Brijesh has been active in The Woolf community here in Zürich over many years. Here, he tells us about some of the thinking behind his latest project, a children’s book: The Great Moto-Matic House.
Welcome, Brijesh, and congratulations on publication. Tell us about the world of Ziptux and Dibbly.
The Great Moto-Matic House is the first book in a science fiction/humour series describing the intergalactic adventures of a ten-and-a-half-year-old boy and his friend, the most advanced robot in the universe. The boy who likes to go by the name Ziptux wants to make machines do tasks he doesn’t like. His robot friend, Dibbly, knows just where to get the parts—the best DIY store in the universe which happens to be only a few trillion light years away. But Earth’s stupidest inventor gets in the way and does something that can destroy the universe. Ziptux has to find a way to stop him. And in only one night.
The duo’s future adventures will be quirky pursuits instigated by day-to-day errands, simple questions, desires or requests for help from friends and authorities, human as well as alien, but will always have a relation to science as a topic. For instance, the core of this book is about inventions and is an attempt to rekindle the curiosity of children about discovering new ways of doing everyday things.
When did you take up writing, and where do you draw your inspirations from?
It all started when I wrote a book as a birthday gift for my son and daughter. The spark for this particular book was a simple parental duty from many years ago—giving my young son a shower. Both of us dreaded that activity so much that we spent countless hours discussing ideas for a five-second shower machine. While the Bath-o-Miser, as we had named it, never materialised, this book did.
My inspiration comes from two areas. First is the incredible curiosity of children. For many years I was the coach of three Swiss youth cricket teams. Kids that age (up to 13 years old) have a wonderfully fresh perspective on things—they question everything and want to know how things work. I also run creative writing workshops for children which gives me a chance to build ideas with them. The other inspiration comes from my favourite authors, who strangely enough happen to be adult fiction writers like Douglas Adams, Woody Allen, Isaac Asimov, Italo Calvino, Salman Rushdie, Walter Moers, Spike Milligan and Bill Watterson (of Calvin & Hobbes fame).
What are your earliest memories of writing?
As a kid I used to love writing school essays. Even though they were often on very boring subjects, what I loved was the opportunity to create a narrative. A few years ago I started a personal blog, which was a sideways look at life around me. That gave me a chance to develop my writing style.
You started out working in corporate; what made you decide to focus on writing?
Over the course of my career there has been one common thread—storytelling, albeit in the corporate world. As a sales, consulting and learning & development professional, I learned that the best way to convey a message that people will relate to and remember is through stories; not fictional ones, but a narrative that incorporates a dry topic and details in an interesting way. I used to coach others to be able to do the same. And I realized that I loved that approach so much that I turned my energies into writing books.
What’s your take on the current availability of children’s books? Does anything need to change?
It is commonly accepted that reading as a habit among children has been in gradual decline over the last few years. The children’s books that are famous today typically fall into four genres—fantasy, graphic novels, humour and coming-of-age novels. I have not come across too many children’s books that focus on something most children (and adults) think about when they look up at the sky. What lies beyond our planet? Are there other intelligent life forms out there? If so, what is their world like? What would they think of Earth if they met us? While these topics are taught at school, they often end up being purely academic activities. I would like to combine these topics with scientific principles and create books that kids not only enjoy, but that spark curiosity by urging them to think about how would they handle the challenge if they were the hero of the book. And what I would love to see in schools is more exposure to literature that develops children’s creative side, rather than just a focus on academics.