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Meet Inklings Mentor and Mentor Advisor, Malar Ganapathiappan! As the 2021/2022 Mentor Advisor, Malar helps tend to the Inklings mentor team. Malar is a writer, writing mentor with Inklings, writing coach, and member of the SCBWI.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Sharing inspiration, creativity, and perspective through stories gives her joy. When not reading or writing, she enjoys nature, fitness, art, and cats.

Tell us about when you first knew you were a writer.

It’s a small, brightly-colored, cartoon-on-the-cover, lined, spiral-bound mini-notebook, discovered in a box of childhood stuff. Every page is filled with scribbles of varying lengths and peaks, like indiscernible cursive. I remembered sitting at my desk, carefully holding a pen, and “writing.” I felt very distinguished at the time. Even though I hadn’t really learned how to write yet!

I imagine this was the first time I knew I was a writer. Looking back at that memory validates “writer” as part of my identity. I’ve always loved reading books and it makes sense I’d enjoy writing my own. Even before I started consciously learning and practicing my craft, before I wrote 50,000 word novels for fun in high school, before I began submitting my work professionally… I was filling pages with writing. Telling stories. Expressing myself.

 

What’s something you have learned while mentoring youth writers?

Unsticking from a stuck spot doesn’t have to be hard work. There’s always a new way to adapt if something isn’t working. It can be gentle and easy, and even fun. Being stuck doesn’t even have to be a bad thing. When there’s an endless flow of possibilities and creative out-of-the-box solutions, it can be an opportunity. An opportunity to see what isn’t working so you can come up with an even more creative and stronger solution.

Youth writers are incredibly creative and adaptable. I enjoy working with both youth and adults, and it’s refreshing to be around youth. There’s potent beauty in limitless imagination. It’s inspired me to see how the youth writers I’ve worked with transform their stuck spots with just a bit of guidance and suggestions.

 

Tell us a story about a time when you and a mentee used a strategy or tool and it unlocked new possibilities in their work.

My mentee had outlined her plot using the hero’s journey, and was stumped on how to transition from one scene to the next. We discovered that while the events and general trajectory had been mapped out, it wasn’t so clear why the characters were doing what they were doing on a more day-to-day level. One missing piece was character motivation.

In order to connect with her characters more deeply, we played a character interview game and brainstormed what made the characters happy, sad, angry, and afraid. This gave the characters humanity (even the non-human ones!). It became clear that some characters were more connected to certain emotions. And it opened up new ideas to add more texture to the next scene and introduce greater internal tension. Each character had a unique personality. My mentee moved ahead feeling more connected to the characters, with the ability to express it onto the page.

 

Beyond writing books, what is another way you express your creative voice?

I enjoy creating experiences, whether that’s telling stories or designing events. I host meditative and reflective group journeys. Here, writing is a tool to help participants connect with their inner wisdom.

Similar to making choices about plot, themes, and character growth to create a story arc, I make intentional decisions on how I want the experience to look and feel to create an event arc. Similar to creating an imaginary world for the reader to get lost in, I want participants to drop in deeply so they’re not aware of the time passing—just like it feels to read a good book. It’s powerful to use my voice to create space.