I'm loving today's guest! An author AND a podcast host who celebrates and encourages kindness every day of their life. PERFECTION!
Inspired by her personal experiences, Anitha Rao-Robinson loves to create stories featuring underrepresented voices, such as animals, children of immigrants, and LGBTQ. Anitha’s picture book, A FAMILY FOR FARU, was released in the fall of 2020 by Pajama Press. She graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with a Bachelor of Commerce. She then went on to become a Chartered Accountant. Recently, Anitha retired from accounting to devote more time to writing and helping animals. She recently created The Kindness Is Everything Podcast, where she speaks with children and young adults about all their wonderful acts of kindness towards animals, the environment and people. Anitha lives on a hobby farm in Ontario with her husband, two children, and many animals. She hopes one day to turn the property into an animal sanctuary. Anitha is represented by Tanusri Prasanna.
In this touching story of belonging and environmental awareness, a young boy’s courage and ingenuity help an orphaned rhinoceros find safety in a new herd.
Tetenya and his mother have found Faru, a baby rhinoceros, alone on the savannah. They know that rhino herds will adopt orphaned infants, but finding the rangers who protect local herds may be a long and risky prospect—there are poachers lurking about the landscape. Undaunted, Tetenya sets out, leading Faru past giraffes CHOMP-CHOMPING on acacia leaves, amongst the PATTER-PATTERING footsteps of young warthogs, and around guinea fowl SCRITCH-SCRITCHING the earth for seeds. Suddenly, danger is upon them: two poachers are coming near. There are only seconds to spare, and Tetenya has nothing but his wits and a basket of berries to help him.
In A Family for Faru, author Anitha Rao-Robinson draws inspiration from her life-changing time spent on the savannah and from conservationists’ innovation to discourage poachers: injecting a pink dye into rhinoceros horns. Award-winning illustrator Karen Patkau’s dreamy landscapes reflect her own travels in the region and celebrate the courage and ingenuity of a young boy as he helps his four-legged friend find a place to belong.
Did you always dream of being a writer/illustrator?
Writing and story-telling have been a part of my life since I was really young. I loved reading books and creating my own stories, but it was also an escape, a safe place to be.
Growing up, I was one of the few visible minorities at my school- sometimes I might have been the only non-white kid in my class. I got teased and bullied a lot. But when I was reading books or playing with my dolls and thinking up dramatic story lines, I could forget, even just for a little while about what went on at school.
It was later on, when I was in middle school, that I actually started writing my own stories and poetry. One particularly special moment was when my son, who is very musical, took one of my poems, made it into a song, and performed it.
When did you start pursuing publication of your work?
I started thinking about getting published when my kids were little. I spent a lot of time reading stories to them and this inspired me to resurrect my own love of writing. I took advantage of my ready audience and began writing stories for them. I even illustrated a few; which is quite funny considering my limited ability to draw. When we play Pictionary, my teammates really struggle to figure out what I’ve put on the board.
Though my children enjoyed my stories, my first attempts at publication did not go well. Back then, I didn’t know much, if anything about the publication world. My only critique group were my kids. I didn’t know how to properly write a query letter. I just mailed off the story and months later, I would get a rejection.
How long did it take from that first thought to release day?
It took a while. Many years. My first YA, Broken Worlds, was published in 2014.
What's been the hardest part of publishing a book so far?
I think the waiting. I’m not the most patient person and there is a lot of waiting in publishing. Now when I send something off to my agent and she submits to publishers, I try and focus on my next story. It’s tricky. My thoughts still go to that place—wondering what’s happening, has anyone looked at it, do they like it, are they considering, or has it been rejected? But I try not to dwell on these thoughts and instead redirect my attention to my current WIP.
And the easiest, or most enjoyable?
The most enjoyable part of writing for me is thinking about the story I’m working on. I’m not able to write as often as I’d like. Some days, I may not even get the chance, but I can always think about my story. I spend a lot of time building the story in my mind, getting into the mind of the characters, hearing their voices, thinking about what should happen next. It’s very similar to making stories for my dolls! And when I do get a chance to sit down and write, it flows pretty quickly, because I have spent so much time working through the narrative and dialogue in my head.
What's next for you?
I recently decided to take a year off, or maybe more, from my accounting practice. I wanted to devote more time to my writing and helping animals.
My debut picture book, A Family For Faru, came out in October of 2020. It’s the story of a young boy, an orphaned rhino, and their journey to find the rhino a new family. Animal conservation and protection is something that really matters to me. I’ve partnered with four rhino organizations, including Care For Wild Rhino Sanctuary, the rhino orphanage my daughter volunteered with while she was in South Africa. I’ll be donating 40% of royalties (please let there be royalties) to these groups. I would love for my book to help these amazing animals in any way possible.
I’m also trying to promote the book. Because of the pandemic, there are no in-person author visits, so I’ve created a presentation for virtual school visits. I read my picture book and talk about all things rhino! I donate my authors fee to Care For Wild Rhino Sanctuary, and the students receive a beautiful certificate from the orphanage thanking them for supporting the rhinos.
I’m also working on other fun projects. I began writing a middle grade novel that I’ve been thinking about for a few years.
Two years ago, I started a Kindness Is Everything blog, where I share stories of people being kind to animals and each other. I’ve decided to take the blog further and I’ve created a podcast.
While the blog shares stories of adults and young people doing kind things, and will continue to do so, the podcast focuses on acts of kindness by people under the age of 25. I love it! It’s so inspiring and uplifting hearing about all the kind and wonderful things young people are doing to help animals, the environment and each other. The podcasts are available on all podcasting platforms, but I’m also hoping teachers will share the podcasts with their students to create discussions of empathy and kindness.
I would love for anyone to contact me through my website and let me know if they have a story of kindness to share for either the blog and/or the podcast!
What's one piece of advice you'd give to writers just started their pursuit of publication?
Write what you love. I know that’s what a lot of people say, but it’s true. I love animals and I find I can immerse myself into the story when I really care about the characters I’m writing about. I can feel what that the characters are feeling and I think that helps create a genuine and unique story.
Last book you read?
The One And Only Bob
What book are you reading now?
The Girl Who Drank The Moon
Best book you've ever read?
This is so hard. There are so many books I love. In the picture book category it would be Guess How Much I Love You.
Middle Grade: I love all the Harry Potter books and I really liked The One And Only Ivan
I can’t pick one. Sorry!
Best moment of your writing life?
I think when I found out my picture book, A Family For Faru had two offers from publishers. I was pretty happy about that!
Name of your newest WIP?
If not an author, what would be your dream job?
Having an animal sanctuary where I spend my day around animals and helping them as best I can.
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