I received a letter from a Bosnian woman who lives in Germany. She's visiting her daughter who lives in Sydney and found my memoir and read it. She connected so much with my mum's story and wrote me what she called a 'crazy' letter telling me all about her. I wish my mum was here so I could read this letter to her. She would have loved knowing that there are women who feel her pain and struggle because they went through it too. When I was interviewing Mum for the book she said I if only one person is helped in reading the book it would be worth it for her. Whenever I received a email or a message from a reader I read them to her and she cried and was so happy and proud. It validated her life and struggle. I miss her so much today.
I’ve been seeing a few people writing their achievements this decade and I started writing mine. Things are tough at the moment and this reminds me of how much I have survived and how resilient I am—something that brings me comfort at the moment.
Most people are beginning their decade in 2010, but I’m beginning in 2009 because that’s when the two most important things happened to me. My ten years began with the birth of my beautiful daughter and ended with the death of my mother.
It has been tumultuous and personally and professionally challenging and rewarding. This is life. Full of light and dark. All we can do is keep moving forward and living.
2009 Birth of daughter, publication of debut novel The Good Daughter, won a literary prize, shortlisted for a few more
2010 received first grant from Creative Victoria, received funding to be writer in residence at two different high schools in Western suburbs, completed and had second book rejected.
2011 received funding from State Government to co-write and produce publication What a Muslim Woman Looks Like
2012 suffered a miscarriage and complications, was the year of Blood and Pestilence, completed another artist in residence at a high school
2013 delivering workshops, facilitating writing group, studying, working part time as home transcriber
2014 publication of anthology Growing up Muslim in Australia that I co-edited, first year as a high school teacher, published Amir: Friend on Loan, published a romance novel under pen name
2015 published second romance novel under pen name that I wrote in a year while working full time as a teacher, Coming of Age shortlisted for prizes, panel member on Creative Victoria grants panel, my daughter began primary school
2016 memoir extract published in Rebellious Daughters Anthology, bought my dream house
2017 delivering workshops on how to apply for grant applications, Victorian Premier's Award for Unpublished Manuscript judge and convenor, turned 40, celebrated 20th wedding anniversary, wrote a novel that didn’t go anywhere
2018 started my PhD at LaTrobe, my stepfather committed suicide
2019 publication of my memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me, my mother died.
It's always a great day when I hear from readers. It is still such a novelty as it hasn't happened much with my previous books. #mademyday #thingsnobodyknowsbutme
As a writer you squeeze every little joy you can. As publications compile lists of favourite reads Things Nobody Knows But Me was mentioned by two authors I admire. The first by Alice Pung in Frankie magazine in the pic below. And secondly by Zoya Patel on the Feminist Writers Festival website.
I made a goal of reading 40 books this year, however in November I had to revise and upped it to 45. Last year I struggled to meet my goal of 40 as I was doing a lot of research for my PhD, but this year I didn’t have to do as much. Based on a post by Sandra Ruttan who set a goal to read more Indigenous authors I made that my goal and deliberately searched for Indigenous authors. I read some non fiction for my PhD and some fiction that were based in The Balkans as part of my research too. I also wanted to ensure that I keep reading young adult fiction so that I can talk to my students and recommend books, although I also snatch their good reads as soon as they finish and borrow from the school library. I also ensure that I read more female authors than male authors, and especially that I hone in on Australian authors.
9 Non Fiction
10 Young Adult
Based on Australian Female vs Male
26 Female Australian Authors
5 Male Australian Authors
2 Anthologies of mixed gender
33 out of 46 were Australian
3 PhD research
8 Indigenous authors
Just Give Me The Pills by Koraly Dimitriadis (Oz F)
I’m running Memoir Writing Workshops at Writers Victoria and wanted to share how writing memoir helped me.
I always wanted to write about my childhood experiences growing up being parented by a single mother who was a Bi Polar sufferer. For years I attempted writing a memoir in order to purge this from my life, but I wasn’t brave enough.
My first complete attempt was my debut novel The Good Daughter where I used some of my life experiences with the lens of fiction as a sleight of hand to protect myself. After I became a mother the story resurfaced and I need to write again, but I didn’t know how. Memoir is such a tricky genre with so many things to consider.
When I had the opportunity to edit a memoir anthology (Growing up Muslim in Australia) I got up close and personal with some of the challenges that come with writing about yourself: what to keep in, what to keep out, how to make it a story, the need for details to layer your story, understanding character arc, how to structure a short piece and many more.
I started writing my memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me and knew I needed help and applied to Arts Victoria to be able to get a mentor to help me and Alice Pung became my champion, my teacher and my friend. Writing and getting this memoir published has been my life’s achievement and it healed so many wounds from my childhood by allowing me to process my experiences. Whenever I have the opportunity to teach memoir writing I see this same experience with my students where they reclaim their voice and feel they are validated.
I’m very excited to be delivering Memoir Writing Workshops with Writers Victoria in the first half the year.
I will be delivering three webinars where I share some of the lessons I learnt and things I wish I’d known before I started.
I will also be running an Online Writing Clinic where participants have the opportunity to submit Pieces of up to 1,500 words every month and receive feedback. One of the things that most helped me in the journey was writing short pieces and having them published along the way. This built my confidence, audience, and gave me much needed impetus to keep going.
Pieces are due 11:59pm Wednesdays 29 January, 26 February, 25 March, 22 April, 20 May. Feedback will be returned Thursdays 6 February, 5 March, 2 April, 30 April, 28 May
Participants have the option of enrolling in both the webinars or clinic, or completing each individually.
I’m so excited to be working with fledgling writers and help mentor them to tell their stories.
One of the things that happens when someone you love dies is you engage in magical thinking. You look for signs to make sense of your loss and search for messages from those that passed away.
My mother's body was found on Saturday 23 November. On the same day I received the message below. I'm trying to hold on to the happiness that she felt when I read her reviews and messages from readers and how much it meant to her.
When I was interviewing her for the book she wanted it written for people to understand the toll of mental illness, and messages like this bring me comfort. I also want to believe that she in some way influenced this message arriving on this day. That she wanted to remind me about how much the book meant to her and how much happiness it brought her. Now that she is gone all I have is memories of her. These are the memories that give me solace.
Yesterday was my mother's funeral and as I grapple with insomnia (even though I took a sleeping pill) I found this article I wrote for SBS Voices had been published online. In the article I share the seminal moment a teacher changed my life and other authors like Vikki Petraitis, Alice Pung and Emily Gale share their stories of teachers that impacted them. (Also what is it with life that things converge. That this article is published on the day of my mother's funeral and when I'm grasping for peace, and this gives me the pathway by telling me to write it out.)
I have some really sad news to share. Today is a really hard day. This morning my brother discovered my mother Fatima in her home. Her body had to be taken by the coroner as they need to determine cause of death. It might have been a heart attack or a stroke. When her body is released we will plan her funeral. This has been a hard year. Eleven months ago, on the 27 December, my stepfather committed suicide. I am in shock and still struggling to process this heartbreak. I will miss my mother forever and I can't believe she is gone.
I am an author, reader and teacher. My memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me about being parented by a Bi Polar mother from a Non-English Speaking Background was published by Transit Lounge in 2019. Read more about it here.
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