My New Gig: Book Blogger

I don’t think I ever mentioned I am a book blogger now?

Well I am a book blogger for Layali webzine, this neat online magazine geared towards young American Muslim women!

This is a great outlet for me to write again and also get experience reviewing books instead of mumbling incoherent thoughts to people when I recommend or dissuade them from a particular book. There really is an art of writing a great book review, like you can’t be so subjective but you also have to add your opinion and analysis, not give away spoilers and major plot points, tease out captivating and thought-provoking quotes AND sound interesting.

So far I have reviewed two books, but only one has been posted so far: Alif the Unseen.

I’m a pretty slow reader though with work and everything else going on, so I intend to have a review every month but it might be every other month.

The next books I’ll be reviewing in the upcoming months are:

I’m trying to not specifically review only books that involve Muslim characters or Islam since obviously those aren’t the only books I or American Muslim women read, but one of my goals is to showcase good literature that successfully integrates those subjects and add my critical perspective to the dialogue. I also hope to inspire American Muslim women to not only read more, but read diverse types of books. Then we can all be nerds together!

If you’ve got any great books you’ve read or think I should review, let me know so I’ll add it to my list! Being a book blogger is the best excuse to spend all your time and money on books hehe.


Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story

History is said to be written by the victors.

Noor Inayat Khan is a Muslim woman, born in Moscow in 1914. While living in Paris, she found her true calling during the Second World War: to stand up to the encroaching Nazi terror. She worked as a secret agent and wireless operator in Paris behind enemy lines and transmitting messages to Berlin. Noor was eventually betrayed by some French operatives, arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis. She was tortured, but refused to reveal any information to her captors.She was later transferred to Dachau concentration camp with other female agents and shot in 1943.

Noor Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949. She is a real-life hero we have failed to acknowledge in our war accounts and heroic narratives and now we have the chance to ensure history doesn’t miss this incredible chapter.

Unity Productions has produced a fantastic 60 minute docudrama about her life and needs our help to make sure the movie gets to see the light of day. The Kickstarter campaign has a $45,000 goal and already $39,467 has been pledged. There are 69 more hours to go and the campaign is SO CLOSE.

There are hundreds of films about WW II, but the Muslim story is largely missing. Our aim is to share the story of a hero who was unique in her own right: growing up in a household with American and Indian roots. Noor’s childhood was rich with inclusion and openness to all people, even as divisive nationalism and ethnic genocide were on the rise across Europe. Because of its universal values and sheer display of heart and courage, everyone can identify with Noor Khan’s story. It will help people to see Muslims, particularly Muslim women, in a new light.

Noor’s identity as a Muslim woman did not stop her from signing up to join the fight against the Nazis. Motivated by her faith, Noor’s worldview was based on a respect for all faiths against Hitler’s ideology of ethnic and religious extermination. She suffered the same fate as millions of Jews.

In a period like ours, filled with debate about Muslim women, who they are and what they stand for, we see great value in bringing into the public square examples and stories of strong Muslim women in unconventional situations. The Muslim community rarely has an opportunity to share such stories widely. Noor Khan’s biography, shown on national television, has the potential to reach millions.

If the campaign doesn’t reach its goal, then the project loses ALL FUNDING. ALL OF IT!

That means all the hard work and outreach will have been for nothing. Please donate whatever you can to this amazing project and spread the word to your family, friends and network. Check out the project on KickstarterFacebook, and Twitter.

UPF is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit, so all donors will also get a tax-deduction (if that’s what really motivates you.)

Noor’s story deserves to be heard. Let’s make it happen!

R.I.P Ned Vizzini

Just found out on Twitter that Ned Vizzini has died. At first I didn’t believe, because Twitter is always killing off people but there are two tweets from BuzzFeedBooks and a fellow writer with Ned on a project called Last Resort. It’s amazing to read the outpouring of love and support for him from authors, writers, and readers.

I read his book It’s Kind of a Funny Story when I was a teenager and found it to be so visceral and honest about all the suffocating pressures teens feel to be perfect and high-achieving and accepted. It was also a window into what it’s like to suffer from depression and knowing Ned was writing from a personal experience, made it all the more powerful. The sincerity of his character is something I noted after reading the book and have been trying to emulate in my own writing. Ned was also just inspiration as someone who had so many writing success at such a young age, publishing essays in the New York Times and a book at 19. He went on to work on more novels and scriptwriting and speaking on writing to young audiences.

A tragic loss for his family and the community, but Ned will live on through the words he’s written and the people who knew him.

Hijabi Monologues Story Contest


-written by Sahar Ullah-

We often share our own stories in the way we give gifts. In sharing stories, we share pieces of ourselves. Someone initiates. Someone reciprocates. Sometimes, we regret what we’ve given; other times, we receive far greater than what we give.

In July 2006, Dan Morrison, Zeenat Rahman and I founded the Hijabi Monologues. Since then, the HM has been a growing organic project with fresh stories shared by others touched by truth-telling; organized and performed for thousands across the U.S. and abroad including the Kennedy Center and Off-Broadway; and covered by various media outlets including The Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Miami Herald, and WAMU Latitudes.

After a wonderful five years, the Hijabi Monologues team is excited to announce the very first nationwide monologues competition. We are accepting stories from and for all ages: adults, teenagers and children. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters.


1. Winning writers will be announced on the Hijabi Monologues-Official Facebook fan page.

2. Winning writers will be given the opportunity to work closely with an official HM performer–including May Alhassen and Kamilah Pickett–in directing a performance of their stories.

3. Hijabi Monologues will upload the resulting performances on YouTube and the Hijabi Monologues-Official Facebook fan page.


Entry is free.

When you submit your story, you will be asked to provide:

1. Confirmation that the monologue submitted is completely original to you. You are the present and exclusive and sole owner of all right, title, and interest in and to the story.
2. Confirmation that the monologue has not been published, used in an anthology, or winner of any other contests.
3. Confirmation that the monologue is a true story.


1. One (1) entry per person (one monologue).
2. Scripts in Microsoft Word (.doc) are requested.
3. The monologue should be double-spaced and no longer than 800 words or 6 minutes.
4. Contact information (name, E-mail address, etc.) on the cover page only.
5. Please put the title of your monologue at the top of each page.
6. Please paginate your script at the bottom of each page: 1 of 5, 2 of 5 etc
7. Submit your monologue by emailing with the subject “Story Contest Submission 2011.”

Submission deadline: Friday, September 2, 2011, 11:59 EST

Monologues submitted after 11:59 PM EST of September 2 will not be accepted. Monologues that do not follow the entry guidelines will not be accepted.

Winners will be announced Friday, September 9, 2011 on our Official Facebook Page.


1. The hijab is to be used as a “prop” but not the centerpiece or story subject.

2. Your story does not have to be something absolutely crazy. In even the utterly mundane, there can be a narrative.

3. Use explicit regional references. Do not shy away from using Muslim (eg. He broke his wudu), cultural/ regional specific (eg. She was hella mad.) or ethnic (eg. Her dupatta was always freshly pressed) lingo. At the same time, the story should be accessible to a wide audience.

4. Stories about sexuality are fine but keep in mind that Muslim women have been represented as hyper-sexual, asexual and sexually repressed in popular film and literature. Be creative!

5. Stories written for young audiences are welcomed.

6. As an exercise, highlight the elements that are specific to the storyteller’s quirks. Then highlight the elements that are “universal.” Both of these elements are very important.

7. Read your monologue aloud. It should sound like a story–and less like a campaign speech, sermon and/or spoken word poetry.

8. Again, local stories (i.e., specific to a particular region, city or town) are a big plus!


Cristina Martinez organized HM shows in South Florida and Ohio State University. Cristina received her graduate degree in English Literature at OSU. Her research focus includes American and Latino/a fiction, memoir and graphic novels.

Dan Morrison is the CEO and Founder of Citizen Effect, a nonprofit that empowers anyone to be a philanthropist for a small but critical project around the world. Dan received his graduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies at University of Chicago where he met fellow Hijabi Monologues founders Sahar Ullah and Zeenat Rahman.

Zeenat Rahman is the Deputy Director for the Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at U.S. Agency for International Development – USAID. Zeenat received her graduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies at University of Chicago where she met fellow HM founders Sahar Ullah and Dan Morrison.

Avery Willis-Hoffman is a freelance producer, director and writer working in theatre, opera, and museum exhibit design. She earned her BA in English Literature and Classics at Stanford University, and her MA and PhD in Classical Languages, Literature, and Theatre at University of Oxford (UK)

Sahar Ullah is a founder, the Creative Director and Head Writer for the Hijabi Monologues. From South Florida and a lover of good stories, she continues to learn the priceless value of “I don’t know” and lived experiences.

ASU alumna pens new fantasy novel

I love spotlighting local authors and this one is a graduate of my university, so double fun!

My latest story in the State Press is about  ASU alumna, Margeaux Laurent, who just published “Spellbound: The Awakening of Aislin Collins,” a YA fantasy novel.

Check her out!

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

I know I’ve been neglecting my duties here at Young and Writerly as a chronicler of all things writing, but I have a good excuse: I’ve been writing lol.

I got a job as a part-time reporter at the State Press on the diversity beat, which means I have to spend more time finding my stories because “diverse” is code word for “not known by most of the students on campus.”

I’m also in a reporting class which also requires a story written every week. And while working on my stories, I have to be on the lookout for stories to pitch for the next week’s story.

On top of that, I’m taking 19 credit hours this semester.


Of course, the challenge is most welcome but it does take time away from my personal writing and this blog. I’m excited though because I got this brilliant novel/novella idea that I don’t want to talk to much about. My only hint is that it relates to my last post. It came to me in the middle of the night and I had to save it in a message draft on my phone:)

I’m hoping that this idea will come to fruition throughout the semester and not be dropped like my NaNo novels. I need something sustainable that I won’t get tired of and that with all my stress from school will beckon me to sit back and relax as I dive into an imaginary world.

Because as a journalism/global studies student who’s reading all about politics and conflict and poverty and human rights and religion, things can get pretty dark, so I’m doing my best to create a little sanctuary for myself.

Right now it includes Tumblr, Hulu, tea and my Nook:)

Is NaNoWriMo pointless?

I read an unexpected and strange Salon article by Laura Miller bashing the idea of NaNoWriMo and the people who participate in it as being foolish, wasteful, idealistic, naive and non-readers. After reading the end of it, I didn’t even know where to start with her illogical arguments, but realized Miller completely misses the point of NaNoWriMo and the message it sends writers.

Obviously writing a novel or 50,000 words in one month isn’t a recipe for an amazing, engaging and perfect bestseller. That’s not what NaNoWriMo is endorsing or even promoting. It’s promoting literary abandon, the freedom to pursue what you’ve been meaning to do but never found the push or time or the support or the courage:write!

There is more to writing a book than a first draft.

We all know that first drafts are meant to be crappy, rough outlines whether you write it in a one month writing marathon or over several months on your own time. Most people can not get through that step and don’t understand that their inner critic that wants them to write perfectly the first time around is wrong. Just wrong.

Revising, editing, workshopping–those are the tools that help shape your book and get it ready to be sent of to a publisher, if you so choose. And NaNo announces after the end of November, “I wrote a novel. Now what?”

If you successfully get through NaNo through honest means, not by giving your character four names or having them repeat everything they say, all you need to do is learn how to sustain that momentum through the next month, year and so on.

And that brings up another fallacy of Miller’s argument: that everyone who does NaNoWriMo wants to be published or immediately wants their novel to be published or want to get that novel published at all. Not true!

If I finish my NaNo novel, I’m not going to print it out, stick it in an SASE envelope to a publisher that I chose by closing my eyes and picking a name out of a list. I’m going to continue working on it until it’s ready, which is what I’m doing with the one I started last year. I might have rushed through the first draft, but I’m definitely not going to rush through the rest of the writing process.

NaNo writers aren’t readers

Miller say that all the people participating in NaNoWriMo should all go read a book instead, because most Americans never read do. So people who are supporting and engaging themselves in the creative arts community, the very process that makes books, are the ones who are the reason Americans don’t read more books? Really?

I fully believe you cannot be a real writer if you are not also a reader.I’m a huge bookworm and spending this month writing isn’t going to prevent me from being a reader, just like it won’t prevent me from talking to people, eating, doing homework etc. I would argue the majority of NaNo writers are in fact readers themselves.

Real writers don’t avoid life. They might cut out luxuries and going out to movies all the time, watching TV, but why is that a problem? Applying yourself to your passion/job isn’t an absurd thing, if you ask me. Spending one month on a dream, on a goal is never fruitless. It’s empowering and self-actualizing.

No one can prove that someone is a bad writer.

Miller certainly doesn’t know all the participants in NaNoWriMo or their skill level, education, publishing history or profession, so how could she paint them all in one brush as irrational, bad writers?

They may be an underdeveloped one, they may not have recognized their authentic voice, they may be trying to imitate someone else’s ideas, but that doesn’t mean they are a bad writer. Should we have said Einstein was stupid and would never amount to anything because he failed math in school? Why can’t we give writers the benefit of the doubt?

I don’t think we should blame NaNoWriMo for making people who aren’t “good writers” put everything aside to write the Great American Novel and further extend editor’s slushpiles. That’s like saying if it weren’t for American Idol, we wouldn’t have tone-deaf people believing they can get a singing career. People are always going to have impossible dreams and inaccurate perceptions of their talents and skills, but how is that hurtful or detrimental to society?

Takeaway Message

We all have our time and place and if given the opportunity, those who accept the challenge and allow themselves the chance to achieve will in the end be successful. NaNoWriMo could be the challenge that allows a young writer to see their potential with all the encouragement, support, positivity and constructive criticism.

I’m happy to see Carolyn Kellogg’s response to Miller’s argument in defense of NaNoWriMo and I hope that you will still be encourage to continue your writing, whether or not you are keeping up with the daily word counts.

People will always come up with a billion excuses for you to not achieve your goal.

You only need one reason to do it: because you can.

Blog Action Day: World Water Crisis


child enjoying clean and safe drinking water f...

Image via Wikipedia


water rolls in flash floods down my face

it trickles down my cheek to the tip of my tongue

its salty sweet taste doesn’t quench me

if only i drank as much as i cried tears

i wouldn’t be lying here

i wouldn’t be dying here

hoping and praying for the clouds to come back

for the well to fill on its own

for the river to turn from brown to clear

for life to awaken us


Today is Blog Action Day, where bloggers all over the world use their blogs as a place to bring light to the water crisis. Since this is a writing blog, so I thought I’d write a short poem and then share some facts about how seriously important it is for all of us to be aware of our water usage and the opportunities we have to help conserve and give clean, fresh water access to those in developing countries or countries in drought.

I know from personal experience, living in a desert state, what a tremendous resource water is and that it doesn’t last forever. It really doesn’t. Without it, we cannot survive.

Did you know that one billion people in the world do not have access to clean, drinkable water?

African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink.

Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities

In North America, the average person uses 350 liters of water per day; the average person in Sub-Saharan Africa uses 10-20 liters.

By 2025, the United Nations predicts 3 billion people will be scrambling for clean water.


Please help me support water projects in developing countries by donating to my 20th birthday campaignfor the non-profit organization, Charity Water.

Drilling a well can cost from $4,000 – $ 12,000 and many living in the community live on less than $1 a day

$20 means one person can get clean water for 20 years.

$250 means two families of six can get clean water.

$5,000 means clean water for a community of 250.


Publish Your E-Book


Amazon Kindle e-book reader being held by my g...
Image via Wikipedia

With the Internet, it’s so much easier to get published without a traditional publishing company or literary agent. You can write a personal blog that could spin off into a best selling book and movie like Julie Powell with Julie and Julia or have a really interesting Twitter feed like #$! My Dad Says and get a book and TV show.

Now, you can get your novel out into the world as an e-book. Barnes and Noble has a new service called PubIt! that makes it very simple to publish in 3 steps.

Amazon had a print-on-demand service called CreateSpace and a Digital Text Platform that will sell your book through Amazon’s Kindle e-reader and Kindle apps.

Remember that by not going the traditional route, you’re giving up lots of manpower, budget and experience that could have gone towards promoting your book and making it the best it could be. You’ll have to be in charge of selling yourself and making a profit, but having all that control may be a plus for you too. Make sure to read all the details before you go through it anything since you don’t have a savvy agent who knows all the rules and regulations.

Explore new creative ways in publishing and who might want to pick up your book next!

Text Your Next Novel


Photo credit:ECI Photography


For you tech-savvy, text-crazed writers, the text novel may be the next big thing you want to try out.

Text novels are a new form of writing, otherwise known as cellphone novels. Stories are written through text or email messages in short snippets and built together for one long story that’s sent to the web. The novels are about anything–romance, sci-fi, westerns, paranormals.

There’s actually a whole community out there that has embraced this new way of publishing by sharing  stories, getting feedback and winning prizes. The more your story is voted on, the higher it’ll get on the charts and make it to the front page! It’s a great opportunity to network and track the popularity of your stories by following and subscribing to text novels. Plus, you can even get your novel published like the 2008 winner of the TextNovel contest, Shannon Delany, who got a 3-book publishing deal with St. Martin’s Press!

So try it out today and put your texting to good use!