Read and Write with Natasha

Weaving narratives of Arab American experiences with Eman Quotah

February 26, 2024 Natasha Tynes Episode 48
Weaving narratives of Arab American experiences with Eman Quotah
Read and Write with Natasha
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Read and Write with Natasha
Weaving narratives of Arab American experiences with Eman Quotah
Feb 26, 2024 Episode 48
Natasha Tynes

Send us a Text Message.

 In this episode, we dive into the creative world of Eman Quotah, the Arab American author of the novel Bride of the Sea.

Drawing from the experience of a family friend's real-life ordeal and enriched by Eman's bicultural background, we uncover the depth of storytelling that defines her work.

We also shed light on the evolving presence and impact of Arab American writers in the modern art landscape, providing listeners with an intimate exploration of identity, heritage, and the rich emotional fabric that threads through these narratives.

Eman opens up about the intricacies of juggling a dual career as a writer and communications consultant. 

Quotah's insights and strategies for thriving in the freelance world offer invaluable lessons for anyone attempting to balance their creative pursuits with practical realities.


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.

 In this episode, we dive into the creative world of Eman Quotah, the Arab American author of the novel Bride of the Sea.

Drawing from the experience of a family friend's real-life ordeal and enriched by Eman's bicultural background, we uncover the depth of storytelling that defines her work.

We also shed light on the evolving presence and impact of Arab American writers in the modern art landscape, providing listeners with an intimate exploration of identity, heritage, and the rich emotional fabric that threads through these narratives.

Eman opens up about the intricacies of juggling a dual career as a writer and communications consultant. 

Quotah's insights and strategies for thriving in the freelance world offer invaluable lessons for anyone attempting to balance their creative pursuits with practical realities.


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:

I think this is more of a question for Palestinian Americans especially who are writing about Palestine and Palestinian Americans, how these events might be affecting them and their work. But I think that things are different now, I think, than they were right after 9-11, where it was just like, you know, you couldn't really, you didn't feel like you had any allies, and now I think that there are people who are standing behind Arab American writers and artists, you know.

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. I have with me today Iman Qouta, whose debut novel, bride of the Sea, won the Arab American Book Award for Fiction in 2022. She grew up in Jeddah, saudi Arabia, and Cleveland Heights, ohio. When she's not writing fiction or essay, iman is a communications consultant and a ghost writer for non-profit and business leaders.

Speaker 1:

So, iman hi nice to see you again.

Speaker 2:

Hi, you too, we're friends and neighbors and I am funny how I read your novel before meeting you and then I realized we're neighbors and in the same Boy Scouts troop. So that was a kismet, a fap. It was meant to happen. So, iman, thank you for joining us today and congratulations on winning the award for the Bride of the Sea. So I, you know I enjoyed the Bride of the Sea a lot, you know, being an Arab American myself. So, iman, why don't you tell the audience what your novel is about?

Speaker 1:

Sure. The novel is about a family, a Saudi and Saudi American family. The couple comes to the United States to study in the early 1970s but then their marriage falls apart and after they divorce the husband returns to Saudi Arabia and the ex-wife stays in the United States and then she disappears with their daughter. And so part of the novel is the father looking for his daughter and then after the reunited it's the daughter sort of looking for family, looking for reconnection with that side of her and somebody. Recently I told them about it and they were like that sounds kind of sad and I think it's some ways it is, but it's also. I think it has some moments of joy, especially around the family and the ways that family is connected to place and to our identities and who we are.

Speaker 2:

So my understanding, Iman, is that you're also half American, half Saudi, correct, Right so? And you lived between both bases from your bio. So I'm sure you get asked this all the time. I get this asked all the time, but any part of the story is inspired by real events.

Speaker 1:

So, yes, not events in my own life. So the abduction part of the story was inspired by what happened to a family friend. His ex-wife, who was also Saudi, abducted their daughter and he did not see her for many years. So the daughter was a child when she was taken away and he didn't see her again until she was a young adult. And so when they I always knew about this story when I was growing up and then when they were reunited, I remember my mom telling me about it and I just started thinking about, like what would that be like to think that your father had left you or was? Maybe she thought he was dead I don't know the details of that because I haven't been in touch with the family and what would that be like to be reunited with that person? And then, over the years that it took to write the book, I started thinking about what would it be like to be the parent both of the parents? And so that's how it turned into a book that is told from those three different perspectives the child and the two parents. So that's inspired by your true story. It is not their story. Obviously it's fictional. It's not my story, you know it's not based on my life.

Speaker 1:

But there's a section of the book where the daughter goes to Saudi Arabia for the first time. She goes to Jeddah. And it wasn't until, like the book was written and people were reading the book that I sort of started to realize that Hanadi that's the character, or Hannah she goes by two names in the book that her relationship with her family was and the family itself was in many ways kind of inspired by my own family and my own relationship with my family. And you know, I had lived in the United States, I was born in Jeddah, but I had lived in the United States from when I was small until I was about eight and then we returned to Jeddah and I lived there until I graduated from high school. I sort of realized after the book was written that like me going there when I was eight was kind of like the character going there when she's in her early 20s and of course it's different to experience that when you're eight versus when you're a young adult.

Speaker 1:

But there were similarities that I think I drew from that experience and just the experience of having a large family and the ways that large families interact with each other and become sort of a kind of a microcosm of society, you know, like there are conflicts and things like that, and you know there are matriarchs and and patriarchs, and so all of that is sort of drawn from things that I experienced or witnessed, but none of it is meant to be it's fiction. You know you're a fiction writer. None of it is meant to be. You know, my family it's.

Speaker 1:

It's just a family that is inspired by the observations I made, you know, over the years, and I think that that that sense of reunion with a place and with a family is something that some readers have really identified with, you know, even if they weren't you know most of us weren't abducted as children and kept away from the place. But even so, that experience of return and what that's like and the experience of like being embraced by a family, even if they don't understand you and they don't understand the things that you've been through, is something that I think that a number of readers have have really strongly identified with. You have your kids, I have my cat, who are helping us out this morning, keeping it real, yeah, okay.

Speaker 2:

So again, congrats on on winning the Arab American award. And for me, how was the novel perceived in Saudi Arabia? For many reasons, because you know it deals with issues that maybe people can can find kind, you know think of as a bit controversial, like the wife in the novel, if I remember correctly, change her religion. She left her main religion and changed it, and I know that's a very controversial topic and there are some other issues as well. And how was it, you know, received in in Saudi Arabia?

Speaker 1:

I don't think it really has very widely been received there. So so there's that. I think they're. You know like. There have been people there, mostly like friends and family, who have been able to get a hold of the book through Amazon, but the English version was not released there. So, but thanks, but thanks to Amazon's worldwide tentacles, people were able to get the American edition of the book there.

Speaker 1:

The book was also published in Arabic in Lebanon and I understand that it has been distributed in Saudi bookstores, but I don't actually know, you know, what the sales were there or anything, so I don't know, you know, if people read it and how it was received, if they did read it. What I do know is that I had an interview with another Saudi American writer who writes for the Arab news, which is a big newspaper in Saudi Arabia, english language newspaper. So it has been talked about there and, you know, I personally think that I understand the view that these some of the topics are controversial, but to me they're. I'm simply writing about things that could and sometimes do happen, and so, yeah, there hasn't been a huge controversy around it, but I think part of that is because it hasn't been widely read over there.

Speaker 2:

So I want to ask you about the Arabic version. How did that happen? Did you translate it? Did you hire to translate yourself? Like I want to understand the mechanism for anyone who's watching or listening. It'll be good for them to know how you do that in a different language.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, so my agent works with a co-agent who sells works on selling the book to overseas territories, so we've sold it so far in Lebanon, in Italy and Turkey. The Italian and Arabic versions are out. The Turkish version is, I think, still in the works, and so with the Arabic one they hired the translator. I told my agent at the time that I wanted to be at least be able to review the translation and he was like are you sure that's going to be a lot of work? But I really wanted to do it because it's you know, there's a difference between Lebanese dialect and Hijazi dialect, which is what my characters speak. So it was important to me to make sure that the, especially the dialogue and some of the words that are used in the narrative, were translated correctly.

Speaker 1:

So actually, my dad and I both reviewed the book, the translation, and made some corrections, and it was like a lot of work which I like offloaded onto my father, which was nice.

Speaker 1:

I just went through and just checked if I agreed with him, but it was really. I found it to be really like wonderful to be able to do it, because I think it's really important to preserve the uniqueness of the different dialects and the different cultures within Arab culture and you know Saudi and sub-Saudi dialects like Hijazi are less well known, you know, than, say, lebanese dialect or Egyptian dialect or other dialects set through popular culture. You know more Arabs here so it was really important to me and to my dad which I thought was cool that we could share that together, to share that, our specific dialect, in the book. That's how that came about. Yeah, I don't know much about too much about the distribution of the book since then. You know that is sort of something that writers or authors are not too much privy to like, until you get like a royalty statement which I haven't yet for that book or for that version of the book.

Speaker 2:

So, okay, I want to talk a bit about your publishing journey, right? So you're, I talked to a lot of authors here and for you it's your debut novel and you already secured an agent, which is a big deal in the publishing world, as you know, and I talked to a lot of authors here who try for years and you know they couldn't find an agent, and so many of them ended up with either self-publishing or with hybrid presses. So how did you do it? What's your superpower?

Speaker 1:

Oh, wow. Well, it's kind of a meandering journey. So I, my first manuscript was not the spoke bright of the sea, it was a different book, and I did manage to get an agent with that book. So that was in 2012. And my book came out in 2021. So you can see that there was a big gap there and I at the time, you know, there was less, I think, of a clamoring for other voices and own voices, and I had. I did find an agent, but it took a lot of querying and I had one offer. You know people are like here's how you did decide which offer to take and it was like I have one, so I will take it. You know, and my, my agent was specifically interested in stories about the Middle East because he spent part of his childhood in Israel, and so I was lucky to find someone who valued writing about that part of the world and valued writing by people from those places.

Speaker 1:

So we tried to sell that book for many years and it went through a number of different iterations. I had conceived of it as an adult novel, but it because some of the protagonists are children. Then, you know, we rewrote it so that we could pitch it as like a YA or middle grade novel and, and it has gone through a number of big revisions. Meanwhile I started writing, or went back to writing, bright of the Sea. I had sort of done some early pages before that manuscript. That got me the agent, but I had really not known how to write the book.

Speaker 1:

And then, once I had written that first novel so maybe I needed to get like a novel out of my system before I could write this one I started working on this one again and you know I have kids, I had a day job and so it, you know it took time. I knew it would take me time, and then it took about five years to write. And then when we started submitting it so my agent, like you for me, stuck with me through that time of not selling the book and he was kind of waiting for me to finish this one. And then we went through some you know, a lot of rejections when we sent this book out and I ended up rewriting it a couple of times and finally we landed an amazing press. Tin House is an amazing press, maisie Cochran is an amazing editor. So at that point, you know, there were moments when I was like I'm never going to be a published author. But when, you know, when Bright of the Sea came out and I had had the opportunity to work with a really great independent press and a really great editor, it seemed worth it and so, yeah, so that's the journey there.

Speaker 1:

I feel like so many writers have stories like that. You know that are. When you see the book, it seems like it must have been sort of a straight line journey, but most of us have journeys that go up and down and around. You know, that's pretty normal. It doesn't feel great while you're going through it, but it's pretty normal. It's sort of the way things happen.

Speaker 1:

I wish it wasn't necessarily like that, but I do think that now there are, you know, there's a lot more ways to get published. There's a lot more interest in different kinds of voices and there's still some difficulty around, like what kinds of stories do they want from people who are immigrants or children of immigrants or people with complicated backgrounds, you know? But I think there's still there's more editors and agents who themselves are people of color or come from Southwest Asian, north African backgrounds. There's still not a lot, but there's more. There's more Muslim agents and editors than there used to be still not a lot, but more than zero right.

Speaker 1:

And I mean it's just the past couple of years that I have, in both book and, you know, short story or essay publishing, have encountered and been able to work with editors who come from you know, who have Muslim heritage or Arab heritage, like before that it was. I never encountered people like that, reading my work and responding to my work, and it's not that you know, it's not that, say, a white editor or agent can't understand and value our work, but it does seem to me that when you're working with someone who comes from sort of a shared or similar heritage, there's a certain level of understanding that you already that you start with. You know that you already have and you don't have to explain or get to that understanding, and so I think it's so important. You know, the changes that are happening in publishing are so important and I hope that they continue so that more of us can have easier journeys and not, you know, 12 year marathon.

Speaker 2:

So your agent you founded just by querying, like you know, just a shot in the dark.

Speaker 2:

Yeah you just kept querying, so it was not like someone introduced you. Yeah, okay, wow, so, okay. So now let's say you know Palestinian and Arab issues are in the forefront of the news. Being an Arab-American author yourself, how would the current conflict well, it's not a really you know conflict, but you know now it's more in the news affect your book sales? Or, if it hasn't, or you know, are you getting more invitation, less invitations? What's your situation now with what's happening?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I don't think it's affected me like in those outward ways I like, for example, this fall. I already had set up a number. It just happened that I had set up a number of things that where I was interacting with other Arab-American authors. So I did a book launch for Al-Ghassan Zaynadeen's New Story Collection where I was in conversation with him at Politics and Pros here in DC recently that was earlier this month and then last week I was in Minneapolis for an Arab-American Writers' Writing Conference. In a couple of weeks I'm going to Detroit for the Arab-American Book Awards where I'm going to be there as a judge.

Speaker 1:

I was a judge for this year's fiction contest and the events that are happening in Israel and in Gaza and Palestine have just changed the tenor of those events. They haven't necessarily changed everything that we talk about, but they have made them different. You know, when Ghassan and I sat down to talk, we were both feeling very sort of somber and he started by reading a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. But I think through the conversation it felt good and it felt energizing to be able to talk about a book about Arab-American lives during this time when there are so much stereotypes and vitriol.

Speaker 1:

And we're feeling, you know, similarly to the Jewish community. We're feeling kind of under attack right, and it's good to sort of share that grief and that feeling of fear with each other, but then also to be able to turn to our art, which nurtures us and energizes us over the years. You know that we are working on them and when we're sharing them with people and at the Arab-American Conference, the Rawi Mizna Conference last week in Minneapolis, there was so much, you would go from moments of deep grief that people were sharing together and moments of pure joy that we are together and that we are sharing our art with people who we don't have to explain our art to, who get it, you know. So I think that's the way the tenor has changed and there's also a little bit of you know, we had security there, there's a little bit of fear.

Speaker 1:

But in terms of book sales and things like that, that hasn't happened. I don't think that it has had an effect. I know like, for example, the author Itaaf Rum, who is the author of A Woman is New man and Her New Book is Evil Eye. She's a Palestinian-.

Speaker 2:

Is it yeah?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it just came out and she, you know, she posted on Instagram standing with Palestine. She's Palestinian-American, she writes about Palestinian-Americans and now she's getting videos from people who are throwing her books away Because she said I stand with Palestine and so, and they, they're like I loved your books, but I don't anymore. And it's like what do you think you were reading? You know, you were reading a book by a Palestinian. Like what did you think? A lot of Palestinians. Yeah, you were reading about Palestinians.

Speaker 1:

What did you expect her to say? And how did you expect her response or respond to this, you know? So I don't know how. I think that this is more of a question for Palestinian-Americans, especially who are writing about Palestine and Palestinian-Americans. How you know, these events might be affecting them and their work, but no-transcript. I think that things are different now, I think, than they were right after 9-11, where it was just like, you know, you couldn't really, you didn't feel like you had any allies, and now I think that there are people who are standing behind Arab-American writers and artists, you know.

Speaker 2:

Interesting, because I was not here during 9-11. I was actually in London and so you were here during 9-11, and you see the shift. So that's good to know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, I think it feels similar to that in terms of how vitriolic the conversation is, but different at the same time in the sense that I think that some of the people who are saying you know who are speaking out against Islamophobia at the same time they're speaking out against anti-Semitism, really mean it, you know, whereas I think I felt like back after 9-11, even you know, george Bush was saying you know he was standing against violence against Arab-Americans, at the same time that he was doing all the policies that he did that resulted in great violence and discrimination against our communities here and overseas. So I think that that is a difference, but still, there's still lip service. I'm not saying there isn't. I think there is for sure, but I think there are more people who are doing more than give lip service and who really see us than there were back then, for sure.

Speaker 2:

So I want to shift gears a bit and talk about life as an author. So you mentioned that, you mentioned you had a favorite topic. Yeah, well, it was allowed to talk about, but we don't have much time, yeah, but so okay. So I want to talk about life as an author. So you mentioned you had a day job when you were writing. Do you still have your day job?

Speaker 1:

I want to consult it now, so that gives me more flexibility in time.

Speaker 2:

So you're not a full-time author per se, or would you consider yourself a full-time author? The reason I'm yeah. It's like it feels like a trick.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it feels like a trick question in a way. I'm not saying you're trying to trick me, but like I am. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who and I think there was an article out recently, I forget, by the person who wrote it, but it's sort of like is writing creative writing? Like, is it work or is it play? What is it? Do I consider that part of my work? Do I consider it work? Well, ask Stephen King. Right For him it's work. Right, he's getting paid. When I'm getting paid for it, is it work? But when I'm not getting paid for it and when I'm getting paid for it, not very much, is it work? But I guess no, I'm not a full-time author in that I don't spend eight hours of my day working on my writing business, but I think so.

Speaker 1:

I'm a consultant. I would say if you looked at my income and this is not looking at my time but looking at my income, like if you looked at my income, I would say that probably 80% of it is communications, consulting related and maybe 20% of it is a combination of books, honoraria, teaching and other things that are related to being a creative writer. But it's not just the books. It's a combination of things and if you looked at my time I'm not exactly sure how it would come out. It kind of depends on the month and that kind of thing how much of my time is on creative work versus work that brings in the bigger amount of money, which is the consulting stuff. And some of my creative stuff is volunteer, like it's like judging a contest as a volunteer, working on a. The past couple of months I've been working on a literary magazine as a volunteer or maybe it's, you know, writing an article where I get, you know, a small fee. So it feels like kind of volunteer but not really so, and those things kind of come in and out.

Speaker 1:

But one of the things that I wanted in working for myself was to have more flexibility, to be able to do the things that where I am advancing the literary community and my own creative work. In addition to being able to have more time to focus on writing books, but also to be able to do things like write essays or reviews or work on a magazine or judge a contest, things like that that you know I couldn't do while I had a nine to five, but it was always pulling away time from the writing if you did that, and now it's like it's not pulling time away from my writing to do that. It's just kind of fitting things in. So I like that flexibility a lot.

Speaker 1:

But what it means is and maybe you, maybe you experience this too is that there's sometimes a feeling of instability and like sort of not knowing what's coming next. Yeah, so I deal with that by like it's the first day of a new month. So yesterday I do like sort of quarterly planning or quarterly kind of what's coming up for me and I have a little post it that's about this big and I divide it into quarters and I write you know four months this month and the next three months, all the things that are that I'm working on in terms of you know, the project, yeah, projects, fiction, I'm working on client projects, I'm working on volunteer projects I'm working on, and I put them on there so I can see, like and plan ahead. Oh, I want to. I can do take on another project that month or take on another couple of projects that month, and that's how I keep myself from going a little crazy because I don't know what's happening.

Speaker 1:

So I've been doing this for two years, after years and years of having nine to five jobs and learning how to write around a nine to five job, which meant, you know, writing on the way to work on the metro on my phone, or writing in the evening when I got home after the kids were in bed. But now I can fit it into my, you know, day, day, and, and that's been a really nice thing. I know, you know not everybody can do it, but for me I've gotten to the point in my career where I think that the, the, my consulting work, can pay for the, for the time that I need for the other stuff, and that's how I look at it. I work to write.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, like you say, like I exercise to eat candy, or yeah right, exactly so. Would you ever go back to nine, to five, maybe?

Speaker 1:

I don't know, like, maybe, if I need a, you know, if I'm sort of when my kids are older, you know, maybe, maybe or maybe before that, I don't know. I'm not opposed to going back to it because I don't think it's impossible to keep being an author while also having a nine to five. It's not easy, but it's not impossible. And I feel like I don't know. I think maybe this happens for a lot of people who write creatively or are authors. It's like you feel like you have to basically build two careers. Right, you're building, you're building your career as a whatever the nine to five or teaching job or whatever is and you're also trying to build your career as a creative writer. And you get to a certain point where it, like you know, early on, it's like what I really want is just to be an author nine to five and Honest. If someone handed that to me, I wouldn't say no, necessarily, but like, but. But you also, I like.

Speaker 1:

I feel like I got to a point where I had, like, built a communications career and I Didn't necessarily want to fully let go of it. I like what I do there. I like working with you know people who are leading Justice-oriented nonprofits or nonprofits, they're doing good things in the world. I, like you, know ghostwriting for people who have something important to say and who other people are gonna listen to. I Enjoy it, it's you know, and so I think that if I had an opportunity To find, it would have to be the really the right nine to five, the right benefits and and that kind of thing. But I wouldn't be opposed to it necessarily.

Speaker 1:

But I don't know and I'm like you know, I'm kind of like it's okay not to know and to enjoy what you're doing right now, live in the moment a little bit and one of the things I enjoy about working for myself is is viewing that as a business and and, and you know, strategizing for myself and Planning ahead and you know, kind of really embracing that business aspect of it. And you know, the the writing stuff fits into that too, because you know writing is a creative activity but it's also a business. And if you want to be Traditionally published or if you want to be self-published and sell your books, you have to think of it as a business. And that can be kind of, yeah, jarring sometimes, because what?

Speaker 1:

you really want to have to yeah, but you have to think of it that way. So I'm thinking about things like, like I, you know, I took on the guest editing gig because I had been thinking for a while that you know, maybe I'd like to try Editing. I've never I've edited people's work but in you know, in my jobs, like I haven't edited fiction before and so I thought it'd be fun to try it out and and that's adding something to my creative resume, you know. So that's adding something to my resume as a as a business of me, and it's been fun I really loved. I had the honor to edit something by Madeleine Nakib, who's a lady author who I really admire, and Sarah Cipher, who's an Arab American writer what's?

Speaker 2:

what's the magazine? It's called Ruiat and our Ruiat.

Speaker 1:

Okay, and our new issue has been Rolling out since mid-October. It'll finish rolling out in mid-November.

Speaker 1:

Oh, check it out yeah and so I've been working and I've been working with two other co-fiction editors, and so that's also been fun learning from them.

Speaker 1:

And so I think that there there are so many ways to be involved in the in the writing community outside of just doing your own writing. And I think when I had a nine to five and I had kids and I had all the family obligations and I was trying to write a novel, like I couldn't. It was hard to do, it was hard to consider doing anything else, you know like, I just like I said it would take away from the writing time. But I see a lot of people who are trying to do it all, who are like you know, they're at it, they're editing magazines, they're writing their own stuff, they're going to school, they're, you know, like and it's whatever, whatever sustains you and you can pull into your life to Help be connected to a community of writers. I think it's really great. I feel like I'm making up for lost time when I was just sort of like a novelist in her hole, you know, and I really enjoyed that.

Speaker 2:

How do clients find you? How do clients? Oh, for my, communications work.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, they find me through word of mouth pretty much Okay, yeah so.

Speaker 1:

Or referrals to people I already know because I worked, I worked, I've worked, you know, for so long I knew a lot of people at different organizations and so that's how it's about, yeah, and so I sort of like I try to yeah, I try to, like, you know, post things on late thin from time to time.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, to sort of show people To do kind of two things one, show people how I think about the works that sometimes I'll do posts about, you know, kind of communications related things. But also like just so that people remember that I exist. And A couple of times I've had people say, oh, I called you about that After I saw you post about this totally unrelated thing you know. And so I think just like kind of one of the things for me about finding clients is like there are a lot of people I know who could have a need for what I do. So making sure they know what I do, understand what I do and Remember that exist, so that when they have a need for me they'll reach out. That's sort of my way of of trying to Mark it basically.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, okay. So your novel came out when in 2021? That's right. Okay, what are you working on now? If you are working on something new, yeah, I want to, and what's what's? You know what's in the pipeline for you as an author?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so. So after A few months, after Bright of the Seat came out, I started working on my Arab-American Hollywood novel, which I'm still working on. What's Arab?

Speaker 2:

America. It's not a love story. Is it a love?

Speaker 1:

story. It's based on the life of Amara Sharif, and the first, the first chapter, is coming out in the upcoming cinema issue of the magazine Mizna, but I'm still working on the rest of it. So there's that and and that's been super fun and and. But then this year I have been working with a UK publisher on the sort of horror folklore inspired horror book for them, and so that is that's the thing that I'm really working on.

Speaker 2:

They contacted you to write for them, or how did that?

Speaker 1:

work. That's right. I'm doing sort of a work for hire kind of thing oh.

Speaker 2:

That's fun. And how did they find you? I am not sure somebody had yeah, yeah, yeah, ah, fun, fun. So the reason I get into the weeds is just to help other others as well who are listening, like how do they get into that the scene, and how you know so and and so, before we conclude, what kind of tips or messages would you give to aspiring authors, hmm, and also to, let's say, arab American authors or immigrant authors or authors of color who Want to make it?

Speaker 1:

You know, in this crowded market, yeah, I mean that's a really important point. It's really crowded. Yeah yeah, I mean that's, and even when you do, some people will see you stand like even if you get reviewed and things, it doesn't necessarily translate to sales, you know no it doesn't, and and there's so many, I think you know there's so many things that we don't really know, or there's so many ways in which publishing is kind of like what's the word I'm looking for not?

Speaker 1:

Unvigulous yeah, or or just that. Like people don't talk about Stuff all the time and so you just don't know. Like I mean, I think people like think that you have to know someone to get in. It's like no, cold-queering actually works. Some of the biggest writers you know got their their agents through cold-queering. It does, it does it. Is it helpful to, you know, have someone refer you to an agent or something? Sure Might be, but it, you know it, doesn't mean they'll take you. Like it might mean that they're more likely to read your work. I also, you know, um, it was Sanze and a Dean who I was in conversation with this last month. He, he didn't have an agent when he sold his book to Tin House, and an editor there read one of his stories and reached out to him and that happens and I'm listening to his book now.

Speaker 2:

It's fantastic.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's so good.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's amazing, it's very good.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, it's hilarious too. I love, I love the humor. Yeah, so that was his. You know that was his story. So I think I guess you know.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so the thing that I got told early in my career that I didn't really listen to was I was Writing what were the earliest pages of Bright of the Sea that ended up being cut eventually. But you know the earliest moment when I was like working on it, or one of the early moments and I was in a writing class and the my instructor, who? He was like okay, you've got started now, now keep going. Now you got to finish it and I was like and then you know, it took me years to do that. I think that a lot of times, many of us not not all of us some people have this amazing ability to, in their 20s or in their teens, sit down and write the whole thing, and I'm talking specifically to long-form writers now, yeah, you know, but but a lot of us, what we want to have written before, we've written right and we're dreaming about all the things that will happen when the book is done, instead of sitting down and just writing the book.

Speaker 1:

And so that's my advice is to figure out how you're gonna do it, because it's not just gonna happen by itself. The only difference between someone who wants to write a novel and someone who has written a novel is that one of them wrote the Novel right. So it's a matter of and sometimes you don't know how to do it. There are books, there are classes, there are people to talk to, there are, you know, folks on social media who are talking about how they did it. I think, like, just don't think that you have to reinvent the wheel too. Like you know, like they're there, you know there are ways to get through the process of writing a long-form work. I think that might be for some people that's goal-setting, for some people that's going to a retreat or something, so you can have, you know, get a whole bunch of pages written. Like there's just like there's ways to do it. You don't have to make up the technical solution on your own. You can talk to people and figure out how they did it, and I wouldn't, but I wouldn't listen to just one person because Different people have different ways of doing it, but I think there are like two or three to me in the way I have taught about this.

Speaker 1:

I'm teaching a class about this in December for writercom, about how to get started writing a novel, and I have identified like a handful of ways that Authors get from start to finish. So there aren't a million ways to do it, there are a couple of ways to do it. There are a million ways to do it when you think about each of us is going to tailor the method of writing the book To who we are and how we work best. But it's, you know, it's really important to try to get to the end, and I think a lot of times, um, that's the part that seems so hard to do, but if you remember that many people have done it and you can do it too, I think that's another way. That's so. That was like 10 pieces of advice. How many pieces of advice that I just gave an attention.

Speaker 2:

That's great. So, iman, how? How do people reach you and how do they get your books or they want to take your courses? What is the best way to reach you?

Speaker 1:

Sure, um, I'm on instagram I think that might be the best way or linkedin Um, if you are interested in talking about day jobs or giving me work. If you want to buy my book, you can get it from um online booksellers, maybe your local bookstore you can order from, and um. You can also reach me through my website. There's a contact form there iman quotacom. Yeah, I love, I love hearing from aspiring writers, um, and I love hearing from people who have read my book and are interested in Telling me how it affected them.

Speaker 2:

So that's great. So, iman, best of luck and thank you. I know you're very busy and thank you for taking the time to chat with me and For for anyone who's listening or watching. Thank you for joining us for another episode of read and write with matasha and, until we meet again, thank you for having me natasha.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for tuning in to read and write with natasha. I'm your host, natasha times. 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.

Arab American Literature and Identity
Arab-American Author Publishing Journey
Balancing Writing and Consulting Careers
Advice for Aspiring Writers