Thursday, October 16, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway!

My first give-away is live now at GoodReads! To enter simply click below, give-away ends midnight October 18th at which point a winner will be selected at random by goodreads!


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed



          Written in the Stars


          by Aisha Saeed


            Giveaway ends October 18, 2014.

            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

Friday, October 10, 2014

Who will be the next Malala?

Malala Yousafzai age seventeen won the Nobel Peace Prize today. Despite threats and push back and outright violence that nearly killed her she has never given up her journey to fight for not only her own right to an education but the right for all to have a fair and just education. She is the youngest to receive the honor and the fact that she is both Muslim and Pakistani gives me no small measure of joy.

So naturally, I was astounded last year when I realized how many people hated, yes hated, Malala. Not just the people who shot her, but reasonable rational people who openly declared their dislike for Malala, and many who theorized a conspiracy was afoot. The conspiracy theories ran so deep that when a clearly satirical piece on Malala being Polish and her baby ear-wax as the confirming proof was published, it was taken as fact.

The hate quite frankly bewildered me. Here was Malala who is to this day recovering from the bullet to her head, who told Obama to stop the drones on her people, and who is hated by her countrymen. Malala wants peace in Pakistan and education for women. She wants to do good. She is doing good. And she is a beautiful representative of the country of my forefathers. Why on earth the hatred?

And one year later, while I don't understand how anyone can hate Malala, I do understand the frustration about how her struggle and advocacy is framed.

It began when I started getting comments from people praising Malala and also saying things like:

I hope other girls can start speaking up now too
I can't believe it's taken this long for a girl to say something about how things are
I wonder who the next 'Malala' will be.

That bothered me. It still bothers me. To make these [well-meaning] comments is to imply that other women like Malala don't really exist. That others aren't speaking out. That Malala is not a representative of the many women in Pakistan but instead, she is the exception to the rule.

Here's the thing: Malala is brave. She risked her life and very nearly lost it for the sake of her beliefs. She has left her motherland because of the dangers posed to her safety. She is unequivocally without exception brave.

But she's not the only one.

Like Zakia Parveen who lost half her face in an acid attack, and instead of staying silent chose to prosecute her husband and is part of the landmark change on how such crimes are treated in Pakistan. Or Kainat Soomro, who at 13 was gang-raped and refused to accept it silently but instead to this day, despite her brother's murder, extreme poverty, despite courts ruling against her, daily threats to her life, and health issues that plague her to this day, she continues to pursue justice in a system that does not protect rape victims as it should. Or nine-year-old Nabila who came to the United States with her father to share her anguish at the death of her grandmother to drone attacks. And of course Humaira Bachal, Mukhtar Mai, and so many more.

But that's not the only source of my discomfort.

In championing Malala, I've noticed people make disparaging remarks against the men of Pakistan. Not the men involved or the group involved but a sweeping generalization about all men in Pakistan as if they all are a lurking threat to fear. And while yes, there are deep and societal issues in how men and women are treated in Pakistan's patriarchal society, it's not just women who are struggling to change things in Pakistan. Men are speaking out also. Malala's father is outspoken in helping his daughter. Kainat Somroo's father and brothers left everything they had to protect her when the tribal leaders recommended murdering her instead of making the rapists face justice. There's Faisal Siddiqi, Abdul Sattar Edhi, and Aitazaz Bangash the teen who died stopping a suicide bomber, these are just a few of the men working to change and better the world around them in Pakistan.

And you know what? These people I've listed are just a few of the brave men and women in Pakistan who are working hard in the pursuit of social justice. They got some press, were covered by film crews, but they represent many others, countless others, who will never be documented on camera or held up for the world to applaud, and who trudge on fighting to make small incremental changes or dying in pursuit of that ideal.

In that vein, Malala is the exception to the rule of her Pakistani bretheren.  She has been given a platform to honor her, she has been given opportunities to amplify her voice with that platform, and while people are listening to her voice, this does not mean hers is the only voice.

So who will be the next 'Malala'?

The answer is simple: There can only be one beautiful Malala Yousafzai but there are thousands of "Malalas" in Pakistan and the world over. There are countless women who don't survive the gun shot, or don't have the family to stand by her, but they are there, speaking out and risking everything in doing so. To imply otherwise, is not only inaccurate it does disservice to all the others working in pursuit of social justice.

Malala is an exceptional person but her bravery is not necessarily an exception to the rule. To say otherwise is to turn a blind eye to all who struggle in obscurity.

I speak not for myself but for those without voice...those who have fought for their rights..their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated. - Malala Yousafzai

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Story Ideas: Idea to novel

About four weeks ago, I got bit by a bug.

Not mosquitoes. [Though, okay, yes. Those too.]

I mean, the writing bug.

Years ago when I was getting my writing-legs under me, I read Stephen King's book On Writing. [If you ever daydream about becoming a writer pick this book up and inhale it immediately] He reminded me a writer's job, whether they write contemporary, fantasy, or speculative fiction about tribes of dancing koala bears, is to observe the world and to inflect it in our stories so that regardless of how fantastical or fictional it may be, the ultimate universal human truths within resonate.

Like most people who love writing, I am constantly observing the world in which I live. The grocery store checkout line. The park. A kid's birthday party. I'm living that moment and I'm also filing away the things I see and the things they make me wonder about. The sigh. The shrug. The awkward laugh. What was behind it?  Each of us has a life, a beautiful and unique life and I wonder-- what is it like to live it?

You'd think with my constant eavesdropping observing I'd have forty-five novels up my sleeve. But it's more like I have forty-five journals filled with observations, sketches of ideas, and the occasional brief beginnings of a possible story. Writing out ideas is one thing, but a completed novel? That's another beast entirely.

For a novel, brainstorming isn't enough. Observing isn't enough. And while I know it works differently for all different types of people, for me, my story ideas- the ones that wake me up early or keep me up well past my bedtime are the ones that hit me from out of nowhere, sudden inspiration.

Well, sort of.

The truth is, those hours of observing aren't in vain. It's the observing and thinking and daydreaming that compile in the subconscious, marinating and percolating until one day, a story forms and strikes you like thunder and tells you I am the one. 

How do you know when an idea is the one?

It's weird to say, but it's a bit like love, you just know. It's the one where you feel like the characters are speaking to you. It's the one where they are telling you: This is my story. Tell it. Now.

And much like love--- it's not enough on it's own. Love is the foundation upon which you lay the structure that requires work. Lots and lots of work. Sometimes its fun. Sometimes its illuminating and soul-affirming, but sometimes it's difficult, confusing, frustrating and sometimes it's boring.

But at the foundation is love. You must have an inspiration you love.

And that's what happened a few weeks ago. Driving to the bookstore an idea presented itself. I chatted with K about it, my trusted friends, and then from those seeds bloomed the glimmers of a story and the voice, her voice, started speaking to me. I sat down to transcribe the voice. And I've been at it ever since. I'd say it's like magic to dream up people who feel as real to you as flesh and bone except that in the spur of writing, I daresay I think it is completely magical. 

So that's what I'm doing lately. And between pushing kiddos on the swings at the park, keeping the house in fucntional order, working on fantastic projects with my WNDB colleagues, and then staying up well past my bedtime writing, it's been busy here in the best possible of ways. And while there are evenings I don't want to write, like not at all [and those days you might find a tweet. or two  a flurry of tweets on twitter] I do try to maintain the daily discipline because like love, writing a novel requires work to take it from a nice idea to a real and tangible thing. 

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”-Louis L'Amour