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Honorable Mention: Judge, 29th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards:

Structure, Organization, Pacing: This book is exemplary in its structure, organization, and pacing. The structure of the chapters/parts aid in a compelling organization of the story or information. The pacing is even throughout and matches the tone/genre of the book.

The book itself is pretty short, broken into digestible anecdotes, but doesn’t lag or felt rushed. Both key characters get about the same amount of “screen time,” which is important for comparative stories.

Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar: This book has spelling, punctuation, and grammar corresponding with the region of the world from which the author hails (ex. British English or American English) or with where the book is set (including slang, vernacular, or dialect). These choices are intentional and implemented consistently throughout with few, if any, errors. No glaring errors that would detract from the story. A missing period or style-related variation here or there, but again, nothing that would put a serious dent in Raman’s skill or reputation as a writer.

Production Quality and Cover Design: This book is exemplary in production quality and cover design. The physical materials, printing, and binding are of professional quality and traditional industry standards. The typesetting and page layout (including illustrations, images, or figures) are easy to follow, thoughtfully designed, and error free. The cover appears to be professionally designed and is compellingly related to the content/genre of the book.

This cover is eye-catching and colorful, but the details are rich without being overly busy or hard to take in. The physical elements look and feel professionally assembled.

Plot, Story, or Topic Appeal: This book is exemplary in its choice of topic or theme of the story. It is unique but still has strong appeal for most readers in its intended genre. If the book is fiction or narrative nonfiction, the book is well plotted. If the book is poetry or prescriptive nonfiction, there is a cohesive theme or delivery of information.

At times heartbreaking and at others humorous, Raman has written a book that just about any reader could relate to in one way or another. And yet, there is a distinct cultural appeal that both intrigues those of us less familiar with Indian tradition and manages to connect the characters in their similar experiences, creating an analogy for readers who have experience with other cultures.

Character Appeal and Development: This book is satisfactory in character appeal and development. Most main characters are developed and have appealing or interesting aspects but could use more complex motivations. Secondary characters may have a purpose but have few unique characteristics.

Realistic, relatable, distinct in that they are their own people but it’s easy to see how the author made sure they grew together in a sense. I think the shorter length of the book is the main contributing factor to there being limits on the development of the other characters.

Voice and Writing Style: This book is exemplary in its voice and writing style. It has a unique voice, and the writing style is consistent throughout. The style and tone are also consistent with or will appeal to readers of the intended genre.

The exposition flows like a conversation: not overly embellished but not plain or nondescript, either. The physical descriptions themselves are woven in so seamlessly that picturing everything comes naturally, and Raman paints a vivid portrait everywhere the story takes us.

In a few explanatory sentences, please share with the entrant 1-3 things that you enjoyed or that readers will find compelling about this book and why.

One of the things I liked most about this book was how authentic it was. Everything that happened to the main characters was both ordinary and unique, in that it could happen to anyone in the world, but Raman made the experience a once-in-a-lifetime instance because of the way her characters reacted. It felt like an intimate glimpse of someone’s everyday, not just an essay describing the way a few people conducted themselves and dry explanations for why it was so.

In a few explanatory sentences, please share with the entrant 1-3 of the most important aspects that need to be improved for this book to be more appealing/useful to readers and why.

I would suggest loosening up the dialogue in some places. Even Jeena, with her social awkwardness, came across as a little over the top in that respect in a couple of her interactions. Otherwise, keep an eye out for the small stuff, like a missing period now and then. But, things like that sneak by all of us from time to time, so I’d still say that this book has very little Raman would need to improve upon to increase its appeal.

From Neerja Raman: I am honored to awarded Honorable Mention and grateful for the detailed feedback from a professional at Writer’s Digest. I especially appreciated the comments about structure and plot which is quite unique in having each short story be complete in itself, yet all stories are connected and reveal the characters and plot over a large period of time. The book is available on Amazon in kindle and paperback