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.