Fatima Siraj attended BIS HCMC from April 2010 to July 2012 where her passion for reading and writing flourished. She is now pursuing her Bachelor's degree in ‘Social Development and Policy’ from Habib University, Pakistan with the intention of completing a minor in Comparative Literature with a concentration in Political Science. Whilst completing her undergraduate degree, Fatima has dedicated her free time to writing and self-publishing her first Poetry and Prose Collection; Walk With Me. Here we talk to Fatima, to find out more about her exciting news...
Fatima, tell us about your book...
My book is called Walk With Me. The name was inspired by the stages of growing up. It is a Poetry and Prose Collection written for early teens/young adults who are struggling with the expectations that are put forward by today’s society. The writings give importance to tasks as simple as cleaning your bedroom to visiting your grandparents’ house - with the intention of exploring the thought process a young teen may go through.
Recently, depression and anxiety have become very common within our age group; therefore, writings named ‘Stress’, ‘Dear Doctor’ and ‘We don’t want parents to understand us’ came about. These are honest reflections which will resonate with many. You’ll find something related to every emotion - hope, love, jealousy and it’s brought all together by making the reader feel at home through a casual and easy tone - instantly relatable, understanding and unforgettable.
What inspired you to first begin writing?
It’s safe to say, the BIS Library was where I took my first step into the world of books and I’ve loved them ever since. Mr Alan Jacques, the Head Librarian at BIS introduced me to books and encouraged me to read by always narrating a book’s short synopsis to me. When I finished my book I actually reached out to Mr Jacques as well as some of my other teachers at BIS HCMC to thank them for always supporting my reading habits!
So I’ve always been a bookworm but I had never read with the intention of observing other writers. It wasn’t until the end of A levels when expressing myself through words became easier than speaking. I would have notes on my phone which included simple observations or highlights of the day. It was not until my phone ran out of storage space that I decided to copy it onto my laptop, and I realised that it was a lot of material. Being a daydreamer, wildly optimistic and an observant it is only natural that I considered Poetry and Prose as a medium to express my views on life. Of course, appreciation from friends and family encouraged me to start posting online on Instagram. Eventually, I decided to take a risk and bring it all together as Walk With Me.
How does writing make you feel?
Writing allows me to express myself as an individual through the perspective of a fictitious character. It makes me feel... liberated. I write on my phone, doodle notes in lectures, you’ll find post-it notes with a random word everywhere in the house. I prefer writing at night as it brings the day together or early in the morning after meditation because even a few minutes of productivity energizes me for the whole day.
Do you have any inspirational writers/authors who you look up to?
- Khaled Hosseini for his writing style
- Lang Leav for taking a chance on social media
- Mirza Ghalib for the wise words in poetry (Urdu)
- Stephen King for always having a story to tell
What would you say to other students considering taking up creative writing?
I would encourage everyone to start reading from an early age, because you may not want/end up with a career in writing but reading will teach you to express yourself - and expression is so important in today’s world (refer to ‘Opinion’ page 180 of Walk With Me).
How do you think your education at BIS HCMC prepared you for your career in writing?
My time at BIS played an important role in shaping who I am as a person today: confident, responsible and deliberative. BIS taught me to appreciate others genuinely and to be humble in receiving praise. The teachers were always supportive, kind and encouraging. They always appreciated a new idea, and let the students explore the outcomes on their own.
If I had to describe BIS in one word, it would be ‘Inspirational <3’.
Did you come across any difficulties after deciding to publish your book?
Here in Pakistan there are almost no writing or publishing resources and when I reached out to foreign publishers there were considerable logistics involved so this made it very difficult to get my book out to the world. I spent almost a year after completing it, trying to get the book published and talking to a number of agents. In the end, I self-published and it wasn’t until September this year, that the biggest book retailer in Pakistan purchased copies of Walk With Me and it was made available on Amazon on 12th September 2017.
How does it feel now that people can actually start buying Walk With Me?
I feel relieved! Now that it’s finally into the big bad world, I can have something else on my mind. I’m extremely excited that I took a chance on it and myself but also a bit nervous to learn how people react to it.
What are your plans for the future?
Walk With Me was self-published so the plan is to get some sales and then approach a publishing house to sell the rights to the book. I also have another book in the same genre; the sequel to Walk With Me, which I am currently halfway through writing. It is inspired by my Bachelor’s discipline which will explore a social issue in Pakistan in the form of a contemporary/literary novel.
Congratulations Fatima Siraj
We spoke to Fatima’s former teacher Ms Astley who shares her thoughts on Fatima’s incredible achievement; “It was with great delight when Fatima got in touch last year. In our conversations she let me know that she was writing and that she would soon be having a book published. I was so excited when she let me know that her poetry had been published and I ordered my copy straight away. All student achievements have an impact on us as teachers and it will be with great pride that I read her work.”
Even though the book has only been available to purchase for a matter of days, Fatima has already had her first 5 star review on Amazon;
Many thanks to Fatima for taking the time to speak with us and from all of the BIS Community we congratulate you on this amazing achievement. You are a role model to young writers and show that when you’re ambitious and you persevere, there is no limit to what you can achieve.
Click here to purchase your copy of Walk With Me from Amazon today.
Chelsea Pattison, Marketing Officer