Can Write – Meet Sandip Sodhi


Meeting Canadian Writers and Illustrators of Children’s Books
What inspires the writers of the books your students read? How does an illustrator decide what to draw? Is it true that most authors and illustrators don’t know each other? This column features a different Canadian children’s book creator in each issue and shows you the story beyond the covers.

Sandip Sodhi is surrounded by books every day. Because of her work as teacher-librarian in a bright, sunny elementary school library, she knows what makes an engaging story. Recently, Sandip pursued her—and many others’—dream of writing her own books. I asked her about the process of self-publishing.

Margriet: You are a teacher-librarian. How does that influence the telling of your own stories?

Sandip: Being a teacher-librarian, I believe I am in a wonderful position to understand what kinds of books children enjoy reading or hearing. I love to connect with my students and am very observant of their choices. When I read aloud to my students, I watch their reactions and listen to their connections. When I wrote my own stories, I could picture which students would be drawn to them.

Margriet: Did you grow up surrounded by stories or did you come to children’s literature later?

Sandip: As a child, I was a regular patron of the school and public libraries. Reading was a hobby for me and was modelled by my father. At an early age, I realized reading is reading—it didn’t matter in which language the books were written. My father used to read novels written in Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu. He encouraged us to read daily.

Margriet: Have you always wanted to write your own stories?

Sandip: As a child, I enjoyed creative writing and telling stories. I was quite mischievous and often made up stories on the spot, which often ended up with either a good laugh or me being scolded. I never thought that I would become an author until I started to tell students my personal stories. These stories led to great conversations, so I decided that, one day, I would write and share some of the experiences.

Margriet: Why did you decide to self-publish your books rather than send them to a publisher? What was the self-publishing process like?

Sandip: I decided to self-publish my book Ms. Chievus in the Classroom because my submission was not accepted by several publishers. I didn’t have an agent and tried to reach out to publishers on my own. When I wrote the book, the publishers replied by saying that they were looking for different content at that time. Secondly, I really wanted to have some say about the illustrations. I had heard from others that an author does not have much input into the images or who illustrates them. I’m not sure if this is accurate, but I really wanted to connect with my illustrator. I wanted to place importance on how diverse the student population in my story was. I also wanted to make sure that the names of the students reflected their ethnic backgrounds. I didn’t have books that showcased the ethnicities of my peers or myself when I was growing up, so I really wanted to make sure that these kinds of books would be available to our students. I had written my books shortly before BIPOC authors became general and accepted.

In the meanwhile, I had researched how to self-publish books and chatted with authors who had used different companies for their self-published books. Finally, I reached out to someone who was an illustrator and who had also self-published a book. He and I worked really well together, and he understood my vision. He and his wife illustrated, revised, and formatted the images, and I focused on the writing and editing. I had several trusted individuals critique my drafts. When I was happy with the final drafts, I read the stories to my students to hear their reactions and to get feedback from them.

The second book, Talk to Me, What Do You See? Beauty and Joy From A – Z, was more serious, and I wanted to have more realistic images so I reached out to an artist who I knew and asked if she would be interested in painting the images for the book. Again, I wanted to have my vision reflected in the artwork. It was important for me to be a part of that creative process, and I did not want to hand it over to someone I didn’t know. Also, this book is dedicated to frontline workers and showcases a few images about what occurred during the pandemic, so I really wanted to make sure it was available to the public in a timely fashion.

After the books were uploaded to the self-publishing company, I had to review the digital copies and order some print copies in order to check for any misprints or errors.

Since the books are self-published, the marketing is largely up to me. I reached out to several different organizations and media and also used social media to spread the word. I’m thrilled that my books are available at Vancouver’s Kidsbooks, Indigo, and Amazon.

Margriet: What was the motivation behind both of your books?

Sandip: The motivation behind my books was to write something that is inclusive, that showcases diversity, that focuses on being able to adapt to different circumstances, that creates conversations, and, finally, is something that people can relate to or connect with. I love humour and I love life lessons, so I have used both in the books. In Ms. Chievus in the Classroom I wanted to share some of my early teaching experiences with my students and colleagues. In Talk to Me, What Do You See? Beauty and Joy From A – Z I wanted to focus on how there is always something to be grateful for even when times are difficult.

Margriet: Have you shared your books with your students yet? What was their reaction?

Sandip: I have shared my books with students and so far, the reaction has been wonderful! After writing, publishing, and having the books available, many students have approached me with much enthusiasm and hope for their own writing pursuits. A colleague approached me and asked if he would be able to use my book in a school-wide assembly about social-emotional learning. Once again, the book sparked conversation about many topics.

Margriet: What is your advice to other educators wanting to share their own stories with students?

Sandip: Educators are right in the field. They have direct experiences and understand children and what is important to them. I would definitely encourage other educators to write and share their stories. It’s never too late to pursue an interest or passion.

Check out Sandip’s website:

Note that net profits from Ms. Chievus ordered through Sandip’s website are being donated to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.


Margriet Ruurs
Margriet Ruurs is the author of over 40 books for children and conducts (ZOOM) school presentations:

Enjoy her travel-and-books blog here:

This article is featured in Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Winter 2022 issue.

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