In Conversation with Sara Khan
Author of the 'My First Series'
What inspired you to write this series?
I first noticed there was a gap when it comes to Qur’an Translation for toddlers and young children, when I wrote my final research dissertation on the topic of translating sacred texts for children in 2011. However, what really inspired me to write the first book in my series; My First Book About the Qur’an, was my daughter – Raya. She was only a few months old when I realised there still weren’t any good quality picture books available about Islam for this age group and what it means to be a Muslim.
In one sentence, what is 'My First Series' about?
The My First Series is about the fundamental principles of Islam for children.
What is the aim of the My First Series?
The aim of the 'My First' book series is to encourage a child's journey of Islamic education, understanding and love for Islam from the very beginning.
What surprised you the most about publishing?
The length of time it takes to have your first book published!
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Definitely something creative. I used to love Art and learning different languages.
How do you balance or incorporate the writing as well as the illustrations?
I ensure that my text is simple, yet comprehensive. And then I describe and direct the beautiful, child friendly illustrations (by Ali Lodge) in a way that they not only reflect the text, but also communicate additional information which I’m not able to include within the limited number of words suitable for picture books.
Writing for toddlers and young children is very complex, how do you make your writing accessible?
I use simple language with lots of high frequency words. I learnt how to write for different audiences during my MA in Translation Studies at the University of Manchester and also attended a picture writing course and a writing for children course via the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education. Both of these really helped me ensure my text is written in a way toddlers and young children can comprehend.
Discuss a verse from the Qur'an or hadith that has stuck with you?
There are so many Qur’anic verses and Hadith that have stuck with me since working on each of the books.
One that is referenced in the book about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) but reflected throughout the series is “A white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action” – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
I simplified this Hadith by writing about prophet Muhammad (PBUH) reminding people that we are all the same, no matter where we are from and no matter what colour we are. Do Good and forbid evil, and God willing we will all be together in Paradise.
I believe this is one of the most important Islamic teachings for toddlers and young children from both Muslim and Non-Muslim families to take away from the books and see reflected in the illustrations with people from all types of backgrounds included and celebrated.
How do you balance the demands of writing with other responsibilities?
I use my time creatively and don’t put too much pressure on myself. One of the things I love about my writing is that it is not a fixed 9-5 kind of job, so I can fit it in between all of my other responsibilities. Sometimes I might be doing something else, but I’m still spinning over the next book in my mind.
What advice would you give to others who wish to write/get in to publishing?
First of all, just write. Write what you feel passionate about. Learn about the type of books your target audience like to read. Perfect your own writing through practice and attending writing courses if you can. And finally, do your research – with regards to everything – the market, your target audience, the publishing industry etc. Find the publisher who best fits the work you want to publish if you choose to go down the traditional publishing route and then be patient and resilient once you submit your manuscript (after reading the submission guidelines thoroughly!)
Where can we find you?
You can find my website at: www.sarakhanauthor.com
Or email me: Info(@)sarakhanauthor(.)com
You can also follow me on social media:
View books by Sara Khan