Welcome to today’s edition of Tuesday Debut!
I’m thrilled to present debut author Shachi Kaushik and her beautiful book about Diwali, DIWALI IN MY NEW HOME! She has a lot of great tips and advice to share, so let’s get right to it! 😊
Diwali In My New Home by Shachi Kaushik
Illustrated by Aishwarya Tondoon
Published By: Beaming Books
Releasing: September 27th, 2022
Age: Early Grades (5-8 years)
Priya loves being with family and friends to watch fireworks and celebrate Diwali. But this year Priya and her parents are living in the United States, and no one seems to know about the holiday. Priya misses the traditions in India. But as the day passes she celebrates the day with her neighbors. And even though the celebration is different this year, it’s still Diwali.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Shachi! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today and share your journey to publication. We can’t wait to hear about it! Where did the idea for this book come from?
SHACHI: For the past few years, I had been doing Diwali events for children at the RoundRock Public Library. This event grew bigger and bigger each year. Seeing the joy on children’s faces bought so much satisfaction to me that I wanted to write a Diwali book. The story of Priya is drawn from my own personal experience. The ideas are always floating around us. We just need to catch one and make it our story.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
SHACHI: Most of my manuscripts are a result of the Writing Barn classes. For me taking classes are a self-investment. These classes keep me focused, I learn new techniques, I get to make new friends and most importantly one can find their critique group. I took classes from The Writing Barn, The Storyteller Academy, SCBWI and the monthly 12×12 webinars.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
SHACHI: The rough draft of this manuscript had 1200 words, which now is under 500. So there have been several revisions. The first draft is never your final draft. I wrote drafts from the point of view of first person and third, in past tenses and present tenses. Once I have my manuscript I do storyboarding where I put the layout the text onto thirty pages. This helps me see the story more clearly and helps with my edits. One can use Canva or sticky notes for storyboarding.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
SHACHI: I took my manuscript to different of critique groups and took a lot of feedback. I eventually submitted it for the Austin 2019 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference where this manuscript was nominee of Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award. At that time, I knew I could start submitting it to agents.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
SHACHI: I first submitted this manuscript for LEE & LOW BOOKS – New Voices Writing Competition. When I did not get a response for three months, I signed up with an agent and the manuscript went out for submissions.
SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?
SHACHI: This book got a number of rejections, and it took almost 9 months when the ‘Yes’ came my way. But it came from three publishers. One of them wanted me to make changes, which they did not quite like and rejected. In the end I had two offers. The 9 months were worth a wait.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
SHACHI: We all want to hear that good news as early as our book is out for submissions, but it doesn’t always happen. I got several rejections for this book. At one point I rebranded my book, by changing the title and changing the name of the main character. The book was earlier titled ‘Diwali Away from Home’ and the main character was a boy character which now is a girl.
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
SHACHI: I got the offer in June 2021 and signed the contract in July 2021.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
SHACHI: I had moved from Austin to Toronto, without my husband behind. Due to covid restrictions, Toronto was still under a a lockdown. I celebrated virtually with my husband eating pizza and later celebrated the big news with my new friends in a new city, Toronto.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
SHACHI: When I had two offers, I evaluated both the publishing houses on the publication timeline and the marketing of their books. I signed the contract with Beaming Books and negotiated on the number of author copies.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
SHACHI: My editor Andrea Hall made the process helpful. Andrea gave notes with explanation which helped me learn why the change was necessary. There were a few changes that I had to make, and nothing major that would make the story go off track.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
SHACHI: My publisher involved me from the early process. They shared Aishwarya’s work and asked what my thoughts were. I loved her work. It was colorful and beautifully detailed. Knowing that Aishwarya is from India, I was happy cause she too celebrates Diwali and could bring out all the colors of festival.
The illustrator and art director did a wonderful job in bringing the story to life. I added my personal elements to the story with my words and similarly Aishwarya added her personal elements and touch to the story with her art.
It was lovely to meet Aishwarya and hear what her thoughts were when she read my manuscript and how she filled the story with colors. In the cover you see the character wearing a sweater with a sun, the sun is the sign of Beaming Books.
I did add my notes because I wasn’t sure if the illustrator would be someone who would have experienced the holiday. Aishwarya did get a few notes but not all.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
SHACHI: The Kirkus review wasn’t so great. It said, “A book about Diwali that doesn’t quite crackle.” First, I was disappointed but as a creative I’ve learned not everyone will like your book. I get more satisfaction when an immigrant tells me that they relate to the story and share their experience.
SUSANNA: Reviews can be tough. It’s wonderful that you were able to focus on what was important – your readers! How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
SHACHI: 15 months.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
SHACHI: Beaming Books is good with their promotion. They meet you in advance and have one on one with you to discuss the marketing plans. The publicist has reached out to several bookstores for events, made connections with media companies for my book.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
SHACHI: I joined a picture book promotional group, and we help each other promote. I did create a book trailer. As my book is on the holiday Diwali, I’ve made a special Diwali Kit, which has my book, bookmarks, stickers and a few Diwali goodies.
SUSANNA: That sounds like fun! How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
SHACHI: When I started writing I thought of self-publishing, but when I came out of Carmen Oliver’s class at the Writing Barn, my perspective changed. I started writing seriously in January 2019 and sold my book in June 2021.
SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up-and-coming writers?)
SHACHI: Read, Write, Critique, go out for events and have patience because it takes time.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
SHACHI: One thing I’ve learned if you can believe it, you can achieve it. Just keep working towards it.
SUSANNA: That is great advice! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Shachi! We all wish you the best with this and future titles!
Author Shachi Kaushik and illustrator Aishwarya Tondoon. Shachi was finally able to take a trip to India and met her in Jaipur.
Readers, if you have questions for Shachi, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Shachi’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
- purchasing their books
- recommending their books to friends and family
- recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
- recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
- suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
- sharing their books on social media
- reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊