Amazing Author: Saanvi Singal

May I introduce someone wonderful, marvelous, dedicated, and talented?

Quick backstory: during the pandemic, my library launched a program called First Draft. Young writers would email drafts of their creative works, and I would give constructive feedback and writing advice. Over the months and years, some writers sent multiple chapters of stories.

Today, we are proud to feature Saanvi Singal, a First Draft alumna who went on to publish her very own book!

Isabel Johns and the Lion of Power is the story of intrepid Isabel Johns and her friend Ashley, who embark on an epic and danger-filled quest to defeat a terrifying fur monster. Full of science, magic, action, and suspense, the two girls journey into enchanted lands to find the magical gems needed to vanquish their powerful enemy.

Saanvi submitted her manuscript to Young Inklings, a non-profit mentoring program dedicated to the support and enrichment of starting writers. And wouldn’t you know it, she was one of two writers selected for publication! I attended her book launch and was just SO proud!

Hi Saanvi! Tell us a little about yourself!

Hi Dr. Dana! I am a sixth grader, and live in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. I love reading, writing and spending time with my friends.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I took a filmmaking class after school while I was in fourth grade. My two best friends were part of the same class. While looking for inspiration for characters for my first film, I thought of the costume kit that my little sister had received as a birthday present.
There were three different costumes in this kit, a gardener, a scientist and an explorer. I decided to choose these as my film characters and imagined myself as the explorer and my two friends as Ashley the gardener and Professor Bob, the scientist.

As I was working on my film, my teachers in ELA introduced a fantasy writing unit. The planning sheets and organizers in this unit helped me build on the story and I decided to continue to write this script, making it into an eleven chapter book.

What was your writing process like?

I started drafting my first chapter and shared it with my parents. They loved it and encouraged me to keep writing and plan a story line. Using the organizing tips I learnt from my teachers in ELA at school, I planned out my story and started drafting. Once I was done with my first draft, I went back and started editing and revising. I spent time thinking through how I could zoom in to specific moments and add details to ‘show not tell’. I also reached out to resources who could help me with the editing process. I found the First Draft program at Princeton University Library and shared my first few chapters with Dr. Dana, who gave me a lot of great tips and ideas on how I could make my writing stronger.

What was the most difficult scene to write and why?

The most difficult scene to write about was when Isabel encountered Scaly. This was a battle scene and I struggled to find words that could help me show the intensity of the fight. I wanted to describe the scene well so as to create a graphic image in the mind of the reader.

Can you tell us a little more about Young Inklings?

Young Inklings is a non-profit group that mentors school-age authors, guiding them through the revision process, while also helping them talk about and publish their work. As a non-profit, they donate all royalties from the works they publish to charity.

What was the most surprising thing about writing a book?

The most surprising thing was that I wrote a whole book! It was amazing to me that I was able to accomplish a goal as big as that. I thought this to be a very difficult task, which needed a lot of hard work and patience.

Any words of advice for young writers?

I would tell young writers not to be afraid to express themselves. I would tell them that if they have an idea, however crazy it may seem, go ahead and write it, because if all authors were nervous of sharing their thoughts, we would never have all the wonderful books we have now. I would also tell them to not give up, even though the road may seem hard. Finally, my advice is to put all one’s imagination into one’s book, make it your own and make it BETTER!


Author images courtesy of Shonali Gupta. Book illustrations courtesy of Young Inklings. Cover art by Francie Towne, interior illustrations by Saanvi Singal.

SUPER STUDENTS!

jared aldwin crooksQ: In a previous post, you mentioned creative programs & projects students have done in the past for your library…can you share some of them?

A: We’d love to! Over the years, we have worked with so many incredibly talented students at Princeton University. From developing in-person community events, to designing exhibits, to headlining blog posts, to working with our young visitors – the students’ energy, ideas, enthusiasm, and dedication is always next level. Need a gang of literary villains? Trying to find the perfect recipe for Pumpkin Pasties? Would you like Alice to read you a chapter from her adventures in Wonderland? Want to learn about cloud science? How about a Rube Goldberg machine? Or perhaps Gandalf can lead you on a quest? Here’s a round up of some of our favorite collaborations on Pop Goes the Page:


MINI GOLF MASTERMIND: RICKY FEIG

ricky 3Our Seuss Mini Golf event was fun chaos, but the show-stoppers were the golf holes and magnificent Onceler Tower designed and constructed by Ricky. Legend has it that the Onceler Tower is still standing in a Princeton University campus building (I checked a couple years ago)!


THE MATHAMAGICIAN: CASANDRA MONROE

robes 2The Day at Digitopolis event was massive (we had to split it into a post 1 and post 2), but a big shout out goes to Casandra Monroe for playfully covering the Mathamagician’s robes with artistic equations. But definitely check out the two blog posts – you’ll also meet Emile Oshima and Rei Mastsuura who ran abacus races, Matt Smith and Demi Zhang who taught musical fractions, and a number of student groups who contributed their considerable skills!


MUGGLE STUDIES 101: TÉA WIMER

muggle artifacts curator, tea wimer

It’s not everyday you meet faculty of Muggle Studies, but Téa was just that! She developed an exhibit for our Wand Works event, and was there to answer even the most ridiculous wizarding questions about the mysterious and mind-boggling world of Muggles.


MAGIC UNLEASHED: JOSÉ M RICO

jose m rico

Also part of Wand Works was the insanely talented José, who designed an EPIC interactive Harry Potter spell game and premiered it at the event. You have to see it to believe it. And you can download and play it free here!


LITERAL FAIRY GODMOTHER: SYLVIA JACOBSON

fairy godmotherBe careful…this fairy godmother grants wishes EXACTLY as you make them, thanks to Sylvia’s tongue-in-cheek literalness and rainbow wings. An oft-requested visitor at our children’s literary society, she wielded her star wand with grace and a wicked sense of humor!


DESIGNER TO THE (LITERARY) STARS: JAMES JARED

james-jaredThis particular post shows up on our favorite lists a LOT. James had 180 minutes to costume as many literary characters as he could at at local thrift store. Spoiler alert…he rocked it. The post also features student models Amanda Blanco, Ailyn Brizo, Joani Etskovitz, and Grace Turner, who were simply amazing!


THE ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE: ALIISA LEE

self portrait_artwork by aliisa lee

The most magical thing about this student? She still works for us! Artist Aliisa Lee was a student illustrator at our library for four years, and in that time she contributed everything from thaumatropes, to literary Pokemon, to book perps, to the logo of our podcast! Aliisa is also the official illustrator of our annual 350 for 50 writing contest, which is currently in its 15th year. We love you Aliisa!

summer announcement logo_artwork by aliisa lee


Also! Starting off the blog post was Jared Crooks, an undergraduate AND grad student in science who not only wrote a picture book, he came to our story time to share it and build awesome robots.

Let’s Play!

We’re finishing 2023 with something we’re really proud of! This spring, PBS came to our library to film for Craft in America. The episode is titled “Play,” and it’s now officially streaming! Our segment of the episode is a tribute to Lloyd Cotsen, and his marvelous vision and gift that resulted in the creation of the Cotsen Children’s Library.

For those of you who are not familiar, Craft in America is an non-profit that is “dedicated to the exploration, preservation and celebration of craft, the work of the hand, and their impact on our nation’s cultural heritage.” The episode also features artists Roberto Benavidez, Schroeder Cherry, Calder Kamin, Lorena Robletto, as well as the Noah’s Ark installation at the Skirball Cultural Center.

This link will take you to the episode. Cotsen’s section begins at 37:24 (and Katie’s chin has a cameo at 41:47), but we highly encourage you to check out the entire “Play” episode, it’s simply wonderful!

The Cotsen Library would like to thank PBS, Craft in America, and the awesome crew that came to our library to showcase our little world so perfectly. We appreciate you so much!