“Grandma, Dadi, and Me”

So, tell me about the children’s book.

So I was looking for a job last spring, and I went on “Williamsburg Families” which is where my big had told me that she had gotten a job many years back and I emailed two of the people who were on there. One of the people was somebody who needed an ongoing babysitter and another woman was somebody who was making a children’s dictionary and she wanted people to illustrate pictures for her dictionary. So I emailed both of them and I was kinda like, you know, just whatever works out. I was saving up to get a kitten and so this was leading to that. And so, the woman with the babysitting job ended up contacting me first, and so I still babysit the 6 year old kid. She’s the sweetest; I love her a lot. But then a few weeks after I had started babysitting, this lady with the dictionary emailed me back and she said, “Hey, so sorry it took me awhile to get back to you. I actually had somebody for the dictionary already, but I was wondering if from your background you might be interested in helping me with another project that I am doing, which is writing a children’s book about a little girl who has a grandmother in two different countries.”

Oh, wow.

And I think that, you know, she didn’t say it super explicitly, but she sort of hinted at the fact that like, “Oh, I could tell your name was Indian.” And so I was like, “Okay, tell me a little bit more about the book and I can talk to you about that a little bit.” And she told me that her husband was Indian and her daughter had one grandmother in India and one in Maryland. And so she really wanted her daughter to have a book that she could relate to and she hadn’t really seen any of that for her kid personally. So, she said that this was kind of more of a personal project for her and her daughter, but she really wanted to see how far it could go. She told me she was a member of some Facebook groups with cross-cultural families and that she had received a really positive response there when talking about possibly doing a book like this. So, I said, “Okay, cool!” And she sent me the text to her book and it was really cute she had little phrases in Hindi. She had just picked up those phrases after visiting the country and coming back and from her husband and from movies, she told me. A few of them were a little misplaced but I didn’t say anything about it. Luckily, she asked me about them later and ended up switching them to more common ones which was good.

Laughing

I mean I was surprised. I was like, “I’ve never heard of that word before myself, but okay.”

So have you illustrated stuff before?

I hadn’t illustrated a book before. I also really like art. It’s always been something I enjoyed a lot. It’s not something I’ve made a lot of time for myself for. So, I was excited by the job prospect. I wasn’t sure how I was going to take it just because all my life my mom’s been like, “Oh you should go into something creative where you do art and stuff.” And I’d always said “no, I don’t think I would like doing art if it was something that I was mandated to do.” And I will say it, first this was really fun, but, you know, by the time you are doing 32 pages of this, it gets a little bit monotonous. It was still really fun and I enjoyed it a lot, but I spent so much time researching other children’s book illustrators to try and figure out what my children’s book illustration style was going to be, and sort of finding that for myself.

And what was the style?

I can show you some pictures, actually, if you want! I should have brought my copy of the book. I gave it to the girl that I babysit.  She was my number 1 fan so I gave it to her. I could not keep that from her.

This is so cool.

Yeah, it’s very cute. I have the whole thing in PDF here somewhere. I’ll find it and just continue talking. The book ends up being about this little girl named Seema. And it starts off with, “Hi I’m Seema and this is my family,” and it’s a picture of her and her mom and dad having a picnic. And then they kinda go on to say, “I have a grandma that lives close by and a grandma that lives far away.” And then she talks about the different ways she has her transportation to get there. So she’ll drive to one grandma’s house, but fly overnight to another grandma’s house.  And the author drew some really neat parallels between what she does with each grandma. So, while with her grandma here in Maryland, she bakes cookies. With her grandma in India, she makes these things called rotis, which are kind of like flatbreads, on the stove. So she introduces little vocab words there which was cool. It sort of wraps up with her saying that one grandma, after we wash up and get ready for bed, she tucks me in and kisses me goodnight. And it’s the same thing for the other grandma except she writes it in Hindi. So it’s a lot of back and forth. My favorite page ended up being this floating market page. I’ve never been to a floating market myself – her family is from a different part of India than I’ve ever visited. I think I have some relatives there, but I’ve never seen this place. So, the way that they get their groceries is the coolest thing. They go in these canoe-like things and all the people who grow their food have their own larger canoe boats, and all their produce is laid across them and they’re called floating markets. So, you row your boat to the market and you go get all your food and load it into your boat and take it home!

*Laughing* Woah!

Yeah, so that was really cool for me to draw a picture of. That ended up being the best, and it was very cute. She was like, “My grandma always makes sure I get lotus flowers on the way. So we got to pull some out of the stream there…” I’m sorry I’m just struggling to multi-task.

*Laughing* It’s fine. I’m excited to see it.

Yeah, hold on, let’s see. If nothing else there’s gotta be an old draft in one of these.  There we go .. I think this is — no that’s just a couple pages.  Let me open it up on here so I can actually have it.

Okay, okay .. yeah that sounds so cool.

Yeah, it was a lot of fun.  

Yeah.

It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun. *laughing*

So is it being published?

Yeah it’s published on Amazon. You can buy it if you want.

Yeah, what is it called?

It’s called, “Grandma, Dadi, and Me.” So Dadi is D-A-D-I, which is the Hindi word for “paternal grandmother.”

Okay.

Yeah, I can show it to you on Amazon if you want.

Yeah, this is amazing.

Yeah, it’s very cute. The girl I babysit was extremely excited about it. She was talking about it for months leading up to it and was always saying, “When is your book coming out?”

Your #1 fan.

She really is. And what ended up happening was before it was actually ready, I printed a black and white copy for her because she couldn’t wait and she carried it around for two weeks before I gave her the real one.  

Wait, that’s so cute! Can we look inside?

I don’t know if it shows any of the pages.  But I can pull up the real book for you, too.

Wow, these are beautiful.

Thank you.

Yeah, I ended up learning a lot about digital picture editing. I checked out a tablet for a couple months from Swem. They were very accommodating.

And that’s so cool your name is on it… your name is on the front cover. That’s awesome.

I put it there.

Laughing. Wow. That’s awesome.

So it’s a very sweet story. I thought it was very sweet that this woman also wanted to make a book just for her daughter.

Best gift ever.

Yeah, so her daughter was three when I met her – I don’t know if she’s a little bit older now, but she was so smart. She was playing little vocab games on her mom’s phone. But she was very chatty and I don’t think she completely understood the concept of this book, but I think she’ll grow to really appreciate it.

So how do you do it? Do you draw this on a piece of paper and then somehow transfer it to a computer?

I have no experience with this, which I disclosed fully, but she still wanted me to do it. I watercolor painted all of them first and then I scanned them and I traced over the outlines because my lines weren’t really dark enough when I scanned them. And then I erased all the backgrounds and I filled them in with solid colors so it would be smoother and less grainy. But it’s mostly watercolor that you see there.

This is amazing.  It’s just so beautiful.  

I had a lot of fun with it. I never realized before that when you illustrate a children’s book, the illustrations are actually the main point of the book.  

Because they don’t know how to read yet.  

Usually somebody else is reading to them. The girl I babysit is always taking picture walks through her books before she’s allowed to read them where they just flip through and look at all the pictures first. So I know I played a very important role for kids who read this. Yeah, I’m going to find it for real now.

Campbell:  How did you start painting and when did you start?

I’m not sure when I got into it, but I’ve done it all my life. I’ve always had little side projects and painting things. I like sculpting a lot. For a lot of my elementary and middle school life. I like having a little project going and I didn’t have one going in college. There wasn’t that much room for supplies here. At home I have drawers and shelves of art supplies, so everything is within reach. And this gave me a reason to have something going on. It was a lot of fun.

Yeah, a good break from your neuroscience, right?

Exactly, I got to take one art class here which I made sure I worked in. I was glad there was a GER6 because, I could justify it to myself, “I have to do this.” But it was nice that it was like taking an art class but doing whatever I wanted.

Yeah, not having the structure or the deadlines of an art class.

When I took an art class they made me only paint with a palette knife the entire semester until the final. I wasn’t really a huge fan of that. He kept saying, “You’re not ready for bushes yet,” to the whole class. I was like, “Are you sure?”

What, how can you not be ready for brushes?

And admittedly he showed us one really cool painting that he made with a palette knife only.  And it was nice; I get that that’s your style. That’s understandable, but I don’t know. And then mixing paints was a whole big thing for him – which I think it has to be in an intro art class I guess. We did the circle where you make a color wheel. And we did ten squares from white to blue and white to red and white to yellow. He had a thing about not giving out 100% because nobody’s could be perfect. But I got a 99% on that, so…

Laughing. You were pretty close.

I got his 100. So I was pretty proud that day.

Emily: Did you tell him about the book?

I didn’t. I don’t know if he’s still here. He might be. Dave Campbell? It was his first semester when I took his class. So, anyway his palette knife paintings were great. We only painted wooden balls on a piece on a table. So, this was a little more fulfilling to me.

Yeah, you could be a little more creative with this for sure.

Yeah, this was a little more up my alley … okay it’s downloading now.

So did she give you an idea of what she wanted or was it really just up to you?

She told me when she hired me she wanted me to do it because I had the experience to get the colors right. So, really she let me do whatever I wanted. I sent her an outline of what I was thinking for each page and she was like, “Okay great!” So she gave me a lot of freedom.

Oh, that’s nice.

I really just drew whatever felt right.  *Shows book*  So there it is.  You can zoom in or out as is convenient.

Emily:  Have you gotten feedback from anybody?

I told some people who have young children about it. And a lot of them told me that it was their child’s favorite book for that favorite book phase. They kinda had their favorites for the week. Mallory, the girl I babysit, still totes hers around and when we draw pictures she usually wants these characters so we do that a lot. But I haven’t heard personally from too many people. I don’t think I personally know the right audience for this book.

Emily: I think if I were a kid, I would bring this book around with me too, I really like this

Thank you. It took me a really long time to decide how to color it and how to draw it.

Campbell:  I think the like the watercolor kinda just helps, especially I’m not a neuroscience person .. You can almost like tie in your neuroscience of how watercolor appeases the brain or something like that.  

I like it.

Campbell: I really think the watercolor just helps though, the child focus and sees like a .. I don’t know the word.

With watercolor you’re not just getting one color when you put it on the page. Even though I didn’t do anything too realistic here, it looks more real. When you look at a leaf, it’s not just one green. And I think watercolor really brings that out.

Wow, this is so detailed. This is amazing. Look at this page.

Thank you. I’m glad you like it.

Wow. So cool.

Campbell: Exactly how long did this take you?

So I think I started around Spring Break last year and then I worked on it pretty intermittently.  And I had all the pages done at the beginning of June and then there was a lot of back and forth and just formatting it to the right PDF format. So I don’t remember exactly when this came out, but it was pretty early in the summer.

Really?

Yeah. I know my drawing part of it didn’t go very deep into the summer at all.

Campbell:  There’s like the drawing and painting stage, so did your painting just take a while?

I drew all of them because painting was more fun, so I drew all of them first just to get it out of the way and then I started filling them in. So the drawing and the painting actually was done by the beginning of summer. And then I spent a little of the beginning of summer just devoting myself to transferring this into a computer and tracing it and editing it, which was not my favorite part. The painting was a lot of fun though.

So is this something you might want to do again? Continue?

I don’t know if she’s going to be writing more books. If she does I would be down to help her out with it. I think I’d prefer shorter books in the future.

Laughing.  Yeah, this was actually a lot longer than I thought it would be.


Right? It seems short when you read the text on one page, but once you start drawing a whole one or two pages for each sentence, it ends up a little bit hefty.

So how many pages is this? It says 32.

I think it’s 32 if you count the covers.

Wow, that’s so cool.

But I was really happy that I developed my own little cartoon style.

Yeah, yeah and this is something you can show off to friends forever.  You, know?

When I get another copy of the book.

Laughing. Oh, yeah.

I need to buy one again, first.

Laughing.  Wow, this is so cool. I can’t get over it – I’m in shock.

Thank you.

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