Blog Author Interview - Pooja Puri
I’ve wanted to be a children’s author from a young age. As a child, I was always writing short stories or scribbling ideas in notebooks!
I studied English Language and Literature at university and I remember sending stories out to literary agents without any real success.
The breakthrough for me came when I won a place on a mentoring scheme run by Writers’ Centre Norwich. At the end of the scheme, I secured a literary agent, and my first book, The Jungle, was published in 2017.
My next book, A Dinosaur Ate My Sister, was published in 2021 and was selected as the first book in the Marcus Rashford Book Club. The club aims to improve access to books for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Seeing the book go out into schools and hearing the reactions from readers has been absolutely incredible and I can’t wait to see what the book club does next.
I’d been brainstorming different ideas for a time travel story when a question popped into my head: what if you sent someone through time?
This was followed by another question: what if that someone happened to be your boring big sister?
It was as if someone had flicked a switch. Suddenly, Esha’s character arrived in front of me, sparkling with genius and wacky inventions.
Since creating the series, I’ve spoken to readers who have commented on their excitement at seeing someone like themselves featured as the main character in a story.
Whether it’s fantasy, science-fiction, action-adventure or another genre – all children should feel that they belong in books.
I think diversity in children’s literature is important so that every child can see themselves represented in books, no matter their background, ethnicity or culture.
Books are such a vital means to help us share experiences and celebrate our differences. The more diversity we have in books, the better we can understand each other and, in turn, the world around us.
Growing up, I remember reading only a handful of books by diverse authors.
Seeing writers like Jamila Gavin, Bali Rai and Malorie Blackman on the bookshelves helped me realise that I, too, could become an author, that there was a pathway for someone like me to become a children’s writer.
Raising awareness about writing as a career and encouraging people from different backgrounds to enter the publishing industry, whether that’s as authors, illustrators, editors, literary agents, booksellers (the list is endless!) is a vital step to ensuring we have a greater diversity of books on the shelves.
Although there has been a noticeable change since I was a child scouring the bookshelves, I think there is still work to be done until children’s literature is truly reflective of our wonderfully diverse world.