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.
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:
Selamat Hari Raya/Eid Mubarak! My kids are all asleep after an exciting and exhausting first day of Eid. We made it, alhamdulilah, to the end of Ramadan. And what a Ramadan this has been. May we meet many, many more. May there be an end to global oppression.
We’re back to MCO 3.0 in Malaysia. Inconvenient but necessary because Covid19 numbers shot up once again. This is my second Raya/Eid in lockdown…I miss my family and friends back in Sydney. I don’t think we’ll be able to fly back to visit anytime soon, so in the meantime, we have our family Whatsapp groups, video calls, messages….this is our new normal. What a test of patience.
Fasting with three small kids close in age is not for the faint for heart, so this beautiful book, Misfits In Love, arriving today (thank you Sajidah, Aisyah and Irdina!) was such a treat. I’ve been loving what I’ve read so far and the notes on the margins by the author and fellow readers like me! I’m so thrilled to get to write my own responses in the margin too!
I’ve been listening to audiobooks since my very first newborn and I forgot how gratifying it feels to hold an actual book in my hands. I’ve always wanted an ARC but have no idea how to get one, so being part of S.K. Ali’s Street Team remedied that hehe.
Also, I highly recommend deleting Twitter from your phone for a calmer Ramadan (and life, overall) experience.
I still have IG though and am AMAZED at the magic of reels, gorgeous #bookstagram…wow. Wow! What magic is this?! Such beautiful pictures of stunning books on decorative fabric along with fresh, glowing faces of bookstagrammers!
Plus – book swag! (I managed to take this photo without any of my kids sticking their hands, feet or faces in woooo)
I’m also so excited that Alhamdulilah, I won S.K Ali’s giveaway for Once Upon An Eid hurray. Yet another special gift for me this Ramadan.
If you haven’t already read any of her books – go for it! Love From A To Z is my absolute favourite of hers, being the halal love story that it is.
If you’re a fasting mama of little ones who keep waking up during suhoor/sahur because they just KNOW something is up…you’re not alone. Hang in there! Apparently they all grow up and move away some day. And until then, we’re making memories.
It’s literally days away from Ramadan! How did that happen? Wow, time does pass. I feel like this amazing owl gif captures my whole 2020-2021 mood.
Speaking of Ramadan, I promised my kids I would try extra hard not to be grumpy and be extra patient with them in Ramadan haha. It’s such a special month, and I can already imagine all three of them joining in our buka puasa/iftar/breaking of our fast after watching Upin and Ipin. I’m hoping the Ramadan bazaars will be back because they’re such a treat….but with SOPs like masks and social distancing in place. Wait and see, eh.
My three kids are already almost 6, 3.5 and 1.5! Part of me is like noooooo they’re growing so fast and the other part is calculating when all three will be in preschool/school :p My 3.5 yo made me smile today by telling me, “Narwhals are beautiful!” AW. She’s not a fan of manatees. Yes, my 6 yo is currently obsessed with Octonauts. My husband and I cannot get “Creature report!” out of our heads gahhhhh.
There’s been a lot of really awful racist book twitter happenings (click here) reflecting very real-world harm. BUT! If you’re a BIPOC author like me, please, please, please, keep writing your stories. They matter. You matter. Your stories matter. Our stories matter. Flood the gates of traditional publishing with our stories until more and more change happens.
Note: I don’t need to eat Pocky to feel more Asian. I BLEED POCKY.
So. Alhamdulilah, I’m out of my revision cave! I’m so, so grateful for the expert editorial eye of my literary agent, Alli. Under her expert mentorship, my book has gone from good to GRRREAT.
That just means that I’m that much closer to going on submission, which is a whole other level of nerve-wracking anxiety, woo lol. Once I’m on submission, I’ll have loads of time to be anxious – I mean, channel my energy into looking after my health! This pandemic feels endless, but it will end.
If you have a polished novel that fits Alli’s #MSWL, I strongly recommend querying her.
In the meantime, I’m thrilled that my poem, Home, has found a beautiful new home. Enjoy!
So. Malaysia is in a state of emergency. We’re back to a MCO (Movement Control Order). I have a tendency to spiral into anxiety and doom-scrolling, so here’s my antidote to overwhelm – gratitude!
I’m so grateful that my husband, kids, mother-in-law and I are safe, have a comfortable home, a big garden for my kids to run around in, and we have healthy food.
I’m delighted by the daily antics of my children, who are growing into loving, hilarious, incredible people.
I’m sad that I won’t be able to visit my family and friends abroad for the foreseeable future.
I’m angry that systemic racism, white supremacy and unchecked privilege are hurting and killing innocent people.
Multiple realities can exist. I try to make space for all of it, and trust that all feelings pass.
My baby boy is almost 1.5! My youngest daughter turned 3. My eldest daughter is 5.5. They are my life-long passion projects who cannot be quantified or controlled (note: they actively RESIST control! I teach them ‘body boundaries’ and ‘no means no’ so evidently that means I can’t control them either hahaha le sigh). They can only be coached, guided and most of all, unconditionally loved. When I remember to relax and be present with them, I marvel at these three little humans and how much they love me and forgive my many, many shortcomings.
I’ve handed in my manuscript edits to my amazing agent. Now I’m waiting for her feedback, and I’m excited to either do another round of edits, or go on submission. At this moment though, I’m resisting my compulsion to start immediately on my next project. I choose to rest, to recharge, to reconnect with my household. Rest is my act of resistance.
If you’re in need of some compassionate online counselling during these challenging times, I can’t recommend Cara Cara enough.
I’m absolutely devouring and loving Iris Chen’s book. I’ve read countless parenting books over the years and hers is my FAVOURITE. Read it! Tell your friends and family about it!
Iris Chen is an untigering unschooler, and I’m so inspired by her blog post on unschooling:
When the first MCO hit in March last year (wow last year), I was so upset about my daughters’ preschool being shut. I HAD WRITING PLANS! Now, I surrender to this new normal. No more preschool for the foreseeable future. So my kids and I are doing something that looks like unschooling because none of my kids can sit still and do worksheets. They’re spinning dervishes of creativity and spark. If I survive their childhood years, I can count on watching them do incredible things, at their own pace, on their own terms.
When I remember to breathe and count the things I’ve been doing with my kids over the years – baking, trampoline jumping, picking rambutans from our tree, dancing (awkwardly, me, wonderfully, them), singing, telling stories about Allah and His Prophets (peace be upon them all), roughhousing, mental math, phonics, reading, laughing, joking – I can relax. We’re building memories I hope they can look back on with fondness. I hope they’ll remember me as being grumpy 10% of the time lolol
2020 has been quite a year. In happy news, my baby boy turned one!
HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
He’s still my squishy baby though. He has thoroughly discovered walking and reaching up high for all the things. He’s practising how to run, already, and loves doing his dragon roar and walking really fast (his head tilted forward) after his screaming sisters. You know what that means. IMMA EVEN MORE EXHAUSTED THAN EVAAA hahaha.
In book news, wooo alhamdulilah I am so, so excited to share that Allison Hellegers of Stimola Literary is my literary agent! I am so, so grateful to have her as a champion of my YA book, and future books! SO EXCITED. I’m also hard at work with edits for her, so stay tuned for more book news. (Also, this is the same agency that reps Suzanne Collins of the Hunger Games so aaaaahh my agency helped Hunger Games become a MOVIEEEEE mebbe one day mine also can??? hehehe)
To anyone still in the querying trenches in this pandemic, please hang in there. Rejections are so hard, and so normal in publishing. At some point, I’ll share my rejection stats. Surround yourself with a tribe of supporters while you figure out how to improve your manuscript. Trust that the right agent for you will fall in love with your story and your vision for your long-term writing career. Trust your gut! Take mental health breaks from querying when you need to because it’s never easy to receive rejections. Personalised rejections are a nice bonus, but take the advice that resonates with you. Even though the agent who offered me a fantastic R&R didn’t offer me representation, I’m still grateful for her incredible advice.
My best tip for querying: Take. Your. Time. I know the rush that comes with finishing a novel and wanting agents to read it already!!! But. Take deep breaths. Have beta readers and CPs (especially CPs! Sending hugs to you, Sarah!) read your manuscript so you can make it even better. Right after I finished my novel (literally before I gave birth to Suhail!), Michele Sagan professionally edited it, which helped so, so much. Meredith Ireland, my incredible #DVPIT mentor, helped me revise my manuscript to an even stronger version during the 3 month MCO (movement control order) in Malaysia. That’s the version Allison fell in love with, and the one we’re working on to make even stronger before it goes on submission to editors. It takes. time.
Okay one last thing about querying, I promise. Landing the best agent for you is like…tea. Some agents LOVE Earl Grey. I love Lady Grey. But some agents already have cupboards full of Earl Grey, so even if yours is the best Earl Grey everrr – it won’t suit their list. Other agents love Jasmine tea. And that’s cool too. Some agents love Rooibos tea. Personally, I don’t, and that’s okay! It’s so, so subjective. The right agent for you has that gap in their cupboard with your perfect tea blend of a book, and it’s only a matter of time before you meet your perfect-for-you agent match ❤
Some courses I did and loved throughout my 10 month querying journey:
Two week’s to your best children’s book – I did course when I felt my brain go to mush when I thought about writing another YA novel….and then I realised that um wow picture books are complex too for entirely different reasons.
Ramadan greetings to one and all! Selamat Berpuasa 🙂
It is a very different Ramadan…but alhamdulilah for all the blessings we do have, big and small. Many things are different, but many things are also still the same. Namely: me finding creative ways to lie down while my kids play around me. Hahaha. My youngest is already 7 months and turbo crawling.
I have three small kids under the age of 5, so Ramadan has been indoors for me for a few years now. One thing is for sure…I WILL MISS THE RAMADAN BAZAARS!! There are online bazaars now, apparently? GetMakan looks amazing, but based in Johor. Let me know if you figure out how to order them tasties in Petaling Jaya :p
Also, if you’re looking for a grassroots way to help Malaysians in need, #Kitajagakita is a wonderful platform.
In writing news….stay tuned! I participated in the #DVPIT twitter competition and garnened a lot of agent interest. I’m so grateful for the support of Meredith Ireland, my #DVPIT mentor who gave me EPIC REVISION tips. Lockdown with kids took on a whole new meaning while I was frantically adding 10,000 words of world-building and plot tweaks, and I am SO happy I had Meredith only a Whatsapp message away. THANK YOU MEREDITH! So much of writing is solitary, so it really helps to have an experienced author believe in your book, and help you make it even better.
So it’s Feb 2nd 2020. My newborn is almost 5 months. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
Alhamdulilah, the blessings of being busy with little ones – time passes, and hey look, there’s another email from a literary agent in my inbox!
I’m thrilled to report that I’m no longer dying from waiting stress. I’m still getting email/form rejections, and I’m also getting really helpful personalised rejection emails from the agents who’ve read my full manuscript.
I even got one super rare and uber helpful revise and resubmit (R&R) request!!! Okay, so it’s not an offer of representation….but now I know that there is ONE agent in the Vast and Unknowable Sea of Agents who loved my book enough to take the time to write me very detailed email on how to make it better, and to please resubmit if I do take on the suggestions. UM YES PLZ THANK YOU!
Based on the R&R and similar feedback from other literary agents, I’ve decided to 1) stop querying 2) start revising my manuscript to make it even stronger 3) hold off on sending out my full manuscript to interested agents until it’s fully revised. My deadline is 2-6 months from December 2019. Wish me luck! I can’t and I won’t give up now!!
Am I still drowning in self-doubt and imposter syndrome? Yup. I make space for those feelings, take a deep breath, exhale, and remind myself that:
1) I wrote a whole book, got it beta read and professionally edited while pregnant with my third baby.
2) Nobody else can tell the story I’m telling.
3) It’s better for me to take my time with my revisions, so that the best version of my book will get read.
4) Even if nobody ends up representing my first book…I can always write another. And another. And another. Rinse, repeat!
5) I have the rest of my life to write, and this intense time of mothering little ones will end. I’m enjoying the cuddles and milky snuggles while I can!
So if you’re also in the querying trenches…hang in there! Keep at it, one day at a time. Keep writing and keep living well until the day the right agent snaps up your book and loves it as much as you do, if not even more ❤
My newborn is 3 months! Alhamdulilah. We survived! In January, my toddler turns 2, and in June inshaAllah, my preschooler will turn 5. One day, I will get more sleep, and more time to write. In the meantime, I am sustained by newborn snuggles/head-sniffing, toddler cuddles and preschooler giggles.
Querying update: I wish I could say something amazing like “AAHHH I GOT AN OFFER OF REPRESENTATION FROM MY DREAM AGENT AND IT ONLY TOOK ONE DAY/WEEK/MONTH!”
Alas, that is not the case for me. I started sending off query letters to literary agents on 11/11/2017 and I’m still waiting for most of them to reply. ‘Tis the season of nerve-wracking waiting…..
…..and more waiting.
As of today, here are my querying stats:
Agents queried: 51
Partial manuscript requests: 1
Full manuscript requests: 2
Full manuscript rejections: 1
Rejections based on query letter and sample pages: 4
Based on that, it looks like my query letter is working, but my first few chapters could do some work. I’ve tightened them up and am ready to send them out into the Vast Unknowable Sea of Agents. As I get more feedback, especially those bittersweet personalised rejection emails, I’ll tweak them some more.
Let it be said: QUERYING IS HARD. It’s hard, opening up my book to rejection. It’s hard, dealing with the self-doubt with every rejection letter. It’s hard, wondering if I should just scrap my whole novel and do a huge edit. And yet, getting multiple rejections is such a normal part of landing a literary agent.
I started writing my book in November 2018 and finished it, tweaked it based on feedback from by beta readers, had it professional edited by @michelesagan, and revised it at least 2-3 times. And I also gave birth in September 2019. I literally gave birth to a my baby boy and a book baby, while caring for two other little humans.
When my inbox checking and fretting gets too much, I tell myself – time to work on my second novel. And then one of my kids wake up/starts fighting with the other one/needs a diaper change etc. lol.
Where are you in your writing and querying journey? What keeps you going?