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.
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.
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. 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
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.