Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, a
Growing up in Pakistan, I never thought I’d be an author. My parents hoped I’d do the usual things… be a doctor, a teacher, or maybe a doctor. Too bad I freaked out at the sight of blood, and when I found out we had to dissect frogs and things in college, I completely, desperately refused. I ended up going to business school, where they only dissect accounting statements, and then moving to the U.S. to start a new life and a new career.
I worked with several companies doing several different things. Everything I did ended up being related to writing in some way – grant writing, copywriting, textbook writing. When I look back, I wonder if the universe was trying to send me some message I was too busy to notice. In 2010 or so I remember reading a book and thinking it was so bad, anybody could write it better. Even me.
How hard can it be to write a story, I told myself? It was probably no big deal. At this point the universe was probably laughing its head off at me, but again, too busy to notice.
So I started writing fiction for adults. It was very strange letting my imagination run wild, not worrying about pesky little things like facts or statistics. I wrote a lot of things that went nowhere, and some short stories that were published in magazines. I got bolder after that, thinking I was pretty amazing. I wrote more things that went nowhere, except in an old drawer in my desk and Word documents in a folder labeled NOVELS.
Then I wrote a short story collection which I thought had promise. I learned about agents and publishers and writing contests. I submitted this collection everywhere.
I got so many rejections, I stopped counting them.
I gave myself a year, and literally a few weeks before my self-imposed deadline, a small indie publisher said they wanted to publish my short story collection. We named it Brick Walls, after all the obstacles people face in their daily lives. My family thought I’d gotten this writing bug out of my system, and I’d go back to more acceptable careers. But Brick Walls proved to be my motivator. I decided I wanted to be an author.
Not just any author. I yearned for the big publishers. For seeing my books in a bookstore and all the public libraries and in pretty Instagram posts. Brick Walls was too small. I wanted big. By then I had two kids, and my younger daughter was started to read. I ended up reading a ton of children’s books, and I realized two things. One, children’s books are really fun! And two, there were no early readers in the U.S. at that time with Muslim characters. My business education reminded me that this meant a big opportunity in terms of market and sales and all that… stuff I’d studied in college. Plus, if my daughter was hungering for stories that centered her, there were probably a lot of other children in the same boat.
That’s how Yasmin was born, and it took no time for this series to find a home with Capstone in the U.S. and Raintree in the U.K. I found a wonderful agent, and wrote other books. My newest middle grade novel A Thousand Questions was published by Quill Tree Books/Harper Collins in the U.S. in October, and is being released in the U.K. on Nov 12.
I’ve finally realized what the universe was trying to tell me since I was eight years old and started writing stories in a little notebook. I could be a storyteller. I could share my imagination with others, and make children like my daughter (and my son) the heroes of their stories. I could be an author.