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Women Mind the Water Podcast Series: Jayshree Patel, Texas

As told by Jayshree Patel
Austin, Texas

Story Narrative:

A woman in a golden yellow shirt holds a book as she kneels beside a river bank.

Submitted as part of the Women Mind the Water (WMW) digital stories project produced by Pam Ferris-Olson, in conjunction with Stories from Main Street and the traveling exhibition "Water/Ways." This story is one in a series created for a podcast in 2022, featuring regional and international artists whose inspiration blends conversation, activism, science, and water. Find earlier stories from the WMW initiative by searching for "Women Mind the Water" on this website.

Jayshree Patel wrote a children’s book about the transformational journey of water. Originally from New Zealand, Jahshree now lives in Texas. The inspiration for her book One drop, endless ripples came from watching icicles melt after a snowstorm in her adopted home of Texas. Those drops of water transported Jayshree back to the beaches of her native New Zealand. Jayshree imagined that a book from the perspective of a drop of water might also transport children on their own journey and along the way they might learn how precious a resource water is.

Pam Ferris-Olson (00:03): Today on the "Women Mind the Water" Artivist series, I'm speaking with Jayshree Patel, who's written a children's book about the transformational journey of water. Originally from New Zealand. Jayshree now lives in Texas. The inspiration for her book, "One Drop, Endless Ripples," came from watching icicles melt. Those drops of water transported Jayshree back to the beaches of her native New Zealand. The "Women Mind the Water" podcast series engages artists in conversation about their work, and explores their connection with the ocean. Through their stories. "Women Mind the Water" hopes to inspire and encourage action to protect the ocean and her future.

Pam Ferris-Olson (00:45): I am very happy to welcome Jayshree Patel to the Artivist series podcast. Jayshree worked in the public service, nonprofit, and corporate sectors before moving to Texas from her native New Zealand. After a snowstorm, Jayshree found herself transfixed by melted icicles. She connected the journey of a drop of water in Texas to New Zealand. Jayshree imagined that a book from a perspective of a drop of water could transport children on their own journey, and along the way, they might learn how precious a resource water is.

Pam Ferris-Olson (01:19): Welcome Jayshree, I am looking forward to hearing you talk about water, and the inspiration that comes from it. Let's begin by having you tell listers something about New Zealand and your life there. I want to say that I have been lucky enough to visit New Zealand, and found it a magical place.

Jayshree Patel (01:38): Thank you so much for inviting me Pam, I'm really excited to be here. New Zealand is surrounded by water, because we're in the south Pacific, the bottom of nowhere, in the ocean. Everywhere that we turn, no matter if you live in the city, or in the countryside, or at the beach, or even in the middle of the country, you will have water, mountains, rivers, beaches, somewhere close by. It's something that I knew when I was there, but when I'm away from it, I really remember now how incredibly precious that was, to be amongst nature as much as we are in New Zealand. It's exciting.

Pam Ferris-Olson (02:24): Because only a small portion of Texas lies along the Gulf of Mexico, I would characterize much of the state as hot and dry. How have you been able to adapt to such a place, given that it is so different from New Zealand?

Jayshree Patel (02:39): Yeah, it's taken quite a lot of adjustment for me. We are living in Austin, Austin's pretty good about keeping greenery, and lots of nature walk tracks, and things like that here. It's been quite an experience. It's flat, which was the first thing we all noticed, because I was like, "Where are the Hills? Where are the mountains?" There isn't much of that here. It has been a real adjustment for us, I think, to explore somewhere that's quite different. The heat is very different here as well.

Pam Ferris-Olson (03:20): Right.

Jayshree Patel (03:20): I think that, part of writing this book was me just becoming at one with where I am now, and going, "I can still explore, and let's do it from here, from where I am, and let's see how that works."

Pam Ferris-Olson (03:34): Okay. You write that water droplets from melting icicles transported you from Texas to New Zealand. How did you choose this perspective that you did, of telling the journey from the point of view of a single drop of water?

Jayshree Patel (03:50): I was part of a writing group, actually, and the initial parts of the story came because the prompt was, limitless possibilities. I liked that idea of, where does this one drop of water go? After the Texas snowstorm, when I saw the icicles melting, I was like, "Now it's just going to go on, on its merry way, and go somewhere. Where does it go?" I thought it was interesting to just explore that. Once I started to explore it, I was like, "Wow, it goes everywhere, and it's quite remarkable." In a way, once I started following that little trail of just a spark of an idea, it just took me in ways that I didn't expect myself. I didn't know where the story was going to end up, and that it was even going to be a story. It was just interesting. I think it just started with a question, where do the icicle school droplets go?

Pam Ferris-Olson (04:49): Recently, I interviewed another children's book author, Naomi Knight. She wrote a book about the critically endangered Maui dolphin. There are several of these dolphins, found only in New Zealand, illustrated in your book. Naomi worked as an elementary school teacher in the U.S. before moving abroad, where travel restrictions prevented her from working. Naomi channeled her energies into writing "Popoto, The Maui Dolphin." Although you didn't previously work as a school teacher, there are similarities between your journeys. How did the idea for writing a children's book evolve?

Jayshree Patel (05:28): I don't know that I actually thought about writing a children's book until I had written it. Then, I was like, "This could be a children's book." Like I said before, it came with the idea, and me following that idea, and where does it take me? At the time, I had been also shopping for books for my nephew's and niece's baby, and I couldn't find anything that really resonated, in terms of what I would want to share with, and read to my grandchildren.

Jayshree Patel (06:04): I was exploring all of that, all at the same time, and the story came to life on about three pages, I think. I think I scribbled down what I was thinking, and writing. It wasn't so much that I thought that I wanted to be a children's writer, but it I wanted to say something, what it was that I was trying to say, and how was I exploring that through that voice of one drop of water. It evolved. It was an evolving journey of becoming a children's book author, I thin.k

Pam Ferris-Olson (06:41): Naomi told me that there's a formula for writing children's books. I learned that they're limited to 32 pages in length. After you realized that you were telling a children's story, how did you find out what you needed to do to meet the criteria of a children's book?

Jayshree Patel (07:02): Yeah, good question. I had actually been part of a program called Self-publishing School, for a few years, thinking I was going to write a nonfiction for adults, actually, and that never quite worked out, because it just didn't quite resonate. I had access to publishers and authors who had been through the process. I tapped back into that resource, and asked them the questions, and they had the answers, and I was like, "This is perfect." Yes, there is a formula, 32 pages is common. I don't think that it's necessarily a rule, but it has to be multiples of four, because whenever you publish a book, you have to be able to count the pages. There were all these little details that we needed to know, and I engaged a book formatter who was very experienced.

Jayshree Patel (07:52): She also knew the page sizes, so that we knew what artwork to commission, and all of that stuff. There's a lot of detail that goes into taking a story and making it into a book. I found the right people to ask the questions, I got the answers that I needed. I've done lots of projects and things before, and I was able to use my project managing skills to just make sure that we all were on the same page, and got all of those details along the way, to make sure that the end product was what it was that we were looking for.

Pam Ferris-Olson (08:30): You said you got a page formater, but what about language and concepts, and turning something that might be a big idea into something that's digestible, and engaging, for a younger age group?

Jayshree Patel (08:48): There are a couple of things. One is, I had access to an editor, who gave me some advice. I was pretty close on my first draft, though. I think I was quite lucky, because I didn't go down that whole rabbit hole of trying to say too much. It was really, how do I want to say it in the least amount of words, that had the biggest impact? I was already thinking about how they sounded, and what the flow of the words was like. There was that step. Then, I tested it with a number of teachers, and people that I knew as well, just to get their feedback of, what does this sound like to you? Does this sound like it could work?

Jayshree Patel (09:28): I did a few things. I wasn't fully into the whole publishing industry, if you like. I was really on the outskirts. I was just tapping into to the networks that I knew of, to test that. Yeah, it was a journey, but I'm a pretty good writer, anyway. This was just another element of me exploring creative writing, and it was interesting. It was an interesting process.

Pam Ferris-Olson (09:59): I have a background originally in science, and what I saw was the water cycle. Would you tell listeners what the water cycle is? I believe it's the basis for your story.

Jayshree Patel (10:17): You're going to find this funny Pam, but I actually didn't write the book from a science perspective, from a water cycle perspective. I just wrote it trying to follow where the water went. It turned out that it does go through a cycle naturally, anyway. It wasn't until my editor pointed out that actually, "Do the last scene that goes back into the clouds, and you've got the water cycle, that's in the whole thing." I went, "Yeah, of course."

Jayshree Patel (10:48): Basically, the water cycle that's depicted in this story is the one that's impacted by weather. You have the water droplets in the clouds, and then it becomes really cold, and it becomes like snow. It becomes a physical form on land as it melts, again, in the sun. We see it as we normally would see it, physically, ourselves around. Then, you have it returning back into the clouds. I'm not going to have the science word right. What is it? Evaporates.

Pam Ferris-Olson (11:31): Okay, right.

Jayshree Patel (11:35): Yeah, it wasn't until people who read the book told me that it was about the water cycle, I went, "Yeah, it is."

Pam Ferris-Olson (11:45): Okay.

Jayshree Patel (11:45): It was by accident, I think.

Pam Ferris-Olson (11:48): You had another wonderful accident, if you will. We didn't talk about the illustration. How did that come to be?

Jayshree Patel (12:00): When I wrote the story, it wasn't a book, it was a story, and it was on a few pages I could visualize in my head, and that's because the context that I grew up in was in New Zealand. The story starts off in the moment in time where I saw the icicles melt, and that was here in Texas, after the snowstorm. In my imagination, it ended up in a lot of greenery, and water, and the ocean. I knew that I wanted somebody who was able to depict New Zealand in the illustrations. I also wanted somebody who could depict it through art in a physical form, and not necessarily by painting, and not necessarily through graphic art.

Jayshree Patel (12:50): Those are the things that I knew really early on. I remembered that, a couple of years back, I had gone to an event here in Texas, and it was called a Chalk Walk. At that Chalk Walk was this young artist, very young. She was a teenager, actually, and she'd done this amazing picture of a New Zealand scene. I knew it was New Zealand because it had a Kiwi, and it had the shark, and it had blue penguins, and the ocean. I was like, "Oh wow." I was really excited because, of course, I was in the middle of Texas, and here I am seeing this New Zealand image staring back at me.

Jayshree Patel (13:31): I managed to ask around the local art community here, and find out who she was. I said to her, "Look, I've got this proposal. What do you think?" I read her the book, and she was really into it. What I didn't actually know until after I had engaged, or during the process, was that she had an interest in Marine biology. The one thing that I actually knew she needed to be able to do was depict water, and nature things. I had seen enough of her work to know that she could do that. The fact that she has that natural interest in her artwork anyway was a bonus. The New Zealand connection for her is that her father is from New Zealand, and a lot of her artwork has little hints of New Zealand. It's funny, because I spot it straight away, as soon as I see it, and she goes, "So many people don't even notice." I'm like, "I do."

Pam Ferris-Olson (14:28): Why don't you share a page or two from the book, and tell us how the images and words came together.

Jayshree Patel (14:34): Sure, I would love to. Here's one here, and it's a riverbank amphitheater. Can you see that?

Pam Ferris-Olson (14:49): Yes, very well.

Jayshree Patel (14:53): Sorry, that lighting's pretty bad. This particular picture, it really started... I'll read the words out to you, so you can see.

Jayshree Patel (15:03): "Floating free, flowing, dancing downstream, riverbank amphitheater, trees and grass bowing and swaying to our wind song. The words in this piece was really about the sounds that you hear, and the whole musical metaphor, and it being a riverbank amphitheater. It's inviting the reader to think about, when you go to the river, what sounds do you hear? What does it feel like? I wanted to depict that in the words, and the artwork. Alexandra came back, and she put this, and now the bird's going to-

Pam Ferris-Olson (15:51): Isn't that a Mockingbird?

Jayshree Patel (15:52): It's a Mockingbird, yes. Sorry, it's a Mockingbird. She put it on here, on the edge, just like it was singing to the whole river. I was like, "Yes, that's perfect." The Mockingbirds here are just so amazing, and have such a beautiful song. I really love that idea, and the fact that you have the grass bowing and swaying to the wind in the background, and so forth. There's a lot of life in this particular painting. The formatter, who put the words on, she made sure that it was flowing down the river as well.

Pam Ferris-Olson (16:29): Right.

Jayshree Patel (16:30): The words themselves, the placement is very much following the story. It was more about exploring. The scene is about thinking about, when you go into a river, and regardless of whether or not you're near the ocean, you will be near a river at some point, what do you hear, and what do you see? These were scenes that were typical of Texas, and there's a blue crane here as well. I had never seen blue herrings, I think they're called.

Pam Ferris-Olson (17:01): Right.

Jayshree Patel (17:02): I had never seen them in New Zealand, they're obviously a native in the U.S., I think. She put that in there as well. Those are magnificent birds that we see quite a lot where we are in Texas.

Pam Ferris-Olson (17:17): Right.

Jayshree Patel (17:19): That was one that I get quite excited about. I talk to the children about that. What do you notice when you go down to the river? What does it sound like? What can you feel? That was quite exciting.

Pam Ferris-Olson (17:35): Is there an overarching message that you're trying to convey to the children?

Jayshree Patel (17:41): I think that message is to explore, to notice. Go out in nature, notice where you are. Where there's water, there's life, and you will see such amazing things, and explore. Our world is there for exploring, and there's this whole place that's outside of the classroom, and outside of the home, that is in the environment, that we are all a part of, that is just waiting for you to just be a part of it. Notice where we are, and how water interacts with everything around it. It impacts on the plants that are growing, and the animals that are by the places that you see. I think that, if you connect with water, we connect with our whole world, and everyone would be happier.

Pam Ferris-Olson (18:41): I think you've gone a pretty long way to answering my last question, which is, as someone who grew up surrounded by water, I'd like you to tell people why, if even if they don't live near the ocean, they should care about it.

Jayshree Patel (18:59): Look, there's a scene in here, and I wanted to share that a little bit too, no matter where you are, that river that is near you will be wanting to find the ocean. Where there is life, there is water. Where there's water, there's life. 75% of our world is made up of water, it's just incredible. Now that I'm looking at the science behind it, I'm like, "Wow, okay. This is something I hadn't really thought of before actually, of how significant the impact of water is in all about our life."

Jayshree Patel (19:44): I think that, we can't take that for granted. You don't want to be in that place where it's not there, then you think, "Maybe I should have taken more care of it," or, "Maybe I should have appreciated it more." Appreciate what's there, what's near you, and go out there and explore it, because it's got so much richness in it. There are so many lessons in nature, I think, that we can learn as a human race.

Pam Ferris-Olson (20:14): I hope listeners have found Jayshree's story refreshing, and a chance to learn something new about water. I'd like to remind listeners that I'm speaking with Jayshree Patel, for the "Women Mind the Water" podcast series. The series can be viewed on An audio only version of this podcast is available on the "Women Mind the Water" website, on iTunes, and other sites. "Women Mind the Water" is grateful to Jane Rice for the music, her song "Women of Water. All rights for the "Women Mind the Water" name and logo belong to Pam Ferris-Olson. This is Pam Ferris-Olson.

Asset ID: 2022.04.11
Themes: Authors, writing, children's book, water, journeys, publishing, water cycle, rivers, listening, exploration
Date recorded: May 8, 2022
Length of recording: 20:51 m
Related traveling exhibition: Water/Ways
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Women Mind the Water
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