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 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.
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.
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. (:
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.
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.
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.