Friday, 16 December 2011

Muslim Writers Awards 2011

I've been away far too long from the blog ... blame my new book. What have I been up to? Quite alot but I'm only going to higlight one event which I attended. It was the Muslim Writers Awards held at the Shakespeare's Globe in London. A lovely venue by the river Thames. I had the honour of presenting the award for 'best unpublished children's story' to Mehdad Sinclair. Wonderful evening.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Visit to Batley library

I was invited by Batley Central Library to do a reading from my Zahra books today. A lovely sunny Saturday brought out lots of young children and their mums to the Gallery Room at the Carnegie library.
I read from some of my favourite chapters from my books. One of them was from’ Zahra’s Great Debate’ called ‘Spider’s Pie’. A somewhat mischievous Zahra takes revenge on her enemy Saira by depositing live spiders in a shepherds pie ... which Saira then eats!

Disgusting, I know, but I think the children in the room enjoyed that chapter. I also read from ‘Zahra’s Trip to Misr’, the third book in which Zahra and her best friend Marya witness the runaway camel flee into the desert with an Academy pupil on her back. Who is the girl? Well, seeing as Zahra’s best friends, Hannah and Jo, are responsible for scaring the poor camel, most of the children guessed the unfortunate girl to be Saira!

I also took delight in showing the children the image that will feature on the cover of the fourth Zahra book. The title is ‘Zahra’s Second Year at the Khadija Academy’. It will be released, IA, in December 2011.

Thank you to Chris and Jane for arranging the event and making me feel so welcome. Thank you also to the mums who invited me to their children’s schools. I would love to come back to Batley! x

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Brit Writers Awards 2011

Had a great time at the Brit Writers Awards last night. Held at Madame Tussauds, the evening recognised new unpublished writers, poets and songwriters. These events do make a difference in bringing new talent to everyone's attention. Last year's winner was Catherine Cooper whose book 'The Golden Acorn' has been published. Since then she's sold foreign rights to her work and has even had Hollywood buy her film rights!
Well done, Catherine.
If you're feeling inspired the Brit Writers Awards Unpublished 2012 is open now for submissions.

(with the lovely Zareen Roohi Ahmed, co-organiser of the Brit Writers Awards
and Orianne Breakspear, the winner of the under 16s poetry)

Friday, 7 October 2011

British Muslim Fictions

Had a lovely time last night at the launch of Claire Chamber's book 'British Muslim Fictions' in Bayswater. The synopsis is below. Worth a read if you're interested in British Muslim fiction.
(Photo: Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, me, Claire Chamber & Wendy Meddour


What does it mean to be a writer of Muslim heritage in the UK today? Is there such a thing as 'Muslim fiction'? In a collection of revealing new interviews, Claire Chambers talks to writers including Tariq Ali, Ahdaf Soueif, Hanif Kureishi, and Abdulrazak Gurnah to discuss the impact that their Muslim heritage has had on their writing, and to argue that this body of writing is some of the most important and politically engaged fiction of recent years. From literary techniques and influences to the political and cultural debates that matter to Muslims in Britain and beyond - such as the hijab, the war on terror and the Rushdie affair - these thirteen interviews challenge the idea of a monolithic voice for Islam in Britain. Instead, together they paint a picture of the diversity of voices creating 'British Muslim fictions' which ultimately enriches the cultural, social and political landscape of contemporary Britain.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Forced Marriage Seminar

I attended a seminar organised by the Foreign Office in London last week. It focused on forced marriages and the need to reach out to ‘closed communities’.

Excellent speakers were in attendance. The Crown Prosecution Service’s Communities Director, Nazir Afzal, chaired the event and information from the likes of the Joint Head of the Forced Marriage Unit at the Foreign office Suzelle Dickson to Hannana Siddique of Southall Black Sisters was shared.

It seems we have come some way from ten years ago when the issue was ignored by the authorities because of cultural sensitivities. Now there are forced marriage orders, new legislation to prevent a forced marriage, and the police and judiciary have also had training to deal with the issue.

One thing stood out for me though. It became clear as the seminar progressed that the one place where awareness needed to be pushed was neglected. This was in schools. Several community and social workers stood up and noted that some schools just refuse to distribute prevention information to their pupils. Why? Fear of offending community groups.

Hmm, seeing that most forced marriage victims are under the age of sixteen, how can schools place cultural sensitivity over child protection?

Perhaps the Department of Education should make it a requirement for the school to distribute this information.

Friday, 11 March 2011

World Book Day & International Women's Day

Happy World Book Day to all as well as International Women's Day.
March has to be my favourite month.
I've been very happily busy marking the two days with visits to schools. From as north as Yorkshire to Birmingham and back to London, I've been reading from my new book 'Zahra's Trip to Misr' and answering children's questions.
I take delight in the questions everytime and am always pleased with the show of hands when I ask who would like to grow up to become a writer.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Library closures

An interesting read this morning in the Independent. An article by Andrew Grice states that it has emerged that American firms could take over the running of libraries in Britain. LSSI, an American firm which manages 13 public libraries across the US, has set itself a target to manage libraries in eight British local authorities by the end of the year & to capture 15% of the market within five years. Libraries cld house coffee shops & bring in self-scanning technology. Ministers say they are relaxed about having ‘a Starbucks in the library’ if that keeps libraries open. Nearly 400 are threatened with closure, a figure that could rise to 800 by the end of the year. UK firms will also bid for library contracts.

So should American firms be running our libraries? Should they be privatised in this way? This is what the American Library Assoc’s Roberta Stevens had to say: ‘[private-sector firms] cannot guarantee the same level of transparency. Local authorities have to be absolutely clear on the terms of contract when entering into these deals. British taxpayers risk losing their own tax pounds to American firms’.

I think local authorities should take heed of what Stevens says - but what's the alternative?
My view is that the libraries should not be shut down. My local library was a lifeline in my childhood.
A lover of books, my working class parents couldn't afford to buy me the weekly fix I needed. I ploughed through an average of four books and more in the holidays and at weekends.
It would be terribly unfair to take away free books from the section of society who love to read but can't afford to buy books. I would even go so far as to say that closing libraries in working class and deprived inner city areas will reinforce the poverty trap.

Keep our libraries open!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Rochdale's Creative Kids

Been away for a while but keen to share my thoughts again.
I was in Rochdale Town Hall last week delivering a creative writing session to a hall full of over 100 kids. I asked them to write the blurb for my new book, Zahra's Trip to Misr'.
Some great storylines ... damn ... some were even better than my own story.
Read all about it on the website link: