Viji K. Chary: was born in India and immigrated to the United States at the age of two. Her passion for writing children's stories has evolved from teaching and coaching children in various activities including gymnastics, classroom activities and creative competitions. Her stories have been published in Highlights for Children, Ladybug Magazine, Hopscotch for Girls and many more.
What inspired you to become a writer?
Viji: In sixth grade, I wrote a story that was voted one of the best in the class. In the story, the protagonist competed in a swim race held in a lagoon. The story came easily to me. Most importantly, I enjoyed writing it.
At that time, it did not occur to me to purse writing. But about twelve years later, after graduating from college and working, I had the opportunity to take a children’s writing class. It taught me the basics of writing a good story. I enjoyed it so much that I continued my writing education and have incorporated writing into my daily life.
What is it about writing picture books and/or children’s short stories that you enjoy most?
Viji: For me, an idea is like a blob that hovers in my head. It needs to be molded, stretched and shaped in my mind. Eventually, the story takes form. As I write, I put all my focus on the tiny details which will make the story come alive. Each revision grows tighter and stronger. I enjoy reading the final version; remembering how the idea began, its growth and how far it has come.
What do you find most challenging?
Viji: Writing a new piece is the most challenging for me. A new idea has many possibilities and the author has many decisions to make. Finding the appropriate avenue for that story is intimidating. To overcome that, I mull over ideas for quite a while before I brainstorm and outline each scene. At this point, I begin writing.
Which authors helped shape your writing?
Viji: I admire Eve Bunting, Mem Fox, and Sandra Boynton. Eve Bunting has taken historic events , looked at it from new angles and created stories to help children make sense of the world. Mem Fox and Sandra Boynton have tackled difficult abstract ideas in their stories for children.
Do you generally get a story idea first or does the main character develop first?
Viji: For me, ideas come first from observing people and situations. After I have a story idea, I create characters with appropriate personalities to fit into the story. Once, I found an ending to a story from a real-life situation. I back-tracked to create middle and beginning parts and wrote “Easter Egg Hunt” for Highlights for Children, April 2008.
Describe your editing process. Do you have a system? Specific things you focus on?
Viji: When I edit, I first check for inconsistencies in the story line. The action timeline needs to make sense. I double-check any facts the story incorporates and make sure that they are used correctly.
Then, I analyze one scene at a time. The word choices and the verbs need to illustrate the action accurately. The language needs to create the appropriate mood. Each sentence must flow logically from one to another.
Finally, I analyze each character’s actions. They must act within their personalities in order for the story to be believable.
How do you know when your story is DONE and ready to submit?
Viji: I always give myself time away from a story - a few days to few weeks. When I come back to it, if the story needs to be tweaked in some way or other, it is not ready. When it reads smoothly and logically, it is read to submit.
What work have you created that you are most proud of? Is it published?
Viji: I have written a story, “Brianna’s Beats” for the upcoming dance issue of Hopscotch for Girls. In this story, I’ve in incorporated rhythm and the sounds of three different dance traditions. Adding sound and rhythm to a story gives it an extra dimension.
What are you focusing on in 2009 in regards to your writing?
Viji: For 2009, I am focusing on writing and submitting consistently, whether it is a new piece or one for reprints. To accomplish this, I need to be organized and manage my time well. So, I have weekly and monthly goals posted up near the computer.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Viji: To overcome rejections, I think you have to write from the heart – not with the goal of publishing but to refine your craft to be the best it can be. I have to keep reminding myself of this. If you give it your all, the publishing credits come on their own.
I’d like to thank Kai for this opportunity. It’s been a lot of fun.
Where can we learn more about you and your work?Viji: One of my goals for 2009 is to publish a website, www.vijikchary.com. It should be up within the second half of the year and will have information about my work.