Generally I don’t consider myself a superstitious person.

I actually consider it a form of ‘shirk’. Shirk is considered the biggest sin in Islam. It’s the ascribing of any sort of partner to God.

By imagining that something like a black cat crossing your path, or the number thirteen is something to beware of, imagining that any of these things can harm you or bring ‘bad luck’ is investing a power in them that I do not believe they have.

And yet, I’ve always had a niggling feeling, and I recognize this as a sort of superstition, that I should always have a book in the works.

It started when I got my first book accepted in 1996. Within months of that, I got my second book accepted. Then in a few more months I suddenly had five books under contract.

Some people might not understand that it takes a good amount of time for a book to go from idea to contract and then to finished product. This is especially true in the case of picture books.

With picture books, an author has to wait for the illustrator to finish the artwork and that can take anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the illustrator.

So even though there was a drought after the acceptance of those first five books, I got the contract for Ruler of the Courtyard just before the last book came out and so I have always had a book in production.

I felt positively superstitious about it. There’s a sense of security in knowing that you have a book coming out. It’s something to pin your hopes on if the current book isn’t getting the reception you hoped it would.

I guess every author feels a little self-conscious about their work. They wonder is this the last book I’ll ever write? Will the ‘muse’ ever strike again? What if the well runs dry?

Last year I felt a good amount of trepidation with the upcoming publication of my picture book Big Red Lollipop. I didn’t have anything scheduled after that.

And then I was contacted by a television producer who works with the BBC and a Dubai organization in producing short animated segments in England. They bought a story from me, and voila, I was back in ‘production’.

True, it wasn’t a book, it was an animated segment of my story but it still counts, right?

And then days before Big Red Lollipop  was set to come out, it happened. I signed a contract with Scholastic to contribute to an anthology.

I can honestly say I have a book coming out. Mind you, it’s one story in the book, but still it’s something.

And in the meantime, I’ll finish the novel, God willing.

It’s funny how that’s working.

The little drought I had, in terms of selling stuff, came about when I was establishing myself as a storyteller. I wonder if it happened because of a sort of switching of gears. And I wonder if the same thing isn’t happening right now.

When I first began storytelling I thought it was a natural extension of story writing. I mean it makes sense. They both deal with story don’t they?

But the fact is, it isn’t. Story telling is a completely different skill.

Lately I’ve been so focused on novel writing, I wonder if my picture book writing hasn’t suffered somewhat.

It’s funny how it goes.

I wrote Silly Chicken  in ten minutes during a time when I was wrestling with what I thought would be my second novel. For about seven years I’d been working on the blasted thing, trying to make it work. And it all started from a suggestion from my agent at the time. She asked me to write a novel about immigration and racism.

I’d worked so hard to get her as an agent, I didn’t dare not listen. I thought, oh it won’t take long. So I wrote a novel that I eventually re-wrote for going on ten years, till it was spoiled beyond recognition. During this process, on one of my many visits to my mom, she told me a hilarious story from her childhood about a really dumb chicken that her mother’d had. 

I came home chuckling, thinking that it would make a very good picture book, and the next day I got the idea. I thought what if the girl who’s telling the story about this really silly chicken is jealous of the chicken! Oooh, sibling rivalry with a chicken! I loved it.

I sat down and wrote out the story in ten minutes. It was one of those ‘gifts’, when a story practically falls into your lap.

And I got it just in the nick of time, because Ruler of the Courtyard  came out and now I had Silly Chicken  in production.

Maybe it would have been better if the Scholastic contract had waited a while to come to fruition. It would have been nice to break this silly superstition.

For goodness sakes I know I sound pathetic.

But for now I have the security of knowing that both these projects are in production, and time to get going on finishing the next book.