Rickshaw Girl and Jane Addams Award

Had to come out to the Fire Escape and savour the moment. (For some reason, I prefer the British spelling I learned as a child for "or" words like savour, favour, saviour, and flavour — it just seems to work better with those words. Don't ask for left brain analysis of this foible.)

Judy O'Malley of Charlesbridge just called and told me that they want to acquire Rickshaw Girl for their Spring 2007 list. Judy worked hard with me on the manuscript, and we transformed it from a picture book to a short novel for younger readers. I am so excited to share the story of Naima, a girl with big dreams growing up in a Bangladeshi village — a village much like the one I'd be living in were it not for Britain dividing up India in the 1940s.

Lest this blog end up being about me, me, me, I invite you to read more about this year's best books about peace and justice as selected by the Jane Addams Peace Association.

Redecorating This Weekend!

In honor of my blankety-blank-nd birthday on April 30th, the Fire Escape will be getting a whole new look. Happy Birthday ME! My fab designer, Erin O' Connor, has been working hard to make the place easier to navigate and more any-browser-friendly. Please let me know what you think. If you're a frequent visitor, tell me if you miss any features of the old site. All the content should be there if you browse around. The chat feature has been replaced by this blog, so please post your comments freely. I love outspoken visitors!

Asha Means Hope

My fingernails are decimated. I just signed and sent off a contract to Random House for Asha Means Hope, the story of a Bengali teenager who comes to America during the 1970s. Asha is a recurring character in my life (read the short story called "The Fire Escape" on my website to meet a preliminary version of her). So why am I freaking out?

Okay. Here's the scoop. I've signed a contract for a novel that's NOT YET WRITTEN — a huge vote of confidence from my wonderful Delacorte editor Francoise Bui (please imagine the correct French spelling of her name). I do have about half of Asha's story written, so Ms. Bui is not completely insane.

It's also the first time I'm writing a novel without plotting out a rough but steady "narrative arc" before I plunge into story. This time, I'm writing fiction-cum-memoir purely from my right brain, letting the characters inform the plot as I travel along with them. Not my usual style at all.

Finally, I'm panicking that I'll reveal too many family faults and foibles, even though I'm writing fiction. I don't want my beloved parents or sisters to feel humiliated and exposed — I'm a good Bengali girl, after all. But I do want to write truth. How do writers like Frank McCourt (Angela's Ashes) spill their ancestral shame across the printed page so freely? Any insights?

Okay. Deep breath. I'm heading off to Peet's to get some writing done.

Welcome to the Fire Escape!

This is our chance to chat about life between cultures. Or life in general. Books. Movies. Anything that strikes our fancy. Out here on the fire escape, anything goes. So chime in. Pass the tea and biscuits. Sit back and take in the view. Can't wait to hear what you have to say.