The Backstory: THE LEAPING LADDOO
I am thrilled to welcome today's guest, Harshita Jerath. Harshita is here to share the story behind the story of her debut picture book, THE LEAPING LADDOO (Albert Whitman, 2022) with illustrations by Kamala M. Nair. Read on to learn all about how this story came to be and for your chance to win a copy of your own.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind THE LEAPING LADDOO.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
THE LEAPING LADDOO (luh-DOO) (Albert Whitman, March 1, 2022), illustrated by Kamala M Nair, is a fun, cultural variation of the Gingerbread Man classic in which an Indian dessert, laddoo, runs away from the hands of its maker, and is chased by characters like the kids playing cricket, the groom on an elephant, chai vendor, and other characters in the hope of eating this delicious dessert. Sprinkled with Hindi words, a tongue twister, and vibrant illustrations, this story transports readers to Indian streets.
This sounds absolutely amazing! I love books that can transport children and in doing so allow them to see themselves or introduce them to cultures or places that are new to them.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
Though the idea of the story came to me while I was shaping laddoos for my son’s 8th birthday, the inspiration for the story goes way back in time when my kids were babies. I would prepare my then toddler children for the overseas India trips by painting a picture of what they’ll encounter once they land in India. At that time, I found no children’s book that introduced India in a kid-friendly way, so I wrote one.
The simple cumulative structure of the classic Gingerbread Man story provided my story a perfect platform to share the sounds and sights of Indian streets.
That is so sweet and thoughtful that you painted your own pictures to prepare your young ones for their trips. I am also so happy that you are filling a gap you noticed in the market and giving other parents and educators the tool to introduce children to India through a picture book.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now THE LEAPING LADDOO? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
I was super excited about the idea and I immediately penned it in my kitchen notepad. I even mentioned the imagery and Indian street scenes I wanted to introduce in the story.
Typically story ideas that come to me are vague and I have to make sense of it, but this one was different. I had a very clear vision from the start, so drafting wasn’t difficult.
What a magical feeling to have the inspiration flow through you and right out onto the page!
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
Children and nature are my greatest inspiration. Most of my ideas come to me while I’m cooking, probably because I’m in a creative space during that time. So I always keep a notepad handy.
I think inspiration while cooking is a first for us on The Backstory, but it makes total sense with that being a creative environment for you. I find that allowing ourselves space away from our writing can be beneficial to our creativity and a great way to find inspiration or work through tricky bits of a manuscript.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
I won’t be able to name any specific books as being most impactful because I feel writing is a journey. And reading books is like meeting people enroute, each adding something to my experience and making it more memorable either with their thoughtful conversations or silly banter.
I love this perspective. Each book we read has something to offer us whether it be a new structure, humor or even identifying something that does not resonate with us. Every book is an opportunity to learn and grow our craft.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
When I’m creating and drafting, I just need a notepad and a nice pen OR my laptop along with an uninterrupted writing time. I mute any distractions outside or inside such as my phone, background noises and even my inner editor during creative time.
And, having all this in a beautiful natural setting is a bonus.
I give you a lot of credit for having the discipline to eliminate outside distractors while working on your writing. And extra points for being able to silence your inner critic. That is a hard task to accomplish.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t be afraid to show-up for the things that are important to you–
Show-up at your writing desk even if you feel down.
Show-up at the writing conferences even if you feel like going into your shell.
And show-up even if you’ve encountered rejections. And once you continue showing-up, life would magically unfold pleasant surprises.
No amount of talent can beat someone who shows up regularly.
Great advice! Putting in the time and effort are huge keys to success. And your point about showing up despite rejections is paramount. This industry certainly requires perseverance.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
My next picture book, COOLER THAN LEMONADE by Sourcebooks comes out in March 2023. I just saw it’s initial sketches by talented Choe Burgett and they are SO GOOD.
Congratulations on COOLER THAN LEMONADE. What an amazing feeling that must be to see those initial pictures. I look forward to this release and I can't wait to see what else you have in store for us in the future.
Where can people connect more with you?
I love to connect with people. I can be reached on these platforms:
My website: http://harshitajerath.com
Readers be sure to connect with Harshita and don't forget to mark your calendars for the release of THE LEAPING LADDOO on March 1, 2022 with illustrations from Kamala M. Nair.
Harshita thank you for joining us and sharing the backstory behind THE LEAPING LADDOO. I can't wait to pick up a copy and share it with my children and students.
Harshita is generously offering a copy of THE LEAPING LADDOO to one lucky winner. (US only)
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT HARSHITA JERATH
Harshita Jerath (pronounced her-SHE-ta) loves writing stories for children. She draws inspiration from her growing-up memories in India and the colorful world around her. She’s a science graduate in Industrial Microbiology with a Master's equivalent in Hospital Administration. Harshita is represented by agent Beth Marshea of Ladderbird Literary Agency. To find out more about Harshita and her books visit her website at http://harshitajerath.com and her blog ipenlife.com where she shares her views about everyday life.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration.
A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids.
While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.