Padma Venkatraman’s “A Time to Dance” is a young adult novel-in-verse which carries your heart to emotional highs and lows as you journey with a young Bharatanatyam dancer, Veda, through the joys and triumphs of her dance competition to the despair of a heart-wrenching physical setback and into the recovery of her dreams. Because the book is written as novel-in-verse, the author is able to impart the story through flashes of emotion, action and character, giving the reader a deep emotional link to each scene in very few words and lines. It is with these well-chosen words and sparse but conscious writing that Venkatraman carries the reader through the tale of holding and developing new goals and aspirations, as well as growing into a more conscious human being. Each chapter reads as its own beautiful poem, and these poems are threaded together into a captivating story of hope and renewal. I was eager to turn the pages, entranced by the characters and plot, but I also look forward to revisiting the book to savor each poem for its simplicity, beauty and poignancy.
For those of us who have little experience reading or writing novels-in-verse or who might be exploring different formats to express the stories we’re bringing to the page, Venkatraman’s novel is a wonderful study in how to use sparse, well-chosen words and create individual poems that lift and carry the reader through their very own emotional arcs, while at the same time pulling the reader poem-by-poem through a greater story arc of character, plot and emotion.
For more information on Venkatraman’s process in writing this bold cultural and spiritual book for teens, visit http://nancytandon.com/2014/11/11/a-time-to-dance-interview-with-author-padma-venkatraman/. And for three additional writers’ perspectives writing-in-verse, check out http://www.axonjournal.com.au/issue-4/writing-young-adult-verse-novel.