Interviews

“They wrote from their heart!” English finalists – Daastan’s Season 4 of “The Stories Untold”

DANIA SHAH

AUTHOR OF “OF SHAME AND SECRETS”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/427

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:

“With teens soon approaching, she had gone through the scene a gazillion times in her dreams. A handsome Disney Pukhtoon, taking her by the arms, looking straight into her eyes, the fixed gaze, deep blue eyes and of course the magic touch. The eternity of the first kiss for a blossoming flower, rich in emotions, was sacred. Not for long though…Depriving a character of purity at such a fragile age was brutal. It renamed love to lust, replaced honor with horror, brought shame and secrets. But this unfortunate character had to suffer since the story was true.”

FAVORITE LINE FROM THE BOOK:  

“No religion, law, ethic or rule says that it is justified to hit others, much less beat them. Yet it is amazing how people judge you for being a victim”

1. When and how did you start writing?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. One – the love for literature runs in the family, Two- As a kid, my curiosity led me places, and more often than not I would end up creating troubles. Being a hyperactive child, my emotions were always on the verge, it was writing where I found solace. I received immense appreciation when I read my pieces to family/teachers or friends and of course as an artist, this is the only reason that pushes us further.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)?

Pakistani authors:  Manto, Faiz, Naseem Hijazi, Ibn-e-Insha
Non-Pakistani Author: Ghalib,  J.K Rowling, Elif Shafak, Paulo Coehlo, Jane Austen

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

There’s too many, hard to pick a favorite: Man-o-Salwa by Umaira Ahmad, Godfather by Mario Puzo

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

Author inspirations change from time to time. There was a time I bought the entire stock from Umaria Ahmad, after reading Peer-e-Kamil, then by Paulo Coehlo after reading The Alchemist, but if you look at each author and their stories, they are all inspirational in one way or other. Still, if I am to pick one, I will pick Manto for the fact that he always told the truth no matter how bitter.

5. The motto you live your life by? 

Success is not living a life of extravagance it is the ability to be able to help others. ( This is my own quote and this is my approach towards life)

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

Ever since I started this business and got kids I rarely get any time to write. After Zainab’s incident, I couldn’t sleep for nights and skimmed the internet for child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. There were heart-wrenching facts that urged me to address the issue publically or launch a digital campaign (since I work through these channels already), however, there were concerns about the niche being too bold and against all my will, I postponed the idea for a later time.  But when I saw Daastan’s post about a story competition themed on Zainab, I immediately decided to take part.

I have suffered and I feel all of us have since as a society we are still struggling to break taboos and bring awareness.  I have always wanted to talk about sexual education, rights, and awareness and I thought this was a good time to do so. I thank Daastan for taking the initiative and helping people come forward with their stories. Initially, it was hard to put into words the atrocities that deprive young souls of their childhoods. I would come to a stop after writing a sentence or two, then go back and erase it. I would think of giving it up, but I did for the sake of a gazillion victims who would never be able to speak up much less identify they were being abused.

I never knew I would actually win the competition. I am glad that I took the decision to take part, and I am obliged to Ommer and his team for what bringing about the revolution in the literary industry of our country.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

No matter how well you write, keep reading. Good writers read, Great writers read excessively. Keep sharing your work, don’t be afraid of the feedback. Learn from your mistakes, and write from the core of your heart.


NIRMEEN MAROOF

AUTHOR OF “KAUSAR BIBI”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/438

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:

“Thoughtlessly, she glided her finger over the sleeve of her left forearm. Kausar purposefully wore long sleeves, even in summer. If she didn’t, then people would point and ask, always, always the same question. Where did you get those cuts, Kausar Bibi? They would say, their round, blank eyes gawking at her as if she were a circus attraction. And Kausar Bibi would smile, her practiced, perfect smile and tug her sleeves up to her wrist and chirp, oh, just an accident in the kitchen. You know how these things can be. An accident in the kitchen. She snorted. If only they knew the truth.

FAVORITE LINE FROM THE BOOK:

“It had been over fifty years, yet the memories still kept her cold at night. Cold and awake.”

1. When and how did you start writing?

I believe I was around five when I started the act of writing. I would copy down all my storybooks into loose pages and then tie the whole thing up with some ribbon. Stories, on the other hand, I began to write when I was fourteen. The internet played a huge part in that. I used to read a lot of fanfiction back then. I was impressed with how young the writers were, and confident too, to be able to put their work out there for the world to see. I wanted to emulate that, and that’s where it started.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)?

My favorite non-Pakistani writers are Neil Gaiman, Truman Capote, Gillian Flynn, Jennifer Egan, Haruki Murakami and Ian McEwan. As for Pakistani, I enjoy the works of Bapsi Sidhwa, Mohammed Hanif, and Saadat Hasan Manto. New blood, such as Sidra F. Sheikh and Shazaf Fatima Haider, are also growing on me.

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Such a dark and beautiful book. And tragic too. It’s the closest thing, I believe, a novel can be to music. The cherry on top is that it’s written by an author whose first language isn’t English, so that’s very inspiring. Ice Candy Man/Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa is another favorite. There’s something almost nostalgic about an old Lahore, and the image of a group of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs sitting in a park and grousing about their British overlords.

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

Ian McEwan, because he switches it up every time. His ideas are very original. In his latest novel, the main character is an unborn fetus. An unborn fetus. Now, who could have thought that that could be a likely narrator? He’s brilliant and makes me want to be brilliant too.

5. The motto you live your life by?

I have several mottos, but the ones I follow the most are,

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

“True failure is when you stop trying.”

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

Kausar Bibi is about an elderly woman who must come to terms with her childhood trauma. My main challenge was the time limit. I had only found out about the competition a week before the closing date. There were only a handful of days to research and write down a 6000-word story and polish it up. I remember sending the final manuscript exactly fifteen minutes before the deadline and being so tired that I couldn’t even bring myself to format the whole document properly. I was just relieved and proud of myself for even completing such a feat!

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

Write, write and write. Then write some more. Repeat step 1. Find a support group. This is far more important than writers realize. It’s of the essence that you have someone read and review your work. That is how you can grow, after all. It can be a close friend, a teacher or even an online forum. NaNoWriMo is a wonderful resource for connecting writers from all over the world. Writing can be a very lonely profession but it doesn’t have to be. Have fun. There’s really no point in doing anything if it’s not fun!


SADAF SHAHZAD

AUTHOR OF “THE LIES THAT COMFORT US” 

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/474

 

EXCERPT FROM HER BOOK:

“It was the last thought before her world went completely blank. Her delicate head was harshly smashed against the same tree that had shielded her seconds ago. Nothing stood between her and the bad man at that moment. The little girl lay still-her tears disappearing into the cold hard earth. The earliest stars were their only witnesses. They twinkled frantically in the darkening sky but no one noticed the small body being dragged away into the bushes.”

FAVORITE LINE FROM THE BOOK: 

“If you let the monster take away both our babies, he wins.”

 

1. When and how did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since forever. In school, I enjoyed creative writing and poetry (sometimes). I loved to create stories for assignments and just for fun.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)?

I don’t really have favorite authors as such because I like to focus on books rather than authors. Some of my favorite series have been written by Tamora Pierce, Michelle Sagara, Grace Draven, G. A. Aiken, Nalini Singh, Jay Kristoff, Laura Thalassa, Brent Weeks, Sherry Thomas, J. K. Rowling, Jim Butcher and Kristen Britain.

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

Some young adult books include The Duff by Kody Keplinger and Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles. I love epic fantasy and paranormal romance. My favorites are mostly series like Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce, Codex Alera by Jim Butcher, Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara, Wraith Kings by Grace Draven, Psy-changeling by Nalini Singh, Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, Dragon Kin by G. A. Aiken, Night Angel by Brent Weeks, Green Rider by Kristen Britain and more.

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

Every author I read inspires me in some way. Some inspire me to stay away from certain things LOL. The reason is probably the diversity of styles and perspectives. As a new author, I have a lot to learn. Reading a variety of authors shows me possibilities of how plots maybe executed or characters might be grown.

5. The motto you live your life by?

Love yourself.

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

The Lies that Comfort Us was tentatively titled Denial. This is the main theme of the story. I’m part of many women support groups where members anonymously share their experiences with child abuse. It made me realize that many people voluntarily blinded themselves to the truth. Anyone can be a predator. Statistics reveal that most victims/ survivors actually know their abusers. No one should be labeled safe. Once you let your guard down, the predator makes their move. I wrapped up the story by discussing the people who are forgotten in such cases and how they are victims too. A perfect family faces their worst nightmare when their only child is abducted. The biggest challenge was a lack of facts. Unless you talk to professionals or study papers written by them you won’t understand this issue. I have explored this theme in depth but I still had trouble comprehending it.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

Read negative reviews. Try to understand what readers dislike and why. Get maximum feedback from your target audience. Listen to opinions but don’t lose your unique voice. The world doesn’t need more of the same thing. Correct grammar is essential. Stay connected to your readers.


Hossein Syed

AUTHOR OF “CHILDREN OF THE WOODS”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/437

Hossein Syed.jpg

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:

“He pulled at the handle and ignored the rough sound the pintels put out; rusted through they were—rains were unkind to this house—always. He opened it enough to make a gap to pass through. Outside, a small bulb flickered overhead, sparsely lighting the big vase and dry flowers, petals fallen upon the mahogany table, his mother had put there. They were roses, dark and red, like blood, in the shadow. Cold robbed roses of a sweet hue, dulled their arms till they lost the strength and fell away from the calm—petals plucked before their time had come to fully bloom.”

1. When and how did you start writing?

I started writing when I was fairly young—around seven or eight years old. My first experiments with writing were making small comic-books. Then I stopped writing in my early teens (for some inexplicable reasons) and picked it up again in my late teens. There wasn’t even any reason for dropping the hobby; I suppose I’m just a whimsical individual.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)?

I lean more towards poetry than prose. My favorites would have to be Sufi poets such as Nizamuddin Auliya and Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. In English, I would say that Edgar Allan Poe, John Updike, Vladimir Nabokov, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, and few others really appeal to me as their style and structuring is very complex and almost poetic in nature. I’ve always preferred prose stylists over story-tellers, as there are so few of the former.

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. It’s a German novel, but it’s truly one of a kind. The genius of Patrick Süskind is grossly underappreciated. I also greatly admire the prose—and the manner in which the language is used to create varied effects—of Updike, Lawrence, Nabokov, Poe, and Bronte.

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

This is a hard one because my greatest inspiration has always been John Keats, closely followed by John Milton. The beauty of Keats verse, its sensuousness, dream-like, near-hallucinatory quality, is unmatched in my eyes. Yes, few other Nature and Romance poets are also inspirational (Shelly’s Ozymandias and Blake’s The Sick Rose and A Poison Tree are phenomenal, also), but Keats’ is the sole reason why I ever picked up writing again. That and the manner in which Milton pushes the boundaries of language itself in Paradise Lost is an unprecedented feat; Satan is a brilliant character! In fact, if you haven’t read these two, especially Keats’, you’ve never read great Literature!

When it comes to narrative structuring, I prefer character-driven narratives (Russian and Japanese) to the western (predominately American and British) plot-driven narratives—in the latter, characterizations are almost always a demonstrative affair, as everything a character does is meant to drive the plot forward. That’s a fairly limited approach, and, sadly, that’s all we see due to the dominance of American pop-culture. I truly believe that variety is the spice of life, and more people should look into Russian and Japanese literature to truly understand characterization. So, my approach is to utilize more of the eastern approach, with smatterings of western narrative structuring. Choice, as in Kabuki and Noh Theaters, also plays a great part in my stories.

5. The motto you live your life by?

The bigger they are, the harder they kick your arse; better find some evasive maneuvers to outwit your competition.

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

The idea behind Children of the Woods was to flip heroic and Romance tales on their heads in different ways. The horror genre, for me, became the catalyst to drive home the whole theme: the atmosphere is created through the backdrop of night, forest, and other natural phenomena, such as wind, mist, rain, etc; and against this backdrop, a boy goes out with a trusty lantern (like a hero’s sword) to rescue his female friend: another small child like him.

I wanted to try something a little unconventional, something which isn’t done too often these days, and that’s the play with colors and sounds in a manner that creates illusions of visual imagery—a Romantic-era technique.

It’s, as I said, heavily inspired by Keats’ works that are rich in … basically, vocabulary items that act as a substitute for color schemes in visual arts. In theater (and film, too) colors play a major role, especially in Noh and Kabuki theaters, and define a lot of tonal variations. I, too, tend to use words that work well with sound and colors—words that are meant to be read aloud; or, at least, I strive for this effect that tends to create substance through style.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

Don’t copy trends, especially script-orientated prose—it’s an over-used and abused style of writing; create your own Style. It isn’t easy, and it requires a lot of hard work and patience, but that’s true for everything in life.


FATEMA BHAIJI

AUTHOR OF “HEROES & VILLIANS”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/410

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:

“She thinks she is a boy. We had hoped that it would correct itself but my worst fears have come true. We need to fix this. She acts like a boy. She wants to dress like a boy. She wants to run around with boys. No matter what I try to do she just won’t listen to me. I hope I can trust you to help me.”

FAVORITE LINE FROM HER BOOK:

“We’re different and they don’t like anything different because they can’t control it. We’re outliers and they can’t fit us into their equations so they have to correct us.

1. When and how did you start writing?

I think the first time I wrote something just because I wanted to was in the 9th grade when a teacher handed us a list of topics that we could write on during our off time. We were given a free hour to do what we wanted and I ended up writing three different stories, one of which called ‘The Visitor’ become the base of a novel I am currently working on.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)?

Sylvia Plath is an all-time favorite writer and poet of mine. I actually carry around her collected poems and read them when I’m on the bus or waiting in line for something. As for Pakistani authors, I’m going to say Shazaf Fatima Haider but I might be slightly biased because she was one of my favorite teachers as well.

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

One of my favorite books is Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard. It explores the complex issues of gender, presentation, and sexuality in a way that the reader can easily empathize with and relate to the main character, Pen, as she navigates through friendship, family, and society. Kamila Shamsie’s Kartography would be my favorite Pakistani book.

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

Saying J. K. Rowling might be cliche but that’s where I started reading and writing. One of my first stories was actually a complete rip off of Harry Potter: the trio of friends, the villain and the wise old wizard included. I also admire how she kept trying despite the rejection letters, that’s important as writers.

5. The motto you live your life by?

Don’t let the fear of other people’s opinions let you define your life. I know we’re only human and society shapes much of who we are but if you want to do something that makes real a difference there will always be people lining up to tell you all the ways that you’re doing it wrong. Just persist, believe in yourself and above all be kind. That’s my motto.

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

Heroes and Villains is a story about a young boy who feels he is born in the wrong body looking to find support from his mother. However, things don’t turn out the way that he had hoped and the betrayal leads him down a dark path before he can find the light at the end of the tunnel again. To know more about it you can check out the story and leave your reviews at https://www.meraqissa.com/book/410.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

Write the things that you don’t want to because they scare you. They always make the best stories because they’re often written from the heart and will end up connecting more with people. And don’t get stuck editing early on, finish writing and then go back. Trust me, I get stuck re-re-re-editing before I’m even finished and those stories never get finished.


ASHUTOSH BANSODE

AUTHOR OF “THE DARK RUSE”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/395

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:

“They had scary faces, their pangs protruding out of their mouths and their bloodshot eyes leering at me as they laughed mockingly. They closed in on me and were about to devour me….”

FAVORITE LINE FROM HIS BOOK:

“Let me be the star that my mother feels proud of and not the beautiful flower that could be plucked anytime. Let my mother see the light and not the sight of her flower dying.” 

1. When and how did you start writing?

Most of the time people fail to acknowledge their true potential which is hidden under their self-imposed fears, lack of confidence and self-belief.  It is just that one step of confidence which has the power to alter the state of any situation and turn it into one of the glorious moments of your life. I have always struggled with confidence when it came to speaking in public, expressing my thoughts or displaying my qualities. It was on 4th September 2015 when I wrote my first inspirational article which reflected my introspective thoughts on giving that extra tug to yourself and doing things with confidence.

 2. Your favorite Indian and Western (non-Indian) author(s)? 

Arundhati Roy, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and Amitav Ghosh have always impressed me with their fine writing and powerful messages. My favorite non-Indian authors are Haruki Murakami, George Orwell and Khaled Hosseini who have always mesmerized me with their flawless and profound storytelling.

 3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from India and abroad)

‘Norwegian Wood’ is my favorite novel which is written by Haruki Murakami. I have also enjoyed reading his ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ which is a collection of his short stories. Other books which have made an impact on me and my writing are – ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini and ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy.

 4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

Haruki Murakami is my source of inspiration. The beauty of his writing lies in expressing various shades of human emotions and taking you to a whole different world as he explores suspense, romance, youth, and relationships. His stories can be very simple and very esoteric at the same time. The joy, the sorrow, the bewilderment and amazement that you feel while reading his books is a testament to his sheer brilliant art of story-telling!

 5. The motto you live your life by?

My motto is- ‘Learn from all the experiences in your life. And improve!’

 6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

‘The Dark Ruse’ touches upon various dark shades of our contemporary society. The story revolves around an adolescent boy, Rohan, who is still malleable to his experiences and the norms of our culture and society. It is a heart-wrenching mystery which unfolds as Rohan’s mother delves into the encounters written in his diary only to realize that her son and family is trapped in a vortex of adversities. The book, although fictional, is based on the theme of child abuse and forays into the recent haunting events of inhuman exploitation. The book is an attempt to spread awareness and expression of my strong feelings about this subject.  

 7. Your message to aspiring writers?

Always write about things which you strongly feel about. I believe your creativity comes from the intensity of your feelings. Before writing always think about your audience and who do you want to address it to. Believe in yourself and create your own unique style. There’s a different high in writing and touching peoples’ lives. Be responsible, be change-driven and make an impact!

Advertisements
Interviews

“Their words, their world!!” Urdu finalists – Daastan’s Season 4 of “The Stories Untold”

MOIWrites is honored to interview the top 5 authors from the Urdu category, who emerged as finalists during the Season 4 of “The Stories Untold” organized by Daastan. 

AMNA SHEHZADI

AUTHOR OF “LAAL DUPATTA”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/451

 

EXCERPT FROM HER BOOK

Excerpt-Amna Shahzadi.png

 

FAVORITE LINE FROM HER BOOK

Favorite Line-Amna Shahzadi.png

 

 

1. When and how did you start writing?

As long as I remember, I started writing when I was very young. I used to write down my feelings and problems that I found very difficult to express. I used to write short stories in 8th & 9th standard but never took it seriously. I had this urge of writing but couldn’t find the confidence so never thought of pursuing my career as a professional writer. Laal Dupatta was my first ever attempt that I completed.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)? 

I am not a bookworm. I do not read much. I tried to read few writers such as Umaira Ahmed, Nimrah Ahmed, Razia Butt from Pakistan and Elif Shafak and Paulo Coelho from West.

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

I liked Peer-e-Kamil (Umaira Ahmed) and Jannat kay Pattay (Nimrah Ahmed) and Forty Rules of Love (by Elif Shafak).

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

I really like Mumtaz Mufti Sahab. The way he portrayed shortcomings in his story Labaik was amazing. It is a difficult task to show the real colors of a character and he nailed it.

5. The motto you live your life by? 

Just keep breathing & move forward.

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

“Laal Dupatta” a short story on child abuse that highlights the emotional and vulnerable bond between a father and a daughter. It also highlights how easily someone can use religion as a shield, and how the greed can be used to manipulate and cover sins. The biggest challenge was to write in a way that it should not be taken as a fantasy. So I kept the focus on the pain of the victim’s family. The other challenge was the portrayal of the perpetrator as I was very keen to not show any sympathy towards him by showing a traumatic or empathizing backstory of him. I just wanted to portray that he was bad and he chose to be bad.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

I myself is an aspiring writer. I had this urge of writing and I followed it. If you wish to write then go head and write, and keep writing.

FASIULLAH 

AUTHOR OF “AAGHAZ-E-ZEEST”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/432

 

EXCERPT FROM HIS BOOK

 

excerpt.png

1. When and how did you start writing?

I first wrote in Fsc from my college Defence Degree College Lahore as there was a competition in Minhaj University and college had to send an article too. Minahj university had sent invitations to write to several colleges and universities of the country. I got the second position in that competition.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)? 

Ashfaq Ahmed and Bano aapa among Pakistani writers and Paulo Coelho as a foreign writer.

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

Ishq ka Aain by Aleem ul haq haqi and Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

Ishfaq Ahmed- To me, Ashfaq sahab is a great level of guidance. I am a big fan of his Sufi way of writing and making things easier(Asanian Taqseem karna). He is a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to write in High Standards and try to teach readers in such a pleasant way that everyone wants to get lessons.

5. The motto you live your life by? 

Live positive even when the whole world has gone negative; make a difference

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

“Aaghaz e Zeest” is a story of a little girl and her mother who had gone through immense pain. It tells that no matter what happens there is always a way to fight against the oppressor. It teaches to believe in adhering to light. Even if you have the faintest idea that there may be light in a direction when you are in dark then you should move in that direction and keep moving. You may not find light in that direction but till then you would have learned the art to survive in dark and no darkness is eternal. The challenge was to complete the whole story in less than 6000 words and make it as a hope for every oppressed kid. But every challenge means a chance to get success so here I am.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

Do what you want to do before doing anything look at the mirror and ask yourself “Will I be able to look at the at myself in the mirror after doing that”

MONAA SOHAIL

AUTHOR OF “AIK KIRAN ANDHEERON MAIN”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/405

32286592_2080023035544731_8373201995258920960_n

EXCERPT FROM HER BOOK:

Excerpt.jpg

FAVORITE LINE FROM HER BOOK:

My Favourite Line.jpg

1. When and how did you start writing?

Some things are never started they just happen like “Aik Kiran Andheron Mein”, the theme urged me to write. It’s my first writing ever and by the grace of ALLAH I made it through successfully.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)?

Normally I read stories and writing pieces that grab my attention irrespective of who wrote it but the writings of Bano Qudsia and Ashfaq Ahmad in Pakistan and Nora Roberts from abroad have always been in my favorite list.

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

“Raja Gidh” by Bano Qudsia in Urdu Novels while “The Obsession” by Nora Roberts are my all time favorite.

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

My inspiration for writing is not a person but behavior of society.

5. The motto you live your life by? 

I have spent my life moving around only one thought “It’s not the wings that can make you fly but your intention and determination.”

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

“Aik Kiran Andheron Mein” is the story of a child who has been suffering from emotional abuse throughout his childhood by his own mother. He faced the negligence of his mother and grew up with the broken personality and complexes. His inferiority complex pushed him into the darkness of hatred and envy. Then suddenly the destiny turned around and he found a ray of light that pulled him out of the darkness and showed the enlighten path to move on. But the shadow of his childhood was too dark to darken even the brightest days of his life ever after.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

My message to all of the aspiring writers is to have faith in your abilities and be original. If you have potential believe me the sky is the limit.

AFRAAZ JABEEN

AUTHOR OF “CHOCOLATE”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/430

EXCERPT FROM HER BOOK:

Untitled.pngFAVORITE LINE FROM HER BOOK

favourite line.png

1. When and how did you start writing?

I used to write short quotes, short stories, prose, articles back to my college days. One Day, I saw a short story competition on Facebook organized by Dastaan. I participated in the Stories Untold season 1 competition and got published. That first publication embarked my voyage of writing in a proper way.

2. Your favorite Pakistani and Western (non-Pakistani) author(s)?

Well, a difficult question. Ahmad Nadeem Qasim, Ahmad Ali, Leila Aboulela, Gabriel García Márquez’s and the list goes on…

3. Your favorite novel(s)? (Both from Pakistan and abroad)

I like Dozakhnama by Rabisankar Bal, Minaret by Leila Aboulela, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, My Feudal Lord by Tehmina Durrani and the list goes on and on.

4. Which author is your inspiration and why?

Well, my inspiration is not an author. My inspiration: There is only answer my parents. I saw them in good days, bad days, in miseries, in pain. Their patience, will and strong belief in God always inspired me. They are blessing in disguise. Their influence turned their brat into an author.

5. The motto you live your life by? 

Well, the motto of my life is : jiyoo or jeeny do. (Live and let live)

6. Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist at Season 4 of “Stories Untold”?

My book entitled “Chocolate” is a story, justifying the given theme gives deep insight into the untold stories of our own society. It’s a story that unfolds two plots shedding light on the importance of so many neglected aspects of our society. It’s a story of a girl whose past haunts her whole existence.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

My dear fellow authors, Write, write as much as you can because in the present socio-political circumstances we need to dismantle all the things with our weapon and that is our pen.

Sarah Omer

AUTHOR OF “IK AUR ZOYA”

https://www.meraqissa.com/book/374

32207702_2080023292211372_5048095996106506240_n.jpg

EXCERPT FROM HER BOOK:

IMG_20180523_055623.jpg

FAVORITE LINE FROM HER BOOK

IMG_20180523_055146.jpg

When and how did you start writing?

I was about sixteen years old when I started writing. I was young and enthusiastic but I did not have the courage to face challenges and failure. One of my short stories was published in Kiran Digest and after that one novel was rejected. This rejection was a full stop for me and I paused for twelve years until now, when my short story was selected as one of the finalist stories by Daastan.

Your favorite Pakistani and western authors?

I read western authors only in textbooks while studying English literature. As far as Pakistani authors are concerned I like Ashfaq Ahmad, Bano Qudsia, Farhat Ishtiaq, Razia Butt, Mustansar Hussain Tarrar, Alim-ul-Haq Haqqi, Umera Ahmad but my favorite is Nemrah Ahmad.

Your favorite Pakistani novel?

“Jannat Kay Pattay” and “Halim” by Nemrah Ahmad. I also love the series of “Ishaq ka aain, sheen, and kaaf.”

Which author is your inspiration and why?

I have read many authors but there is no like Ashfaq Ahmad.

The motto you live your life by?

The motto of my life is to avail all strengths which ALLAH has given me. These are the powers I can use to change myself and the world. We should not waste our time and powers. We should utilize it in the best possible manner. For example, I have an ability to write so I want to use this ability to convey my message to others. My purpose of writing is only to create awareness. My focus is the better this society.

Tell us about the book that made you become the finalist of the Stories Untold season 4?

IK OR ZOYA is about the pain I cannot express. I was stressed, I was restless, I wept whole night when I heard the news of Zainab. I wrote this story in one night with my tears and pain. This is the story of Zoya who faced horrible realities of life.

Your message to the aspiring writers?

My message to all aspiring writers is to remain focused and devoted to their work. Read all writers but never copy anyone. Always create your own story and your own style. Always show your creativity. People are always attracted towards new stuff. New ideas and thoughts are always appreciated by readers. Never think yourself as a perfect writer as no one is perfect. There is always room for improvement so never miss the chance to improve your writing.

Interviews

Meet the youngest female author from Kashmir: Ayesha S. Khan

“If you want to be a good writer, be a good reader,” says Ayesha S. Khan, who has become the youngest female published author from Kashmir.

MYXJ_20180406201908_save

1. Tell us about yourself?

My father named me AYESHA. Since to him, this is the most beautiful name a girl can have. My pen name is Ayesha S. Khan. I hail from Muzaffarabad- the capital city of State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. I am 22-year-old and currently, I am a student of BS(English Language and Literature) at the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Muzaffarabad.

2. What were your feelings when you became the youngest author from Kashmir?

Obviously, I was over cloud nine. But, the most important thing which I would always cheer is that KASHMIR part in this whole phrase. “The youngest published female author from KASHMIR”. I can’t describe in words that how does it feel to be recognized by the name of your motherland.

3. Tell us briefly about your book without giving any spoilers?

My book “The Freezing Point” is a cause and effect tragedy. As we all know that the effects are the result of some causes. The problem is we mourn over effects without paying heed to the causes. We want to mitigate effects and their drastic by-products but what about causes? Causes are the root of all effects. They need to be focused.
“The Freezing Point” sheds light upon the character’s life journey from bright and pleasant to the dark and bleak. It highlights the scenarios or causes which transform a normal human into an evil one. To know more read the novel and leave your reviews at https://www.meraqissa.com/book/510

33079137_2083707078509660_8988390042468614144_n.jpg

4. Who inspires you to write?

In my direct family, my brothers have always been an inspiration to me whether it be a writing or doing something else. My brother once told me that: “I can see an excellent writer in you”. I realized his words later when attracted a lot of appreciation for “The Freezing Point”.

5. Which authors from Pakistan and abroad have been your favorite?

Being a voracious reader, I read a lot of authors from Pakistan as well as abroad. In Urdu Literature, Ashfaq Ahmad, Mumtaz Mufti, and Qudratullah Shahaab are the most adored ones. In English Literature, I love to read Khalil Gibran, John Green, Khaled Hosseini, and Nicholas Sparks. Moreover, I couldn’t resist applauding Elif Shafak for infallibly portraying the companionship of Rumi and Shams in her magnificent work ‘The Forty Rules of Love’.

6. What motivates you to write?

Social injustice in the world and particularly in our own country -Pakistan is my biggest motivation to pen down stories and articles. I want readers to take home something worth pondering. I think other writers should also take inspiration from the issues which are deteriorating society in one way or another, and start working on them.

7. What message will you give to aspiring writers?

Getting published was not a plain sailing job. I know people think it’s easy to write something and you’ll get published in a month or so. This was not a case with me. I had to wait patiently to go through the processing of writing, editing, and publishing. Even, I was so desperate to have a glimpse of my book’s cover. The point is good things take time. If you really want to write and become a published author first practice the skill of patience. Secondly, Never think about the monetary benefits. Just excel in the skill, and give your hundred and ten percent. Our teacher once told us to, view money, fame and success as a by-product. Lastly, If you want to be a good writer, be a good reader. Reading gives you a lot of stuff to mull over. You can’t become a good writer if you aren’t a good reader. Here, the important thing is choosing reading stuff. Always try to choose the material which makes you think positive. So, that your writings may impact the masses.

Interviews

“I loved the trend of reading good books and then sharing them with our social circle” – Faiza Kayani

“We are a nation blessed with many talented people but aspiring writers do not know how to have their work published. I want to help such writers so that their talent will not die,” says Faiza Kayani as she discusses her life and activities in this exclusive interview with MOIWrites.

1. Tell us about yourself?

I am Faiza Kayani. A software engineer by educational qualification and part of Civil Armed Forces. I belong from Tehsil Sohawa of District Jhelum to a family with an army background. I have remained a bilingual debater for nearly 8 years, won different prizes and trophies for my institutes. I was President of COMSATS Literary Society and worked with different societies as a volunteer for the betterment of society.

2. What inspires you to write? 

I started writing when I was in grade 6. At that time my father was posted in Gilgit and I was studying at Army public School, Gilgit. My father is a book lover. And we have a vast collection of books at home, most of them comprising Urdu Literature. I am basically a keen observer and notice daily life routine of people around me and the changing trends in society, both positive and negative, social issues around the globe particularly in Pakistan. I convert my routine observations in verses and normally write about the common issues of society.

3. Tell us about your book “Mohabbat gustaakh hoti hai”?

“Mohabbat Gustakh Hoti Hai” is my very first published book. Its genre is poetry. It’s not only poetry actually. It’s me and what is happening around me. It reflects the common things happening around us. Readers will be able to relate themselves with the poems.
4. What challenges did you face when writing this book? Team Daastan has played a vital role in this regard. Especially Syed Ommer Amer remained supportive and encouraging. The only hurdle was the lack of time. It sometimes became difficult for me to follow up in time due to workload.

5. Which authors from Pakistan and from abroad do you enjoy reading? 

Bano Qudsia is my all time favorite. May Allah bless her soul with peace. And specifically speaking about poetry, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Saghar Siddiqi and Parveen Shakir are my favorite. Juan Eliya also has a status because of his poetry.

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

Hopefully, an author with many books published in my name and I am planning to write “nasar” as well. I actually want to work for the betterment of Urdu literature and book reading. As due to advancement in technology and availability of E-books, the trend of having books in hard form is vanishing from our society. I loved the trend of reading good books and then sharing them with our social circle. That trend has faded away and I intend at reviving this trend. I want to work in collaboration with team Daastan which is already doing their job in a great manner. We are a nation blessed with many talented people but aspiring writers do not know how to have their work published. I want to help such writers so that their talent will not die.

7. What advice will you give to aspiring writers? 

Continue doing your work. You yourself are the best critic and analyst of your work. Keep on reviewing your writings periodically. It will help you in maturing your work. The more you will write the more your skills will be polished and never ever get disappointed by criticism. It will always help you in grooming.

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

“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.