Khyrunissa A needs no introduction in the children’s world. This interview explores more about her work and journey from a participant of a short story competition to an established author. Below are the transcripts:
1. The world knows you as a prolific writer. But tell us a bit more about yourself. How did you associate yourself with Amar Chitra Katha?
I taught English at All Saints’ College, Thiruvananthapuram. I’ve always loved English, right from my school days; reading books and teaching English brought me great joy. Much as I enjoyed writing, it had never been my ambition to become a writer. That happened quite by chance. We occasionally bought the children’s magazine Tinkle for my son. In those days – I’m talking of the 1990s – it was published by India Book House. Now, Amar Chitra Katha publishes it.
One day the announcement of a competition in that magazine caught my eye. It was the Tinkle Original Short Story Competition for adult writers of children’s fiction. I thought, ‘why not give it a shot?’ I did. The story was ‘Butterfingers’ (which I later used as the framework for my novel ‘Howzzat Butterfingers!’) and it won the second prize. I would have been satisfied with that had it not been for the Assistant Editor of Tinkle, Ms Prabha Nair, paying me a visit. She had come from Mumbai to visit her in-laws in Trivandrum and since all at Tinkle loved my story, she thought she would come and meet me. I was thrilled. Imagine an editor coming to visit you! She encouraged me to continue writing and the result was that I won the first prize for the annual Tinkle Original Short Story competition seven years in a row.
By now the writing bug had bitten me and I began to write more frequently.
What made you write particularly for children?
It wasn’t that I set out particularly to write for children; I have written stories for adults too. But somehow, once I started writing for children, I realized it came rather naturally to me. I love children; I have a lot of nieces and nephews and enjoyed playing with them. After my son was born, he took all my attention. I made up stories for him and he was so sharp that I couldn’t repeat anything. He kept me on my toes. All that training came in handy when I began writing.
How did you embark on this journey of yours?
In 2006 Tinkle asked me to create a regular character and I resurrected Butterfingers, the hero of my first story, though I changed his name from Mukesh to Amar, which is my son’s name. So that was more children’s stories! And after 2010 came the Butterfingers novels published by Puffin (Penguin India) and now the latest book, ‘The Misadventures of Butterfingers,’ a collection of short stories.
I’ve written for other children’s publications too, like Children’s Book Trust, Children’s World, Children’s Magazine. I regularly write for Dimdima. Once you start writing a particular genre, you get requests for similar work.
3. Is writing a form of release for you?
Not really, for much of my writing is deadline writing and that ought to be stressful rather than a release, but I end up enjoying it.
4. Bouquets and brickbats are two sides of the same coin. How do you deal with them?
Bouquets make me feel good for when children say they love my books, that’s ample reward for writing. In fact, that’s the reason I write – to give children (and adults) joy, to make them laugh and bring fun into their lives. I haven’t really invited any brickbats, but I always appreciate constructive criticism for that helps me improve.
5. Any message for our lovely readers and your followers?
Read, read and read. Read for fun. There’s nothing like books to enrich your lives. Play too, actual games, again for fun. You’ll end up healthy in body and wealthy in mind.Amar Chitra Katha Khyrunissa Vijaykumar Khyrunissa Vijaykumar interview