How to Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani

Hello, Veera Hiranandani! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! As you know, I am A HUGE, HUGE, HUGE, HUGE fan of How to Find What You’re Not Looking For. I cheered VERY loudly for you, your story, and readers when How to Find What You’re Not Looking For was announced as the winner of the Sydney Taylor Award for Middle Grade. What does receiving this award mean to you?

Veera Hiranandani: Thank you, Mr. Schu!! I’m so excited to be here again! This award feels very joyful and personally validating for me as a writer of color with a Jewish background. I also grew up reading and loving Sydney Taylor’s All of a Kind family series. I never dreamed I would grow up and receive an award in her name.

Was the story always told in the second person?

Veera Hiranandani: Yes. I’ve always wanted to write a novel in the second person point of view. I attempted it with my first novel, The Whole Story of Half a Girl, but it didn’t quite work. So this is my second attempt. Maybe it was because of the voice of the main character, or the fact that I’m a more experienced writer now, but it felt right this time. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t challenging, but with my editor, Namrata Tripathi’s wise guidance, I got it to a place where I felt good about it. I love how the second-person narration links arms with the reader and blurs the line between narrator and reader. The reader becomes the main character, Ariel, whether they feel similar to her or not. I was excited for young readers to experience a story that way.

When did you know the title was How to Find What You’re Not Looking For? (A title I love!)

Veera Hiranandani: I appreciate that! Originally, the title was The Sound of Summer, but the story gradually moved away from the summer setting and took place more over the fall and winter. Also, I wanted to tie in more to the tone of the second person narrative, sort of an instructional tone. I experimented with a number of different “how to” titles and finally came up with this! I also created “how to” chapter titles to extend that idea.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Ariel Goldberg is more powerful than she thinks she is. In the story, she learns how to embrace all of who she is and empowers herself with that knowledge.

Poetry is part of her superpower. She has dysgraphia which makes it hard for her to write by hand, but when she learns how to type, it opens up a new way to get her thoughts down on paper. With the encouragement of her teacher, she learns how to use poetry to express herself in a way that feels natural to her.

John Schu, you should have asked me why I write about food so much. In How to Find, I write about Ariel’s parents’ bakery and I had fun describing all kinds of goodies like challah, black and white cookies, and rugelach. I often feature both South Asian and Jewish food culture in my novels. I think food is so helpful to characterization and I love writing about it!

Veera Hiranandani, author of the Newbery Honor-winning The Night Diary, earned her MFA in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of The Whole Story of Half a Girl, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asia Book Award finalist. A former editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute.

Borrow How to Find What You're Not Looking For from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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