You are now entering the world of my thoughts.

This blog is my diary of works in progress. The only way a writer can improve upon her skill is to practice, practice and practice some more. Here, in this place of quiet peace, I pen to paper my thoughts and creativity. Welcome to my world.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Author Interview + Giveaway: Nabeel Akbar

Today, I would like to introduce you do, Nabeel Akbar, author of, To Catch a Bug, Castle Park, and Down the Hill We Go. Leave a comment below for a chance to win a free app code and don't forget to check out Nabeel's website!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Toronto, my parents emigrated here from Pakistan.  Growing up in Canada definitely had a huge part shaping the books I wrote in two ways.  We don’t always realize the abundance of children’s books available to us here.  So many of these mainstream books are full of imagination, adventure and wonder.  The stories are very creative and original, as is the artwork.  I wasn’t a big reader as a child, but I did read a fair share.  Stuff from Robert Munsch and similar authors were always a lot of fun to read.  Those types of books played a part in shaping my own writing, and then of course there was my own childhood.  I grew up in the suburbs, and there were quite a few kids in my neighbourhood that were the same age range. And all of the kids were of different races or colour, which is something I wanted to try and show in my stories, because I think it’s a great reflection of not just Canadian kids but Muslim kids.  We were outside all the time.  Winter was snowball fights and tobogganing, summer was spent playing neighbourhood games, sports, swimming and water fights. 
What was your favorite children’s book growing up?

Where the Wild Things Are.  Great story, full of imagination, wonder and adventure.  The illustrations created a bit of suspense, which made them very captivating.  It’s the type of book a kid can read over and over again.

As a picture book writer, how did you learn your craft? What are your natural strengths? Greatest challenges?
I believe with writing you need to read a lot and also write a lot to improve your skill. I was also fortunate to have a lot of memories to relate to and also a lot of younger relatives I’m close with whose experiences I could draw on to come up with ideas my stories.

What was your first published book and what inspired you to write it?
The first book I wrote was Down The Hill We Go, but the first book to be published was To Catch A Bug.  When I first sat down to write, I remembered how we would build ramps out of the snow and jump our sleds over them and so I built the story around that. It took me four days to write it, I then showed it to my wife who really liked it, then to the rest of my family.  Everyone thought it was good, and that really encouraged me to write more.  I thought about doing a series of books and within a month I had completed Neighbourhood Safari (not yet published), Castle Park and Summer Splash.  I thought “Daze of Fun” was a good title for the series.  I remember when the completed hardcover copy came in the mail.  Alhamdulillah, it was a great feeling.  I was very happy with the way it came out.  Another thing which I felt good about was that I had accomplished something which could potentially be a lasting contribution to the community- something people could enjoy and perhaps even benefit from.

The snow has fallen and the school's are closed.
Jibraeel and Amanah can't wait to get to the park
and enjoy all the exciting activies Winter brings!

How has publishing changed since you published your first picture book?
As I published my first book recently, not much has changed.  There is a lot of demand for ebooks and book apps for mobile phones and tablets.  Seeing the popularity of these mediums increase we decided to also develop apps for three of our stories.  I wanted some shorter stories, but something with a twist or joke at the end.  After some time I had Midnight Snack, To Catch A Bug and Colours of My Imagination. The idea for To Catch A Bug came from a charity picnic we attended.  My niece and nephew were picking up caterpillars from a tree, when they saw how terrified my wife and sister were, they started to chase them around with the caterpillars! 

What has been the most challenging and rewarding part of publishing your books?

Self publishing is very challenging because you are handling all levels of work, writing, book designing, printing, distributing and even marketing. Before self publishing, I waited almost a year to hear back from publishers – due to some of the content, I was only sending it to Islamic book publishers – so there weren’t that many.  All of them declined, some said they didn’t even read the manuscripts because they were too busy.  The books were written in rhyming verse, and one publisher replied back that they weren’t looking to publish poetry, but if I have a children’s story, then they will look at it.  It was pretty frustrating because I felt they were unable to understand the idea behind them.  I decided that I would just self publish them which wasn’t difficult.  One of the publishers, Kube Publishing (formerly known as Islamic Foundation of UK) agreed to be the distributor, but I had to pay for all the book printing costs, which can be quite expensive – not to mention the artist fees.  I then came up with the name Kids Will Be Kids for my publishing company and thought about putting together a website once the first few books were ready.    Finding an artist wasn’t too difficult as my sister had a friend in art college and I also had a friend who is a really talented illustrator.
The most rewarding thing is when I receive comments from complete strangers who love our books and appreciate the effort we are putting forth.

What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?

I love spending time with my family and being outdoors, playing sports and just being active.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your books?
I want kids to smile and laugh when they read these books.  I want them to feel that Muslim kids have just as much fun as any other kids, and I hope they will see how easy and natural it can be to incorporate the rememberance of our Creator in our everyday language.  

Are you working on a new book?
At this time I am not working on a new book.  Alhamdulillah, I have several stories waiting to be published.  We are focusing a bit more on mobile apps, and Inshallah another youtube video.
What author inspires you the most and why?
I would have to say Robert Munsch, he has touched the lives of so many people and continues to produce enjoyable stories.

How can your books be used in the classroom?
I think they are great books for story time in the classroom.  Kids find them to be funny and relatable, and teachers get a great opportunity to show how zikr (remembrance) of Allah can be used in any conversation.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?

Don’t limit yourself to focusing on books which are about lessons only.  Some parents might frown on fictional stories, but it’s important for children to read all kinds of books, it really helps them to become creative and imaginative thinkers as they grow older.  Let your children pick out their own books, and then you can sit down and screen them together in case of inappropriate content.  In such a situation, it can be a great opportunity to discuss and teach our children about our lifestyle as Muslims, the beauty and benefits of such a lifestyle.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Nabeel!

Jazakallah Khair for giving me this opportunity to speak about what we’re doing at Kids Will Be Kids Publishing!

1 comment:

Heather said...

Wonderful advice about not focusing only on books that teach lessons. I couldn't agree more! Imagination is an important part of growth as well. Nabeel's books look wonderful.

Member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators