Author Spotlight: Saadia Faruqi talks Meet Yasmin!
I'm so happy to be hosting Saadia Faruqi on the blog today! Her brand new early reader series, Meet Yasmin! was released yesterday to starred reviews. Saadia is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She trains various audiences including faith groups and law enforcement on topics pertaining to Islam, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She is also editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose.
STARRED REVIEW! Readers will be charmed by this one-of-a-kind character and won't tire of her small but significant dilemmas. Faruqi nails the child's perspective, and illustrator Aly gives Yasmin life. Backmatter intended for child readers offers things to think and talk about from the stories, an index of Urdu words presented as a fun way to learn the language, facts about Pakistan, a recipe, and a craft. Utterly satisfying. -- Kirkus Review STARRED REVIEW! As she delves into new experiences, Yasmin also faces some common childhood fears and develops creative solutions on her own. Faruqi introduces readers to a delightful new beginning reader series that features an imaginative second grader who will quickly become a favorite among emergent readers. Aly's animated illustrations are the perfect complement to the text and bring Yasmin and her beloved family to life. . . . A definite purchase for any beginning reader collection. -- School Library Journal
And now, here's my chat with Saadia!
Hi, Saadia! Welcome and congrats on the release of Meet Yasmin! What about Yasmin makes her so fun to write?
Thank you Megan, I’m very excited to introduce Yasmin and her family to the world! Yasmin is such a fun character because she’s brave and feisty, and she doesn’t back down from a challenge. She reminds me of my own daughter in a lot of ways. When I write a Yasmin story I have to really sit down and think about how she would react in a specific situation, and not me. She’s become such a big part of my own family’s lives that we frequently have What Would Yasmin Do moments. It’s amazing how real she is to us!
How do you picture Yasmin in the future? What kind of job would she have?
Wow, what an interesting question. I think she could do anything she sets out to do, and I’ve tried to bring that message to my readers as well. Each Yasmin story is titled as a job… Yasmin the Explorer, Yasmin the Builder, Yasmin the Painter, and so on. Everyone definitely has an affinity towards a specific profession or field, but still we should teach our kids that all the various jobs can be fun and interesting if we use our imagination. When I imagine Yasmin as a young woman, I think she’d be good at engineering or architecture. Or maybe she’d make a good musician, I don’t know! She’s still young, and exploring her options!
Children see the world through a different lens than adults. What are your tips for writing an authentic POV suitable for early chapter books?
Kids definitely have a very different way of seeing the world around them. To write chapter books and early readers like Meet Yasmin! I suggest writers get to know kids. I’m a mom, but I don’t think I really knew how kids’ brains worked until I began writing books for their age group. I had to bring myself to their level and see how they saw things… their hopes, their fears, their goals.
It’s important to talk to kids and learn from them, see what sorts of stories they want to read. Also understand how they perceive the adults in their lives: the parents, the teachers, the people they interact with daily. It’s quite eye opening.
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?
I have to say the excitement on children’s faces when they’ve read advance reader copies of Meet Yasmin! I was invited to a school to give a presentation to kids who’d read an advance copy, and they just couldn’t stop hugging me and asking me about more Yasmin books! I write for adults as well, so I can easily compare the reactions of my two reader groups. Children are so happy when they read a book they like, when they see characters they can identify with and who reflect their reality. They also love meeting authors because they’re being asked to write essays and stories in school, so to meet someone who has made a career out of that is pretty cool to them!
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
I really find plotting very difficult. I’m a character and voice expert, I think, so I have those down pat, but actually having a story arc with a progressing plot and a climax is hard for me. I’ve found two little helpers who are great at plotting, however. My two kids. Just last night I asked them to give me a plot for a book I’ve started writing. I’m ten chapters in but there’s no real story except some vague idea in my head. This is pretty typical for me, by the way. During that car ride, I got about five different plot ideas from my kids, and one of them was really perfect for this story. So my suggestion is get a group of people who you can bounce ideas off of, and for children’s books that may very well be a couple of children!
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I just finished season one of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, and am just dying to watch the next season. In books I absolutely loved The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar. It’s such a necessary book but also from a writer’s perspective it is beautifully written.
And finally, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
Hmm, there are so many! It’s been a tremendously educational experience for me. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that the only thing you can truly control is your own writing. Everything moves slowly in publishing, and decisions that affect you are made in ways that often seem arbitrary and unfair. In all this, the best thing to do is put your head down and keep writing. My motto now is “Always Keep Writing”!
Book trailer bonus and a little about the illustrator!
Hatem Aly is an Egyptian-born illustrator whose work has been featured on television and in multiple publications worldwide. His illustrations can also be seen in: The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz, Taksheera by Naseeba Alozeibi, and The Giant Egg by Thuraya Khaled. To learn more about Hatem, and to check out his amazing artwork, please visit his site at: metahatem.com.
Many thanks go out to Saadia for taking the time to tell us more about Meet Yasmin! as well as sharing so many lessons from her own writing journey! Be sure to add Meet Yasmin! to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Or you can always request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!, a
And, as always,