A Word With Fatima Siraj, Author Of Walk With Me
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Wandering often leads to beautiful discoveries, sometimes about the world and at other times, about one’s self. Unfortunately, humans of modern day and age have become too engrossed and in tune with routine that we have forgotten treading lonely paths that oft lead to golden daffodils. In a world of hashtags, likes and feeds, no one really has time to walk a unique path, although each wants to be different. Self-discovery is a lost art and most are happy to toe the lines that define fads.
But there remain individuals who are still unafraid to let their minds wander; unhesitant to look inside and unearth treasures lying within. Although it’s an arduous struggle on its own for anyone to be in sync with one’s emotions, it’s even harder to express them in words with sublime eloquence. Luckily, Fatima Siraj appears to have a knack for both, besides the courage to let others into her world. Still in the nascent part of her university life, Fatima is the author of Walk With Me, a collection of prose and poetry that captures the mood of growing up as part of a generation torn between the cyber and the real world.
But poetry? One wonders, prompting this young girl of great resolve to explain her choice. “A single story can be represented through various lens and can be transported through various mediums – I chose poetry. The form seemed natural to the kind of message I wanted to convey – relatable, succinct and transferrable. Being a daydreamer, wildly optimistic and observant, it was only natural that I considered poetry and prose as a medium to express my views on life.” A glimpse of that optimism is reflected in one of the beautiful musings by Fatima:
The more you criticise, the more I fall in love; all I can notice is you noticing me.
Wise words directed at people in love. Or are they? Asked if love-struck Romeos and Juliets were her audience of choice, Fatima said she intended to appeal to all. “When I began writing, I didn’t have an audience in mind except for myself. But after writing more than a hundred pieces and sharing it within my social circle, I realized that poetry allowed readers to read in between the lines, meaning everyone would be able to resonate with it at some level.”
Fatima’s book was made available worldwide on September 12, 2017 in the US, UK and Europe through Amazon and Barnes and Noble (B&N). And the reviews on Goodreads so far are nothing but encouraging.
The young author said she had also been motivated to pen her thoughts after noticing that there was little or no contribution by teens in this genre. “One of the reasons to write Walk With Me was that I noticed the teenage community was drastically underrepresented in this genre. When we mention poetry, the most common sentiment is love, heartbreak or betrayal. I wanted to encompass a broader range of emotions and show that love is only one of the many emotions. This makes the collection relatable in a broader perspective,” she opined.
But it doesn’t mean Fatima’s words will not resonate with the heartbroken. Nevertheless, her “this-is-not-the-end” approach shines through even in times of dismay. Strength is a subtle message readers receive in In a Girl Like Me:
“…you’ve found an exciting lover
who cares if you forgot to say goodbye
I’m sure you’d thought I’d be
where you had left me off to be.
Afterall – it’s not difficult
to get over a girl like me”
Reigning in Thoughts
Fatima said that as a poet, it was difficult to limit her thoughts to the theme of her work. “When writing the collection, the most difficult aspect was to remain true to the chosen theme – ‘growing up’. As a writer, a myriad of story trails emerges in between the writing process but you must make a choice, no matter how close a writing may be to your heart. Anyone who has ever written will agree that writing creates self-doubt, sometimes you want to give up because you think it’s not good enough. But I say this to everyone, write that bad piece of writing – tomorrow is another day!”
They say every master must once be a good student, and Fatima appears to be an ardent believer in the power of reading. Her advice to those who want to take to writing? Read. “If you want to start writing, start reading. Read for the pleasure, but be keen to notice the writer’s style, how he or she incorporates reality. At the end of the day, it’s all inspired by a writer’s environment,” she said.
“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, as explained in ‘Opinion’, page 180 of Walk With Me.”
The young poetess, who plans to keep writing in the times ahead, said she had to find a way around the limited publishing facilities in Pakistan to get her work ready in print form – which by the way she never planned initially.
“I first began posting excerpts of my work on social media – a physical copy of the book was never the goal. But someone asked me for it once and I thought, why not? Here in Pakistan there are almost no writing or publishing resources and when I reached out to foreign publishers there were considerable logistics involved, making it quite difficult to get my book out to the world.”
She said it almost took her a year after completing the manuscript to get it ready for publication. “I approached various book agents, a few were interested in the story, but a few wanted to change it. I was lucky to receive editing advice from the professionals in the field and when I introduced the book to Liberty Bookstore, they were more than happy to put it on their shelves. My primary audience are teenagers, so I often visit schools and universities to share my experience.”
Against countless setbacks each great mind ever faced, there was a success that made them persevere and leave their mark on the world. Nikola Tesla had his AC motor, Graham Bell his telephone and Bernard Shaw his Arms and the Man. Here’s to hoping Walk With Me turns out to be an epiphany of similar proportions for Fatima.
“Writing is my safe place. If I wasn’t a writer, I would probably be a teacher. I encourage everyone my age to take a risk for what you believe in. There’s no right age to become a writer – passion is fuel.”