Read and Write with Natasha

From corporate career to children's book advocate with Deema Al Alami

January 07, 2024 Natasha Tynes Episode 43
From corporate career to children's book advocate with Deema Al Alami
Read and Write with Natasha
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Read and Write with Natasha
From corporate career to children's book advocate with Deema Al Alami
Jan 07, 2024 Episode 43
Natasha Tynes

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Deema Alalami is an educator-turned-author and reading advocate.

In this episode, we discuss the following:

  • Transition to literary luminary: The transformation of Deema Al Alami from corporate life to a renowned author and reading advocate, along with the inception of her "Mother to Author" program.

  • Embracing Arabic children's literature: An exploration of Deema's dedication to Arabic children's literature, detailing her journey through the writing world and the challenges and triumphs of career transition.

  • The writing process: Deema's guidance on the essential steps of writing, from the germination of an idea to the joy of holding a published book.

  • Mentorship in authorship: Insights into the "Mother to Author" program, crafted to assist mothers in becoming authors, covering the nuances of getting published and the shared successes of her mentees.

  • Insights into boutique publishing: Deema's perspectives on boutique publishing, the strategic importance of pairing manuscripts with the right publishers, and the significance of nurturing female talent in the industry.

  • Juggling professional and family life: A look into Deema's daily rituals that harmonize her professional passion with her family life.

  • Entrepreneurship in writing: An intimate look at the realities of entrepreneurship in the writing sector, as shared by Deema.

  • Inspiration for aspiring authors: Deema's wealth of experience serves as both a guide and an inspiration for those dreaming of crafting their stories in children's literature.

Don't miss this inspiring episode.

Support the Show.

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➡️ P.S: If you find my content useful, you might want to check out my Substack newsletter, in which I talk and vent about the writing life:


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Deema Alalami is an educator-turned-author and reading advocate.

In this episode, we discuss the following:

  • Transition to literary luminary: The transformation of Deema Al Alami from corporate life to a renowned author and reading advocate, along with the inception of her "Mother to Author" program.

  • Embracing Arabic children's literature: An exploration of Deema's dedication to Arabic children's literature, detailing her journey through the writing world and the challenges and triumphs of career transition.

  • The writing process: Deema's guidance on the essential steps of writing, from the germination of an idea to the joy of holding a published book.

  • Mentorship in authorship: Insights into the "Mother to Author" program, crafted to assist mothers in becoming authors, covering the nuances of getting published and the shared successes of her mentees.

  • Insights into boutique publishing: Deema's perspectives on boutique publishing, the strategic importance of pairing manuscripts with the right publishers, and the significance of nurturing female talent in the industry.

  • Juggling professional and family life: A look into Deema's daily rituals that harmonize her professional passion with her family life.

  • Entrepreneurship in writing: An intimate look at the realities of entrepreneurship in the writing sector, as shared by Deema.

  • Inspiration for aspiring authors: Deema's wealth of experience serves as both a guide and an inspiration for those dreaming of crafting their stories in children's literature.

Don't miss this inspiring episode.

Support the Show.

****************************************************************************

➡️ P.S: If you find my content useful, you might want to check out my Substack newsletter, in which I talk and vent about the writing life:


Speaker 1:

So it's still new and you know the publishing process takes you two years on average, like a year and a half two years. So it's not like you finish the program and you're like, let me get published. But I have someone who actually published their book and it's a great book that's selling really, really well. I have many that have been accepted by traditional publishing houses, so they accepted their scripts, which is also amazing, the nicest thing for me. I have like two or three members who joined. They were so inspired because there's a module all about networking and the importance of networking when you become a self-published author. You know and like your presence on social media and so on. So I have three to five who started their own and I'm so grateful for that.

Speaker 2:

Hi friends, this is Read and Write with Natasha podcast. My name is Natasha Tynes and I'm an author and a journalist. In this channel, I talk about the writing life, review books and interview authors. Hope you enjoy the journey. Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of Read and Write with Natasha.

Speaker 2:

We have with us today author Dima Alalami, whose mission is to turn every family into a reading family. She does so by recommending the best children's book on her Instagram pages and sharing literacy tips and tricks, in addition to conducting workshops on how to best nurture readers. She co-authored two bestselling children's book and she also founded Alalami Book Club, with over 750 members, to encourage adults to read. More recently, she launched a master program titled From Mother to Author to support aspiring children's book authors, in the hopes of transforming and enriching the Arabic children's literature in the region.

Speaker 2:

Wow, dima, you're joining me today. You're very busy. Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to have you on the show, dima. I've been following your work for a couple of years now and I'm one of the 750 members in your book club. You do actually amazing work on Instagram. I'm inspired. Thank you very much, I think. My first question, dima, is this your bread and butter. Is this what you do full time, or do you have other gigs going on, and how do you manage to handle all of that in addition to sustain a living in the creative field?

Speaker 1:

So first, Natasha, thank you so much for having me and I'm so honored that someone like you is part of my community. I absolutely love that, A fellow reader and writer, so it really makes me so happy. The Alalemi book club I just want to mention it's co-founded by my cousin and myself, so Farah Alalemi and myself, and I'm so glad that you're part of it as well. So the question is so yes, the answer, the quick answer, is yes, I do this full time. So I've been working in the field of education for the past 16 years and just recently, I decided to leave my corporate job in the education field and focus 100% on my account Instagram account, let's say and the things I do on it.

Speaker 1:

So, as you mentioned, I focus on three main areas and I think that simplifies things. Simplifies things for me, which is there's a core function on my page, which is to recommend the best children's books in English or Arabic. And then there's another core pillar, which is the mother to author program, where I want to get as many and I focus on mothers. A lot of people like it's unfair, like there are fathers, there are mothers, yes, but most of my community is actually mothers. But anyone's welcome to join, but I want to transform the Arabic literature or Arab authored literature. It doesn't have to be using the Arabic language, so I do that through the mother to author program. So that's a big pillar.

Speaker 2:

And.

Speaker 1:

I have the other pillar, which is which has different projects, like Alalemi book club, where, because we start? How did that start? It's because a lot of people come to me and they message oh Dima, my son is so sexy, hates reading. My son, my daughter is, I don't know, 11. She doesn't read and the first thing I ask is do you read in front of them? Or you know what it is like to read for pleasure? And most of the time is like no, I don't, I don't have time. Blah, blah, blah. So this is where Alalemi book club started. So I have, like these projects, like Alalemi book club is part of that.

Speaker 1:

I do, behind the scenes, a lot of consulting work for many publishing houses, edutainment, digital products that have anything to do with education, with Arabic. So I do a lot of things behind the scenes that obviously I don't post about, but most of most of all, like, these are the things that I do. Is it financially sustainable? Definitely not as much as it was when I used to work in the corporate world and every 28th of every month I would get the message to take the data and then transfer it and be like oh my God, you know, this is worth the misery, you know, yeah, so it's definitely much more difficult. Luckily, I've worked super hard for 16 years, so I have a bit of saving the cushion to like rely on, and I have an incredible husband who's also supportive. I'm not one person to say, oh, I don't care what my partner says, I'm doing this for me. No, you had to sit. So, yeah, alhamdulillah. You know like, I'm happy with where I'm at and inshallah it will grow financially, because that's something very important for me as well.

Speaker 2:

This is. This is very inspiring, dima, because the fact that you're you're pursuing your own passion, you quit denying to five job which is the same case with me is something that needs courage, it needs a certain, it needs a certain mindset, and I'm sure you faced some struggles and you know negativity from friends and loved ones saying you know, are you crazy? Why are you doing this? And I was wondering if actually this, this was the case, and how did you handle it? And do you ever feel, as a creative and a full time author and educator, that maybe now I can't do this anymore, I have to go back to nine to five?

Speaker 1:

So, very, two, very good questions. So let me answer the first part. So I want everyone who is listening to know that it wasn't an overnight decision and let me quit my reliable nine to five job. I was super, super senior in one of the largest education companies in the world, if not the largest, and I was with them for eight years. So it was very like I had my routine, I had my system, I had my you know role. So it wasn't like, oh, I woke up one day and let me do this. So I had started my Instagram page five years ago.

Speaker 1:

So it was like after three years of joining that company and I was doing this on the side, but something inside of me was telling me like, just do what, dima, just do it, do it, do it. You know, you want to do this mother-to-author program. It's been something I've been thinking about for a long time, and for a long time I wanted to author books. But I authored the books while I was working. I was working over time. It was like I had two jobs, you know, yeah. So when I decided it took me a year and a half, like I want to like manage everyone's expectations, like, it took me a year and a half almost to to actually quit and be like. You know, they were putting all these temptations in front of me and I would take them, you know, and I'll be like, it wasn't an easy decision and for me, the person I cared the most about To agree with me was my husband. Like I'm, like we're a family unit, like, although, again, Alhamdulillah, like he has his job, etc. But like for me this was a family decision, you know, just like, if he Changed his job, it's like we need to discuss it. So for me, as long as he agreed and I feel like I felt like when my husband was like, okay, fine, go for it, I was ready to make them. So that took me a long time.

Speaker 1:

The next question is do I think of going back a hundred percent? I'm not gonna lie that, oh, no, no, hey, I never. I don't shut doors and for me, I always like to explore what's out there. That's number one. Number two yes, when things get tough and I feel like, oh, like, because I'm a freelancer Technically, you know like I get different projects, I get different things.

Speaker 1:

So if, financially, I'm feeling like, oh, you know, like it's not going as fast as I would like it to or as productive, and I get an offer from a corporate entity, no, I give it to what it deserves like. I assess it, I see if this is what I want to do. So I'm not a person to say no 100% to the corporate job and the corporate world Especially. You know I'm not planning of having more kids and I have two boys and the youngest is three. So I feel like the older they get, the more independent they'll be and they would need me less. I don't know if I'm imagining this, but that's how I feel. So, yeah, the answer is yeah. Sometimes I play around with the idea. I'm not a person who says this is my decision and I stick to it.

Speaker 2:

So okay, okay. So all right, I want to ask a bit about the First. You know, I want to ask about all your projects. I want to ask about the author to mother program, so your clients, are they mostly from the, the Arab word, the Middle East region, or are they from, and do you run it in Arabic or English, or both? How does it work?

Speaker 1:

So the mother to author program is designed. Let me just start to why it was designed. So, basically, I'm an educator. I consider myself to be a reading advocate. I have two boys who I read with consistently, and a lot. I have thousands of books at home.

Speaker 1:

I when I was a first grade teacher, what I loved the most was actually reading to children and seeing the reaction, and I'm Obsessed with children's books. My favorite subject in university was children's literature, like I just love. So I decided, before I launch a program like that, I want to first go through the experience to author books and see how it's like. What's the process, the process. So I did that, thank you. Now, with one of the you successfully a childhood friend. We wrote two books and it was great. And then I felt like, okay, I'm ready to launch this program. Why did I want to watch this program?

Speaker 1:

Number one I was sick and tired of hearing people complain about children's literature. Either there isn't enough good Arabic quality children's books, or the books we're getting from the US or the UK are not aligned with our values. Or you know, I want a book about blah blah, blah, but I can't find like a find a book about it Like we can either sit and complain and complain or ban books which I'm against, and all of that or we say you know what, let's take control and let's start producing and publishing high quality books, whether they're in Arabic or they're authored by an Arab person, regardless of your ethnicity. Let's take control of the situation. You know, now you have option of self publishing, the option of going through traditional publishing, their Option of going through Amazon publishing like the options are out there, you know. So let's be proactive and this is why I started the mother to author program, which is an 11 module master program. Itself pays to join and we discuss Every single thing, from the idea to how to write the right the text, to how to select the right Illustrator, because even I believe, if you're, if you're going through traditional publishing, I think you need to understand how you select an illustrator, how, how does an illustrator best Compliment your book, you know, etc. So we go through all of these modules and by the end of it, you'll be able to make you an effective decision, an efficient decision and effective and an informed decision on how you want to get your book published. And I meet with you once every month where we discuss your script. We see what's what's happening with you, you know, as as a group. Now the answer is yes.

Speaker 1:

Most of the people who joined my programs are live in the Arab region, so some of them are ethnically Arab, some of them are not. How, what you write, you end up writing with which language, I don't care. You could write it in French, spanish, arabic, english, whatever.

Speaker 1:

I try to give a lot of examples of Arabic children's books. So the content or the language of instruction, in terms of the master program, it's in English. But I also do give examples of Arabic children's books, high quality, because that applies to many other languages. It could also be French, it could be Spanish, where, compared to English, there's minimal number of books, you know, and there's like, maybe the quality, or not necessarily the quality, as in the printing quality, but the overall book, you know, competing with my child doesn't want to read the French book, he wants to read an English book, he doesn't want to read Spanish. So the language of instruction is in English and I give a lot of examples of Arabic books with Arabic publishers, arab illustrators. So goal number one is to transform the Arab children's literature out there. Do you run it in English or in Arabic, so I run it in English, it's. I speak in English because that's easier for me, but I give examples of Arabic books as well.

Speaker 2:

And is it live or is it self based, or it's?

Speaker 1:

self based, so we have their self based. But every last Monday of every month I meet with everyone who's in the program and I coach different individuals on different questions so that everyone can benefit.

Speaker 2:

Oh, it's great. So do you have any success stories from the problem?

Speaker 1:

Yes, yeah, I would love to hear it Honestly like I get like goosebumps when I when I think about it.

Speaker 1:

So I have someone who had, so it's still new and you know, the publishing process takes you two years on average like a year and a half, two years. So it's not like you finished the program and let me get published. But I have someone who actually published their book and it's a great book that's selling really, really well. I have many that have been accepted by traditional publishing houses. So they accepted their scripts, which is also amazing. I have the nicest thing for me. I have like two or three members who joined. They were so inspired because there's a module all about networking and the importance of networking.

Speaker 1:

When you become a self published author, you know and like your presence on social media and so on. So I have three to five who started their own I'm so grateful for that their own pages where they promote the Arabic language. They're sharing their authoring journey and they're doing such an incredible job like such an incredible job that it was like an unplanned outcome of the program they won. One of them did a whole program on how to reconnect with children's literature, with Arab actors, so she went to Syria. She's a producer, she created this whole amazing getting old actors you know, like known, well known actors to read Arabic children's books that are newly published. Another one is documenting her journey in having like two children who are like ultimate bookworms. Like so amazing things are coming out of the program and that is why I decided to actually digitize it, because I saw that it's successful. So I'm like, yeah, we're onto something.

Speaker 2:

You know, oh, wow, so okay. So I want to talk a bit about the publishing journey First. You're publishing journey, so did you go with the traditional route or the self publishing tradition? And how traditional? So, in Arabic? Well, I know, in the Arab world, you don't need an agent. You need an agent, you don't need an agent. No. So you wrote the script and you pitched it directly to the publishing house and they said yes.

Speaker 1:

Well, five of them said no and then one said yes.

Speaker 2:

Okay, yeah, of course rejection is part of the journey. Who's your current publisher?

Speaker 1:

now. So the book had the jismillah, the Mithni and the men ballad Smoflisteen was published by Jabal Amman Publishing, who are based in Jordan.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, sinana, swiss was a friend of mine. Yeah, of course. Okay, yeah, it's a great place. I spoke with a number of authors who published with the same publishing house, all right, so, and the authors that you you know that you mentioned their success stories. Are they getting an agent or are they going through the service Because they're based?

Speaker 1:

in the Arab world. So I have a few. So I have some who are in the UK, some who are in the US that they went. So I suggested other publishers because they were writing in English, right, okay. So I recommended they reach out to other publishing houses, either through agents Now, agents is not an issue, honestly, you can just go online and you can.

Speaker 1:

There's like, at least in the UK, there's a list of agents. You see what they're like, what their focus is. You reach out. Obviously, you agree, and so on. So, and some of them went straight to publishing houses because I usually write to support like boutique publishing houses as well. Like my mission is beyond this program. Like I have a dream of like connecting illustrators, especially women illustrators, with like boutique publishing houses, with aspiring authors. You know, like that's my dream, you know, and I feel like I'm I want to pack myself in the back, but like getting people connecting with each other, I feel like this is working. So I have some of them in the US. They didn't go through an agent, they went through small boutique publishing houses that I love. I love their content and their. Her script also was agreed. Inshallah, it will be published 2024. So, yeah, that's cool.

Speaker 2:

So let me ask you know, for the sake of anyone who's who's listening or watching? So here's an example. I already have a script that's a true story, for children's book. You know, I publish fiction for adults, but I have one. It's written in English, it focuses on a girl who's a daughter of Arab parents and but it's it's not from her point of view. So anyways, so who would you tell me who would publish this book? It's in English, it's not in Arabic. And if, just for the sake of example, would you tell me, just go try to publish it in the US it's in, you know, in English, or no, try to go to publish it in the Middle East, who would accept English book? What would be your advice?

Speaker 1:

So my advice would be a I can't give you advice now because I haven't read the script right, but my advice to you would be is you know your script. You need to research the publishers so much and not make my mistakes. So when we first authored our book, I had no idea we were just sending our script left, right and center and getting a rejection after rejection after rejection. Now, when I learned and understood the publishing process, if I had researched the publishing houses that I was approaching, I would have probably not sent our script to four out of the five who who rejected us, right? So I would say look at your, the target, the target reader that you're you're writing for. Okay, what's the overall theme of your book? Start going into publishing houses, their websites, look at their books, buy their books. Is it aligned with what you are trying to to publish? You know? So I get people saying, oh my God, I wrote a script and it's been rejected. And I'm like, for example, they wrote it in English. They're sending it to Arab publishing houses. And I'm like, like, why? Like, did they ever publish in English? Like never. So why are you disappointed that they rejected you? You know, and for someone who's like, wrote something that's nonfiction and they're going to publishing houses. That's right in center. I'm like but but these publishing houses, they're they. They publish for a different target group and target reader group and they don't do nonfiction, for example, you know like they have one run fiction. So so what is it?

Speaker 1:

So my starting point would be a researching, researching, researching, researching, because you need to find that alignment. Okay, that doesn't mean you will never get rejected, but the chances of you getting rejected is much lower. Number two I would really understand the expectations. So, again, a lot of people end up sending the script before making their script almost 100 percent perfect. They don't send it to an editor, they don't get the language checked, they don't get the email perfectly written. All of these things need to be done because eventually, the publisher might end up editing your script, etc. But the person who's making the judgment is the chief editor of this. Someone's looking at it and giving it an assessment. If you have typos, if the language is not perfect, if in Arabic, you might get rejected for these things. If the email of your body is not attractive, it doesn't show them that you understand their publishing house it might get rejected. So research, research, research, before you approach different publishing houses.

Speaker 1:

If you're publishing in English, the quick answer is definitely don't publish in the Arab world. You can self-publish, but there aren't any Arab English publishing houses, so do you also edit their script? So that's a different service. So if you want me to go and look at your script and do a full script review and give you my feedback, that's an additional service that you need to book me. It's my consulting fee. You book me. It depends on the number of words, if you're going to send me images like the illustrations, or if you're going to send me the storyboard. It's like if each of it is different, but I can do that again based on my availability and, yeah, a lot of people do that.

Speaker 2:

And yeah, wow, just fast. I think like you're probably among the first in the Middle East that offers this kind of service. I know where. Well, yay, yeah, good for you, yeah.

Speaker 1:

It's just, I feel like you know, because my heart breaks. I can't tell you how often I get messages from people. Hi, Dima, I wrote this book, I want to send it to you and I have this message where it says you know, thank you so much for reaching out. No, you can send me your book, but I can't guarantee that I'll post about it. If it meets my community's expectations in terms of quality content, I will, but otherwise I won't. So out of every 10 books that are sent to me every month, I probably recommend one, because people unfortunately go through the process of writing, illustrating, printing, publishing and they missed out. It's just the quality is not up there. I'm sorry. The point is not to publish a book. It's so easy, to be honest, to publish.

Speaker 1:

So easy to publish a low quality children's books, the children's book, it's so easy. What's hard is to get a bestselling children's book, a book that's going to sell thousands of copies. You know, at the price point that you have, that people are going to message you and say, oh my God, I read this book with my son and oh my God, thank you so much for writing it. Like. There's nothing that's more rewarding than a message like that. So that's why Mother to Author came, because I want people before they think, oh, walla, yalla, I wrote a script and it's so.

Speaker 1:

And unfortunately, what people forget, writing a children's book or any script, you're emotionally attached to it, right? So you're going to think, oh my God, it's the best thing that has been written ever. You know Like and you'd be like no, no, it's amazing. I don't understand why. Why, for example, it didn't sell well or whatever. And what people forget and I say that in the program is you, natasha, let's say you wrote, write the children's book. And then who do you get to review it? Your husband, your sister, your mother, everyone who wants to see you succeed, right? Everyone is like oh, it's amazing.

Speaker 2:

It's just amazing. Yeah, they're going to be nice yeah.

Speaker 1:

They're going to be nice, right. So, and I hate hate is a big word I hate when I see people thinking short term. Like I know the effort you put in writing and publishing a really good children's book, right, and it's a long process. It can be an easy process, but if you want to do it right, it's long and you need support and you need coaching and you need because it's a long process to get a really good quality one.

Speaker 1:

So if you're going to do that, I want you to invest in making sure that it's not only going to be sold to your friend and friends, friends and aunt and neighbor and like your typical Arab mentality. You know you have like a hundred people like you know, they know you, they're going to buy your book and you'll be like, yay, and then you'll have the 300, whatever other copies that no one buys, which is often the case, unfortunately, you know. So make that investment. I don't know if there are other programs out there, but whatever, if there is Google, like find programs that will help you perfect your script, perfect how you select the publisher, perfect, so that you can have a book that's going to sell in the thousands and not in the hundreds.

Speaker 2:

So, Dima, I want to ask you about your marketing efforts and your Instagram accounts. Okay, so, like, you do an amazing job promoting your work and you have 27,000 followers on Instagram. Okay, and I noticed something that you do really well and I personally struggle is that you use both languages in one. Yes, Hala, I know what I used to do is I was like no, I'm going to confuse the audience, I'm going to start one in Arabic and one in English. So, in your case, are you losing followers Because, like, let's say, someone who doesn't speak Arabic sees like this quote, unquote foreign language and then they just stop following you and you might lose a potential client, for example? How do you feel?

Speaker 1:

about that. To be honest, the quick answer is I don't know and I don't care For me. I don't look at my community as followers For me and if you look at my growth, my growth is very slow. I've had this account for seven years and I'm at 27K. I know people who had opened their accounts in COVID and three months ago. They have hundreds of thousands of followers, but for me, my account is me. My account is a reflection of me. This is not a business account. This is Dima and I'm a bilingual human being. I speak in Arabic, I speak in English. I mix both languages. My grammar in Arabic isn't great, neither is it in English, so I'm very natural on Instagram.

Speaker 1:

What I love about my community? The 27,000 people following me they're genuinely, genuinely my community, my followers. I've built amazing friendships. They know about my struggle with my hair loss. They know about my miscarriages. They know about everything that I go through that I want to share. They're there. So for me, I can't tell you a lot about marketing because I don't think I'm good at it. To be honest, I feel like Yainina and the mother to author program. I worked on it for a year and, like three months, I died. I launched it, I had so many people join and stuff and then I left it. I'm not good at marketing, so now I made a promise to my 27,000 community members. I'm like guys, ladies, gents whoever is there, listen, I'm holding myself accountable in front of you that I'm going to promote my program because I know it's going to have an impact. So that's why I'm now trying to do that. So, in terms of everything, no, not the right person.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so the reason I also ask because you have nice production values, for example, your videos. They look professionally produced. Do you? Yeah, do you outsource that? What is your process? Like you know, that's some of my questions.

Speaker 1:

So the first six years of having my account, I was doing them like I would sit on my bed. I would read an amazing book with my son, I would sit on my bed and I would start recording it with my hand and stuff.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

But some of my amazing community members who've been with me since the start. They started to message me and be like I have a very open relationship with them, like they tell me things respectfully. I'm totally open to feedback. They're like, honestly, dima, like la'aytina, like you were nauseous looking at your screen, like the lighting is crap. You read the book and you're like moving up and down and like you know, you know they're like I think you need to like fix that. So I started getting a lot of feedback like that, like, dima, we love your content. But like, honestly, the quality isn't great. And like I would video it horizontally, not vertically, and I don't know what, like it was a mess.

Speaker 1:

So when I quit my photo time job, I decided to use some of the money that I had to invest in a company that will. That was hard for me to find someone like that that will only support me in videoing and editing. So I did not want to work with what you call them social media. I guess what do you call them Social media agency? Oh, like an agency to say like, oh, speak about this. Oh, write about this book. Oh, no, you have to recommend this book because it has a lot of work, so I didn't want that, anna. I just wanted someone to come video and then put the video, and this is what I found. I found a great arrangement where they just they don't tell me what to post, they don't tell me which books to recommend, whatever. I just go, I do my book review recommendations and then they edit them and then I post them, but I do miss the old stuff?

Speaker 2:

Do they come to your house or do you go to their studio? I go to their studio.

Speaker 1:

I think they can come to my house, but my house, honestly, is just too messy and noisy, so I go to their studio.

Speaker 2:

What are you based, by the way? Dubai, dubai, okay. Yeah, that's a great city to be based as an entrepreneur. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I'm grateful. I do count it as a blessing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it is. I was there in last year. It's amazing, I was there for work. So, okay, I want to ask you about your book club. Do you monetize it or do you find any ways of monetizing or?

Speaker 1:

I wish I was Reese with her spoon button.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, or what's her name? Jenna Bush. So so, the member, because it takes, you know, it takes time and it takes effort. It takes time, effort, and so I was wondering if, or if just, but also, you can get custom or clients through the book club.

Speaker 1:

You know it's another way of like brand building the honest, not really Like I haven't, like I can't draw a straight line from like oh, the book club to clients, but what I can, it fulfills me a lot and it's I consider it as the CSR I'm doing for my community. I do a lot which, again, if my husband was here, would be like you're an idiot, because in some ways I am, because even the books I recommend I still don't make money out of that. I haven't monetized in the right way, like there are a lot of opportunities for me to monetize and I just want to find the right way that works for me. So for me, the book club it's just purely to encourage adults to reconnect with the pleasure of reading and Farah and I agree on that, we've never tried to monetize it. It takes a lot of our time thinking of the questions, doing it, etc. But it's also fulfills us.

Speaker 1:

It's one of those projects that I have that sometimes I'm like I hate it, but then I do the, the zoom discussion where everyone's there, and then after that I'm like so hyper. I'm like, oh, my god, I love this book lab. You know it's so nice. You know I always my husband's like you're so weird, because before that I'd be like I hate this book. Why did we choose this book? Why am I reading in this book club? You know so. But yeah, I know I haven't monetized it. I don't think at this point to like, I don't think we would how many People join.

Speaker 2:

usually roughly June the zoom discussion, so 20 to 25.

Speaker 1:

That's not bad, which I love. I love when it's more than 25. It's too much yeah it's too much and not everyone gets a chance to speak and Alhamdulillah, we're like okay with it. But we now know the feel and we know, like the books, and we know how many people are gonna come and etc. So it's between 20 to 25 15.

Speaker 2:

So the books that you recommend, whether for the book club or on your Instagram account, based on what I looked at it and there's, like a number of, you know, different choices, like you know, you could saw them call them as a third right. So sometimes you would Recommend, let's say, adult books, sometimes you would recommend in history, sometimes you recommend fantasy. How do you? You know what? What? What's your criteria?

Speaker 1:

So two things in the Alamy book club it's me and Farah, my cousin, who's the co-founder as well of Alamy book club. We sit back and forth. We have completely different styles in books. She's more mystery. She loves these books like the mystery part. I love historical fiction Of historical biographies. I love them. So we're completely different. So we it takes us forever to agree. She wants this. No, I don't want that. We know we fight, etc. But we find the balance and that's what we read for the Alamy book club.

Speaker 1:

We try to mix a lot of genres as much as possible. We mix and match and we read them. Sometimes they're a flop. Some sometimes are great. It depends on your style, I guess. So that's one in terms of my page. The children's books no, the children's books is basically Based on what's my children I'm reading with my children, what I'm getting a lot of questions about, like, hi, dima, do you have a book about blah, blah, blah. So if I get a lot of questions, I go, I do my research, I buy 30 books about this subject, I start reading them, I select the best one, I post them. You know, I Do a recommendations and so on. So it's completely different when it comes from the book club to Versus what I do on my page for my personal children's books choices.

Speaker 2:

Do you have a newsletter?

Speaker 1:

No, to be honest, it's because I don't read newsletters, so I'm not gonna force that upon my community. I understand the marketing benefits of it but I, like I Don't think I've ever read a newsletter. Sorry to anyone who thinks I'm subscribed and I'm reading it.

Speaker 2:

Okay, okay. So what is your date today? Like how, how do you like as an entrepreneur, yeah, what's your routine life? So?

Speaker 1:

I Wake up usually let's say I don't know early. My kids go to school. I do my exercise. I don't drop off my kids to school, but I do my exercise 8 to 9 am and then 9 to 3 I'm working, working, working, working, working, meeting with clients. If I have to meet this publishing house, if I whatever zoom calls Preparing for content, if I want to do a workshop, so it's very different. And Then at 3, like my son comes back from nursery, I play a bit with him. I try not to have like now it's bedtime. So I'm like husband, come to the rescue as I try not to do anything after they come back home, because that's why I left the corporate world.

Speaker 1:

I was working from 7 30 am Until 7 pm, barely seeing my kids. So I really try to keep the afternoons free for them, but sometimes doesn't work. So, yeah, that's how it is. You know, like it not. I can't tell you every like. There are no two days that are exactly the same, which is what I love. It's different, but I also it requires a lot of discipline. So every day I'm up, I do my workouts 8 to 9. I start my day, because otherwise I procrastinate.

Speaker 2:

So there is a routine you work out at home or do?

Speaker 1:

you go to the gym. I do yoga twice a week. My teacher comes to my house. I love her, we do that and then I go to the gym twice a week, actually three times a week.

Speaker 2:

Good for you because, as an entrepreneur, you have to be fit, to be able to think clearly, and you know, that's something I realized for me like and you have to have a routine.

Speaker 1:

I think one of the biggest challenges that caused me a lot of anxiety when I quit my job was just like we don't have a team meeting, like I'm not meeting with my yes, it's Monday 9 am. What am I supposed to do? You know so and it you can easily like. I had a lot of anxiety this summer because it's the first summer where I wasn't working for like eight weeks almost and I Just didn't know what to do with myself. I was having anxiety like I'm like, oh my god, I need to be productive, beyond my children, beyond my family, and it really didn't feel good for me. So I love routine for me. I thrive in routine.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so what are you working on now, like future, oh.

Speaker 1:

So now my priority is mother-to-other program. Give it what it deserves, the love it deserves, the attention it deserves, because Really, I worked so hard on it and I like, when I see the success stories, I'm like I want other people to experience that and I can't transform the Arabic literature landscape on my own, sarah, like let's, let's be honest. So I need people. So that's one thing. I working a lot on promoting it and marketing it and telling the world about it. That's number one. Number two I'm writing a book, inshallah, you know. So, yeah, excited. What's the book about? I still don't want it to disclose because it's still in the pages, but I want to, possibly, possibly I don't know, like I'm playing with the idea of self-publishing, which maybe that. These are the two things. What else?

Speaker 2:

Is it a children book or adult?

Speaker 1:

I don't think I have the patience for right for older age groups. So these are the two kind of big things that I want to work on at this point. To be honest, yeah, I have other projects in the pipeline, but yeah, these are the two big ones. So clients.

Speaker 2:

They most defined you through Instagram. Would you say that that is your biggest marketing channel?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's a big one. Yes, that's for sure. But I also, again, like I've been working in the field of education for a long time Now. I worked in Jordan, I worked in the UAE, you know, I was appearing on media, like I had media appearances and stuff. So some of it is like old people and word of mouth and a lot of it is social media actually.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I would say both, and mostly from the region. Do you have people from outside of the region reaching out?

Speaker 1:

I've had actually people from outside, but they are connected to the region, so they might have worked in the UAE, but now they're consultants from abroad, or they are actually Arab Americans who were born like second, third generation and they're you know. So I have a mix.

Speaker 2:

I have a mix, I see. Okay. So any tips for anyone who wants to publish a children's book. What would you tell them?

Speaker 1:

Number one invest in learning about this process. You know, unfortunately you can't Google like how do I publish a children's book? Like it's not the same in every country. So educate yourself, invest, learn. You know the ins and outs. What's the success for people? What did they do? What does a bestselling children's book look like? And even that you can't say what defines the bestselling children's book? Some people say it's the ratings, some people say that's the number of copies, but for you, what does that mean? So I would say, number one invest in again, signing up in a program or going whatever, speaking to the right people, that's number one.

Speaker 1:

Number two you can't be a good children's book author if you're not a good children's book reader, that's. I always say this, you know. So read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read. And number three don't rush it, don't rush it, don't, don't, just don't save the market from another low quality, fast produced children's books. That's the book. That's not what's needed, to be honest. What's needed is high quality children's books and you owe it to your reader to give them that.

Speaker 2:

Well, this is great. Any final thoughts? What can people find you and find your books, your Instagram account, or if you can tell us where we can find it.

Speaker 1:

Yes, my Instagram account. So my Instagram account is addima, underscore a, l, underscore alami, and you can find me there. I have different accounts. Like all the books is strictly for books. If you don't want to hear my personal stuff. I have the mother to author account that's focused on this program, so, but you can connect there. I would love to have you as part of the community. And, yeah, thank you so much, natasha, for having me.

Speaker 2:

Of course. Thank you for this wonderful, inspiring conversation and for anyone who's listening or watching. Thank you for joining us and, until we meet again, thank you for tuning in to Read and Write with Natasha. I'm your host, Natasha Tynes. If today's episode inspired you in any way, please take the time to review the podcast. Remember to subscribe and share this podcast with fellow book lovers. Until next time. Happy reading, happy writing.

Dima Alalami
Transforming Arab Children's Literature Program
Publishing Strategies for Authors
Community, Marketing, Book Club, and Recommendations
Entrepreneurship, Routine, and Publishing Tips