Collaboration Celebration: The Lowdown on Co-Writing & a Big-Time Giveaway — co-written by Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen

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Our co-written middle grade novel, Every Shiny Thing, came out six months ago, and since its release, we’ve gotten lots of questions about why and how we wrote together. We wondered how other writing duos would answer these questions and how their co-writing processes are similar to and different from our own. So we connected with four other co-author pairs who had some fascinating things to say. Read on to find out all the wisdom they shared for writers wanting to collaborate and teachers assigning co-writing projects. And don’t miss the details at the end about a special eight-book giveaway!


The most common question any writer gets is, “Where do you get your ideas?” That question becomes more complicated for co-written books because there’s the added question of who got the idea.


Some co-authors hit upon their idea together when they find a shared interest. That’s what happened for Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester, authors of the Legends of the Lost Causes series. Brad and Louis were in grad school together and discovered a shared passion for the Western genre. They became excited about the idea of writing a Wild West adventure for kidsthe kind of series they would have wanted to read when they were growing up.

Other times, one person has the initial inspiration and approaches the other. That’s how it worked for us with Every Shiny Thing; we were friends and critique partners, and Cordelia wanted to write a story about a girl who has always taken care of her mom and falls into similar caretaking patterns with a new friend. She thought this story would be richer if it included each friend’s point of view and asked Laurie to take on the friend’s perspective.

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Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone, authors of The Art of the Swap, had been friends for several years before they carpooled to a conference and discussed potential projects on the drive. Kris described one idea she hada middle grade novel set in a Newport mansionand together, they ran with it. By the end of the weekend, they had “the expanded concept for a time traveling body swap story set in Newport.”

Meanwhile, Laura Shovan had worked with Saadia Faruqi a bit through the PitchWars author mentoring program and asked Saadia to partner with her on a book. Laura explained, “I wanted to write about the challenges and joys of growing up bicultural and first-generation American. But I realized that there were areas of the first-generation experience I couldn’t address because my mother came to the U.S. from England.” Laura knew Saadia was a recent U.S. citizen raising first-generation American children, and Saadia agreed to collaborate on their forthcoming novel, A Place at the Table, which is due out in 2020 and features Pakistani-American Sara and half-British, half-Jewish Elizabeth. Laura feels that working together has helped them both “see the first-generation experience through a broader lens.”


No matter whereor whothe initial idea comes from, co-authors then need to figure out how they will write together. The logistics to consider include whether they will each take one character’s point of view or work jointly on the whole narrative and how much planning they will do.

Naomis too.jpgMost of us opted to craft a dual-perspective book with each person writing one character’s perspective. That was the case for us with Every Shiny Thing, and it was also true for Kris and Jen, Saadia and Laura, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick, who collaborated on Two Naomis and Naomis Too, novels about two girls named Naomi whose divorced parents get together.

For Every Shiny Thing, we did some loose plotting but then largely improvised, writing chapters back and forth in Google Docs until we were more than halfway through the book, when we met up to outline the rest.

Like us, Olugbemisola and Audrey didn’t create detailed outlines before they began. They alternated writing chapters and sometimes gave each other what Olugbemisola described as an “advance preview of what would lie ahead.” Then they got on the phone or Skype to tackle problems that arose—usually with the book’s timeline, they said.

However, Kris and Jen and Saadia and Laura planned their projects much more precisely. Jen and Kris set up a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline and adjusted the outline as needed. Saadia and Laura also created an outline, but they didn’t stop there; they then set up a chart to figure out which scenes would be in which character’s voice and a table in Google Docs to track what happens in each chapter and which character is narrating.

Brad and Louis took a different approach for their series. Although they do take turns writing chapters, they do not each have an assigned character; they collaborate on one point of view. They set up a working outline, and then they edit each other’s work as they go to ensure their books have one narrative voice throughout. But they also work on Google Docs! This seems to be the most popular forum for co-writing.


The biggest challenge when co-writing is fitting the project into an author’s busy schedule. In addition, challenges can arise because of the way the authors’ writing styles or working patterns fit together, but these challenges often lead to benefits, too.

In some instances, writing styles might be very similar, and that can present a challenge. Audrey and Olugbemisola said, “If we were allowed to, our books would be all about two girls sitting in bakeries and talking and NOTHING ELSE. So coming up with and trying to execute a plot was definitely the biggest challenge.”

Other times, authors have different working styles. Saadia feels that working with Laura has taught her “so much about different ways of working.” She told us, “For me, working with another person is challenging anytime, because I have a controlling personality. It was a challenge to get used to Laura’s writing habits, ranging from her multiple drafts to her timeline for completing chapters. When I am working on a novel by myself, I power through without breaks for days on end, and I edit as I go along. For this project though, the pace and intensity of my work had to evolve.”

Saadia’s pacing slowed down, but others of us sped up the pace of our work. Kris said, “I was a lot more diligent about my writing, knowing Jen was counting on me to get my part done when I was supposed to!”

Similarly, the first draft of Every Shiny Thing was the quickest thing we ever wrote, and we found that our different writing styles occasionally posed problems but ultimately enriched our work. Cordelia is more of a big picture thinker and Laurie is more detail-oriented. These different approaches can occasionally lead to challenges, but overall we end up stretching each other and learning from each other as we collaborate.


It can be smart to set some non-negotiable priorities before you begin co-writing. For Kris and Jen, their friendship came first. Jen explained, “The single best thing we did at the outset, in my opinion, was take a literal vow to one another that we wouldn’t let the co-authoring experience mess with our friendship. That took priority over all.”

Saadia and Laura set some “non-negotiable items” for their point of view characters. They each made it clear upfront that there were certain things about their characters that they would not be willing to change.

It’s also important to “set aside your ego,” as Brad and Louis put it, and to be flexible. “You’ll want to be open to new, strange ideas,” Brad and Louis advise. “Your partner might make suggestions that at first seem odd . . . but if you’re open and consider your partner’s inspiration, you’ll find sometimes the strange idea on the table can actually take the story in an exciting new direction, leaving you with a tale you could’ve never created on your own.”

Similarly, Audrey and Olugbemisola advise co-writers to “be open to working in ways you haven’t worked before” and to “take the story, but not yourself, very seriously.”

It is also essential for co-writers to communicate honestly. Conflicts will invariably arise, and having committed to a project together means working through them; as Kris said, “Being honest with each other and communicating was paramount to the process!”


It’s challenging to structure effective collaborative projects in the classroom, and there are kids who get stressed out by the idea of writing together. But we think co-writing assignments can be very valuable.

Jen described one great reason for assigning this kind of work: “As much as I’ve heard the groans over group project assignments, I’m a big fan of co-writing ones because I think it’s really important for students to know there are so many different approaches to writing (and to having a writing/storytelling career, if that’s something of interest to any of them) and the majority of those approaches are not ‘sit alone at a computer and write a novel.’” She pointed out how many careers involve many creative people working together to develop stories.

Jen advises that teachers keep co-writing assignments very structured at first. She suggests having students collaborate on a play, which is mostly dialogue; they can outline it together and then each write the dialogue for one specific character.

Teachers can also set students up for success by pairing them up based on the topics they want to write about. As Laura pointed out, “When studentsor adultshave a common interest or experience, that supports collaborative writing.”

Audrey suggests that teachers should “encourage students to identify and take advantage of each person’s strength”good advice for any group work.

Oh, and she has one other excellent piece of wisdom to share: “And when possible, reward yourselves with freshly baked treats.” That’s good advice for any circumstances, we think!


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We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how five writing duos collaborate, and we’re excited to offer an *EIGHT BOOK!* collaboration celebration giveaway! One randomly selected winner will receive a signed copy of our book, Every Shiny Thing, as well as four other co-written books and three solo books by the generous authors who worked with us on this article.

To enter, post on Twitter or Instagram about any co-authored book you love and why you love it by Friday, October 26th and tag your post with #CollaborationCelebration so we’ll see your entry.

You can choose a book that’s featured in this piece or any other co-authored book, MG or not. US only, multiple entries are fine. Tweet or DM @LaurieLMorrison with questions.

Introducing Yasmin, a Window and a Mirror — by Saadia Faruqi


Ask any published author and they will tell you that the road to publication is long and hard, often spanning several years. I’m not any different, and today after many years of writing, editing, praying for book deals and all the other things that go into the production of a book, I’m about to be the proud mama of a little fictional character named Yasmin.

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Yasmin Ahmad is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. Taking inspiration from her surroundings and her big imagination, she boldly faces any situation assuming her imagination doesn’t get too big, of course! A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers.

The short synopsis of the book is hopefully sufficient to hook readers, but there is a deep and lengthy explanation of what Yasmin truly stands for. I think there is no better time than now to talk about that.

Yasmin is a mirror to all those little boys and girls who come from a minority, or non-white, background. She is Pakistani American, an immigrant group that’s growing rapidly in the United States. Like my own children, she is first generation American, a life situation that is not as easy as it sounds. So many children in our school system are first generation, whose parents are from a different culture, who know more than one language, and who speak a different language at home. Pakistani, Indian, Syrian, Mexican… there are millions of kids who can read Meet Yasmin and see themselves in the pages of this book.

I imagine Yasmin to be a balm for those children, as they finally read a series about someone just like them. I’ve been seeing the faces of kids light up at schools and libraries as I talk about the book even before it’s published. They love seeing a brown character, they love watching Yasmin’s mama put on her hijab and her baba play with her. It’s all familiar and safe and comfortable, which are things we want our students and children to feel all the time.

Yasmin is also a window to other readers, those who aren’t Muslim, or immigrants, or brown. Those who may think they’re part of America more so than their classmates. This book is a way for them to recognize the American-ness in all of us, to see that no matter what clothes you wear or what language you speak, we are citizens of this world together. It’s a series (and a character) that teaches empathy and understanding, that offers an opportunity to witness another culture not just by reading about it but by experiencing it firsthand. The back matter of the Yasmin books have an Urdu glossary, fun activities and recipes that will allow educators to teach more than just the story, and readers to learn more than what Yasmin alone has to offer.

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To make that experience even more inviting, I’ve created a flipgrid (link: with password MeetYasmin! that will grow in the coming months and years, providing an online space for kids and adults to share what Yasmin means to them. I encourage students and teachers to visit the grid to record their videos, or to listen to others. In the fall 2018-19 school year I’ll be adding loads of new content to this grid.

It’s almost time to Meet Yasmin! (pre-order link:

Saadia Faruqi is Pakistani American author of the early reader Yasmin series by Capstone. She also writes fiction and essays for adults and is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim writers. She was profiled by O Magazine in 2017 for her interfaith and intercultural sensitivity trainings. Visit her website at

3 Spring Releases & a Conversation with Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi, Books Between, Episode 49

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!


Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a 5th grade teacher, a mom of two girls who are 8 and 11, and feeling extraordinarily lucky on this Mother’s Day to have my mom in my life. And having a mother who is and has always been such a staunch supporter of my reading life.  

This is Episode #49 and today I’m discussing three new middle grade releases, and then I’ll share with you a conversation with authors Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi from the Lifelines Podcast.

Alright – announcements!  I hope you have been loving the May Middle Grade at Heart Book Club pick  Every Shiny Thing as much as I have.  Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen will on the podcast soon so if you have a question you want me to ask them, please let me know! In June we’ll be reading The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras and July’s pick is Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno.

And – I hope you’ve been as inspired as I have by the Educator Spotlight interviews at the MGBookVillage site. We have lots more coming, so keep an eye out!MGBookVillageEducatorsMonth

A quick reminder that the outline of today’s interview and a full transcript of all the other parts of this show can be found at – including links to every topic and book we mention. I know you are busy and I want to make it effortless for you to find things!


Book Talk – Three Fantastic Spring Releases

This week we are back to some book talks! And instead of having them fit a particular theme, I thought I’d simply share with you three really great recent releases from this past spring. They are Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy & Ali Fadhil, Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes, and Rebound by Kwame Alexander.

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

Our first featured middle grade novel this week is Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil. This historical fiction novel is set in 1991 in Basra, Iraq – just 25797017as the United States is launching Operation Desert Storm. And it’s based on the true story of Ali Fadhil’s life as an ordinary 11 year old boy who loves playing video games and watching American TV like the The Muppet Show. But then, the bombings come and life for Fadhil and his family is becoming more and more bleak.   Here are three things to know about Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein:

  1. The main character does NOT actually play Atari with Saddam Hussein. Although as an adult, he does become a translator who ended up working at his trial. In the novel, one way that Ali copes is to imagine that he is playing Pitfall as he travels through his war-torn streets and also because some of the Americans dubbed it “the video game war” because the night-vision green streaks of bombs across the dark sky looked to them like a video game.
  2. That this book gives a much-needed window into a time-period that is often overlooked in children’s literature. We are now getting a lot of great books about 9/11 but the era of the Gulf War is still lacking. And many of my students’ parents are veterans of those wars so knowing more about the perspectives of an Iraqi child going through those experiences is important. And humanizes a group of people that some wish to label as enemies.
  3. How many similarities students will discover between themselves and Ali. Despite being set halfway around the world in a country the United States was at war with, Ali’s family plays Monopoly while they hide out waiting for the bombs to pass. Ali plays soccer and video games and collects American Superman comics. His sister has a Barbie Dreamhouse! Probably the same one I did with the elevator you pulled up with a little string. And I think back to when I was a teenager watching this war live on CNN with Wolf Blitzer and Bernie Shaw and I never would have realized the kids on the other side of those bombs were so much like me.

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein is a great book for 5th graders through middle schoolers who are interested in the real impacts of war, Iraqi history, or just want a good historical fiction book. And it would make a great complement to the many World War II novel studies out there to add a more modern perspective.

Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring

A second great spring middle grade release is Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes. You might know her work from her two earlier novels –  Gaby, Lost and Found and Allie, First at Last. This novel is a mystery and centers around a missing ring belonging to the artist Frida Kahlo. The main character is 12 year old 32765905Paloma Marquez, who begrudgingly travels with her mom from their home in Kansas City to Mexico City for 4 weeks of the summer. (Her mom is a professor and has a fellowship there.) Although Paloma’s father was Mexican, she doesn’t speak Spanish, she worries about missing out on fun with her friends, and she just doesn’t want to go. But…. on her first night in Mexico, she attends a reception at Frida Kahlo’s home – Casa Azul – and receives the following note from a mysterious boy.  Here are three things to love about Angela Cervantes’ Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring:

  1. I love how Paloma is inspired in this book by her favorite mysterious series starring Lulu Pennywhistle. And as she gets further and further into the thick of things with brother and sister Gael and Lizzie –  midnight break-ins, and secret rooms, and strange fortune-tellers – Paloma is always referencing Lulu Pennywhistle to figure out how she should proceed.
  2. All the Frida Kahlo!! When I found out this book had to do with my favorite artist – I knew I had to read it. And I was so happy to discover that this book does her such justice. Frida Kahlo’s paintings illicit such a visceral reaction from students and once you tell them a little bit about her life – how she painted her pain and made it beautiful – they are enthralled by her. And yes, some notice the exaggerated eyebrows first and some find it funny. But I like how Paloma discussed that at on page 119.
  3. How this book is really all about identity and belonging. Paloma’s father was Mexican but died before she could have her own memories of him. And she feels as if she is searching for that connection while she is in Mexico City.  And as Paloma learns more about Frida, she discovers how complex her life was – sometimes feeling torn between being an international artist and wanting the roots of her native Mexican heritage.

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring is a great book for kids who love art or travel, for kids who are intrigued by Mexican culture and the Spanish language – and for anyone who loves a great mystery!


Last up this week is Kwame Alexander’s Rebound – the much-awaited prequel to the much-loved and much-awarded, novel-in-verse The Crossover. This book is all about Josh & Jordan’s father – Chuck “Da Man” Bell. But – this is an origin story. So when we first meet him, he is just Charlie – an 80’s kid reeling from a family tragedy and trying to find 41bpl0Wp5jL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_his way forward and trying to find his smile again. When home becomes tense, he is involuntarily shipped off to his grandparent’s house for the summer where he starts to find that path forward. Let me read you the first page….   Here are three things I loved about Kwame Alexander’s Rebound:

  1. The illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile. While The Crossover had black-out poems throughout the book, Rebound includes these awesome two-page spreads of these mini graphic-novel type sketches of Charlie’s basketball daydreams and wishes and memories. So so cool. And a great hook for kids who love the graphic novel format.
  2. The 80s vibe of this book!  Now, you all know I am sucker for 70s and 80s nostalgia! And this book took me back to skating parties and trying for that high score on the Pac Man machine at the rec center where ALL your friends gathered after school. But also – some things haven’t changed – like Black Panther and the Fantastic Four, the importance the right brand of shoes (and not those knockoffs your mom gets you), Strawberry Pop-Tarts, and your folks not letting you watch THAT video on MTV.
  3. Discovering all the little references and plot threads that will appear later in The Crossover. How Charlie becomes Chuck, the origins of his Basketball Rules, where his love of jazz came from – and boy it was NOT there at first! And… the little hidden surprises revealed toward the end about who some of the characters end up being in the later book. And I know there’s a ton more that I haven’t figured out yet – so for that reason alone, definitely a rich book to read with a friend or with a book club to mine and discuss all those little details.

Rebound is a must-get for your classroom or library. And fans of The Crossover are going to absolutely relish this prequel. It’s a book you finish and want to immediately talk to your friends about. It’s not necessary to have read The Crossover first, but I think it’s a better and more enjoyable reading experience to read them in the order they were published. So The Crossover, the Rebound, and then go read Crossover again!

Ann Braden & Saadia Faruqi – Interview Outline

Our special guests this week are Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi. Ann is the author of the upcoming middle grade novel The Benefits of Being an Octopus and founder of GunSenseVT.  Saadia is an interfaith activist and author of a new early chapter book series called Meet Yasmin. Ann and Saadia recently teamed up to launch a podcast – Lifelines: Books That Bridge the Divide. I have been loving their show and am so happy to be bring you this conversation. We chat about why they started a new kidlit podcast, their novels, how they make time for reading with their kids, and some secrets for the perfect French Toast.

Take a listen…



Can you take a moment to tell us about yourself?Lifelines-Books-that-Bridge-the-Divide-A-Pocast-black-text

I was so excited to see your new podcast, Lifelines, pop up in my Twitter feed a few weeks ago!  How did you two connect with each other and then how did the podcast start?

What is your collaboration process like to produce the show?

I know when I first started podcasting, it took a while to get into a groove… what mistakes have you made along the way?  And what are some plans you have for the future of the podcast?

So Ann – your pictures of your baby posed with the stuffed animals is adorable!

So Saadia, I started following you on Instagram and realized that you and I share a love of French Toast. What is your secret for the perfect French Toast?

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You both have children’s books coming out this year! Can you tell us about them and when they’ll be available?


What were some of your favorite or most influential reads as a child?

I’ve realized that something we all have in common is that we have young children. I’m wondering – how do you foster that love of reading in your family? And how do you make reading a priority when family life can be so busy?

What have you read lately that you’ve loved?


Ann Braden’s website –

Saadia Faruqi’s website –

Ann on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram

Saadia on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare)

Fifteen (Beverly Cleary)

Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel)

The High King Series (Lloyd Alexander)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

Homecoming (Cynthia Voigt)

The Famous Five (Enid Blyton)

Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene)

Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon)

William Shakespeare

I Survived Series (Lauren Tarshis)

Crenshaw (Katherine Applegate)

Wishtree (Katherine Applegate)

Orbiting Jupiter (Gary D. Schmidt)

Okay For Now (Gary D. Schmidt)


Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!


Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.



Lifelines: Books that Bridge the Divide

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If you listened to yesterday’s episode of Books Between, then you’ve already heard about Lifelines, the exciting new children’s book podcast hosted by Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi.


What can you expect to hear on episodes of Linelines? Here’s an answer from Ann and Saadia themselves:

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Guiding the creation of the content you’ll hear on Lifelines is a set of beliefs about the power of fiction, the necessity of diversity, and the importance of amplifying the voices of minority groups:

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The first two episodes of Lifelines are already live. The first episode, “Supporting Students in Poverty,” features Ann’s conversation with elementary school librarian Eileen Parks as well as Saadia’s recurring “Books You’ve Never Heard Of” segment, in which she recommends books about kids struggling with poverty.

The second episode, “Fighting Prejudice With Words,” features Ann’s conversation with Kiran Waqar, a high school senior and a member of the slam poetry group “Muslim Girls Making Change,” and Saadia’s book recommendations about South East Asia and refugee issues.

You can learn more about the podcast, find links to subscribe, and listen to the two episodes mentioned above here.

And if you’re an educator or librarian who has ideas about great ways to use books to bridge cultural divides, don’t hesitate to reach out to Ann and/or Saadia. They want to hear from you, and are open to all ideas about what should be included on future episodes. For those of you who have LOTS of ideas, they’d love to set up an interview. Their goal is to have all voices at the table. Contact them via this form at Ann’s website, or on Twitter at @annbradenbooks and @SaadiaFaruqi.

How to Amplify Muslim Stories

We live in a nation where our Muslim neighbors are facing discrimination from all quarters. At the same time, we work in a publishing industry that is slowly becoming more attune to the voices clamoring for diversity. More and more publishing houses have created diverse imprints, and hashtags like #WNDB and #DVpit have gained popularity on social media.

This is good, but we can do better.

As a Muslim writer who also helps other authors market themselves, and as editor-in-chief of a literary magazine aimed at encouraging Muslim writers to throw their hats in the ring, I feel that there is much more to be done to level the playing field. Books by Muslim authors are more common now than ten years ago, but not at satisfactory levels. There’s lot more to be done, because the Muslim world is so diverse that a handful of stories do not paint a diverse picture.

If you somehow belong to the publishing industry as a writer, editor, blogger or anything else, I hope you’ll want to amplify Muslim stories. If so, but you don’t know where to start, here are my recommendations:

Seek out Muslim writers on social media. Sharing their book news or expressing excitement for their new projects is not going to undermine your own work but it will make a huge difference to them. One goal of most Muslim writers is to spread their stories among non-Muslim audiences, and your actions on social media can be valuable in that regard.

Ask Muslim writers to join your online groups. You know the ones, where you sit and moan about being on submission or how nobody showed up to your book signing. Make them a part of Twitter chats, invite them into your writing groups on Facebook or in person. Help them with support, critique and feedback. A big challenge that Muslim writers face is getting access to critique or support groups that are diverse, and any invitations to be part of online communities will probably be very happily accepted.

If you have a blog, ask Muslim writers to contribute. Remember that different writers will have different perspectives because of religious, cultural and individual diversity, so one blogger or one post may not be enough. And don’t expect them to always write about their “Muslimness” any more than you’d expect a white writer to write about being white. We are more than our faith and/or culture. We’re human beings.

If you’re an editor or agent, make sure you have a list of Muslim sensitivity readers, just in case you’re working on books about Muslims written by someone who isn’t qualified to be writing them. Better yet, encourage Muslim writers to send in their manuscripts: this could be through Twitter parties, contests, or calls like this (

Invite Muslim writers to be part of conferences in larger numbers. Ask them to sit on panels – and not only that one panel about diversity but all panels. They are writers first and foremost, and their perspectives can be helpful to others too. Consider promoting their books as much as possible without hurting other authors. Often publishers think Muslim books aren’t meant for broad audiences and hence don’t put marketing dollars behind them.

If you’re a book reviewer or freelance writer, search for those hidden gems. Chances are if you ask around, you’ll find lots of lesser-known books by Muslim authors for your next Summer Reading List. Consider only reviewing Muslim authors for a year. It will be an eye-opening experience.

If you’re a teacher, librarian or parent, your job is the sweetest. Choose books by Muslim authors, champion them in your libraries and classrooms, help students get excited about reading diverse perspectives. If we can get our younger generation hooked on reading about their Muslim neighbors, they are going to grow up to be empathetic and responsible adults who don’t fear the “other.”

Imagine what kind of world that would be.


Saadia Faruqi is Pakistani American author of the early reader Yasmin series by Capstone. She also writes fiction and essays for adults and is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim writers. She was profiled by O Magazine in 2017 for her interfaith and intercultural sensitivity trainings. Visit her website at


Writing a Story That’s Not Yours

It happens unexpectedly, like a slap on the face by a friend. You wake up one morning to read an announcement on social media: a new book about a (insert minority group here). This should be great news, especially if you belong to said minority group. But it’s not, because the author is white.

The same often happens in a religious context as well. Muslim stories are frequently co-opted by writers who are non-Muslim. (So are black stories, native stories, LGBTQ stories.) The bulk of western publishing has leaned white and Christian for centuries, so the fact that this occurs as often as it does shouldn’t be surprising. We’ve been complaining about this for the longest time, but has anyone been listening?

Now, however, Muslims have a voice amplified by social media and more publishing weight through imprints such as Salaam Reads. Increasingly, Muslim stories are being told by big-name authors (Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series comes immediately to mind) and also newcomers who have gained quick popularity (Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, for instance). As a result, the noise is loud and immediate when Muslim authors wake up one morning and see another story written about them.

Sometimes the author in question withdraws with apologies, at other times he or she insists there is nothing wrong with what they’ve done. At the end of the day, two camps exist, and neither is happy.

For authors who may be tempted to write a story about a Muslim main character, consider this: do you truly have unique insight into another religious group? Is that story so important to tell that you cannot wait for a Muslim writer to tell it? Do you have any stories of your own to tell, or are you simply jumping on a bandwagon to get some quick publicity because the political climate is ripe?

All these are very probing questions, and they may garner a shocked or offended reaction. Of course I’m not trying to get publicity! Of course this is an essential story to tell! Perhaps. The important thing is being honest about it to yourself before you begin writing. If the answers to all these questions are yes, then go ahead, but do know that others along the publishing journey will question your decision every step of the way.

You may think it’s important for everyone to hear Muslim stories. I agree. In an era of Muslim travel bans and refugee crisis, the need for authentic stories about Muslims is critical. But those stories must come from the people who experience them, not from someone who is looking at them from the outside. Consider this: if you write a Muslim main character, do you know what culture she will belong to? Will she eat chappati or hummus or pizza? Will she speak Urdu or Bengali or Arabic or English? Will she wear the dupatta or chador or abaya, and do you even know what those are, or do you use the catchall term hijab which actually doesn’t mean a head covering at all?

Does it really matter?

If you’re an author who thinks that telling a good story is the only important thing, and to heck with the details, then nobody can dissuade you. But if you are the sort of writer who thinks it’s the details which bring richness and depth to the character (and the story), then you’ll realize how important it is to not tell an inauthentic story. Not to use stereotypes you don’t even recognize as stereotypes. Not to create cardboard cutouts instead of the real thing because all you know of Muslims has come from Disney’s Aladdin.

We live in an era when Muslims in the U.S. and abroad have the ability, platform and willingness to tell their own stories. Be their ally and their loudspeaker. When they get published, share their books on social media, buy them for all your friends, and shout about it from the rooftops. Isn’t that a better (and easier) way to tell a true Muslim story than go write your own?


Saadia Faruqi is Pakistani American author of the early reader Yasmin series by Capstone. She also writes fiction and essays for adults and is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim writers. She was profiled by O Magazine in 2017 for her interfaith and intercultural sensitivity trainings. Visit her website at