Breathe now, heh, heh, heh.
Deeper. Expand your diaphram!
Heh, heh, heh.
There now, that’s better.
Too too busy!
King for a Day has been chosen by Kirkus as one of the best books of 2014!!!
So now lesse, my little book King for a Day has been nominated for the Irma Simonton Black Award; it’s a Bank Street College Best Books of the Year ‘outstanding merit’ book; it’s a Junior Library Guild selection; it’s nominated for the Maine Chickadee award, and now it’s chosen by Kirkus as one of the best books of 2014!
Here’s the video book talk/tutorial I made for it!
Posted by: Rukhsana Khan in: presentations
Yesterday I went to Milton to present at the Celebrating Stories Festival.
It was a pleasure because I got to meet a number of fellow Canadian authors including Lana Button . She wrote these books about a little shy girl named Willow and one of the things that impressed me so much about these books is how well she’s captured the group dynamics of a typical classroom. And the fact that Willow is a *different* sort of character/protagonist.
Frankly I’m rather sick of all the homogeneity of characters in books these days. Most of them contain characters who are pretty much interchangeable. Willow in Willow’s Whispers and Willow Finds a Way, is refreshing!
Lana was just sitting there at a table, she hadn’t been invited to take part in the festival, she was just selling her books by herself, and I saw her there and struck up a conversation. Boy do I know what it feels like to sit there at a table selling books! (Not my favourite thing to do!!!)
Also had a fabulous time with Kari Lynn Winters.
It was a delight to meet Kari, I’d heard her name bandied about but had never had a chance to meet her, and it was only when I looked her up online that I realized how many books she’s published! Her book about bees looked very interesting!!!
And I met Werner Zimmerman! Werner is a charming illustrator of children’s books and a staple of Canadian literature!
It was such a pleasure to meet him!
And one of the most interesting things that happened was when he showed us two drawings from his portfolio and when I was admiring them, telling him how very beautiful they were, he said, “I only see the mistakes.”
And I found that shocking!
Wow! If someone of his caliber felt that way…
And then he went and bought Big Red Lollipop and had me sign it for his granddaughter! Just such a nice guy!
Had an audience of about a hundred parents and their toddlers.
I must say, I’m getting used to toddlers.
On Saturdays at Fairview Library my storytelling sessions are a LOT of toddlers and I have tried to find stories that would appeal to that age group. I thought I was failing horribly at my storytelling skills till the library staff told me how wonderfully engaging I was!
And the interesting thing is, the audiences have been building!
It’s nice to see people eager to hear my stories, and I am learning new ones. But it’s hard!
Out of my comfort zone.
Very very frazzled!
And today I spent most of my time doing paperwork!
Been being interviewed a lot these days!
Here’s me on Radio Islam out of Chicago:
And here’s the mayor of Edmonton reading Big Red Lollipop!
Just got off the phone with another artist, and there’s something about collaborative works that’s completely energizing.
Much better than working alone, slogging away after the initial euphoria of the concept washes over you and you have to get down to putting your vision down on paper!
I might be wrong but I think George Lucas began Star Wars with a novel, and that seems to be the way of things. You need to get a story’s vision down on paper before people will commit the big bucks to bringing the idea to life on the screen.
Read a fascinating article on the negative aspects of perfectionism and realized that I suffer from the idea of perfectionism.
Of course you want to do the best you can, but striving for perfection can really cripple you because it’s an impossibility.
When we say ‘alhamdu lillah’ “All Praise belongs to God/Allah” we should really mean it, we should be conscious of what we’re saying.
And we should definitely not be striving for perfection in order for people to praise our work.
I think alhamdu lillah, I’ve gotten to the point where it really is all about the work. The project. I just want to tell a good story!
There is a whole load of pleasure that comes from constructing a really good story that can touch the hearts and move the minds of the people experiencing it!
Went to Calgary last Thursday and I think I’m still recuperating. It wasn’t a ‘hard’ trip, but it was extremely hectic! Rushed from the airport to do the first presentation at a school. Only problem was my flight was late and there was little time.
One of my host librarians was kind enough to give me a honey crisp apple, Oh boy! They are my new favourite type of apple!!! Yummy! Yummy!!!
That apple was enough to replenish me enough so I could do the presentation. Then it was a late lunch.
And early next morning I was at another library doing presentations and then I’d contacted the Islamic school in Calgary to see if they wanted me to do some presentations as I was in town.
I’m thinking I should have just used the time to relax. Catch my breath. Don’t work so hard for goodness sakes because it’s not necessary!
I’m not as young as I used to be! Although it’s hilarious everyone always tells me I don’t look 52.
But alhamdu lillah. I did the other school presentations and I came home in one piece.
But I think what really really gets me excited is the actual story creation process.
I do love presenting to the audiences, but my first love will always be making the stories!
I just told a good friend of mine that when the writing is going well, the blog isn’t, and vice versa, so please have patience with me.
Sometimes there are just other priorities.
I really do feel like a juggler with too many balls in the air, and the blog ball is important, but at the risk of going nuts…well you know sometimes you just have to know when to put a ball down.
I have been trying to keep the blogging to at least once a week, but that hasn’t always been possible. It’s a testament to how busy I am that I haven’t even noticed I’ve gone over a week since my last frenzied post.
Needless to say a LOT has happened and continues to happen! I’m traveling to Calgary tomorrow insha Allah to do two presentations at libraries there, and I had contacted an Islamic school in Calgary to tell them I had time available to possibly do a quick visit.
It’s really an awkward thing to cold call a school like that!
Makes me feel like “Who the heck do I think I am?”
Reminds me of the days I’d cold call pharmaceutical and medical labs to see if they had any job openings.
Knowing perfectly well that they had no idea what a good worker I’d have been and what a good opportunity it was for them to hire me…well it’s isn’t easy.
And compound that with the fact that things were hectic for Islamic schools and for me because last Saturday was Eid ul Adha.
What a day that was! Took me right back to my own Hajj. Boy do I miss it!
I miss the Kaaba, I miss the feel of the Haram. I miss going around it in tawaf and I miss the Prophet’s Masjid in Medina.
So anyway, I had some time in my schedule so basically I’d been calling this Calgary school since last Friday, to no avail. And finally I asked the lady who answered the phone who inquired whether I wanted to leave yet another voice message for the principal, I asked her honestly, “Is it worth it? Aren’t I just bothering him?”
And she told me, “No! He knows who you are! He’s just been really busy!”
Of course. Of course. Don’t take it personally Rukhsana!
But now I’m set to leave home in less than twelve hours and my itinerary isn’t even confirmed.
So I resigned myself to just doing the two presentations I was booked for, thinking ‘hey, you snooze you lose’, when I get a phone call from the principal… but it was almost Maghrib time so I asked him to call me back in fifteen minutes, and he did. And it looks like it’s on.
I will be visiting the Calgary Islamic school after all. One way or another.
We’ll see how it goes.
I’m looking forward to Calgary. It’s got such a different feel to it! Haven’t been out west for a while.
It’s so nice when I get to meet with Muslim students! Oh what wouldn’t I have done to meet a Muslim author like me when I was a kid?!!!
LOL. I know that sounds super conceited and I certainly don’t mean it like that, but it’s true.
On another note, I’m struggling with the motivations of a very nefarious character!
It’s a crucial scene, and it’s just not sitting right!
Went to visit one of my daughters and I was telling her about my struggle with it and she said an interesting thing. She said, “It’s because you don’t think like that, Mom.”
And I thought, “Duh!” Of course! No wonder it’s so hard for me to get this character right! I would NEVER EVER do what she’s ready to do!!!
So I’ll really have to dig deep to figure out what someone says to themselves when they do this kind of thing!
If that sounds cryptic too bad, I really don’t want to give away any spoilers.
This novel has been SO much fun to write up till now! There are so many scenes that make me laugh out loud and even make me feel quite clever!
But this one scene…if I can get it right, then the rest of the novel should be pretty easy sailing.
Oh busy busy.
Had to edit one of my husband’s new ebooks too. A set of 101 motivational quotes, and two of them really caught my eye. I plan to use them in my adult writing workshop that starts on Tuesday evening.
Oh, and I did a phone interview for Channel Islam, a radio station out of Chicago. Will put up the link as soon as I get it!
Lots and lots of stuff to do! So please excuse me if I’m scarce.
I will do my best to blog but I can make no promises.
Over and out.
I feel like a teacher with lesson plans!
Last Friday I began the teen writing workshop.
Now I’ve done hundreds of writing workshops so this was easy peasy. Hardly even planned for it because I have writing exercises ingrained in my head! I could do them in my sleep. And then I got nervous. What if my mind goes blank?
What if I stand up in front of this room full of teenagers and can’t remember a thing???
Better to over plan rather than not plan enough. So I thought of a good dramatic exercise to do to get these teens writing.
And then…lo and behold, one of the librarians was sitting in on my workshop.
It’s very nerve wracking to know you’re being watched!
I must say, one of the exercises I did was brilliant, if I say so myself.
It got them writing tout de suite!
And they came up with some pretty remarkable stuff.
And then at the end, some of the teens were so chatty, I didn’t get out of the building for another half hour. They kept asking me questions. What about this? What about that?
Questions that really weren’t urgent, but it was one of those situations where you give a talk and the people come rushing up to you at the end of it, not so much because they’ve got a question but rather because they want to be close to you.
Has that ever happened to you?
Have you ever done that to a speaker who really moved you?
For me the answer to both is yes!
It’s like an instinctual thing. They mob the speaker if they really liked the talk!
So tomorrow, October 1st I start the teen public speaking workshop.
Again, not hard! Done lots of storytelling workshops and really, what’s the dif?
But going to the library basically every other day is grueling.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.
It’s just that they’re definitely getting their money’s worth! And in between critiquing work on line, writing my own stuff, and roughing out a non-fiction book, I’ve got enough on my plate!
Oh, and this Saturday is Eid ul Adha!
hee hee, when it doesn’t rain it pours!
But masha Allah, I am learning a LOT!
with all the new stuff I’ve been learning!
But of course it’s been a very *uncomfortable* process.
You know that feeling when you’re in the midst of the learning curve, you’re not proficient yet, you’re still struggling…
Well that’s where I am right now.
And it’s funny but with this artist residency, I’m dealing with people who are at the beginning of the learning curve, and in explaining things to them it actually makes me feel incredibly intelligent (ha! ha!).
And I recall all the things I’ve learned and grown through.
Now to get to the next level.
Had a conversation with one of my son in laws and my hubby and my son about what they would do in a certain circumstance, and in the process I realized, ONCE AGAIN, how differently men think from women.
I really like the way men tend to think.
It seems more intelligent than women.
But not really.
They’re more blunt and up front, which is something I tend to admire.
And yet they can also be harsh and off-putting, which is something I don’t admire.
But then I realize that these are not all men I’m talking about, these are only the small subset of men that are major forces in my life.
And that leads to me to think of how self-selected they are.
I tend to surround myself with honest and upright people. Don’t have much time or use for game players and double talkers!
So the men I’m referring to are a small subset of all men in that these are honest and upright, so no way does it refer to all of them out there!
And I start thinking of all the commercials that put men down these days.
The cold commercials that refer to men as ‘babies’.
And then I think of my husband who sniffles through any cold or flu he has with such stoicism that I usually can’t even tell he’s sick.
Whereas I’m the one grumbling and whimpering under the covers.
Oh it’s all nonsense!
And I’ve been thinking how most of the movies out there tend to sell us a bill of goods that women are emancipated, liberated! And yet the movie roles all tend to feature MEN. The women and girls are reduced to Amazonian stereotypes and that’s supposed to satisfy the feministas, and it does!!!
Like in the movie How to Train Your Dragon (an excellent movie by the way), the girl Astrid character, played by America Ferrera or whatever her name is (can’t be bothered googling it!) is this hot tough chick with a few lines, but the bulk of the heroism is done by Hiccup.
You could interchange these Amazonian sidekick love interests in any of the movies easily! I’m sure! And not even miss a beat!
It’s LAZY storytelling! Using stock characters! And the audiences eat it up! And women in the west watch it and think they’re so much more better off than their Middle Eastern counter parts.
And then you have stupid stupid music videos all inspired by that stupid stupid Miley Cyrus twerking nonsense. #mileycyrus #twerking
The most recent one where the person reviewing it actually said it looked gross, so of course I wanted to see it and then immediately regretted it afterwards, but took away an interesting observation, so I kind of don’t regret it at the same time.
If you can *learn* from something is it still profane??? I actually don’t think so. I think that these people going to these lengths to get noticed is a cautionary tale for the rest of us with enough beans to resist the trends and stand on our own identities.
I won’t mention the video name, don’t want to give it any more publicity (ha!!) but suffice it to say it involves gyrating and basically nudity with a thong, and the whole theme of the song is about how large a girl’s particular body part is.
This is empowerment???
One recent promoter on line tweeted it as soft porn, and yup, that about sums it up.
I call it the #howlowcanyougo phenomenon.
All these women are competing with each other to degrade themselves sexually!
So all these observations are rattling around in my head, making me feel all unsettled inside.
And yet curiously also making me feel all the more that I’m on the right path #islam
I *like* that I cover up the goods!
I *like* that my junk is private!
And boy am I glad that stuff is forbidden!
Let the girls struggle with it, but stay away from it. John Oliver summed it up well when he talked about fully dressed men walking by women in bikinis at the Miss America pageant. #johnoliver
And it reminded me of the ancient Egyptian concept of the fact that the more clothes you wear, the higher up in society you are. Slaves were the naked ones. And now the naked ones are the ones with their butts in the air, on stage, trying to shock the crowd.
And what happens when they get too old?
What happens when they reach the ‘best before’ date, when their sexuality expires?
When they’re young they never think of that do they?
But live by the sword and you’ll die by the sword. And it reminds me of that autobiography of Liz Taylor’s that I read a while back. Where some producer had told her that they couldn’t imagine Marilyn Monroe old, only young, but that Liz had aged well.
And that goes back to the way men think. It’s like they like women, and they use them sexually, but then they got on with it, and are more focused on DOING things.
Whereas women seem to be more focused on LOOKING hot, alluring, glamorous, what have you, these days. And pity the girls who don’t fit the mold!
Stupid stupid! Don’t they realize that’s just another way to distract them and keep them from achieving their potential???
And that reminded me of Pippi Longstocking, who didn’t give a hang about how she looked. She went out and did things!
More and more things to think of!
And yeah, I want to tell girls, forget the mirror! Get out and DO something! #forgetthemirror
The last few days have been.
I feel completely and utterly wrung out, like I don’t want to do a single thing even when I’ve got tons of stuff to do.
My nephew was with me last week. He was en route to a new job overseas. What a wonderful time we had together! But that said, it’s exhausting!
Basically since Thursday it’s been non-stop, non-stop, and before that it was really busy too.
And yet things happened that I wanted to share.
The artist residency in the library has been going very well!
One of the ladies in the Your Life as a Picture Book, session said, quite rightly, that six hours was not enough! We’d need more time! So she’s going to be coming on Monday afternoons when I’m in residence and the other lady will retake the workshop when I run it for adults in the evenings in October, insha Allah.
The Get the Bully Off Your Back Workshop on Saturday afternoons has been eye-opening.
I designed an exercise to show the kids that they need to be gentle with themselves.
I got them all, including their parents to sit in a large circle. I gave them index cards and told them to write what they liked/admired most about their best friend, and then to write something that bothered or annoyed them about their best friend.
Then on the back of the card I asked them to write what their friend would say they admired most about them and then what bothered them about them.
They shared this with the group.
Then I asked them, “So how would you tell your best friend to fix what bothers you about them?”
One of the kids said how she’d gently tell her to do this, don’t do that, etc. etc.
I said, “Exactly! You wouldn’t say to your best friend: “You’re so disgusting! You’re like a big piece of dirt! Why do you do so and so!” And they all started laughing.
Then I asked the kids who was the closest to them, who was the best friend they could ever have? Some said their parents. I said, “No, more than your parents. Who cares about you the very most?” One said, “My brother.” I said, “No, more than your brother or sister.”
And then they said, “Myself.”
“You should be your own best friend. Just like you would be gentle to tell your friend what they needed to change to fix themselves, you should be even more gentle on yourself.”
Be honest, but don’t ever beat yourself up.
And then I talked about how we all tend to do that. And I told them how just last night I had eaten some cookies I really didn’t want to eat, and I tell myself, “You’re so disgusting! You’re so dumb! Why’d you eat those cookies!? etc.”
You should have seen the little lights go on in their eyes.
Afterwards I gave the kids more index cards to write down a question for me that I hadn’t addressed already so I could address it in the third session. And the questions they came up with…Gee, it feels like I’ll need another three weeks to answer them! What they’re really trying to do is *understand* bullying. And isn’t that something society has been trying to do for millennia? To understand why some people choose to be cruel and inhuman to others?
I think this Saturday’s final session will be a long discussion.
And then, lo and behold, yesterday at the Telling Tales Festival, I meet the parents of an old bully of mine. They had been our neighbors. They heard I was going to be there and came up to me to say hello.
It was surreal.
They seemed so nice! And yet, at the end of the conversation the father says, “Oh yeah, we remember that your older sister and … used to get into it sometimes.”
That was the extent of their acknowledgement that their son used to pick on us so that we were scared to even go outside.
And when I asked them if they were going to stay for my presentation, a non-committal, “Maybe for a bit”, and then they left.
It was fascinating!
So then I started doing my schtick, read from King for a Day but it was hard because my eyes couldn’t focus properly with the glasses with the progressive lenses I was wearing and I don’t know the story well enough to just ‘tell’ it like I usually do. And afterwards I did my Big Red Lollipop version
Oh what a hit!
Started with a small group! By the time I was done, there were close to eighty or even a hundred people listening! You know how the audience can trickle in! Well they ended up almost selling out of Big Red Lollipop, I think there were two left!
And the volunteer who introduced me told me that I had been fabulous, ‘the best presenter in the whole day’! Wow!
Got to meet a lady from who’d processed my application for a grant program. She told me she was so excited to receive my application. She loved my work!
And I thought wow, I had worked so hard to get that application in on time, diligently providing all the paperwork they asked for. She said it had been a hard decision.
And then later there was one of those schmooze events, where we presenters could hobnob with the sponsors and organizers of the festival and I got to meet two very interesting people who ran a marketing business called Muse Marketing. They had done a wonderful job promoting the festival! I mean the turnout topped 7000 people!
They were SO interesting! I told them about an author I’d met in Wisconsin who’d informed us that she’d paid $10,000 to a publicist to market her and all she’d gotten in return was an interview in a local paper.
And how I’d paid about $150 to an online firm and gotten a professional looking press release that was sent out to all kinds of media, and as a result I’d received a profile on CBC National and a piece in the Toronto Star as well as Arab News, etc.
We talked and I got to pick their brains!
I told them about my experience with hecklers at the L.A. SCBWI conference, and the gentleman told me that I should view the experience positively!
He said it was the ‘balance’. Here I’d received the accolades and the high of doing a wonderful job in my acceptance speech for the Golden Kite award and the negative anonymous email I received was balance.
It was the ‘bitter’ to the ‘sweet’.
And he said I should see it as an accomplishment! “You earned a heckler!”
I couldn’t help laughing! I’d never thought of it in that way before!
And one of the most interesting things the lady said to me was that I should market myself in terms of where I want to be, not where I am currently. And she asked me where I saw myself. I told her I want to be world famous, like J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman, and she said then that’s what I needed to focus myself on in terms of marketing.
I’m definitely working on it.
And she also said that I’d done well by changing my pitch to focus on the newsworthiness of the announcement. To the Canadian media I pitched it as I was the only Canadian woman on the New York Public Library list of 100 greatest children’s books in the last 100 years.
To South Asian media I pitched I was the only author of Pakistani origin, and to the Arab News I pitched I was the only Muslim on it.
All in all it was a fabulous experience!
It’s so lovely meeting new and interesting people!!!
I can’t believe how busy I am!
My schedule as artist in library at Fairview is chugging along! Sometimes I feel like I barely have time to catch my breath before I need to begin a new program/project/presentation.
But it’s fun!
And the people I’m meeting might very well be teaching me more than I’m teaching them!
I’ve had to re-jig a bunch of things.
The ‘Get the Bully Off Your Back’ presentation that I normally do for teenagers, I’ve had to re-jig for 5-12 year olds and their parents.
It’s been quite the learning experience!
And the program I developed for seniors called Your Life as a Picture Book, where we work on distilling the life experiences of senior citizens into about a thousand poetic words… has been such a success that the participants are saying that the 6 hrs that’s been allotted to the program isn’t going to be enough.
They’re doing some remarkable writing! And I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to stick to a thousand word limit, but hey, nobody said we had to be rigid in that regard!
I just submitted a blog for the Toronto Public Library for that program and I’ll post a link as soon as it’s up!
But on to Calgary.
I’m coming in early morning on Thursday October 9th, so if any schools in Calgary are interested in hosting me for presentations…I’m available!
I’ll be doing presentations at two libraries in Calgary, so hey, if you’re in the area, feel free to join me!
Haven’t been out west for a while! It’ll be fun insha Allah.
Tomorrow morning I’m going down to Rockton, Ontario for the Telling Tales festival that looks like a great deal of fun! I’ll be reading from King for a Day.
Friday, October 10
10:00 -11:00 am
Friday, October 10
What do you do when you get such a nice compliment that it kind of floors you?
I spend a lot of time reminding myself to not take myself so darn seriously! And I am really fortunate that I have a family who keeps me grounded. I don’t want to ever become one of those ‘la dee da’ types!
But when something you’ve been working and working towards actually happens…what do you do?
For years I wanted to basically get to the point where I developed an audience. Where by word of mouth people would come to see me, and this seems to be exactly what happened in India last November, when I was fortunate enough to tour for my Indian publisher Duckbill, who’d bought the rights to Wanting Mor.
The interesting thing about that Indian tour of Delhi, Bangalore, Amritsar and Pune, was that I could not do my normal Wanting Mor presentation. I’d developed a powerpoint! And then the presentations were taking place in parks, with trees and grass!
But that’s where being a storyteller really comes in handy! I improvised, changed the whole presentation so it was me storytelling how I’d come to write Wanting Mor and funny thing is it worked out to be better, WAY better, than the powerpoint, and I’ve changed the presentation ever since.
Well… this is what Duckbill said about me recently:
We had never quite believed the Julius Caesar came-saw-conquered thing until we saw Rukhsana Khan in action. Julius Caesar, of course, had the support of a rather large army, while Rukhsana was armed only with her warmth, her charm and her stories.
At her first event in India, in Bookaroo last year, a substantial crowd gathered. People event hopping stopped to look and stayed till the end. At the second event, the same people were back and they came with their friends, families and neighbours. By the third event, the buzz had started long before the event did.
Rukhsana tells her stories with such conviction and such passion that to listen to her is to love her, and to feel that we too can take on whatever the world throws our way and come out stronger and happier.
Wow! Just wow!
It’s a bit overwhelming.
Kind of makes me wonder how I’m going to live up to such kind words!
On another note, today I started my first workshop at Fairview Public library for my residency. It was a workshop I called Seniors: Your Life As a Picture Book. And I was very dejected to find out that only one person had signed up for it.
I wasn’t sure how to proceed, so I contacted the librarians and she said we’d go ahead with the first session and see how it went, perhaps merge it into another workshop I was doing along the same lines for Adults in the evenings.
Well, two people showed up! Two very very dedicated people and I thought the two hours would drag, but not at all!
It was lovely!
And the funny thing was, while I was conducting the workshop, getting them to write out their thoughts about their births and their lives so far, looking for themes and meaning, I couldn’t help thinking “Gee, if I were them, I’d LOVE this!” and the older lady said to me, “We’re so fortunate, we get such individual attention!” And I have to agree.
They loved it and are firmly committed to coming for the other two sessions on Thursdays!
So up and down, these things happen.
But still, I feel fortunate.