Interviews

“Ever since forever, we have been told to compete and push ourselves to the limit.” – Ushah Qazi

Ms. Ushah Kazi, founder of The Kollective, and author of ‘The Pop-Culture Junkie’s Guide to Pakistani Cinema’ talks about her life’s many experiences in this exclusive interview with MOIWrites

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1. For how long have you been a freelance writer?

Nearly ten years; and honestly I had not realized that until just now. I started writing when I was fifteen. The school I went to (The CAS in Karachi) had a great journalism program for young students, and our instructor liked one of my pieces and had it published in a national newspaper. Since then, I have written for a number of publications and websites. More recently, I have been writing for my own website, The Kollective, and since a lot of this involves writing scripts for video essays, it keeps me busy. I do also write for Suhaag, a Canadian lifestyle magazine, and some Pakistani publications from time to time.

2. Writing requires patience and consistency. What factors do you think make a good writer become great?

Scented candles and a bowl of pasta! No, really. Writing definitely requires patience and consistency; and you will be surprised how quickly you will come up with an excuse to miss a deadline. Make sure you are comfortable with what you are writing. Try to have enough free time. I say ‘try’ because most writers find time as a luxury as they juggle between multiple assignments.

On a slightly more technical note, I do believe that reading other writers’ work makes you a better writer. Here’s a tip that I have started following recently. Get a few copies of some literary magazines, subscribe to one maybe, and set out a day each month to read a few short stories. You can do the same for political magazines, and the like. Reading can make anyone a better writer.

3. How did you come up with the idea of launching thekollective.pk? What is its purpose?

I have been a pop-culture junkie for most of my life. I have usually been able to talk about what I liked or did not like about a film, song, book etcetera for hours. The Kollective is an extension of that. I think there are a lot of great media websites that report on happenings from the showbiz and world of entertainment. However, a very few analyze them; very few question trends and tie them to Pakistan’s pop-culture history. That is where we come in, and we usually have a lot to say. We have been known to watch a two-minute music video and make an eleven-minute video essay analyzing it.

Because of this, our audience is understandably more niche; we are literally the opposite of click-bait. But the goal was always to bring together like-minded people who loved talking about music, movies, books and the like.

4. Tell us about your upcoming book?

The book is titled ‘The Pop-Culture Junkie’s Guide to Pakistani Cinema’ and it is a light-handed take on understanding Pakistan’s cinematic tradition and industry. I love to read, and as Pakistan’s cinema made the much touted ‘comeback’ I was interested in reading about what was happening. Either most books about Pakistani cinema date back to the 1990s, or are academic (in every sense of that word) and I felt that there was a gap for a light-hearted book, which looked at certain interesting aspects of local cinema. One thing leads to another, and before I knew it, I was typing out a book proposal. The book is divided into five chapters, each tackle a specific aspect of local cinema. These range from the importance of box-office numbers, to the oft-ignored genre of Pakistani horror, to the great ‘item number debate’. It is not a history book or a textbook. It is a conversation, or rather, the beginning of a conversation, and I hope it inspires us to talk about Pakistani cinema.

5. What challenges did you face when writing your book?

The first, and expected, the challenge was the research. As I said earlier, this is not meant to be a textbook. However, I like to have my opinion based on fact. So, I had to read a ton of other books, academic articles, news articles and watch interviews. This should not scare people; the book is very much a light read. It just does not suggest any idea without backing it up with facts.

Secondly, the process was much more of a herculean task than I had imagined. I had to juggle a lot simultaneously, and it took multiple tolls on me.

Finally, the actual writing was a chore. I love to write, but when you have churned out twenty pages in an hour, and there are approximately twenty more to go before you can call it a night, it begins to feel like a weight on your shoulders.

6. Where do you see yourself ten years down the road?

Hopefully happy, healthy, content and doing what I love.

7. How was your journey from Nixor College, Karachi to the University of Western Ontario, Canada? What lessons did you learn and the cultural differences you faced?

Nixor was an experience. I know that many ex-students talk about how the place is a world unto itself, but it really was. It was tough, trying and over too quickly. Between Nixor and Western, I made a brief pit stop at Malaysia. This was a good thing; because it is important to understand that cultural differences do not just exist on the other end of the earth.  The cultural differences are undeniable, but I was actually astounded by how many similarities I encountered. At the end of the day, we all love food, friends, and a good movie.

8. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?

I would just say that take a breath. This is something that I have to remind myself to do as well. Ever since forever, we have been told to compete and push ourselves to the limit. But, it is okay to take a minute, to breath in, to accept your situation and be who you are. It will help you gather your thoughts and get back in the game, stronger.

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Interviews

“I just wish to study at different universities around the world until I hit forty or fifty. A guy can dream, can’t he?” – Naveed Sheharyar Khan

Naveed Sheharyar Khan, winner of Daastan’s 3rd Season of “The Stories Untold” talks to MOIWrites in this exclusive interview.

1. Tell us about yourself?

I am studying Accounting and Finance at a leading business school of Karachi. However, unlike a majority of peers, I enjoy reading, writing and poetry more than the matters of compound interest and time value of money. They say that we all have a purpose to fulfill in this world. If that is the truth, then my life purpose has to do something with writing!

2. Since when are you writing?

I started writing almost three years ago when a friend of mine, literally, coerced me to write my first article. The article was not as good, obviously, but I craved more of the euphoria that followed.

3. How was it to be the winner of the Stories Untold Season 3 by Daastan?

It was surprising, to be honest. Several of the contestants were much more accomplished writers than I could ever hope to be, which is why I did not have much expectation to win it. I am proud of what I have achieved.

4. What was the name of your winning story and what was it about? 

The title of my short story was “True Justice”. The plot involved a young Threader, who was seeking justice (read: revenge) for the extinction of his race. The story is centered on the difference between justice and revenge, and how love makes its way into the equation.

5. Do you plan before you write or do you write by following the concept of “going with the flow”?

Stephen King has always been an advocate of going with flow. Considering the things that he has accomplished, it is only natural for lowly mortals like me to follow his advice, no?

6. Do you think writing is a skill that one learns or is an in born talent? 

I honestly do not know. All I know is that I had to spend long nights learning the rules of grammar before I could ever hope to improve even an aspect of my works. Talent might have a role, but I do not think we can get anywhere without a good work ethic, sleepless nights and disrupted daily routines.

7. If you were to give aspiring writers five writing tips, what will they be?

Honestly, I am an aspiring write myself, and I do not see myself fitting to instruct others in the art I know very little of. However, if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that you need to let your imagination run wild.

8. Who are the authors from Pakistan and from abroad are among your favorite? 

Saadat Hassan Manto, definitely! He might have written in Urdu, but there is no writer who has had a deeper impact on me than Manto. Other than that, I love how Elif Shafak sees the world and writes about it. And who could forget J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”?

9. What are your plans?

I hope I knew, honestly. For now, I just wish to study at different universities around the world until I hit forty or fifty. A guy can dream, can’t he?

10. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?

I mean, a twenty-one-year-old advising the youth of a country would seem pretty bizarre, right? However, if you were to ask me one thing that I have learned from my twenty-one-years on Mother Earth, I would say that it could be: “Only a handful of people are going to, truly, believe in us in our entire lifetimes. We need to hold them close; but most importantly, we need to believe in ourselves, regardless of everything. No one will do it for us!”

Interviews

“I see myself teaching the new talent of Pakistan whatever little expertise I may gain and make the coming generations, my parents and my country proud!” – Hassan Mir

“Keep thriving for a better ‘you’ and a better Pakistan!” says Hassan Mir, author of “Unbroken Bonds” in this exclusive interview to MOIWrites.

1. What are you doing these days?

I am currently enrolled in A Levels and looking forward to a career of my choice

2. What is your book about?

My book, Unbroken Bonds, published by Daastan Publishing, is about Kabir, being born in one of the wealthiest families has no interest in wealth and is disgusted to see his fellow friends and family drooling over it, wasting it needlessly. My book was one of the top 15 entries in the Season 2 of Daastan’s “The Stories Untold” story writing competition.

3. What are your other activities and accolades?

I am a poet and content contributor at The Ancient Souls. Apart from being a verified Author on Goodreads, I am a Marketing and Social Media Manager at Daastan. I have also been published at Dusk.com, Parhlo etc and currently serving as Admin of Words Ablaze, a literary page.

4  Where do you see yourself ten years down the road?

I see myself aspiring to become a confident individual in the upcoming years, reaching new heights, climbing mountains and coming out stronger than before. I want my poetry to become more mature, I plan on traveling a lot in order to gain more exposure and relevancy. Apart from this, I see myself as – rather I contend to become an epitome of perseverance and a role model for the youth, I see myself lauding the new talent of Pakistan, teaching them whatever little expertise I may gain and make the coming generations, my parents and my country proud!

5. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?

My message to the youth is; keep striving, no matter how hard it gets, no matter what hindrances you come across, always believe in yourself, always have faith and never let yourself down. Even if the majority is dwindling on the edge of oblivion, keep yourself focused on achieving your objectives, don’t let hard times weaken you, spiritually or mentally. Keep thriving for a better ‘you’ and a better Pakistan!

Here is a brief synopsis of “Unbroken Bonds” as given on Daastan’s website, MeraQissa.

“In a society where people are judged by their riches and are respected because of their affluence, where the rich can get away with anything, and the poor can be blamed for everything, where the laws of justice can be twisted and bent according to the will of the influential! Kabir being born in one of the wealthiest families has no interest in wealth and is disgusted to see his fellow friends and family drooling over it, wasting it needlessly. He is lost until he finds Sameer; a true patriot adamant on erasing corruption from his beloved country. This new friend makes Kabir realize that we alone can change the situation of our Country. However, it isn’t easy to stand against the powerful people who do not like to be held accountable especially by youngsters with no resources and so the journey begins; of the two friends who are ready to die for each other and courageous to hold the powerful accountable. Their journey is filled with obstacles and hindrances and everything changes, everything but one, their bond remains unbroken!”

Order Hassan Mir’s book here: https://www.meraqissa.com/book/111

Interviews

“Keeping my feet on the ground, I want to conquer the skies!” Sibte Ali, world’s youngest mystery author

“A mystery novel becomes an interesting read when it provides the readers with an intellectual challenge,” says 15-years-old Sibte Ali, world’s youngest mystery author in this exclusive interview with MOIWrites

1. When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was 11. At first, I used to do creative writing as my homework, but soon I gained an interest in it and started writing regularly.

2. Novels of which genre do appeal you the most?

I like Mystery/ thriller novels, especially of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I also read books by Jules Verne, known as the Father of Science Fiction. His books “The Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Around the world in 80 days” are a must-read.

3. Tell us about your book, “The Next Generation of Bakers Street?”

It is a Mystery/ Thriller based on the grandchildren of the great detective Sherlock Holmes. Walking in the footsteps of their grandfather they become a team and fight against the evil powers lurking upon London.

4. How does it feel to be the youngest mystery author of the world?

It feels good to be the youngest mystery author of the world. I have dedicated my novel to my parents and friend, Hamza Waqas. It feels that at least, I have done something in this world that I will be remembered after my death.

5. What factors do you think makes a mystery novel an interesting read?

A mystery novel becomes an interesting read when it provides the readers with an intellectual challenge. A mystery novel often presents a problem (usually crime related) at the beginning and then gives clues to the reader so that they can hypothesize about the resolution. If it is in form of parts it should end on a cliff-hanger.

6. Which Pakistani authors (English and Urdu) you love to read or would recommend other to read?

I would love to recommend everyone to read a poet yet unpublished but her works are present on Wattpad entitled “Shinning Darkly” by Momina Mable. She is one fine poet. There is also another writer, she writes spiritual romance stories, Maryam, you can read her works also.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

I would like to quote: “The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.” – Ken MacLeod. The biggest secret behind all the writer’s success stories is writing. Never stop, keep writing. This is the best way to improve your skills. So, make and follow a habit of writing as much as you can.

 

 

Interviews

I want to motivate people by my quotes and stories: Sajal Shaikh

Sajal Shaikh is the youngest author of Sindh, who holds this status with her friend, Lareb Soomro. Both have co-written “The Secrets of Spring”. Sajal talks to MOIWrites in this exclusive interview.

1. Tell us about yourself?

I am Sajal Shaikh, a student of class 10 at Indus Girls College, Larkana, Sindh. My favorite subjects are Physics and Mathematics. Writing is not just my hobby but it also gives relief to my soul.

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2. How does it feel to be the youngest novelist of Sindh?

It feels amazing to be the youngest novelist of Sindh. It gives me happiness. It was never planned by me that I  would be the youngest novelist of Sindh because it is said that every single movement is planned by Allah. I want to say thanks to Almighty Allah who gave me this glorious status. I cannot describe this feeling.

3  What is the name of your novel? Share a brief synopsis of it?

The name of my novel is “The Secrets of Spring” which I have co-written with my friend, Lareb Soomro. This story revolves around a girl spring. You will find many secrets on every page of it. The life of spring is very mysterious and interesting.

4. How did you develop an interest in writing?

I started writing at the age of 13 as my hobby. I began with prose writing. Whenever I am happy or sad I start writing quotes, passages, and poetry. Actually, writing is a source of expressing your thoughts and gives relief to your soul.

5. What motivates you to write?

I enjoy writing. My father is also very supportive in my interest to write and he also supported me in my endeavors. My younger sister, Sara, also motivates me to write. However, I could become the youngest novelist of Sindh because of my dear friend, Lareb Soomro, with whom I share this unique status. Lareb is an amazing person.

6. What are your academic and writing plans?

I am very interested in machinery. If I will become a mechanical engineer then I will create common machines on slat energy. And if I will choose bio-engineering, I will find the treatment of pancreatic cancer. As a writer, I want to motivate people by my quotes and stories. I also want to write scripts for dramas and films. I love my country so patriotic writings are my goal.

7. What message will you give to aspiring writers?

My message is to work hard and never give up on writing. However, aspiring writers should also focus on their studies.

MOIWrites interviews Lareb Soomro for Super Saturday Interviews on Saturday, February 24, 2018. Read Lareb Soomro’s interview here: Lareb Soomro

 

 

Interviews

If you observe deep enough, you will find poetry in everything this world has to offer! – Zain Ul Abidin Khan Alizai

“Being a cadet has proven to bring a revolutionary change in every aspect of my life. It has given me opportunities which I had never had before. It helped me bring finesse into my skills, organization into my life and brought about positive changes in my personality. It helped me become independent in my decisions and made me who I am today” says Zain Ul Abidin Khan Alizai in this exclusive interview to MOIWrites.

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1. When did you decide to become a Cadet?

The decision of me joining a military institution was made long ago by my parents because my elder brother joined before me. It was only partially my choice after the sixth grade. But nonetheless, it has been a decision which I always cherish and never regret.

2. What kind of poetry do you enjoy writing? Where do you get the inspiration?

Poetry, to me, is something very independent and blossoming. I don’t believe in putting labels on poetry for it takes the essence out of it. I find poetry in everything around me. My inspiration brews from the experiences I have in life, from patterns, incidents, pondering, the weather, nature, heartbreak, news, food, essentially everything that constitutes my entirety. Everything! Sometimes, I’d hear a randomly blurted phrase from someone and it would be enough for me to latch onto an idea, another path to tread. It is that simple. I often say this, if you observe deep enough, you will find poetry in everything this world has to offer!

3. Tell us about the declamation contests you have taken part in?

Taking part in declamation contests has been a recent interest of mine which started off, out of the blue, when I was selected to represent my college at the All-Pakistan Declamation contest held at Pakistan Scouts Cadet College, Batrasi. Our team was fortunate enough to clinch the “Overall Best Team Trophy”. That served as a boost and since then, I have been fortunate enough to win trophies at Abbottabad Public School, Army Burnhall College, and others. It has been a wonderful experience so far!

4. What rules should aspiring debaters follow to become successful?

I would say try to learn from your experiences. Even if you lose, you should always try getting something better out of the experience. Learn from those who are your senior. Have a stronghold on your topic. In declamations, try adapting an oratory style that best suits you. Be authentic and original and always aspire to control the emotions and the sensations of the crowd and develop the ability to resonate with the audience!

5. You have also performed in theatre. How was the experience? Which character did you like imitating the most and why?

I am currently working on acting a part of Shakespeare’s renowned play, Macbeth. I’ll be acting out Banquo. This is going to be my first big part for which I am very excited! Theatre gives me the ability to channel my expressions and emotions which is something I cherish a lot. Poetry, along with performance is something very close to my heart.

6. Which books and novels do you enjoy reading and which authors (from Pakistan and abroad) are your favorite?

I tend to read everything except paranormal and romance. I am always a sucker for good contemporary poetry, for my interest is more in contemporary poetry than classic. I don’t have a particularly favorite author but I very much enjoy reading Garcia, Ray Bradbury, Dostoevsky, and Orwell. My favorite contemporary writers include Arvin Ahmadi, Adam Silvera, Celeste Ng, Tayari Jones and many more. I have a lot of favorite contemporary poets, some of whom are Max Ritvo, Kaveh Akbar, Anis Mojgani, Yusuf Komunyakaa, sam sax, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Ocean Vuong and many more! There has been a recent work being put out by younger poets of my generation, some I particularly admire a lot, namely Kathryn Hargett, Lydia Havens, Brynne-rebele Henry, Christina Im, Daniel Blokh. Among Pakistani authors, I love to read Aamer Hussain, Muhammad Hanif, Zulfikar Ghose, Omar Shahid, H.M. Naqvi, Kamila Shamsie and a few more. The influx of budding poets is very refreshing and heartwarming.

7. For which two international magazines are you serving as Poetry Editor?

I am currently serving as a poetry reader for The Cerurove. I am on a hiatus from working over as a poetry editor for Parallel Ink.

8. As a cadet, what factors do you think contribute to the development of a personality?

Being a cadet has proven to bring a revolutionary change in every aspect of my life. It has given me opportunities which I had never had before. It helped me bring finesse into my skills, organization into my life and brought about positive changes in my personality. It helped me become independent in my decisions and made me who I am today.

9. What are your plans?

I plan to put out my debut chapbook by the end of this year if all goes well, along with continuing my education for now. I also hope to take part in spoken word contests and polish that skill of mine. Literature and formal education will move along in parallel for now. I will also be sending out my poems in many more different journals throughout the year.

10. Your message to the youth of Pakistan?

The youth of this nation must realize they are our future. The urge to move forward, to aspire, is what is lacking. The youth needs to pull themselves out of this phase of disorientation and focus on how they can contribute to bringing changes in their surroundings. They need to shed off their despair and believe in themselves first. They need to believe that everyone is blessed in one’s own beautiful way. The magnitude of the contribution is not what matters; it is the dedication that counts! The opportunities are boundless and the benefits are never-ending!

Interviews

“Don’t let your fate decide your destination”: Lareb Soomro

Lareb Soomro is Sindh’s youngest novelist. She is a student of matriculation (tenth standard) aspiring to qualify for Chartered Accountancy and to earn a Nobel Prize in the field of Literature. She talks to MOIWrites in this exclusive interview

Lareb Soomro lives in Larkana and studies at the Indus Girls College, Larkano. She says, “I am ambitious in whatever I do and love to read, write and deliver motivational speeches. I have earned many accolades in debates, writing, hosting and singing competitions. When I was in seventh grade, I had a dream to show my abilities to the whole world. At the age of fourteen, I started writing when I gradually began knowing myself. That is my life’s greatest achievement yet. My great supporters are my parents. I do not have that much experience but some of my words inspire me and one such sentence is: “Don’t let your fate decide your destination.” Contact Lareb at: Lareb Writes

 

 1. How does it feel to be the youngest novelist of Sindh?

I want to thank Daastan for giving me the platform to display my skills. At an age when people are not aware of their abilities, I am blessed to have found a purpose of life and the title of Sindh’s youngest novelist.

2. What is the name of your novel? Share a brief synopsis of it?

The name of my novel is “The Secrets of Spring.” It is a horror and suspense novel, which is based on a girl named Spring. It is a magical story and the horror part does not include ghosts. You need to read the novel to find the reality. The story will take you to the world of broken mirrors where you will find it difficult to find the path back home. It has six episodes with each episode ending on a question. The biggest secret of the novel is about a Diary, which is always with Spring, but no one knows what is in it.

3. How did you develop an interest in writing?

Since my childhood, I had been hearing ‘do not become a writer’ because one cannot lead a comfortable life in this field. I decided to modify their thoughts. I began reading Daily Dawn’s Young World and started writing my poems, articles, and poetry in English. I continued my writings and then decided to create a page on Facebook where I can share my words. My passion to write led me to write a novel.

4. Which novels did you enjoy reading?

There would be a huge list of novels so it is better to share my thoughts about one novel. My favorite novel is “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho for it gives a great lesson to believe in your dreams, to learn from the nature of the universe, and to think about things in a different way.

5. What motivates you to write?

A spark of inspiration from my soul is enough to motivate me. I observe the world and I find the inspiration. My mind is free to wonder—to focus nothing else but silence and the words and ideas stumbling, swirling and dancing in my mind. Most of the times I just need a word or a phrase to think about as it deepness and later I use it in my writing.

6. What are your academic and writing plans?

I will complete courses in literature and want to achieve the highest level of studies in this field. Moreover, after matriculation, I will work to gain admission in CA. I will continue writing to console the depressed souls, to inspire the wondered minds, to encourage the hard workers and to eliminate the roots of negativity.

7. What message will you give to aspiring writers?

Rule your thoughts or they will rule you. Always try to understand the power of words because words have the power to make, shake and destroy the world. Always replace your negative thoughts with positive ones and believe in yourself. Be confident about what you think and spread the sparkles of light with your words in the blank pages of the world.

Sajal Shaikh has co-written “The Secrets of Spring” with Lareb Soomro. Sajal’s interview will be featured at MOIWrites next month.