I’m back!

Thank you so much for your patience, dear readers.  I am so glad to be back here, and it’s great to have your lovely attention once more.  I’d like to say my break has been full of all things writerly, but I’m afraid it’s been about all things crazy and (of course) all things mummy too!

As my sweet Mr Cuddles is turning to ‘all things toddler’ this season, I am acutely aware of how, when I first began writing, people couldn’t understand how I got round to it with five children.  Well, my dears, I’ve got to say it was a whole lot easier when he was babe in arms!

Ever since he’s started walking, things have been very different I assure you. So, when you run out of time and don’t get round to doing the things you love, but rather are in a very happy state when (at least) the things that matter get done, then the best thing to do is to sit back, relax, take a long break and hope and pray that when you get back to it all, it’ll still be there, ready for you to pick it up where you have left it!

This time of year marks the period of time when I first began writing, for the anniversary of breaking my wrist has been reached.  On reflection, it was such a difficult time and, alhamduLillah, Allah helped so much.  My lifelong habit of trying to see the best in every situation also got me through.  My writing helped with distracting me and actually set the ball rolling for an amazing year-long journey.

This year, I managed to get shortlisted for the AsianWriter Short Story prize.  This was a huge blessing and also a test, as I got my work critiqued for the first time in years; not only did I get feedback on why I was shortlisted, I was also told exactly why I didn’t win! I managed to take the positive feedback on board and focused on my first shortlisting but in deference to my fragile writer ego, I didn’t actually publish the story! To this day, only a few people read that story in it’s initial form.

I then used this short story to form the beginning of a novel!  I managed to edit it and polish it really well (I hoped) and entered it into the Penguin Random House competition for underrepresented writers.  The competition criteria asked for 20,000 words (at least) and that meant I only had a few weeks to get the word count up and try to understand what the whole story was about in my mind.  When I entered, I had the words, I had the idea and I actually got shortlisted to attend a conference in Nottingham at the end of September.  

This was an amazingly awesome day out.  Not only did I get a whole day off from any mummy duties (whooppeeee!!), I travelled an hour or so away to spend time on my passion (all thanks to the Almighty!).  I relaxed, listened and revelled in the fact that I was one of the select few (alhamduLillah only one hundred and fifty out of eighteen hundred people who applied were chosen) able to enjoy and learn soo much from these amazing people at Penguin. 

At different times of that day, I just sat back and mindfully, took a few seconds to take it all in.  The authors, agents, editors and publishers who had taken time out to spend with us that day, the orange, white and black Penguin bunting that was hung up around the room, the goody bags full of awesome books that we were allowed to take home and the specialist knowledge that everybody was imparting for our sake only were mine to witness! I took reams of notes because I didn’t realise what a landmark it would be in my writing career.  Certain words of advice and tidbits of information made their mark on my heart and have stayed with me ever since, giving me the will to continue.  Making me realise that my words meant something; and that somebody was willing to listen to them was a huge blessing.

We were courted by one of the biggest publishing firms in the business and I feel that I could probably write a book about my experience there, what lead me to it and what I got from it, but I don’t want to bore you with the details! Suffice to say, it was a very special day.  At times surreal, energy-inducing and awe-inspiring all at once.  The Penguin team were so down-to-earth and it feels weird to say it but I felt a connection with the Penguin Editor who read my story and gave me invaluable feedback, so much so that I expected (and on some level still do expect) her to be a huge part of my life.  The fact that I wasn’t actually shortlisted for the second call for the full manuscript really stung ( I would say it lasted around two weeks), where I second-guessed every possible reason why I didn’t get through.  I was good but then not good enough?! That hurt! But, given time for introspection and using my favourite quote (Enjoy the journey! My dad), I realised that I was very lucky to have gotten through in the first place and to take every thing that I had learnt as a testament to what can be achieved, given the time, space and energy one puts into it.  

So that’s my Penguin experience analysed. What next?

I had my non-fiction book, based on my blog and to be published by Beacon Books, to focus on.  With the deadline fast approaching, it was easy to lose myself in the writing of this.  I felt hugely grateful that I did have another project I could throw myself into and I began to immensely enjoy this journey.

For those of you who are not sure what writing a manuscript for publication entails, it means that after acquiring a contract (which I did through contacting the publisher via the submissions link on their website) I began working with the editor who helped me hone my posts so that they resembled chapters in a book, rather than a blog.  I am still doing just that and I’ve got to say it is a very humbling experience, but also very useful to have someone slowly go through your work and tell you what the readers may want more of and what doesn’t seem to work (I seem to go off on a tangent a lot!). 

I especially enjoyed getting specific feedback on particular thoughts and ideas as (apart from close family and friends) I hadn’t really felt the impact of the ideas which I bring forth through the writing of my blog, and it was really rewarding to have the expertise of someone professional and well experienced in these matters to do this.  Thanks Siema!

During the holidays, I’ve come back round full circle, as I’m spending time at my mum’s in London, which is where I came to recuperate after my broken wrist.  In retrospect, I feel that I have grown a lot since last year.  I have learnt that the world is not always full of pansies and roses, sunsets and laughter- sometimes it’s difficult and dangerous, people can be spiteful and downright rude but I think the idea is to always move forward.  And speaking about full circles, one of my first ever posts was all about carrying on, no matter what.  (Get up, dress up…) and that is what I come back to now.  As long as one continues on the journey, they are unlikely to fail.  Do not give up.  Do not despair. Just carry on, knowing the Almighty is Just and Fair.  Knowing that whatever will be, will be, but that no matter what, you did your best, with the situation you have.  No regrets. 

It’s been so poignant writing this.  I’ve missed the simplicity of simply writing to engage my lovely readers, to (hopefully) inspire and to inform.  I hope to make this a regular offering once more.  Once more I ask you to join me on my journey.  Here is a reminder to follow me on Twitter as I focus on delivering more original content.  

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, where your focus is family, love and celebration.

So that’s it from me for now,

Until next time,

Peace and Love,

Sidra Ansari

PS To help me on my journey to enoughism I will write down 3 things I am grateful for at the end of each post. These are

1. Spending time with family.  I am very blessed to have time with both sides of my children’s immediate family.  Even though we don’t celebrate Christmas specifically, we are aware of this being a season of love and giving and we are so happy to be able to celebrate with each other.  Spending the holidays together is one of life’s greatest blessings and something I am truly grateful for.  On reflecting on the situation of a family,  that we know of, who live together but don’t see each other much due to their tightly packed schedules, personal en suites and spaciousness of their home, we are reminded to be appreciative of the fact that having less space means we see each other more! 

2.  ‘Tis the season to appreciate food! We tend not to have the specialities of this national holiday but definitely get together for a family roast and all things sweet.  A big shoutout to all the supermarkets for helping us enjoy this season more due to bagging those sweet bargains! (it’s OK, we have the new year for new exercise regimes and resolutions!).

3.  I am grateful to have all my limbs in working order!  At the anniversary of my fall, I am reminded how such a thing can be the difference between an easy day and a terrifyingly-difficult-how-on-earth-am-I -gonna-cope-day!? I am grateful for both. The former being a huge help in getting important things done and the latter a wake-up call on being grateful for the fundamentals in life.  May we all be helped in staying away from pettiness and to always appreciate the big things in life. Ameen!

About seven months ago, I also started a Ko-Fi Page to raise funds in helping me to write. I am so pleased to announce that I have been able to buy a laptop with this money (and a little help from my dh!), and have been able to continue with my writing goals more easily because of this.  I am humbled by your continuous support and prayers.  Maybe the coming year will be the one that brings a book (and maybe more?) into existence! InshAllah ameen. Much love.  Will be in touch soon! ❤ 



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