On School Visits, Diversity and YA Books

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited by  Walnut Road, a local elementary school here in Surrey, BC to talk to students in Grades 6 and 7 about my book and the writing process. Since this was my first visit to a school I wasn’t quite sure what to expect so I thought I’d share my experience and how I prepared for it.

First of all let me say what an amazing experience it was. The staff and students were extremely welcoming and I couldn’t have asked for a better audience. The students were polite and attentive but best of all they were very interested in reading and writing which made all the difference in the world. They had a lot of pertinent and thought-provoking questions and most of them liked the YA Paranormal genre. Many of them pulled out books they were reading and it was great to see that they carried these books around with them. Since they had recently finished their creative writing unit they also had a lot of questions about the writing process including editing and publishing.

Afterwards I mulled over why I had enjoyed my visit and what had made it successful. Here’s what I came up with.

Engage the students

If they get bored, then you’re pretty much just talking to an empty room. I started by asking them what kind of books they liked and by mentioning some book series similar to mine. They immediately perked up and began to call out books they loved. I knew a lot of them and so I asked them about specific characters and shared what I liked about them. There is nothing better than watching a roomful of 12-13 year olds with eyes sparkling as they talk about books. Really…it’s priceless.

Tell them your story

I gave them a brief idea of what my book was about and that got the conversation flowing. They wanted to know how I came up with the idea, how long it took to write the book and if there were going to be more. I also loved that they talked so enthusiastically about their own writing projects.

Ask them what kind of books they wish they could read

They were thrilled to read a story with diverse characters and we discussed the importance of reading diversely and exactly what that meant. I was blown away by their insightful comments on why we need to broaden our selection of books.

Tell them about writing programs and festivals that are available to them

The students were surprised to hear about the many opportunities there were to learn the craft and how many fun events were taking place close to home.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to talk to such a diverse and talented group of students. They showed me their creative writing projects and I was very impressed by the talent. It was gratifying to see that many of them pursue this in their spare time and are excited to learn more.

Best part of the visit? A week later I was asked to pick up something  from the school office. When I brought it home I was completely choked up. The student had hand written individual letters telling me what they thought about the visit. I couldn’t even get through half of it without getting all teary eyed.

So, if any of you are thinking about visiting a local school and talking to the students about writing and about your book, don’t hesitate. Make that call, set up an date and I am positive it will be one of the best experiences in your life as a writer.

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Day Seven of my blog tour with Diverse Book Tours

Tamara Philip over at tamaraphilipwrites.wordpress.com and Tricia Drammeh over at http://www.triciadrammeh.com/ were the hosts for Day Seven of my blog tour with Diverse Book Tours. 

If you would like to check out a review of Realm of the Goddess  please go to:

https://tamaraphilipwrites.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/diverse-book-tours-presents-my-review-of-sabina-khans-realm-of-the-goddess/

If you would like to read an excerpt from Realm of the Goddess please go to:

http://authorstowatch.com/2015/02/15/realm-of-the-goddess-book-tour/

Day Four of my blog tour with Diverse Book Tours. Host: D.C. Cowan

D.C.Cowan over at Fantasy Fiction Kingdom hosted Day Four of my blog tour with Diverse Book Tours. You can read an excerpt from Realm of the Goddess at

http://www.fantasyfictionkingdom.com/realm-of-the-goddess-sabina-khan/

Realm of the Goddess Blog Tour with Diverse Book Tours

Realm of the Goddess is going on tour with Diverse Book Tours, an awesome group of ladies who have made it their mission to promote books that offer readers an opportunity to learn about other cultures and perspectives. I’m thrilled and honoured to be part of their line-up of diverse books. Check out the schedule for the week of Feb 9-15.

http://diversebooktours.com/2015/02/schedule-for-the-realm-of-the-goddess-mini-tour-by-sabina-khan-sabina_writer-diversebktours/

Writing Strong Female Characters

So what does the term Strong Female Character mean to you?

It seems it has become something of a marketing tool, something to be used when a writer or producer wants to make sure that women are adequately represented in film or fiction. According to this article, a lot of female characters are cast with just that in mind rather than any actual purpose to further the story. A female character is portrayed as feisty, strong-willed and full of beans, only to be cast aside without a second thought when the real hero of the story comes along to save the world.

There is always an element of surprise when a female character does something that would be a matter of course for a male character. Why is it so unusual for a girl to choose her quest over her love interest? Why is it when she is the one with the powers, he has to show her how to use them correctly? Why is she so caught up in the intensity of her feelings for him that she gets sidetracked from her mission?

Is that how we see women in real life? As seemingly strong, but always ready to throw their own ambitions aside when the right man comes along? I hope not.

Because I see strong women, young and old, all around me. So it shouldn’t be so difficult to write characters who are real women, with real fears and weaknesses, but also with the strength to overcome them. And maybe the young girls who are reading about these characters will see their own reflection in them.

Free Kindle Book: Realm of the Goddess

My YA Paranormal Fantasy Realm of the Goddess is free for download Jan 14 & 15. Grab a copy if you like Indian mythology, kick-ass heroines, diversity, romance, exotic locales and lots of action.

http://www.amazon.com/Realm-Goddess-Sabina-Khan-ebook/dp/B00Q0OWI4G

Review of Realm of the Goddess

I was thrilled to read this review of my book by Louise Pennington over at http://louisepennington.org/

Realm of the Goddess by Sabina Khan

I first heard of the Realm of the Goddess in a blog with author Sabina Khan on Women Writers, Women Books. As the mother of two daughters, it was this that got my interest:

Disappointed at this obvious lack of diversity to choose from, I decided that I would write one myself. I feel strongly about the need to expose our youth to the magical and colorful traditions that make up our world. I also want my daughters to read about characters like themselves, so that they are not always reading about “others”. Or feeling that they are always the “others”.

My children and others of their generation may or may not want to read about the immigrant experience. But they certainly want to see themselves reflected in the fiction of their time. They want to see characters like themselves battling evil, falling in love and fighting with their parents. They want to know that others like them are dealing with conflicts as diverse as arranged marriage, education, religion and all of the issues that plague young people, regardless of their ethnicity.

As a lover of the genre of fantasy in young adult fiction, I wanted to read a book that was outside the vampire/werewolf/witch theme. I was going to put the book on my Amazon wishlist (600 books long and growing), but it was free on kindle so I downloaded it. And, then couldn’t put it down. It is very difficult to build lego for your kid whilst trying to read a book at the same time and not to  be recommended.

Realm of the Goddess does follow the pattern of vampire/ werewolf / witch books but with Hindu mythology. That alone makes it stand out from the crowd, but it is the richness of detail of Hindu mythology that makes this book so fabulous. The inclusion of the mythology is not forced or that dreadful Wikipedia-style history which made A.S Byatt’s The Children’s Book so unbearable. As a history nerd, I do love historical youth fiction and ones which are correct are hard to find. Granted I knew only the basics of Hindu mythology, but reading this made me want to read more (all recommendations of books written by women gratefully received!).

The main character Callie was fabulously written with depth and intelligence. She also ate actual food with gusto – all kinds of food from the traditional dishes of her family to cheeseburgers and pizza. Her hair was never perfect standing straight up on end when she awoke to the frizz of humidity. Callie reminded me of the character ofClaire Danvers in the Morganville Vampire books: intelligent, strong, loyal, and kind. The female characters in young adult fiction are frequently unbearable with their desperation to be with a man. Callie does have a love interest (and they do kiss) but the discussions of the relationship focus on what Callie believes is best for her. Realm of the Goddess joins the Morganville Vampires in being as close to feminist-friendly as can be written. This is why it will never get the publicity of Twilight, which reinforced the norms of our patriarchal culture. Callie not only challenges these norms, but also talks about the reality of male violence and rape. In fact, rape and other forms of male violence are integral to the plot and are clearly labelled as the sole impediment to women’s liberation and power.

This is the hallmark of a great book for me, strong female characters who are real. I want to read more by Khan as well as more books written about Hindu mythology.  I want to see Khan publish a fact book on Hindu mythology like Rick Riordan did for Greek mythology with his Percy Jackson books.

I’m also restraining myself from emailing daily to ask when she’s going to publish the second book.

Free Kindle Book: Realm of the Goddess

My YA Paranormal Fantasy Realm of the Goddess is available for free download Dec 27 and 28, 2014. Grab a copy if you like Indian mythology, kick-ass heroines, romance, exotic locales and lots of action.

http://www.amazon.com/Realm-Goddess-Sabina-Khan-ebook/dp/B00Q0OWI4G

Occupational Hazards for Writers

Since I started writing a couple of years ago I realized that there are some occupational hazards of being a writer. These include :

-Your sleep being hijacked by your characters as they live out the  scenes from your book.

-Your friends no longer sharing intimate details of their lives with you as said details inevitably find their way into your book.

-Being unable to go to any social functions without mentally categorizing people and their quirks for future use in your book.

-Listening with disturbing intensity when coming across anyone with an accent, in case you can use it in your book.

-Shushing people at the movies because they dared to fidget as you are trying to mentally record a scene that might help you with your book.

-Having difficulty concentrating on what your friend is saying at lunch because you are fascinated by the way she chews her food and you might be able to use it for a character in your book.

-Developing an unhealthy habit of imitating grimaces and other facial expressions as you try to write them, but forgetting that you are in public.

-Mentally practicing combat moves for your fight scenes, not realizing that you are acting them out while sitting at a Starbucks and people are beginning to stare.

If anyone wants to add weird habits they’ve picked up as writers, I would love to hear about it.