Tell us about your upcoming picture book, A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India, and what inspired you to write this story?
A GIFT FOR AMMA: Market Day in India is a celebration of colors as well as a child’s love for her mother. It is suitable for children 3-8 years. The story is set at a vibrant outdoor market in India where readers follow a little girl through the hustle and bustle trying to pick a special gift for her mother. I grew up in India, often visiting these markets with my mother, and I wanted to capture the wonderfully engaging experience for children everywhere.
What role does culture and traditions play in your stories?
Culture and tradition tells us why we do things a certain way, like what we eat and how we talk, or how we dress and what and how we celebrate. They help express what we value as important. Together they largely define our lives and identities.
Understanding culture also means understanding each other better. I hope my stories offer a glimpse into the culture of the Indian subcontinent, way of life of immigrants in the U.S, experiences of children of color, and into some of the traditions that families living across cultures have come to embrace.
Through these stories, I hope children understand that while there are many differences across cultures, there’s no hierarchy. And this diversity only makes our world richer and more interesting. We are also more alike than different. I hope that my stories help build this realization among children.
How long did it take you to write A Gift for Amma?
The basic idea was in my drawer for a long time. I had tried a certain direction at one point and given up. When I started exploring this particular narrative, it started shaping up and growing better with every revision. It probably took me over a year to get it to a polished state. Additionally, I continued to revise and polish as we received a few insightful rejections, until we finally sold it.
What was your editing process like?
I’m very grateful that my editor at Barefoot, Lisa Rosinsky, shared the exact same vision for this story. She always tried to find out my reasoning first before suggesting an edit. Because of this, she knew how to elevate the manuscript, art, and backmatter, while preserving the story’s intentions. We made several word/line edits. Some of them were also to tailor details to reflect the setting. We also had many discussions around the cultural nuances in the illustrations. The editing process was wonderful because communication was easy and I thoroughly enjoyed all our conversations.
Do you work with critique partners?
Yes! From seed to submission. Fortunately, I found the right people to work with, particularly when it comes to passion and commitment. We work hard and support each other every step of the way.
Do you have a launch event planned?
Again, yes! It’s a free virtual book launch event on Sunday, August 23rd at 11 am Pacific. I will be reading aloud A Gift for Amma for the first time to children! I will also be sharing the creative process behind this project and answering questions about me and my work.
What are you working on next?
My next picture book is Between Two Worlds, it comes out in Spring 2021. I’m also in the thick of editing another picture book (yet to be announced). Meanwhile, we’re out on submission with a story I recently wrote. And I’m polishing a couple of projects that I hope to see published one day.
Do you have advice for aspiring picture book authors?
I’m happy to share what I remind myself – you have to believe in the need of your story, whatever it may be, to write with heart, to listen and make it better, to stick with it and fight for it until the world gets to read it.
Where can readers find you online?
Meera Sriram grew up in India and moved to the U.S in 1999. An electrical engineer in the past, she now enjoys writing for children, leading early literacy initiatives, and advocating for diverse bookshelves. Meera believes in the transformative power of stories and likes to write about people, places, and experiences less visible in children's literature.