After I became a Muslim, my writing went on hiatus. At that time I had been writing a novel about pirates called Captain Jane Ivy for at least 4 years. However, I had difficulties reconciling my faith with stories of rum-swilling, foul-mouthed scallywags (despite some earnest attempts at revisions that would settle well with me). I was afraid to ask about it, for fear that I would be told that, no, Islamically you cannot write a story about rum-swilling, foul-mouthed scallywags. So rather than inquire into the matter, I simply put my writing away. It was like taping up a dream into a box and storing it in the cellar.
If you’ve followed my blog in any capacity, you may have noticed I’ve been gone for the past 8 months. Well, I assure you it’s not because I’ve been twiddling my thumbs, staring at a blank screen. I’ve been focusing all my writing efforts into writing a book. More accurately, I’m expanding a serialized short story I wrote a long time ago into a full novel.
The story right now it tentatively called “The Long Walk”. It’s about a Muslim walking across a post-apocalyptic Canada on his journey toward Mecca for Hajj. Along the way his faith is tested and he must survive horrific creatures and, worse still, other people. He is joined by a young girl who, over time, becomes his protege, and the story becomes her journey as much as Hanif’s. A major theme in the book is the purpose of religion and belief in human society, even after society has collapsed. My goal is to write a I’ve uploaded all 3 parts of the original short story here onto my blog for you to enjoy (and critique! I appreciate the feedback). Continue reading “So I’m Writing a Book…”→
Amy wandered through the halls of her house. Each room was a memory waiting to be unlocked by her mind. Her bedroom. The closet where she’d hide when playing hide and seek. The sun room where she’d find quiet and solace. The kitchen where the maid always readied the day’s meals. Absent from her memories were her parents—in fact, they were absent for most of her life.
I remember every English teacher I ever had—even back in the Elementary school days when it was called “Language Arts”.
It shouldn’t be surprising that English was my favourite subject. But in addition, I was also blessed with a good run of English teachers throughout my academic life (with one exception in Grade 8). I can say with confidence that the teachers who were the most influential, and most responsible for shaping my mind and inspiring my imagination were my English teachers.
I was graciously nominated by Farheen Siddiqui, of the blog Khamosh Dhadkanen to do the Free Style Writing Challenge.
The concept of free style writing revolves around the central idea of putting down words that may or may not relate to a particular topic and within a certain time period regardless of spelling or perhaps also grammar.
Here are the rules:
1) Open an MS Word document
2) Set a stop watch or your mobile to 5 minutes or 10 minutes whichever challenge you think you can beat.
3) You topic is at the foot of this post. But do not scroll down to see it until you are ready with the timer
4) Fill the word doc with as much words as you want. Once you began writing do not stop even to turn. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spellings and grammar with spell check in MS WORD.
5) You may or may not pay attention to punctuation and capitals. However if you do, it would be best.
6) At the end of your post write down ‘No. Of words =_____’ so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.
7) Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new Topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nominations (at least 5 bloggers).
I’ll admit I didn’t read the rules carefully enough and instinctively fixed my spelling mistakes as I went. Minus-ten-points. Here it goes:
My topic: “The best day of my life”
The best day of my life. When was that? There were so many days in my life that I could consider “the best”. Was it the day I got married? The day I got divorced (haha)? Or perhaps it was the time I had a sleep over with my friends—all of us in our 20s but I felt like I was 12 again, chowing down on snacks while we played Settlers of Catan and Super Mario 3D world and a breakfast of French Toast. Was it the day I graduated from high school, and had a non-stop evening of laser tag, bowling, pool and pizza with my friends? My first Eid party in the big city of Edmonton was definitely memorable, as it was the first time I truly felt part of a community and like I’d found my balance, between my identity as a Muslim and as a Canadian.
Or perhaps the best day of my life is related to my favourite moments. Standing at the crest of a walking path with my friends, overlooking the Bugaboo Glacier—or perhaps, a few hundred meters higher along that trail, where I stopped and gazed out over the glacier-carved valley with my brother. Perhaps it was standing at the top of a hill in Costa Rica, overlooking the lush tropical landscape and sandy beach below. Maybe it was in the quiet solitude of praying outside on the mountain grass, anonymous to the world and the open canopy of stars above me.
What I’m trying to say is: I’m not sure what the best day of my life is. For how does one even rank these days? By the clearest memory they leave, or the biggest impact they’ve had on your soul? How do these moments, minutes and days influence the people we become? I cherish each and every one of them, but not equally.
We all seek out the perfect day. So try and make tomorrow your best day.
Word count: 329 words
I love how it just kind of devolved into a pedantic philosophical ramble near the end.
After four long years of ink, sweat and tears I graduated from MacEwan’s Professional Writing (PROW). With graduating came a sense of finality, that this chapter in my life is officially closed now.
I cannot write enough about PROW. As a program, it was unique. Because it was an applied degree, many of our classes were project-based. Sometimes they involved actual organizations too, such as when we had to partner with a non-profit organization (my group got Kids Kottage) or when we had to present our re-branding of K-Days to actual Northlands representatives.
But what made PROW truly unique was the people. The PROWlers.
First thing to know is that we were very few. Maybe no more than forty students—less so when we were told that PROW was being cancelled and a shiny new Bachelor of Communication program would take its place. Some of us jumped ship. It was an honour writing, reading and learning with many of my peers—my friends. I remember in our first year many of us were isolated in our own private bubbles. I don’t think there was a single one of us who had a definite idea of what they were actually doing here. I was one of them. I took the program because I loved to write; I had no idea of what kind of job I would have at the end of it. Yet we carried on, learning more about ourselves and each other throughout the years. By the time we were finished, I was part of a network of some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.
The common joke between us was that the first thing people say when you tell them you are in Professional Writing is “Oh, like journalism, right?” No. It’s not like journalism. PROW was really about communication. It was about learning how to send a message through a variety of media. In addition to creative writing, non-fiction, short story, poetry, and various other writing styles, we also learned Photoshop, web design, internet writing, business communication, leadership skills, public speaking, screenwriting, rhetoric, magazine writing, media relations and a plethora of other skills. And some journalism was thrown in there too.
In a short time, many of us have accomplished amazing feats. Collectively, we published a book: The PROWlers: A Professional Writing Anthology, a fitting swan song to a program dedicated to the written word. Some have become editors at magazines like Avenue or technical writers for various companies. Some have gone the freelance route. Some write for businesses, non-profits or for government. Some have started their own businesses. Another has completed her own web series. One of us has even started her own publishing company. Pretty much all of us are working on our own books (and one of us has even published his book of poetry—the first PROWler to publish a solo book).
As I sat with my fellow graduates, I felt as though this would be the last time we were all together. We all crossed the stage and received our well-earned degrees, then gathered for a group picture and then dispersed. Four years brought together for a single moment, frozen in time, and then scattered abroad.
The original title for this entry was “Graduates with extinction”. I thought it was clever, because it rhymed with “distinction” and was fitting since our program is being laid to rest. But this is not meant to be a eulogy. Rather, we leave PROW behind, and move forward with the tools we learned to make a change in the world.
And so to all the PROWlers reading this, I say thank you.
Thank you for your words, for your friendship and for your support. Thank you for accepting me for who I am—a Canadian Muslim convert with a knack for LEGO and videogames, and a tendency to over-analyze everything. Through your acceptance and your friendship, I gained confidence in my writing and in myself.
To me you are all distinct. As writers your skills are broad and diverse. As colleagues you are diligent and creative. As friends you are supportive and always willing to lend a hand or a pen. Together, we were bottled lightning. We were PROWlers.
Some of us may never meet in person again—and I hope I am wrong in this. But even still, know that each and every one of you have touched my life and my heart. We are all part of each others’ lives now. Whatever path your life takes, keep a pen in your hand, humor in your heart and imagination in your mind.
Write on, friends, write on.
“Words, whether written on a page or spoken out loud, are not mere symbols. They have a spirit and a life to them. They are not just a series of letters, but a means by which one person can touch the heart and mind of another.” –Dr. Salman Al-Oadah
You know what the most terrifying thing about writing is? The moment when you look at what you’ve written and see a mirror reflecting those parts of you that you try so hard to bury. Continue reading “The Mirror of Words”→