I fell in love with the culture, the atmosphere, the people, the language, everything! The city has such a beautiful cultural heritage and yet it has embraced modernity with panache. Pune has great eateries, cool hang-outs, premier educational institutes, booming IT sector, sprawling real-estate, beautiful hills in its surroundings and what not! The people are warm and gentle. The climate is excellent. And of course, Pune is very safe, especially for girls, and if I compare it with Delhi, well… there is absolutely no comparison! I discovered true freedom here.  It’s a great place to be and I feel at home here.

Getting that first book published is a real challenge – especially with publishers. Can you tell us your experience?

You are absolutely right. Getting one’s book published needs patience, perseverance and well, luck! When I sent my book proposal (a proposal typically comprises the synopsis, chapter outline and two-to-three sample chapters) to the leading Indian Publishers, I was pleasantly shocked to see that two out of three responded positively and asked me to send the complete manuscript ASAP. At that time I had just completed three chapters out of twenty. My maternity leave was over and I had to join back at work. So, completing the book ‘asap’ was going to be tough. But thanks to the interest shown by those publishers, I was highly charged-up and motivated to complete my novel as soon as I could. Besides, being an IT professional, I am used to working with deadlines.  Once I finished my manuscript and sent it across to the publishers, I did not hear back from them for months! I did not know what to do! But I did not lose hope. I contacted a few more publishers and fortunately for me, one of them was ‘General Press’ who believed in encouraging new talents. They took it forward and published it. Finally, the patience and hard work paid off!

In one instance in the book, TenderLeaves is mentioned by the protagonist. Do you mind elaborating this part of the story?

When a writer writes a book, a part of her/his personality gets translated in the book. In my book, many shades of my personality are visible here and there in different characters of the story. I love reading and I really look forward to receiving books from Tenderleaves library once I have placed my order or “grabbed them online” as you call it. This protagonist Tia is also an avid reader and one night, after the girly chit-chat, the three flatmates retire to their rooms and Tia proclaims she can’t wait to get started with the book she has borrowed from “Tenderleaves”. Through this sentence, the readers are subtly told that Tia is a member of this online library. And if few readers are not aware of what ‘Tenderleaves’ is, now they’ll surely go and check it out. When I was writing this book one year back, personally, it was my humble way of acknowledging the wonderful library of yours, of which I am a big fan.

What has the reaction been at your office and among friends now that you are a published author?

Frankly, I had never expected the kind of reaction I got. In the office, I was flooded with e-mails and messages and congratulatory notes once people got to know about my book. So many folks have bought it and in this list there are few people who have never read a book in their lives (other than text books and technical references)! They just bought it because they knew me and wanted to encourage. Now that they have bought it, they are reading it and actually liking it! I feel so happy to know that I have made readers out of non-readers. Also, my colleagues, especially women told me they felt inspired to pursue their hobbies after my example. This is because they can identify with me – I am just one of them. My friends won’t stop raving about the book and telling me they are proud of me. I feel really gratified and humbled by this response.

What do you enjoy reading yourself?

I love reading fiction, non-fiction, magazines, journals and even technical blogs. But my favourites are thrillers and detective fiction. Somehow, reading for me is mental stimulation as well as relaxation at the same time. I just love Lee Child’s Jack Reacher adventures. When I was young, I wanted to grow up to be a writer just like Agatha Christie. She has a special place in my bookshelf, my memories and my heart. Lately, I loved the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. But apart from all this action, I also love to read books on social issues or stories that touch the heart, like The Kite Runner.  Among Indian authors, I like Anurag Mathur’s satire and sense of humour and Jhumpa Lahiri’s simply told yet very real and poignant stories. She is an inspiration in my life.

Going forward, are you looking to explore other genres? What do you have in mind?

Yes, definitely. Presently, I am toying with the idea of a sequel of this novel. But after that, I am going to diversify and write on social issues through fiction. I would also like to dabble in the crime and detective genre one day. My father was in the Intelligence Bureau and probably that is one of the reasons why I find myself getting drawn to investigative thrillers! There is yet another story brewing in my mind that is based in a future time zone but it’s not a science fiction, rather it’s about a paradigm shift in the social structure in future. I am all set for at least next two to three years, with ideas and plots in nascent stages in my head, that need to be developed as full-blown stories on paper.

Any advice for those writers who haven’t been able to sum up your courage in attempting that first book?

Three words to the aspiring writers –“Go for it!” Pen down your story, start scribbling your thoughts and I am sure, if you truly love writing, you’ll find time for it. Even if you do not find a publisher, there is always the option of self-publishing. So, go on – start your book and then do not stop till you finish it. Pursue that dream. Take the plunge. The joy on seeing your book published and purchased and actually read and liked by folks is unparalleled. So, just go for it. You owe it to your dreams.

Find more about Amrita and the book here: http://goo.gl/xb1UA or see a promo video here: http://goo.gl/Bdwb9

Meet a writer series – Sowmya Rajendran

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Sowmya Rajendran has a BA in English from Stella Maris College (Chennai) and an MA in Gender Studies from the University of Sussex (UK). She has published 12 picture books, a YA novel and has also written several short stories for Chandamama magazine. She blogs at http://mediumboss.wordpress.com/

What were your favourite books growing up?

I grew up on a staple diet of Tinkle, Champak, Gokulam and Chandamama like any other kid from my generation. The first book I read from end to end was The Adventurous Four by Enid Blyton. And for a very long time, I never read anyone other than her. I read children’s books by Indian authors much later.

The genre of children’s literature, what made you take it up?

Nothing made me take it up as such. I like imaginative writing that has a touch of humour. I enjoy creating quirky characters, absurd situations and make-believe worlds. All of these characteristics go well with children’s books.

You’ve published many picture books for children. Can you describe the process of writing one?

A good picture book is one that has a strong concept. And by concept, I don’t mean a moral or a message. There should be an idea in the book that propels it forward and captures the child’s imagination. For me, the writing process starts with this idea. Sometimes, I already know how the story will end. Most times, I let the idea lead me. A lot of people assume that writing picture books is easy because you don’t have to write much. But the art of writing with simplicity and minimal words is a hard one to master. After writing the story, I make it a point to read it aloud to listen to the rhythm of the words – that is how most of my readers will ‘read’ my book, too – and make edits as required.

You’ve said writing for children teaches you ‘not to be a bore’. What is your secret recipe to capturing a child’s imagination?

There is no magic wand you can wave to achieve good writing. What you need to do is work hard at your writing and be open to criticism. Reading a lot helps, too. I can’t stand children’s books that talk down to children and are bent upon drilling morals into their heads. I believe in respecting my audience and creating work that I can enjoy reading, too.

As a mother, has your perspective on writing changed from before? Do you write for ‘her’ now?

I think motherhood is a wonderful learning process on all accounts. As a children’s writer, this is especially so. My daughter is only a year old but we read many books together. I’ve been reading one of my books, Monday to Sunday, to her since the time she was about a month old or so. It’s fascinating to see how her reactions and responses have changed as she’s grown older. Earlier, it was simply the colours in the book and the rhythm of the words that interested her. Then, it was the physical feel of the book itself and the act of turning pages to see the same-but-different-every-time pictures. Now, she loves identifying objects in the book that she’s familiar with – a banana, a pair of shoes, a clock, a bag etc. She even sticks her tongue out like the boy in the book does! You wouldn’t think looking at a simple picture book that children can get so much out of it, but they do! And as a writer, this has been an absolute joy to discover.

In terms of ideas, how do you know a certain theme resonates with an age group?

To start with, I’m not too old myself:) I remember my childhood very well – I had a fantastic time growing up. I was bratty, angsty, dramatic and difficult. This ensured that I had a very colourful childhood with several memorable episodes. Many of my books usually have an autobiographical element in them. Like in The Snow King’s Daughter, the boy, Keshav, rolls himself into a mat and imagines he is in distant lands. I used to do that all the time as a child. The girl in School is Cool plays several rounds of make-believe games inside her head and dawdles around before going to school. Much of Mayil Will Not Be Quiet, the young adult book I co-authored with Niveditha Subramaniam, is also based on real life experiences. When you are not afraid to be proud of the truth, what you write will resonate.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Children who will tell you in the blink of an eye that your story is boring.

Do you think children’s literature has come of age in India?

Yes. This is a very exciting time for children’s books in India. There are several new publishing houses that are bringing out children’s books that are of good quality, lit fests for children’s authors and illustrators, awards and better sales. But there is still room for improvement. Indian children’s books hardly get any display space in big bookstore chains that choose to dump them all into an untidy pile. You only see the Hannah Montanas and Wimpy Kids everywhere. Not that they shouldn’t be around but it is time Indian children’s writers get some space, too. Not because they are Indian but because they are good.

How important is marketing your book? What are the relevant avenues for a genre like yours?

I’m not going to be saintly and tell you that marketing doesn’t matter. I don’t think marketing somehow cheapens your ‘art’ either. If your work is good, telling more people about it makes sense to me. Sending the book out for reviews, organizing events around the book like a launch, story-telling/dramatized readings etc are some ways of doing it. You can also explore options on social media. Merchandizing is another option. For one of my new books, The Pleasant Rakshasa published by Tulika, Jeeva Raghunath, the well-known storyteller, is performing at a children’s store-cum-activity-center. T-shirts with an image of the main character will be sold during the event.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished working on a four book adventure series with Karadi Tales. It should hopefully be out next year. Then there’s the sequel for Mayil Will Not Be Quiet. I’m also working on a book for adults – a satire on moral policing and the absurd patriarchal constraints in our society.

My Olympic Quotient

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Tender Leaves conducted My Olympics Quotient – a series of workshops involving a myriad of activities ranging from creative writing to vocabulary building, mind mapping sessions, improving presentation skills, encouraging philately and highlighting Indian culture through Olympian ages. These activities were designed to enhance a child’s interpersonal and intra-personal skills.

As part of first day on December 1, there was a fun-filled introduction to Olympics with interesting activities of Map pointing and guessing the continents. The children also got an Olympic Diary which had activities, information to read, and loads of trivia to keep as a personal souvenir. There were a few take-home activities such as gathering information about the Olympic venues, Olympic rings and a special event from each Olympics. The objective was to build in the participating children essential life skills such as Perseverance, Curiosity, Critical Thinking, Reflection and Presentation.

As part of day two, the various games covered in the Summer Olympics were discussed. Information about the host countries was discussed and the games were grouped into different categories such as track & field, aquatic using pictorial representations. Children were also introduced to the world of anagrams. The objective of doing all these activities was to build in them the essential life skills like Creativity, Critical thinking, Reflection, Ability to communicate effectively and Work in Teams.

On day three, children not only learned about Venues, Hosting ceremonies but also made a pitch for India at 2020 Olympics! Children were grouped in teams to pitch for India as a host country for Olympics to be held in 2020. They created Logo and Mascots for the Games and discussed how infrastructure and funds would be improved and decided who will chair the IOA (Indian Olympic Association) team! As a home activity, children had to answer the question: If India were to host Olympics, what would you think would go into the Opening ceremony?

The fourth day of the session comprised of learning to write Acrostic Poems, Glimpse of India at Olympics, Memory Game and Mind Mapping and My Olympic Pledge! Children were taught why it is necessary to have rules and follow them in a game, how rules are formed and changed with time.  As part of the session the children learned, recalled all critical details about Usain Bolt through a Mind-Map presentation.

On the fifth day, the session comprised of Movie watching, Sports, Fun, Learning, and Review Writing! They watched Chak De India – a delightful story of Indian Women’s Hockey team winning the World championship for Hockey. The children were guided to watch out for background score, the camera shots, the acting skills, direction style and editing of the movie. Children were given basic tips on writing movie reviews. There was a home activity to make a mind-map and write a review of Chak de India.

The sixth day of the session comprised of stamps, philately, autograph hunting, magic and lots and lots of fun! Children not only learnt about the importance of stamps, history of stamps, different types of stamps, but also the fun behind stamp collection or philately, the joy in pursuing hobbies and how commemorative stamps of Olympics are of special value. Magic with the hat, stamp collection and exchange with friends were an added bonus to the fun session.

My Olympics Quotient  was about giving the children a chance to be creative and yet learn a great deal, giving them encouragement and enthusiasm to carry it on into later life.

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