Where cultures collide and empathy abounds in children’s tales

The Little Dipper Publishing, led by independent publisher Anusha Veluswamy, is dedicated to producing children’s literature that celebrates diverse cultures, fosters empathy, and offers diverse representation

In a world where big publishing houses dominate the literary scene, it’s easy to overlook the growing number of indie publishers quietly revolutionising the industry. These small but mighty presses are breaking the mold, defying convention, and daring to publish the stories that traditional publishers may overlook. From printing and distributing books by hand to launching innovative marketing campaigns, indie publishers are proving that you don’t need a multimillion-dollar budget to make a splash in the literary world. The story of The Little Dipper Publishing, run by Anusha Veluswamy, is one such and transforming the literary landscape with one book at a time.

 

From passion to print
Meet Anusha Veluswamy, a multi-faceted individual who effortlessly manages to balance her various roles as an architect, design teacher, entrepreneur, and children’s book author. It’s hard to imagine that just ten years ago, Anusha would have dismissed the idea of becoming a successful children’s book author and publisher. But fate had other plans, and Anusha’s passion for books and her roots in Chennai led her down this path. Her journey was no easy feat, but with determination and hard work, Anusha has carved out her own success story, one that is both inspiring and organic.

“Growing up as the youngest of three siblings with significant age gaps, I often found myself feeling alone during childhood. However, I found comfort in writing journals, which gradually evolved into poetry and short stories. My love for books and their ability to provide a safe haven for me played a crucial role in my personal growth. It was this passion for writing that led me to author my debut work for children titled My Amma’s White Stone Mookuthi, published by the US-based indie publisher Batani Kids. This experience also opened my eyes to the joy of creating representative literature for children, and it inspired me to establish The Little Dipper Publishing,” admits the mother of two, who currently resides in Hyderabad.

The launch of The Little Dipper in June 2022 was a dream come true for Anusha, as the company debuted with two of her own books early this January. With a mission to create culturally rooted, empathetic, and representative stories for children, Anusha intends to publish a maximum of two books per year, carefully selecting manuscripts that align with her values of compassion, cultural roots, and representation. The Little Dipper has already received an overwhelming response, with five to six submissions flooding in every month.

“The Little Dipper is not just a business venture, but a passion project, fuelled by a desire to create a better world for children through literature. We don’t aim for prim and proper characters but rather portray real, unruly, and normal children that we see in every household. As an Indian publisher, I firmly believe in the importance of cultural roots. Our heritage is a vital part of who we are, and it is important to pass it down to future generations. Sadly, many children today only have a glimpse into our culture or none at all,” asserts Anusha, whose book titled Maari a Gift from the Skies offers a peek into Kanmani’s world – her little village in Tamil Nadu.

It is a story of finding safety within your community, finding calm in your chaos, and a story about the gentle empathy of nature. This book also helps to begin conversations on Indian folk dances. “As I reflect on my childhood, I can vividly recall watching folk dance performances, which provided me with a glimpse into our cultural heritage. Sadly, the generation we are raising today does not have the same opportunity. As we face the challenges of climate change, we are now discussing concepts such as forest bathing and tree-hugging. However, our ancestors understood the power of nature and worshiped it long before these modern concepts emerged. Every folk dance beautifully celebrates and pays homage to nature. For example, in Karakattam, we see the dancers praying to Maariamman, the god of rain, and expressing gratitude to nature. These are stories that need to be told,” she explains.

 

Small publishers, big impact
Her other book titled Where is my Thookam is a delightful story that not only tackles children’s nighttime anxieties but also celebrates the beautiful bond between siblings. It’s a tale of unwavering love, support, and courage, where one sister battles fear while the other provides comfort. “I wrote both books myself, but being an independent publisher is not the same as a vanity press. As a complete outsider to the publishing industry, I took risks to learn by putting my own stories out there. In India, independent publishing is still in its early stages, mostly run by a one-person team who takes risks to provide opportunities for authors to be heard,” she promises.

Speaking of her clientele spread across the globe, she shares, “In today’s world, there are two sets of children – the privileged ones who have easy access to books and the not-so-privileged ones who struggle to find books. Big publishing houses are doing a great job in making varied and representative books available, but there are also amazing people like Ruchi Dhona who are bringing literature to those who cannot afford it through free library networks. We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s heartening to see the efforts made in this space. At our small stall in an exhibition, we saw a positive response from parents who were mindful of what they chose for their children. It’s a great time for children’s literature and I hope to contribute to it.”

The Little Dipper aspires to reach out to all children, from all walks of life. To achieve this, they aim to donate a book to a library for every book sold. Meeting people and hearing their stories firsthand is important to them. A recent message from a caregiver affirmed the importance of representation in children’s literature. Authentic stories have a profound impact and provide affirmation and acknowledgment. “As an author, I believe that humour is a powerful tool for engaging young readers. It’s interesting to note that while children don’t necessarily purchase books themselves, the decision to buy often falls on the caregiver. This means that my books have to appeal not only to kids but also to the adults who are buying them. I strive to create content that not only entertains but also educates. Ultimately, it’s all about testing the waters and seeing what resonates with readers,” she says.

From underdog to game changer
Anusha has learned many lessons since starting the company. She believes consistency is key to success and encourages people to support indie publishers by buying directly from them, gifting and donating their books, and spreading the word. The Little Dipper is available on their website and through small independent bookstores. “When I started, I didn’t know anyone in the industry, but as people saw and embraced our content, we gained more recognition,” she suggests.

 

Navigating the world of indie publishing can be like climbing a mountain without ropes. With limited resources and no support system, it’s an everyday struggle to bring visibility to books, says Anusha. While credible reviewers are a lifeline, the team needs more than that. “Indie publishers can bring inclusive and diverse literature to children, and partnerships with schools and government support can help us reach more young readers. School administrators can consider collaborating with indie publishers, which can benefit both parties. Government support can help indie presses with bulk sales and reach a larger audience,” she humbly requests.

 

Little Dipper Publishing aims to publish courageous, faith-filled, and accepting stories. Inspired by the Little Dipper constellation, which guides navigation using the North Star, Polaris, the company strives to guide readers towards inspiring stories. Anusha Velusamy’s journey from traditional to indie publishing is a testament to the power of passion and determination. Her story reminds us that even in a large industry, individuals can make a difference.

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