I’m just starting to recline on the dental chair when the chirpy hygienist comments that she loves my book and her son loves it too.
I’m a bit confused considering my book Lailah’s Lunchbox was just released a few days ago. She sees the confusion in my eyes and tells me that my father had a dentist appointment the day before and had gifted my book to her at the office.
Each Ramadan, my father will order a carton of books and give them out to coworkers, employees, friends, a smattering of people – like the aforementioned dental hygienist!
Before when people would ask me what I did, I would usually say I stayed home with my children and work from home. I do stay home with my children, but I send out emails and do social media for the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. I do stay home with my children, but I also try to keep writing picture books and middle grade books.
A couple years ago, I was sitting with a fellow mother at gymnastics. Once a week for the school year, we sat together while our braided-hair-daughters practiced cartwheels and balanced on beams. Little siblings swiped iPads and the air was charged with kid energy and sweaty feet. Still, we would attempt conversation over the cacophony of noise.
We had just figured out that our daughters were born on the same day, in the same hospital, with the same doctor, a couple of hours apart! She Facebook friended me and her first question was, “Wait, you wrote a book?”
A noddy sort of smile.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
A shruggy sort of smile.
It’s much easier to write about what I do online on a Facebook profile or a blog. But now, in real life, I try to tell people that I write, that I have a book, that you can find my book at the library! I got better at telling people. Once when my husband told someone I wrote a book, a few seconds later they had it in their Amazon card and had ordered it!
So telling people what you do, although hard, is a good thing to do.
A few years ago, in 2015 I was sort of self-quarantining myself as my immunity was low and I had just undergone chemo treatment. Lailah’s Lunchbox was being released and I was elated to be a picture book author. I was also healing and getting better and with the low immunity had to wait a little bit until I could physically present to groups of students. One post-chemo appointment, my father and husband coaxed me to come out for lunch at a restaurant. I remember dunking my chips in salsa and looking around at all the people milling around, the jarring feeling of being out and about.
A few weeks later, when I was better, I remember the excitement of being presented as an author to a gaggle of children. I felt ready to read and present my book to the world!
So now, in 2020 it has been truly humbling to see where my book has gone. The great thing about having a ‘seasonal-ish’ book is that you see it come to life each Ramadan. I love seeing my book in your Ramadan displays, your read-alouds, and more!
Each Ramadan, I may do a read aloud or two and then I try to stay home. In Ramadan, your energy is lower and balance that with schlepping the children to school, domestic chores, grocery errands, etc, being choosy about what presentations I said yes to was important.
This Ramadan is vastly different. When I get requests to do Facebook Lives or Instagram Lives or a webinar or a Zoom call with my book, I tried to say yes. I didn’t have to go anywhere except my daughters’ bedroom by the book shelf, the most presentable location, ideal for lighting, and … books! I dust off my headset and microphone, change out of pajamas, maybe wear my contact lenses and read my book! It takes a lot less energy than driving through Atlanta traffic to a school or mosque, and I get done within a few minutes.
Presenting at home can be tricky since I do have little children, so I tried to do one presentation a weekend.
I’ve enjoyed it! Below are pictures that I’ve been tagged on Instagram.
Thank you for inviting me to read my book to your group.
Thank you for purchasing my book.
Thank you for posting about my book, tweeting about it, taking photos of it, even creating beautiful Ramadan displays with it!
Thank you for gifting my book!
Librarians and Educators, thank you for sharing my book with your students.
Family, thank you for always ordering my book and gifting it to the world.
Tilbury House Publishers, thank you for publishing my story!
Lea Lyon, thank you for illustrating my story!
Audrey Maynard, thank you for editing my story!
These last 10 days of Ramadan, I plan to keep a lower profile. If you celebrate Ramadan, I pray your last 10 days are full of blessings and answered prayers. To the rest of the world, see you soon!