Writing and publishing without fear

Urvashi Butalia is the founder of the publishing house Zubaan. Without her visionary work, Anita, Payal and I wouldn’t have had the chance to bring so many varied Indian voices together for Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean.

Urvashi is not only a publisher but a an award-winning author. In this TED talk, Urvashi talks about the importance of writing fearlessly and of helping everyone to share their stories.

Priya Kuriyan at Reading Matters 2015

Isobelle, Anita, Priya & Kirsty at the Australian High Commission in Delhi, November 2014

In November last year, Isobelle Carmody and I travelled to India to participate in a whirlwind three city tour to celebrate the release of the Indian edition of Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean.

Our first stop was Delhi where we teamed up with Priya Kuriyan and Anita Roy for events at the Australian High Commission, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Oxford Bookstore.


I first met Priya on the morning we launched the anthology to hundreds of secondary school students on the lawns of the Australian High Commission. For some reason, I’d gained the impression from her emails that she was a little shy but in person she was a funny, articulate and sassy presenter who spoke confidently and with ease to the crowds of teenagers.

This week, the Centre for Youth Literature, based here in Melbourne, announced the full line-up for their 2015 Reading Matters Conference and I was thrilled to see Priya’s name featured in multiple events on the programme. Priya will be presenting in solo and panel sessions and also in the school’s days program as well. 

Program Coordinator Adele Walsh has put together a colossal seven day program of events for the biggest celebration of youth literature in Australia to date. It’s great to see an artist as talented as Priya having the opportunity to charm audiences downunder.

Hungry for the World

I first met Amruta Patil on an inky dark night at a dinner party in an old Goan beach house.

The Bookwallahs and I had driven for what seemed like hours down the tiny winding backroads of Goa to reach the home of Indian performance artist Nikhil Chopra. Although Amruta and I only chatted briefly at the dinner party, I was struck by the way she talked about her graphic novel Adi Parva.

Amruta is both a writer and a fine artist, one of those people who is as at ease with words as she is with paint. Before leaving Delhi later that year, I made sure I tracked down a copy of both the magical Adi Parva and Amruta’s earlier darkly urban graphic novel, Kari. 

When Anita, Payal and I discussed which Indian illustrators we wanted to see included in Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, Amruta was on everyone’s list. As both a writer and an illustrator, Amruta was keen to create a solo piece for the anthology rather than have to collaborate with a writer. None of the editors wanted to force the collaborative process on any of the contributors and co-incidentally, one of the Australian graphic novelists, Nicki Greenberg, felt very similarly to Amruta about creating a solo piece (more of Nicki’s story in a later blogpost).

I love Appetite, the story Amruta created for the anthology. It beautifully articulates the way young women are told to curb their hunger for life, how from adolescent onwards, girls are told to be a smaller, lesser version of themselves. The protagonist of Appetite, Coral, is a voracious, feisty character – a true sky-eater and ocean swallower.


The final page of Amruta Patil’s story ‘Appetite’

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Every adult was once a child and the child inside them never completely disappears.”

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