Writing with Heart

By Sathya Achia

When we were kids, my brother and I would sit for hours, side-by-side, at the fold-out desk our parents had constructed. A bucket of broken crayons and a heap of gently used paper sat in the middle of desk, just within reach of our tiny hands.

We gave that paper new life as we scribbled down fantastical stories that took us back to the time and place we loved the most—summers at our grandparents’ home at the edge of a rainforest nestled in the Western Ghats region of India. We’d race around with our cousins through the rice paddy fields, swing on the thick, vine-like limbs of the banyan tree, and hike through forty acres of coffee plantation—often pretending we were treasure hunters.

But the greatest of adventures would come when our grandfather would return from his day out in the fields, and he’d plop himself in his solid throne-like teakwood chair and begin the stories that have become the very center of my own heart. After he’d refueled with his coffee and savory snacks, he’d sit at the edge of his chair with all of us grandkids gathered around and speak the stories of The Ramayana, Mahabharata, or folktales of our own South Indian Kodava ancestors. There was no book cradled in his hands—it was all him and his imagination, retelling the stories he himself had grown up with, sometimes inserting his own unique twist on things. His voice, theatrically rising and falling like the ocean’s tide with each story beat. His hands would drum on the wooden arm of his chair to signal the coming of epic change. His face, an expression of pure delight—you could tell that it wasn’t a chore for him to entertain us even after a long day of arduous work—it was his proud honor to pass the love of a good story on to us. The power of his oral storytelling was captivating.

It’s no wonder that once night fell upon the house, and all the grown-ups were fast asleep, my brother, cousins, and I, would pile on a bed, and share our own stories in hushed voices, by the warm glow of candlelight.

Those memories and stories from a lifetime ago are forever etched on my heart. It’s my well of inspiration and it moves me to write the stories I create. I can close my eyes and be transported back to those days.

I remain in awe of my grandfather and his ability to put on such a show for us day after day. But the true power of it all, was that it came from his love for us—straight from his heart.

As I plotted and planned what has now become my debut YA novel, In My Hands, each piece of plot, setting, and characterization was carefully drawn from those special moments. I just gave them new life in the most fantastical of ways.

But most of all, I wrote what was already written on my heart.

What inspires your writing?