Noida-based author Richa Jha runs a pickle farm, quite literally. She owns an Indie publishing house called Pickle Yolk Books, where she dishes out picture books for young readers, and much like its name, her 10 books have the best of the both – they are tangy, yummy, exciting like the pickle, and enriching, wholesome, awesome like the yolk, good to be devoured daily, and in generous portions. Her last offering was Macher Jhol, and this year, her publishing house takes the next big step by exhibiting at the ongoing World Book Fair. This will be followed by Kolkata Book Fair and then at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in April. Excerpts from an interview:
Take us through your growing up years, and influences in your life.
Growing up in the small, yet cosmopolitan Dhanbad, Jharkhand, and studying at Carmel School, taught me resilience, confidence and groundedness. The fabulous undergrad years at Miranda House in Delhi taught me the real power of words. It was there that I learnt to turn my ability to express through the written words into my strength. I have always been a reserved person, preferring to keep my views to myself. At college I became aware of the importance of speaking up.
Did you always set out to be a children’s book author?
Writing for children didn’t exist even remotely in my scheme of things. Various life experiences made me what I am today. It’s been a beautiful, organic journey where one thing led to other and here I am, finding myself both writing and publishing picture books for children.
Is writing for children challenging?
Yes, it is challenging but equally exciting too. Children are honest, blunt and often fierce when it comes to expressing their likes or dislikes. Therefore, it is imperative that your story is honest too. In the case of picture books, the author and the illustrator have a tough job at hand because what they create has to appeal equally well to the parent or teacher/librarian too. The author also needs to leave ample room for the illustrator to fill in (more than) the gaps. An accomplished illustrator will often introduce parallel visual narratives of her own. And for the author, it’s only 400-500 words in which to string a complete narrative arc. So while writing a picture book usually appears deceptively simple, in actual sense it’s not.