Interviews

2012 Autumn Edition of IWA Magazine

Interview with Nancy Biddle, by Amina Malik

IWA member Nancy Biddle is the founder of I Love Islamic Fiction, a website and Facebook page that promotes Islamic Fiction.

Q. I just love the title! It could be every IWA’s members’ catch phrase! Please tell us what inspired you to create I love Islamic Fiction?

A. I created “I love Islamic Fiction” as a social experiment. I wanted to see how far and wide I could spread an interest in Islamic Fiction and how quickly I could get it to go viral.

Q. What is the purpose of ILIF? What did you hope to achieve?

A. What I hoped to achieve was a wide exposure to the genre, an awakening in everyone’s mind about the existence of it and to create a ready market to buy books and stories upon the launch of new works. Since stores do not currently list Islamic Fiction, per se, it is difficult for readers searching for the genre to find it by category, and for authors promoting the genre to be found efficiently. Building upon the work the IWA had already done for the logistic creation and official listing status of the literature genre, I intended to bash through the doors of the trade and digital book world with a Marketing Avalanche for Islamic Fiction, beginning with an awareness raising page of Facebook.

Q. The Facebook page has been up for some time now – what has public reaction to it been like?

A. The public’s response to the ILIF page has been lukewarm.

The marketing strategy was two pronged, one towards authors, and the other towards readers. I had to generate a platform of writers and a sustaining platform of readers. ILIF from the get-go was intended to open up towards a for-profit venture, and why not? Billions of dollars are awaiting to be made and shared in this relatively new and untapped sector of the market. For this wealth to be realised, I needed to create a strong team of authors ready to satiate the throngs of thirsty readers. I invited IWA authors to join me on the author development side and to bring with them their fans who already love Islamic Fiction. My intention was to teach them about Internet Marketing and Social Marketing but the reception was very slow. Many authors actually prefer to write, are not entrepreneurial, and would prefer to be discovered by a publisher that does all the marketing and promotions for them. I ended up in a stalemate with them. So I moved onto creating the throngs of ready readers with wallets in hand to buy books. I have about 600 fans at ILIF. I ran some tests with putting up reviews and interviews both in video and in writing and added trackable links to tell how many readers saw the video and followed the link to where they could get the book. I took out an affiliate account with Amazon and Smashwords which would prove that people are ready to buy when I took the results back to the IWA/Writers to encourage them to join me – but though people did follow the link there were, to this date, no purchasers.

I left that and went on to creating a store. I called upon the IWA again to come and evaluate the site and asked for listings to be put up at the store. Alhamdulillah I got visitors coming to critique, but no offers of listings.

Q. That’s a real shame. So, what can we expect to see from ILIF in the future?

I’ve actually sold it now to  Maria Islam of Halalify.com who, together with several sisters with book clubs, will do a great job keeping it up with exciting content.

Q. Now that you’ve sold ILIF, are there any new projects you are working on?

A. Through association with two IWA member-authors from Nigeria I turned my attention to publishing books there under my business name Blue Olive Productions and this is my latest project.

In the future, when the funds are available, I will develop a shop inshallah marketed as the only place to get Islamic Fiction books, but that shop would have a short life if ever the term “Islamic Fiction” was accepted into the BISAC. I have developed a page on Facebook called The Islamic Fiction Store, to begin marketing the store, ready for when it launches.

Jazakallahkhair sister Nancy for taking the time to discuss your venture with me and share the same with our readers. Although the ILIF project did not become what you hoped, I think it’s great that you took a new approach to marketing and raising awareness of Islamic Fiction. The ILIF project has evolved into The Islamic Fiction Store, which if Allah wills, shall become an excellent avenue for consumers wishing to purchase Islamic Fiction books. Interested readers can find The Islamic Fiction Store on Facebook.

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Saba Nagash interviews Umm Nura, author of the Jannah Jewel Series. The interview was originally published on Word Diaries, Saba Nagash’s blog (http://worddiaries.blogspot.com)

Meet Umm Nura. She is the author of the Jannah Jewel Series. This series features four adventure seeking time-traveling friends on a mission to save the world from a power hungry entity seeking world domination. These girls are fierce, determined and intelligent, each with a unique ability that serves the group. Here’s more about the author herself!

Thank you for joining us today Umm Nura. Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a homeschooling mom of two beautiful girls, 3 and 1. I am a Masters of Arts graduate with a degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Spirituality in Education. I have been a public school and private school teacher for grades K-12 for 10 years. Prior to becoming a teacher, I was a Youth Liaison for 7 years. Currently, I work for a homeschooling organization, in which I am a Learning Consultant for various families in British Columbia, Canada and writing stories part-time. My hobbies include sports, graphic design, photography, calligraphy, gardening and playing with my little ones.

What are your earliest memories of writing?

Probably writing “more than what was expected of me” in school… Grade 5 comes to mind… when I wrote pages of pages of a story when we were only supposed to write something short and sweet.

Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?

I didn’t think I would ever become a writer. It was something that was encouraged from professors and writing mentors that had a look at my work.

What inspired you to write the Jannah Jewel series?

I was taking Japanese Bow and Arrow – Archery classes when the inspiration came. I absolutely fell in love with the story of the bow and arrow and researched what Islam had to say about it. I have always loved playing sports as a Muslim girl who grew up in Vancouver, BC (where Nature is your ultimate playground with the ocean, mountains and abundance of greenery here). I wrote the Jannah Jewels series mainly as inspiration for young girls and boys to continue being physically active and to re-new a sense of confidence and pride of being a Muslim in this day and age.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?

To take pride in the years of Golden History that Islam has to offer our young people… for young people to take initiative of the future and make change… to be able to identify with Muslim characters in an engaging story much like other mainstream stories with their main characters… to want to seek adventure, to explore and love being Muslim while doing so.

How can your book be used in the classroom?

Teachers can use Jannah Jewels in a variety of ways… I see it fitting in across the curriculum… mostly, I hope that Jannah Jewels encourages more engaging and fun reading material along with all of the other great literature out there.

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?

Whenever possible to actually read the book before passing it over to their children! And, I’m a strong believer in that a child is never too old to continue being read to… (I love being read to as an adult!) I know families who have “reading circles” with their teens and I can’t wait to continue this tradition with my children when they are older.

Are you working on a new book?

I just finished my first picture book called, “Hijab and Basketball” which seems to fit right in with the FIFA people lifting the ban of headscarves in national sports. All praise due to Allah (God)!

 

What has been your most rewarding experience since being published?

The countless emails from parents who are so happy that their Muslim child can read a story with Muslim characters and it’s so fun and cool…. and also countless emails from young girls and boys asking me to hurry up with the remaining books in the series. Haha!

What advice you would give to new writers?

Everybody has a voice. Everybody has a story to share. Yours is needed in our growing world today. Ask Allah to place barakah (blessing) in your writing and just go for it!

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2012 Summer Edition of IWA Magazine

Interview Buzz

With the Holy month of Ramadan approaching I decided to include in the Summer Edition an interview with an IWA  member who has converted to Islam and discover her first Ramadan experience. Our IWA Director, Linda Delgado – aka Widad – agreed to do this interview.

Amina: Thank you Widad for agreeing to do the interview. I’ll start the ball rolling by asking when did you convert to Islam?

Widad:  It was in March 2000. I was then and am still the only Muslim in my family.

Amina: How did you learn about Ramadan? I know you read about it, but actually participating in Ramadan is quite different from reading about it?

Widad: That’s for sure. I was unfamiliar with the Arabic language. Sometimes what I read was not explained nearly enough for me. Being a new Muslim I did not have a lot of Muslim friends to turn to. I spent a lot of time in the weeks before Ramadan reading about Ramadan. I was a member of a sisters’ egroup on the Internet and I asked questions, but if you don’t know about something it is hard sometimes to ask the right questions.

Amina: Was fasting a problem for you?

Widad: The masjid I attended had a schedule posted on its internet page and it was easy to keep track of prayer times and when to begin the fast and end it. Fasting wasn’t a problem for me, but my non-Muslim family had some adjustments to make. I continued to cook for the family and had their meals in the usual times. They however, found it off putting that I did not eat with them. They thought 30 days of fasting to be excessive.

Amina: Muslims look forward to Ramadan each year with lots of planning and activities. What were some of your feelings?

Widad: Ramadan can be confusing and for me it brought on feelings of loneliness. When I talked with other Muslims or read about what families would be doing like planning meals to share or inviting other Muslims to break the fast and enjoy a meal…I didn’t know how to move forward. I kept hoping someone would invite me to break the fast and/or invite to a meal at their house. I didn’t get an invite.  I didn’t have anyone to break the fast with. I didn’t have anyone to talk with about Islam and what I experienced during the fasting hours or share what I read in the Qur’an.  I think I missed some companionship.

Amina: Did reading the Qur’an bring you some comfort?

Widad: Oh it did, for sure. I read about reading one Jus each day so I could read the entire Qur’an during Ramadan and I made this a goal. I have continued to do that each Ramadan.

Amina: Did the community where you lived, or where you currently live, have any special activities for members during Ramadan?

Widad: there were lots of activities for youth and the masjid was open day and night for prayer. Each day I checked the masjid website and about ten days into Ramadan I saw the announcement where the masjid community intended to meet at the masjid to break the fast, pray together and share a meal together during the last ten days of Ramadan. I got so excited just thinking about being with other Muslims during Ramadan and sharing the breaking of the fast I shouted out loud my thanks to Allah. I couldn’t wait to hear another Muslim greet me with Salaams and for me to have the opportunity to give Salaams. The last ten days of my first Ramadan are one of the best memories I have as a Muslim.

Amina: Thank you for sharing your first Ramadan. Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Widad: Thank you for asking me to do this interview. As Ramadan approaches I ask each reader to check within their own Muslim communities for new reverts or Muslims who live alone and then invite them to your home to break the fast and share a meal.

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2012 Spring Edition of IWA Magazine

In this issue we have three excellent Interviews for our readers: An Interview with Javed Mohammed by Enith Morillo  and An Interview with author Wendy Meddour by Linda Delgado.

An Interview with Javed Mohammed by Enith Morillo

Javed Mohammed, in a nutshell, is a kaleidoscope of his own, reflecting creative inspiration through writing and filmmaking.  Of Indian ancestry, and a life journey that traversed through Pakistan, UK, Japan, and now the US, Javed is the published author of several books, including his most recent fictional work “From Bosnia with love”. He founded Muslims Combating Human Trafficking and is a filmmaker at K2 Vista Productions. Javed was selected as a Community Sparkplug by the James and John Knight Foundation, for his pioneering work as founder of MyFavoriteReview.com

Q. As the author of “Riding the Roller Coaster”, “Walk to Freedom”, and more recently “From Bosnia with love”, amongst other books, what Islamic factors and Muslim role models have influenced your journey into writing?

A. My first book, “Gems of Wisdom Heart of Gold,” was a series of starts and stops, inspired by the desire to share, which is a common theme for any writing project. Each “false start” led to a better understanding of the writing process, until the year 2000, when faced with a mid-life-crisis, I made one concerted effort to pull the book together.  In terms of Islamic factors, it was the example of previous people in Muslim history including the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who did something major by the age of 40, and a khateeb sharing, that no one will remember the house you lived in or the car you drove.

In terms of role models, a good friend Farhad (Fred) Amir had self-published a book entitled “Rapid Recovery from Back and Neck Pain”. He had asked me for advice along the way, and that was my first exposure to the process of getting a book written. The second influence, especially for fiction came from Khalid Husseini, author of “The Kite Runner”. He came to our local library, and when I asked why he chose to write fiction versus a memoir, he said it opened it up to a wider audience. The third, was my daughter Aliyah, who said: “Dad, you must write a novel!”. I hardly read fiction, so as with writing it has been a self-education process.

Q. With an increasing presence of Muslims in the filmmaking industry, with productions such as “Mooz-lum”, “Little Mosque on the Prairie”, and “My name is Khan” garnishing spotlight from both Muslim and Non-Muslim audiences, what contributions to the filmmaking industry by Muslims do you consider to be critical to dispel the negative stereotypes surrounding our community in the West?

I am pleased to see, a turnaround from Hollywood and Independent filmmakers, from showing Muslims primarily in negative roles, to positive ones, like the ones you mention. I have made a first pass in defining Muslim Cinema, which is “Muslim Cinema is a film movement by or about Muslims.” It’s a much more comprehensive look, as good work about Muslims isn’t coming only from within. There are conscientious filmmakers the world over, and that is what gives me and should give our community hope. MyFavoriteReview.com published the top 101 Muslim films, which show a cross section of different genres. Drama is a great genre to engage, but I think beyond that humor is universal and a great way to not only show Muslim culture, but also our commonality among human beings.

Q. Part of filmmaking revolves around acting, which is traditionally viewed by many as a “haram” career path.  What advice can you offer to young adults who are seriously considering an acting career when dealing with non-approving parents?

A. I am not a scholar, so I cannot give a dispensation. In my limited understanding, I think this is a more cultural issue. If we move one level above the acting and look at filmmaking, there are a couple of things that come to mind. Iran is a conservative Muslim country, yet from the Muslim world, it produces films that gather the top awards at Cannes and other renowned International film festivals. As with anything that requires change, it should be done gently. I started of life as an engineer, then marketer, and stumbled into writing and film. Had I while deciding college, said I wanted to become an actor or filmmaker; it would not have gone down well with my parents. As a full confession, I was not aware of such things at the time. I would recommend young Muslims pursue whatever career they and their parents agree upon. In addition to that, there is nothing stopping them from pursuing other interests.  I have been a part time film student for the past six or seven years, so the nice thing is we can until our families are ready for it, do activities like this to establish ourselves.

Q. Please share what experiences led you to create MyFavoriteReview.com and your aspirations for the site.

A. Each book I have written, has involved a lot of research. To write, I immerse myself in the subject and try to read and watch films about it. Especially since moving to writing fiction, I noticed there were so many good films, both documentary and feature that the average person does not know about. Similarly for books, there are such wonderful books, which unless you are a bookworm, intellectual, or other voracious reader, would have no idea about them. Initially I just wanted to share the lists of books with the Muslim community. Early on based on feedback, I realized, the site had to be more sophisticated and scalable, so it needed a professional look, and be database driven. Fortunately, a company in the UK, Octopus Media came to the rescue. They helped to design and host the site, and I am very grateful to them for their services. In terms of aspirations, I want the site to be the ”Go to” site for reviews of independent books and films. They should be able to buy, rent, and possibly borrow the items based on geographical location. Octopus Media is doing a redesign of the site, and will be incorporating some of these features.

Q. Recently, the Muslim community in the US witnessed the creation of the Muslim Film Festival.  Please describe your take and involvement with this promising project.

The Muslim Film Festival was founded by sister Juveria Aleem in the San Francisco Bay area, several years back. I attended the first festival, not knowing much about the world of films. By the time the second festival came up I was much more aware and helped out in the marketing and PR. Since that time there are other Muslim Film festivals that are opening up in different parts of the country and this is very encouraging. In the former Soviet Union, Tartarstan, they had the Golden Minbar Film festival which ran for several years, and now Dubai is taking a lead. As you can see, slowly the Muslim world is latching on to the importance of film festivals.

Q. What are you currently working on?

A. That’s a secret. Seriously, I always have my hand in several pies. I wish I had more resources, but anytime I get more serious in one project the others get neglected. Besides the short documentary film I did about a convert, “Close to Paradise”, I have been working on a feature script. Then there are other short films and projects, which are all tied together under the K2 Vista Productions banner. I am trying to model this work after Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media, which has had a lot of success. My only challenge is how to accomplish similar things on a shoestring budget since I don’t have the millions and billions they have at their disposal

Q. Aside from writing and filmmaking, you are one of the founders of Muslims Combating Human Trafficking.  What challenges have you faced in the Muslim community with the acceptance of such a “feather-ruffling” initiative?

A.I started the outreach work with “Muslims Combatting Human Trafficking,” when I heard the audio book, “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff. I was shocked to learn about this calamity that primarily befalls women, and how prevalent it is in the Muslim world. I tried to reach out to other Muslim charitable organizations, to see if I could work with them, but none showed an interest. Our community is good at giving for mosques, natural disasters, and orphans etc. These are noble and good causes. I haven’t found a way to extend going beyond that. In my local community I know there has been an initiative for helping abused women, called Nisa. To the best of my knowledge it got limited support. It may take a lot more time and patience, but I feel the first step is just building the awareness, and we are doing this through online presentations, videos, etc.

Q. What advice would you give aspiring authors and filmmakers?

A. I am a lifelong student, so I don’t speak from any platform. Based on my limited experience, I would say the story or narrative is the starting point. If you have a good story to tell, and you’re committed to telling it, then you have the key ingredient. Some stories are more visual and may lend themselves to film. It’s an adage in writing, but I believe it’s true that the secret of writing is re-writing. None of my projects would have got published without the effort and help of my editors, who really helped to refine the content and get it in a publishable state. Write, write regularly. When you feel you have given it all you can, have someone who can look at it objectively give you feedback. Writing is a lonely process; it’s a marathon so prepare for it accordingly. Be willing to take feedback, it’s a gift. The rewards of writing or filmmaking for a small minority can be money and fame. However, for the rest of us, there is gratification and joy of sharing.

An Interview with Wendy Meddour by Linda Delgado

Q. Please tell the readers about yourself.

Assalemu Aleikum everyone – and thanks for inviting me to be interviewed. I was brought up in the Welsh hills and got a First Class English Degree and an MA and PhD in Critical and Cultural Theory from Exeter and Cardiff University. During this time I met my husband (an Algerian Mathematician) and went to teach English Literature at Oxford University for eight years – publishing work on the ‘Construction of Muslim in Contemporary British Fiction’. However, I took a break from academia to write and illustrate children’s books.

Q. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

About four years ago, I think. As an English lecturer, I’d always loved teaching other people’s books but it never occurred to me to write one myself. However, when I was put in charge of ‘story time’ at a local Islamic Saturday school – I realized that there was a desperate need for fiction that contained loveable, funny and inspiring Muslim characters. So I decided to try and write one.

Q. Your new children’s book, A Hen in the Wardrobe, recently was published and released. I am sure the readers would be interested in you telling us a little about your book.

This book is very loosely based on my experiences in both Britain and Algeria. It deals with important themes such as belonging, migration and faith. However, I have tried to do this in a light-hearted, child-friendly way. A Hen in the Wardrobe has already been received very well in the UK and it is being published in the US this August.

Q. What did you find the most challenging in the publishing process and what are you finding the most challenging now that you are actively promoting your new book?

I really enjoy working with my publishers (Frances Lincoln) and the whole process has been very exciting. A Hen in the Wardrobe is the first in a series called Cinnamon Grove – and my new challenge is to write and illustrate the others in time with the dreaded deadlines.

Q. Are you writing any books at present or working on any special projects?

Yes, I have already written (and am currently illustrating) the second book in the series – The Black Cat Detectives. Although a ‘sequel’, it is very different from the first as it centers on Ramzi Ramadan’s best-friend, a little child genius called Shaima Stalk. (They set up a detective agency in their slightly disastrous attempt to find Shaima’s Aunty Urooj a husband)!

Q. Who were/are some of the people that have influenced you and your writing?

My parents inspired my love of stories as a child. And my husband and our huge extended family in Algeria have had a huge influence on me, as have a lovely Pakistani family in Britain that we’re friends with (need I say, their daughter is a bit of a genius!) As to literary influences, I’m sure that everything I’ve ever read has influenced my style in some way.

Q. How important is the role of an editor in the book publishing process and to you as a writer?

My editor, Janetta Otter-Barry, has been great – especially for my first book. With the second, I felt more confident and fewer changes needed to be made.

Q. It is my understanding that you created the illustrations in your book. Which do you enjoy more, writing or illustrating? Do you plan to continue to both write and illustrate future books?

I love illustrating and my style has been very kindly described as ‘Quentin Blake on holiday in the Islamic World’! I will be illustrating the rest of the Cinnamon Grove Series, but my daughter is illustrating the series that I am doing for Oxford University Press next year.

Q. What are your thoughts about Islamic fiction compared with fiction writing?

Cinnamon Grove could be accurately described as Islamic fiction as it is based on Muslim characters and represents Islam in a very positive way. But I like to think that I can write in lots of styles about lots of different subjects. (Inshallah, will never write about anything that promotes things that are against my beliefs).

Q. What do you think parents, educators and leaders in Muslim communities can do to support Muslim authors?

I found the Muslim Writers Awards to be a very useful means of meeting fellow Muslim authors and they offer a lot of support to Muslim writers in the UK.

Q. What are some of the stories/themes you would like to see authors writing about?

Gosh. Everything. I think authors can write most honestly about things they know – drawing on their own lives and experiences. But the most important thing is that Muslims start representing themselves – rather than allowing stereotypes written by non-Muslim to dominate the market.

Q. Your work was published by a mainstream publisher. Did you encounter any challenges with the publishing process?

Only that I had to be receptive to criticism and improve. I took rejections on the chin – and polished my work until a publisher said: ‘YES’

Q. What do you think about the ebook publishing trend and are you considering getting your work published in any ebook formats?

I’m sure e-publishing is a great way forward for lots of people, but this year, I’ve signed contracts with 3 mainstream publishers and this will keep me busy for a while!

Q. What advice would you give to young people who wish to become a writer?

Think about who you are writing for. What age group? Is your work the right length? Which publishers fit with your style and ethos? Then, when you’ve worked this out, get submitting. And when you get rejections or feedback – take it on board. Are they right? What can you do to improve? Make sure your text is brilliantly polished – publishers won’t look at it if it isn’t.

Q. How did you learn about the IWA organization and what prompted you to decide to become a member?

I think it was Sufiya Ahmed – who I met through the Muslim Writers Awards – but it’s wonderful to have a network with Muslims both here and abroad.

www.wendymeddour.wordpress.com and www.facebook.com/wendymeddour

I look forward to reading the new books you are working on and thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to do this interview for your fans.

Linda Delgado, IWA Director, Owner-Publisher of Muslim Writers Publishing, and award winning author of the Islamic Rose Books series.

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2011 Fall Edition of IWA Magazine

An Interview with Fawzia Gilani-Williams

 As Salaam’Alaykum Fawzia

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I am sure the many reader fans of your wonderful children’s’ books will enjoy reading your responses to my questions. Let’s get started.

 Q. Please tell the readers about yourself.

I was born and raised in the West Midlands of England. I graduated as a teacher and taught in England, USA, Canada and United Arab Emirates. I like to travel and experience new cultures and see God’s beautiful world.

Q. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer. But I used to keep diaries and journals as a child. When I was ten I wrote a story in school that took over two weeks – it was two and a half books long. I liked to write. My father always encouraged me to write to newspapers and wanted me to translate a book with him. But I didn’t really see myself as a published author.

Q. Are you writing any books at present or working on any special projects?

I’m working on the Islamic Fairy Tale Project.

Q. Who were/are some of the people that have influenced you and your writing?

My father had the greatest influence on me. My writing is a product of my experiences with my parents and with society in general. My husband is my greatest encouragement.

Q. What are some of your thoughts on why we need to read and how does Islamic fiction fulfill that need?

Everyone wants to belong and have a sense of place in this world. When African Americans, Chinese and Jews were absent in American literature, it was a statement about these groups from the powers that were. “You have nothing to say and you do not exist.” Members from these minority groups took pens in their hands and wrote and drew their people to tell their communities that yes we have something to say and yes, we do exist. That same spirit of visibility needs to be addressed by Muslims.

Q. What do you think parents, educators and leaders in Muslim communities can do to support Muslim authors?

Do for the Muslim author what you already do for the non-Muslim author. Scan your library shelves and give visibility to your students so that they can see their faces and names in illustrations and print. Children’s literature is a vehicle for cultural and religious preservation. Everyone knows that. What you do in your libraries and schools lets people know where they stand.

Q. What are some of the challenges writers of Islamic fiction and non-fiction encounter in getting published?

There is very little incentive to continue writing because most publishers do not make it economically viable for an author to make a livelihood.

Q. What are some of the stories/themes you would like to see authors writing about?

Anything to do with everyday life.

Q. Have you considered trying to get your work published by a mainstream publisher? If yes, what challenges to you think or have you encountered?

I write mostly for a Muslim audience so I do not concern myself generally with other publishers. However I am published with mainstream publishers but this was not something that I had organized. Publishing with mainstream publishers is difficult for any writer. There’s a lot of competition.

Q. What do you think about the ebook publishing trend and are you considering getting your work published in ebook format?

I haven’t given thought to ebooks.

Q. What advice can you give to young people who wish to become a writer?

As a teacher I would tell you to go to the library and see how others have done it and then find your own style. Never get discouraged, there are plenty of people who will tell you that writing is not for you. If you hear this from anyone, smile and walk away.

Q. How did you learn about the IWA organization and what prompted you to decide to become a member?

I found out from my husband who likes to write more than I do. I liked IWA because it gave visibility to Muslim writers and offered a networking platform.  I don’t remember coming across anything like it before. It’s a pioneering group.

 I enjoyed visiting with you, Sister Fawzia. Thank you for this interview.

Linda Delgad, IWA Director

 An Interview with Jamilah Kolocotronis

 As Salaam’Alaykum Jamilah

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I am sure the many reader fans of your wonderful Echoes series will enjoy reading your responses to my questions. Let’s get started.

Q. Please tell the readers about yourself.

I am the mother of six and the grandmother of three. So far I have seven published books, including one non-fiction about jihad and six fiction. The last five books are all part of the Echoes Series, which follows the life of Joshua Adams from the time of his conversion to Islam, as an immature young man, to struggles he faces decades later with his grown children and his aging body.

My husband and I live in Lexington, Kentucky, though we’re hoping to be able to move to Florida sometime fairly soon. We’re looking forward to an empty nest, his retirement, and more grandchildren.

Q. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in fourth grade, our teacher told us to go home and find a poem, one that already been written, to put in a class anthology. That night I decided to go beyond the assignment and write a poem of my own. It was fairly basic, about what you would expect from an eight-year old, but everyone raved over it. My mother, who had written some poetry when she was in high school, encouraged me. That was when I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Q. Are you writing any books at present or working on any special projects?

I’m nearly finished with the rough draft of my newest novel. The working title is “Mary,” the name of the main character, but I know this will change. I’m anxious to finish this first draft so I can go back in and start on the revisions.

I’m also planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, insha Allah. A few months ago I began writing a story that has been playing around the edges of my mind for some time now. I wrote just a little more than a page and never got back to it because I wanted to concentrate on “Mary.” But I’ve decided to make that story my focus for NaNoWriMo.

This past week, I also discovered a new approach for a story that I worked on for months but wouldn’t quite come together for me. The working title for that is “Free.” I don’t like writing more than one book at a time, but “Free” is technically past the first draft stage. Right now I’m just adding a few paragraphs each day.

Q. Who were/are some of the people that have influenced you and your writing?

My first influence, of course, was my mother. One of my first memories is of her reading to me. We also played imaginative games each morning in the days before my younger sisters were born. She couldn’t drive when I was little, but we walked to the library at least once a week.

Two teachers had a strong influence on me. One, Mrs. Straussmeyer, taught me everything I needed to know about grammar back in elementary school. She had a way of teaching grammar that made it fun and easy. I will also never forget Mrs. Vignery. She taught a high school AP class on composition. I went in there thinking I knew everything I needed to know about writing. But when Mrs. Vignery gave me a C on an assignment, and I questioned the grade, she taught me much of what I didn’t yet know.

These are the women who personally influenced me. I’ve also been influenced by my favorite writers. Nikos Kazantzakis is foremost among those.

Q. What are some of your thoughts on why we need to read and how does Islamic fiction fulfill that need?

I cannot imagine not reading. To me it’s as natural as breathing, if not quite as necessary. When we read we learn and grow, we expand our minds and challenge our imaginations. There have been times when I’ve thought about how nice it would have been to have lived in an earlier, simpler time. But I would not want to have lived in a time or a place without books.

I first felt the need for Islamic fiction while I was raising my boys and teaching social studies at an Islamic school. The library had books about people in different countries, or people who lived in different time periods, but they had almost nothing about Muslims, and the non-fiction they did have was sometimes erroneous. As my own sons grew older I searched for appropriate and interesting books for them to read, and I was very happy to find the “Invincible Abdullah” series by Br. Yahiya Emerick. But other than that, I found nothing.

We want our children to cherish their Islamic identities. We give them good names and raise them around other Muslims. The next logical step is to provide them with stories about other Muslims.

Q. What do you think parents, educators and leaders in Muslim communities can do to support Muslim authors?

The first thing they can do, of course, is to buy books written by Muslims and keep these in their family libraries. Parents can also write reviews of books written by Muslims and correspond with Muslim authors to show their support. Educators can try to use the books in their schools. Leaders can form masjid book clubs and invite authors to speak.

Q. What are some of the challenges writers of Islamic fiction and non-fiction encounter in getting published?

When dealing with Muslim publishers, we run into a shortage of funds and sometimes a lack of interest also, especially where fiction is involved. All of my books, with the exception of one self-published novel, were published by Muslims, and in both cases (with fiction and non-fiction) they treated me well. But resources are limited.

Q. What are some of the stories/themes you would like to see authors writing about?

I think we should consider any topic. Muslims living in the West are bombarded by non-Islamic images and ideas, and we must learn how to navigate. Fictional characters can make this task somewhat easier. And I have learned that Muslims face so many different situations, some of which I never could have imagined a few years ago. We need to write about real life.

Q. Have you considered trying to get your work published by a mainstream publisher? If yes, what challenges to you think or have you encountered?

I’m currently working on a book that I plan to submit to literary agents when the work is more fully developed. I did change my approach to writing about Islam in this book, though Islam is still a major theme. At this point I’m not sure what to expect. I’ll have to wait and see.

Q. What do you think about the ebook publishing trend and are you considering getting your work published in ebook format?

Personally, I don’t like the ebook format, and even my kids prefer real books over ereaders. Sometimes I wonder if this whole trend will be simply a flash in the pan. But I am thinking about ways to join it, for now. One advantage is that it will be easy for my books to be read in other countries, without worrying about high postage rates.

Q. What advice can you give to young people who wish to become a writer?

The best advice I’ve heard (and I can’t remember who said this originally) is read, read, read, write, write, write. In his book, The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient in something. So start writing. I wrote an entire novel when I was in high school, a work that will never see the light of day. But I like to think it was good practice. And I believe you need a bit (just a touch) of arrogance in order to succeed as a writer. There are so many people writing these days, with millions of pages being produced each year. But if you have enough confidence (or arrogance—just a touch), you will believe that you can produce something better, something truly worth reading. So go do it. Oh, and don’t worry about your first drafts. No one has to see them so you can make as many mistakes as you want. Just write. Then you can go back and revise.

Q. How did you learn about the IWA organization and what prompted you to decide to become a member?

Several years ago I was reading through the website IslamOnline (now called OnIslam) when I came across an article about a Muslim convert. The first thing that struck me about her story was that she was in her fifties when she converted. Most converts I knew had been in their twenties, and I was surprised someone would be willing to make such a drastic change at that age. Also, her name was Linda, the same as mine. And she was a writer. Somehow through that article I found her contact information and emailed her. That convert, Linda Delgado, also known as Widad, is the one who introduced me to the Islamic Writers Alliance. And once I learned of the organization, how could I not become a member? I’m a Muslim. I’m a writer. That’s enough.

I enjoyed visiting with you, Sister Jamilah. Thank you for this interview.

Linda Delgado, IWA Director

2011 Summer Ramadan Edition of IWA Magazine

As Salaam’Alaykum Zeneefa Zaneer

It is a pleasure to interview you today and share your interview in the IWA magazine. I have looked forward to doing this interview so let’s get started.

Q. Please tell the readers about yourself.

Wa Alaikum Assalam! I’m Zeneefa, from Sri Lanka. A mother of two and a home-maker, too. I’m a published Sinhala writer and now continuing my writings in both languages, English and Sinhalal.

Q. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

From my small days I loved reading and in fact books are my good friends. When I was 9 years old my mother encouraged me to participate in a writing competition. I wrote a children’s story but unfortunately the competition was canceled. But I never gave up and from that day onwards I was keen in writing, Alhamdulillah!

Q. Are you writing any books at present or working on any special projects?

Yes, Alhamdulillah few days back I was able to complete my first English Islamic Fiction and now editing and re-phrasing.

Q. Who were/are some of the people that have influenced you and your writing?

My mother was the first person who made me write, she was a good story teller and she understood my ability in writing, Alhamdulillah!

My father provided me with inspiring books and my siblings who read and encouraged me a lot.

And my husband who protect my writings and help me in publishing. Alhamdulillah!

Q. What are some of your thoughts on why we need to read and how does Islamic fiction fulfill that need?

I loved reading, but unfortunately until recent past I wasn’t aware of Islamic fiction. At a time I felt guilty to write something which is not appropriate according to my faith and I gave up my writing. But then I wanted to represent Muslims through my writing. And that made me learn about Islamic Fiction. I always had a feeling whether it is allowed to write fictions according to Islam. But now I understand that Islamic fiction is essential for our community. Our children get books to read which contains actions and behavior which aren’t accepted according to Islamic teachings. Yet we read because reading is a good habit. As we say ‘reading makes a complete man’. But what do we get to read? Other areas for Islamic writings, there are so many options. But fiction…there’s less. So I think it is time our communities accepted the truth that we must promote Islamic fiction. Or our children will be reading Mils and boons and Silhouette specials or Harlequins.

A fiction writer can spread the way of life, Islam through his/her beautiful imaginations without preaching. He/she can smoothly explain the misconceptions non-Muslims have about Islam and its followers.

In simple words I would say, Please Allah, inspire others and satisfy yourself.

Q. What do you think parents, educators and leaders in Muslim communities can do to support Muslim authors?

Replace Islamic books in their bookshelves. Make aware of Islamic fiction. Help the writers to get published. There are quality Islamic fictions; the Islamic schools can introduce such books for English literature.

Q. What are some of the challenges authors of Islamic fiction and non-fiction encounter in getting published?

Readers unaware of the benefits they are getting by Islamic books. They don’t realize that these kinds of books will fill their hearts with Islamic knowledge in a creative way.

Some, thinking Islamic fiction is not allowed.

Monitory problems and if the book is self-published they face marketing problems as well.

Q. What are some of the stories/themes you would like to see authors writing about?

I’m much into romance fiction, yet I love children’s stories. Whatever the theme which will inspire the reader would be great.

Wonder if anyone could write in the view point of a terrorist, extremist…to make aware of our youth that violence and killing, harassing of innocent is forbidden.

‘Name sake Muslims’…I don’t know whether others agree with me. But each day I witness such people. After all we are human.

Q. What do you think about ebook publishing trend and are you considering getting your work published in ebook format?

InshaAllah, if Allah wills yes I would give a thought. In fact I would grab whatever the publishing opportunity I get to reach my readers. I want to see someone is being benefited by my writings and imagination.  Sharing with many is better than my books being Pile in a shelf covered with dust and spider webs.

Q. What advice can you give to young people who wish to become a writer?

It’s time we lift our pen to please Allah. Realizing the truth that the talent of writing bestowed upon you is a creation of Allah’s alone. So as a writer we must use our words to please him at the same time inspire others and satisfy ourselves. And to be a writer, read lots of books and prepare yourself for criticism.

The similarity between you and a famous writer is that both stand on the same ground, but the difference is that they are much confident about their writings. So don’t keep your writings hidden in your cupboard or in shelf…share it with others. InshaAllah, Allah will help you to reach your goal successfully.

Q. How did you learn about the IWA organization and what prompted you to decide to become a member?

I was searching for a publisher. And then I went through the website. It inspired me. I learned how many Muslim writers are there using their ability for the sake of Allah. Being with such people is a blessing. So I decided to join Alhamdulillah! Thanking all of you and wishing much success. Assalamu Alaikum!

Thank you for spending the time with me to provide this interview for our readers. Linda D. Delgado, IWA Director

>>>

As Salaam’Alaykum Jamal Orme

It is a pleasure to interview you today and share your interview in the IWA magazine. I have looked forward to doing this interview so let’s get started.

 Q. Please tell the readers about yourself.

I’m 33, a revert to Islam (since 2002), married with three children, Alhamdulillah. I’ve been teaching since 2001, generally in primary schools but also teaching English to adults.

Q. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

When I was about eight. My brother had a toy owl named Archimedes. He used to build cars for him; I would compose rhymes about his unlikely adventures. They were well received and I had a feeling then that writing was something I was good at, so I always hoped I might get the chance to go somewhere with it.

Q. Are you writing any books at present or working on any special projects?

My book, ‘The Victory Boys’ has been recently published by Kube/Islamic Foundation in the UK. Its sequel is already written (that may equate to a first draft from an alternative perspective) and I hope that one day it might see the light of day, Insha Allah!

Q. Who were/are some of the people that have influenced you and your writing?

My parents always made it clear that they thought I was a good writer. My mum in particular has always taken my writing seriously. She read my book last week and her analysis of it was spot on, I thought. In terms of writers, I grew up enjoying the works of Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss and any football books I could lay my hands on. Whenever I’ve turned my hand to poetry I think the first two influences have been apparent in my writing, although I don’t claim to be operating at their level!

Q. What are some of your thoughts on why we need to read and how does Islamic fiction fulfill that need?

Once upon a time there was a means of communication that did not consist solely of manipulative buzzwords, atmospheric music, sensationalism, stunts and the like. Those who sought to communicate had to possess the ability to string together a coherent sentence, and if what they produced was either logically flawed or tedious, the discerning reader could dismiss it. And now, we have wave upon (electromagnetic) wave of mind-numbing television. Arguably both books and TV have the potential to be harmful in excess, and harmless in moderation. If you do tune in to either, it is beneficial if your way of life is validated by what you absorb. Islamic fiction, which need not be ‘preachy’ in the slightest, allows us to be God conscious even when indulging/feeding our imaginations.

Q. What do you think parents, educators and leaders in Muslim communities can do to support Muslim authors?

What should be the aim of supporting Muslim authors? Presumably, it should relate to the twin aims of remembrance of God and development of knowledge (i.e. through literacy, love of the written word).  Personally I don’t think Muslim authors should have an assumed right to promotional support. A book is only worth supporting if it is any good. A non-Muslim would distinguish between books worth sharing and those worth leaving on the shelf – why should we (as adults or children) be any different? Isn’t it an Islamic principle to attain to excellence? I think the best, most just support to give Muslim authors is to communicate high expectations of the standards they should be able to achieve, and then to give fair but honest (critical) reception of whatever they produce. Our child readers should be encouraged to do exactly the same!

Q. What are some of the challenges authors of Islamic fiction and non-fiction encounter in getting published?

The main challenge that springs to mind, assuming that the work is of sufficient quality, is that it appears some publishers are not keen to publish Islamic fiction, for whatever reason. From my limited experience, I am aware of some quality Muslim writers/illustrators who have self-published – then the primary challenge becomes obtaining a good level of publicity.

Q. What are some of the stories/themes you would like to see authors writing about?

I wrote The Victory Boys because I felt there was a dearth of fiction for older children, particularly boys. If we can’t offer them anything worth reading, they will look elsewhere. So I feel that issues that they would find relevant are the key. I don’t agree with confronting every issue in the way some mainstream authors do (and are then portrayed heroically for having done so) but I like the idea of presenting certain issues – including peer pressure, rites of passage etc. – and subtly guiding the reader to the Islamic reality in a way that ideally demonstrates its beauty and superiority.

Q. What do you think about ebook publishing trend and are you considering getting your work published in ebook format?

Personally, I’m not drawn to ebooks. I spend too much time staring at a screen to want to read a book through one. For me books are something to enjoy away from screens; there’s something romantic and (relatively) timeless about reading from a book.

Q. What advice can you give to young people who wish to become a writer?

Read voraciously and critically; always be on the lookout for interesting ideas, whether they’d be central to a plot or just a minor feature of a story, and without there necessarily being any need to do anything with those ideas at that moment in time. A good idea is always worth keeping up ones sleeve.

Q. How did you learn about the IWA organization and what prompted you to decide to become a member?

I learned of the IWA through the website of an existing member, the excellent Ummah Reads! (muslimkidsbooks.wordpress.com) I joined because I felt that the IWA were doing good works, and presented the opportunity to be in touch with other brothers and sisters who were trying to do positive things in the world of writing… simple as that, really.

Thank you for spending the time with me to provide this interview for our readers.  Linda D. Delgado, IWA Director

2011 Spring Edition of IWA Magazine

 An Interview with Marketing Officer Pamela Taylor

Q. How did you learn about the IWA organization and why did you decide to join IWA?

Pamela: I was a member of the Islamic Writers Yahoo group back before there was an Islamic Writers Alliance, and I joined the IWA as one of the original members. I believe very strongly in the importance of writers supporting one another, whether it is in the writing process or in the marketing department, or in finding a publisher.

Q. How have you benefitted from your IWA membership?

 Pamela: Of course, there are the various anthologies that IWA has published, and I have some work in one of those. There have also been many book display tables that I have participated in, a poetry display that I had worked in, the IWA catalog that I participated in, etc. I’ve also been an officer at various periods of time during my association with IWA and that has been a great experience too; I’ve learned a lot and it always looks good on your resume!

Q. Why did you decide to volunteer for an IWA Board position?

Pamela: I had been on the board previously. As a published author, I thought I should step forward and take responsibility for the organization, since authors who have not been published yet might feel shy to, and I felt by taking a leadership position I would be in a better place to help encourage and foster new writers, as well as the established writers among the group. As for why did I decide to volunteer as Marketing Officer? I just finished taking a course on non-profit marketing and I thought, what a better opportunity to practice some of my new skills and also to help IWA!

Q. As Marketing Officer what have been the greatest challenges for you with holding an IWA Board position?

Pamela: I think the biggest challenge is getting things done in a timely manner. I have a ton of responsibilities pulling me in many directions — three kids at home, going to school full-time, my freelance work. So it’s easy to push things off. Of course, this is the typical challenge facing all freelancers… how to manage your time in order to get everything done!

Q. What have you enjoyed most serving as an IWA Board member?

Pamela: I really like the opportunity to give back to the community of writers, especially Muslim writers. I had a lot of breaks that came from other Muslim writers — I started writing for Religion News Service because a Muslim writer friend was going on maternity leave and she suggested I would be a good replacement. And then I got the gig at Newsweek/Washington Post online because an IWA member thought they needed more Muslim writers, and she suggested my name to them. That kind of “chance” (or God putting you in the right place at the right time) is the kind of thing you can’t ever anticipate or pay back on an individual basis, but at least by helping serve other Muslim writers, I feel like I’m at least helping to spread the good around and giving back to the community.

Q. What advice do you have for any member thinking about volunteering to become a member of the IWA Board?

Pamela: Just do it! It seems like a big responsibility, but it’s not as much work as you might think. And it is so rewarding when you can hold a book in your hand, like the anthologies or the upcoming cookbook, and say, “I helped that happen!” Or when someone says, “Wow, I learned so much from this discussion” and you know that your participation helped keep the organization afloat. Or you hear about a teenager who won the poetry contest talking about how that made them feel to have won a real, cash prize in a Muslim contest, you can’t help but feel any effort and challenge you might have had to deal with in being a board volunteer was so worth it!

 *-*-*

Pamela Taylor has been a free-lance writer for over 20 years with her work appearing in magazines and newspapers such as Islamic Horizons, the Dallas Daily News, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the Pioneer Free Press. She currently writes on a regular basis for On Faith (http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com). She is also a poet and fiction writer, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. She has won several awards for her poetry, and her fiction has been published in several different anthologies and magazines, including the Islamic Writers Alliance first anthology, Writing the Sacred, A Mosque Among the Stars.

 An Interview with Abdul Rahman Mojahed by Soumyana

First of all, thank you Brother Abdul Rahman Mojahed for answering this series of questions about your book Superior Woman, Inferior Man in Islam. Since the title of your book is focused on Muslim men-women relationships, my questions will focus only on this aspect. I am especially interested in its controversial aspects. I hope this way, through your responses, to make it clearer for the reader the dynamics involved in your book based on scholarly research.

 Question 1

Soumyana: Superior Woman, Inferior man in Islam. Besides being a striking title that is bound to attract attention, don’t you fear that the title of your book might turn away all the Muslims who have always believed Allah has made men and women equal? Doesn’t the Qur’an repeatedly say, “believers men and women” when Allah explains duties and rights of the believers?

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: First of all, it must be borne in mind that this book is addressed to the Western readership, who are either non-Muslims or Muslims but with such different cultural background that finds the title quite acceptable. As for Muslims who have traditional cultural background, if they read only the Preface, they will come to know what I mean by the presumable superiority and inferiority. As for equality, it is true in terms of reward and punishment either in this world or the one to come. But the exercise of rights and fulfillment of duties, which give rise to any such reward or punishment, are different. For example, a weightlifter, who weighs, for example, 100 lbs. and lifts, for example, 100 kgs is declared a champion and gets a gold medal. Similarly, a weightlifter, who weighs, for example, 80 lbs and lifts 80 kgs is also declared a champion and wins the same gold medal. They get the same reward though one of them lifts heavier weights. The same applies to the man-woman relationship. Woman does fewer duties and gets more rights. That is partly why she someway appears superior in my eyes.

Question 2

Soumyana:You say that a woman’s duty is to satisfy her husband’s needs, but isn’t that true also for men? For instance, a man cannot refuse intercourse when his wife asks for it the same way a wife cannot refuse herself to her husband.

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: As a matter of fact, each spouse is under an equal obligation to satisfy both physical and emotional needs of the other spouse, with no discrimination in favor of/against a certain spouse. However, I just meant that a wife’s role in her husband’s satisfaction may appear more significant because a wife has a few people to please, mainly her husband, but the latter has more people to please, though one of the most important and entitled, is the wife.

Question 3

Soumyana: In your book, you say that women are by nature weaker, so more rights were given to them in compensation. What are these rights that are more than men’s? Aren’t men able to inherit more than women? Aren’t men able to go about freely when women are secluded in their homes? Aren’t men free of the worry of women’s gazes and desires? Aren’t men the ones who decide about everything related to the home like how the children will be educated or how the money is spent? Aren’t men the only ones allowed to hit their wives even if it is only with a handkerchief? Aren’t men the only ones who are allowed to initiate divorce or to decide to marry again and who can marry outside their faith? Couldn’t someone argue that men have more rights?

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: Suffice it to say that there is always a man who is responsible for a woman’s happiness, not vice versa. That is to say, all measures are taken by men to make women happy under Islam, but women do not assume equal obligations. The presumable rights of men you cited are really obligations to women rather than rights for men. In inheritance, for example, man takes a greater share for he has to provide for a female charge, a wife, mother, daughter, sister, etc. But woman does not have to provide for man. His share is common between him and her, but hers is hers only. Another instance is that woman stays at home and does not have to go out for work or otherwise, but he has to go out to provide for her as well as himself. In a word, the supposed privileges of men are intended for the service of their female wards in the first place.

Question 4

Soumyana: In your book, you infer that men have it hard. Aren’t the women the ones who are passed from one guardian to another as if they were unable to take care of themselves or to take their own decisions? Aren’t the women the ones who need the patience and courage to raise children, take care of a house and of a husband in order to make everybody happy? Why aren’t both men and women’s conditions shown equally challenging in your book?

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: I agree that the conditions of both are challenging but true Muslim men have it harder for they undergo the hardships of both task and responsibility unlike women who experience the hardship of task only, with little if any, responsibility.

Question 5

Soumyana: You say that women are weaker, that’s why they need to be protected. Is this also true in modern societies where women work, can be presidents, are allowed to vote, plan conventions, save lives, etc.?

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: Woman’s weakness, as represented in the natural lack of physical power and the innate emotional fragility, is equally true for a woman president and a primitive woman from the Stone Age. It cannot be compensated for it is quite natural. Yes, the West has managed to make men of the Western women. But have they become happy when they have become woman shaped men? It is quite logical that a female can feel happy only when she feels she is truly a female. She cannot be happy when she feels she is a male. Her partial dependence on man is not disgraceful or shameful for it is his obligation to take care of her and act as her guardian. It is for this job that he is blessed with the power of body and intellect. Under Islam, man has to let woman benefit from his power as well as, if not more than, himself.

Question 6

Soumyana: You say that men have been favored with bodily strength and intellect. You also say that women have been favored with moral and emotional powers, which is superior to men’s powers. Does that mean that men are insensitive and women are weak in the head?  Can we separate sexes on this ground? Nobody will deny that men and women are different physiologically, but there are so many humans on earth, isn’t there a nice variety of people?

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: I mean that the members of one sex may be superior to those of the other in some aspect though both share the same aspect. This sounds fairly reasonable. Each group of people have distinctive characteristics with them in mind they may appear superior to another group though the latter may be superior in another aspect and so on. This is a rule though each rule still has its own exceptions for a rule is only a dominant situation that may change in some cases.

Question 7

Soumyana: You say that in the material world, body and mind is more powerful. Does that mean that intelligence and strength makes you a winner in the world, and not morals and sympathy? Does that mean our Prophet was not driven by a strong sense of morals or sympathy for other people’s sufferings? Aren’t there men like this nowadays?

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: Intelligence and strength on one hand are as important as morals and sympathy on the other hand, but the former are more effective given that the Prophet made more achievements in Medina when he further used intelligence and strength for which the room in Mecca was quite limited. Hence, our material world is more changeable by visible, tangible power.

Question 8

Soumyana: You say that women working outside their homes (p.60) “is dangerous and has depraving demoralization effects on the society.” Women take men’s jobs, preventing men from fulfilling their roles in society. Since men do not accept the leadership or domination of women, they develop grudges and hate against females and men turn to crime. Do you have proofs, statistics to prove this? Are the relationships between man and woman really reduced to a power struggle? Is crime and domestic violence really explained by a power struggle between the sexes?

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: The above arguments of mine account for the high rates of violence against women in the West where permissiveness as well as rivalry between the fair sex and strong sex are more noticeable.

Question 9

Soumyana: Did your research change the way you are dealing with females and males around you? How?

Abdul Rahman Mojahed: It is quite safe to claim that I already had firm belief in the ideas discussed in this research. But this research has increased my belief in the woman’s cause and rendered me more sympathetic towards women and made me demand more and more for women from men.

Soumyana is a French reverted to Islam living in the USA. She is a writer and teacher by profession. Education: M.D. Linguistics, Montessori Certificate. Web site: http://www.alhidaayah.net/soumyana/ and Web site: http://soumyana.weebly.com/

 An Interview With Saara Ali by Amina Malik

Ummah Reads is a unique blog featuring Islamic Fiction books. Amina Malik caught up with Ummah Reads founder, Saara Ali, to find out more.

Describing itself as a “guide to books and media for Muslim Children and Teens”, Ummah Reads is a great place to start if you are searching for Islamic Fiction books. It features books for all ages by way of reviews – all written by founder and editor, Saara Ali. The site has been created with easy accessibility in mind; readers can search for books by age group or theme. This simple feature is incredibly useful for readers, enabling them to locate the right book.

Including author interviews, competitions, news and articles, Ummah Reads is well on its way to becoming an invaluable resource for parents and educators, as well as readers. I asked Saara Ali, a librarian and aspiring writer herself, to tell readers everything they need to know about Ummah Reads.

What is the purpose of Ummah Reads?

The vision of Ummah Reads is to strive toward a literate Ummah (community) so that Muslims can grow closer to Allah, be productive citizens and achieve the best they can in this world to benefit them in the Hereafter. At this point Ummah Reads is a blog. However, it is my dream that Ummah Reads will one day grow into an organization that provides libraries and literacy to people in communities around the world, inshaAllah.

Why did you start Ummah Reads?

I first began Ummah Reads as a way to document the book recommendations I had been making based on requests I received as a librarian. It soon grew into an effort to show Muslim parents, teachers and leaders how important it is to make reading an everyday habit not only because it is a constructive activity but also that it is a form of valuable (or you can say educational) entertainment. I also wanted to showcase the small, but steadily growing form of Islamic Fiction books.

How much interest has there been in Ummah Reads?

I think the feedback I’ve been getting over the past year (for example, comments, questions and number of visitors) shows that people like finding out about new books for their children or about ways in which they can make reading fun. Publishers also see the blog as an opportunity to have their books reviewed, thereby increasing exposure to their products.

What resources are available from the site to visitors who use it?

On the Ummah Reads blog you will find reviews of Muslim children’s and teenager’s books; interviews with authors of these books, tips on encouraging reading and general literacy articles.

Why do you think Islamic Fiction is important?

I do believe Islamic Fiction is important for all people. For non-Muslims it provides a window through which they can see into the lives of Muslims helping to dispel myths and stereotypes of Muslims that dominate our society. Books, characters, settings and themes, help to build bridges through empathy and appreciation.

For Muslims, I think it is crucial that Islamic Fiction exist. It is important that Muslims write about their own experiences and faith. May I add, and this is just my amateur reflection, that I think some Muslims have become quite comfortable with others writing about them even when the information is erroneous. Ironically, for those living in certain communities this has meant that Muslims are seen as ‘the other’ or ‘the outsider.’

Islamic Fiction books have many advantages in that they are an opportunity to provide Islamic role models, show how to tackle problems from an Islamic perspective, highlight history and current social issues affecting Muslims all through the engaging and entertaining form of a story. But we need better quality Islamic children fiction and, I must stress, Islamic Fiction for older children and teenagers (young adults). The number of Islamic Fiction books currently available begins to dwindle for children of about 9/10 years. There is little choice for teenagers and a few for adults. The teenage years are challenging and some of the issues, of identity and relationships for example, can be addressed in an indirect but effective way through the use of fiction.

Do you read Islamic Fiction books with your children?

As a mother and an aunt I try to provide a balanced ‘book diet’. That means there is a combination of Islamic Fiction and general fiction books in the home. The reality is, there are not enough Islamic Fiction books to cater the reading appetites of many children hence the need to read general literature. If, and when, my child encounters something that is un-Islamic I use it as an opportunity to discuss with him what a Muslim would do or say in such a situation. I am not sure how much general fiction (maybe aside from the classics) I would let my child read as he gets older. The books for older children and teenagers currently on the market all seem very dark and depressing. As my child grows older, the limited number of Islamic Fiction books means that he will probably be reading a lot more of general non-fiction.

How do you think Islamic Fiction could be better promoted?

To better promote Islamic Fiction I think Muslim authors need to take time to create an online presence through social media (Twitter or Facebook) and by blogging and by setting up a website. Then I think publishers need to promote Islamic Fiction by creating a clearly defined area on their sites for Islamic Fiction. While a few publishers have started doing this, they tend to group all books under ‘Children’ and fail to differentiate within this category the books that are for children, the books that are for middle grade readers and the books that are for teenagers; they are three different categories of books. Schools should stock Islamic Fiction in their classrooms and libraries and host Muslim author visits.

I think at this point the problem is not so much of what can be done to better promote Islamic Fiction, rather, it is imperative that there not be a greater variety of Islamic Fiction and a greater volume of books available on the market. This can only happen if Muslims write. We need more people to write fiction and we need to encourage young people who like writing to do so. We also need Muslim writing courses and Muslim editors and more Muslim publishers who publish Islamic Fiction.

Through the hard work and effort of a small number of people Islamic Fiction has become more prominent in homes and schools. But in order for it to grow we need members of Muslim communities to recognize the need for it and to support its continued growth by reading and buying books and acknowledging the talent of writers.

Amina Malik holds a law degree and post-graduate qualification in law. She works full time as a legal professional. Writing has always been Amina’s passion and the earliest records of this are short stories written when she was 9 years old. Amina writes freelance in her spare time, writing for newspapers, magazines and online publications. She is working on her first novel and lives in London, England. Her work has been published in: Internet Monthly, The Advertiser Newspaper, Net News Daily, Iqra Newspaper, Fit Muslimah website, TheTechnoGeeks.co.uk, Screen Jabber, Booklore, The Voice Newspaper, Poetry.com, The Muslim Paper, Emel Magazine Internet Monthly and others. Web site: www.aminamalik.co.uk

2010 Winter Edition of IWA Magazine

 IWA Board Member Interviews 

An Interview with Financial Officer Saba Negash

Saba Negash was born and raised in Southern California. She graduated with a liberal arts degree in 1993 from Victor Valley College and Insha Allah, looks forward to continuing her education in the field of Early Childhood Education. She is from a family of educators. She follows in her mother’s footsteps who was an educator and psychologist for over 30 years. Saba enjoys photography, traveling and experiencing new things. Her 15 year teaching career has given her the wonderful opportunity to live and work in many countries. It was through her teaching that she came to love writing curriculum, children’s stories, and poems to encourage good morals, character and creativity in her students. She has written many short stories and poems for children, which she hopes to one day have published Insha Allah. Email: familyreads@ymail.com, Web site: www.familyreads.weebly.com, Blog: www.familyshipstories.blogspot.com, Blog: www.worddiaries.blogspot.com, Blog: www.snphotogallery.blogspot.com

How did you learn about the IWA organization and why did you decide to join IWA?

I learned about the IWA through a sister on an all women’s forum. She was a member of the IWA and suggested I join when I told her I wrote short stories for children. It was over a year before I actually checked out the website and became a member.

How have you benefitted from your IWA membership?

Alhamdulillah, I have met some really amazing and talented sisters here. I have had a few of my stories professionally edited by some really wonderful editors. I have had some illustrations drawn by a talented illustrator, all members of IWA. I have also had the opportunity to showcase some of my stories in Islamic Ink, the former online magazine of the IWA. I have also had a few of my stories and poems published in the two IWA anthologies: Many Voices, One Faith II – Islamic Fiction Stories and Many Poetic Voices, One Faith published by Muslim Writers Publishing on behalf of the IWA organization. But, I would have to say my biggest benefit has been learning things about the arts, crafts and business side of being an author.

Why did you decide to volunteer for an IWA Board position?

I decided to volunteer for the Financial Officer position because it was something I had never done before and would be a great challenge to learn something new.

As the IWA Financial Officer what have been the greatest challenges for you with holding an IWA Board position?

So far, my biggest challenge is staying on schedule with the reports.

What have you enjoyed most serving as an IWA Board member?

I really enjoy the great support all the Board members give to one another. I also love being a part of the different projects the IWA puts on, like the Islamic Fiction Contest and the Islamic School Library Book Awards.

What advice do you have for any member thinking about volunteering to run for the position you now hold on the IWA Board?

I say go for it! It is a wonderful way to give back to a really great organization that is devoted to helping the Muslim writers of today get ahead!

An Interview With Marketing Officer Nancy E. Biddle

Nancy E Biddle was born and raised in Montreal as a Christian. She graduated with a Bachelors of Education degree specializing in TESL in 1992 from Concordia University in Montreal and worked in private language schools. She reverted to Islam in 2001 upon the invitation of a friend post 9/11. After reversion, Nancy struggled with Islamic phobias in the private language school sector, so in 2003 she created her own English School, Cafe Anglais, which offers EFL, editing, and writing services to the Montreal Muslim community.

Nancy has been an avid supporter of the Islamic Writers writing group and the Islamic Writers Alliance organization  since their inception. Writing in the form of journal writing and poetry has always been a past time for Nancy. she writes  mostly for cathartic purposes to work out ideas and life challenges. Her memberships in the  IW writers’ group and  the IWA organization has helped to polish her writings into publishable works.

Nancy has  a diverse selection of articles published in Canada, South Africa, the USA, and UK. In 2004, Nancy had  two short fiction stories and two poems published in the Islamic Writers Alliance Anthology, Many Voices, One Faith.

She has also self published a poetry ebook collection which she sells for non-profit purposes at her writer’s blog, Pen in a Bottle | Writer Emerging, http://www.cherenancy.webs.com

Her current writing project is a self help manual called the Roaches Control Guide, which she plans to promote to both the Muslim and non-Muslim niche markets for this genre.

How did you learn about the IWA organization and why did you decide to join IWA?

I learned about the IWA organization when I was a member of the Islamic Writers group. The group’s leader, Linda Delgado aka Widad decided a professional Muslim organization dedicated to literacy and supporting and promoting Muslims writers was needed. Members of the IW group assisted her with creating the foundations for the IWA organization and she conducted the first Board of Directors election within the IW group. I joined the IWA organization as a founding member.

How have you benefitted from your IWA membership?

With the publishing of my work in IWA publications I have had a taste of what it is like to be professionally published! Also, I have learned a tremendous amount about the world of publishing and the sharks in the industry. I really appreciate the experiences other writers have shared warning about what to do and not to do. I cannot wait for the current BISAC initiative to go through. I thank Allah for the progress we have already made.

Why did you decide to volunteer for an IWA Board position?

I have been a board member on several occasions already. I was a member of the first Board. When the vacancy for MO needed urgent filling and no other volunteers came forward I volunteered to finish the last months of the 2009-2010 term of office.

As the Marketing Officer what have been the greatest challenges for you with holding an IWA Board position?

I do not really have the qualifications to fill the position, but I am always up for the challenge and willing to learn something new. So far I have found it enriching.

What have you enjoyed most serving as an IWA Board member?

I enjoy the board discussions and contributing to the management of the group. I like to get a vision of where the group is going and to be a part of taking it there.

What advice do you have for any member thinking about volunteering to run for the position you now hold on the IWA Board?

Be an integral part of this organization. Take on your membership as if you are a Board member. Serve where and when you can. Do not let life issues and other challenges get in the way. For example, I have Muscular Dystrophy, ADD and other learning disabilities that make life that much more challenging. My experience so far as a Board member has been so rewarding!

An Interview with Secretary Balqees Mohammed

Balqees Mohammed was born and raised in the US as a Christian, and having lived in Saudi Arabia as a Muslim since 1982, she draws upon her experiences from both lifestyles and knowledge gained in both religions, reflecting this experience and knowledge in her writing. An author of many published articles on Islamic Awareness (viewed at www.islamunveiled.com, written under the byline of “Umm Mohammed”), she has also delved into writing Islamic Fiction, in addition to countless editing projects on manuscripts ranging from fiction to heavy scholarly studies. A more detailed profile of her and her work can be viewed at her website: www.writers-consultant.com.

How did you learn about the IWA organization and why did you decide to join IWA?

I joined WOW (Writers Online Workshops); sponsored by Writers’ Digest, participated in one particular workshop (I think it was “Writing for Inspiration” or something like that). I was the only Muslim in a group of something like 7-8 participants and one counselor/guide. Actually, I gained much from that experience, because it was the first time I got feedback from a non-Muslim audience on my writing, which although was a short fiction story, still had an underlying Islamic theme or moral (in other words, I was writing Islamic Fiction without having yet known what that exactly is). The feedback from the other students in the class gave me a new perspective of looking at my writing, giving me insight on how to improve it to help the non-Muslim understand as well what is going on and what message I want to get across.

Near the end of the class session (about 8 weeks or so), the discussions were getting around to finding appropriate publishers and other supporters for our work. The instructor advised me to make contact with other Muslims, directing me in particular to Islamic Writers Alliance. I did a search of the name, and then I found the IWA’s website. I was impressed by the professional appearance of the organization by the looks of the front page of the website, and decided I wanted to be a part of an international organization of Muslims who were professionals in producing Islamic literature.

How have you benefitted from your IWA membership?

I’ve learned immensely…perhaps more than what I can actually state in this message. I’ve learned simply from the interaction of the members, learned so much about the publishing world, and have learned so much more about editing, which is one of my own specialties I’ve developed quite by accident, although I think I’ve always had an ‘editors streak’ in myself.

I’ve also met so many wonderful people I would never have had the opportunity to have known, if it weren’t for the IWA. In that line as well, I’ve had so many jobs (mostly editing) come my way via my connections with the IWA. And with those jobs, much learning as well.

I love learning, and so this whole experience has been extremely pleasurable for me.

Why did you decide to volunteer for an IWA Board position?

To be honest, I was quite reluctant about volunteering, because I know my own private schedule. I’m not really that dependable. My time is not always necessarily my own, and so I was not really thinking that I’m material for volunteering for any of the Board positions. Then sis Safiyyah, who was at that time Secretary and was planning to go for I think Director for the next year, sent me a private message encouraging me to volunteer. I mentioned to her my reservations, and she assured me that it would not take too much of my time, and so I went for it…and here I am now at the end of that term of two years as Secretary./

As Secretary what have been the greatest challenges for you with holding an IWA Board position?

The greatest challenge for me has been at first learning how to make the monthly reports. That was not so hard. Once I got that under my belt, the next challenge has been (all along) getting those reports done in recommended time, and submitted. I’ve not always met the deadlines. In fact, to be truthful, I think that I’ve rarely met the advised deadlines. I try, but don’t always make it.

What have you enjoyed most serving as an IWA Board member?

Perhaps what I’ve enjoyed the most is knowing that I’m an important part of the decision-making process of this organization. I’m not a power hungry person. In fact, I try my best to avoid power situations. However, to be a part of the decision-making process, airing my opinions or thoughts about how things should go, and perhaps influencing how we proceed to operate, it is a rewarding experience. I feel that the IWA is a valid and important organization to have for Muslims, and for the future of Islamic Literature. Not only Islamic Fiction, but Islamic Literature in general. I hope that the IWA will grow, and that its worldwide reputation and involvement will also grow.

What advice do you have for any member thinking about volunteering to run for the position you now hold on the IWA Board?

Perhaps the most important advice I can give to ALL IWA members: this is your organization, so take care of it, and don’t be wary of taking the lead. I mean, do not leave the operation of the organization only to a handful of people. Don’t be afraid that you won’t have the time for it. You can make time, if you are really concerned and care about it. I strongly urge all IWA members to seriously think about volunteering for any of the positions, regardless if the previous Board members are returning to volunteer again or not. As I said, this is your organization, so make the best out of it.

An Interview with Assistant Director Mahasin D. Shamsid-Deen

As a second generation American Muslimah, Mahasin began writing as soon as she could write and began entering and winning contests at the age of eight. Throughout high school and college she won numerous essay and short story awards for various writing techniques and entered a gifted writers program. Her professional writing has largely focused on technical journals, handbooks, educational papers, business reports,  pamphlets, grants, brochures and some advertising publishing more than 100 writings. She began writing plays in high school and focused on poetry, short story, and essay and of course, theatrical plays. Her plays have won critical acclamation and have been translated and performed in America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Mahasin is married with three children and often serves as a guest speaker conducting educational workshops for organizations. Mahasin’s goals are to “Impact! Expand! Inspire!” www.islamictheatre.com

How did you learn about the IWA organization and why did you decide to join IWA?

I learned about the IWA by chance on the internet a number of years ago through another egroup that existed at the time as the Islamic Romance writers.

How have you benefitted from your IWA membership?

IWA allows me to have a chance to read Islamic poetry which I love during the annual contests.

Why did you decide to volunteer for an IWA Board position?

 Originally I came into IWA Board in the Member at Large position because the organization was new and needed volunteers.

As Assistant Director what have been the greatest challenges for you with holding an IWA Board position?

The greatest challenges have been my computer – it’s slow and old and takes a long time to load even though I have high speed internet. This makes me less likely to post and write all the time since I run out of time doing the simplest things.

What have you enjoyed most serving as an IWA Board member

 The most enjoyable part of serving on the Board at IWA has been coming in contact with so many people from around the world as they submit entries for the annual contests.

What advice do you have for any member thinking about volunteering to run for the position you now hold on the IWA Board?

I would advise any incoming Board member for any of the positions to come to the job with enthusiasm and good humor. It is a volunteer position, but it does take time. There are many personalities that you will have to deal with, but good leadership skills and patience will make it so much easier. Start and end each conversation with the greetings of As Salaamu Alaikum and love the members and Board solely for the pleasure of Allah, The Most High.

An Interview with Director Linda D. Delgado

 Linda D. Delgado earned a Bachelor degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix and is a 26-year veteran police officer. She retired with the rank of Sergeant II from the Arizona Department of Public Safety in November 2000.

In 2004 Linda established the Islamic Rose Books retail and self publishing business for her work. In 2005 she decided to expand her (IRB) business to include the publishing of other Muslim authors and created Muslim Writers Publishing as a division of IRB. Linda Has published 12 Muslim authors focusing her publishing efforts on Islamic fiction books. She has published 23 paperback books, 13 pdf format ebooks, and six pdf format teacher study guide booklets for some of the Islamic Fiction novels she has published. In 2003 she founded the Islamic Writers Alliance, Inc. and is the current Director of the organization. The IWA is a professional Muslim organization with an International membership based in the USA with a purpose of promoting literacy world-wide. Linda has been actively promoting Islamic fiction books and authors for nearly a decade. See: www.islamicFictionBooks.com.

Linda was born in the USA and reverted to Islam in March of 2000. She began her writing career shortly after her retirement. She is the mother of three children, grandmother of eight grandchildren and has three great grandchildren. She currently lives in Tempe, Arizona. www.MuslimWritersPublishing.com

How did you learn about the IWA organization and why did you decide to join IWA?

Creating the IWA was an idea I had that began when as a Muslim Islamic fiction writer I could not find any Muslim writer groups or organizations to associate with. I created a women’s writers group first but many were not interested in professionally developing their writing and selling it commercially. As a self published author of a 4-book IF series I had difficulties promoting my work due to serious chronic diseases and had suffered a heart attack complicating things further. From research I found many roadblocks for Muslim fiction writers trying to get their work published and also into retail stores and available to Muslim kids and general Muslim public.

I thought of the issues Muslims had in getting their work published, promoted and sold. Promoting published work is difficult when there aren’t any impediments like: inability to travel to promote a published book, lack of funds to participate in large Muslim events that require paying fees, travel, food and hotel expenses to promote published work, having a ‘day’ job necessary to help or provide support for a family, attending universities to advance educational and job opportunities, and inability as a Muslimah to travel without a male family member to accompany the female author. From these issues and challenges I took ideas and developed the foundations for the IWA and with the help of members of the Muslimah writers group I created we polished and those ideas and foundations and elected a Board of Directors to manage the new IWA in July 2003. In 2009 the IWA applied for incorporation in the State of North Carolina and was approved as an incorporated non-profit organization. I think it safe to state I was the first member of the IWA.

How have you benefitted from your IWA membership?

 The major benefit of being a member of the IWA organization has been meeting and working with such a diverse group of Muslim professionals working in many fields of the literary arts and the book industry: journalists, poets, fiction and non-fiction writers and published authors, publishers, book retailers, magazine, newspaper and book editors, illustrators and graphic designers. The networking and opportunities that surface within the organization has brought me many personal and professional benefits. It has been amazing to see professional Muslims working together in service to Allah and for such a wonderful purpose the organization works toward with its many projects and programs, developed as goals to accomplish the IWA purpose.

Why did you decide to volunteer for an IWA Board position?

 I have volunteered each Board of Directors election to be a candidate for membership voting because I believe the IWA is a unique organization that is needed for Muslim professionals and because I believe in the purpose and goals of the organization. I believe in service to Allah and to the organization…to give what skills and knowledge Allah has given to me for the good of the organization.

 As Director what have been the greatest challenges for you with holding an IWA Board position?

 Personal Challenge 1

I would have to say having patience. I am a professional planner and work very fast. Allah has blessed me with a lot of time due to my chronic illnesses. I get so focused when working on a long range plan that I just want to get the steps in between the beginning and completion accomplished and I lose sight of the fact that the membership needs more time to do tasks, respond to matters before them, and catch up with me.

Personal Challenge 2

My second challenge is my communications style. After working 26 years in law enforcement, making critical decisions quickly on known information and then moving forward with the choice made, has resulted in my communications style often seen as being too direct and not diplomatic. From time to time there have been members who have made mistaken assumptions about a communication I have written and have not accepted the statements or words as is. False assumptions are always difficult to handle in a manner that does not ‘offend’. The IWA uses email as its means of communicating and email lacks the advantages of having tone of voice, body language, and facial expression that positively add to people communicating with each other. With the IWA membership being so diverse…members from around the world with differing cultures… it can be a real challenge communicating with such a diverse membership. My direct, no-nonsense and right to the point approach when communicating is not always appreciated.

Challenge 3

As Director and responsible for each Board of Directors election process the big challenge is always persuading members to take a few minutes and vote in the election. Each election year (every 2 years) the bigger challenge is to persuade some members to volunteer to be candidates for open positions on the Board of Directors. Both are critical undertakings and successful completion is necessary for the IWA organization’s continued existence.

What have you enjoyed most serving as an IWA Board member?

 I have been a member of each Board of Directors of the IWA as a Financial Officer or Director. What I enjoy most is working with other Board members as a team for the good of the organization. With each new Board I have enjoyed showing new Board members how to do their specific responsibilities and tasks. I enjoy the mentoring role and am a teacher at heart.

What advice do you have for any member thinking about volunteering to run for the position you now hold on the IWA Board?

I recommend that members read the IWA Bylaws of the IWA organization. Every Board member position responsibilities are in this document. How the organization functions and the legal requirements for the Board and organization are spelled out clearly in this document. Any member who volunteers for the position of Director needs to be prepared to give the necessary time to performing required tasks, monitoring the IWA membership’s business egroup, and provide information, guidance, and support to the membership and other Board members.

Most important for anyone volunteering for the position of Director is to have a steadfast belief in the purpose and goals of the IWA organization and the willingness to make the commitment to work for the good of the organization during his/her term of office. Any member can learn the tasks and responsibilities of the Director. There are past Board members to help. Of critical importance is the desire and willingness to work for the organization, have some available time to give to the organization, and be dedicated to the members and purpose/goals of the IWA.

August 2010 Edition of IWA Magazine

Meet Debora McNichol – IWA Legal Counsel by Linda D. Delgado

Linda: As Salaam Alaykum Sis Debora

Debora: Wa alaikum asalaam!

Linda: You have been an active member of the IWA organization for about five years and more recently were voted by the membership to serve as the IWA’s Legal Counsel. As legal counsel you are a non-voting member of the IWA Board of Directors. As the Director of the IWA organization I want to tell you and Islamic Ink Readers how fortunate I believe our IWA organization is to have you as a member and our Legal Counsel.

Debora: Gosh, thanks! I’m blushing. And I love you, too.

Linda: Readers always want to know a little bit about the person being interviewed… something about their personal lives so let’s start off with this. Please tell us about your life as a Muslim, wife, and Mom.

Debora: I’ve been a Muslim since 1996, alhamdulillah. To say that that was the best thing that’s ever happened to me would be a gross understatement. I used to be a hard-working, hard-living, hard-drinking hard head, and now I’m just a Muslim hard head. Reading the Quran converted me to Islam.

I have a really wonderful husband, who is as patient as his wife is impetuous, and I have a beautiful little girl who, alhamdulillah, has a temperament more like her daddy than her mommy.

In 1997, my (new) husband and I opened a restaurant in southern Virginia, and thanks to Allah, it’s been open since. We both came into the business with plenty of experience, but at some point, I decided that I wanted my marriage more than I wanted to run the restaurant, so I only go in now when Ahmed wants “the mean one” to get the job done… There is really only one thing that I obsess about, and that’s work, whether it’s restaurant work, writing, editing, or lawyering.

Laila was born after several years of trying, alhamdulillah. She will be nine years old very soon, insha Allah. She’s a lot of fun and so sweet, masha Allah, except when she torments Kiki the Cat. Laila is noisy. I would not mention that except for the fact that I spent so much time in loud places when I was young that I have some hearing loss and there are certain pitches and sounds that send me through the roof with pain.  Laila is familiar with all of them.

Linda: Please tell the readers about your education and don’t exclude information about your work and business. This interview is designed to inform readers about who you are, what you do, and what inspires and motivates you.

Debora: Back in the ’80’s when I was in my 20’s, I attended college to be a math teacher. I love math! (Would that I could scream it from the rooftops!) I think in numbers and see in patterns. Oddly enough, I think practical math like accounting is a complete bore. I like the abstract stuff.

I skated through my math classes with little problem despite working full time and trying to have a personal life, but had to work to get A’s in the other classes. I came to a point in my life, however, where I had to get a ‘real job’ in order to live above the poverty level and I went into restaurant management. Anyone who has been a restaurant manager or knows one, knows how much time and self is involved in the career, and I eventually quit school in order to devote myself to it.

Now, some might say that quitting school was a bad decision, but Allah knows best, and I realized as I got older that I did not have the patience to teach high school math after all. I would have ended up hating math and hating my students, and math is just too important to hate. Now I love it from afar.

Back in 2001, I was inspired by an incredible woman and Allah to return to college, finish the degree, go to law school, and become a lawyer. Years later, I graduated from law school and passed two bar exams, and now I’m a lawyer licensed in North Carolina and Virginia. Incidentally, I changed my major to political science in order to practice reading for law school.

Some people are very good readers and they understand what they read very easily.  I am not one of those people. The schooling I’ve enjoyed since returning to school has been very difficult for me but possible. Frankly I say for anyone interested in law school, if I can do it anybody can do it.

I was very fortunate that my husband and my daughter were so patient throughout my school years, and alhamdulillah, neither has kicked me out of the house yet.

As bad a reader as I am, I am a worse writer. As I took classes that required written reports, I was fortunate to have IWA member Judy Eldawy look over them for me so eventually what I turned in were papers good enough to get good grades – usually A’s. I was always a little embarrassed because Judy ripped up my papers in order to make them better, so in time, I learned to edit my own work and Judy had less and less editing to do.

When it came time to go to law school and to write legal memos and briefs, Judy could not help me much anymore. It’s not that she was not a good editor, it’s just that I became a better editor of my own work then she could be. She cares about my feelings, after all.

I turned out to be such a good editor, in my ever so humble opinion, that I eventually opened Sawa-Lad’s Editing Services to keep me busy during law school and into my first lean years as an attorney. I find that my best skills as an editor have less to do with the mechanics of writing and more with critique and analysis. That worked well for me in law school and works well for me in the legal profession.

Linda: Readers may not know you well because you don’t write fiction and non-fiction books and aren’t involved with art and/or design work.

Debora: But I’ve edited plenty of members’ work! Among the writers I’ve edited are sisters Julie Mair, Saba Negash, you – Linda Delgado, and Zabrina abu Bakr. I have edited a couple novels of IWA authors, too, including The Gift, by Zaipah Ibrahim and most recently The Size of a Mustard Seed by Maryam Sullivan.

Ooh. I also edited Judy Eldawy’s “You Jist Never Know” which is featured in the latest Many Voices, One Faith II- Islamic Fiction Stories anthology, and the winner of IWA’s 2009 Islamic fiction story contest.

Judy is my best friend, incidentally. I’ve known her since middle school, which was a long, long time ago! She is the best friend a person could have.

Besides editing, I do a little writing, but usually it is task work. If you need a biography, campaign materials, or a cover letter, I’m your girl! Last year, I began contributing op-ed pieces to the Crescent Times in Perth, Australia. Tarek Chamkhi is the editor-in-chief and produces the monthly newspaper with the help of his wife Joanne, and the paper has gone national! I have really enjoyed the opportunity and privilege of working with Tarek and to be featured with such a talented staff.

Today, Tarek and Joanne are planning a magazine called Hijrah! to be published from Australia and distributed to English-speaking Muslims around the world. I have committed to acting as the magazine’s overseas editor and insha Allah, will manage marketing and gather content for it.

If by the way, any writers in the IWA are interested in contributing to Hijrah!, please contact me!

Linda: The IWA membership is mostly comprised of individuals involved in these endeavors. I am curious as may be our readers. As a lawyer, why did you join the IWA?

Debora: Well, I wasn’t a lawyer, but a law student, when I joined the IWA. I probably wouldn’t have joined, though, if it weren’t for being psychologically and psychically pulled into it by its founder. All in all however, this has been a good move for me. I love intellectual property law and a writers group is a perfect place to discuss intellectual property. Or rather, I should say that it is the perfect place for me to talk to myself about intellectual property and if someone can benefit from it? Alhamdulillah.

Linda: In 2009 you became the Legal Counsel for the IWA organization and serve on the elected and volunteer Board of Directors. You work directly with Board members. What has been the most challenging work you have completed for the organization to date and why?

Debora: Oh, it’s all been challenging. Wink. I’ve learned a lot, too, including how to fill out an IRS application for a nonprofit organization. That is probably the most boring thing that I have done, but it is probably the most critically important task, too. Nonprofit status for the IWA is important not only for tax purposes, but also for donation purposes. Membership dues only go so far! Sadly, the IRS is very, very, very picky about their paperwork and very choosy about the groups to whom nonprofit status is granted.

(Unfortunately, the nonprofit application has been put on hold for a while. Insha Allah, the IWA will continue the application process in the first half of this year.)

Linda: The IWA promotes literacy as its primary purpose and as a goal promotes the Islamic Fiction books and stories authored by its members and in general the literary sub category of Fiction: Islamic Fiction. Why do you support the organization’s goal of promoting Islamic Fiction?

Debora: Boy that is a loaded question! I think the simpler question is, “why wouldn’t someone support Islamic fiction or the goals of the IWA?” (Answer: I don’t know.) Literacy is vital to society, to Muslims, to science and advancement of humanity. If we cannot read it is so difficult to learn — this is not to say that people cannot learn if they cannot read.

When I think of literacy, I am reminded of a couple things during my first trip to Egypt in 2005.

First was how alien everything seemed to me because all the writing was Arabic writing and I did not read Arabic let alone speak Arabic. Each traffic sign, each label on food product, each Egyptian commercial was something that I struggled with. After three months, I am ashamed to say, my Arabic had not improved as much as my sister-in-law’s English. Enough said on that.

Second was my satisfaction at learning a semester of college Economics while I was in Egypt. Before leaving the United States, I visited eBay and found an Economics 101 textbook for something ridiculously cheap, like $13. I took the book to Egypt and read that book until I understood Econ 101. That is the power of literacy.

The importance of Islamic fiction especially for Muslim children and adolescents seems to me self-evident. Our children and adolescents need to feel a connection with their religion and morals that just cannot be obtained by reading other fiction. They also need to learn how to read critically. Hopefully they will enjoy reading. What more wholesome way to get our children to read than to provide them with Islamic fiction?

Linda: It has been a pleasure to interview you sister Debora.

Debora: Thank You!

Debora McNichol Esq.
Licensed in North Carolina and Virginia
Specializing in Intellectual Property, Business, Criminal, and Family Law
Website: www.McNicholLaw.com
Blog: www.macksbiz.wordpress.com
Email: DebMcNichol@hotmail.com
Crescent Times newspaper: www.crescenttimes.com.au

One Response to Interviews

  1. Pingback: An Interview With Saara Ali – Editor of Ummah Reads | The Writer's Parchment & Quill

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