Fragments of Ramadan

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I see the picture of the girl-lady and it takes me a second to realize that it is me. And then it takes me a minute to realize that I’m holding Baby A.

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I see a young mother who is working with a child in her lap, but they are seamlessly blended. 2 into 1. A mother who when holding her baby on her hip has an imbalanced walk, yet at the same time, everything is balanced. 2 into 1.

I am grateful for a Ramadan in which I was able to fast. In which I was able to nurture my children. A Ramadan in which I was able to reflect in bits and pieces of day and night. A Ramadan in which Z, now 4, was able to understand. A Ramadan in which we made eid cards. I forgot how soothing it is to pull out forgotten pastel crayons and blend to ones content. To ignore cooking, cleaning, laundry and just blend.

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A Ramadan in which I printed and mailed potential hopes and dreams and a book deal was made.

A Ramadan in which a sunflower bloomed.

A Ramadan in which toddling cousins crept upstairs to pray together.

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A Ramadan in which summer is almost over, pre-K is almost beginning and I may not need this cart for 2 much longer.

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During these last hours of Ramadan, little stresses and worries we have are insignificant to those who are suffering and struggling in many parts of the world. What we have, we need to cherish and savor.

And when in doubt, pull out the pastels, and blend. And Maybe if we pray enough, we can blend the worries, pain, and sorrow of the world away.

Women in Islam Flash Cards Review

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I’m reviewing one more fun product by Share the Deen, a company that makes entertaining & educational Islamic games and products. I reviewed their prophets board game here.

Today, I’m reviewing Women in Islam flash cards!

The game has high quality cards. The cards can be used for : Q&A sessions, Guessing Games, Reading Practice, and as a resource. I thought you could use it for Jeopardy, or class projects. Another fun idea would be to shuffle the cards and place in a basket and have children randomly choose one card and then have them do a project or presentation on the person. There aren’t any rules for these cards so it’s great to see where your imagination can take you with these cards!

I believe this would be a great game for Sunday School in which students could happily playing this in a game of Jeopardy. Students usually love to compete against each other!

The cards are high quality, professionally made and the content is great. I like the variety of women they chose – some I’ve heard of often like Aasiyah, some I haven’t like Barakah (Umm Ayman.)  Being a female, I love that this card is dedicated to Women in Islam!

This is a great Eid gift for children 8+ or any person for that matter. Also, put in the promocode, Ramadan14 to save 10% off this order here.


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Ilyas and Duck Giveaway!

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Remember Ilyas and Duck?

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Well there’s a sequel that I’m planning on getting Z & A for Eid. I totally procrastinated, but ah well!

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Well Little Big Kids is hosting a giveaway for the first book, Ilyas and Duck Search for Allah. Which basically means I have a free book for one lucky reader!

My original review is here:

My summary: The story is about a curious little boy called Ilyas who searches for God’s location. Allah is simply the Arabic name for God so this book is universal for all faiths. The story is a  beautiful, heartwarming story. Z really enjoyed this story. As a parent who is often asked to read the same book over and over, I really enjoyed the illustrations that added a comical touch to the story, especially Duck’s antics. Baby A loves this story even more than Z, and is always grabbing and hugging this story when we read books. She also loves saying Ilyas’s name, and pointing to him, “Ilyaaas!”  I was looking at the upcoming story of Ilyas and Duck’s Fantastic Festival Eid-ul-Fitr on my computer and Z and A saw the cover of Ilyas and Duck standing by a cake on my screen, and Z started yelling, “Ilyas is baking!” and A started clapping her hands saying, “Ilyaaaas!” so the cool thing about this character Ilyas  is that he’s relatable. It’s refreshing to see children like a Muslim character, not just Dora!

 Eid Giveaway Rules: Do 5 out of the 8 things:

1. Like Ilyas & Duck on Facebook.

2. Like Little Big Kids on Facebook.

3. Follow Ilyas & Duck on Twitter, and send us a tweet saying salaam!

4. Share the word about Ilyas & Duck on your facebook, and tag the page!

5. Tweet about the Giveaway

6. Follow Little Big Kids on Instagram.

7. Join our newsletter at the bottom of the page here: http://www.littlebigkids.com/

8. Subscribe to Ilyas & Duck on Youtube.

Once you’ve done all 5, please let me know by leaving a comment on this page. I know some of you leave comments on my Facebook page, but it’ll be easier for me to manage if we have the comments all here! Then I will plug in the entries into a site which will randomly choose a winner. You do have to be living in the US to enter this Giveaway.

Deadline for entries: Friday the 25th, and hopefully I can mail the book out Saturday to make an awesome Eid gift for your little one! Eid Mubarak!  
Disclaimer: Your book will probably arrive a couple days after Eid! Eid has 3 days, right?!

 

Lailah’s Lunchbox: a book deal!!!!

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Ramadan has been a busy month here. I hadn’t fasted in years due to pregnancies and nursing, so it feels good to fast. Challenging, too, but the first bite and sip of cool water after a long day is a wonderful feeling!

As many of you know, I have been writing, blogging, and photographing. But deep down, I’ve always wanted to get a children’s book published. I worked on writing children’s book manuscripts when Z was a little baby, and great napper. I wrote stories and then thought, now what to I do with them? My parents had gone to an ISNA conference and happened to meet author Asma Mobin Uddin there and purchased her book, My Name is Bilal.  I reached out to her and she was helpful and told me some good books to read to learn about the publishing market. I remember sitting down with the Children’s Writer & Illustrator’s Market and circling publishers that I liked. I remember circling and highlighting Tilbury House Publishers, a publishing company that published diverse books, books that promote respect, tolerance, and compassion. They stood out in my mind as the books they produced are beautiful!

So when Z was a baby, I submitted my manuscripts to Tilbury House as well as a few other companies and got all rejections. I remember thinking, But my stories are good! I remember Tilbury House held on to one of my manuscripts longer than normal, and when I reached out to them, the children’s book editor had liked my story, and sent it back for extra reviewing, but at the end of the day, my story was too similar to one already on its way to being published, Say Something. But the fact that someone liked my story out there in the publishing world gave me hope!

I told myself I’d go back to writing – at that time Z entered toddlerdom, so life got busy! I also delved into photography and loved it, but my children’s book writing wasn’t a priority.

When Baby A came, I told myself I wanted to try again, so send out another round of manuscripts and got rejected again.

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Busy with children? Still. Must. Write!

So I took another break, but kept wanting to get back in the publishing world. Every time I would visit the library, I would look through books, leaf through the pages to see which authors had made it, which publishers I gravitated to, and think I need to try again. Or I would hear news of another author who made it, one who had four children, and think, Wow! I shouldn’t make my two children a reason for not being able to write. 

If I want to write or get published badly enough, I should try again! Or it might be a comment, one of my brothers made to me, “I always thought you’d write children’s books…”

So I wrote ‘Submit Manuscript’ again on my To-Do List and  circled it in neon green pen and starred it as well. But the to-do list remained what it was, a to-do list. Finally, I had another story, but was sending it out to critique groups and waiting.

My aunt, Sana Dossul who specializes in all stuff children, was in town, and I showed her my manuscript Lailah’s Lunchbox along with another manuscript that I thought had potential. My aunt read the story, and said “What are you watiting for? Just send it!” 

“But what about my other story?” I asked.

“I didn’t like that one as much. Send this one in!” she responded enthusiastically.

photo (21)So instead of mulling like I usually do, or sending it for another extra round of critiquing, I listened and sent it in. I took Baby A, went to the UPS-Fedex office on a rainy grey day, dodged rain drops, printed, reviewed, Sharpied on addresses, and plopped it in a mailbox. And took a quick photo, because What If?

And then I waited, and submitted my story to agents as well, and waited some more, and gardened to pass the time.

And one day, I saw the subject ‘Your Manuscript’ in my mailbox. My insides took a quick leap as I sat down to read…

Hello Reem,

Your manuscript arrived in today’s mail, having been rerouted by the post office to our new address. I enjoyed reading it and have taken the liberty of sharing it with our co-publishers, Jon Eaton and Tris Coburn, as well as Audrey Maynard.

I think your story is a unique take on Ramadan and I’m glad you thought of us. Please let me know if you’ve had a response from any other publishers as yet.

Best wishes,

Fran Hodgkins

 

I got v.excited and the next few days kept checking my email and phone to see if there was any update! Finally I couldn’t wait and checked in with them again…and got this response…

“I was going to wait and have our children’s book editor call you, but I’ll take this opportunity to say that we really like your manuscript and would like to publish it.”

 

So I have a book deal! And my story will be published next year, either in the Spring of 2015 or Fall of 2015 or maybe even early enough for next Ramadan! It’s v.exciting and surreal, and this last month has consisted of reviewing a contract, talking terms, signing a contract, and now discussing illustrators (which is the funnest part!) I always placed authors on a pedestal and wondered what life was really like in the publishing world, but have found that one day you can be unpublished and one day, published, or on the way to publishing. We are all the same, just working toward a goal! The publishers, editor, and director have been down-to-earth and wonderful to work with so far.

Here’s a sneak peek of what I sent in my query letter:

When writing Lailah’s Lunchbox, I reflected on my earlier memories of moving to America. When Lailah moves from Abu Dhabi to Peachtree City, Georgia, she realizes her best friends are miles away. She feels even more estranged when she realizes no one else is fasting with her at school. Adding to her dilemma is a note from her mother to her teacher, explaining why Lailah doesn’t have her lunchbox, and Lailah still hasn’t given her teacher the note. Her classmates simply think Lailah has forgotten her lunchbox…again. Will Lailah have the courage to tell her class about this special time for her?

As well as a sneak peek favorite quote of mine from this story:

Lailah knew the sign by the highway said “Peachtree City: You’ll Love to Call it Home!”but she didn’t agree with the sign. Abu Dhabi still felt like home.

Can’t wait to share more updates about this story! Since it is a Ramadan story, couldn’t wait to share this news during this special month of Ramadan. Thank you to all who have encouraged me so far!

Why I Write

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My talented-writer-friend-mom-playdate-buddy Aisha Saeed participated in a blog hop, in which she wrote about her writing process here. Basically, you tag other writers and get to learn and relate to other people’s writing processes, something I find interesting to see how each person’s mind works! Aisha has a novel coming out next year – Written in the Stars  – which is really exciting! I love reading her thoughts on her blog, so am looking forward to reading her novel. on March 24th, 2015!

 What am I working on/writing? 

Right now, I’m trying to focus on children’s book stories. When Z was born, I was very invested in getting a story published and had a lot of gumption! When it didn’t work, I took a break and delved into photography and loved it! I feel like I have a creative reserve and can choose where to apply it. During my teaching years, the reserve was all used up. When being a stay-at-home-mom, I really wanted to use my creativity, so writing stories for children was one way to get my thoughts out. Blogging is also another way I love sharing my thoughts – I like how photos can complement my words. I got distracted with blogging, photography and baby A in the middle, and am now trying to use that creativity for writing children’s manuscripts, and the children’s book world. Trying to find a new balance and a new focus that will hopefully pay off!

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How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?

I’ve been reading and reviewing a lot of children’s books here, especially those in the Muslim children’s book world, books about Eid, Ramadan, and general multicultural stories. It’s been great to see that there are quite a few wonderful books out there written already. Reading these stories has shown me what is in this genre already, and what other stories need to be  told. I’m planning on telling those untold stories.

Even for college application essays, my father would always say, write about the things that make you different so that you stand out. Good advice for writing picture books as well!

 

Why do I write what I do?

Because I think even more diverse voices need to be heard. Because my favorite part of teaching 2nd grade was Read Aloud time. Because the first place I go to in the library is the children’s section. I just love picture books – seeing illustrations complement the author’s words. Each picture book is a unique piece of art!

Also if I don’t get my thoughts out by writing, my mind gets clogged. The words keep bouncing around and the only way I can get them out and clear my mind is through writing. I’ve always loved writing, even as a child. When I was given a diary for my birthday as a child, I wrote in it and to this day I have kept a journal.  When moving from Abu Dhabi to America, I was happy to bring my journals along with me! It’s always fun to read my childhood journals, to see what I brought for lunch that day, and what activities we were up to!

 

 

How does my writing process work?

I wish I was more organized in this part, but am not. When thoughts come to me, I may write them down on a post-it, the back of an envelope, anything near me. Unfortunately, I don’t always keep track of these scrawly ideas. It’s usually the ideas that keep coming back to me that I know I need to get out of my head. Sometimes, I feel really creative and the words come v.easily. Those are the best times! Sometimes, the story keeps replaying in my head, and I can visualize it really well with illustrations and everything, but then the minute I see in front of my laptop, my mind can go blank or wander. That can be frustrating, so I may take a break, or get forced to take a break (with my 2 little ones around me), and find that the story replays in my head again when putting baby A to sleep, or when cleaning the crumbs off my kitchen floor.

 

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I love how a messily scrawled idea can take shape and become a story, so that’s why I keep writing!

I hope this writing process was helpful for writers!

Next, as part of this blog hop, I’d like to introduce a best friend/ex-roomate who will be blogging about their writing life next week. Check out her blog next week to find out what inspires her!

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Salma has a witty sense of humor, is a scientist, aspiring pharmacist, and quirky baker who bakes delicious goodies! She’s the type of person  who always has lots of funny things happen to her when she goes grocery shopping. She blogs here and  you can follow her on twitter here @snstoman

 

 

Allah’s Prophets: Board Game Review!

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I’ve been reviewing books, so when Share the Deen, a company that makes entertaining&educational Islamig games and products, reached out to me about reviewing a board game, I thought it would be fun! I’ve only played a real Islamic board game once, during a Youth Group night at the masjid. It was fun; I didn’t know quite a few answers, but I thought it was cool to have a real game. So many games I’ve had to make for Sunday School, simple ones with flash cards. Even today, Z and I played a makeshift fishing game, with a magnet, Arabic letters, and paper clips!

So when Allah’s Prophets (one of their popular board games) came in the mail, I was excited to start playing. I’m actually looking forward to playing this with my 7 year old niece as she’s just the right age for this. Z can’t read so is too young, but I had her help me play it on my own today. Baby A lingered nearby and loved fiddling with the cards (and knocking them over!) I need to play this when she’s napping.

There is an answer key which is important to keep. This is a memory game, with a twist that I really like. Instead of just matching up the cards, you match the Q and A cards, question and answer cards. The instructions also give a few options of how to play this game. I also liked that the cards were about the prophets and varied from easy to challenging/tricky. This game, I knew lots of answers which I liked!

This would also be a great game for Sunday School. I could totally imagine students happily playing this. The cards are colorful (Z enjoyed making patterns!), and the game is professionally made and thought of! It also doesn’t have lots of tiny, annoying parts, but simple well-made cards, that are pretty easy to clean up. This is a great Eid gift for children 8+ or any person for that matter. Who said games are just for children anyways?! Also, put in the promocode, Ramadan14 to save 10% off this order here.

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