Roshani Chokski was a new name with young adult titles that were unfamiliar to me when I went to the Mississippi Book Festival, and there is a reason for that! My favorite genres in young adult literature, as well as adult books, are historical fiction and nonfiction. I wander over into fantasy and unreal worlds from time to time when I have a trusted friend recommendation (Brian Anderson’s recommendation of Rick Riordian’s The Lightning Thief) or books that everybody is reading (The Harry Potter series) or an author who knows how to spin a good story that happens to have elements of fantasy (Kathi Appelt). Without a nudge of some kind, I seldom cross that mystical moat into imaginary worlds.
Evidently, Roshani has made a big name for herself with books based on Greek and Hindu myths while I wasn’t paying attention. She also brought a lot to the table in the two sessions I attended at the festival when she was on panels. Adding a perky personality and quick sense of humor to her beauty (a heritage from a father from India and a mother from the Philippines), made her an attractive addition to her panels. As it turned out, she had good contributions on diversity and excellent advice on the writing process to add.
I found one piece of her advice particularly pertinent and probably appropriate to more than just writing. She had done some talking about her world-building for her books based on myths and her need for accuracy even in the a strange world. Someone asked her a question about research advice. She smiled brightly and replied, “Don’t get hung up on the ice.” She went on to describe how she had traced methods of acquisition and use of ice before the days of refrigeration. Like many people who love research, she followed one source to another, spending an inordinate amount of time on a minor detail of her story. Most of the audience chuckled while her fellow research lovers nodded.
I shall try to follow her advice since I am also one of those who gets caught up chasing rabbits down research paths, often to dead but very interesting ends. I think there may be also a life lesson in her advice that is said a different way in the notecube I keep on my desk, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I think the trick for her and for me is enjoying a short excursion with the rabbit, but keeping our minds on the main path and its goal so we don’t get lost down there. Perhaps I’ll save enough time by letting the rabbit go on without me to cross that imaginary moat and read one of her books to see if they live up to her personality.