Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Aya Khalil. Her forthcoming picture book, The Arabic Quilt, will be published by Tilbury House. She explains her journey below.
But first, YAY! Aya is generously giving away a FREE copy of one of her favorite picture books, The Proudest Blue by SK Ali & Ibtihaj Muhammad. To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (US residents only, ends Dec 12, 2019)
Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I started writing this book in the fall of 2018. I queried agents and sent it directly to publishers as well and received many rejections. So I took a step back and carefully looked over my manuscript again, joined critique groups, joined SCBWI, asked authors friends for advice and was offered representation by an incredible agent, Brent Taylor, in March 2019. We signed with Tilbury House in the summer and announced it a couple of months later.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My book is actually based on true events from my childhood. I immigrated to the US when I was one years old with my older brother and parents from Egypt. I had an incredible teacher in third grade who made me feel welcome and encouraged me to be proud of who I was. She did the exact same project I wrote about in the book. Over twenty years ago, my teacher did this one lesson in class that I still remember until this day and I made it into a book.
Please share some of your writing process.
I write and revise. I take lots of breaks because I have three children – and one of them is just an infant! It’s been hard to write consistently but I write when she naps and the older two are at school or late at night.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved writing ever since I was young. I wrote in diaries, wrote poetry and read a lot when I was in elementary school. In college I studies English literature and communication and became a journalist and then got a master’s degree in Education and taught for a while. One day a couple of years ago I said, enough is enough, I am going to write and publish a book.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I am working on a couple of manuscripts. I love writing picture books but would love to explore MG.
Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I have so many. But definitely Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi (recent book) because it was one of the first picture books that was traditionally published by a Muslim author with Muslim characters. Classic one that I loved growing up was Corduroy because of the friendship and love theme and I have fond memories of my mom reading it to me.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Write from your heart and the words will flow.
And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Pistachio ice cream because it’s a little different but once you try it you will enjoy it.
Aya holds a master’s degree in education with a focus in teaching English as a second language. She’s a freelance journalist whose work has been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Toledo Area Parent and many others. She’s been featured in Teen Vogue, Yahoo! and other publications. Her debut picture book, THE ARABIC QUILT, will be published February 4th, 2020 by Tilbury House. Besides writing and teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and exercising.
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