Features, Giveaways, Discounts in Honor of Arab American Heritage Month

Arab art for Arab American Heritage month

April is Arab American Heritage Month!

And I have some exciting celebrations planned.

First, I will be featuring some wonderful Arab and Arab American authors across my social media two or three days per week for the entire month of April. Some of the authors include Aya Khalil, Leila Boukarim, Maysoon Zayid, Rajia Hassib, Sahar Mustafah, and much more! Please check them out, share, and comment on the features, to raise awareness of these talented authors. I hope these author features will introduce you (or re-introduce you!) to some of your favorite writers.

Second, for the entire month of April, each of my ebooks is on sale for only $1.99! If you’ve been wanting to read Normal Calm, Behind Picket Fences, or Even in the Breaks, now is the perfect time to get your hands on an ecopy.

Last but not least, starting on April 1 and ending on April 24, you have the chance to win one of five FREE print copies of Even in the Breaks. Check out the giveaway on Goodreads for more details.

I hope you will join me throughout April in honoring all the Arabs and Arab Americans that are making waves in the arts, sciences, politics, medicine, and every other field.

Trying to Stay Calm

keeping calm during covid,

The world is hoarding toilet paper,
And I don’t understand why.
I’m trying to stay calm.

Kids are home safe,
But they’re driving me crazy.
I’m trying to stay calm.

I have less time on my hands,
So less work gets done.
I’m trying to stay calm.

Should I continue with my book?
Put in the effort to promote?
Moving ahead,
As though things were normal.
I’m trying to stay calm.

Don’t have family nearby,
So I don’t see them regularly.
But it’s different from before,
And I’m trying to stay calm.

What will happen during Ramadan?
What about Eid?
Just can’t think about it,
I’m trying to stay calm.

I go out just for groceries,
Which isn’t really different from before.

But it is.

Everything is different.

How can I stay calm?

Knowing nothing is in my control,
I put my faith in God.
My calm resides with Him.

So I continue,
Pushing forward,
Turning all the changes to normal.

With Him hardships ease,
Hope guides to light.

With His mercy,
Calm descends.

© Hend Hegazi 2020

 

The Spectrum of Similarity

diversity, diverse voices

Last week my kids and I watched an interesting video that showed how people who identify as belonging to one group, can have different beliefs and experiences in relation to that very same identity. The video is titled “Do All Muslims Think the Same?”.

Now, I was not surprised that all the people in the group–all Muslims–differed in their opinions on a woman’s status in Islam, or whether one can identify as both LGBTQ and Muslim, or whether Islam incites violence. What struck me as I watched the video is that we’ve only recently begun to have these conversations.

We’re only now beginning to get comfortable with the idea that our beliefs–and I don’t mean just religious, but about any topic–exist on a spectrum. And that range of differences does not make us “other” from one another. We can all be writers, for example, and not agree on the best strategy to begin a project. We can all be women and not agree on what most fulfills women, we can all be parents and not agree on our child rearing techniques. But none of those differences exclude us from the group. And it should be the same with faith.

Literature is now seeing a surge of diverse voices. And with this movement, we will likely see Muslim authors portraying their Muslim characters over that spectrum of belief and understanding. Some readers will embrace it, others will be offended by it. As a Muslim author who creates flawed Muslim characters, I ask that, in literature and in life, you find compassion for those personalities who are spread out over the spectrum. I am in no way making allowances for behaviors or actions which are forbidden in Islam. What I am saying is that we open our minds and hearts to each other, just like Islam asks us to.

As you forge your way…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
As you forge your way in this world,
Let me tell you the secret to success.

You will meet hundreds of people in your lifetime,
You will make friends,
You will lose friends.
You will reach for the sky,
And some will lift you higher,
And some will knock the ladder out from under you.

As you forge your way in this world,
Remember
She won’t always respect you,
She won’t always cheer for you,
She won’t always be your friend.
And that is perfectly okay.
Not everyone will love you.

As you forge your way in this world,
Remember
If she doesn’t respect you,
If she isn’t happy for your happiness,
If she isn’t sad for your sadness,
If she doesn’t love your crazy,
If she rolls her eyes or goes behind your back,
If she doesn’t chose you to be on her team,
Then she isn’t your friend.
And that is perfectly okay.
Not everyone will love you.

But you must love yourself.

As you forge you way in this world,
Remember
You deserve to be respected,
You deserve to be loved.

And to be respected,
To be loved,
You must only be you.

Be unapologetically you
As you forge your way in this world.

© Hend Hegazi 2020

Hope you’ve enjoyed this piece. It was inspired by a conversation I had today with my daughter. Ayda has a very similar conversation with Shams in Even in the Breaks.

Fleeting Childhood

childhood parenting

Most of the time, my kids don’t listen. And they’re messy. And gross (I mean, how hard is it to flush the toilet?!). And their insubordination makes me morph into a creature I despise. But every so often, they do something great, so I have to give credit where it is due.

Each year my kids begin asking me what I want for Mother’s Day a few days before the event. I always tell them to save their money, but come on, since when do they listen to me?

So on Mother’s Day (which was last week here in the Arab world), I received a couple of bottles of perfume and a bracelet, among some other smaller, meaningful but inexpensive trinkets (pens are, after all, one of my favorite things). But then, my kids took it one step further…

My oldest two insisted on taking me out to dinner, separately. I got two dinners (which really meant two days off of cooking which is one of the BEST gifts you can ever give a mom!) AND I got to spend some quality time with each of them. Without the noise (made mostly by myself) of ‘do your homework!’ and ‘clean up your room!’ and ‘hurry or you’ll miss the bus!’ I really enjoyed my time with each of them.

Although the gifts and dinner were great, what really struck me was that they put in the effort; they thought about what I might like, and they tried to make it happen. It means they’re growing up.

I know that down the line, I will look back and wish I had relished in their childhood more. I already do. I can’t believe my oldest is 15 and my youngest is 7. Where did that time go? There are so many moments I don’t recall. So many sleepless nights I’ve forgotten. So many milestones I’ve mixed up (‘did that happen with number 2 or number 3??’). And it makes me sad knowing I’ve spent so much of their lives wanting them to get over this annoying phase, wanting them to be more independent. Because the truth is, nothing moves faster than time. And soon, sooner than I realize, there will be no more fights about picking up their clothes or putting their toys away. There will be no more arguing over finishing their homework or studying for the test. And…there is nothing I can do about that.

All I can do, is pray I remember these moments. That I remember their morning goodbye kisses as they left for school, and that they cared enough to make me feel special on Mother’s Day.

May God protect, bless, and guide my kids and yours. And may we always remember all the moments of love shared with our children.

The Small Business of Writing

women writers writing small-business

I recently “attended” the online Women in Publishing Summit where women from all avenues of the writing/publishing world spoke, addressing different topics. One of the talks mentioning branding struck me in particular.

Dana Malstaff, bestselling author and founder of Boss Mom, said that when it came time to give her book a title, she garnered the opinions of her followers, having them take a poll. She said the title they chose was the one she had liked the LEAST. And yet, because that’s what her audience liked, that’s what she stuck with.

As I heard her say it, I was reminded of an Egyptian saying I heard long ago from my grandmother. Roughly translated it says, “Eat what you like, but wear what others like.” And all my life I thought that was a load of crap. I’m going to eat AND wear what I like, thank you very much! If one pays such attention to the opinions of people around her, she will live forever at the mercy of their judgement.

And I still feel this way…about one’s personal life.

Malstaff’s experience opened my mind to the possibility that taking people’s opinions into account can sometimes be better for you professionally.

When it comes to business (and writers are essentially small business owners), you have to cater to your audience. So if your followers prefer one title over another, you should go with the one they choose. If they prefer one logo over another, again, you should follow their advice. Because in the end, these are the representatives of your larger audience, and they are telling you “I am more likely to spend my money on this title and this logo.”

As I listened to the talk, I remember thinking, “But where do you draw the line? Do you let them decide character names? What about plot points?”

But honestly, I don’t think that line is a very fine one. I think that the audience can help you gauge the outside of your product, the look, how it’s presented, but they will continue to follow you because they enjoy the meat of your work, the stories you produce.

Well, what about sequels? What if you never intended to write a sequel for your novel, but your readers keep asking about one, what then? Before I watched this talk, I was of the opinion that I would not write a sequel based on popular demand. But now, if I’m thinking like a business woman, I think I may have to reconsider.

I’m going to continue to eat and wear what I like, but when it comes to my books—their titles, their covers and anything else related to how they look—I’ve begun to shift my reasoning. I’m convinced that even if it goes against my own desire, I should take the advice of my audience. Not only will including them in such an important decision help to make stronger connections, but it will also encourage them to purchase my products, knowing that their opinions are invaluable to me.

About that sequel to Behind Picket Fences? I haven’t decided yet. I’ll keep you updated.

Brotherly Love

parenting siblings family love

When I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, my older brother (I’ll continue to refer to him as Genius) had a bad fall off his bike. He split his chin open and my dad had to take him to the hospital. I remember it as being night, but it’s very possible that my mind isn’t catching all the details accurately. My mom stayed home with me. My younger brother, Allah yirhamu (God rest his soul), must have been a toddler, but I don’t remember him being there. What I do remember is how concerned I was about Genius. I was so worried. What was going to happen to him? Would they be able to fix him? What if they couldn’t fix him; what then? I’m sure my mom tried to calm me, but I don’t really remember that. All I remember is the feeling: being petrified that something bad was going to happen to my older brother.

I felt like they were gone for hours. And during the whole time, I just kept praying he would be okay.

What felt like a lifetime later they finally walked in the door. And do you know what Genius had in his hand? Guess. Go on, guess. Nope, try again. Give up?

He had in his hand a McDonald’s bag. There I had been, worrying my ass off about this kid, and he’d been having a grand ol’ time at good ol’ Mickey D’s! And, to top it all off, he didn’t even bring me any chicken nuggets!

Ok, so I obviously don’t remember whether or not he brought me anything, but you get the picture.

At the time, I don’t actually think I cared whether or not he brought me any chicken nuggets; I was so incredibly relieved that he was home and, besides for the bandage on his chin, that he was fine. I was so incredibly relieved.

I recently got a glimpse of this same kind of sibling love between my own children. Generally speaking, my kids do get along, Alhamdulillah. They fight sometimes of course, but more often than not, they’re causing trouble as a posse. God bless them.

A couple of weeks ago, my 15 year old, M, woke up in the middle of the night in a choking fit. He couldn’t breathe. It was a terrifying experience for all of us, including my younger kids. When the fit subsided and his breathing went back to normal, the younger kids kept saying, “Is M ok?” “Mom, don’t send M to school today.”  As my youngest kissed me goodbye that morning she said to me, “Mom, take care of M.”

These moments of trouble, as horrible and distressing as they are, are also blessings from God, to let us see this beautiful love that may otherwise live masked for years. I hope the three younger kids all remember how they felt that morning, how anxious they were for M, how much they loved him. And I hope he remembers it as well.

That kind of brotherly love, that’s God’s gift, people. If you’re lucky enough to be blessed with it, cherish it. Cherish it in your youth, and return to it as you get older. And don’t let anything make you forget it, especially money, the demon known to pull families apart.

Oh, did I tell you about the time Genius borrowed a thousand bucks from me on an “inside tip”?

Well, that’s a story for another time.