Tuesday, November 17, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Geetanjali Mukherjee, Author

Geetanjali Mukherjee, Author
Geetanjali Mukherjee writes non-fiction books on a variety of topics--from an overview on Hitler’s “architect,” Albert Speer, to a collection of poems. She produced her latest book, ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES, as a result of her educational experiences in India, the UK, and the U.S. She intends for the book to help “empower” students to do well.

Mukherjee, who has written a total of six books, has a law degree from the University of Warwick UK and a Masters' in Public Policy from Cornell University.  When she is not writing, she most enjoys reading (although she confesses that she loves to binge-watch TV and pretend it’s research.) Currently she is living in Singapore, working on a book of essays and one of narrative non-fiction.

Q: How did you come to write your latest book, ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES?  Why did you decide to write on this topic?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Firstly, thanks a lot Joyce for having me on your blog! I actually had the idea for this book many years ago, when I was in school and learning and applying a few of the tips myself. I had always been a good student, but in high school I found myself struggling with the technical subjects, science, mathematics and computer programming. I was barely passing in some of my classes, and had to completely overhaul my study habits, and get some additional help. My efforts paid off, and in the O-level equivalent exams, I received top marks and became class valedictorian. I went through similar experiences during my Masters' program, and I became interested in how to turn around grades and learn to do well in subjects despite struggling initially.

I wrote this book to share my own tips and success strategies, as well as those I picked up from reading some of the most recent research into how our brain works, and how to harness that knowledge to study and learn more effectively. I could see that so many students, especially in competitive societies where a single grade can have a huge impact on their future, are stressed out and overwhelmed by the pressures of schoolwork. I wrote this book in the hope that it could empower students to believe that they could do well in their studies without burning out or giving up.

Q: What age group will most benefit from reading ANYONE CAN GET AN A+? Is it targeted at adult students only?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Actually the book was written primarily aimed at college or high-school senior students, but the advice can be implemented by younger students in middle school or younger and even those in continuing education, returning to school after a few years gap, or juggling the roles of student and parent or employee simultaneously. Being able to become more effective with the time you spend studying and get more out of it are topics that can benefit any student regardless of age.

I also wrote this book hoping to encourage those students who avoid certain careers believing that they lack the ability to excel in those subjects. It is an accepted fact that most countries are struggling to improve their diversity ratios in the fields of technology, science, and medicine. At the same time, the range of free and low-cost educational resources that are now available to students worldwide are incredible. I believe that anyone, with the knowledge of improved study strategies, can learn to master any subject and follow any career path that they choose.

Q: You have been educated in India, the UK, and the U.S. Do you believe that students from all three countries or anywhere else can benefit from ANYONE CAN GET AN A+?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Obviously as an author I have drawn on my own student experiences, and therefore the book would resonate more with students with similar experiences. However, the strategies I describe in the book are universally applicable, even if my own personal experience might differ from readers from other countries. In the book, I describe ways to harness our brain's capabilities based on scientific research, much of which I learnt after I stopped formal education; these tips would help any student, no matter what their specific curriculum or school requirements.

Through this book, I wanted to provide an alternative to the brute force school of studying, without advising overly complicated 'hacks' which some authors of study guides prescribe. Anyone can pick up my book and start to apply its principles, without the need to set up elaborate systems and methods. I have tried to break down everything that I learnt into simple tips, and I am sure that every student can find something to apply from this book.

Q: You have written other books that span a wide range of topics from an overview on Hitler’s “architect” Albert Speer to a collection of poems. How do you select your topics? Is there a theme that runs through them?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well Joyce, that's actually a question I asked myself recently. I mostly write about topics that interest me. Most of my current books started as research for school or college projects or papers, even the poems were mostly written during my time at university. One theme that runs across all my work (barring the book of poetry) is that they can all be helpful to students, albeit across literature, history and political science / law.

Additionally, although I didn’t notice this at the time of choosing my topics, most of my work has the theme of social justice and human rights running through it, in some form or other. My first book was a critical analysis of some of the late Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney's poems, many of which were influenced by the Northern Ireland conflict and referenced those themes. My books on Albert Speer and the Convention on Cluster Munitions have obvious connections to war and conflict. Finally, in my latest book on study skills, I realized the main driving force behind my writing this book was to encourage students who may not have the environment that allows them to believe in themselves, or are struggling in school and don’t have the support to get the help they need; I want to show these students that everyone has the ability to do well in every subject, and they should never give up on themselves. This is a topic I feel really strongly about. 

In terms of how I decide what to write about – it is whatever I am obsessed about at that moment. Writing a book is hard - they take a long time, and I never really feel that I am getting it right, and sometimes I can be very difficult to live with while I am writing one, but I write because something propels me to. I write all the ideas that occur to me down in an ideas file, and when something just refuses to leave me alone, I decide to pursue it further.

Q: Do you prefer writing poetry or non-fiction? Do you find that you can say something with poetry that you can’t in prose? Have you considered writing fiction?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I haven’t really written much poetry since I wrote the poems that are part of Illusions. I believe that poetry is the most pure form of writing, and you can convey emotions and thoughts in a completely different way through poetry. I would like to write more poetry, but unlike with non-fiction writing, I have to admit I wait for inspiration to strike to write poetry. And of course that isn’t the most prolific approach towards creating anything.

I am currently writing my first novel actually as part of Nanowrimo. I have tried to write fiction before, but other than a play I wrote that was performed locally, I have never been able to complete any work of fiction that I started. I am hoping that changes with this one, which I am privately calling my "drawer novel" in that I will probably relegate it to a drawer when I am done. I do have a few more ideas, so I hope to write novels for publication at some point in the near future.

Q: Do you try to deliver key messages or to educate your readers? What is your primary goal when you write?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I remember reading somewhere that even if you have a message to deliver as an author, you should hide it very subtly within the story, and above all, seek to entertain. I am not sure I have achieved that yet, but I definitely keep that advice in mind when I write. Since I write non-fiction I guess it is acceptable to try to educate my readers, but my goal is really for the reader to gain a new perspective on the subject, or to ask more questions and think about the topic even after they have finished reading the book.

I guess my ideal goal would be that my books are read by those who have only a passing interest or even none at all in the subject, and my book kindles a deeper interest in them, or they feel that they have learned something unexpected from it. Personally, I have always had absolutely no interest in astronomy, I don’t even know where most of the major constellations are, but I happened to read this one book on the demotion of Pluto, and it kindled this passion in me for astronomy. Now I am hungry to read more books on the subject, and learn more about it. That’s the power of non-fiction, and that's really what I am aiming for, although probably not quite getting there, yet.

Q: What tips can you offer about “being creative and productive every day?”

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well this is a pretty vast subject, one that I feel I am only scratching the surface of. I write about being more productive and creative on my blog, to share what works for me and good advice that I come across elsewhere.

The most important advice I guess I could give would be a derivation of a quote from Ira Glass, the radio personality. As creative people, our ability is far less developed than our taste, and so what we create may well be far worse than we would hope for, at least initially. I used to personally get discouraged by this, and give up. What Ira Glass suggests, and I concur, is to keep doing the creative thing, whatever it is, no matter how bad it is. At some point, it stops being bad, and moves to tolerable, and sometimes, it is even good. And then, when you keep at it long enough, suddenly you are really good, and on some lucky days, even great. Believe that that moment will come for you. And my unique take on this advice – find whatever productivity hacks that help you to keep at it, even when it is hard, or when the work feels hard, or when you're sure it is intended for the stink pile. With some rare exceptions, most of the greats in your chosen field got there because they learned how to get through the really bad output, the really bad art, and keep going till they got better.

Q: What do you find to be the most challenging topics to write about? Why?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I find every book I write challenging. I used to think that meant that I wasn’t really cut out to be a writer, but thankfully I have since come across advice from successful, famous writers who have similar concerns. I suppose each writer has one area or maybe more that they find easy to write about – in my case I found writing  Anyone Can Get An A+ somewhat easier than my previous books. This could be because I was writing partly from my own experience. Now that I am trying my hand at fiction, I find that this is the hardest thing I have ever tried to write.

Come to think of it, I could have answered this question with one sentence: I find that the book I am writing currently is the hardest one to write, and the book I have just written and all the ones before were far easier. And I feel the same way for each new one.

Q: What’s next?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well, right now I am focused on completing Nanowrimo. I have also started work on a book of essays and a work of narrative non-fiction. I have plans for a few other books in the pipeline as well, but nothing definite yet.

Q:  Tell us about Geetanjali Mukherjee. What do you like to do for fun when you’re not writing?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Read. I read even when I am supposed to be writing, and like all writers, I have a longer list of books to read than time to get through them all. I also hold a leadership position in a community Buddhist organization, and we have events and monthly meetings to discuss topics related to peace in society and personal happiness. Through this organization, last December I performed in a choir at a concert to promote friendship and cultural exchange. I've lately taken up yoga and Zumba as well, because although butt-in-chair time is great for my word count, apparently it's terrible for my arteries. My guilty pleasure though, is binge-watching TV shows, pretending it is research!

About Geetanjali Mukherjee:

Geetanjali Mukherjee is the author of 6 books, and her latest book ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES was written to help students of all ages improve their study habits and get better grades with techniques based on the latest scientific research. She has a law degree from the University of Warwick UK and a Masters' in Public Policy from Cornell University. Geetanjali currently lives in Singapore. You can connect with her at her blog Creativity@Work, and on Twitter or Facebook

Do you wish you could get better grades? Do you struggle with certain subjects and believe that maybe you're not cut out for them? Do you want to spend less time studying and still get good grades? Maybe you think that some subjects are just not for you. Maybe you don't like to study, because you secretly believe that you just don't have what it takes, so why bother? Maybe you are a parent, worrying about your child's grades, worrying whether they will be able to qualify for the opportunities you want for them. 

Studying for tests and exams can be stressful, not just for students, but also for teachers and parents. Grades in school exams and standardized tests can seem to determine your entire future, and yet many students are not able to get the grades they think they need to succeed.

This book draws on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and gives you practical advice that you can implement right away, to overcome procrastination, make the most of your study time and improve your grades significantly. ANYONE CAN GET AN A+ contains 39 tips on various aspects of studying and preparing for exams. In this book, you will learn:
·       How best to prepare for exams
·       What is the top mistake most students make when doing exam preparation and how to avoid it
·       How to overcome procrastination and use your study time wisely
·       How to break down larger assignments into smaller chunks
·       How to use small segments of time effectively
·       How to get help for understanding difficult material

ANYONE CAN GET AN A+ is available for free on Amazon from Nov 16th – Nov 19th http://hyperurl.co/j4kdc9


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Author Links
Twitter: http://twitter.com/geetumuk

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