The Obstacle is the Road

I have been very busy these last few weeks. Writing, thinking about writing, planning etc. I’ve read a lot. Fully 6 books on writing fiction from developing the story structure, to developing characters to building plot, to establishing a powerful premise, writing dialog…….. show don’t tell.

I also read a novel by Harlan Coben – Six Years that I totally loved. Many many many management and self help books from the works of Stephen R Covey to Jim Loehr and David Schwartz to relative mortals like Patrick King and Brett Longer. Its been fun.

Animated : The Obstacle is the way  Soon I will have to have a book to show for all this. In the meantime, I must practice embedding a video.

Adult Coloring Books

Questions and Answers with Hema Shah Creator of Lets Do CBs and the Better With Color Series of Coloring Books. 

We see coloring books for adults everywhere. Where did it start ?

CBs is #1 22Feb2016The popularity of coloring books has been growing like wildfire over the last three years. I am not sure whether it started in the Far East – Korea and Japan for example or whether it started in Europe. However, today there are several thousand titles in print, and some of the more popular titles have sold more than a million copies around the world and are still going strong. An adult coloring book sits at the top or close to the top   of Amazon’s Bestseller list in several countries.

What makes them so popular ? 

I think there are several reasons, and I have personally experienced a few of them myself

  • There is something very satisfying about “finishing” a page. Psychologists will tell you it has something to do with the release of happy chemicals – we all know it as a good satisfied feeling.
  • There is a certain rhythm to coloring. It calms and soothes in an almost Zenlike fashion. It is a great way to unwind from a difficult day.
  • Working with colors take us back to a time when we were young and carefree. I have seen it work wonders on older people. Once they get over the “shyness” of coloring – they start talking about how they used to color and what they used to do. The joy on their faces as they talk is just amazing!
  • In the US where they have started coloring as a social club activity, people find it’s a good way to spend time in the company of others. You are not just sitting there and talking. You are actually doing something and then sharing it with others. It doesn’t require any special skills.
  • There are several articles where you can read more about what people think of Adult Coloring Books

Who is the target audience for your books ? Artists ? Children ?

Back Cover

Just about everyone. I am really looking to engage parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts – because I know they will enjoy it. And several of the people who have bought the book have told me how much their children enjoy coloring with them. Some young men are starting to make coloring dates and rituals with their children.

What kinds of colors do you recommend ? 

In the early days when coloring was reserved for the artists, people tended to use color pencils. However, if you have books that are made of good quality paper or are where the pictures are on just one side, you could get great results and have a very pleasant time using regular markers or felt tip pens.

You say that coloring doesn’t require any special skills. So this won’t help people who are already good at art ?

People who are already very skilled at art have discovered the joy of drawing and coloring already. They likely don’t need the stimulus of a coloring book to get them started. However, they may well be able to show us a thing or two about how to turn these simple drawings into works of art. For example, they have these new watercolor pencils that a coloring fan from Japan shared with me. It looks and feels just like a pencil. And then you can take a fine wet brush and blend the colors to produce fabulous effects. I am sure highly skilled artists will take these to a whole new level.

You say that Coloring and Drawing has helped improve your focus in meetings. How is that ?

Compassion to the Rescue 10-12-15 Revised (2)This one is very personal and powerful and I am not sure I understand the scientific reason behind it. I just know it has been true for me, and a number of other “doodlers”. Focusing your primary attention to a small piece of paper gives a crazy, wandering mind like mine a place to park itself. It then allows me to focus peripheral attention on the discussion. If I wasn’t doing that, my mind would wander off onto other things that required more attention. I would miss the entire discussion.Compassion to the Rescue 10-12-15 Revised (2)

What are some of the adult coloring books available in India today ? Compassion to the Rescue 10-12-15 Revised (2)-page-001

There is a very large selection of books available on Amazon India. as well as in bookstores.

  • Entry Level – the kind that encourage you to experiment and get a feel for what you like. These are typically priced under Rs 200. You want to look for designs that are complex enough to keep the adult engaged, but not so complex that it overwhelms them. This is particularly important when buying for older adults who might be starting to have difficulties with their vision.
  • High End or Elite – These are really for elite or expert colorists. For people who want to create works of art. They start at around Rs 600 but are more often in the Rs1000+ range. Johanna Barsford is a very popular artist who has created some incredibly beautiful books. Millie Marotta is another of my favorite artists. Moleskine and Carlo Stanga have collaborated to create “The Wandering City” which is an artwork in itself. These contain beautiful and intricate drawings that would be a delight for the seasoned colorist. Coloring Books
  • Everything in between

Where do your books “Lets Do CBs” and “Better With Color” fall in this range ?

CoverThe first one Lets Do CBs which seems to be enjoying quite the run on Amazon.In right now is a gentle introduction to both coloring and drawing. It is designed to put Drawing and Coloring for Adults on the conversation table. It sells on Amazon for Rs 150 including shipping and delivery.

Your second book – Better With Color – Vol 1 also has a story. Why is that ?

I talked to several people that were coloring Lets Do CBs. From them I got the idea of making it smaller – so that they could carry it with them in a backpack or a purse. Everyone agreed that the paper should be thick so there is no bleed through especially when using markers. I also showed them some of the drawings I was planning to use. That is when one of my friends suggested that a story would tie it altogether. He also thought it would make it a little more interesting for people who were not very comfortable about coloring books.

What has been your experience with the story ?

The book has been on sale for just about a week. From my test group, it seems that the story is a big hit. Its not a very complex or intense story, but it keeps you going to the next and the next. They also like having a “life-attitude” to think about. It goes well with the overall coloring concept.

Compassion to the Rescue 10-12-15 Revised (2)-page-080

So what is next ?

  1. Personally, I think people will look for something a little more than just coloring. Certainly the opportunity to deliver that exists. Better With Color is designed as a series and I expect to roll out additional titles.

Thank you for the time and interest and I hope you enjoy coloring as much as our readers do!!

Toot Your Horn

I think this becomes easier when I think of it in the context of what do I do better than most others in my peer group that try the same thing.

Imagine a large hall filled with people. Its standing room only. They have been there for a while and are getting listless and tired. The afternoon seems to be really long. And then, a speaker comes on stage and the place is electrified. Everyone is hanging onto every word. They are listening, they are engaged. 😉 Sometimes, I can do that !!!

There’s a meeting going on and the speaker drones on and on. He is thinking as he speaks. So the thoughts are disjointed and incoherent. And then someone nets out what has been said succinctly and clearly and everything becomes crystal clear. Sometimes I can be that second person.

But the thing that makes me proudest is this. I am very good at inspiring talented engineers to achieve things even they thought were impossible. I am good at bringing out the best in lots of people.

I sincerely believe that everyone has something powerful to contribute. And I treat most people that way. It gives me great pleasure to see them go from a shy, slightly unsure person into one that operates with confidence pushing out of their comfort zone.

And I am able to help them identify what they need to work on, to help them identify where they made a difference and the showcase and package their story such that they blow the competition away. I have done that over and over again and built a formidable group of engineers. That is what makes me feel good about myself.

Now was that loud enough ?

Toot Your Horn

The Road Less Travelled

This seems to be a position I find myself in frequently. At a fork in the road, looking left and right trying to figure out which one I should take. It feels as if as the years go by these choices are becoming increasing difficult.

IMG_3339
Which way now ?

It was a little less than a year ago, when I got offered some “interesting” choices at work. One of these would result in a 6 month paid vacation, and the possibility that I might never work at a similar job again. The other 2 choices involved continuing on the corporate treadmill for an indefinite period of time.

I made the choice that I did – to take the 6 month paid vacation and take my chances. Most days I am glad that I did. I am doing things that I never had the time to do before. Stripped of all excuses my long cherished ambition of becoming a published author measures the depth of my skill and determination. The worst outcome  is that my skills and determination don’t match up to my ambition.

What might have been had I picked one of the other choices – I’d still be worrying about paying off the mortgage, I’d still quake at the end of every Quarter, wondering if this was the quarter that would end it all. Along with the rest of my colleagues we would stand suspended on the trapeze of technology hovering between the old and the new, until either fell or made it over to the other side.

I miss my colleagues and friends. And sometimes I feel a little sad. But seriously, I love the choice I made. I am grateful I could.

 

The Road Less Traveled

Do I Believe in Reincarnation ?

Growing up as a not particularly devout Hindu in India, you grow up with accepting that reincarnation is as real as god. As an adult, I am slowly starting to comprehend the Power of Story and the fact that a set of circumstances can be interpreted in multiple different ways after the fact.

So do I believe in reincarnation ? Yes. I do believe that my physical body is unique and distinct from my mind, my soul, my thoughts. And while my physical body grows from a little nothing to maturity and ages and dies my soul experiences things, feels, knows.

Will this soul come back and inhabit another body ? I don’t see why not, in fact I hope so.

Lord Krishna tells Arjun at the Great Battle of Kurukshetra that the soul sheds and acquires a different body, the way we shed and put on different clothes.

Personally, I find that more appealing than the thought that I will go burn in hell or be served by a 1000 virgins (I am a woman!!!)

Karma Chameleon

Romance Novels

Its been many years since I’ve read a romance novel. There was this summer when I read about 4 a day. The local librarian thought I was simply returning them unread. He could not believe anyone could read so many so fast. And yet, there was I in the heat of a Mumbai may – I would lay on the couch and twirl a pillow in the air – my dad called it the helicopter position – as I read book after book after book, getting up only to use the bathroom or eat. Very fortunately, I was allowed to read at the dining table.

And what did I learn from that incredible overdose of romance novels on my 14 year old brain.. sigh! whatever it was it did not stick, or did it ?

  1. The books I read were published by Mills and Boon or Harlequin or some other British or American writer. They were all based in a country I had never seen nor would see for another 10-12 years.  At the time I was growing up and perhaps even today – a pre-requisite to being considered good looking was that the person must have light skin – “Tall, dark and handsome” just did not cut it.
  2. There were all kinds of heroines. The feminine women / girls with all the appropriate charms, the tomboys who with a little help turned into gorgeous women, the strong, independent professional women – all turned to submissive jelly in the hands of the “right” tall , dark and handsome. Some of these TDHs even allowed the women to remain independent!! I remember being terribly impressed by all that.

And though the plot in every single book was identical – women meets man, there is conflict, conflict is resolved and they live happily ever after – I was fascinated by the several different ways the story could be told.

I thought of romance novels again about 20 years later. My colleagues and I all of whom were between 10 and 20 years to retirement were discussing what we would do when we quit the rat race. My boss, a very smart, and very technical IT executive said he thought he would write romance novels when he retired. There was a lot of money in it. And he thought he could just pull it off. That made for several minutes of hilarity – but I did go read a few romance novels then – maybe 3 or 4 at most before returning to Jeffrey Archer and Ken Follett and Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler.

I thought about it again this evening while bidding on a job on Freelancer.Com. The recruiter was impressed with my writing sample and wanted to know if I had ever written a romance novel. “No, but I will give it a shot” I said bravely.

So that may well be the next thing I write. I wonder how audiences would react to short, fair and plain looking but oh so sensitive!!

Mad Libs

Blogging 101 – Relearning the Basics

  • Why are you blogging publicly instead of keeping a diary? Because I can 😉 Seriously though, I know that blogging is a very powerful way to connect with strangers around the globe who are interested in the things that I am interested in. I am a little afraid though. What if I am not able to keep up with what I create ? What if i lose interest or forget to blog for a while ? It would be like planting a seed, growing a plant and then killing it.
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about? Early retirement, being an American of Indian origin living in India, drawing and coloring, writing, management and technology, the future….there is so much!!!!!!!
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog? Potential collaborators and clients.
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what do you hope to accomplish?

A blog with a solid following. Oh let that plant turn into a great old banyan tree 😉