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Interview with S.C. Baheti

She is a working mother who lives in California with her husband and two young children. Growing up, she lived in England, Africa, and Southeast Asia and always enjoyed learning about new countries and cultures. She is an avid storyteller and loves weaving tales together for her children at bedtime.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
Water is my element. I love to be in the water. I am a strong swimmer, and I love being in a pool, floating on my back, looking up at the clouds, as they float by in the sky above.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
I am currently writing a book about endangered animals in India. Animals hold a sacred place in the lives of many, and I want to shine a light on their place in history, as well as talk about the challenges they face today.

Q.3 What made you write Counting to Diwali?
As the parent of multicultural children, I was inspired to write this book as a way to bring elements of Indian culture into our family in a fun and interactive way. It teaches children how to count from one to ten in Hindi, all while learning about the festival of Diwali.

Q.4 What actually goes on when the author and illustrator meet?
I worked with a fantastic illustrator, Rohan Dahotre, who works in Pune, India. We have never actually met in person. I wrote this book during the lockdown, so all our conversations took place via zoom and online. I would send screenshots of my initial sketches, which Rohan was able to bring to life in quite a spectacular way.

Q.5 What do you love most about writing stories for children?
I love writing stories that kids want to read over and over again. Watching their eyes grow wide as the story takes twists and turns or when a character does something funny is priceless.

Q.6 Why do you think it is vital for children to develop a love for reading?
For me, storytelling is not only an integral part of childhood but can also provide a platform that builds cultural connections and understanding. Watching children learn to read and then engage in stories that reflect different cultural roots is a valuable foundation for empathy that children can take with them into adulthood.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while you’re working?
I am a busy working mother with two young children. Most of my writing happens in my head as I move through the day, and then I write it down in the evening once everyone has gone to bed. It’s a time of day when the house is quiet, and I can concentrate and think in ways I'm not able to during the day.

Q.8 What do you find to be the most challenging part of writing?
The most challenging part of writing is finding time to write! I have started lots of books in google docs, as well as in a notebook that I keep in my handbag. Sometimes my ideas move faster than I am able to write them down, so I appreciate having time in the evening to consolidate my thoughts and see my stories begin to take shape.

Q.9 Which children’s book most inspired you as a child?
Growing up, I read and reread My Side of the Mountain by Jean George. It’s a story about a boy who runs away from the city to live in the countryside and all the adventures he encounters along the way. I was fascinated by the idea of leaving home, going somewhere new, and creating a new home all on my own.

Q.10 Can you work anywhere, or is there a specific space and quietude required to write?
I can pretty much work anywhere in the initial stages, but I need a specific setup when I am fleshing out a story and refining my initial ideas. I tend to think through a story as I am moving about my day, and I will write or type ideas or specific sentences down on my phone or a notebook that I always keep close at hand. I use a laptop to pull everything together, and I like to sit at the kitchen table or my desk to pull a story and themes together.

Q.11 Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s book authors?
Read a lot of books. If you are interested in writing, there is no better advice than to read. Reading provides an excellent opportunity to understand what books have already been written and what types of books speak to you. Learning about the genre you are interested in writing about can prove invaluable in your own writing journey.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I have never suffered from writer's block, exactly, but I have experienced times when I have struggled to get the ideas out of my head onto the page in the way that I genuinely want to be able to express. 

I like to imagine the words and stories forming in my head and then tumbling out in an unruly fashion, spilling onto the page. It is then for me to organize the words and phrases into a neat and orderly story that inspires and ignites the imagination.

Q.13 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I do read book reviews. I think it's important to read the bad along with the good because they might provide some critical feedback, and a bit of humility never hurts either.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I don’t, in general, but recently I have found that I write better when I use a talk-to-text program and edit from there. Sometimes the words tumble out faster than I am able to type, so using a program that allows me to write my initial drafts as I think of them has helped me a lot.

Q.15 Outside of your family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author?
Shortly after I published my first book, I reached out to Toka Box, a great organization that curates books and activities for young readers with an emphasis on South Asia and STEM. They were interested in my book from multiple lenses, and they placed an order for a few books for their subscription boxes. It was great to know they were interested in my work, and when they placed another order with me the following year, I became aware of all the possibilities this could create.

Q.16 How will you describe your life before and after getting published?
Not much has changed for me on a day-to-day basis. I still go to work every day, and I manage my family and household the same way I did before. The difference is that at night, once everyone is asleep in bed, I am inspired to get out my laptop and start weaving stories and creating worlds that I can turn into stories. Publishing my first book, and receiving the positive reviews that I have, have given me the encouragement I needed to continue to write stories and pursue continued success as an author.

Q.17 What three things should readers expect from your book?
This book is a sweet, simple book that celebrates the elements of Diwali in a meaningful way. The book works both for readers who already celebrate Diwali as well as those who are learning about the festival for the first time. 

Readers can expect to learn about some key elements that make up the festival of Diwali, as well as how to count from 1 to 10 in Hindi. Readers can also expect to experience the joy and anticipation that Diwali brings through the pages of my book. 

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
This is a great question! I would like to meet with Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was such a trailblazer in her field, both in terms of what she achieved and also in the fact that she was a woman, pushing against the perceptions and expectations that existed at that time.

Q.19 What is your favorite book (apart from children's ones) and why?
My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It is exquisitely written, with expertly crafted passages that take my breath away. At the heart of this book is a brilliant story that stands the test of time. I also really appreciate the message behind the title that highlights the consequences of prideful and prejudiced behavior. A lesson we can all do well to remember to this day.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
I have always loved books. They have the power to transport you to different worlds and new experiences, as well as be a safe place to escape to at the end of a long day. I have written stories from an early age, drawing from my own experiences. 

After marrying my husband and having children, I turned again to books to help our multicultural family find a way to connect old and new traditions together. I am so proud of my book, and I am excited to see where my writing journey will take me next.

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