Thursday, June 28, 2012

Author Interview: Rania Marwan

Laila's interest in an unexpected topic opens up the doors to an unexpected lesson. After a quick fleeting thought to do something she had never thought of doing before, a new friend flies into the scene to save her day!

As Salaamu Alaikum and Welcome.  I would love to introduce you to author, Rania Marwan and her book, Laila and Pesto the Fly.  

Welcome Rania, please tell us a little bit about yourself?
  I am the proud mother of three kids, two beautiful girls 13 and 11 years old, and a 4 year old young boy, and I consider this to be my greatest accomplishment in life.  I had my Bachelor's degree in Economics in 1998 and my Masters degree in Public Administration in 2005 both from the American University in Cairo.
What were your earliest memories of writing?
 My earliest memories in writing were in my 6th grade, we were writing a short story as an in-class assignment, and the next day my English teacher (Miss Gillian) called my name and the whole class clapped their hands because of my well written story.  I remember my teacher's words very clearly, she said: "Rania, this is very good".  I also used to write my diary, and was very good at communicating with the rest of the family via letters (hahaha!).
What was your favorite children’s book growing up?
  I do not remember a favorite children's book as I grew up, but I would have to say that my father's limitless imagination, and the stories that he told me when I was young would have to be the main source of inspiration to me, and were it compiled in a single children's book, that would have been my favorite one.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
  I was not encouraged to write, it just came natural, I could always express myself better in writing.
What inspired you to write "Laila and Pesto the Fly "?
My daughters inspired me to write "Laila and Pesto the Fly".  I was looking for a way to convey to them the beauty of Islamic ethics in a non-conventional fictional way, and so I decided to write a story in an attempt to grasp their attention towards the beauty of Islam.  I ended up writing "Laila and Pesto the Fly" but I did not know what to do with the story, one day I decided to send it to a fellow member in MWA (Muslimah writer's Alliance), Sister Isahah, and she was kind enough to tell me about my current publisher (Creative Education and Publishing).
Tell us a little bit about your story?
Laila and Pesto the Fly is a story about a young girl who was on the verge of cheating on her Math test, but due to the intervention of a devoted fly, she refrained from doing so, and was taught a lovely lesson about the hadith that said: "He that deceives us is not one of us." 
What has the road to publishing your books been like for you? Does it ever get easier?
The road was not very bumpy. I am a strong believer that if one's intentions were purely for the sake of Allah, then everything will go as smooth as can be.  "Laila and Pesto the Fly" remained on my desktop for a whole year, I never gave up, and I never felt bad about the lack of response from the different publishers around the world that I sent the story to.  It took only one e-mail to sister Isahah Grant, and it was my breakthrough IHL.  The story was published, the director of MWA Sister Aishah Schwartz graciously invited me to share my story on Al Jazeerah channel, and I became one very satisfied writer.  I only ask Allah swt to accept all the deeds for his sake only, and none other, and assist me in making a minuscule difference in this world ISA.
What do you hope children and adults will take away from your book?
I ask Allah swt that children and adults would come to realize that Islam is a religion of ethics, and that our Islamic heritage is full of rich stories that support this.  I wish I could help in conveying that message in a fun, interesting, intriguing way. 
How can your book be used in the classroom?
The world is full of cutting edge technologies that are used as substitutes to the good old method of holding a book and just simply reading it.  The simple process of reading and letting one's imagination loose and transforming the words into mind images is irreplaceable, and very educative.  
What do you feel is the most challenging obstacle in the publishing industry?
I would have to say it is marketing the books, and getting the greatest amount of people to benefit from them. 
What has been your most rewarding experience since being published?
The most rewarding experience for me is to know that I can get people young and old to appreciate the beauty of Islam. 
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
I read. I love reading! 
Are you working on a new book?
My books are a part of a series on Islamic ethics, and every book talks about a specific theme, so I am currently preparing for the fourth book, and waiting for the release of the third one ISA 

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
I would advise them to have a clear vision of the message that they want to convey to their kids through the book, and definitely read it themselves. 
What advice would you like give to new writers who wish to follow in your publishing footsteps?
My advice would be since you have a bigger purpose in life which is to serve Allah SWT, so never give up, just keep on pushing and trying and knocking on all the doors that you can find, you are bound to find a way through :)

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