‘For the love of Laxmi’ writer Bijal Shah’s adventures in workshops

Writer Bijal Shah at a public library which houses ‘For the love of Laxmi’. Photo: Nadiya Papina, provided by Bijal Shah

Little did writer Bijal Shah know when she created the adult picture book ‘For the Love of Laxmi’ (‘Laxmi’ hereafter) that the book would have so many readers and admirers and create a whole new world for her of mentoring and helping young writers.

‘Laxmi’ has been a great success. It is rated 4.9 on Amazon and 4.3 on Goodreads. The book is already in more than 50 public libraries nationwide, including Public Libraries in Queens, NY; Rochester; Chicago; Austin, TX; (https://search.worldcat.org/title/1288666754). ‘Laxmi’ is at major bookstores, and is available at Amazon, Target, Barnes and Noble and BAM. ‘Laxmi’ has kept Shah busy book-signing, bookreading and handling speaking engagements.

Writer Bijal Shah on far right at the August 2023 launch of Jewerlry Store Pandora’s release of lab grown diamonds.
Photo: Provided by Bijal Shah

‘Laxmi’ has put Shah in touch with young and aspiring writers who all wanted to learn much more from her and her experiences of writing a picture book and getting it illustrated and published.

In an exclusive interview with News India Times, Shah spoke about her new adventures in workshops on writing and publishing. “Since the end of last year’s summer, there have been many requests for workshops,” she said. These included requests by parents who said they wanted their child to write grammatically correct copy, and requests from parents who thought their child had no imagination. “Sometimes, they just asked if their child could work with me,” Shah said. “So I said, Let us teach these children creative writing and let their imagination roll,” she added.

According to Shah, the turning point came when she was invited to speak to the undergraduate class at Stevenson University in Maryland from which she had graduated in Business Communication. Back in her old professor’s class, Shah said she remembered what a great mentor the professor had been opening up her world and putting her in touch with reality.

A 2022 announcement of Bijal Shah’s new picture book ‘For the love of Laxmi’. Photo: Provided by Bijal Shah

The students related to Shah’s career choices and asked how it was perceived by her family as most immigrants want to succeed in hard sciences or technology. “There were questions about wanting to write a book, about making a humanities career choice, about family acceptance and support,” Shah said. “Conversations were happening around me which finally led to the workshops,” she said.

Shah said she has been conducting ad hoc workshops for pre-teens and teens in Spring, and in summer of last year. “I began the workshops with an idea to give people the opportunity to explore their imagination without parameters, and to book a one on one time to discuss publishing options and  content-writing career paths,” Shah said. Her workshops (https://www.littlestoryweavers.com/) also offer other services. Shah’s workshops have been received very well just like her book ‘Laxmi’.

Besides libraries, other success of ‘Laxmi’ includes an animation collaboration video with artist Mansi Joshi on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/CeqwXHrqf76/) with 400K viewers, and a video by influencer Ayesha Patel telling why she related to ‘Laxmi’ https://www.instagram.com/p/Ccf4KwGgAch/. Shah’s cultural sensitivity also led Shah to be a special invitee at the jewelry company Pandora’s launch of three new lab-grown diamond collections last summer.

‘Laxmi’ has been received very well by immigrants irrelevant of their ethnic backgrounds, said Shah. “I think the reason for Laxmi’s appeal is that we immigrants come from a structured background,” Shah said. She said most audiences at her book readings felt Laxmi’s story was their own story.

However, success did not come easily to ‘Laxmi’ and Shah who burned midnight oil to research and explore avenues and possibilities. In one of her workshops ‘How to get published’, Shah has shared her research and experiences.

Shah believes self-publishing is not conducive to marketing success because it lacks circulation and industry relationships. She believed the traditional publishers are too big and restrictive. “I was a first time writer and a picture book writer at that, making it harder,” Shah said and added, “I was afraid the pictures in my book would turn out to be one of those stereotypical representations if I worked with a traditional publisher who would hold all publishing rights.”

For ‘Laxmi’ Shah shares publishing rights with the publisher who has industry relationships. “The publisher markets the book and I did not have to make any commitments to write more books in the line. It offered a lot of flexibility,” she said.

Shah said she is halfway to completing ‘Laxmi 2’. “Laxmi is grown now,” she said, adding, “At the age of 19, she is thinking of the experiences of her 9-year old self and of untalked about experiences,” she said.

Shah said she is excited about how ‘Laxmi’ has widened her world to include a lot of young aspiring writers. She feels glad that she is able to make some difference in the lives of immigrant writers like her, she said.

*News India Times’ 2022 review of ‘For the love of Laxmi’ can be read at (https://www.newsindiatimes.com/for-the-love-of-laxmi-an-unusual-book-by-bijal-shah/)



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