About quitting a book and getting an award, all in the same week

This is a true story of how I almost quit writing my book and got a book award, all in the same week. Last month, I was on the verge of quitting the book I’ve been working on. I hyperventilated, panicked and thought about all the characters I would be leaving behind, the world that I’d be giving up on.

I’ll be honest. Since a few months, the book hasn’t been doing well. I had been struggling through a second draft, trying to get to know characters that refused to speak to me and scenes that I couldn’t put my heart into.

My book on science was a finalist in the AutHer Award 2022 in the children’s category

Instead of quitting, I decided to take a break.

Over the weekend, I met friends, went cycling to see the blooming spring, slept and had a wonderful time.

I also realised that it wasn’t the book that was bogging me down. It was my expectations from the work. I had been very ambitious with it – a new genre I’m working in. I had also bragged about this book to other people, so felt I was under pressure to deliver a certain kind of work.

The deeper I delved, the more I knew that I wasn’t in a bad relationship with the characters, but my expectations from them.

My ambitions, my desire to write a certain way, to even be a certain kind of a writer, held me back.

These were playing up constantly in my mind, increasing pressure and stress, and blocking natural creativity. I decided to quit the book, if I don’t stop being toxic to myself about it.

Surprisingly, the decision of quitting, if I can’t set my ambitions aside, set me free.

I was not panicked anymore. There was no one I wanted to deliver this book to. I knew I could quit anytime. Now, without expectations, I’m working on the book again.

Maybe it’ll never be finished or published, but for the first time, since a few months, I’m enjoying the characters, listening to them, going through their lives and scenes with a delight.

And a week later, I have two awards to prove to myself that I need to love what I write.

My book on Indian scientists, which I wrote without a plan and enjoyed thoroughly, has just won the Publishing Next Award 2021 and is a finalist in the AutHer Awards 2022.

The awards have given me confidence—much needed when you’re working in a silos—to continue to be true to my instincts. Write powerfully, emotionally and have fun in the art. Which is the message I would like to leave you all with today.

Even if you struggle, the upside might be just around the corner, so wait out the low periods, chuck out the voices in your head and write with your heart.

Have you faced an urge to quit the creative project you’re chiselling towards? Share your story with me, so we may support each other

(This blog is an excerpt from my monthly newsletter Dear Penpal, to support you in your creative journey with tips, opportunities, insights and inspirations. Subscribe or read the archives here. Or connect with me on InstagramTwitter or LinkedIn so we can grow our creative selves together.)

Finalist In AutHER Award 2022 For Children Lit

Very happy to announce that my book on Indian scientists, They Made What? They Found What? made it to the shortlist of AutHer Award 2022. It’s in the children literature category.

The award was announced at a glamorous evening in Taj Palace in Delhi. It was amazing to attend an event physically and meet and hug people whose work I had read and admired.

Put faces to names, say hello to old faces from my earlier life as a journalist in Delhi. I’m a writer who needs her own space, but I also love the energy and spark that meeting other people gives me. So here’s to physical events again!

I’d like to thank all the scientists who shared their stories with me and to all the fellow nominees at the #AutHerAwards function: Shabnam Minwalla (who won the award! congrats!), Paro Anand (such a hoot to be with!), Devika Rangachari, and Devika Cariappa (a fellow Bengalurean). Here’s a quirky video I made of the award night. Photos below. Have a laugh folks!

Shweta presents a quirkly video of the award night.

If you can’t see it, head to the Instagram post here and connect with me while there!

About the book

In ‘They Made What?’, kids meet India’s brightest scientists and read all about their incredible, groundbreaking inventions in this first-of-its-kind book. Whereas, in ‘They Found What’, they are introduced to India’s brightest scientists and read about their incredible, groundbreaking discoveries. It’s a marvellous, fun to read, fact-filled science flipbook. Buy on Amazon.

About the award

The AutHer Awards – a joint venture between JK Paper and The Times of India – is a celebration of women authors who have added value and creativity to the literary space. The jury considered books by women published in India between December 2020 and November 2021.

The chairs for the AutHer Awards jury consisted of poet, author, and lyricist Prasoon Joshi (Fiction), author, columnist, and former Indian diplomat Rajiv Dogra (Non-Fiction), translator Arunava Sinha (Debut), and author and poet Jerry Pinto (Children’s books).

Leaving you with some photos and media of the event (Scroll down)

AutHer Award 2021 was covered in all Times of India editions of Delhi and NCR

Coverage in the Times of India’s Delhi edition
Shweta Taneja and Jerry Pintoat the AutHer Awards 2022
All grins with author and judge Jerry Pinto (He was so entertaining on stage) at the AutHer Awards 2022
Grinning again with fellow nominee Paro Anand at the AutHer Awards 2022
Screen shot of the big screen at the event