I’m going to Iran to be a juror for their 16th annual Storytelling Festival.

It’s funny how it happened.

Came back from Singapore in December thinking of all the stuff that’s on my plate till the ‘next’ trip which was supposed to be in March, first to Texas for a day at a school down in Dallas and then two weeks in Alaska touring as their featured author–and yet something told me there’d be a trip before that.

How? I wondered! It was only a few months away! And yet here it is, I’m going to first Qatar for a couple of days and then Iran.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been invited to Iran. Many many years ago, someone from Kerman contacted me, probably for this very festival back then.

The approach I take is if it means promoting myself and my work, I go where I’m invited. Although that said, I wasn’t disappointed at all when it didn’t work out.

Turned out they didn’t contact me in time to work out the logistics of the visa.

This time it was worked out, despite the fact that our beloved prime minister Steven Harper (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek) kicked out the Iranian embassy months ago!

The people inviting me even talked about buying rights to all my books.

I think it would be amazing to know that Iranian children are benefitting from my stories!

But it does make me nervous.

Iran isn’t exactly friendly with the west right now! And at first I wondered if even going there would ‘taint’ me in some people’s eyes.

Isn’t that awful to think that?

I mean it’s a legitimate venture. It ABSOLUTELY makes sense that they’d be interested in my work! Why WOULDN’T I go???

Oh well. It’s what comes of living as a Muslim these days.

Not easy times to say the least.

And because old Harper boy kicked out their embassy, I have to stop a couple of days in Doha, Qatar to pick up my visa at the Iranian embassy there.

I wish the powers that be would stop ostracizing each other and just talk! Honestly it makes no sense.

Everyone knows Israel has hundreds of nukes and has repreatedly violated the borders of their neighboring countries, invading them at the slightest provocation! Who are they to demand anything of Iran in that regard? Especially when Iran has signed the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty and Israel has not.

Oh well, all this politics talk is making me feel ‘icky’, better just leave it and stick to what I do best, stories.

There’ll be storytellers from Russia, Japan, Australia, Portugal, Peru, Kenya, Australia and Malaysia among other places!

And the funny thing was when I told one of my storytelling friends, Dan Yashinsky about it. He’s such a lovely person! We’ve shared sets before and the fact that he’s Jewish and I’m Muslim, just added to the fun.

The funny thing was he knew about this Iranian storytelling festival! And told me about the youtube videos that had been uploaded. Said it was well renowned and a great opportunity!

What did I know about Iran except what I had heard in the media, and none of it good.

Isn’t it strange that it astonished me that such a country–and a Muslim country at that–would have had this storytelling festival for fifteen years, bringing in the wisdom of tellers from around the world, and me not knowing a thing about it!

Or maybe it’s not so surprising.

Here’s one of the past tellers at the festival, a lady named Wajuppa Tossa, from Thailand: