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#PitMad, Telugu Culture and Kalamkari Art, GOODNIGHT GANESHA: Interview with Nadia Salomon and Poonam Mistry

I met Nadia Salomon through the SCBWI and am also familiar with her online. I love her enthusiasm, positive outlook, and the support she has shown fellow members of the kidlit community over the years! I was excited to get a sneak peek of GOODNIGHT GANESHA, her debut as a picture book author. The bedtime story celebrates nigthtime rituals as two young children visit their grandparents in India. SUCH gorgeous illustrations by Poonam Mistry. Thanks to both Nadia and Poonam for answering some questions about the book as well as their advice for young writers and illustrators!

Nadia Salomon
 lives in northern California with her family. Nadia writes picture book, middle-grade, and graphic novel manuscripts with themes of South Asian and Caribbean culture, STEM, non-fiction, and humor. Nadia is the winner of the 2020 SCBWI Service Award and the 2019 SCBWI WOOP Honor Award for work of outstanding progress on her non-fiction, picture book manuscript, MYRLIE: A VOICE OF HOPE. You can find out more about Nadia on her websiteTwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTubeYou can sign up for her newsletter here.

Poonam Mistry is a freelance illustrator living in the UK and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration at the University of Hertfordshire. Poonam creates her beautifully intricate images by hand using fine liners and then digitally alters them. You can find out more about Poonam on her websiteTwitter, and Instagram.

Synopsis of GOODNIGHT GANESHA (Philomel, Aug. 31, 2021):

“As nighttime falls over the city, two children visiting their grandparents in India find there’s so much fun to be had! Whether it’s listening to epic stories or observing rituals in the puja room, there are many moments that make this time together special. In this beautiful, rhyming ode to bedtime, the only thing more universal than getting ready for bed and saying goodnight is the love between children and their grandparents.”

Inspiration photo from Poonam Mistry.

Q. What was your path to publication?

Nadia: I’m a #PitMad success story. I landed my amazing agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, through twitter pitching! That’s about three years after joining SCBWI. But my debut, GOODNIGHT GANESHA, is not the story she faved, but instead what I call a ‘hot potato’ idea inspired by my child. I wrote the draft in October of 2017. I sent it to several editors and agents I had connected with through conferences, but received lots of champagne rejections before shelving it. It was one of 21 manuscripts I shared with my agent in March of 2018. She loved the concept, but asked me to write the story in lyrical prose. After rounds of revisions, in January of 2019, she finally accepted the manuscript. She sent it out on sub. Six months later, in July of 2019, we sold the manuscript to Liza Kaplan, a senior editor at Philomel Books. I am now traditionally published. From concept to release will be 3 years, 10 months, 14 days to be exact.

Q. What interaction did you have with the illustrator, if any, during the process?

Nadia: Poonam and I interacted behind the scenes, but we NEVER discussed GOODNIGHT GANESHA or the art for the book. I trusted her whole-heartedly. All work related communications went through our editor. We became friends behind the scenes – coping through the pandemic, bonding over shared culture, family, and everything else in between, but we NEVER had convos as she worked on the book. The one time was at the end, when Poonam completed the art and asked me, “DID YOU SEE THE FINAL ART YET?” And I was like, “Uhm…NO.” She was so excited. She said she put a lot of extra details and hoped I liked it. I was so antsy, but stayed calm. A few days later I received the final art. It was just incredible! We had a good cry messaging back and forth over the final art and what this project meant to each of us. We’re about to contribute a piece of Telugu Culture and Kalamkari art into kidlit; we’re ecstatic and proud of what we created together.

Q. What was your illustration process for GOODNIGHT GANESHA?

Poonam: For Goodnight Ganesha, I began by actually taking photographs around my parent’s house. They have a lot of decorative ornaments and wall hangings all around their home so this was the perfect starting point for the book. Nadia’s text is so poetic and beautiful so I sketched the imagery I felt best represented each spread and would really showcase her words- usually I have several versions for each part of the text and pick the ones I like the most. Once this was approved, I sketched out larger versions on thick cartridge paper and used black ink to draw in the designs in neat. This is where I added all the patterns and details. Mostly I took inspiration from traditional Indian art such Kalamkari textiles and Madhubani art. I layered the patterned very much like you would see on sarees and fabrics. After completing the drawing, I used Photoshop to add colour and additional patterns to finish it off. Some of the spreads have a patterned border- this was because I wanted them to look like wall hangings and Kalamkari textile pieces- big pieces of art!

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

Nadia: Read, read, read. Write your stories. Make writing a habit. Write, write, write. Use the power of storytelling to change the world through joy. Explore your emotions, your memories, and create new classics. There’s someone out there, an adult, another child, a pair of hands waiting to read your story that may impact or influence their life. No matter your age, your size, your voice – your words have value.

Q. What advice do you have for young illustrators?

Poonam: My biggest piece of advice is to do art that is true to yourself. My style is a real reflection of the things I love and what makes me who I am. It is my visual voice. Also always keep drawing and be experimental in the media you use. Although my work is mostly digital, I love painting in my style!

For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.