Dear ReFoReMo Community, you are in for a wonderful perspective today!
Darshana Khiani has been an online friend since 2013, when I joined my first online kidlit community. I am so excited to celebrate her debut picture book, How to Wear a Sari, and her mentor text process. If you stay committed to mentor text analysis like Darshana has, you will most certainly grow your craft by leaps and bounds.
Thanks so much for joining us, Darshana!
How has reading picture books helped you discover who you
are as a writer?
That’s an interesting question since I still feel as if I’m
discovering what type of writer I am. I write across a broad range of topics. My debut (HOW TO WEAR
a SARI) is a funny, light-hearted, commercial story while my next book (I’M AN AMERICAN) is
about our shared beliefs and American immigration history. I read lots and lots of
picture books. I read one picture book every morning at breakfast. Reading lots of books allows me
to figure out what I’m interested in
and learning new ways to tell a story. I love books that
surprise me in some way whether it be in the concept or execution. I’m still in awe of Mac
Barnett’s THE WOLF, THE MOUSE, & THE DUCK. Wow! The incredulousness of it. I hope that by reading
so many wonderful picture books the brilliance of them will seep into my psyche and infuse
How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts to learn
more about craft?
Whenever I come across a book that does a specific aspect
well, I mark it in my spreadsheet.
Here is a snippet:
Perhaps the book has fantastic page turns, the perfect
ending, or great read-aloud quality. I also
maintain lists on Goodreads as well.
I use mentor texts both in the beginning during story
creation and later during the revision
process. At the start of a project, I may read mentor texts
to find out what’s already in the
market. One of the things I strive for in my writing is to
be fresh and original as much as
possible. When I’m revising, if there is some aspect that
isn’t working, I will refer to my mentor
list to find books to study. For example, say the language
isn’t singing, then I might read the
books on my list that have a lyrical quality. In studying
them, I may type them out, do a story
analysis, or record myself reading the book aloud. Whatever
is needed to figure out the magic. I
love analyzing picture books for a specific craft aspect, it
brings out my analytical side.
Yes to all of that! You are a model mentor text analyzer!
Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in
the creation of How to Wear a
In the Summer of 2016, I studied picture books with 2nd POV
for a different story that had to do
with bears and the paparazzi. I read all the books I could
find and analyzed how the 2nd POV was
used. Here were some highlights of my analysis:
I tried to determine what the 2nd POV was contributing to
the story -- style, tension, positive
reinforcement, or something else. While I didn’t make much
progress on the bear story, all the
stuff I had learned was in my psyche and would come out in a
By Fall 2016, Navratri (Indian holiday season) and Diwali
were around the corner. I wondered
what it would be like for a young Indian girl to try and
wear a sari. It was kind of an Indian
version of the Birdie books by Sujean Rim (BIRDIE’S BIG-GIRL SHOES and
BIRDIE’S BIG-GIRL DRESS) in spirit and feeling. However, the voice that came to me was the sales
character from the 2nd POV book
HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU by Melanie Watt and . The narrator in my first few
drafts was so sales-y and
mischievous that I had to tone the voice down during
revisions and eventually found the
perfect balance in the text to convey humor and sincerity.
Wow! Amazing perspective, Darshana! Thank you for your insight. Best wishes on your future writing and promotions!
Darshana Khiani is a second-generation Indian American who
grew up in rural Pennsylvania and
now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family
and a furry pooch. She is an author, engineer, and a South Asian Kidlit Blogger. Her debut picture book HOW TO WEAR A SARI releases June 2021.
When she isn’t working or writing she can be found hiking, solving jigsaw puzzles, or
traveling. Visit her online at
https://www.darshanakhiani.com or on Twitter, Instagram, and
TikTok at @darshanakhiani.