I type this while my 2 month old son lies fast asleep next to me. I really ought to sleep too. Eh, I will, after this. Blissful solitude is something I don’t get much of in the daytime!
So, what’s it like having a 2 month old, almost 2 year old and 4.5 year old?
That, my friend, is a summary of my day.
Alhamdulilah for my three healthy, vibrant and strong little ones ❤
Novel update: I got my query letter, synopsis and manuscript in shape in time for Pitch Wars, but didn’t win a menteeship. Still, it was a great experience. Lotsa supportive writer folk on the Twitter #writingcommunity
Good news: I scored some wonderful literary agent interest through the #DVpit Twitter contest on October 28th! One of my winning tweets:
MEAN GIRLS x GILMORE GIRLS x CHARMED
16F Insyirah moves to Malaysia and inherits her grandmother’s handsome and loyal Star Trek-loving jinn. Take that, school bully. Keeping him means risking harm from evil jinn. Exorcising him could kill them both. #DVPIT #OWN #F #IMM #CON
I’ve submitted (query letter and partial manuscript) to four agents so far and oh, the waiting game, the waiting game. It’ll take weeks, if not months, for the agent(s) to get back to me requesting my full manuscript, and then it’ll be even more waiting to see if I get an offer of representation (or not). Egads. Traditional publishing is not for the impatient. Luckily, I have small children, so I am literally not going anywhere. They are the Jedi Masters of teaching me patience.
#PitMad, another Twitter pitching contest, is running on Dec 5th. I’ll aim to pitch my manuscript then too.
So how do I write with a newborn, toddler and preschool? In very small bites. lol. Literally. It all adds up! Writing is also how I decompress and make sense of my world ❤ But it’s either write or sleep so eh, one day I’ll feel more rested.
Alhamdulilah, I gave birth to my baby boy, Mohamed Suhail, on Sunday, the 8th of September 🙂 Please make dua for my little boy and his two excited big sisters. I didn’t think I’d be that mother with three kids under 4.5….but there you have it. Motherhood has taught me to never say never! Back to the newborn haze, with waking up every two hours to breastfeed ❤ And the delicious newborn snuggles. And watching my little girls adoring their baby brother. And then fighting with each other, and then being friends again. Never a dull moment.
Writing-wise, I’m giving my manuscript a break while I rest and recover. This is my third newborn rodeo, and I’ve surrendered to the reality that it’ll be a pretty exhausting few weeks and months. I’d like to work on revising my manuscript and getting it agent-ready, but, honestly, imma too tired. And that’s okay. I look at all the writing mamas out there who juggle so much, get books published through the chaos, and I hope that one day, my turn will come too ❤
Wooooo alhamdulilah, I’ve more or less finished my first draft! Truly, it goes to show that consistency does pay off. Sikit sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit! If I can write 60,000 words with while pregnant, with a 4 year old, 1.5 year old – YOU CAN TOO! I couldn’t have gotten this far without the hands-on support from my husband and mother-in-law – thank you for all the help!
My first draft is with my trusty beta readers now, and I hope to get some super helpful feedback within the next few weeks.
I’ve also sent my manuscript to be edited by Michele Sagan, who has been nothing but incredibly supportive from the get-go. Thank you, Michele! The fact that she is an editor, an agented and published author, and a mother of FOUR CHILDREN gives me so many warm, fuzzy feelings. My manuscript is in good hands ❤
So what’s next for me, writerly-wise? Some ideas:
Not to look at my manuscript because I’m at the stage where I’m like…WHO’LL EVEN READ THIS?!!!
Start writing my second novel! Or at least, start outlining it.
Research agents for my first book.
Start drafting query letters to agents.
Keep lurking on @pitchwars and prepping for the December #pitmad.
In other news, I am 37 weeks pregnant. I AM LITERALLY GOING TO GIVE BIRTH SOON. To an actual baby. Not a book baby! A baby baby! This is both exciting and terrifying. Please pray for me and baby. My 4 year old and 1.5 year old can sense a big change is coming, and are clinging to me for dear life…..so let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m no longer worried about hitting my word count :p Now I can just (try to) rest, listen to birth affirmations, and enjoy the last few weeks of being a mama of two ❤
So it’s been a while. And yes. I’m PREGNANT. Again. Yup, baby #3, alhamdulilah, due this September. Please make dua for me, baby, my 15 month old and my almost 4 year old. We are gonna be in for a partayyy with 3 kids under 4.5!!!!
I’m working on my first novel – a YA multi-generational family mystery with a backdrop of Malaysian magic realism. Have I finished planning it? Nope. Because I am a panster, with a vague novel outline. SO I kind of know where my novel is headed-ish. I’m 28,389/60,000 words in, so I’m almost 50% in! PRAY FOR ME TO FINISH THIS BEFORE I GIVE BIRTH. Plz. Thanks.
So my plan is to keep at 500 words a day, and I either write in the mornings when my eldest is at preschool, my baby is napping, or in the evenings when my kids are asleep. I’ll keep the word count update here, to keep me going too. Once I’m done, please let me know if you’re keen to be one of my beta readers 🙂
Dictation is my friend! It’s kind of hit and miss with the dictation function Google Docs. What dictation software do you use your on iPhones? Do share.
Alhamdulilah, my letter won second place in the Letters To The Beloved competition! I am so surprised, so grateful and a little embarrassed. You can read it here, alongside the incredible winning entry and my friend Lina Abdul Wahab’s heartbreaking third place entry.
My deepest gratitude goes to Letters to the Beloved ﷺ team, Rabata, Sanad Collective, and especially to Anse Tamara Gray bringing my letter to life with her warm, heartfelt recitation ❤ I hope to read it to my daughters when they’re older some day. You can listen to the recording here (scroll to 26 min). I loved hearing from Anse Tamara, as always, and was really moved by Brother Ali’s talk (48 min). He acknowledges the role of women in understanding Prophetic love.
I would love to say that I wrote this letter with a warm cup of tea at a quiet cafe – but I didn’t. I wrote it in my bedroom, in quiet snatches while my daughters were asleep, over several nights. (I try not to have tea close by because I could spill it on my MacBook Air in my chronic tiredness – as I have done previously!!!) I edited it a couple of times, and then sent it just in time for the deadline lol. This is my modus operandi, these days :p
If you’re an exhausted mama, I hope my letter brings you some comfort. If you’re an exhausted mama writer, then I hope my letter shows you that what we lack in time, we make up for in other innumerable ways – and God, in His Mercy, fills in the rest.
If you haven’t already, please read the different letters from past competitions. I’m blown away by what the children have written, especially! And maybe, just maybe, you can set the intention to write your own to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). His blessed heart and soul is connected to ours, even when we forget.
I love how much emphasis this course places on self-regulation. So instead of looking outwards and blaming my kids for “making me angry”- I need to look inwards first and figure out why I’m getting so rattled in the first place. I need to accept my feelings of overwhelm/anger/helpless/etc, choose to respond from a place of calm, and not react from my own triggered lizard brain. Yup, easy to say, hard to do. But the beauty of this approach is the more I practice pausing while one (or both) of my little girls are screaming/crying/wailing/etc, then the easier it’ll be. I’m telling you, kids under the age of 5 are Zen masters who can train you to be one too, but only if you don’t terrify them into compliance. Be open. There’s a lesson in there.
Special note: It’s so hard not to yell at your kids when you’re angry, or when they don’t cooperate. JUST LISTEN! OBEY ME! NOW! DON’T SHOUT AT ME! Gah. Now research shows how harmful that is.
But it’s so hard not to get mad at kids! I know, I know. I’m not saying don’t get mad, because every day offers plenty of opportunities of button-pushing behaviour…I’m just saying don’t yell, don’t spank, don’t emotionally blackmail/abuse..that kinda stuff. Find another way to discharge that stress. Just not on your kid(s). I’ve seen what happens in the long-run. Said kid will grow up and not want to be around you anymore. BUT when you inevitably mess up and lose it, which every parent does at some point because we are HUMAN…just say sorry. Hug. That teaches your kids something too – how to apologise when you mess up, and how to make things right. Valuable life lesson.
If you’re a chronic yeller, then something isn’t balanced in your life. Yelling like that every day is exhausting for you, your spouse, and your kids. There is a better way of living. And you can learn how. And your kids will cooperate without you needing to shout! As impossible as that future feels right now (I’m in the thick of it) – one day, our kids will grow up into adults and move away. How far away depends on how connected they feel to us, right now, when they’re still little. So. Hang in there. This is hard work. It’s every day. It’s relentless. But this chaos can also be fun, joyful, and full of wonderful surprises.
Here’s the course outline:
Peaceful Parenting 101
In this session, I’ll introduce you to the 3 big ideas that will change your life as a parent and shift your family, over the next 12 weeks, to less drama and more love.
Regulating Your Own Emotions
You’ll learn tools this week to notice when you’re getting close to the edge, and powerful practices to return yourself to calm. If you’re a yeller, here’s where you take your Vow of Yellibacy.
Connecting with Your Child
Parenting is 80% connection and only 20% guidance, because until children feel connected they have no reason to follow our guidance. In this session, you’ll learn best practices for staying connected with your child, and specific tools for reconnecting after tough times.
Parenting for Emotional Intelligence
This week you’ll learn how emotions work, including some secrets about anger that most people don’t know, how to help your child empty a full emotional backpack, and how to heal even the most turbulent emotions. We’ll practice using empathy, your magic wand, to give your child’s brain the best possible environment to learn to self-regulate.
In this session, we’ll discuss why children misbehave and what the research says about the best way to guide your child and teach the important lessons. You’ll learn how children develop self-discipline and impulse control and why time-in works while time-out doesn’t. We’ll practice setting limits that stick, without power struggles or drama.
You know those problems that always seem to blow up in your face and land your family in the breakdown lane? You can avoid most of those surprises with preventive maintenance. This week we’ll explore the power of routines, empathy, special time, scheduled meltdowns and other preventive maintenance practices.
Tips for the Transition to Peaceful Parenting
If you’ve been relying on bribes, threats and punishment to get your child to cooperate, you can expect some bumps as you and your children learn new patterns of relating. This week you’ll learn some tips to make this transition easier for your family.
You can only give your kids what you have inside. This week, you’ll create a self-care plan to keep your cup full, so you can be emotionally generous with others. We’ll focus a lot on emotional self-care, or how to parent yourself!
Mastery: Developing resilience, self-discipline and grit.
This week we explore how children develop the fortitude that leads to mastery. We’ll practice encouraging rather than praising, and learn how to find the sweet spot between free range and helicoptering.
Healing Your Triggers
Those times when you say or do something you later regret? They’re always when you’re triggered, so you get hijacked by anger. This week, I’ll guide you to begin identifying and healing those triggers, so you don’t get upset so often, and can recover more quickly when you do.
This week, we’ll apply the peaceful parenting principles to raising siblings, so you can stop the fighting and raise children who will be friends for life. You’ll learn simple yet powerful ways to foster a loving, supportive bond between siblings, and teach your kids to navigate conflict constructively.
Putting it all together
This week, Dr. Laura answers questions from Course participants in a Live Call. We’ll celebrate how far you’ve come! And we’ll help you put together a plan to use what you’ve learned, every day, to stay on track in the future.
Click here to get notified when the course open next on November 19!
The next offering of this transformative poetry course, “Opening The Eye of The Heart” is up – September 2nd to October 2nd 2018. Baraka Blue is a thoughtful, compassionate and generous poet and teacher. Be prepared to drown in the beauty of mystic poetry, and be rebirthed.
If you’re looking for a poetry course that will hack you to pieces with critique – this isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a poetry course that will celebrate the joy of mystic poems, love your work and help you grow, then this is for you. Clearly, I am super biased. lol.
You’ll get out of this workshop whatever you put in (and MORE because barakah is amazing like that), so make that intention and follow through. May your words flow from deep spaces and take you to wider places ❤
Three of the greatest gifts of this course for me:
Realising that I can write poetry DAILY even with the chaos of two little ones under 3.5. Alhamdulilah! No matter what happened during my day, I always had my poetry exercise to look forward to, during my precious night-time solitude.
Reading such gorgeous poetry written by my classmates!
Meeting and staying connected to a whole tribe of like-minded and like-hearted poets ❤
I miss my daily prompts 😦 But because I joined the alumni group – The Diwan – I have weekly prompts, woo!
***I’m typing this as fast as I can while my baby naps, and while my husband has taken my preschooler out to her 1 hour soccer class. TICK TOCK! I know that being calm and mindful actually helps my creative process, but I also feel so hungry for more uninterrupted time to write. Is this how it’s going to be, for the next few years until my girls grow a little older? Hm. This is another blog post to explore. #mamawriters #neverenoughtime #whattodo #thereisalwaystomorrow #breathe
Here are some of my poetry notes during Baraka Blue’s poetry workshop during his first visit to Malaysia. I flipped back a few pages and noted the date – 21/5/2014. Pre-babies. A lifetime ago. These were nights where I performed my poetry on the same stage as Jamal Raslan, Malaysian spoken word guru. Baraka Blue sat in the audience, my teacher thoughtfully watching my word play. My nights are now spent communing with my daughters, or simply enjoying the solitude when they are asleep. I have moved from the performance stage, a public space, to a very, very private space. Expansion, contraction. The cycle of life.
We’re on Day 9/30 of Baraka Blue’s online poetry workshop, and it’s such a treat, writing and reading poetry every single day. I struggle with the discipline of writing daily, and being part of a safe, spiritual writing space has been so, so helpful and so, so healing. It is so exciting for me to lean into the spiritual practice of poetry! I’m learning so much from my teacher and classmates. Interestingly, writing poetry has been unlocking my creative juices for my fiction and creative non-fiction works. Woo! Bonus.
On those inevitable bad days, even writing a word will do. And the words add up to lines, lines add up to stanzas, and stanzas add up to poems. Speaking of poems, please scroll down to my Day 8 poem, inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s gorgeous, gorgeous poem You Who Never Arrived.
Reading Rilke’s poem, so full of haunting longing, catapulted me almost a decade ago, when I was a young student of knowledge in Jordan, I remember being torn by so much longing. Longing for the Divine, for marriage, for children….now that I’m in my thirties, alhamdulilah, I have the marriage and the children I always wanted. They simultaneously give me so much joy and also stop me from jumping onto my next plane adventure lol. Ah well. Gotta wait til my girls are older, then we can adventure around the globe together ❤
Day 8 Poem – Wanderlust
A decade ago
I sat upon a mountain and
sang qasidas to You
my fractured heart
only comforted by this –
one day, I would be gone
and these giants would
my brother hovered behind me
making sure that
I wouldn’t fall off said mountain
or injure myself
in other ways
the traveller inside me still
longs for deep forests
blue desert skies
for in motion, I see You
I am homebound now
growing two daughters
like bread, they rise
It’s harder now to
catch glimpses of You
when my days are filled
with so much minutiae
From the periphery
You surprise me
– my youngest’s gummy laugh
my eldest’s fearless dance
I forget myself
for a heartbeat