I have written this bunch of 24 stories for children and have titled the compilation 'The Gulmohur Gang Adventures'. These stories have been written as early as in 2000 and ever since I have been scouting around for publishers for them. The idea behind these stories was to create believable everyday kids who live next door and have them look at issues like honesty, taking action, standing up against injustice, sharing, being polite, being kind etc in a fun and empowering way. The stories are not as bad as some of the stuff I read, and on the other hand, they are definitely not in the Harry Potter class either.
'Lack of children's writing in India'
I figured that with all the talk of a 'lack of writing in the children's books area', there would be some interest in the Gulmohur gang in our publishing industry. But then, the inscrutable publishing industry has stumped me yet again and I have received rejections from most children's book publishers. Especially the known ones. Every once in a while I take the manuscript out of the shelf, dust it, revise it and send it off to another bunch of publishers. Ten years have gone by!
Dusting the manuscripts
The other day I was reminded of these stories when I made a list of things to do. I approached Unisun Publications in Bengaluru and Tulika Books in Chennai with my proposal and they are currently considering it.
But there is an interesting beginning to this story. The Gulmohur Gang was actually the first work of fiction of mine that was accepted by a publisher. We even signed a contract. The publisher was Dahlia Publishers in Puthusherry, Kerala headed by Senu George, a methodical, highly likeable and organized man who had just started this publishing venture. I had just quit my bank job with nothing in hand, except for a manuscript that had been rejected by everyone in the world (The Misfit) and this collection of short stories. I quit my job in March 2004 and in April 2004 I get a letter from Senu that he would like to publish the stories. I was naturally over the moon. Beginners luck!
A long wait
I signed up the agreement and went to work diligently on the stories. Senu had some fine suggestions to make and we proceeded towards publication. Revision after revision, final draft, pdf formats, title etc. Come, 2005 and nothing happened. Senu was still getting his stuff in place. Come 2006, and nothing happened again. I found an artist for Senu and we got some illustrations done. Meanwhile 'The Men Within' finally found a home and got published after its own ups and downs. Senu still kept on postponing the publication citing marketing problems, financial difficulties and I was slowly drawing to the edge of my patience. Every time we communicated Senu had no date.
I sent Senu a copy of 'The Men Within'. He read it and said that life is not like that - its not that we wish for something and it would happen. Its nice and inspirational, this story, but life is much too difficult he felt. I felt otherwise. I could not do business with someone who had such a pessimistic view of life. I told Senu to give me a final date and get going else we cancel the long-expired agreement. Senu still had no final date and I finally broke off our agreement sometime in 2008. Senu did contact me once and asked me to reconsider but then I genuinely felt that our views of the world were so different that it would always be difficult to work together even if we went ahead with the deal.
Ever since, its been one rejection after another. The publishers are not yet ready for me. I am not ready for the publishers. I once contemplated changing the characters as well and infusing some magical creatures too, just to see if our publishers bite, but have not. Not yet. Still might do it. All the successes seem to be of virtual or magical characters who do not exist in this domain, so maybe that is what children want, I think.
Let us see what happens with the two publishers.