Readers of The Japan Times may be familiar with Payal Kapadia, who wrote the children’s book-review column “On the Book Trail” from 2002 to 2008. Since then, Kapadia, has been writing children’s books herself, and last month, she released “Wisha Wozzariter,” which is illustrated by The Japan Times’ editorial page illustrator Roger Dahl.

Wisha is a young, curious girl who dreams of becoming an author. Guided by her playful purple mouse Prufrock she travels around a world of imagination and ideas in search of all the necessary elements for her book. The story is for adolescents but has plenty of substance for readers of all ages. It was originally to feature only 12 images. But as Dahl explained, he enjoyed working on the book so much that he “unilaterally decided to supply many more illustrations than were contractually required.” In the end almost 40 drawings were used.

Kapadia, who is now based in Mumbai, tells us a little more about her book and writing in general.

Did being a children’s book reviewer inspire you to write books for kids?

My experience writing the children’s book-review column helped me immensely. It put me in touch with contemporary children’s fiction and opened up a whole new world of writing to me. Children’s books these days credit kids with a lot more intelligence. Plots are complicated, characters are mixed up, there very often isn’t a moral to the story — these are pretty much stories that even adult readers can enjoy. When I was writing “Wisha Wozzariter” I kept all these things in mind, and what I had read and absorbed as a reviewer certainly informed my writing.

What was it like working with Roger Dahl for the illustrations?

It was a wonderful learning experience collaborating with Roger. The physical distance was a challenge (he’s in Seattle, Washington) and in fact, the first time we actually spoke to each other over the phone was after the book was published.

I tried very hard to put my mental image of Wisha into words, and Roger had to draw countless drafts of possible Wishas. He brought his own fresh perspective to the text, and didn’t just slavishly depict what I wrote. His illustrations can be read separately from the text, like a parallel text almost. I also think it is fantastic that we created this book without ever having met!

Isn’t the name of Wisha’s hero, Prufrock, also the title of a T.S. Elliot poem?

Yes, it is. I studied that poem at college and was struck by how self-conscious the poem’s Prufrock was — not unlike the purple mouse in my book. The entire book, in fact, is peppered with references to books that have influenced me or books that any budding writer would do well to read.

Did you write as a youth?

I wrote a lot as a child — poetry, essays and short stories; I always wanted to be a writer. It’s funny how sometimes as children we have strong intuitions about what we are going to become when we grow up. When I did grow up, I doubted those early dreams of mine and wandered off into journalism for a while. I think children are wonderful storytellers because they aren’t afraid to imagine, and because they can be so expressive and creative. And I think sometimes as children we have a stronger sense of who we really are.

What advice would you give to a young, budding author?

To take that dream seriously and to write as much as she or he can. Keep your senses alive, follow your imagination where it takes you and don’t be afraid of failing. All the dead-ends and wrong turns along the way are part of the story. That’s what “Wisha Wozzariter” is — an elaborate metaphor for the act of writing and for the exciting adventure of doing anything creative.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Staff writer