Q & A with author and storyteller, Mehded Maryam Sinclair

I’ve always been fascinated by stories, the ones I read and the ones I hear. Most of us are used to hearing stores being read. But how many of us have heard stories being told? Storytelling is different from just reading a story.  I thought I would find out more about the world of storytelling from storyteller and author, Mehded Maryam Sinclair. 

She is the voice behind three audio CDs, The Bowing of the Stars, Miraculous Happenings in the Year of the Elephant and A Mercy to the Worlds; each of which tell the story of a different Prophet of Allah (peace be upon them). Mehded Maryam is also the author A Trust of Treasures (which I wrote about here) and Miraculous Happenings in the Year of the Elephant. She is currently working on production of another audio CD and writing a book. During the coming weeks she will be doing storytelling performances in Islamic schools located in several major U.S. cities.

 

Ummah Reads [UR]: Welcome to the blog Sister Mehded Maryam. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Mehded Maryam Sinclair [MMS]: I am a little old grandmother living in Amman, Jordan. I have 5 grandchildren alhamdulillah.

UR: When did you first know that you wanted to be a storyteller?

MMS: I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller.

UR: What is storytelling?

MMS: Storytelling is living, actually. Things happen to us, occur to us, inspire or puzzle or scare or delight us, and we immediately want to tell someone about them. Once they are told, shared, understood, they become different. Did you ever have the experience of telling a personal story on different occasions in different times to different people who happened to ask, and then on a particular time, your telling was deeper, more profound, maybe even made you choke up or cry when you never had before? This is an indication of how much a transaction storytelling is. The quality of a person’s listening has a huge impact on the teller.

UR: What’s the difference between reading and telling stories?

MMS: When you are telling a story you are in a creative moment that includes you, your listeners, and Allah. You are looking at them, they are looking at you, and your words form a bridge from your state and experience and feelings to their states, inner images and experiences. And Allah is orchestrating. When you are reading, obviously Allah is just as present, but you are dividing your time between the page and the essential solitude of reading, and your listeners. If the words you speak are authentic, that is, you don’t need to read them because they belong to you, they are rolling off your tongue without help, they will have a different impact on your listeners.

UR: Can you explain the oral tradition of poetry and telling stories in Islam?

MMS: I actually have not researched it much. One thing I have delved into slightly is the conflict between the scholars and storytellers and I must say that even though I consider myself a storyteller I come down on the side of the scholars on that one. The astonishing thing about our Islamic culture and traditions is that from the very beginning the knowledge was gathered, preserved, protected and developed by the most extraordinary efforts of scholarship the world has ever known: witness the memorizing of the entire Qur’an by most of the first Companions as it was being revealed and lived over 23 years, or the memorizing of thousands upon thousands of hadith along with their with their chains of transmission by hadith scholars in the later generations, or the painstaking Qur’anic interpretations in the light of other disciplines like politics, geography, sociology, and history that is the science of tafsir.

When this rich lode of pure knowledge is available, why muddy the waters with distortions and lies? Other religious traditions resort to distortions and lies because their true knowledge is lost; it is a habit of mind…we’ve lost it, let’s just make it up. Islamic knowledge is not lost, thanks to the incredible efforts of individuals who give their lives to learn and preserve and carry forward. And with the medicines of that knowledge, real transformation is possible. What has one gained, who has lost Allah, and what has one lost, who has gained Allah?

I don’t by any means intend to disparage fiction or even fantasy here. Both are really important, but for what? Not merely to entertain, for that is not why we are here. But fiction and fantasy can be surprisingly effective carriers and deliverers of Truth. But it is critically important, especially today, that you differentiate clearly for your listeners whether the story you are telling is make-believe or one that actually happened. The problem is not necessarily the fiction or fantasy per se but the failure to delineate fact from fiction. Another note about fantasy is that this delineation becomes very difficult to maintain when the setting of the fantasy is indistinguishable from normal everyday experience. In other words the delineation between fact and fantasy becomes totally lost within the story. This is one of the problems with a lot of the fantasy being written today, and with the Harry Potter series, for example. If you examine the fantasy of earlier times, Tolkein or CS Lewis or MacDonald, you will see that the delineation is very obvious throughout, and the over-arching values of the victory of good over evil, of the fitra over the fitnah, are very clear.

UR: How important is storytelling for children? What some of your thoughts on why we need to not just read stories but hear them as well?

 MMS: Of the five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing, it is hearing which is experienced first in the womb.

It is reported that Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Be an ear.”

The first word of Mawlana Jelaluddin Rumi’s Masnavi is, “Listen.”

If a child has a hearing defect which cuts him off from audible language in the womb, he will not learn to speak.

That’s how important listening is.

Just by listening, the normal child learns an amazing command of his/her native language within 3-4 years, even correctly manipulating grammar structures to express meaning in speech. Just by first listening and then diving into speech, mistakes and all, and then gradually the mistakes fall away. Obviously the ones who have a rich listening life, with lots of storying and storytelling and singing and chanting and being read to, will be even more successful, and their success will become even more evident in the later phases of language acquisition: reading and writing.

I think it’s vitally important not to stop at the idea of telling children stories or providing them with a rich audio diet, either. They should be encouraged to tell as well. Let’s say you go with them for a walk. Come back home and make the walk into a story. Get them to “story” their experience: to remember it, sequence it, expand it, reflect on it. “We put on our coats because it seemed chilly. We got outside and started walking, so we took them off again. Out there Mama told me the story of the sun and the wind. The wind tried to get the coat off the man. He couldn’t. The sun got him to take it off, just by smiling at him.  We saw a cat. I didn’t want to come back inside. I like the sun.”  Even the simplest of things can become stories. “We sat by the window and drank hot chocolate. It was sweet. I was happy,” is a major beneficial story for a 2 yr old.

This kind of activity can literally change your state and your child’s state. I remember finding this when sleeping with my granddaughter one night, who woke up in a fright. I consoled her but she was having none of it until I started telling her a story. I had no idea what I was telling her, just something like “There was a girl on a ship, and the wind was lightly blowing, blowing, blowing. The waves of the sea were gentle and carried the boat like a treasure chest. It was night and the moon was bright in the sky…” really, I saw then that it didn’t really matter where the story was going in that context. I believe that what was healing for her in that moment was the sound of my voice, and the images, and the unconscious agreement that “story” always entails, come, let’s go off together, somewhere wonderful…and then, of course, I was off the hook pretty quickly, because he was asleep in a matter of a very few short minutes.

I can remember with my own sons years ago, easing their upsets by getting them to tell the story of what happened to them. 

 

UR: What are some stories for children that you have available at present?

MMS: Miraculous Happenings in the Year of the Elephant won an award, alhamdulillah, from the Islamic Foundation. It is available as a picture book and as a CD. I might mention a friend whose 2-year-old went through a phase of wanting to listen to the CD over and over again, and insisting on having it playing at bedtime. The language is not simple – it wasn’t written for 2-yr olds, (and the CD is not a ‘reading’, but a ‘telling.’ By that I mean that the Photobucketlanguage it was written in had become part of me so that by the time I produced the CD, I had embodied the language and had very little need for the printed text) but he was attracted to the sound of the voice, to the drum, to the sound effects. Then a few months ago I saw his mother reading the book to him at age four, and I realized that had he not done all that listening it would have been hard for her to engage him with the language. But he was right with her, hanging on every word. His previous listening experience allowed him to enter language far beyond him.

I remember a friend from Toronto telling me that in her summer camp group of 11-year-olds, not one had ever been told the story behind Suratul Fiil. I find this tragic, and it is why I do what I do, may Allah help us and increase our efforts for His sake and the sake of His Ummah.

 PhotobucketThe Bowing of the Stars, Moments From the Life of Prophet Yusuf, peace upon him is a double CD. Every sentence of this was examined by one of Jordan’s top tafsir scholars and accepted, adjusted, discarded, or reformulated. He was working from five major tafseer works. It is accompanied by a recital of Sura Yusuf by the scholar himself, Sheikh Ali Hani.

 A Mercy to the Worlds – the Coming of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace CD was translated into Arabic and presented to the then Grand Mufti of Jordan, who suggested a couple of small changes and then wrote,

The teaching of the life of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace, is obligatory, and Ms. Sinclair has transmitted these meanings in a way based on the needs of her young listeners, a way sure to inspire love and longing for him and his Message. – Sheikh Nuh Al-Qudat, Grand Mufti of Jordan

A Trust of Treasures – A Praise-Song to the Power of the One is a picture book illustrated by Angela Desira, published by Kube UK in 2009.

 And coming soon, inshaAllah:

Wings – the Journal of a Young Muslim Girl book to be published by Kube UK early 2011.

The Bowing of the Stars – Moments from the Life of Yusuf, peace upon him, book illustrated with original watercolors by Jordanian artist Buthayna, published early 2011 by Turath/Huma UK

Moments from the Heart of the Holy Qur’an, The Prophet Musa, peace upon him audio CD

UR: What advice can you give to young people who wish to become a storyteller?

MMS: First, dua. If the Best of Creation made dua to fix his sandal, what are we doing? Spend some time reflection on what it is you’d like to accomplish with stories, and what kinds of stories you think are important. Then take it all to Allah, and beg Him to accept it, ask to be shown how to proceed.

Start telling! Find a story you love, and then pretend you can be present in the world in which it occurred. Identify why you love it. If it is a fictional story, be ready to make that very clear to your listeners. You can watch the whole thing unfold, like a fly on a wall, or as if through a crystal ball. Try to understand what the characters might have been feeling, and find those feelings in yourself. In doing this reflect that the human being, of all of Allah’s creation, is the one creature that has the power to enter the consciousness of any other particle of creation…with the power of imagination you can slip to the sea-bottom and watch the fluorescent eels. You can slip beneath the feather of a great bird and soar over the mountaintops.

If you want to tell the true stories of our tradition, of the prophets, or the companions, the work needs to have an element of what I have just described, but there are other principles that must be followed first and foremost. You must be totally dedicated to preserving the Truth. This means you have to dig, and in the right places. It’s not enough to stick just to the English sources, unfortunately, because they reflect translations of only small parts of the vast treasury in Arabic. If you know Arabic or can learn it, there is nothing that will serve you better. I only know enough Arabic to buy carrots, sadly, so I am constantly begging the friends and scholars around me for help and alhamdulillah they are generous and patient.

Anything you say must be in accord with what the scholars have shown us is the meaning and import of the story. It is not for us to insert ourselves into the lives and experiences of the prophets and companions and interpret them according to ourselves. We may suggest possibilities but they must be based upon and not in any way contradict what is known and verified in the sources. For the prophets, we must not attribute words to them that are not verifiable by direct quotes or meanings in the sources. The standard for telling from the life of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace, must be even more stringent, since our entire aqida and fiqh and ibadah are based on his sayings and doings. It is not permissible to attribute anything whatever to him that is not verified in the sources. May Allah protect us and guide us to work in ways that please Him and serve His Plan.

Please visit my blog at www.nuralqasas.wordpress.com, my (unfinished) website www.stories-of-light.com.

UR: JazakumuAllahu Khairan Sr. Mehded Maryam for your enlightening responses. It was a pleasure and honour to have you share your experience. Your work is truly inspiring adults and children to understand the moments and lives of some of greatest people who lived!

 

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Meet the Author: Q & A with Yahiya Emerick

Today in “Meet the Author”; I am honored to interview Yahiya Emerick. He is an author of over twenty books including the Ahmad Deen and Layla Deen series, an educator, a publisher and president of the Islamic Foundation of North America (IFNA).

 

Muslim Children’s Books and Media (MCBM): Assalamu alaykum brother Yahiya and welcome to the blog.

Yahiya Emerick (YE): Wa alaykum assalam, happy to be here!

MCBM: Tell us a little about yourself.

YE: Well, I was born and raised in a small town in the Midwest region of the United States.  I was raised as a Baptist Christian and had a pretty unremarkable childhood.  I became interested in theological issues when I was around fifteen years old after hearing a sermon one Sunday that made absolutely no sense.  The preacher was trying to explain the concept of the Trinity, and, needless to say, it made me more perplexed than before.  I accepted Islam when I was nineteen and away at college.  I had been reading the Qur’an for about six months and couldn’t deny the personal appeal from God to the reader.  Ever since then I’ve moved about and did some activists work and eventually I became a school teacher.  So here I am today.

MCBM: When did you begin writing? Why?

YE: I was an avid reader from an early age.  I really got into Sci-fi/Fantasy books at about thirteen years of age, and I always marveled at how skilled writers could weave entire worlds just from their own imagination.  I had some helpful creative writing teachers in grade school and I sometimes wrote short stories for fun.  I didn’t start seriously writing until after I had become a Muslim.  I saw that a lot of Islamic books were written in a very one-dimensional way without much verve or imagination.  I wanted to write books that would show people how I saw Islam when I came into it.  For me, Islam was a blend of spiritual, emotional, intellectual and practical things all woven together in an artistic tapestry that one could use to decorate their inner and outer world.  After being exposed to classical Muslim literature from the “Golden Age” I now know that this is exactly how Islam was lived before by so many, and it is the lens through which we must see Islam again.

MCBM: How did you come up with the Deen family (Layla and Ahmad Deen) stories?

YE: I was teaching a world history class to a bunch of sixth graders, and I wanted to spike up a lesson one day.  I started to narrate a tale, totally off the top of my head, about a boy named Ahmad who was exploring some old ruins.  My imagination got carried away and I found myself weaving a full-fledged adventure story.  The kids were mesmerized and I realized that part of the reason they were happy was that the story had a Muslim hero.  So that week I sat down and wrote, “Ahmad Deen and the Curse of the Aztec Warrior.”

MCBM: You have also authored several books on understanding the Qur’an, one especially for teenagers. What was the reason behind writing these books?

YE: As a movement, Muslims have so many blind spots that it’s sometimes unnerving.  There’s a reason that Christians and Jews have so many niche markets and books for all levels.  Muslims take it for granted that, well, a kid from a Muslim family will be and stay Muslim by osmosis and association.  Christians and Jews used to think like that, but then the secular world began to swoop in and steal their children.  Muslims have not fully reached this awareness that we have to do da’wah to our own children in order to win their loyalty for life.  I write books, therefore, to bring Islam to our young people in a way tailored for them.  Too many of our ‘scholars’ live in ivory minarets and fail to see the lives of the real people below them.

MCBM: Are you writing any books at present?

YE: All the time.  I always have at least 5-10 projects in one stage of completion or another.  If I didn’t have to work two jobs to support myself and my family, I could (inshallah) publish or produce a new product for our youth and for da’wah each month!

 

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Some of the many books witten by Yahiya Emerick

  

MCBM: Why do we need Islamic stories (fiction) in our schools?

YE: Kids form their attitudes by watching and imitating their peers.  That’s how they learn.  Most parents recognize pretty quickly that after about eight or nine years old, the average kid is pushing the boundary and seeking to explore beyond the world of mommy and daddy.  By puberty, kids look almost exclusively for inspiration and identity from their peer group.  Books are another window into viewing and adopting attitudes and if our kids spend their reading time reading only about non-Muslims and their world, then our Muslim kids will feel that the non-Muslim world is the ‘real’ world.  Nobody wants to be in the ‘unreal’ or ‘fake’ world, so even if our kids appear to be Islamic to us, in their minds they are only biding their time until they can fully enter the ‘real’ world.  After working with Muslim kids for fifteen years, I cannot tell you how many good little Ahmad’s and A’isha’s have transformed after their teenage years into something unrecognizable as a Muslim.  Having some books with Muslim characters allows our kids to see that, in addition to the non-Muslim world, there are places and spaces to be Muslim, also.  The two can even mix, and in that mix, Islam can still remain.

MCBM: What can parents do to encourage their children to read on the whole and especially to read Islamic literature?

YE: There’s lots of general advice out there on how to get your kids to become readers.  Of course, the kids have to see you reading all the time first.  Then you have to have lots of kids books and kids magazines around the house so there’s lots of opportunities to pick something up.  Weekly trips to the library and bookstore are a must.  Let your kids choose what they want to read.  Don’t try to blatantly micromanage.  Don’t interrogate your kids after every book or require a book report.  For Allah’s sake, cancel cable TV.  You don’t need it either.  In my house, we don’t even have regular TV service – by design.  (We only use the TV to watch DVDs.)  As for Islamic literature, you need to have a lot of it around!  Let your kids select things at book tables, bazaars, etc…  If you notice your local Islamic bookseller has little in the way of nice kids books, tell them to get some, or order online. 

MCBM: Why did you start the Amirah Publishing Company and what has been your experience as a publisher?

YE: I basically needed a venue to publish my own work.  It has never become a big company or anything.  I never had the time nor the money to do anything really big.  As a publisher, my biggest challenge has been to get booksellers to pay their bills when they order books from me!

MCBM: Where do you see the Islamic publishing industry in the next 10 years?

YE: Consolidated, definitely.  I also see it much more diverse.  There will be growth in the ultra-conservative publishing houses, who are subsidized by governments, and this makes it hard for the rest of us.  The good thing is that the quality of writing from those places is very poor, even if the English is correct, so people will still seek our products out.

MCBM: What are some of the themes/subjects you wish to see Muslim authors write about?

YE: More teenage, real life experiences.  A lot more literature for the tween set.  We need a monthly kids magazine and a separate monthly teen magazine.  These have been tried in the past, but always failed, due to a variety of factors.  We also need more diverse literature, not just flighty poetry or political books.

MCBM: What advice can give to young and aspiring Muslim writers?

YE: Write a lot on what fuels your passion.  Don’t worry if you can’t find a publisher – start on the internet and then get your stuff on the Ipad or Kindle!

MCBM: Do you have any final thoughts before we end?

YE: The world is entering a very new and untested period.  I believe we, as Muslims, need to transform ourselves to meet this challenge.  We must come out of our cocoons, smell the chai and see how we can make Islam relevant for the coming centuries.  Future generations will either have an easier time being Muslim or a harder time based on our groundwork today.  That’s a big responsibility and it is what Allah (swt) requires of us.  Strive together in His cause, the Qur’an tells us, and we will be compensated with satisfaction and Allah’s good pleasure.  Truly that is what seekers should work to achieve!  Ameen.

MCBM: JazakumuAllahu Khairan brother Yahiya, for taking time out from your busy schedule to answer these questions.

May Allah reward you for all the work you do and continue to do.

Visit the Yahiya Emerick’s website  to learn more about the wonderful work he is doing to develop quality Islamic education for children.   

Read some interesting articles written by Yahiya Emerick here.

Find more of Yahiya Emerick’s books and titles published by his company here.

Meet the Author: Q & A with Linda (Widad) Delgado – PART 2

Today we continue our question and answer session with Linda D. Delgado (also known as Widad) in the “Meet the Author” feature. Linda D. Delgado is a former police sergeant, writer (of the award winning Islamic Rose Books series), publisher (Muslims Writers Publishing company), and founder of Islamic Writers Alliance (a network of Muslim professionals working in the literary field of books and the written word. This is the second and final part of a two-part interview (read Part 1).

Q. What are some of your thoughts on why we need to read and how does Islamic fiction fulfill that need?

A. The importance of being able to read well with comprehension (understanding) is critical to children, students at any grade level, and to adults. Literacy is critical to success all through one’s life in education, employment and something as simple as reading street directions. Reading helps to expand the vocabulary of a person/child which leads to a better understanding of the world they live in.

If a child cannot read well, then parents and teachers can expect the child to have difficulty in all most all other studies. When a child, student, adult reads a good fiction story…one that is well-written, creative, interesting, fun, and non-preachy… enjoyment is the benefit. Fiction encourages the individual to enjoy reading which in turn builds on the vocabulary and comprehension skills necessary to be successful in non-fiction reading required for other course work and for employment and everyday living. Reading fiction encourages the reader to expand their imaginations and think of possibilities for many things in life.

Islamic Fiction badge/logo by Muslim Writers Publishing

photo source IslamicFictionBooks.com

Islamic fiction has the added benefit of showing the readers about Islam without the reader feeling they are reading a lesson or being preached to. With so many different genre of IF. One example is historical Islamic fiction. A reader can learn many historical facts about events and people without feeling as though they are reading a text book.

 Q. What can parents, educators and leaders in Muslim communities do to support authors and publishers of Islamic fiction? 

A. I think for parents the most important thing they can do with younger children is to read with their children. For older children I think they should be purchasing quality Islamic fiction books for their youth and teens to read. I think Islamic schools should be ensuing their libraries have plenty of Muslim authored and published books available for students. I also think that principals and teachers should incorporate Islamic fiction books in their language arts programs and also creative writing. A beginning could be the schools promoting Islamic fiction books through the annual and/or semi-annual book fairs Islamic schools hold each year. Instead of promoting secular fiction books, the emphasis should be on Muslim authored books. I also think that teachers and school administrators should provide recommended reading lists of halal Muslim authored/Islamic fiction books for listing on school web sites and schools should use IF books in summer reading programs. Holding creative fiction writing contests also encourages an appreciation for this category of literature with students.

Q. When and why did you start Muslim Writers Publishing Company?

Star Writers by Amtaullah Al-Marwani

photo source Muslim Writers Publishing


 
A. I began researching the secular and Muslim book publishing industries in early 2005 after my dearest friend and author died after a bone marrow transplant for the leukemia she suffered from. We were working together on a book manuscript and she asked me to promise to finish the book and get it published if she did not survive. She died three weeks after the transplant. I then tried to keep my promise by seeking publishing from other Muslim publishers once I finished the manuscript. I was not successful, so I felt that I should create my own publishing business to keep this promise and also to publish my own writing. I also decided to focus my publishing efforts on getting more Islamic fiction books published for older youth and teens and this led me to begin publishing other Muslim IF authors. The book that was my inspiration to become a publisher is, Star Writers. This is a very unique book that teaches Muslims how to write creative, fun, and halal Islamic stories. 

Q. What are some of the challenges authors of Islamic fiction face in getting published?

 

A. IF writers who write stories for very young children… the color illustrated books with limited text… have an easier time finding willing Muslim publishers. For IF authors who write stories for older youth (chapter-style books), teens, and young adults, it is still very difficult to convince most Muslim publishers to publish books at these reading levels. It is also difficult to convince Muslim retailers to make the IF books that do get published available at their bookstores. There are several factors which contribute to the obstacles of getting published and then convincing Muslim retailers to list/sell the IF books:

–Most Muslim publishers were educated in schools where fiction reading was not part of the curriculum and creative writing was not taught. (Countries with Muslim predominate populations) . 

–Unfortunately, a few Muslim scholars have taken the extreme POV that fiction writing is writing lies and fiction reading is a useless waste of time. There are individuals in the Muslim book industry that agree and there are Muslims who refuse to read fiction for this reason. 

–There are Muslims who do not understand that fiction reading is an educational requirement in schools in westernized countries. 

–Many parents of Muslim students in schools today did not read fiction as children/youth/teens so they do not understand its relevance to their children learning and succeeding in today’s school system. 

–Unfortunately Islamic fiction books have been mistakenly characterized as books that are dull, uninteresting, and preachy, are poorly edited with poor publishing book production values. This perception came about from fiction books published a decade or more ago and which were often translations of fiction books first written in other languages. 

— Muslim book retailers often follow Muslim publishers. Because most of the large Muslim publishers are not producing IF books for youth/teens then the books that do manage to get published are largely ignored by Muslim book retailers. 

The good news is that in the last two to three years I have seen a change in this with some of the larger Muslim publishers beginning to look for IF writers/stories for older youth and teens and it is becoming a little easier to convince Muslim book retailers to consider buying and making IF books available to Muslim book readers. Some book retailers and publishers are actually using the word ‘fiction’ on their web sites now. (:
  

Q. As a publisher what are some of the stories/themes you would like to see authors writing about?

 

A. I think that there is a critical need for IF writers to create stories that target Muslim male youth and teens. The stories should be ones boys would enjoy reading. Action and adventure stories, perhaps some book series with a young male character would be a good place to begin. I know that teachers seem to gravitate to historical fiction stories which could incorporate science fiction or fantasy.

 

Q. What advice can you give to young people who wish to become a writer?

 

A. There are several positive things our authors of tomorrow can do to gain skill as a writer and exercise their imaginations and creativity:

–Write every day even if it is for only 5 or 10 minutes. Writing in a journal is one writing exercise that can teach discipline.

–Write creative fiction short stories and ask friends, family and teachers to read them and give feedback and comments. Accept criticism/critique as a very necessary part of being a skilled writer.

–Enter your polished and edited short stories in fiction story contests. Even when you don’t when you benefit from the writing, rewriting the story and editing it so there are few if any grammar, punctuation, spelling , etc. errors.

–Research web sites which offer free writing tips a and offer writing techniques; that teach the technical parts of a book and the “language” of writing such as foreshadowing, prologue, POV, plot, etc.

–When older and if money is available, take a writing class to learn how to polish your writing and improve your techniques and skill.

 

 

JazakumuAllahu Khairan Linda, for taking time out from your busy schedule to answer these questions. Thank you for sharing with us valuable information about the Islamic fiction publishing industry. And for your great advice on writing, which I am sure will benefit many aspiring writers.

May Allah reward you for your dedication in bringing quality books to Muslim communities worldwide, for all the fabulous work you do and continue to do to through your books and to promote Islamic writers and their works.  


Learn more about what is Islamic Fiction (IF) at IslamicFictionBooks.com  

Find more of Linda Delgado’s books and titles published by her company at Muslim Writers Publishing.  

Read Part 1 of this interview here.

Meet the Author: Q & A with Linda (Widad) Delgado – PART 1

The Guide to Muslim Children’s Books and Media is dedicated to bring you information about authors of the wonderful books your child/students read. Today in “Meet the Author” I interview Linda D. Delgado (also known as Widad). She is a former police sergeant, writer (of the award-winning Islamic Rose Books series), publisher (Muslims Writers Publishing company), and founder of Islamic Writers Alliance (a network of Muslim professionals working in the literary field of books and the written word. This is part one of a two-part interview.

 

 

 

Assalamu alaykum Linda and welcome to the blog.

It was so wonderful of you to consent to doing this interview here on the Guide to Muslim Children’s Books and Media (MCBM) blog. I am looking forward to getting to know the author behind the lovely Islamic Rose Books series. I know that you are also a publisher so I am also hoping you will share some information about the Islamic publishing industry.    

Q. Please tell us a little about yourself.

A. I am a wife and mother (3), grandmother (8), and great grandmother (3). I live in the Southwest, U.S. and reverted to Islam in 2000. I spend most of my time writing, publishing, marketing, and promoting books I write and publish for other authors. I retired after a 26 year professional law enforcement career.    

Q. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

A. After retirement I had a heart attack and other health problems ended my plans to teach elementary school. Bored and wondering what I could do, I prayed. Then my 9 year old granddaughter told me that I told really good stories so why didn’t I write them? I said… why not! I then began writing the Islamic Rose Books series.    

Q. What inspired you to write The Visitors (book one in the Islamic Rose Books series)?

 

A. The Visitors is based on the actual event of the Saudi police officers staying in my home as guests while they were in the USA for one year learning English and attending advanced police officer courses with a local police department. I was still working as a police sergeant back then. My granddaughter said I should write about her and her friends too, so I had to write more books and I ended up writing 4 books, the Islamic Rose Books series.    

Saying Goodbye - Book 4 of Islamic Rose Books series

photo source Islamic Rose Books

 

Q. Did you initially conceive it as a series of four books or did the idea evolve as you began the first book?

 

A. When I began writing I didn’t know much about the technical side of writing a book such as every book having a beginning, middle, ending; plot, foreshadowing, POV, and such. I just wrote. I ended up with 28 chapters, but this was way too much content for one book. A dear friend and published author explained to me how I needed to divide the content and then make each book complete…stand on its own. It took a lot more work to do this, but this is how I learned how to become a fiction writer.    

 

 

Q. Why did you decide to do Teacher Study Guides for your books and how are they being used?

 

A. For the past seven years I have used profits from my authored books sales to purchase books for Islamic school libraries. In doing so I came into contact with many teachers and school administrators and also home schooling parents. I noticed that the schools sponsored book fairs but did not promote Muslim authored and published books; only secular books. I also noticed that only secular books were listed on school web site recommended reading lists. So I asked teachers and principals why they were not promoting and using Islamic fiction books in the classroom, recommending these books, and placing them in school libraries. Many said that the secular fiction books had teacher study guides which helped the teacher and enhanced students’ reading and comprehension. I did considerable research and discovered that Muslim publishers had not developed teacher study guides for fiction books they published. I had known for some years that many Muslim publishers also did not publish fiction books for older youth and teens.     

Teacher Study Guide for "The Visitor" by Linda Delgado

photo source Islamic Rose Books website

 

I did more research on the content of TSGs and then worked with a teacher, principal, and class of 20 Muslim students to develop and field test the first TSG we developed. It met with resounding approval from the teachers, principal, and students.     

Using the first TSG as a template, I created a TSG Team to help me develop more TSG for other fiction books I had published. It is expensive to first publish a book and then develop and publish an accompanying TSG. Someone told an online Muslim organization that raises money for worthy causes about my TSG project. This organization raised money from Muslims world-wide to help me pay for the design cost for the additional 5 TSGs my Team developed.     

It took 2 years for this project and unfortunately now that I have some TSGs available the Islamic schools have been slow to respond. However I am very pleased that this year two Islamic schools decided to purchase a couple of Islamic books with accompanying TSG and will be using them in the classroom with their students. It is a beginning of what I hope will one day become standard practice. Our Muslim children and youth need to read quality Islamic fiction and know there are very talented Muslims writing and publishing fun, creative, non-preaching fiction books that are halal but great stories they can enjoy and learn from.    

Q. How has the Islamic Rose Books series been received by the Muslim community and the wider community? What about worldwide?

A. It is difficult to say.  The series has been published and then republished by my own publishing company.  The series has been translated and republished in Indonesia. The DAT translation organization in Egypt translated the series into Arabic and this version of the series I have in pdf ebook format. The books are sold in South Africa, United Kingdom, Malaysia, and in a dozen Muslim retail stores in the USA and they are also available at online secular book retailers like Amazon.com.  I think kids and adults enjoy the books as they are still selling 9 years after I wrote them. I wouldn’t categorize the series as a best seller but sales remain steady year after year. I get lots of emails from both children and adults saying how much they enjoy the books. Many ask me to write more. (:    

Q. Besides the Islamic Rose Books, what other books have you written?

A Muslim’s Guide to Publishing and Marketing, which provides basic information and is what is called a ‘How to’ type book.    

Halal Food, Fun and Laughter by Linda Delgado

photo source Muslim Writers Publishing

 

–I also wrote and published a cookbook titled, Halal Food, Fun, and Laughter. It is unique in that the book includes Hadith and Aya that are food specific, short and funny stories about things related to food and cooking, a few funny food poems. Instead of pictures of food I have illustrations of a Miss Spoon character illustration doing funny things in the kitchen.    

Grandma & Hijab-EZ Family Activity Book

photo source Muslim Writers Publishing

 

–Collaborating with the illustrator for all books I publish, sister Shirley Anjum, we created the book, Grandma & Hijab-Ez Family Activity Book. We used the comic strips I created and which were published, to create 68 coloring pages, I then developed 8 seek & find puzzles and there is a section for parents called “Talking Points” that can be used to discuss the fiqh lessons incorporated in the 8 short stories in the book.    

     

Q. Are you writing any books at present?

A. I am working on a new book series. The first book is in design and I expect it to be published by the end of May, this year. I am already working on the second book for this series. The series is written at the teen/young adult/adult reading level and is a crime thriller genre.    

Part 2 of this interview will follow soon.

 
Visit the Islamic Rose Books series website  to meet Rose and her friends and try some fun activities (recipes, comic strip and interesting facts about places mentioned in the books).    

Learn more about what is Islamic Fiction (IF) at IslamicFictionBooks.com    

Find more of Linda Delgado’s books and titles published by her company at Muslim Writers Publishing.    

Read a review of The Visitor.