[13 Aug 2010 | One Comment | ]
Welcome to the Online Home of Sona Charaipotra

A New York City-based writer and editor with more than a decade’s worth of experience in print and online media, I’ve written for the New York TimesPeople, TeenPeople, American Way, ABC NewsPremiereModern BrideThe Daily Beast, and other major national publications. With a fat rolodex of entertainment contacts, well-honed reporting, writing and editorial skills and a knack for project (and people!) management, I’m the girl to call for celebrity scoop and poignant profiles. But I can also pull together a quick personality-driven gift guide, round up real women’s recession-busting financial tips, blog about the latest film business trend or pen a flavorful narrative on culinary vacations in colonial Mexico. Whether I’m interviewing Drew Barrymore or writing about my backpacking adventure through India, you can expect crisp, clean, clever copy on or before deadline. Check out my Portfolio.

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creative writing, writing »

[31 Dec 2013 | No Comment | ]

This week, as we all gather our loved ones and our thoughts to give thanks for all the love and luck we’ve received this year, it’s worth taking some time to look back and really take stock.

Every Thanksgiving, to do just that, I create “a reverse bucket list,” kind of the opposite of an actual bucket list, which is a rundown of things you’d like to accomplish before you kick the proverbial bucket. The reverse bucket list takes a look back at things that you’ve already done and are proud of — goals achieved, moments worth reliving, the idea of gratitude for the here and now and what you already have.

So this year, again, I offer up a few a few things that make my reverse bucket list. I’m sure there are more to come:

-Kavya, my beautiful, smartie pant, sparkly-eyed daughter. In the past three years, she’s become this unique, quirky, funny, larger-than-life little character.  The things she says and does never fail to astound me — she’s so smart and so cute and so charming. She’s simply amazing. These first three years of motherhood have been as exhausting and as fulfilling as any I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to see what comes next — especially now that Navdeep and I are expanding our sweet little trio into a quartet! It’ll be really fun and fascinating to see Kavya in the role of big sister, and to learn just who our new addition turns out to be.

-My husband Navdeep. I’ve never met a smarter, sweeter, sexier man, and I’m so glad that we managed to find each other, despite startling odds. I’m so lucky to have a partner who gets me on so many different levels, who makes my goals his goals, whose brilliance startles me even after all these years. And in the past two years, we’ve gotten to learn about each other on many new levels — as parents, as writers, as partners. I’m also so proud of him for pursuing his passion, really starting to shape his voice and make a dent in that novel he’s been writing. I can’t wait to share his voice with the world. As someone once told me, he’s a keeper.

-My family, a boisterous, incredibly fun bunch whose unconditional love and support has been both my safety net — and the reason I’ve felt I can venture out onto paths unexplored. My stylish, smartie pant sister, my artist brother, my mother, who taught me what a mama should be, and my dad, who came to this country more than 30 years ago with a goal — to make his little family’s life better. My extended clan in California, who keep in touch via Skype, frequent visits (including one next week) and Kavya’s super-fun stories about “two sisters, Joshvira” and usually a dragon. Yay! We have so much to celebrate!

-The life-changing six-month honeymoon adventure Navdeep and I took in India — and IshqInABackpack.com, the site where we’ve managed to document some memories we made. The trip altered the way we looked at each other, and ourselves. It took me off my tried-and-true path and into new territory. And we’re having new adventures all the time! This year, we managed to add a few small adventures — including Kavya’s first trip to Disneyland (and mine too!).

-My decade at People magazine. As crazy and stressful as those years were, they were formative in my career, and made me the writer I am today. They also afforded me a luxury that few writers have these days — the ability to earn a real living from home in my pajamas, writing about things I’m really interested in.

-Freelancing. I couldn’t have asked for a better day job. It’s fun and focused, entertaining and explorative. It leaves me enough time to spend with my little family, and it allows me the leeway I need to focus on other goals — like fiction.

-What I learned from my class at the New School. I didn’t realize how much I needed a writers’ community until I found one. And I’m glad I got this particular bunch. They share my passion, my ambition, my goals. I’ve found in them the support I need, and the right to take writing seriously for once in my life. Six months after graduation, this little peer group I’ve found continues to persevere — and to astound me. I hope we’ll be working together, both commiserating and celebrating, for years to come.

-Speaking of the New School, I can’t ask for a better business partner than Ms. Dhonielle Clayton, my partner-in-crime since we met on the first day of class. She definitely kicks my butt and keeps me in line — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Together, we co-founded CAKE Literary, a boutique lit development company — and after two years of hard work, we finally saw it pay off with the sale of our first book. We’re expecting even bigger and better things in 2014 — and we’re thrilled to be able to bring diversity to teens and kids everywhere in book form, because we definitely felt the lack of it in the books we both read growing up. So YAY Cake! I’m gonna get me a big ole’ piece in 2014!

-Writing. In whatever form it takes — screenplays with Meena, blog posts about Kavi (which I’ll keep for her to read when she’s older), those nearly complete novels (see New Year’s resolutions post!) or those countless emails Navdeep and I exchanged back in the day, unraveling our life stories. Writing has been my form of analysis, of catharsis, of revelation. I’m glad it’s the path I stumbled upon and decided to follow.

That’s just the start of my reverse bucket list — there are countless other things I’m thankful for this year. Stay tuned for resolutions! You know they’re coming!

What tops your list this holiday season?

creative writing, parenting, writing »

[11 Sep 2013 | No Comment | ]

I almost managed to forget what today was. Between getting Kavi out the door for her new pre-school and the inevitable drama that occurs there as I try to leave her to her breakfast (tears over a muffin this morning), I was frazzled enough to just be fretting over an impending deadline, my writing schedule for the day, whether Navdeep would remember to grab a bite after his class and before he settled in to the rest of the chaos the day would bring. Then, walking in to a coffee shop for a quick cup, there it was — the call-out of the nearly 3,000 souls we lost that horrific day. And I knew, as much as I might try to forget, it will always live on.

So this morning, taking a moment to reflect, I thought I’d share a post I wrote two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the attack we now call simply 9/11. It still stands very much today.

I’ve been dreading today. For week and months, I’ve been avoiding the hype, the news, the tourists, the sorrow. Especially the sorrow. Because it’s so heavy, I feel like I might just drown in it. The weight of being a part of that “where-were-you” moment, the moment that defines my generation, whether you were in New York or Timbuktu.

I was in New York of course. I was on my merry, oblivious way, headed to the center of the city that was the center of the world, coming from the Upper West Side to my office in Rockefeller Center.

Two days earlier, I had hob-nobbed with the likes of Britney Spears, Beyonce and Usher at the MTV VMAs. I got to write up the story and it was to be a central feature. I was 24. I was Living. The. Life. And then it all came screeching to a halt.

That morning, as I walked to my building, I noticed people outside staring up at billowing clouds of rancid black smoke. It was coming from downtown. Apparently there had been a fire. Still, I made my merry way. And I as I headed into the building my dad called – he never called this early in the morning – demanding to know where I was. “I’m going to work dad,” I told him, incredulous that he would be asking. Work. It’s what I did.

And then I remember him saying the words. “The Twin Towers are no more.” As if they were people. Because really, they were people. Thousands and thousands of strangers, who over the course of the day would begin to have faces and names and families. The weight of it was staggering.

Still, like an automaton or an idiot (likely both), I didn’t turn around to go home to New Jersey and be with my family. I walked into that building in a daze. I would spend the next 22 hours there, closing my stupid VMA story (“Just in case,” my boss told me. Just in case the death of thousands in our very own city was not enough to merit bumping the VMAs.) and then interviewing those frantically searching for and mourning their loved ones on the very day it happened. This wasn’t what I had signed up for at all. In between phone calls and fact checks, I bawled. There was a skeleton crew of us who had made it to the office, but despite my sister’s frantic calls to security demanding I be sent home – and emails from loved ones all the way in India, demanding to know that I was okay – I had never felt so alone.

The 9/11 issue we crashed was beautiful. It had stark, shocking images and in-depth reporting about the missing and the dead and the individuals and a nation that mourned them. It was a good piece of reporting. But still, to me, it wasn’t worth 22 heart-wrenching hours away from my loved ones. I don’t even have a copy of it today. I wouldn’t want to see it.

In the end, I got off easy. I didn’t lose loved ones. I didn’t lose my life. Still, in a way, that was the day that changed everything. In a way, change came very slowly. I stayed on the fast-track-to-nowhere at that office for five more years, thinking maybe, just maybe. But I was disillusioned. By that day, and by those after it, when news came of South Asians and other people of color being harassed by their fellow Americans, being shot in the back and killed in the name of justice when they really had nothing to do with anything. I tried to bring these important stories to my editors, but was told that they just didn’t have a happy enough ending. News flash: some stories don’t come with a happy ending. That doesn’t render them unimportant.

Today, ten years later, I woke nose-to-nose with my little Kavya. We’re now across the river from Ground Zero, not a ten minute Path ride away. Thousands will gather there this morning, this very minute.

But to me, it’s still a place of mourning. Mourning the thousands that died, mourning the death of the innocence of a nation, mourning the death of the innocence and optimism of one stupidly naïve young girl.

I’m not her anymore. I feel freer, in a lot of ways. The burden of that hustle is gone. It’s been replaced by clarity and a different sense of purpose. In some small way, I did get to help bring some of those stories to light. Not at People magazine. But where they were needed, really, to the youth of the nation, thanks to my sister and Sway and the power of MTV – which is much-maligned, but does come through when it’s really necessary. I’m thankful for that.

And I’m so thankful for where I’m sitting ten years later. At home with my little family, not far from that city or even the heart of Ground Zero. I’m still very much in my heart a New Yorker.

The fear is still there sometimes – especially today with the alarmists and the terror alerts – but there’s a different kind of optimism, a wiser one, that accompanies it. It tells me, every so often when that old panic starts to set in – that I’ll-never-get-anywhere-or-do-anything gleam in the eye – to breathe, to take my time, to enjoy my moments. To work hard and make it happen, but to remember that it’s not the end of the world. To never forget, yes. But also to remember that sometimes you need to let go. Just a little bit.

So that’s “where-I-was” when it happened. But I think where I am now is so much more important. As it should be, for all of us.

Photo by TedKerwin/Flickr

entertainment »

[9 Aug 2013 | No Comment | ]

This week, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be starting a Parade.com column on a subject very close to my (young-at) heart — teen and YA culture. I’ll be writing about teen books, TV and movies — from my beloved Vampire Diaries and the awesome new Twisted to super-fun books like the upcoming Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Since Parade.com posts are short and sweet, I’ll likely post some fun outtakes here on my own site.

First up for the column was this week’s interview with Matthew Quick, the brilliant author behind Silver Linings Playbook, the book whose adaption earned Jennifer Lawrence her first Oscar earlier this year. Quick is also known for his incisive YA reads, and his latest, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, is a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat examination of the inner workings of an unstable, suicidal teen who plans to shoot his ex-best friend and then himself. It’s definitely worth checking out.

In the meantime, head on over to Parade.com to read my interview with former English teacher Matthew, who’s fun and uber-insightful.

And I’ll post outtakes from the interview — including Matthew’s take on getting boys to read — here next week.

 

creative writing, writing »

[10 Jun 2013 | No Comment | ]

feedlyLast week, I wrote about my favorite APPs for writerly types — including Scrivener and Crashplan. There were a few others I kept wanting to add to the list, but then I realized they weren’t really APPs for writers — they were APPs for readers. And while there’s so much overlap, there is a difference.

So, herewith, my three favorite APPs for readers.

 

 

Kindle for iPad: I truly LOVE my iPad mini. It’s so cute and portable, and I can check email or social media, watch True Blood or Days of Our Lives, and, most importantly, READ. I have several reading-oriented APPs on the iPad, but the most convenient is my Kindle, which it makes it easy to read recently downloaded books from Amazon. The great thing about the APP is that Amazon.com so frequently has steals on books that I’ve been meaning to read, like Sarah Jio’s Violets of March or Meg Donahue’s How to Eat A Cupcake. And it handily keeps track of exactly where I left off in each book.

Overdrive for iPad: Here’s a really well-kept secret — these days, you can download eBooks from the library. For free! And no, this isn’t just a fancy New York City thing. Using the Overdrive APP, you can browse your library’s selection of eBooks and even audiobooks, checking them out for up to three weeks at a time. And when they expire, they just simply disappear, you don’t even have to remember to return them. The other awesome thing: if a book is checked out already, you can put yourself on the waiting list, and your library will send you a reminder email when it becomes available to download. And all those books you meant to check out are on the list. Yes, even 50 Shades of Grey.

Feedly: Many lamented the loss of the google reader, but I must admit, I’d never even tried it. And I’d still be flipping from site to site if my sister hadn’t finally insisted I try Feedly, this super-slick RSS reader that gathers all your favorite news and entertainment resources into one handy-dandy feed. It even looks slick and pretty. There’s an APP specifically for the iPad, but if you’re using your laptop, you can log in to your feed on your web browser, too, so you’ll never miss a thing. And it makes it all look pretty, too.

What’s your favorite APP for readers? 

Blogging, creative writing, writing »

[6 Jun 2013 | No Comment | ]

secretgardenOkay, so I admit it. While I love YA, I have a lot harder time getting back into the middle grade mind-frame. Obviously, it wasn’t always this way. Amongst my favorite books are titles like The Secret Garden and the long-running Babysitters Club series, which I would devour as soon as the next installment came out. And it pleases me to see that the series continues to grow and evolve, no doubt inspiring new generations to ponder whether they’re going to be business-minded tomboys like Kristen or fashionistas-in-training like Claudia.

But I’ve yet to try my hand at writing middle grade (defined as books for eight to 12-year-olds) — although some of my characters in one particular work-in-progress do pass through those ages and stages. I can’t quite get back there.

The folks that run these three fabulous middle grade oriented blogs, though, they’re all about it. So check them out if you need some inspiration to harken back to those torturous awkward years.

Middle Grade Ninja
Run by future author Robert Kent, this clean and very readable blog focuses on the genre as both a craft and a business, with author interviews, and inside scoop from agents and editors.

From the Mixed Up Files
Another one of those sassy group blogs, From the Mixed Up Files — which takes its name from the awesome tome by E.L. Konigsburg — follows the travails of some 30 — yes 30 — middle grade writers at various stages of publishing life. Cleverly divided into sections for kids, for parents, for teachers and for writers, Mixed Up offers something for everyone.