25 October, 2017

#Interview with Sunita K. Mani, #Author of Be.you.tiful Conversations with a counselor

About the Author:
A Masters in psychology from Bangalore University, Author Sunita K Mani has over ten years of experience in student counseling. Her inspiration is the great Nalanda and Takshashila University. Through her talks and counseling numbering more than 2000 she has directly impacted the lives of more than 7,000 students. The alarming increase in suicide rates among young adults in India was her wake up call. Her mission is to assist students in captaining their
destinies and to help them make better choices in life.
Whether keeping oneself updated with the changing times or volunteering in the recent earth-quake that hit Nepal in 2015, Sunita believes that happiness is for those who focus on what can be rather than what cannot. She lives in Bangalore.

Ms Mani brings to the stage more than ten years of experience in individual therapy, relationship and behaviour management. She has conducted workshops across India for parents, students, teachers and corporate. She benchmarked a successful copyrighted course at Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences and developed training objectives, deliverables and course material, which are now delivered to more than 200 trainees annually.
Professional yet personable demeanor that facilitates an impact on the behavioral coaching is her core strength.

Ms Mani has served at NGOs and prisons as part of her social research work. She is also a member and a year round keynote speaker at CSB (Community Services of Bangalore), APD (Association for People with Disability) and SOS (Save Our Soul- NGO for Children). She is a regular speaker at Rotary and Lion’s club.

For more information, please visit www.sunitakmani.com

An Interview:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
I wrote this book on behalf of all those students who think of suicide each day, their dreams shattered, their aspirations curtailed, their careers and lives ruined. On behalf of all those parents, who have invested all their savings, mortgaged homes, sold properties to ensure best possible education for their children. I wrote this book on behalf of the aspiring youth, the demographic dividend of India.
Every time I hear a story of suicide, I begin to ponder the meaning of education itself. Why should a 15 year old give up life? Is it not our responsibility to create an environment that makes emotional conversations more easier?  Is it not time to make our children not just globally, academically competent but also emotionally nurtured?  These questions led me to the writing of this book.

What inspires you to write?
The beauty of human potential inspires me to write. The ability for humans to find that small flickering flame of hope amidst storm…that makes me want to write, that makes me want to be a better person. The people I meet in my counseling sessions inspire me.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
Unlike a work of fiction, this book is a guide. The characters are my clients who have interacted with me in the past. The setting is that of a counselor and counselee engaged in a discussion pertained to a specific topic from a young adult's life.

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Ah, plenty.

Tell us about your writing process.
I take a stroll across the street to find inspiration. I enjoy people watching. Then, I come and sit with the book. I cut off completely from any distraction- electronic or otherwise. I work better at night. So, my whole process of writing is a consistency based on discipline. Sometimes I decide the topic and then start writing. Sometimes I just write to express and eventually it leads to a certain topic but no matter what I fix two hours every single night to just write. So my writing process involves just one step: writing.

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
No particular scene as such. However I enjoy conversations about love, heart break and chasing one’s dream.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
I think when you look at people from a counseling perspective; we are all on a spectrum.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
Sarcastic wit combined with compassionate wisdom. You need plenty of it in counseling. Think Sharukh Khan from Dear Zindagi!

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I love Paulo Coelho, may be because of my counseling background. His simplicity influenced me. Arundati Roy for her sheer ability of making meaningful tapestry out of ordinary words. Her determination made a mark on my thinking. My all time favourite authors also include Maya Angelou, Sidney Sheldon and Khaled Hosseini. They’ll inspired me to be more human. However, my favourite book will always be One hundred years of Solitude by Gabriel Gracia Marquez. It is gripping and enormously kaleidioscopical.
I think we don’t open a book; we open our minds.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
Keep it simple.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Write. Just write. Set aside a time and every day consistently stick to it.

What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?
Ah, someday! Never thought about it.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I’d Mostly people watch. I get such a kick out of it! I can do it for hours.  My favourite place is Lalbagh in Bangalore, it’s a botanical garden. It’s my ‘go to’ place.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
I dream of touching the lives of 1,00,000 youngsters personally changing their life forever because of my intervention. I’ve recorded 900 till date. 😊 I would like to be remembered as a milestone in their life. 

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
1. I find it difficult to differentiate right from left. I suck at directions!
2. I always forget passwords
3. I chew people’s brain by talking of alternative ending for popular movies- my friends hate me for that!

What do you have in store next for your readers?
Surprise!!! Well, my second book is about “singles in India”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
All the latest news across the world about teenage suicide is relevant to my book. Many young adults give up in life because of overwhelming sense of loneliness and stress.
Suicide is a touchy topic and a difficult one to address it directly. Thanks to technology, youngsters today are bombarded with information, so it becomes this vortex of similar content that makes it hard to find information they didn't already know. It's even harder to stay inspired. Hence, I decided to address this issue differently in my book- Featuring topics in an easy-to-understand and inspiring way to help them break out of their typical content mold and acquire something new so that they’ll learn, laugh, and maybe even choose differently. The whole idea is to erase the stigma around the word “counseling”.
The book is written in such a way that for the first time one gets to peep into a counseling session and get a first-hand experience of a conversation. 
I do not know if my book is a solution to prevent the rising suicide rate in India and across the world, what I know for sure is that, this book can open up people to reach out for help. The problem with the world is not the lack of solution. The problem is that people don’t seek and hence miss the opportunity to receive help. This book is a reminder that we are humans, we'll need help at some point or the other. the biggest take away for the readers is the truth that all of us go through emotional crisis and there is no need for stigma for going out and seeking help.

About the Book:

All of us have something to share; the question is 'who cares?’ 'How can one have these conversations without being judged?' This is the space that the book can help the reader. Ms Mani’s book, ‘Be.you.tiful’ conversations with a counselor can help the reader to learn to trust, turn self-doubts into clarity, help find inner strength and stop oneself from self-sabotage.
The book aims to remove the stigma around the word ‘counseling’. It deals with issues on young minds that are seldom discussed. The book contains chunks of conversations that are divided into short, crisp segments of dialogues, and questions and answers pertaining to a concerned topic, the book takes you through a quick and often amusing journey through the minds of youngsters.

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