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Welcome to the book world, BIRDS OF A FEATHER!

This gorgeous debut brought along its author, Sita Singh, to talk about its journey to publication. Congratulations, Sita!

Thank you, Tara, for having me here to celebrate the Book Birthday of BIRDS OF A FEATHER!

Sita, you know I’m fascinated by book origin stories. How did the idea for BIRDS OF A FEATHER come about?

BIRDS OF A FEATHER is a story of a colorless peacock who learns to love himself in a jungle full of color. Several things sparked this story idea. First, I wanted to write a story with peacocks at the front and center as they are a part of my childhood memories, and also because I’d realized early on that while there are many picture books featuring variety of birds and animals, there are next to none featuring peacocks. Second, I was inspired to tell this story from my daughter’s experience of being the only child of color in her classroom for almost four years of elementary school. Having watched firsthand how important self-acceptance is, in order for children to know and love themselves for who they are, is what inspired me to write BIRDS OF A FEATHER!

Could you share your fondest childhood memory of peacocks?

Although I often saw peacocks on our farm in India, my earliest and fondest memory  is from a visit to the zoo. As kids, my brother and I had gone to the zoo and I remember feeding a peacock and getting my palm tickled. Later, that peacock went on to flaunt his feathers and for the longest time the child in me thought he’d not only put on the show for me, but there was magic in the seeds I’d fed him. I think that fascination probably stayed with me.

In the story, Mo is a leucistic (colorless) peacock who is well-loved, but he still thinks he is not as beautiful as his brothers and sisters. How did this internal conflict come to be the focus of your tale?

Sometimes children struggle with self-acceptance issues arising from identity, or fitting in, or self-doubts, maybe not due to external biases or bullying but just because of feeling different, like Mo. As an immigrant and a mother to three first-generation Indian-American children, I wanted to write a story that would empower children to know their strengths and understand their uniqueness, and become confident individuals. Through the colorless peacock’s journey to self-discovery, and finally to self-acceptance, my hope is to help every child realize that there is no one else like them, and that it’s great to be unique.

What was your initial reaction to seeing Mo brought to life in illustration?

My heart skipped a beat when I first saw the colorless peacock that only lived in my head come alive, and dance and celebrate on the pages. I was blown away by the vibrancy of colors and textures Stephanie had used all around Mo to make him stand out. At the same time, I was moved by how she let the white peacock glow and shine bright through his entire journey to self-discovery! The way Mo was brought to life was beyond my imagination!

With this being your debut picture book, what about the publishing process was surprising to you?

After my manuscript was acquired by Liza Kaplan at Philomel Books and Stephanie Fizer Coleman came on board to make the art, I kept wondering on how everyone’s vision would come together. I had no clue at all! Every stage of the book making process came to me as a pleasant surprise. But what surprised me the most was how the collective vision of so many people involved in the publishing process not only came together to match mine, but it went above and beyond that. I’m still in awe of the trust, creativity, and teamwork that goes into publishing of a picture book.

If you were to imagine Mo today, what do you think he’s doing?

Well, that’s a fun question, Tara! I think Mo must be enjoying playing hide-and-seek with his friends. And every now and then, I’m sure he must be standing tall, screeching aloud, and flaunting his feathers to attract the peahens.

Thank you for visiting, Sita and Mo, and congratulations on your picture book debut!

Blog readers, Sita is giving away a copy of BIRDS OF A FEATHER.

Leave one comment to enter the giveaway.

A random winner will be selected later this month.

Good luck!


Sita Singh was born and raised in India, and moved to the United States in 1999. She currently lives in South Florida with her husband, three children, and an immensely cute and curious dog. An architect in the past, Sita now enjoys writing heartwarming picture books with a South Asian backdrop. When Sita isn’t reading or writing, she can be found trying new recipes in the kitchen, experimenting with food photography, walking with the dog, or movie marathoning with the family. Find out more about Sita on singhsita.com and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @sitawrites

 

by Sita Singh

Hello, Storystormers! It’s my honor to be your guest blogger today.

I first participated in PiBoIdMo (now known as Storystorm) soon after I started to write, and quickly realized that all my ideas come from real life experiences. I was born and raised in India and moved to the United States in 1999. My ideas are inspired either from my own childhood or from my experience of mothering three, first-generation Indian-American children.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER, my debut picture book began with an idea listed in my notebook as “peacocks.” It was inspired from my childhood memories of watching peacocks. But it isn’t enough to say, okay, I’m going to write about peacocks. I needed a story. I needed to craft a character readers would care about. I needed a problem. I needed tension. I needed a lot. I tried several ways to tell my story, but none felt good enough or satisfying. At that same time, I was working on another story idea inspired from my daughter’s experiences; listed in my notebook as “standing out and feeling different.” This too wasn’t coming together to my satisfaction.

Then one day, it clicked. Like pieces of a puzzle. The thought of combining the two ideas (peacocks + standing out and feeling different) got my heart pounding and my imagination soaring. Right away, I knew what I wanted my story to be about.

For me, it took an amalgamation of ideas to spark a story!

Sometimes, connecting unexpected ideas, people, places, and objects, can result in stories that are fresh and unique. January is almost over, and if you’re anything like me, at least twenty-eight ideas must have come to you in form of words, phrases, titles, sketches, and some random thoughts, as well. If you ever get inspired to amalgamate any of these ideas, recognizing the ones that could come together to write a story only you can tell is exciting and rewarding. Here’s to recognizing those ideas!

When Tara asked me to write a guest post, I was curious to see who else has combined ideas to tell their story. Being a member of an incredible group of picture book writers and illustrators, Picture Book Scribblers, I didn’t have to go too far to find out. I was pleasantly surprised to see a generous number of stories come about from an amalgamation of ideas. Check out these ideas and look out for the fresh and unique stories coming to you in 2021!

HOME FOR A WHILE (February 2, 2021)

is an amalgamation of three ideas. 1) I wanted to write a story to honor the children with whom I’d worked when I ran a day treatment preschool. 2) I wanted to write about emotion regulation. 3) I wanted to write about seeing your strengths rather than just focusing on perceived challenges.

-Lauren Kerstein

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP (March 1st, 2021)

is an amalgamation of three ideas 1) I passionately believe that if enough hands join together we can change the world. I wanted to write about little hands joining together to make big change. 2) I wanted to write a story that showed that you don’t have to be a superhero to make a difference. 3) I wanted to write a story that highlighted the growing plastic pollution problem and the steps that we can all take in our daily lives to make a difference.

-Charlotte Offsay

DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT! (March 3rd, 2021)

I was inspired by both my son’s use of bad words and by our former president’s name calling. When my son was younger, he thought he was so grown up and cool when he used a word that he wasn’t supposed to say. I’d catch him saying it, and then he would come up with some variant of the word. “Mom, I said mitt. It’s not the word you think I said.” During this time, President Trump was also pretty much calling anyone a name who disagreed with him or his policies, and I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of impact are his actions having on our children.

-Robin Newman

A FLOOD OF KINDNESS (April 13, 2021)

1. I wanted to write about a child navigating through a disaster and 2) I wanted to write about how kindness can heal.

-Ellen Leventhal

PRINCESSES CAN FIX IT! (May 4, 2021)

I was specifically interested in writing a fractured fairy tale, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my favorites, 2.) I wanted to add an empowering, STEM twist and 3.) I was thinking about how rigid gender roles can be detrimental to both girls and boys.

-Tracy Marchini

FLY (Fall 2021)

is an amalgamation of Black Girl Magic and the childhood sport of double Dutch. As a kid I could jump rope, but double Dutch baffled me. I was always mesmerized by people who jump with two ropes. As a kid I didn’t tap into my potential as often as I could have, if only I had known my “magic”. My character, Africa, realizes her ability to double Dutch has and will always be part of her. Black girls are talented on their own.

-Brittany Thurman

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: The Art & Life of Amrita Sher-Gil (Fall 2021):

1) wanted to showcase a South Asian female artist/painter AND 2) wanted to explore emotions around living across two cultures inspired by my own life experiences

-Meera Sriram

EVERYBODY IN THE RED BRICK BUILDING (Fall 2021)

When I wrote this story, I was raising my children in an apartment. I noticed that there were plenty of books about families in houses, and not as many about families in apartments. So my first idea was to write a book set in an apartment building. My second idea was to write a cumulative story. I loved The House that Jack Built when I was a kid. The logic of the structure was very comforting for me. Those two ideas combined – an apartment story and a cumulative tale – gave me Everybody in the Red Brick Building.

-Anne Wynter

BATTLE OF THE BUTTS (September 28, 2021)

is an amalgamation of two ideas. 1) After I saw a meme on Twitter about manatees controlling their buoyancy through farting, I went down an internet rabbit hole learning about animals that do weird things with their butts. 2) I used to watch way too many competitive reality shows (American Idol, Survivor, Amazing Race), often the more ridiculous the better. As I learned about these talented tushies, I imagined them competing against each other in front of judges, and I knew I had to write about it. I tried to come up with a title that riffed off one of these reality show names (Butts Got Talent! American Butt! Butt Idol!), but they sounded a bit awkward. So as an alliteration junkie, I decided to go with a homage to the old school battle of the bands to end up with BATTLE OF THE BUTTS.

-Jocelyn Rish

MY BORDERTOWN (Fall 2021)

is an amalgamation of two different cultures that have a lot of similarities. The story is in English and in Spanish and says the exact same thing in both languages, but the illustrations show very different cultures. Ultimately I wanted kids to know that even though people on both sides of the border have differences, they are ultimately the same.

-Nicolas Solis

BENNY’S TRUE COLORS (November 17, 2020)

is an amalgamation of these two ideas: 1) I wanted to write about a small brown bat who every night roosted in our brick entryway instead of flying around eating bugs like all the other bats , and 2) I wanted to write about assumptions and judgements made about people based on their outward appearance.

-Norene Paulson

Sita Singh was born and raised in India, and moved to the United States in 1999. She currently lives in South Florida with her husband, three children, and an immensely cute and curious dog. An architect in the past, Sita now enjoys writing heartwarming picture books with a South Asian backdrop. When Sita isn’t reading or writing, she can be found trying new recipes in the kitchen, experimenting with food photography, walking with the dog, or movie marathoning with the family. Her debut picture book, Birds Of A Feather, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, will be published on March 2nd, 2021 by Philomel Books. Find out more about Sita on singhsita.com and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @sitawrites.


Sita is giving away a copy of BIRDS OF A FEATHER.

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COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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