April 10, 2019
Boyce hosts Author’s Day
Boyce Middle School welcomed Aisha Saeed, author of “Amal Unbound,” on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, for its annual Author’s Day, sponsored by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.
“Amal Unbound,” selected as a Global Read Aloud 2018 book, has been read aloud to every Boyce sixth grader and the fifth graders are currently half way through the novel. The book tells the fictional story of a 12-year-old Pakistani girl who is forced into indentured servitude and her fight to regain her life and dreams.
“It certainly has been a special experience reading the book, “Amal Unbound,” to all the kids this year,” Ginny Husak, Boyce Middle School librarian, said. “They were definitely more excited about the author visit since they were familiar with the story.”
Ms. Saeed provided two presentations – one for each grade level – in the school’s theater where she shared how she became a writer, where she gets her ideas, why she picks certain ideas, her publishing steps and books by other authors that she’s enjoyed.
A Pakistani-American, Ms. Saeed shared her professional journey that included careers as a second-grade teacher and an attorney before pursuing her passion for writing. Initially, the extremely low odds of a book being selected for publishing dissuaded her from writing – citing the chances of being published at only one percent.
While her career path took a different direction, Ms. Saeed couldn’t shake the desire to write a book. A friend encouraged her to follow her passion for writing. Once her book was ready, her agent sent it to 29 different publishers, all of whom rejected the book. On the 30th and final submission, Ms. Saeed received her book deal. She shared with Boyce students her realizations from this difficult process:
- Low odds are still odds.
- If you want to do something with all your heart and soul, the chances won’t work out, are not a reason not to try.
- Trying doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to succeed but you are guaranteed to not succeed if you don’t try at all.
- It’s going to be hard. It’s okay.
The inspiration for Amal, the main character of “Amal Unbound,” was Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education. While many of Ms. Saeed’s characters and settings are inspired by her Pakistani heritage, the ideas for her books can be derived from anywhere. She listed the following idea sources, “Newspapers, magazines, hiking, daydreaming, dreaming, brainstorming, the ‘what-if’ game, grocery shopping, Target and books.”
Ms. Saeed shared with students the rationale for why she selects certain ideas to write about in her books:
- The curiosity they inspire.
- How them make me feel. (angry, sad, excited, scared)
- To make sense of things I don’t understand.
- To fall into the world and live in it.
- To share diverse characters because representation matters.
- To try to make the world a more empathetic place. We are all human. Through books we can step into someone else’s shoes and see things through new lenses. It helps ME become more empathetic and I HOPE it helps readers with that as well.
As Ms. Saeed shared her steps in the publishing process, it became evident that being an author takes a lot of patience and perseverance. The process begins with an idea and then emerges into a first draft. The next step is rewriting, numerous times. The work is then copyedited for grammatical, spelling and style errors. The final step before publishing is a review of the pass pages, the actual pages of the book as they will appear when the book is published.
“Hearing the author's stories of constant revisions to her books shows kids that when their teachers require several edits of a piece, that is a normal part of the writing process,” Ms. Husak said. “Many authors often talk about their books being rejected several times before being published. Hopefully this encourages students to persevere in whatever they're trying to do.”
Ms. Saeed was also able to show the development of the book cover artwork, designed by Shehzil Malik, from initial sketches through to the final selection.
Following the presentations, Ms. Saeed along with 15 students enjoyed a luncheon provided by three Boyce Middle School moms – Batool Nulwala, Atiya Kethavath and Uzma Shah – that featured traditional Pakistani foods mentioned in “Amal Unbound.” Students were selected by random drawing.
During the afternoon, 35 students had the opportunity to participate in a writing workshop with Ms. Saeed.
“Hopefully, our Author’s Day events inspire students to read more and possibly become writers themselves,” Ms. Husak said. “I hope that some of the lessons learned in the book, such as being brave and standing up for yourself are ones that they remember throughout their lives.”
In addition to “Amal Unbound,” Ms. Saeed authored “Written in the Stars,” a novel for young adults; “Far from Agrabah,” a novel that features Disney’s Aladdin and Jasmine in an all new story; and “Bilal Cooks Daal,” a picture book that uses food as an opportunity to share family traditions.
According to its website, the Global Read Aloud “project was created in 2010 with a simple goal in mind; one book to connect the world. From its humble beginnings, the GRA has grown to make a truly global connection where more than 4,000,000 students have participated.”