The magic of words has fascinated people for decades and it has become a source of inspiration for many, no matter where they live or what they do. A written word is more durable than it may seem, and the thoughts that we note down can occur to be useful for the next generations. When I was a little girl I loved entering the world of fantasy, which always made my quite an ordinary life way more interesting. Books are also a source of knowledge about the surrounding us reality and the issues we are truly interested in. They allow us not only to understand the matters which previously seemed to be incomprehensible to us, but they also allow us to get to know some new flavors of life, which will make us totally different people.
Another matter, which has invariably intrigued me, is the influence of culture on literature. Thanks to such a rich form, which is a word, as well as thanks to the skillfulness of authors we can get to know various flavors of curry scented India, distant and intact Africa or exotically dancing Cuba – and all these without leaving your home! It certainly broadens the mind and allows us to dream of gaining more knowledge and getting more than we initially expected.
Today, I’m truly pleased to introduce you to Vidya Murlidhar – an essayist, author of books for children, as well as a stay – at – home mom, who isn’t only passionate about her work, but also about the spiritual life and the mind-body relationship. During this conversation you’ll get to know how her adventure with writing children’s books started, what are her plans for the nearest future, as well as what she is truly passionate about, of course besides writing!
Passion Piece: Could you tell my readers a few words about yourself?
Vidya: Hi Natalia, when I think about it I guess the best way to introduce myself would be to say that I am a mother and an explorer of life. I love to ponder, reflect, dream and share my experiences. In striving to find out the deeper meaning of life, my purpose and be a better parent, I’ve stumbled upon interests that make me truly happy. Writing is one of them. I am an essayist and an author. Teaching is another. What drives me though is the desire to connect with people. I revel in the togetherness and warmth that heartfelt conversations bring. I grew up in Mumbai, India and my writing carries the strong flavor of my homeland. I now live in Charlotte with my husband, 2 kids and a puppy.
Passion Piece: You’ve mentioned that you are still not a very experienced writer. But you’ve already written an excellent book titled ‘The Adventures of Grandpa and Ray’. What’s the story behind it?
Vidya: I write about everyday experiences, simple moments that touch my heart. The book started as a poem titled “The Circle Of Life.” It was an ode to my son and the special relationship he shares with his grandfather. They are both in different stages of their life – one has attained much wisdom after experiencing it all and the other is just a beginner on this journey. Yet, they are like two peas in a pod. They are transparent in their emotions, live in the present moment and laugh heartily. One day as I watched them dig into a big bowl of ice cream while watching a rerun of Gilligan’s Island, I could not help but wonder if life had skipped a few stages in between. That thought inspired me to write about them. When I read the poem to my writer’s group, one of the writers, Mr. Louis Smith was very moved. He suggested that the poem would make a wonderful children’s book. That’s how it all began. At that time, writing was a passion I had recently discovered. There was a lot I was yet to learn about the craft of writing and the process of publishing( and I think I still do). Louis gave me the nudge I needed to become an author… if not for him, I think it would have been just a poem on my blog.
Passion Piece: Writing books for children is a huge challenge, as they are one of the most demanding audiences I know. How did you start your adventure with writing children’s books?
Vidya: Writing for children is certainly not easy, yet I think it is something every writer should try their hands on.. Writing picture books is a great lesson in brevity. Often, you have to disguise life’s greatest truths in a story that is imaginative and funny in as less as 600 words. You have to be able to get into the mind of a little one and think about characters and situations from their perspective. It’s about learning to be playful again, an aspect that most adults have forgotten. A good picture book is like a powerful TED TALK. It leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy and affirms the goodness in the world. That is why I love picture books! Creating the first book was so much fun. I hope to be able to make many more. Working on the PB manuscripts have helped me hone my skills as a writer and taught me to push the boundaries of imagination.
Passion Piece: Where do you look for your inspirations? What does writing mean to you?
Vidya: Writing to me is very healing. It helps me better understand who I am. My essays are mostly insights into the very confusing journey of motherhood. Penning my thoughts brings clarity to the chaos in my heart and mind. When I feel deeply about something that happens around me, I write about it. I’ve been a stay at home mom for many years and that experience has been a rich source of inspiration for me.
Passion Piece: How do you try to overcome difficulties while working on new pieces?
Vidya: This is something that I am currently learning to tackle. Maybe, because of so much going on in the world now, I’m struggling to write my essays or even find the time to think. Usually when I lounge around and do nothing is when the ideas flow.With everyone quarantined and working from home, there is busyness in the confined space around us. One thing I did recently that helped me feel unstuck was to answer the prompt that I gave the kids I taught. Last week their prompt was to rewrite the story of The Hare and The Tortoise from the perspective of the hare. Normally, I give the kids prompts and then give them a few minutes to write. But last week I wrote along with them and was pleasantly surprised at the story that developed. This week we are doing rhyming poetry and I hope to come up with something silly and funny along with them.
I also think that as artists, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be productive all the time. We need to be more forgiving of ourselves. There will be times when we may not be able to create, and that’s okay. Creativity, just like life, ebbs and flows.
Passion Piece: You also run your own blog Vidya Writes. Why did you decide to set up this website?
Vidya: The blog was a gift I gave myself on my 40th birthday. The intention was to set up a platform so I would find the dedication and carve the time to write on a regular basis. It was also to have all my writing in one place. Presently, I’m working on making it more visually appealing and easy to navigate for the readers.
Passion Piece: Where else can we find your works?
Vidya: My website, of which the blog is a part, features all the links to my published essays. My articles have appeared in Chicken Soup For The Soul, Mothers Always Write, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, Saathee (an Indo-American cultural magazine) and spiritual magazines like Life Positive and Infinithoughts.
Passion Piece: What new projects are you currently working on? Is there a goal you’d love to achieve this year?
Vidya: I’m currently working on refining the manuscript of two picture books and have an idea for the third. I also have drafts for a few essays on my laptop that need to be finished. I would love to see at least one book and a couple of essays published this year. I also hope to be able to get my certification to teach meditation.
Passion Piece: What are you passionate about? What do you usually do in your free time?
Vidya: I am fascinated by energy healing and the mind-body connection. I meditate regularly and love reading books and listening to podcasts on spirituality. I am a Reiki master. Although I don’t practise professionally, I try to spend a few minutes everyday sending reiki to all my loved ones. I also enjoy dancing and performing. I am a trained classical dancer. My biggest passion though is working with kids. Over the past year I’ve helped a few kids to write their personal statements for their college applications and it has been deeply satisfying. I also conduct workshops and presentations in schools and libraries on being a writer and publishing. In my free time, I volunteer for an NGO based in India, EKAM.
Passion Piece: Where do you see yourself in the nearest future?
Vidya: Right now, all I am hoping for is a more cohesive world without COVID-19 where I can continue to explore, play, mentor kids, and travel with family.
Passion Piece: Which motto would you like to share with my readers?
Vidya: Be Yourself. Everything else is already taken.
Passion Piece: Thank you so much for your time. I can’t wait for your new children’s books and I wish you nothing but success in the future!
Everyone can create, even though it sometimes seems to be impossible. You never know how something seemingly meaningless may turn out to be a spectacular success or a good start for a new enterprise. Don’t under-estimate yourself and don’t assume that you cannot gain your goal at the very beginning of the race… and who knows, maybe you will even make it to the finish line?
See you around!
Photos by: Vidya Murlidhar