“My thoughts on Women Writing as a genre: #NoLabelsPlease!” – Vibha Batra (Indian Author)5 min read
Team Kitaab is in conversation with Indian author Vibha Batra as a part of the South Asian Women Writers Feature.
For the whole of March, we will be featuring South Asian Women Writers on Kitaab for the whole of March. You can read the editor’s note to know more about this.
Today, we are featuring award-winning and bestselling Indian author, Vibha Batra. Apart from this, Vibha Batra is also a graphic novelist, advertising consultant, poet, lyricist, translator, playwright, script writer, travel writer, columnist, speaker and creative writing mentor. She has published 20 books including Khushi Khele Luka Chhupi, Incognito, Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef, The Secret Life of Debbie G (a graphic novel) Merry the Elephant’s Rainy Day, Bathinda to Bangkok, The Reluctant Debutante, The Dream Merchants, Keeping it Real, Euro Trip, Ludhiana to London, Glitter and Gloss, The Activist and The Capitalist, Sweet Sixteen (Yeah, Right!), Seventeen and Done (you Done!), Eighteen and Wiser (Not Quite!), Family Crossword, A Twist of Lime, Tongue in Cheek, and Ishaavaasya Upanishad: Knowledge and Action. She has worked on national brands like ICICI Bank, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, Aditya Birla Group, Times Group, Murugappa Group, GRT Jewellery, Lotte, Lee, Cavin Kare, to name a few.
Her travelogues have appeared in The Hindu, Conde Nast Traveller, Deccan Chronicle, and The Week. Several of her short plays have been staged during the Short and Sweet Theatre Festival South India, and her play Cold Feet won Best Script in 2017. One of her plays, The Social Butterfly, was staged on the occasion of GST Day in Chennai.
She wrote the Hindi lyrics for Thuppaki and has written the anthems for leading corporate houses like The Chola Group, Murugappa, Brakes India, GBS India, Cavin Kare, Foxconn India, among others. Her short stories and poems have appeared in the Chicken Soup series, international anthologies, Outlook magazine, The Hindu Young World, Champak, print magazines and ezines and on the Juggernaut app.
She conducts creative writing workshops independently for children and adults and at the British Council Chennai. Her Sweet Sixteen trilogy published by Penguin and The Secret Life of Debbie G published by Harper Collins have been optioned for screen adaptation by leading production houses.
The Secret Life of Debbie G won the FICCI Publishing Award 2022 and was shortlisted for the Atta Galatta Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize, the Neev Book Award, the PFC-VoW Award, the Publishing Next Award and the PVLF Author Excellence Awards. Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef was on the Parag Honour List 2023 and shortlisted for the PFC-VoW Book Awards 2022; longlisted for the Neev Book Award 2022; shortlisted for the Binod Kanoria Award for Children’s Literature 2022; shortlisted for the Atta Galatta Bangalore Literature Book Prize 2022. She was one of 25 authors from 5 continents to headline Sharjah Children’s Literature Festival 2022.
You can find all her works online.
Team Kitaab: How did writing happen to you?
Vibha Batra: Like everything in my life, I blame it on my genes. My maternal grandfather, the late Shri Vishnu Kant Shastri, was a prolific author, poet, academic and scholar. I grew up reading his memoirs, travelogues, and poetry. When he passed away, I decided to translate his book on the Ishaavaasya Upanishad into English. It was published by Rupa. And that’s how it all started.
Team Kitaab: If you had to introduce someone to your work/s, which books of yours would you ask them to start with?
Vibha Batra: Okay, with due apologies to my other books, here goes:
The Secret Life of Debbie G (Young Adult graphic novel)
Glitter and Gloss (Romantic comedy)
Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef (Children’s literature)
Team Kitaab: Share five reads you would recommend from your region/ country.
The Teachings of the Bhagawad Gita by Richa Tilokani
The Palace of Illusions – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Those Pricey Thakur Girls – Anuja Chauhan
Queen of Ice – Devika Rangachari
Everything by Amrita Pritam
Team Kitaab: Your thoughts on Women Writing as a genre.
Vibha Batra: My thoughts: #NoLabelsPlease
Team Kitaab: Please talk a bit about your publishing journey.
Vibha Batra: My maternal grandpa played a pivotal role in my writing journey. I grew up surrounded by books (and hailing from Kolkata, yummy food). Initially, all I wanted to do was eat and beat my cousins at poori eating competitions (was the reigning champ, too). But despite my best intentions, my family’s love for books rubbed off on me.
Soon, I was reading everything I could get my hands on (including shampoo labels, the terms and conditions sections of leaflets, and the newspapers wrapped around pakoras). Grandpa encouraged us to journal, dash off letters to him (even though we were based in the same city for a while), write poetry. Before I knew it, I was scribbling in notebooks, filling up journals, and even dashing off stories to Tinkle (still waiting to hear from them!).
On one fine day, I was so engrossed in doing one of the above, I forgot to eat (more than made up for it later).
Team Kitaab: How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
Vibha Batra: I’m sorry, what’s that? It’s like Joey Tribbiani says: Don’t let it know that you know.
Disclaimer: All pictures are copyright of the author/s unless otherwise.
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