Community//

Riya Joshi: “Don’t get discouraged by setbacks!”

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many children in hospitals and seniors in care facilities can feel isolated, and most are even confined to their rooms. With the Detective Wordy puzzle booklet, I aim to spread the love of words, writing, and books to those who are isolated. Simple puzzles can often help connect us with finding […]

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During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many children in hospitals and seniors in care facilities can feel isolated, and most are even confined to their rooms. With the Detective Wordy puzzle booklet, I aim to spread the love of words, writing, and books to those who are isolated. Simple puzzles can often help connect us with finding our common ground. Much of the feedback to me from those who enjoyed the puzzles is focused on how it was fun to do something different than use technology for entertainment in these difficult times.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Riya Joshi.

Riya loves words! She is a rising sophomore at a Chicago Public High School. From solving crossword puzzles to participating in spelling bees at an early age, words and language have captivated her curiosity. Even now, in the digital age, she finds joy and thrill in deciphering the mystery of a good crossword puzzle, word search or word scramble.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

For as long as I can remember, my family has had a “Family Game Day” almost every Sunday. We play board games, like Monopoly and word games, like Boggle. When I was younger, my initial goal was just to win! As I became older, my love of competition in word games grew into a love of vocabulary, spelling, and even the Latin Language! I have now taken Latin in school for three years and plan to continue. During a family game day in Early April, I had an idea to make a few of my own puzzles for us to play! That little idea of fun puzzles turned into a book.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

After I published my booklet, in June of 2020, I reached out to David L. Hoyt, a renowned puzzle maker, to ask for advice. In 2017, the Chicago Public Library and the David L. Hoyt Education Foundation held a Guinness World Record event for the largest Word Winder game played! I had just won my district spelling bee and they invited me to be a guest judge for the event. During the event, I met with almost one hundred younger elementary school kids who were discovering their passion for words and puzzles. I was in awe of David’s work and the memory of the event stayed with me. David was thrilled to hear from me. In fact, after our first conversation, he invited me to partner with him to add a section of my puzzles in his word search app, called Word Search World Traveler, which is played by thousands of people daily!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I started making puzzles for my booklet in early April and completed them in about two weeks. I initially expected the publishing process to take two weeks, but it ended up taking more than two months! I learned that being persistent with a project is often necessary in being able to handle delays and obstacles.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many children in hospitals and seniors in care facilities can feel isolated, and most are even confined to their rooms. With the Detective Wordy puzzle booklet, I aim to spread the love of words, writing, and books to those who are isolated. Simple puzzles can often help connect us with finding our common ground. Much of the feedback to me from those who enjoyed the puzzles is focused on how it was fun to do something different than use technology for entertainment in these difficult times.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

After donating some booklets to a senior care facility, I learned that one senior, confined to her room in a care facility, wakes up every morning before her husband to do a few puzzles in my booklet. The puzzles provide a pleasant distraction from the isolation her and her husband experience during the pandemic. She even wrote a card to me, thanking me for the puzzles.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Communities can help break the cycle of pandemic induced social isolation by promoting games, puzzles and virtual activities to connect children, seniors and others. I think making puzzles about pandemic related issues can make it less scary for younger kids. Communities can use games and puzzles to help educate children and seniors about topics revolving around the pandemic and other events. Games and puzzles are much less scary than informational flyers. Communities can use the games on a virtual platform to connect residents in the way that organizations use bingo games prior to the pandemic.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I would define leadership as inspiring and creating action, to accomplish a shared mission among a group. Leadership is serving as a role model and active member of your community. I see Michelle Obama as a leader in our time. She exemplifies the role of a strong, intelligent and powerful woman who has definitely helped to change the world around us in a very positive way.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. How long publishing a book takes! The process of making puzzles for my booklet took two weeks! The entire publishing process took a little over 2 months! I learned to be persistent.
  2. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks! Throughout the publishing process, I experienced many setbacks due to small challenges. If there is even one letter out of place in a puzzle, it can ruin the entire set up! Being detail-oriented from the beginning really helps.
  3. For your puzzles, come up with topics that interest you! In the process of crafting puzzles, I learned to choose topics I love or would like to learn more about. For example, I wanted to learn more about the complicated terminology related to COVID-19, so I made a puzzle about that!
  4. Choose a good name for your book! The name for a book is one of the most important parts, because it should stand out and represent the theme, and topic. For example, my booklet is called Detective Wordy: Chicago Edition. I chose the word “detective” because solving word puzzles are almost like solving a mystery. I also thought the name “wordy” would uniquely appeal to both younger children and older adults, who are my target audience. I also added “Chicago Edition” because my booklet contains some puzzles unique to Chicago!
  5. Have an appealing cover! Like the title, a cover page is one of the first things your potential readers will see! I chose bright yellow, so that it would stand out. I also added a drawing of “Detective Wordy” with a magnifying glass to enhance the theme of a detective!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to inspire a movement centered around books and words that allows younger kids to develop a love of literature and language through games and puzzles! Having kids play with puzzles and crosswords at an early age can help get them connected to learning forever. I would love for Detective Wordy to help engage kids at every age to connect with language, puzzles and games. Sneaking in education with fun can help kids at every stage of learning.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is “First, think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare.” (Walt Disney) I tried to use this approach to make my puzzles. In the beginning, I had an idea to make a few puzzles for fun. After I made the puzzles, I dreamed about sharing my puzzles with others. I believed it would be possible to make a booklet, so I finally dared to try!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to meet Michelle Obama. Like me, she was born in Chicago! I admire her confidence, courage, and strong belief in education. I love her story of how she was told she could not attend an Ivy league school, yet she was driven to excel despite the circumstances and attend the college of her dreams. Her continued success and impact in education and health for children has been a powerful motivator not only for me but also for millions of kids. I will never forget how she visited our middle school and it felt like a Rock Star was in our midst!

How can our readers follow you on social Media?

You can follow Wordy What’s page on Facebook and @Detective Wordy on Twitter and Instagram!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you!

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