I met Soniah four and a half years ago at my first Atlanta Writers Club meeting. During the break between speakers, she approached me out of the blue to ask what I was reading. An hour later, we were laughing, in tears, and hugging. Our friendship, which now extends to our children and husbands, encompasses many aspects of our lives, but it evolves from our passion for books and writing.
Soniah is my writing partner. She is the first person to read a draft of something I write. She’s the first person to cheer me up after a crushing rejection (and will stay on the phone with me for as long as it takes for me to stop sobbing.) We sit next to each other during every workshop, we carpool to the annual Decatur Book Festival, we share hotel rooms at writers conferences, and we book speakers for the Atlanta Writers Club (she’s my co-VP of Programming). If I didn’t have her prodding and encouragement, I don’t know whether I’d still be writing today.
Here is her answer to the question, WHEN DO YOU WRITE?
When do I write? A more fitting question might be when don’t I write! I’m writing even when I’m not actually sitting at the keyboard typing. I write, in my mind, while putting the kids to bed, before I sleep and when I wake up, as I brush my teeth and hit the shower, and make breakfast and finally take my first sip of tea and so on and so forth. In this fashion I’m writing all day long and my moods–happy, sad, angry, irritated—often act as necessary spices to season the particular piece I’m working on.
My mind-writing has helped me get into characters, untangle plot as well as braid setting with description even as, for all outwards appearances, I’m driving a kid to a doctor’s appointment, cheering at a soccer game, or folding a load of washing which has survived another storm only to emerge cleansed and warm.
Mind-writing has even helped with rejection and dejection because I find that, just as I’ve vowed to vanquish the storyteller and writer in me (yes, they are two different creatures), my mind begins to write of its own accord and I’m conquered all over again. I try my best, all day long, to take notes, in particular I take care to transcribe characters’ conversations verbatim.
As for the actual writing, I’ve trained myself to be able to do sit down and write with two kids quarreling as loudly as they can about such vital matters as whose turn it is to choose a TV show even as a toddler wraps himself around my shoulders like a human stole and the dog barks at us all. Of course if it wasn’t motherhood requiring attention it might very well be something else, and so I’ve learned to focus despite any and all interruptions or I’d never manage to get any writing or revision done. It took years and tears but finally I found my formula which goes something like this:
focus, self discipline, and self-imposed deadlines
writing and submitting, writing and submitting
BIO: Soniah Kamal was born in Pakistan and raised in England and Saudi Arabia. She came to the U.S. for her undergraduate degree and earned a B.A. in Philosophy with Honors from St. John’s College Annapolis, MD. Soniah’s undergraduate thesis, an analysis of individual against society as seen in love and arranged marriages, was the recipient of the Susan B Irene Award. The highlight of her thesis, letters from the main character as she explains her choice of a suitor to her best friend, sister and mother can be read here. Soniah wrote a weekly satire column (2002-2004) for the national newspaper ‘The Daily Times’ in Pakistan and some of her pieces can be found here. Her essay on being a Muslim-Madonna is published in the anthology ‘Madonna and Me’ published by Soft Skull Press, U.S., and her essay on her father’s political imprisonment during the 1999 coup in Pakistan is included in the anthology ‘Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality’ published by Seal Press U.S. Soniah’s short stories have been published in the US, Canada, Pakistan and India as well as in collections published by Penguin India, Harper Collins India and, in the US, by The Feminist Press. You can read her short story for children ‘In Any Case’ here, and one of her stories for adults, ‘The Family Dinner’, here. She was recently interviewed for The Hindu. Soniah has lived in New Mexico, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, California and, at present, resides in Georgia. She is co-Vice President of Programs for The Atlanta Writers Club. Soniah blogs about films, books and culture at soniahkamal.blogspot.com