Hello everyone. Happy Thursday!!! I would love to introduce you to another amazing writer today. Meet Rukhsana Khan. She is an award-winning author and storyteller. Mrs. Khan has authored 11 books so far with more contracted. She has appeared on television and radio numerous times, has been featured at international conferences in Denmark, Mexico, Singapore, Italy, and South Africa, and has presented all across Canada and the U.S. Rukhsana Khan is also a member of SCBWI, The Writers Union of Canada, CANSCAIP, and Storytelling Toronto. Without further ado....... Mrs Khan.
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Lahore, Pakistan and my father decided to come to Canada to give me and his other children better educational opportunities.
We arrived in 1965 and moved to a very white town in Southern Ontario. Growing up was very difficult and books turned out to be my lifeline.
Stories provided me an escape from the difficulties of my life. I never dreamed of becoming an author till my grade eight teacher said I should pursue it. He said I was a poet, and I should grow up to be a writer. He was the first person in my life who ever opened that possibility up to me. I wrote a couple of rough works in my teens and then gave up, thinking that being an author wasn’t possible for someone like me, from an ethnic minority. It wasn’t till fourteen years later, when I was twenty-seven that I decided to seriously go for my dreams. It took eight years for my first book to get published. Now I have eleven books published. The Roses in My Carpets is my second book and the book of mine that has been in print the longest.
What are some themes and topics that are addressed in The Roses in My Carpet?
There are so many themes addressed in The Roses in My Carpets. While workshopping the story with some teens we counted no less than three problems the protagonist faces. It’s very unusual for a short story to have three problems in it! The first problem the protagonist faces is that he’s haunted by dreams of the war, of jets flying and bombing him and his family. The second problem deals with his resentment towards his mother and sister for holding him back, weighing him down. At the beginning of the story you can tell he feels this way because in his dream they’re pulling at him, and he feels he could run faster and get to safety if they weren’t holding him back. By the end of the story he has realized how much he needs them too and they’re all running together. And the third problem in the story is the boy’s attitude towards being sponsored. He feels that he has disappointed his father by accepting help. This story really is about a boy who needs help but is too proud at first, to accept it.
What inspired you to write this story?
.............. My husband and I decided to sponsor a child refugee. When I got the picture of Kareem (my foster child) I was astonished to see that he had blonde hair, blue eyes and freckles--he was white. How ironic. Here I was sending money across the world to help him and his family, yet he had the one thing that would have made my growing up easier--white skin.
I wanted to meet him. See what kind of boy he was. In January 1992 I got a chance to go to Pakistan. I was born there but had never been back. I travelled up to Peshawar, where the refugee camps were, and stayed with a friend of mine, Maha, and her husband Ahmad. They were working for the relief organization, Human Concern International, through which I’d sponsored Kareem.... Please click the link to read the rest of Mrs Khan's touching story here:
The presentation on what inspired me to write the story takes me an hour and is my most popular presentation for students from grade 3-12.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? How did you deal with it?
The worst thing anyone can say about my writing is that it’s didactic. Preachy, teachy. Yes, I always try to have a message in my stories. Something the reader can get from them, but the story is supposed to come first. If there’s no good story then any message will be lost. When people have said a piece was didactic, I either threw the story out, or I went back over it and fixed it. A story is usually didactic because I got carried away with the message and forced the characters into behavior that wasn’t consistent and believable. That’s a great no-no. So what I’ll do is go back and see what the character would really do in those circumstances. That really helps!
As a writer, who are your main influences?
Do you mean other writers?
I don’t really work like that. I have a LOT of favourite books and authors but I wouldn’t exactly say they’ve ‘influenced’ me. When I write I try to stay true to the voice that’s expressing itself in the characters. I often literally hear a voice in my head relaying a story, and I try to transcribe the story as authentically as I can.
Where do you do most of your writing?
In bed. First thing, when I wake up.
When I’m working on a project, I’ll write two pages before I brush my teeth, have my breakfast or do anything other work.
Who is your favorite author?
I have many! You can find lists of some of my favourite books here:
What is one book every writer, new or seasoned, should read?
Lord of the Rings.
Let’s talk multiculturalism. What is it and why is it important in children’s literature?
‘Multicultural’ basically refers to books that are set in ‘foreign’ cultures. Books that take readers into a different cultural experience. But more often than not, they’re books that showcase another culture. Multiculturalism is the process that promotes such books in the hopes that these types of books expand the horizon of the readers and enables them to understand other cultures and think ‘outside their box’.
Multiculturalism is important because of the idea that it does help children understand other cultures and different ways of thinking in the hopes that they can question their own thinking and improve themselves. It also gives children a foundation from which to approach people of other cultures.
In this increasingly globalized world, our children are bound to meet and work with people from other cultures. If they can learn to understand them and appreciate their differences and focus on the similarities they share with them, the world can become a more tolerant and peaceful place.
Can you share with us a list of some really fabulous multicultural children’s books?
Some of the books on my list of favourite reads are multicultural books I’d highly recommend: Shadow of a Bull is set in Spanish culture. Monster is set in African American culture, Watership Down is set in a mythical rabbit culture. But to be perfectly honest, I never look at whether a book is multicultural to see if I like it. I always look at whether it’s a good story!
And for our final question, what advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?
Read, read, read then write, write, write! And the best way to know if you’ve written something worthwhile is asking yourself the question (honestly) ‘If I hadn’t written this, would I want to read it?’
Thank you so much Mrs. Khan for doing this interview with us today. Find our more about Mrs. Khan at her website. For those of you who are interested in reading this remarkable book, leave a comment below with a way I can contact you if you are the winner of the book giveaway. Winner will be chosen using Random.org.