SBS

My latest SBS article is up!

I loved seeing the Asian diaspora in a Marvel film

This was such a fun and validating piece to write. Thank you to the wonderful SBS team and the commissioning editor, Candice Chung, for giving my piece a home.

It’s cold/flu season here in rainy Malaysia so that means running after my three little kids as they get better, then get sick again, then get better….I am hoping and praying for full recovery soon :p Part and parcel of strengthening their immune systems! *cry*

If you’re anything like me and enjoy light-hearted gangster movies with strong female leads (I am literally writing a book with celebrities and gangsters), I strongly recommend Netflix’s Triad Princess. It’s so funny!

I forgot to link to my earlier SBS piece: Finding peace when you are irritated by most sounds. Haha this one’s for you, Mak!

querying

My Pitch Wars Rejection story

Ah, PitchWars 2019. I remember you well. I was heavily pregnant with Baby #3 by the time September came around and due to give birth to my baby boy. I knew that if I didn’t finish my novel in time – it would never happen.

JUST KIDDING. It would just be A LOT harder. Not impossible, but harder. My many, many unfinished manuscripts wouldn’t land me an agent. But a polished one could.

Tip 1: Finish your first draft!

Throughout my pregnancy, I wrote, finished and revised my YA Contemporary fantasy at my favourite restaurants and cafes. Because I didn’t have the advantage of my critique partner at the time – social media overwhelms me and I didn’t have the spoons to do anything rather than finish my book – I paid for Michele Sagan’s fantastic editorial service for my manuscript, query letter and synopsis.

If you have the resources to pay, I highly recommend her! If you don’t, there’s still plenty you can do to get your submission package ready for the querying trenches. It will probably take longer though, but it’s okay to take your time to get your book ready for querying. Better to take your time to query than blow your chances by querying too soon!

PitchWars is a great way to get support – if you get selected. Industry professionals like agented authors and editors have a lot of experience to share when they offer mentorship. I haven’t applied for AAM or #RevPit myself but these are some examples.

So back to my Pitch Wars story.

My husband took my two girls on a holiday with his family members, leaving me with my mother and newborn for a few days. Bliss! My mother would go walking around my neighbourhood in the morning and come back with tasty packet of nasi lemak with my favourite extras – paru, bergedil.

I excitedly read through the mentor list, sent out out my mentor application with my polished manuscript, query letter and synopsis. It was so exciting to feel like I was one step closer to getting my book in the hands of a potential mentor.

And then, I waited. And waited some more.

Tip 2: Publishing involves a lot of waiting. Get used to it.

And then, it happened! My first full manuscript request! I couldn’t believe it. My story actually grabbed the attention of a potential PW mentor! I sent it through and hoped for the best. And waited some more.

Sadly though, it didn’t spark enough interest for me to get selected. All the PW hype immediately died for me, then and there. The rejections from my potential PW mentors were kind, and I remember one being very personalised which I appreciated. But it still stung.

So I took a step back from all things PW-related. As much as I was happy for everyone else who got in, I didn’t.

I participated in #DVPIT in October 2019, which was a massive boost for me because I had actual agents liking my tweets! I wanted to tweak my book a little bit more so I only started sending out queries in January.

The nightmare of querying had begun. I obsessively checked my inbox for replies which didn’t come within days, or weeks. HAHA. And then the rejections started piling in. And yikes, that stung too. Along with the rejections came partial requests, which then turned to full requests.

And then….the first game-changer. I received my first R&R on a full! An agent rejected my book, yes, but saw enough potential in it to give me a seriously helpful edit letter – for free. I thanked her, stopped querying, and got to work on my R&R. I sent it to the agent, who still rejected it, but it was still a stronger book.

My second game-changer happened shortly after. I came across a tweet from Meredith Ireland (HI MEREDITH!) saying she’s open to selecting a mentee. I figured, well, why not, it’s worth a try. Thank you, Twitter. So I applied and then forgot about it. Having three small kids is very helpful because they just tire you out completely.

When Meredith emailed me and asked for my synopsis and the rest of my book, I was confused because I thought she was an agent. Hahaha. But she wasn’t in my agent spreadsheet. Then I realised OH it’s the mentorship I applied for! She loved my synopsis and opening pages, and asked for the rest of my book. The rest is history.

My agent emailed me as I was revising my book asking for my full, and I asked her if she could wait til I finished revisions with Meredith – she was happy to. When I sent my much stronger book to her, she kept reading it then asked me if my book was still available (if any other agent had expressed an interest in representing me) and I said YES STILL AVAILABLE SO AVAILABLE lolol. I had racked up a lot of rejections by then and was just about to lose hope and shelve it. And it finally happened! I got The Email About The Call and sent Meredith an excited Whatsapp!!! My call with my agent was at night while my kids were asleep, with my one year old strapped to me in his carrier, while I bounced on my exercise ball. It was perfect, and I knew that she was the right agent for me. I sent out nudges to all the other agents who had my full MS, all of whom stepped aside, and accepted Alli’s offer of rep.

Tip 3: The right agent will LOVE your book

I cannot state this enough. Your book, the book you wrote and love, will spark something in the right agent for you. The right agent for you is a career agent – the agent who’ll stick by you and support you in the very common event that your first book doesn’t sell. The right agent will believe in you and your writing career, and communicate transparently with you about All The Publishing Things.

In short, I got rejected by Pitch Wars but it made me a stronger writer, and I signed with my agent without it. Keep going, one step at a time, and take all the breaks you need – especially if you’re an ND and BIPOC author like me. This industry is brutal, so look after yourself. There are so many books left for you to write, if your first one doesn’t get you an agent, or land you a book deal.

If you’re an ND (self-identification is valid) and/or BIPOC author, especially one who got rejected by Pitch Wars, drop me a line in my contact box. I’d be happy to take a look at your query letter and first 5 pages. I’d be a better fit for YA or Adult novels, not MG or PB.

Reading, Writing

Authors I support on Patreon

When I’m not writing, I’m reading, or listening to audiobooks. I learn so much simply by reading other books, and it’s such a necessary part of my creative process.

Here are three authors I support on Patreon:

Hanna Alkaf: Hanna is one of my favourite Malaysian authors. Not only do I love her books, she also strongly encouraged me to finish my first draft (instead of ahem sporadically working on all 5 of my WIPs/ works-in-progress). “Your story is in your first draft.” TRUTH. I was pregnant with my second baby at the time. By the time I gave birth to my third, I had my polished manuscript. Right after he turned one, I had signed with my agent! Never underestimate solid writing advice.

Meredith Ireland: I had the privilege of being Meredith’s mentee during my novel revision process during lockdown last year. My manuscript became about a million times stronger with her help, and that was the version my agent fell in love with and offered to represent.

Fonda Lee: Fonda’s Greenbone Saga is my favourite fantasy trilogy so far. She writes so brilliantly about the Asian diaspora experience, amongst many other incredible themes. I love how complex her morally grey characters are. Even when they make horrible choices, I can understand why. Jade City and Jade War have left me on the edge of my seat. I fear that Jade Legacy will destroy me. I CAN’T WAIT! I’ve pre-ordered the audiobook version and it drops at the end of this month.

Writing

Virtual Australian Muslim Writers Festival!

I’m so excited to share the news about the very first Virtual Australian Muslim Writers Festival, from Sept 25 to 2 Oct. Please share widely and register – it’s free! I’m looking forward to refilling my creative cup. It’s always so validating for me to listen to Muslim writers, and Aussie Muslim writers hold a special place in my heart.


podcast

Podcast coming soon

I’m so excited to share that I’ll be uploading my very first podcast episode very soon. Stay tuned!

I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to drop me suggestions on my Contact Me page. My discussion topics will include:

  • How I got an agent
  • Surviving querying
  • Improving writing craft
  • How to finish writing your first draft
  • How to revise your book
  • What’s it like being mother-writer
  • Coping with working from home with small children in lockdown
  • My favourite books for different age ranges
  • Maintaining my authenticity as a Muslim woman of colour
  • Dealing with rejection
  • Finding the right writing mentor(s), critique partners and beta readers

Fantasy, Life, Love, Writing

My latest SBS Voices piece is up!

I’m thrilled to share my latest op ed on SBS Voices: Malay phrases I won’t be using on my children.

Speaking of being a mother and a writer, this article resonated with me SO MUCH: The Heartbreaking Ingenuity of the Mother-Writer. I could read this article a billion times and love it more each time. Only fellow mother-writers could relate to the creative, exhausting, hair/hijab-pulling methods we use to get our words down!!

As many of you would know, I am an avid SFF (science fiction and fantasy) fan. My latest obsession is the Green Bone saga by the brilliant Fonda Lee. Jade Legacy is coming out in November, and Fonda Lee has started up a one-year-only Patreon which gives patrons exclusive access TO COOL THINGS. Her series is incredible! Asian-inspired, which I absolutely love. No shortage of strong, complex female characters alongside believable male leads.

I absolutely love Fonda Lee’s Jade City and Jade Legacy. One thing she wrote about so brilliantly, which I have never read elsewhere, is the diaspora experience. I’m a returnee to my Malaysian motherland and to have her write about what it’s like to be a foreigner, how it changes you so irrevocably…that was really validating, to see reflected back to me. I was born in Singpaore, moved to Sydney when I was 12, lived in Jordan from 25-27, married at 28 then moved to Malaysia at 30 and I’ve been here for almost 8 years. All of this shapes me, my parenting, my writing – the lens through which I view the world and interact with it.

Family, Life, Love, untigering, Iris Chen

Reconciling Asian Values with Peaceful Parenting

If you’re an untigering Asian parent like me, check out this INCREDIBLE recording. Iris Chen is an unschooling Chinese American mother who inspired my article as well as my daily commitment to untigering.

I loved listening to her conversation with Joline from Chapter Zero Singapore, Syazana from Sassy Mama Singapore, and Justina from Raised with Wonder in Malaysia. My people! It’s so validating hearing them share their stories which are so familiar to mine. I love the beautiful parts of Malay culture and want to embed that into how I raise my kids, but I reject the toxic parts. It’s an ongoing process for me, my husband and my children. One day at at time. We have the gift of living with my elderly mother-in-law, so that’s another layer of nurturing for my children.

If you love her content, you have the option of supporting Iris on Kofi.

Life

Eid Al-Adha Mubarak/Selamat Hari Raya!

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

A little late, but here it is. For those who celebrate, I hope you had a good, safe and reflective Raya. This is yet another lockdown Raya for my household in Malaysia. Vaccinations are rolling out though so reaching herd immunity is something to look forward to.

I’ve been learning a lot about staying still and counting my blessings during this time. All it took was a global pandemic to keep me in one place :p I miss my loved ones overseas and am so, so grateful for technology.

My latest article for SBS voices is up – My Malay-Indian kids help me get closer to my roots.

I’m working on another book! What it is exactly remains to be seen LOL. I’m leaning towards Muslim romcom or a Middle Grade fantasy. SFF (sci-fi and fantasy) will always be my first love, but after writing and revising my YA contemporary fantasy, a genre change could be refreshing. Wait and see eh.

I’m a very intuitive (read: chaotic panster) writer so I start off with immersing myself in audiobooks. I’m jotting ideas or sparks of inspiration now in an actual journal, using actual colourful pens!

Some non-SFF audiobooks I’ve really enjoyed so far are:

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jallaludin

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalalludin