Monday, October 9, 2017

Whistler Writers Festival 2017

Whistler, British Columbia
The last time I was at Whistler was winter 2015 (see photo). I love Whistler, no matter what time of the year I visit.
I will be attending Whistler Writers Festival next week from October 12th to 15th. I am thrilled The Beggar’s Dance is selected as one of the three finalists (fiction) in the Whistler Independent Book Awards. Wishing the finalists all the best.
I will be reading at the Whistler Public Library during Reading Event 1: Canada’s Best Independent Authors of 2017 on October 12th.

It will be a fun weekend, as the festival promises many reading events and workshops. I have booked a few to attend. I’m excited about Workshop 12: So, You Want to be a Screenwriter? I suppose all those movies that are in my head need to be explored.

Most of all, it will be great to meet so many talented writers.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Idd (Eid) Festival

Sharing an excerpt from my novel, The Beggar’s Dance (pg. 117 paperback), on Idd (Eid) festival. In this scene, Juma (protagonist—a street boy) is receiving Idd gift from his secret friend, Zakiya.

I look forward to the Idd festivals in the next two days, at the end of Ramadan. Dada Zakiya has promised to share the offering she receives for Idd. After Idd Namaz, prayers, in the morning, family and friends will exchange mithhai, Indian sweets. Dada Zakiya tells me that she gets lots of money from her uncles and aunts. She does not fancy mithhai but looks forward to the Cadbury Whole Nut chocolate from London that her aunt sends her every Idd. “I love chocolates. It’s a once-a-year treat, so scrumptious.”

Mithhai photo courtesy: Gulnar Fazal
The butcher on the street is busy with orders. A fully loaded pickup arrives with whole halal goats. The workers’ long white jackets are smudged with blood as they put one goat at a time over their shoulder and take it to the butchery. Mama Fatima rushes out of the salon and makes her order.
“Hamisi will be preparing goat biryani for the family and himself the day before,” Dada Zakiya says, revealing the feast menu. She asks me to meet her by the Darkhana gates on Idd at twelve noon when she comes for a community lunch and dandhiya-raas, festive dances and music.

“Idd Mubarak, Happy Idd, Juma,” Dada Zakiya says, wearing a beautiful white dress and a stylish silver clip on the right side of her perfect shoulder-length hair. “For you.” She hands me two full bags. “I have lots of assorted mithhai, goat biryani and soda.” She smiles and tucks twenty shillings in my pocket. “I got a total of one hundred shillings cash in gifts. I will spend the remaining eighty on Hindi cassettes,” she whispers secretively. I accept the auspicious meal and think of Josephine. I will share the spirit and celebrate with her tonight when her pimp is not watching.
Dada Zakiya twists her left wrist, showing me her watch. “It’s my grandmother’s. Mother tells me that at nineteen, I am responsible and old enough to own it.”
Her friend comes by and they hug each other. “Idd Mubarak.” Holding their dandhiya, dancing sticks, painted in red and green, they walk into the gates of Darkhana and join the happy crowd. I hear live drums playing and dance to the end of the street till the sound fades off.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sharing and Giving

Lamb Biryani
Here is an excerpt from my novel, The Beggar’s Dance (pg. 107 paperback).

In this scene; a young middle-class girl, Zakiya, brings a beggar boy, Juma (protagonist), home. She serves him lunch. The story is told by Juma (first person POV).

  I stack the rice on my plate, heaping it with three chicken legs and a huge potato. Dada Zakiya hands me a spoon. I laugh at her. “How can I fit the chicken into this spoon?” Dada Zakiya laughs too. I eat the food with my hands. The rice and curry are juicy and salty, and the cardamoms and cloves make it flavourful. We have it with yogurt and banana. Dada Zakiya eats a green chilly dipped in salt with every bite. I decide against that. Her welcoming home makes me forget my pain, and I silently pray that this lasts forever.
  “Thank you, Dada, thank you so much,” I say after our meal.
  “Shukrana,” she says. “Sharing brings barakat.”

Cooking and sharing food is one of the pleasures of my life. In the photo, I'd cooked lamb biryani for a family reunion at my home a while back. Hope you enjoyed the excerpt from The Beggar's Dance.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Author and Muse

I have many dog lovers following me on Instagram or should I clarify, they’re probably following my dog, Zorro.

He is a bichon-shihtzu breed. He will be six this June. Zorro loves to walk and play fetch. He is a great company when I am writing.

But when I’m writing for too long, he’ll come closer to my keyboard to tell me that I should play with him instead.

Check more of him on Instagram

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Creative Writing and Hobby

I have a hobby of making bead jewellery. I attend bead shows every year, one of my guilty pleasures. The process of designing and handling natural stones silences my mind. It stimulates my creative side, especially when I am stuck in my writing.
Kazuri Copper Bracelet
This week, the writing challenge began when the protagonist in my novel (work in progress) fell in love. I had to get the romance right, for her age, and her innocence.

I made Kazuri bracelets, and this creative process cleared my thinking and helped me understand the kind of love the protagonist is looking for. So with the new bracelet dangling on my wrist, I’m all set to complete her love story.

Check more on Instagram: Kazuri Silver and Kazuri Stretchy - the beads used are a gift from a friend in Kenya.

Kazuri—the Swahili word meaning small and beautiful.

Link to Kazuri Story

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Timeline Process of the Novel

Me writing the timeline. 
I am half way through my novel and suddenly I know the ending. It’s really exciting.

I am a pantser for sure. I do not know what is happening next in the story and I do not write in a chronological order either.

I’ve experienced this with my first novel, The Beggar’s Dance. I was half way through the first draft and the ending came to me. This is when I wrote a timeline to have a clear vision of where the characters were in the story. Once I’d done that everything fell in place on it’s own.

It is happening again with my next novel. So I’ve got the timeline done. Now it’s all about filling the blanks.

Photo: Me writing the timeline. I didn’t know that my dog, Zorro, was resting behind me. Glad my hubby took this picture

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

I was very excited when I received a great review from  "Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards,” on my novel, The Beggar’s Dance:

The following is the judges's review:

The story opens with an intriguing and grabbing hook.

The plot is intriguing because it’s a foreign situation for us. We like Juma and we want to keep reading to see if he survives the streets. He grows through the loss of his mother and having to be on his own. We have great sympathy for Juma. His voice is just right for his age and situation, so we are intrigued by him. He tries to improve himself, makes mistakes and learns from them. Well done.

The voice of Juma is young and foreign, so it feels real and draws us in. It's clear you had a great heart for this story and it comes through in the writing.

The dictionary in the back is a nice touch and helpful. And I like that you still define the words within their context. The writing is clean and easy to read.

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding.” See below evaluation as received for The Beggar's Dance.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 4
Character Appeal and Development: 4
Voice and Writing Style: 4