I Have Done My Job

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Idealised workspace, 2011

A a writer there are very few things I want more than to have my writing read. That sounds simplistic, but it does touch on the general gist of what I mean. Certainly I want my readers to like what they’ve read, to write stunning reviews, tell all of their friends about me, thereby causing my sales to skyrocket, causing me to make lots (not insane amounts, just lots) of money, so that I can pay off my house, give in charity, give my children a great life and quit my day job so that I can create more tales that people want to read, BUT none of that is as important to me that my writing is actually read.

I would be a writer even if I never made a single penny doing it. (Which isn’t that far off the mark right now.)

Like most writers, I have something to say. As an introvert, since I rarely actually say these things out loud, writing is my mode of expression. I write the kinds of stories I would like to read, stories that resonate with me, and that hopefully have deeper meanings. I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking or teach anyone a lesson, (preachiness in fiction is a big no-no), but I do hope that when readers have completed my tales they walk away with lingering impressions about the characters and situations, that they continue to think about the story for days or even weeks in an effort to suss out the deeper meanings, or at the very least because they’ve grown attached to a character and they miss her.

Recently I received a very unexpected heart-warming email from a woman who had just completed my book. She’d downloaded it for free during one of my past Amazon KDP promotions. She said:

“I have subsequently told friends about An Unproductive Woman and what a wonderful insight into another part of the world and culture as well a message to all of that we are so very alike in so very many ways.”

and

“While not a Christian, I do believe in a power greater than myself.  The absolute everyday faith depicted in your book caused me to download the Qur’an too, I have my reading cut out for me for some time to come!”

The very fact that she took away the message of ultimate sameness across cultures and faiths from my novel despite the supposed divergences there appear to be and that are played up by our media absolutely took my breath away. Even more, in spite of the fact that An Unproductive Woman is not a religious read, the fact that she made the conscious decision to learn more about people (Muslims) who are often made to seem other and alien is the greatest validation and the greatest payment I could ever receive for my writing.

When I received her message I nearly cried. It let me know that I have done my job.

*****

Thank you for the email S.V. You made my year… probably my career as a writer.

Thank you Kindle Buffet for posting my book on your site so that people would know I exist.

Thank you to anyone who has ever honored me with the time it took to read my book and write a review… even if it wasn’t favorable.

Happy Ramadan to EVERYONE! 

The Reason I Don’t Watch the News

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Granada, de Cine This morning as I was headed to the kitchen to prepare a late breakfast for my family I stopped for a moment to catch a particularly compelling bit of news on an international news channel. There was this looping reel of footage that kept showing the body of a tiny girl wrapped in a white sheet. She was dead after having been brutally raped by two men who had kidnapped her. This footage also showed the poor girl’s shell shocked parents. Their grief was palpable.

This is why I don’t watch the news.

According to the news report, the kidnapping and rape of young women is nearly epidemic in India which is second only to the United States. The reporter interviewed young women on the streets of India regarding the recent passage of laws that would mete out severe punishments to any man convicted of rape. This was all complicated by the fact that the numbers of women who are actually willing to report the crime are minimal due to the shame of having been the victim of such a crime. Yes, the victim is shamed and blamed.  The perpetrator? Not so much. This is misogyny at its worse, when it is woven into the very fabric of the culture. It is sad, unjust, and plain horrific.

This is why I don’t watch the news.

But, just so we don’t point blaming fingers at India, or some country in the Middle East, or any other so-called third world country we’d like to pretend is so much less progressive than we are in the West, misogynistic ideals and a whole host of other cross-cultural cross-societal ills is as broad and diverse as the people who uphold and abide by them.

It doesn’t matter the country or culture because people are people, and not all of us are good. And of those of us who are good, not all of us are completely good.  Simply, we live in a world of mostly good intentioned people, but amongst those good people is another more insidious element that we should all be afraid of.  They are there.  We don’t know who they are but, we work with them and go to school with them and we talk to them while waiting in line at the register.

Why don’t I watch the news?

Because it makes me angry, and because it scares and saddens me. Watching the news makes me lose faith in the world and the people in it. And, I’ll sound a little Sybil-ish here, it also gives me a tiny bit of weird hope. In our ever shrinking global community we are learning more and more about each other and as such we are slowly eliminating misconceptions about people who are different from us. We are sharing the best of ourselves and hopefully doing away with the worst. As long as there is an Earth with people living on her face, we will see ugliness and injustice and error, but things can be better, right? This is my hope.

This also brings me to the topic of my writing. My major WIP, Bilqis, which will be book one of the Hinterland Chronicles, echoes much of my woes about the state of the world we live in, personal and global.

I am fortunate to have had extremely few openly racist or anti-Muslim experiences in my life. I’ve had people say some incredibly asinine things to me, but I’m not hypersensitive and I can generally determine the difference between malice and ignorance. With that said, we all know that racism still exists and anti-Muslim sentiment is pervasive and in many instances heartily accepted. This is what the Hinterland Chronicles addresses.

What I’ve attempted to create is a world/society that is scarred by religious turmoil and racism, much like our own. Imagine that the government, with the best of intentions, has tried to solve the issue of religious and racial divisiveness by outlawing the practice of any faith. Imagine that those people who persist in religious observances are punished, ostracized, and ejected from the major cities. Imagine that they are forced to make their lives scavenging off the land which is a vast wasteland.

What do you think would happen?

I’m still working on the first draft, but it is difficult to write about issues of faith/religion without sounding as if I am preaching and proselytizing, which I am not. I pray that I am successful.

We should absolutely mine information from our experiences and the world for our writing.  This includes the news.  I suppose I’m simply not strong enough to tolerate it… or to say it in a more forgiving way, I’m too sensitive. On second thought, it isn’t an altogether bad thing is it? Aren’t most writers and artists intuitive deep thinking individuals?

If they’re not… shhh. Don’t ruin the illusion. I kind of like it.

UPDATE: I’ve Been Cloned

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Wrong Way ... Way Wrong

Robert Fornal via Compfight

 You may recall a recent post wherein I discussed the fact that many of my blog posts, my picture, Bio, tagline, and logo had been republished blog style on another website. I was a bit mortified by this because I was never informed that this was being done and also because there was an open comment section, which itself is only problematic if I am unaware and thus unable to respond, defend, or censor in the case of vulgar language.

I contacted the editor of the website via email.  When I didn’t receive a prompt response I decided to write a post. I mean, if my site was being watched and reproduced, surely the culprit would see the post about them and feel compelled to respond.

Within hours of said post I received an email from Publici.com. On the face of it, the letter was polite and apologetic. I was informed that my posts had been removed. The editor pointed out that my Creative Commons license allows for free use as long as said work is unchanged and attributed to me.

Touché.

I responded in like fashion stating that had I been consulted I may have been more open to the idea. I thanked them for their prompt response and I was quite pleased with the eventual outcome.

Then oddly enough I received another note from the editor. The editor told me that she believed my voice unique, mature and gentle.  She stated that I had followers among the staff of Publici.com. Then she said “… may I dare to suggest you’ll give us a second chance, this time by operating your account directly? This way it will much better reflect your needs and requirements. Also, we’ll be happy to any suggestions, opinions or comments you may have regarding our site and our vision.”

Well, after my head shrank back down to normal size, I actually considered the offer. Briefly. Very briefly. The thing is, I work full-time and I have a family.  Free time for me is scarce. Committing myself to another writing gig, however small, is hardly something I can afford. But, during that brief period of consideration, I decided to check out this website.

What if they were doing something ground breaking and significant?

What if they were willing to compensate me?

What if this was something I simply could not pass up?

The first thing I noted is that the homepage is divided into sections: Media Watch, Social Movements, Arab Spring, Civil Activism.  And on the face of it, many of the posts appear to cover topics about Muslims. I thought, Well I’m Muslim. Then I noted that the website operates from Israel. Now that really intrigued me. I had these immediate delusions of grandeur.

What if they’re dedicated to unifying Muslims and Jews worldwide for peace?

What if they are dedicated to dispelling myths and stereotypes about Muslims and Jews and other misunderstood groups?

What if they are dedicated to outing offenders of the rights of marginalized groups?

Yes. Delusions of grandeur.

What I found instead upon closer inspection is that Piblici.com actually curates posts from all over the web and that said posts, based on the few I could stomach, were not at all as grand as I hoped. I won’t go into detail but this was my response:

Hello (editor’s name withheld),
I hope this note meets you well.
This was a kind letter to receive as are you praise but I must decline.
I am very particular about where and how I use my writing and it is important to me that I not be or appear to be aligned with anything or anyone whose moral outlook I can not reconcile myself with.
I understand the Publici curates content from all over the web and from differing perspectives, which in and of itself is great.  That said, I have seen multiple posts and opinions that have a distinctly bigoted outlook against Muslims (of which I am one) and people of color (of which I am one). While I certainly afford people the right to feel and think what they wish, I can certainly not imagine contributing on the same platform with people whose ideas I find inflammatory and offensive and who use untruth as a device to defame the group of people to which I belong.
Thank you again for the invitation.
Be well.

My last correspondence with the editor was about four or five days ago and I haven’t heard back, which is fine.  I guess I hoped she would respond.  I hoped she would tell me that I am wrong about the site.  I wanted her to tell me that they are dedicated to honest, balanced, inclusive writing that does not promote the continued marginalization of disparate groups.

I wanted to have that delusion of grandeur.