Sunday, 20 June 2010

Interview with Medeia Sharif

Today we're chatting with a fabulous author whose debut novel will be released next year. How exciting! Let's welcome Medeia Sharif.

Hi, Medeia. Great to have you here. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Miami Beach and teach high school English. BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. will be my first published novel, but it’s not my first book. I wrote my first book when I was seventeen going on eighteen. It was really bad, but over the years I persisted through several flawed books, rejections galore and representation from different agents.

It's great that you didn't give up. Let's hear about BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. Wow, what a title! What’s your story about?

Almira Abdul, a Middle Eastern mutt of Syrian and Iranian origins, is fifteen going on sixteen and she’s fasting for Ramadan for the first time ever. Coinciding with the holy month is her first major crush with a boy named Peter, whom her best friend Lisa also is in love with. She also has a new enemy at school, catty Shakira Malik, a fellow Muslim who trades barbs with everyone. Her dentist father also proclaims that she needs braces. Along with the hectic month her grandfather, who knocks down mailboxes and garbage cans when parking, is teaching her how to drive in his tank-like car.

Sounds original and intriguing. How did the idea of the story come to you?

At first I wanted to write a children’s or MG book centering on Ramadan. I knew I wanted a book with Ramadan in the title. The failed novels that I wrote in my teens and twenties mainly had teenage characters, plus I started reading more YA, so I decided to write a YA novel with a Ramadan theme. The more I thought about it, Almira’s voice became stronger and stronger. I had to write about her.

It's always motivating for aspiring writers to be reminded that even published authors had once had to deal with rejections during the querying process. What tips can you give those of us still querying?

I went through plenty of rejection. In the 90’s I collected mounds of rejection letters and after the millennium my inbox was full of e-jects.

My tips for querying include looking over query samples in books and online. I found a pattern that worked for me. On a side note many times my queries were fine, but my partials and fulls were not. For the writing itself, I advise getting out there and meeting people. I wrote in a bubble for a long time before discovering critique groups, conferences, blogs, and online forums. Another side note is that a writer shouldn’t say yes to an agent immediately. I learned this the hard way when I had two failed relationships with agents before getting my current agent.

Excellent tip! What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Editing. It’s hard on my eyes to read the same project over and over again for mistakes. I’m getting better at putting away a manuscript for longer periods of time. It helps to look at it again with fresh eyes.

I agree. Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

My Blackberry, a bottle of water, my planner, and lip balm.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: amphibian, bandages, and rollercoaster.

As the roller coaster spun upside down, the girl’s bandages fell off and an amphibian flew into her mouth.

Ahahaha, whoops! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?


I’d like to thank my agent Marlene Stringer and my Flux editor Brian Farrey. I’m sure that there will be more people to thank from now until my 2011 debut as different players come into the picture.

And finally, where can people find you online?

My website is http://www.sharifwrites.com and my blog is http://www.medeiasharif.com.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Medeia. And I look forward to the release of your debut novel.

6 comments:

Medeia Sharif said...

Thanks for interviewing me, Dorothy. I love the pictures, especially the cat.

Dorothy Dreyer said...

My pleasure, Medeia! And, yeah, something about cat pictures crack me up, lol. :)

Larissa said...

Another great interview, Dorothy!

*waves* Hi, Medeia!

Shelli said...

This book sounds absolutely delightful. I love getting a peek into different cultures. Please let us know when it's published, because I know my girls and I would love to read it!

Erica Chapman said...

Great interview, ladies!! Sounds like a great book Medeia ;o)

Editing is hard on my eyes too ;o)

Great job!

Medeia Sharif said...

Hi, Larissa. Long time, no see.

Thanks, Shelli. It's supposed to come out next summer, but the exact date is TBA.

Thanks, Erica. Maybe someday I'll become a master at self-editing.