PENNING WHIMSICAL YOUTHS, 'LITTLE HEROES OF RANDENIYA'
From its essence of nostalgia and detailed encapsulations of the tales of childhood adventures, ‘Little Heroes of Randeniya’ is, in most ways a time capsule that remembers the stories of child-like imaginations and limitless creations, a world of its own and of the past. Author Thalatha Wijerathna the innocent joy and blissful simplicity of childhood and the quests ventured through whimsical imagination and fantastical belief. ‘Little Heroes of Randeniya’ was first published in 20118 and follows the stories and explorations of three characters, Wasantha, Samantha and Sarath as their lives and futures shape the legacy of the village of Randeniya. The novel has received much acclaim and was deemed a milestone and landmark for the classification of young adult literature in Sri Lanka and became a finalist in the children’s category of 2019 International Book Awards.
Established children’s author and educator Thalatha Wijerathna pursued her career as a school teacher and has gained an experience of over 36 years as a high school teacher. She graduated from the University of Peradeniya and obtained her Master of Arts in higher education after which she became a member of the Translator’s Pool of the Official Languages Department of Sri Lankan. The extensive experience and fervent interest in writing led her to the publishing of two novels dedicated to young adults and children transpiring her own experiences unto her readers. In conversation with Thalatha Wijerathna, we understand her journey and those proficiencies that have been conveyed through creative language and stories in her novel ‘Little Heroes of Randeniya’.
Q | Growing up, when did you first realize you love writing and reading?
A | I’ve always loved reading, but if I were to pinpoint a specific moment then it would be when I was studying in grade two, which is when I began to read more books than I could count. From then, my love for reading quite naturally progressed to a passion for writing. Still, it was only when I retired from teaching in my sixties that I was able to pursue my career as a writer more seriously.
Q | How has literature inspired you in your childhood?
A | Literature has been an endless source of inspiration for me, not only in my childhood but throughout my adult life as well. When reading, I’m taken to faraway places, distant lands and have the opportunity to interact with so many different ideas, characters and places. I’ve learnt so much about the world, and with every book I read I take an insight and a memory which enriches my own creativity and imagination.
Q | What is the inspiration behind 'Little Heroes of Randeniya'?
A | This is a book that is so close to my heart, and one that I have been hoping to write for a long time. Little Heroes of Randeniya is my own personal tribute to the wonderful and whimsical adventures of my childhood. In my beautiful rural village in Sri Lanka, I would explore and play to my heart’scontent with my two brothers. It was a time filled with so much laughter, where I could truly be myself and where I learnt so much about who I am as a person and what I wanted to do in life.
Q | How has your background in teaching and child psychology helped you write children's' Books?
A | As a teacher with many years of experience, I know all too well that children can become bored very easily. And this isn’t something to be seen as a negative, because children will always be inquisitive and curious. It’s crucial that we give our children a safe and secure outlet to explore and adventure to their heart’s content, inspired by their imagination and creativity. Someone’s experiences during their childhood will have an immense influence on their journey into and through adulthood. It is for this reason that whilst we need to guide and support our children, we must do so without suffocating their dreams or suppressing their innate talents, gifts and personality.
Q | Who are some of your Sri Lankan literature inspirations?
A | There are countless Sri Lankan authors who have inspired me throughout my journey, but a couple that come to mind are Martin Wickramasinghe and T.B. Illangarathna. One reason that I love their work so much is because their stories not only inspire and encourage children, but adults can also relate to them – it reminds them of the wonders and dreams of their own childhoods.
Q | What advice and pointers can you give to other aspiring writers out there?
A | Honestly, just keep writing and never stop. We’re often intimidated by blank pages and the thought that what we write may not be good enough. If you’re writing from your experience, your thoughts and your heart, however, then it will never be ‘wrong’ or ‘boring’. It’s just a matter of learning how to write in a way that speaks to the hearts of your readers as much as to yourself. So if you’ve been holding back from writing anything, start right now. Believe me, you won’t regret writing, you’ll only regret the time you wasn’t writing. I got published in my sixties and it has been wonderful. There are no age limits to becoming a writer.
To travel in time to the adventures journeyed as children and to experience through an alternate world the joys of becoming heroes in a dimension unlike our own realities. Thalatha Wijerathna expertly writes of candid joy and the feeling of conquering mountains and hills, depicting through the lens of ingenuous yet boundless resolution and fortitude to create their own realities. ‘Little Heroes of Randeniya’ becomes a portal for the young adult and children as they travel across and beyond in the adventures that Thalatha has created, as she encourages and affirms the comprehension that what you imagine is within reach and one must explore to their heart’s content.