2020 Writing/Author Successes

Children’s author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year’s resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity – what DIDN’T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Here is my list for 2020:

  • Signed up for SCBWI- International
  • Read around 15 middle grade novels
  • Read hundreds of picture books and learnt to critically analyze them
  • Signed up for StoryStorm 2020 and generated 43 fiction ideas in January
  • Signed up for NFfest and generated 19 non-fiction ideas
  • I won a cover letter critique from Adria Goetz. Wow!
  • Won a grant to the Smithsonian-SCBWI conference on Non-Fiction- learnt SO much.
  • Wrote a few NF PB stories – something I had shied away from up to now
  • One of the ideas was a NF PB bio- the subject is alive and a wonderful person- I gathered the courage to reach out and have had wonderful telecons with her
  • Attended numerous virtual/digital writer’s workshops to improve my craft
  • Joined the Storyteller Academy and signed up for three courses
  • Engaged with the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook- nothing like cheering each other on
  • Received likes from editors on two of my pitch party entries
  • Signed with my literary agent, Lynnette Novak at The Seymour Agency
  • Joined two critique groups with amazing critique partners
  • Won a scholarship and attended an MG writing class with Rajani LaRocca at the Writing Barn
  • Formed a critique group with workshop attendees
  • Created Facebook, Twitter, Instagram platforms to promote my writing
  • Was invited to join a Traditionally published/agented Muslim author support group
  • Was offered a column in an upcoming Muslim magazine and signed for twelve months of writeups- thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
  • Bought domain space for my website and learnt the basics of setting it up (this is it!)
  • Read two books on craft
  • Entered Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Words Contest
  • Signed up for a revision webinar by Penny Parker Klostermann
  • Received helpful feedback from my critique partners, new and old, on nine picture book manuscripts- have managed to polish about seven of them
  • Joined Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers for the first time
  • Signed up for Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm 2021
  • Decided to sign up for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 in 2021
  • Decided to sign up for Renee Latuleppe’s Lyrical Language Lab

Alhamdolillah! That was a fun year.

I also had two of my traditionally published books (one with a Muslim publisher and one with a Pakistani publisher) come out! And did several author visits virtually. I was offered to conduct a mentorship (read story-telling and book-based craft) class with 40 kids from all over America and thoroughly enjoyed connecting with them once a week over the entire term.

I was able to mentor an eleven year old aspiring author and illustrator.

I was able to offer cover letter critiques to three aspiring authors.

I am truly blessed and hope to pay it forward to this wonderful, supportive community!

Serious Writer Superpowers- 101

When I began writing, one thing I realized pretty early on, was the amount of patience and perseverance needed to succeed.

Over and over, I heard podcasts and listened to interviews that resonate one theme-

The ones who succeed are the ones who persevere

-said every author on the block!

I guess this is a constant in every industry. But since writing is a relatively lonely job (unless you are interviewing people for a potential non-fiction project or critiquing work for CPs, or coordinating with your agent or an editor) the need to stay focused is that much more critical.

To stop yourself from refreshing your inbox 2,376,890 times per day, waiting for an email with the words:

I figured it’s time to channel my energy towards something more productive!

I also felt the need to check-in on myself more often- it is easy to fall into Imposter Syndrome when you see only the end product (published books with beautiful lyrical words that seem to have flowed effortlessly and gorgeous illustrations) on social media and in book stores.

The key is to keep up hope, that your efforts will pay off- the waiting can be used productively to improve your craft, further research for a another project and keeping faith that things will happen at the right time- your stars will align and everything is unfolding exactly as it should!

So the 3 superpowers every writer must have are:

1. Patience

2. Perseverance

3. Hope

Good things are coming!

Do you have any superpowers you uncovered when you began writing?

Share your tips on how you developed them over the course of your writing journey

Happy writing!

Best Advice for Writers

There are days in the life of a writer when inspiration is hard to come by…

Too much landry

There will be too much laundry, too many dishes, the fridge will fuse or your creative brain cells will just not be making enough connections for you to churn out even a single word!

Too much happening to write.

The clock won’t stop ticking- and before you know it, you fall into a spiral of self-doubt, little inspiration and mounting anxiety. And then, Writers’ Imposter Syndrome will set in.

Tunnel Vision

You will view all the book launches happening around you as a distant dream and forget about all the work that went into those writer’s getting published!

That is the time to stop with the self-pity and log off from social media! Immerse yourself in courses, reading and working on that manuscript that isn’t coming together- just get your thoughts onto the page- dump them there and move on to another idea.

The only writer’s who get published, are the ones who persevere

But just keep at it!

Think of your daily writing and drafts as exercise- not every workout shows results, but it all contributes to a healthy life-style, developing and sustaining a habit that will benefit your body for years to come.

In the same way, writing, even dumping thoughts, is akin to exercise for sustained brain creativity.

Hoping I too remember this in times when I need to push forward!

Happy Writing!

My Kidlit Journey- Part 1

When I began writing for children I wasn’t even fully aware of what self-publishing involved, I didn’t know anything about agents, or vanity presses.

All I knew was that I was ready to take my writing seriously and I had a lot to learn.

I had been writing Islamic stories, which I thought would be fun for kids, but i began researching courses I could take.

That’s when I came across Mira’s Children’s Book Academy and decided I wanted to register for The Craft & Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books.

I applied for the POC scholarship and won it! It made me so happy and made me more serious about my writing. I began the 6 week course in August 2019. I loved the mentoring and the chance to make some amazing friends with whom I still exchange manuscripts, when I need a critique.

During the course, I began reading a lot of recently published picture books- I bought quite a few, but also watched a lot of them on YouTube because we don’t have access to any public libraries in Pakistan. I realized things had changed a lot from the “Once upon a time…” type of stories and classics- there were meta-fiction titles I loved, there were fractured fairytales and plot=driven concept books- all very new to me!

I attended many picture book paloozas and conferences that were happening virtually and in January 2020 I joined the SCBWI- where I found my first set of critique partners!
it saddened me to learn that Pakistan fell under the International chapter as it had too few members and hence no possibility of meetups with fellow writers and mentors.

Around the same time I began my own group on FB https://www.facebook.com/groups/childrensbookreviews.cbrglobal/

I challenged myself to read 3 to 5 picture books a week and study their structure, characters and plot arcs. I reviewed them on the page and shared my passion for books with other members – mainly parents, caregivers and teachers! I highlight what I enjoyed about a book and how it helped my kids open up about certain topic

I found this piece of advice the best- you can only write good picture books if your read and learn from the latest trends in your genre!

Salaams & Hello

I’m here to share my love for reading, writing, my creative process, and what inspires me.

I came to writing quite unintentionally- come to think of it, I’ve probably never followed the conventional way of getting things done- I like to explore avenues others don’t and take the road less traveled- I like to learn- a lot, but, I learn as I go- short courses/diplomas are great! I’ve learnt by doing and strongly feel that nothing compares to practical knowledge.

I’m not down-playing the need for a formal education and degrees, I have those, just not in the fields I chose to pursue as a career, and I think that’s okay! Ant that is where everything gets more interesting.

I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught- Winston Churchill

I feel strongly about a lot of topics, and it shapes my writing in many ways- but that is a story for another post.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

I love to create- so other than writing, I enjoy DIY projects, baking and decorating cookies, cakes, cupcakes, cake pops and macarons. I also try my hand at painting occasionally and find all these creative avenues give me a lot of clarity- I am able to use the time to immerse myself in a creative process while taking a break from my manuscripts.