I’ve always said that one of the best part about being an author is meeting other authors and getting to read their books and stories (sometimes a little early!).
With my own picture book coming out in 2020, I was fortunate to meet several other debut picture book authors. One of them is Aya Khalil. Her book THE ARABIC QUILT: An Immigration Story, illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan, releases February 18th.
I got to read her book in advance, and am so excited to have her on my blog today. So please welcome Aya Khalil! (As always, I’ll be in bolded green text.)
Hi! Thanks for having me.
I’d love to learn more about you. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure, I am a freelance journalist and educator with my debut picture book coming out in February. I live in Northwest Ohio with my three children and husband.
Wow, three jobs (counting author)! That is not easy, especially with kids. And huge congratulations on your book. I’m so excited for it’s release. Please tell us about it.
My book is about a beautiful girl named Kanzi who recently immigrated to the US from Egypt. She tries so hard to fit in but the teasing really gets to her. With the help of her teacher and mom, she learns to appreciate her language and culture.
It’s so hard to remember what’s important when you’re young . . . especially in the face of teasing. I loved that Kanzi had so many supportive adults in her life. Kids need that! I’d love to know what inspired you to write The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story.
My picture book is based on true stories growing up as an immigrant. I moved to the US when I was one with my parents and brother. We attended a mostly all-white school in a rural town in North Dakota. We had incredible teachers there and especially this one teacher who thought of this lesson one day. She asked me, with the help of my mom, to write down our classmates’ names in Arabic. My classmates thought their names in Arabic were so cool! So they each copied their names on their own and the teacher hung them up as a quilt. This happened over 20 years ago and just comes to show how powerful teachers can be, especially to their minority students.
What a lovely and inclusive lesson plan! Teachers have such an influence and can do so much good. And I love that you used your own life stories to inspire you. What advice would you give to beginning writers about finding ideas?
Write down ideas all the time! Whether it’s a blog or even on your Notes app, write down encounters or situations. Maybe you will end up making it into a book some day.
Great advice! You never know what might inspire a story.
Above you mentioned you do freelance journalism. Have you always wanted to write? And how did you get into writing picture books?
I read to my kids often and used to review picture books and I always thought it would be so neat to get my words out there to young children. With my background in journalism my published work was usually geared towards adults.
Well, I’m so glad you took the plunge! The Arabic Quilt is a beautiful story that will no doubt resonate with a lot of kids!
As a new author what is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about being an author?
That it takes A LONG TIME! I was always so used to the fast-paced world of journalism and quick responses and quick edits and quick publishing times! Ha! That’s not always the case in the picture book industry.
Haha! No, it is not. Such a stark contrast between the two industries. Patience is definitely needed for the book publishing world.
Okay, one last question. Here on my blog, I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think Kanzi would put on her license plate (even though she’s definitely too young to drive!)?
QuiltTheHate (Like quit the hate but with the word quilt instead)
How perfect! And I’m guessing that after your book releases, there will be a lot of classes making their own quilts, just like Kanzi’s class.
Thank you again for stopping in and answering some questions!
Thank you so much for asking these great questions!
Best wishes for your book! And to all my readers, please find Aya’s social media links below, as well as links for where you can get your own copy of THE ARABIC QUILT!
Aya Khalil is a freelance journalist and educator. She holds a master’s degree in Education with a focus in Teaching English as a Second Language. THE ARABIC QUILT is based on true events growing up, when she moved to the US from EGYPT at the age of one. Her articles have been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The Post & Courier, Toledo Area Parent, and more. She’s been featured in Yahoo!, Teen Vogue, Verona and more. www.ayakhalil.com