Interviews

“MeeshaSlays is mine; it is where I am allowed to be myself” – Rameesha Syed

“Piñata Magazine is all about everything bright and happy,” says Rameesha Syed, CEO, Piñata and blogger at MeeshaSlays in this exclusive interview with MOIWrites

1. Define yourself?

I am the most confused person you will ever meet. Usually, it is very hard for me to make meager decisions like what to eat, what to watch, where to go etc. but when it comes to work, I know what I am doing and I am very sure of my decisions.

Rameesha-Syed

2. What is the story behind MeeshaSlays? How did you come with this name?

I always wanted to write. I have been writing ever since a kid. I was writing books on Wattpad (none that I completed, by the way) when I realized that I wanted to change my medium to something much more accessible to the audience and easier for me to use.

It has never been about the people. MeeshaSlays is mine; it is where I am allowed to be myself without caring about the likes and the audience.

How I came up with the name? Well, Meesha is my nickname since forever. As you can see, it is right there in my name. Slays came from the fact that my initials are RS and I wanted to keep the S at the end here as well. And then, my obsession with Shay Mitchell, who is at times referred to as Slay Mitchell, just made my inclination stronger.

3. What is the concept behind Piñata Magazine and how is Piñata different from its competition?

Piñata is different because it is the first e-zine in Pakistan that does it all. We cover everything, really. We make vlogs; we write articles; we pose for our website and sometimes we even share bits and pieces of ourselves. The concept behind it is that we wanted the world to be able to connect with Pakistan in a very positive and personal way. Piñata Magazine is all about everything bright and happy.

4. Tell us about the team of Piñata?

Oh, they are the best people I know! They have turned into friends in less than a year. I really got lucky with this bunch. They are hardworking and very passionate and also, ‘nice and responsive.’ This is an inside joke so pardon me for not sharing it with you, haha. The level of respect, friendship, and love we have for one another is just amazing – Ma sha Allah.

5. What challenges do you face in day-to-day operations of Piñata Magazine?

There’s so much going on all the time that it gets hard for me sometimes to manage it. But as they say, if you do what you love, you’ll never have to ‘work’ again.

6. What is your aspiration in life?

My aspiration is to be independent and completely reliant on myself.

7. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?

Please do something with your life. Be true to yourself and others and work hard to achieve your goals.

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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.

Interviews

“Ignite the passion to educate the masses in your hearts”: Mahnoor Naseer – Editor-in-Chief, Daastan.

Mahnoor Naseer is a Citizen Historian at The 1947 Partition Archive. An electrical engineer by academic qualification but with literature filled in her heart, she talks to MOIWrites in this exclusive interview about her life and career, passion and plans.

1. Tell us about yourself?

So, as you know already, my name is Mahnoor, it is from a Persian-Arabic origin which means Moonlight. As beautiful as it sounds to many, my name is not unique at all, but I personally believe that it is not the name that makes a person unique but the characteristics they possess. Therefore, I find myself inimitable in my compassion of doing every single thing in life as if it matters the most.

I come from a middle-class family and was brought up in the shelter of unconditional love of my hardworking parents, for whom self-respect was more important than money. My parents are a real-life example of the ideology that what you cannot achieve for yourself, provide it to others. They have given me more than anything that I ever asked for. All that they lacked in their lives, they have given it to me.

Professionally, I am an Electrical Engineer and serving as a research intern in Military College of Signals, Rawalpindi. Besides that, I am also the Editor-in-Chief, Daastan and a Citizen Historian with “The 1947 Partition Archive”. I very recently started working on a collaborated project of UNDP and SIL as a research writer and transcriptionist.

Apart from these boring details that build me up, I am an avid reader and an aspiring writer. At times, I even play with colors and try my hand at painting. I enjoy sketching. I also collect stamps, coins, and naturally, bookmarks. I would also define myself as a foodie who loves testing out new cuisines. So far, nothing has won me over like Chinese food.

I am rather a “pick-and-choose” kind of a person when it comes to making acquaintances or befriending people. One of my strongest policies is being straightforward to the point that sometimes, I feel I will end up hurting someone but I try to be as careful as possible.

2. You are the Co-Founder of The Ancient Souls. What are The Ancient Souls about?

In August 2016, along with a group of friends from abroad, I decided to do something different, something that would be outside the limits of the mainstream. To set up the platform that not only promotes written works but literature as a whole.

Presently, many people have restricted the definition of literature to possessing good writing skills and having read the well-known books. The concept we wanted to nurture through our platform was rather broad: “Anything that involves words, art, and the true colors of humanity is to be known as literature” — not talking of the genres or the major forms here but sticking to the basic definition of it.

Therefore, we had three sub-goals; to protect the said definition of literature, to promote peace through literature by dissolving all the human barriers, and to innovate. The three sub-goals combined to serve one major goal that was to create a platform to empower aspiring writers, photographers, and artists across the globe.

Currently, we are operating as a community of around 15,000+ members across the world. We also published our first annual anthology in 2017, which secured the honor to be Daastan’s very first international publication.

3. As the Editor-in-Chief at Daastan, what are your prime responsibilities?

Besides editing, I have to review all submissions in the light of Daastan’s set policies. I have to coordinate with my sub-editors in assigning them tasks, reviewing those tasks once completed, have the final drafts ready and pass them on to our website management team.

Overall, I have to ensure that the team stays as hospitable and encouraging towards the authors as possible; because it is the budding talent that we mostly deal with, and that they do not overstep any of the company’s predefined policies.

4. Which authors from Pakistan and abroad are your favorite?

Talking of the international authors J.K. Rowling will always be at the top of my list for obvious reasons. I really enjoy reading Sylvia Plath, Khaled Hosseini, Stephen King, Elif Shafek, Sydney Sheldon, Sarah J Mass, Sabah Tahir, Nicholas Sparks, and the list goes on.

The Pakistani authors that I really like are Abdullah Hussain, Hashim Nadeem, Omar Shahid Hamid, and Nimrah Ahmed. I know people have different views about Nimrah’s writing style but I love her scenic portrayals and the choice of words. Here, I have mentioned the authors from modern literature only because those from previous generations, as far as I have read them, were all maestros in my view, like Manto, Patras Bukhari, Bano Qudsia, Ashfaq Ahmed and many others, and I am yet to discover that era of literature in a broader way.

5. Which are your favorite novels?

Okay, I will not mention Harry Potter here because that is like blood to my body. I love “The Kite Runner”, not just for the sake of the book, but also because of all the book-based movies that I have watched,” The Kite Runner” seemed to be the best one of them. Even Harry Potter movies did not approach me on that level of perfection.

So, reading a book and loving it, and then watching a movie based on it and loving it the same way, has an impact on the way my imaginations works after I finish reading it. You know, I just wish we opened a book and all characters danced in front of us. It is a childish thought, but I am a firm believer in miracles! My other favorites include; “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, “Rose Madder” by Stephen King, “The Throne of Glass Series” by Sarah J. Mass, “Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafek, and “Amar Bail” by Nemrah Ahmed.

6. You have been responsible for editing manuscript entries in Daastan’s Stories Untold competition. How has the experience been for you?

Season 2 of the Stories Untold was the point where I officially stepped into this literary world as an Editor. Roller Coaster is the best word to describe my journey during those days. My main role was that of a project manager. However, later I became an Editor, a job I had never thought of being capable to do. On a minor level, I was already doing it at TAS, but this was different as at Daastan, here I had  to mentor  the aspiring authors.

In my life, my biggest advantage has always been my perseverance. When I decide to do something, I do it. There is no turning back or quitting, I never quit unless something is hurting my self-respect.

So, when Daastan offered me to be an Editor, I said okay, I can try it but expect errors because I am new to this, and the errors did occur, I have learned a lot from them and still am learning. To my surprise, everything worked out well. Three of the four people that I mentored during that season made it to the top six, and the fourth one is an exceptional author, Muhammad Omar Iftikhar, who keeps on exploring various genres, he is also the winner of NaNoWriMo 2017. I am lucky to have been associated with such remarkable talent as Bhaskar Paul, Neeraj Brahmankar, and Abhirun Das.

Here, I would like to thank Aimen Siddiqui, Director Content, Daastan, I have learned a lot from her. I would like to thank Sidra Amin, Co-founder, Daastan, for my professional training. Syed Ommer Amer, Founder, Daastan, is also a great mentor and I am blessed to have these people in my life.

7. When editing manuscripts, what key problems did you realize the aspiring writers were facing?

Talking of the writers from Pakistan, here I will start counting the issues from the root to stem level i.e. from what is wrong within to what is wrong on the outside.

The first and foremost problem is writing for the sake of becoming famous or earning money. I personally believe that one should write because they love it not because they want to earn through it. That “Greater the reward, the best the input” philosophy does not apply here. It is a different world with unpredictable possibilities. Therefore, restricting yourself to a monetary reward is not a good idea.

Second, is overconfidence. It prevents them to absorb criticism down their skin. Therefore, talking of my experience here, I did come across some new writers who were not able to accept any kind of criticism on their manuscripts just because some XYZ friend said they have written a masterpiece. I would like to tell those friends that you are not doing justice with your comrade; you are rather becoming a core reason for their downfall when they step into the real world.

Thirdly, coming to the stem level now. There are good writers who open-heatedly accept criticism but lack professional guidance. Most of the publishing companies have proficient degree holders in literature from foreign universities who lack the sense of commitment to educating. In that case, where should a writer with a brilliant story idea but weak language and grammar skills go? Because, you know, the parameter set here to judge a story is not the story idea, it is rather the language skills.

In a society where to be able to speak English is considered as a massive feat, people who go abroad for studies return to Pakistan and look down upon the locals who have yet to develop their English communication skills. Why cannot they return to Pakistan and educate those who aspire to become better?

It is my request to everyone, especially the literary squad, that instead of demotivating the local talent by pointing their language mistakes, try to figure out how this issue can be resolved. In addition, in the quest to do so, even if a manuscript with a great storyline but with a few errors goes in the market from your hand, never hesitate. This is the same ideology that we are working with at Daastan and The Ancient Souls. A lot of criticism does come our way, but that is okay when the authors are satisfied. We are trying to educate them as best as we can and will continue to do so.

8. As an editor and a mentor, what message will you give to aspiring writers enabling them to become better writers?

Read books, lots of them. Reading is the fuel to a writer’s mind; it will keep your imaginations in constant motion and will let you create brilliant stories. In addition, it will help you improve your language, familiarize you with new words, help understand the tenses and narrative styles in a better way.

Also, make it your habit to learn one new word from the dictionary per day with its meaning in your native language. Install Merriam Webster Dictionary on your smartphone and learn new words on the go.

Make yourself comfortable at rough writing. Do not get into the formalities of editing right at the time when you start writing. First, write what you want and do not let the thought of making mistakes hinder your flow. Once you are done writing, read the whole thing at least 10 times — trust me the new aspects that you will come across are limitless, and after finalizing it from your end, ask at least three people to proofread it for you. For the most productive reviews, look for people outside of your friend circle.

Last and most importantly, open your doors to criticism, be it good or bad, no matter what people throw at you make yourself habitual of grasping something fruitful out of it.

9. Your message to the youth of Pakistan?

Ignite the passion to educate the masses in your hearts, never look down upon anyone, never allow anyone to crush your self-respect, make empathy your greatest tool to deal with any challenge that life puts ahead, don’t promise someone something you cannot do for them, grab the opportunity when it knocks your door — don’t ever think of any job as little no matter how higher a qualification you have achieved. Never stop thinking, creating and trying.

Never quit, remember if you did, 20 years from now, when you will see a friend who despite of failing a hundred times didn’t give up and achieved something big out of sheer hard work, you will hate yourself the most. Quitting in my view is shameful. So, never do anything this shameful in life that in your future it makes you hate yourself, see you are not aware of the day you wake up and all this guilt from the wrong things you have done in your previous life will clasp your throat to suffocate you in all the unwanted ways.

Do what you love, don’t compromise your ambitions, and if you are not able to achieve one thing set a new goal for yourself. Explore, the universe has a lot to offer, you never know which string is bound to be your way towards success.