Our chat with Jasbinder…
I think the moment I saw myself as a writer was when I began creating special stories for my two sons, but it wasn’t until I stopped teaching and enrolled on the Bath Spa Creative Writing Course for Young People, that I began to write seriously. And by this I mean I started with my inspiration – memories of my dear grandmother, to whom I was very close, and family stories of our farm in India close to the foothills of the Himalayas – and used them to create a 55,000 word fictional story as part of the course. This became the first draft of my debut novel Asha And The Spirit Bird.
After editing my manuscript for around a year I read an article in The Times newspaper by the children’s author, Kate Saunders about the fiction prize they were running with the wonderful publisher Chicken House. I kept the article and decided to enter my story. It was this decision that changed everything for me in terms of becoming a published author.
When my name appeared on the long-list, I was over the moon, but didn’t expect it to go any further. Even when I had the exciting news that I was on the shortlist, I still didn’t allow myself to imagine what it might be like to actually win. On one of the hottest days in June 2017, at The Saville Club in London my childhood dream of becoming an author came true, and all the hard work paid off.
The amazing team at Chicken House have given my story such a beautiful cover, I feel totally honoured.
One of the things that I’m really looking forward to is connecting with my young readership. I am a teacher and I love the energy, enthusiasm and openness that young people bring to books. This for me is one of the most important aspects of being a children’s author.
My grandmother told us stories at bedtime and we loved them. These weren’t from books but told from memory and I imagine they were the same ones she was told by her grandmother too.
One of my favourite stories, which I asked for over and over again, was one about a brother and sister who went on a dangerous journey together and they were told that even if they heard their names called, they must never ever look back. Of course when their names were called they couldn’t resist but look back and then some pretty terrible things happened, but in the end they overcame the challenges and completed their journey.
In terms of books, my dad in particular was very keen for us to become avid readers. We were members of the library in Nottingham, where I grew up and I loved going there to choose books. One of my favourite stories was The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe by CS Lewis and it still is totally magical for me. I was absolutely enthralled by this story, where four ordinary children can travel through a wardrobe and each of them become someone extraordinary in an imaginary world. I must admit we had an old wardrobe in the bedroom I shared with my sisters and I used to spend quite some time trying to get past the coats and find Narnia! This is the magic of stories – whoever you are, wherever you live, books can literally open your eyes to new and wonderful possibilities. Children have that most amazing ability when reading books – if a story is well told, they will stay with it however wild it might seem to an adult and this is what I love about writing for children.
Entering a competition, as I did, can be a fantastic way to get published. There are a number of opportunities out there and of course the Times / Chicken House Competition is one of the best and happens every year, so put in in your diary.
And remember you only need one agent and one publisher to say yes!
It’s really important that young people from diverse backgrounds are given opportunities in the arts and for them to feel they can play any role.
I would love to give an up and coming actor the chance to play Asha, and it would be great to be involved in auditions to choose the right person. I have a really strong image of who I would like for the role and it would be fun to help find them.