Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
As you know, I just love a great how-to picture book, so I am extra excited about our guest today, Darshana Khiani, who is going to share about her debut picture book HOW TO WEAR A SARI, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Darshana, thank you so much for joining us!
Darshana: Hi Kaitlyn! Thank you so much for having me here.
Kaitlyn: Thanks so much for sharing this fun and sweet story with the world. Can you share what inspired it and a bit about it’s journey into the world?
Darshana: A sari is a symbol of womanhood in South Asian culture. It’s glamorous, sophisticated, and at 5 to 9 yards long it can be unwieldy too. While I love the look of saris, I’m not very skilled at it. Just as a young girl might want to wear her mom’s high heel shoes or a fancy gown to feel grown-up, I wondered what it would be like for a young Indian girl to wear her mother’s sari.
Kaitlyn: I definitely loved dressing up in my parents’ clothes and my daughter loves dressing up in ours, too, definitely a fun past time that you and Joanne did a great job representing with this story. Can you share one of your favorite experiences with a sari?
Darshana: Since I’m not good at wearing a sari, the only times I wear one is at weddings. This is a photo of my favorite sari. But, I haven’t worn it yet even though I bought it in 2005! What gives, right? Well I bought this sari in 2005 and had a custom blouse stitched as per the norm for the time. A month later I became pregnant with our first child and then another two years later. After I was done having kids, my physique was not the same as before the babies. I had also started working out. During this entire time the blouse didn’t fit and it became clear it likely never would again. Weddings came and went but I had no blouse, until December 2018 when we went to India. I had a new blouse stitched that matched the sari. But now there were no weddings and then COVID happened. However, there is a silver lining. My cousin just got engaged so there should be a big Indian wedding coming up soon. Follow my social media channels to see if I ever get to wear this gorgeous sari.
Kaitlyn: Wow, it’s so beautiful, and whoa! What a story! I feel like this sari is writing stories like you do. Super congrats to your cousin; I can’t wait to see the pictures! Can you share why you think stories like these are so important for our little ones to read about?
Darshana: I think it’s important for all kids to see themselves reflected in stories. I love that there has been a strong focus on diverse books and so many beautiful rich stories coming out. I also feel it is important for kids to see themselves in a variety of stories whether it be historical, fantasy, contemporary, or books of joy. How to Wear a Sari is a South Asian book of joy as we see a young girl immerse herself and be joyful in wearing a sari.
Kaitlyn: Yes, yes, yes! I’m so happy to see such wonderful diversity, especially in happy stories. The ending to this story is one of those endings that is so satisfying to the reader but is also unexpected–a true writer’s gift! Without giving it away, can you share a bit about how you found your ending?
Darshana: Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I honestly don’t remember. I came up with the ending early on in the process. I knew the girl would take a tumble, and I knew there had to be consequences. But I also knew that I didn’t want her to feel embarrassed by it but instead be comforted by knowing that her family understood from their own experiences.
Kaitlyn: I love that so much; showing kids that it’s okay to make mistakes, but that others understand is so powerful. Can you share who your editor is for this book, and why it was so wonderful to work with this editor?
Darshana: My acquiring editor was Erika Turner. I actually met her at the SCBWI Winter Conference Diversity social in 2018. We were chatting and she indicated an interest in HOW TO WEAR A SARI. Roughly two months later she offered. I loved her and the team’s enthusiasm for the project. Erika and I were of the same mindset regarding the feel for the books so editing was minimal and quick. Erika has moved on and I am now working with a different editor, Weslie Turner, for the book.
Kaitlyn: That’s so wonderful that you met at a conference and had such aligned visions! Can you share who your agent is and why you enjoy working with this agent?
Darshana: My agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I enjoy working with her very much. She is kind and patient and very knowledgeable about the industry. I love that we have a good working relationship where I can bring any writing/publishing concern to her whether it’s my worry about a competing book, questions about what to work on next, or me being impatient with submissions. I try to be respectful of her time since she is very busy. I’m so glad she is there to guide me on my writing journey.
Kaitlyn: What a positive relationship on all fronts! Another great person on your journey is illustrator, Joanne, who did such an amazing job bringing your words to life with art. Can you share a bit about this relationship?
Darshana: My publisher, Versify, found Joanne. I am so happy they did. Joanne’s art is colorful and full of expression, energy, and movement. We had no contact with each other while she was working on the book. But I did reach out to her as we got closer to the release date. In fact we did a joint virtual launch event and had a draw-off. You can view the replay of the launch event until July 24th. (www.tinyurl.com/howtowearasari)
Kaitlyn: Ahh! I love draw-offs! So much fun! And I’m so glad you both got to bring your own magic to this wonderful story, but now get to connect for events. Can you share some advice you like to give to aspiring authors?
Darshana: Write what you love. Write what you are curious about. Sometimes it can take 10, 20, 30 revisions or more over years before the story shines. And even then it may not get picked up. That’s a lot of time to spend with a story that doesn’t spark joy for you.
Kaitlyn: Well said! This journey is about the joy. Can you share how you and your team work on marketing your book?
Darshana: The publisher focused on their usual media outreach and connections with top influencers. I focused on reaching out to connections made via my Picture Marketing Group, Soaring20s, or through my South Asian Kidlit work. I set up a blog/promotion tour spanning two months consisting of interview posts, guest posts, podcast interviews, participation in several Nerd Camps, and a virtual storytime event.
Kaitlyn: That’s so wonderful, and new authors, take note: this is a great plan! Can you share with us what’s next for you or what you’re working on now?
Darshana: I am currently finishing up the backmatter for my next picture book I’M AN AMERICAN which is about the common beliefs we share and immigration history. The book is slated for Summer 2023 from Viking. Beyond that I’m looking forward to revising some picture book manuscripts and getting them out to my editors.
Kaitlyn: I’M AN AMERICAN sounds amazing, too! I can’t wait to have you back to chat about that book soon! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, historical figure, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Darshana: I love to walk and talk. So I would probably want to go on a hiking adventure.
Kaitlyn: Oh, hikes are super awesome, sounds like tons of fun! Thank you so much for sharing and for joining us today, Darshana!
Book info and links
Hicklebee’s (local bookstore carrying signed copies): https://www.hicklebees.com/book/9781328635204
Sparkling with voice and charm, this picture book about a fashionable kid out to prove she’s not as small as everyone thinks is perfect for kids eager to grow up, and for those who love to play dress-up.
Being a little kid isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes, it’s downright annoying.
When a little girl tires of being treated like she’s TOO little, she sets out to prove to her family that she can do ANYTHING she puts her mind to . . .
. . . including putting on a colorful, twinkly, silky sari. Sure, they’re long and unwieldy—but that only means her family will be even more impressed when she puts it on all by herself.
Naturally, there are some hiccups along the way, but she discovers that she’s not the only one in her family who has set out with something to prove, with hilariously chaotic results. That’s what photo albums are for!
Author Bio and links
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:
This humorous and heartfelt book is filled with all the things kids want hear about how they can be capable like adults. Set in a funny, how-to fashion and complimented with wonderful illustrations, this will be a hit for every kid!
Do you want to win a copy of HOW TO WEAR A SARI? (US only please)
You can enter in the follow ways (each earns you another entry into the random drawing)
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added HOW TO WEAR A SARI to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of HOW TO WEAR A SARI
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for HOW TO WEAR A SARI at your library
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Thank you all for supporting such amazing creators, and make sure to check back soon because we’re having our first Team Sanchez cover reveal very very soon!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
PS. For those of you who were participating in the Spring Fling Kidlit contest analysis, you did such an amazing job, and I’m so sorry I didn’t have time to get to all of them, but I appreciate your understanding that life happens and can’t wait to see more writing from you all for the Fall Writing Frenzy this October!