Whether you live in the thrusting “new” India or the West, education in the South Asian community is far too often focused on mathematics or the sciences, with a frequently unhealthy attitude towards examinations thrown in for good measure.
Literature, history and the humanities in general are neglected in the pursuit of professional careers.
One of the many consequences has been the dearth of published writers from amongst a population that makes up a quarter of the world’s population.
The publishing industry’s unabashed bias against writers of Asian origin merely adds to the problem.
Though the world is becoming ever more diverse, the bookshelves at don’t reflect that fact.
In an industry that is not only dominated, but also driven by well-known names of a masculine persuasion, it might be not seem the best idea for two women to try building a new business in publishing.
But Monica Sood and Ekta Bajaj dared to disagree.
‘Author in Me’ is the result.
Ekta is a designer, broadcaster and blogger and after years of struggling with getting an agent to represent her book, she decided to self-publish. But would that help reverse the current struggle and resolve the problem faced by many young writes today?
Driven by a deeply personal passion to provide creative writing and publishing opportunities to all, she envisioned starting a publishing house.
Meanwhile, her business partner Monica is an India-trained academic specializing in the sciences and has long combined an innate love for logical thinking with her passion for reading.
Her struggle to find a book that reflected a diversity of knowledge had caused her frustration. And, she wanted to provide the best creative learning opportunities for her young daughter and hoped to organize a way for her to learn from experts in the industry.
The shared vision and passions of Ekta and Monica coalesced in ‘Author in Me’.
What began as a concept in the minds of two young Indian mums has now become a flourishing business, which has helped train more than 600 children in creative writing, and which has managed to publish a staggering 500 books.
Author In Me provides workshops in creative writing to children aged 7 to 11 years with a focus on developing a child’s creative, analytical and multiple intelligences by giving them a chance to learn from the experts in each of those fields.
The founders have also written numerous creative writing workbooks with easy step-by-step instructions to create a masterpiece in writing.
“Our most popular product is the pack of vocabulary flash cards that is a complete toolkit for creative writing,” says Monica.
“We strongly believe that the art of creative writing not only improves academic excellence but also boosts overall personal and creative development in children. The objective is to acquaint children with various techniques required to express their imagination and enhance their ability to shape their thoughts in a cohesive and articulate manner”, she continued.
“As parents, our focus mostly remains on developing a child’s logical mind, side lining an important aspect of growing; the creative and intuitive intelligence”, says Ekta.
To augment their skills, Ekta and Monica draw on the expertise of an Author in Me panel of award-winning authors, thinkers and leaders who conduct courses throughout the UK.
Every child is inspired to explore the realms of their imagination and to plan each piece of writing diligently. Children are encouraged to work their way through numerous drafts before arriving at the final product; to edit and enhance the final versions with better use of language and all its nuances.
They are then asked to share their work among their peers and classmates – encouraging improvement through collaboration.
The finishing touch is the addition of graphic designs befitting the story and publication of it in the form of a book.
Starting with just a group of 5 children, the concept has now spread far and wide.
Today, Author In Me conducts one day workshops (including modules in story writing, self-expression and vocabulary), 6-week courses (vocabulary and innate intelligence) as well as a 12-week comprehensive course in creative writing.
Workshops are held in High Wycombe, Watford, Harrow, Slough, Reading, Sutton and Amersham.
The duo’s latest venture is the ‘Young Achievers Entrepreneur Programme Using Innate Intelligence’, which is aimed at children aged 10 – 14. The programme aims to impart project-based learning by collaborating with corporates.
Costa Coffee Collaboration
Author In Me has already collaborated with Costa Coffee and the 6-week course began in Harrow on 10 February.
As part of the course, children have to come up with 3 new milkshake flavours and create a presentation using the business skills they learn through the course. This presentation will be attended by Costa managers and parents.
And, Monica and Ekta advocate parental networks – if a parent in can arrange a minimum group of 12 children in their local area, Author in Me can bring all its resources to the group.
What’s more, the parent who puts together the group can choose to either get a free space for his or her child or be paid a generous commission – the perfect way for a stay-at-home mum to earn a bit of extra money!
“What makes us stand out is that we take every child on a unique creative journey – right from the first idea to a complete published book. The whole process gives the child a sense of achievement and leaves the child with something tangible and valuable”, says Ekta.
With an endorsement from the nationwide organization – Local Mums Online, which voted the Author in Me course the ‘Best Creative Writing Course for Children’ – some risks are definitely worth taking!