I grew up in the United Arab Emirates during the 1980s and early 1990s and moved to North America when I was thirteen because of the first Gulf War. Growing up in the Middle East during that time meant growing up concurrently with innocence (so much was censored) and turmoil (so much was brewing), optimism (so much seemed possible) and repression (so much was not legally possible). My intention was to create a novel which captures and questions these contradictions and absurdities.
I wrote this novel driven primarily by the desire to leave behind an authentic portrayal for my Canadian-born-and-raised daughters of what growing up female in the Middle East felt like during that time and how we were all and are still today such resilient fighters and heroines.
I write best at night, after my daughters are tucked in bed. I set a goal with myself to hit a certain minimum word count every month. I have a writing group with whom I meet up with monthly. I also email all my writing to my mother, sister and best friend for their feedback. Honest, critical feedback is everything to my process and without it, my writing would go nowhere.
They’ve passed away but I’d be honored to have the different worlds I’ve lived in re-created in words in a collaborative effort by these three brilliant writers: Ismat Chughtai, Sue Townsend and Carol Shields. Otherwise, the living authors I’d choose to work collaboratively on a book about my life would be: David Sedaris, Dave Eggers, Mohammed Hanif and Junot Diaz.
I believe hardship is the seed of all great art so I don’t think I would make daily life easier for writers. Where’s the growth in that? Maybe I’d make meeting and connecting with authors and agents and publishers less mysterious for the unconnected writer so I’d help set up more free mentorship programs like Diaspora Dialogues spread out across Canada and the world, but other than that, I’d leave it all as is. Horrible, aren’t I?
I’ve published the novel I’m currently working on, and the next one in my head. Feedback from outside (nay, even inside) the circle of my family and friends has been overwhelmingly positive and gushing. I’ve been inundated with awards, the world has fawned over my genius and I’ve received ten-figure advances for my third and fourth novels. Keeping it simple and attainable, you know.