YALLWEST 2017

On April 29 I attended my first ever YALLWEST Book Festival and the experience was so much more than I had expected. Before going, I’d read about it and how there were around 20000 people in attendance last year. I expected it to be crazy, but surprisingly it wasn’t. So here are some of my highlights of the event:

It was in sunny Santa Monica.

After leaving Raincouver, the sunny but breezy Santa Monica weather was an absolute delight. My hubs and I decided to make a weekend of it, so it was all the more special to have him by my side as we walked along Third Street Promenade enjoying the Salsa dancers and musicians.

A whole day with writerly people.

I spent an entire day surrounded by fabulously talented bookish people. I mean, what’s not to love about that? My fave authors were there, plus I met four of the amazing Pitch Wars peeps whom I’ve come to know on Twitter but not in person. It was definitely extra special to meet them in real life.

The panels were amazing.

One of the things that got me all emotional was sitting in the audience and realizing that many of the panels were composed of very diverse authors, but the topic was not Diversity. This might not sound like a big deal to some, but sadly, the only time I have attended a panel with diverse authors has been when the topic was actually Diversity and the discussion centered around how important it was to read and write diversely. So it was a refreshing surprise for me to listen to a discussion of Love and the Modern Millennial by such inspiring authors as Nicola Yoon, Lilliam Rivera, Sandhya Menon, Adi Alsaid and Kami Garcia.

Long Line-Ups

I know, this doesn’t sound like it should be a highlight. But while I stood baking in the sun for over an hour to get my hands on an ARC of Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (so totally worth it btw) I looked around. The line extended far behind me, people of all ages and backgrounds, waiting for a book about a hijabi girl. It made my heart sing, because there was a time not long ago when people told me no one would want to read about an Indian or a Pakistani MC and that I should try to get published ‘back home’. So it brought on all the feels when I stood there and listened to the chatter around me about this book and the anticipation was infectious.

The Perfect Ending

The last panel attended that day was Writing the Resistance. The panelists were Sona Charaipotra, Victoria Aveyard, Marie Marquardt and Benjamin Alire Saenz, moderated by Daniel Jose Older. They were all inspirational, but when Benjamin Alire Saenz began to speak I had tears in my eyes. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. He spoke about love and hurt and how we are all connected. I cannot adequately convey the emotion in that gym, but I can definitely say it was the perfect ending to an amazing day.

So for those of you who’ve been thinking about going next year, check it out. It’s a great event, full of avid readers and great authors, networking opportunities, giveaways and lots of fun events. A perfect weekend for writerly people.

Girl Power

When I decided to write a book, I knew that the protagonist had to be a girl. She would be a strong, kick-ass sort of a girl. No standing on the sidelines and watching with big eyes as her man saved the world. No, she was going to save the world herself.I wanted to base my story on the mythology of India, because it is so rich and fascinating. And I knew that I wanted to write for young adults, because they are  at an important juncture in their lives. Not that my book is going to impart any great pearls of wisdom. On the contrary, it is pure fantasy. But I happen to believe that when you allow yourself to indulge in fantasy, you can discover a lot about who you truly are and what will make you happy. Plus it’s just really cool to write about a girl who has the powers of a goddess and can kick a demon’s ass.

Memories

When I was little my Dad would buy me comic books that were all about Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Thus began my fascination with Hindu mythology. Combine that with Saturday mornings watching Spiderman cartoons sitting on the couch with  my Dad after breakfast, and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for writing fantasy. After all, what better escape is there than imagining that you’re a drop-dead gorgeous goddess with superpowers ? It’s the stuff great fiction is made of.

Imaginings

On one of our mini trips within India we flew from Mumbai to Jaipur. Jaipur is a city with an abundance of palaces, all of which are designed to take your breath away. Our first stop was Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds. It was built in 1799 under order of a Rajput king and constructed with a multitude of elaborately designed windows. The purpose of all the windows was to allow the women of the palace to watch the proceedings of the court from the private balconies.This way they could watch without being seen by the public. As I looked up at the facade, the hustle and bustle of the streets faded away and instead I could picture the faces of the young girls and the royal wives looking out from their perch high above the city. I wondered what they felt and what they wished for. I wanted to know what kind of lives they led, if they had any control over their future or if they were destined to remain in the seclusion of life behind the veil, living in anonymity forever.

Inspirations

The idea of writing a novel about a reincarnated goddess came to me around the time my family was preparing for our first, long overdue trip to India. While I was doing research for our trip, I came across some great travel blogs and websites of fascinating places that we absolutely had to visit. For the next few days I would like to share with you the experiences we had and how they inspired my writing. I hope you enjoy our travel adventures.