Welcome to another chock-full-of-information, super-informative, wildly-inspirational episode of Tuesday Debut!
I’m so glad you’re taking a few minutes out of your beach time to join us today (or maybe you’re joining us from the beach – even better! 😊) This is definitely a must-read because today our debut-ess, Darshana Khiani, mom, dog-lover, engineer, Making Picture Book Magic graduate, writer, and fashion consultant, is going to teach us all, HOW TO WEAR A SARI!
How to Wear a Sari
Written by Darshana Khiani
Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Versify, June 22, 2021
Fiction Ages 4-7
A spirited young girl is tired of being seen as “little” by her family. She decides the best way to do this is to teach herself how to wear a sari: then she’ll make her grand entrance … and everyone will have to notice how grown-up she’s become.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Darshana! Thank you so much for coming to chat with us today. We are all very excited to hear about your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?
DARSHANA: In the Fall of 2016, I was planning my outfits for the upcoming Indian holiday season. I love the elegance and sophistication of saris but unfortunately have never fully got the hang of draping one. I began wondering what it would be like if a young girl tried to wear one. If I had so much difficulty surely it would be even harder, possibly comical for a kid to wear one. The bulk of the story, the middle and the climax, came fairly quickly. I drafted it in a 2nd POV. This is interesting since that summer I had been studying 2nd POV picture books for another story. And while I didn’t get anywhere with the other story, the 2nd POV seeped into the sari story.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
DARSHANA: From first draft to going on submission about ten months. This is quite fast for me. Most of my stories usually take 18 months or longer. My usual process is to hand write the first crappy draft and put it away for at least six months before coming back to it. When I pull the story back out, I’ll do another 1-2 drafts before sending it to my critique group. And then it’s the revision cycle until I feel it’s ready for my agent.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
DARSHANA: This story went through 11 revisions before going on submission. While it was on submission for about 9 months, I also drafted two other versions that were in 3rd POV for an R&R from an editor. An R&R is a revise and resubmit, which can happen if an editor likes the story but is asking for major changes. In this case, my agent felt the original version in 2nd POV was stronger, so we didn’t submit the alternative versions to the R&R editor.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
DARSHANA: I don’t ever feel like I know for sure when my manuscript is ready, at least not until I hear my agent say it’s ready to go. 😊 However, before I send my story to my agent, I make sure there are no big picture issues, pacing is good, language it tight, and there is enough to illustrate on each spread. I also rely on feedback from my critique group. We’ve been together for years.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
DARSHANA: I have an agent, so I sent it to her.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
DARSHANA: The story went on submission in July of 2017 and 9 months later in March 2018 it sold. It went to a total of ten houses over that time. Again, this is fast for me. My two other books that sold took two years each. One which sat with an editor for an entire year (in fairness it was during COVID). When the story sold, I got a call from my agent, but at the time I was at work talking to a colleague, so it went to voicemail. (I still have that voicemail on my cell). I called her back and was floored to hear the story had sold. I couldn’t believe it! I had been with her 18 months and had received plenty of rejections on three other stories before this one sold.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
DARSHANA: I honestly don’t remember as it was kind of delayed. In the beginning I kept worrying that the publisher would change their mind or something, so I didn’t tell many people. Also, I didn’t realize it could take months before you actually get your contract. The publishing world is so different from the business world I know, where a person doesn’t even start working until they’ve signed a contract. Eventually, I think I celebrated with some champagne, cheese, and crackers with my hubby. I remember my critique group gave me a potted plant and some chocolate.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
DARSHANA: My contract was in line with what’s expected for a debut author at a larger house. If you are interested in the money aspect of picture book writing I would recommend Hannah Holt’s survey from 2017. My agent was happy with the offer, so I was too. I did ask for author consultation on the art in case the illustrator didn’t have a South Asian background. The publication timeline did change a few times. Initially, the editor said they were targeting a release for Fall 2019, which would’ve been super-fast. However, it took several months before getting an illustrator on board, hence the book was pushed to Fall 2020. Then there were some internal company deadlines that were pulled in, so the book was pushed to Summer 2021.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
DARSHANA: We did a few rounds of revision, but it was mainly on clarifying “why” the main character was choosing to wear a sari. I was happy the editor and I had the same vision so not much else changed.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
DARSHANA: I did see a full dummy sketch, which was wonderful. The art was gorgeous with so much energy and expression. I had a few culturally related comments. I explained my concerns to the editor, and later the art was adjusted. In my manuscript, I had some illustration notes such as indicating the “friend” in two of the lines meant a pet, but I didn’t specify what type of pet. The climax is a wordless spread, so I did have an art note there and for the end spread.
Climax Art Note: (illo: wordless spread – MC falls in a colossal way. Family members taking notice. Older sibling taking photos.)
You now have a spot in the hall of fame album, along with the rest of them. (illo: MC is snuggling with a grandparent while looking at the family album. Album contains pictures of mishaps by family members from their youth.)
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
DARSHANA: Nope, I didn’t know you could get that. I saw the reviews once they were posted.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
DARSHANA: Offer to book in hand, 3 years and 3 months.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
DARSHANA: I believe most of it has been the usual of what they do for their front list books, in terms of promoting the list to their educator list and media outlets. I will say I did get an author spot at a recent ILA conference and a guest blog spot on an educational website through the publisher, so that was nice.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
DARSHANA: My illustrator recently created some printable activity sheets and I am currently working with an outside marketing person to develop a library kit. I did setup a blog tour that spans two months, of which this interview is a part of. Another thing that I did was build my network of booksellers, librarians, and influencers. Since 2016 I had been publishing South Asian Kidlit lists containing the upcoming season’s books on my blog. In Summer 2019, I realized this information would be useful to book buyers for stores and libraries. I started a South Asian Kidlit Newsletter and began reaching out to booksellers and librarians. This way when it was time for my book to launch, I already had a small install base that would know about my book. Along those lines, I would encourage everyone whether you are published or not to think about what your strengths are and how you can help others. What kind of service can you provide?
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
DARSHANA: Seven years.
SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)
DARSHANA: Try to find something about writing or the community that you can hold on to, such that it can keep you going through the hard times. My journey started 11 years ago and there were many ups and downs. What kept me going was the kidlit community. It was so different from the “work” environments I had been in and brought me such joy. I couldn’t imagine not having the kidlit community it in my life; it helped keep me going. Several years ago, I realized how much I had grown as a person through the conversations happening in the ether on diversity and inclusion, through learning about human behavior via Story Genius class and countless other topics just by following my curiosity. I don’t see how I could be the person I am today had it not been for my entering the writing world. I’m excited to think about how much I’ll grow as a person or what I’ll learn over the next ten years.
SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?
DARSHANA: Too early to tell, but fingers crossed that it does. 😊
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Darshana! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best of luck with this and future titles!
Darshana Khiani is a second-generation Indian American who grew up in rural Pennsylvania and now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and a furry pooch. She is an author, engineer, and a South Asian Kidlit Blogger. Her picture book debut HOW TO WEAR A SARI released in June 2021. When she isn’t working or writing she can be found hiking, solving jigsaw puzzles, or traveling. You can find her online at the following places:
Readers, if you have questions for Darshana, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Darshana’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)
Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)
Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)