Authors' Paradize
A collection of book reviews, releases and stories of authors and great books.


Aria Fafat Pens Down a Story Inspired by Serena Williams and The Challenges She Has Faced

"Your pen doesn't ask you your age, it asks for courage!" says the editor at iU and it never more aptly applied to anything else than Aria's story who brought out such an inspirational set of thoughts by penning down her beliefs and comprehension inspired by a 5th grade assignment. Read ON!
Once Upon A FishBowl

What inspired you to write this book?

“Once Upon a Fishbowl” started as a fifth-grade short-story assignment, where we were given the task of writing a short story depicting the life of a role model but set in a non-human environment. I was - and continue to be - in awe of Serena Williams and her fight against oppressing social ills so I chose her as the central subject of my story.

Many of us are extremely privileged and may not have been exposed to most of the challenging situations which I cover in the book. This form of “bubble living” is what makes many people turn a blind eye to the iniquities of society; we don’t actually know how it feels and what it’s like for the people who face the brunt of discrimination, environmental issues and poverty, and we imagine that everyone’s life is just as affluent or comfortable as ours.
The reality is that we are the top 1% of the world's population and there are billions of people who face extremely harrowing times in life and fight daily battles to survive. At the same time, we ourselves contribute to the problems, either by not being part of the solution or by subconsciously reinforcing and acting on our own prejudices and biases. Knowing that I had the opportunity to make an impact on those who are stripped of their basic rights, it was natural for me to use my passion for writing to raise awareness about various types of discrimination, as well as the detrimental impact our activities are having on our environment. These are not new topics but the persistent discussion about these is imperative to shake us from our apathy and bring about an enlightened social change.

As a writer, it was very appealing to try and weave a complex story which could hold a reader’s imagination with multiple layers of meaning, exploration of a few lessons from our history and a collective call to our conscience while celebrating the triumphant rise of a very powerful, inspiring female personality.

What were the incidents in your life thus far when you learnt the fact that you had a writer in you?

My parents were the ones who first introduced me to the world of reading. Ever since I first cracked open a novel, I fell in love with books, their textured feel, the smell of paper, and the boundless ideas they trigger, all in the solitude of your own corner. As I got older, my reading habits started turning into scribbling down sentences, short paragraphs, poems, and short stories.
Once Upon A FishBowl When I was eleven, I entered my very first writing competition conducted by the Australian author, Sarah Brennan. It was a very novel experience for me, with the high of winning, and the hard work of having to sit and craft a story for someone else! No longer was I a spectator - I wanted to tell people my yarns, my poems, bring them into my imagination. I continued entering in various international writing competitions (such as the Queens Commonwealth Essay Competition), and by seventh grade, I realised how much writing meant to me. I also realized how that passion could translate into making a contribution towards society.

In January 2016, I released a booklet of poems at the annual Rotary District Conference. When I realised that people were appreciative my writings and more importantly, the sentiment behind them, I was filled with gratitude and the thought that perhaps I could harness that to try and make a difference in a charitable cause. With my parents’ help, I managed to use the booklet as an emblem to raise 35k USD for clean drinking water facilities in municipal schools in rural India.

All of these experiences funnelled down to the Summer of 2018, when I decided to take up a much larger project; converting my short story on Serena Williams into a full-length novel called “Once Upon a Fishbowl - The Story of a Blue Fish”. I hope to use the proceeds from the sales of this book to fund education for underprivileged girls in India.

Who are the aptest readers for this book? What kind of reader would be delighted to read this piece?

I’ve written this book so that it caters to both teenagers and adults. It has a simple message that is easily understood by younger readers but is layered with many more complex ideas and metaphors for older readers to explore. As one of the main purposes was spreading awareness and reinforcing our concerns for these burnning issues, I wanted the book to have a far reaching message for kids, teenagers and adults alike. To that end, I really think that if parents spend time reading this book to children under age 12, it will serve as a springboard for discussion about good values and our responsibility toward fellow humans and Nature.

Who's your inspiration when it comes to becoming an author?

Once Upon A FishBowl My dad, who is also an author, is my greatest role model. I am deeply inspired by his range of eclectic reading, his dedication towards his work and the amount of time he spends critiquing and improving his own writing. Apart from him, my favourite authors are Markus Zusak (who wrote my favourite books The Book Thief and I am the Messenger) and Sue Monk Kidd (she also wrote two of my favourites: The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings). I also am inspired by J. K. Rowling - despite having created one of the most magical worlds in literature, she was rejected 13 times by publishers. It just goes to show how patience and perseverance can ultimately come to fruition.

What perspectives of life have changed after you have turned an author?

I don’t feel very different, to be honest! The process has certainly taught me a lot about disciplined writing, and dealing with frequent “writer’s block”, but these are things which start becoming a part of you without you realizing. Now that it is over, I am looking forward to my next project.
Once Upon A FishBowl Though I have always tried to advocate for human rights, actually seeing my words in print just reinforced the idea of “If not now, when? If not you, who?” I like to think that just as we are waiting for everyone else to save the world, they are waiting for us. There isn’t any more time to procrastinate. If we want to take action, we need to do it now.

How many hours did you have to dedicate to bring this book alive? What schedules you had while doing this? What's your hack here for other writers?

I’d like to say that I had a strict schedule and I had deadlines that I actually met and that I was always on top of things, but I didn’t, and I wasn’t! I wish I had been, as it would have made the process much easier, and I will definitely do that next time. It served as a 
great learning experience. On average, I worked 4-5 hours a week when I was working on story material, and then, once the book had reached the first draft, I spent perhaps 10-12 hours every week in editing, illustrating and proofreading the book. It was hard to keep focus in those weeks! There is always something better to do with your time than struggling to write on a blank screen, something more fun and interesting to do with friends, but it’s really important to look at the bigger picture and prioritise.

Who are the people you would love to thank & mention about in this journey of having become an author?

So many people! I cannot express how grateful I am to my parents, without whom, this idea would not have gone beyond the school-story stage. They kept me focused, organised and gave me so many opportunities, ideas and avenues to develop my writing! I also would really like to mention my Bai, Nani, Nanu, and my late Babuji, who have supported, loved and cared for me. They gave me my first launchpad for my collection of poems, Reflections, at Nanu’s Rotary Conference. Also, my teachers Ms Alison Tremblay and Mrs Sarah Song, who helped me grow as a reader, writer and person, and my art teacher, Mr Firdaus.

Lastly, what's your piece of advice for other aspiring young authors like yourself?

I don’t think I’m accomplished enough to give advice (there is so much more I have to learn myself, and this is just the start of the process!) but I can share my learning. As I said earlier, it’s important to push through even when things start getting boring, or you get writer’s block, or other, shinier distractions arise. I also found it incredibly useful to use the advice from people around me. If you’re writing something that is based on real life, do your research beforehand.
Once Upon A FishBowl There was a point where I had completely forgotten about the Civil Rights Movement and was stuck trying to write a chapter around Jim Crow Laws! You can’t write about something effectively if you are not aware of the details. It also helps to jot down ideas for later use. Discuss your ideas aloud with people. The process of articulating your idea will highlight weaknesses in your thoughts, and make it easier to identify plot holes and inconsistencies.

And most importantly, I’ve learned that the first drafts will never be very good, but they still form a very solid framework around which you can raise a nice edifice. That formative experience, with patience, also brings out hidden flavors in the story over time.
No matter how hard you work, you can always improve. There will be mistakes, or unexplored aspects or character development which you may have missed - so keep looking out for ideas into which to delve. This “try, and try again” experience has really helped me learn that there is always a more nuanced way to enhance your thoughts - not only in your immediate pursuits but also in your basic character.
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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 11th March 2019.

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