Nurturing a Young Author – Janani Jaganmohan

Swapna Narayanan

Parenthood comes with a deep sense of responsibility. Not only are the parents responsible for ensuring they nurture a bright mind, they also need to be these smart visionaries who can spot the talent and see the potential in their children and then get down to working on bringing them to the fore.

I recently read a novel, Ithalar Tea Party, written by Akshath Jaganmohan. This thirteen year old debut novelist blew my mind. He has fleshed out the intertwined serial murder mystery so well that by the end of the book, there are no unanswered questions, but the plot twists take us on their own journey.

The book took less than six months to see the light of day and was launched in January 2021. It has been very well received.

In my experience, something like this needed a strong set of encouraging parents who supported, channelised and guided the young author.

I recently reached out to the mother of AkshathJanani Jaganmohan – who has been instrumental in getting the book ‘Ithalar Tea Party’ to life and making it the success that it has become, to discuss the delicate balance we need to strike between encouraging and controlling our children. 

Here are some snippets of our conversation.

Swapna: As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, I feel it takes a set of visionary parent(s) to raise a young writer. So tell me a little bit about Akshath as a child and how and when did you or your husband notice his inclination towards writing.

Janani: Akshath has always been very interested in stories. Bedtime stories were a must for him. And since my husband and I are complete movie buffs, he also took to movies early. I guess his interest in storytelling would have started there. When he was around nine, he kept narrating stories. When a longer story formed in his mind, he started a word document and started typing. I never expected him to stick to that hobby for very long. But to our surprise, he kept at it and his stories, at this stage, were complete kid fiction. Intergalactic wars and aliens were his first interests. Then he started reading. That brought in the real change. His perspective changed and it brought a lot of maturity in his writing too. When we realized this, we helped him to start a blog.

Swapna: Seeing the world through books, capturing all the imagery, forming the words in the head and eventually a pen in hand is what a writer needs. It takes authors a life time to put these all together in a sequence and release a book. And your son did it as soon as he entered his teens. Now that says a lot about the support around him provided by his immediate family. Walk us through yours and Akshath‘s journey from a story to a book!

Janani: Like I said, the blog came out well. The most important thing that I saw at this stage was his consistent writing. We decided a blog post every week would be ideal. He always had that week’s blog ready on time every week, without any push or reminders from us. This was what I most respected in the child, more than the content he was giving out. I feel that level of consistency only comes with real passion and I was glad he took to a healthy passion very early in life. His writing too was getting much better with every post and we realized that what he needed was a much wider audience. That’s when we started looking online for writing competitions. Readen’s short story writing competition was one such. When he won first prize, he was ecstatic. Especially, when they were ready to publish it as a novel if he was willing to expand it. He needed only encouragement from us after that and nothing more. Thanks to Covid and online classes, he was able to quickly finish it!

Swapna: You took up a challenging task which has its own set of highs and lows. When the going is great, everything is awesome. However when things are low they take a toll on you. How did you manage the lows and more importantly did not allow the low phase to impact the young author’s spirit?

Janani: The first hurdle I had was I didn’t know of many avenues to bring out his talent. I was looking at ways to promote his blog. Even though his readership was good in the first circle of family and friends, we were stuck on ways to take it to the next level. I was also very hesitant to promote it since I did not want him to be exposed to the social media world so early in life, especially with today’s highly critical social media atmosphere. It would have been too much for a child. But in the end, we made the compromise and started accounts for him in various social media platforms after gauging all the pros and cons. I still keep tabs on his social media accounts including gmail. Another challenge was being the first beta editor of the book. I had the job of correcting his mistakes without disturbing his creativity, which was again, very difficult. Luckily there were very few logical pitfalls that needed little correction. Finally I am satisfied in saying that the outcome is fully his. 

Swapna: While as a parent there is so much you give and want to share with/teach/advise your children, however if I ask you to choose only three guiding principles, what would you tell your children?

Janani: When you asked me this question, I thought hard and found it difficult to come up with just three. Like any Indian middle class family, I advice my kids on everything all the time. Then, I took their help for the top three. I asked them what is the advice from me that I have given you that you remember. Akshath stuck to his field of writing and mentioned that I told him to think before he talks and not let things get to his head whether it is good or bad. While my daughter, Ashwika firmly stated that I asked her to never disrespect others and to never let anyone disrespect her. I couldn’t be happier.

Swapna: I love that! Lastly, since you are a mommy who has seen it and done it all with respect to your son’s first book, what would you advise other mothers with creative children holding aspirations to share their writing prowess with the world? 

Janani: I am flattered that you called me that, but I am hardly the mommy who has done it all, even with regards to his first book. I feel the book deserves a much larger audience to whom I continue to reach out. Having said that, I think the greatest challenge for any parent, is to identify the child’s passion. Once that is done, half the job is over. Extra curricular classes do play a role in identifying a passion, but it is also important to leave the children alone with their creativity as much as possible. Idle time is not a waste of time. I see summer camp ads in plenty which suggest to utilise the kids’ holiday time beneficially and save the children from boredom. I don’t think it’s bad for kids to be bored. That is when their creativity is usually pushed to its peak. For the other parents out there, are your kids bored at home? It may not be such a bad thing. For aspiring writers out there, I have only one suggestion. There are three things that make a good writer: Reading, reading, and reading!

Note – Ithalar Tea Party is available on Amazon in paperback or kindle version.

*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*

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