I picked myself and published my award-winning story

I picked myself and published my award-winning story

In 2018, my short story Ustaz Ali won third prize at the prestigious F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. Today I decided to “pick myself,” as Seth Godin says, cut the gatekeepers, and publish the story on Gumroad.

The story is set at a Catholic School in Amman, Jordan, in the late eighties.

Two friends, one Muslim and one Christian find themselves growing apart when one decides to wear the Hijab, while the other rebels against norms and traditions amid complex political and religious circumstances.

It’s a tale about friendship and the subtle societal differences that push us apart against our will.

You can get it here.

I hope you enjoy it and thank you in advance for your support.

Surprise, I adored this science fiction book

Surprise, I adored this science fiction book

Science fiction is not a genre I enjoy much, but Klara and the Sun by Noble Prize winner Kashu Ishiguro is one of the books that will stay with me for a long time. It’s a story told from the perspective of an artificial intelligence machine (AI) called Klara who was assigned to keep the company of a teenager named Josie.

They all live in a dystopian world where kids are being “lifted” to give them a chance at a better life so they can excel in education and get better jobs. Most of the kids in this dystopian world are homeschooled, so they are lonely and socially awkward, hence comes the role of the AI or AF (Artificial Friend) as they call it in the novel. Klara, who is the AI or AF, is always watching over Josie, who happens to be sick all the time seems to be getting worse.

The book also has a love story between Josie and her next-door neighbor Rick who seems different from the other kids in Josie’s vicinity, which adds a whole layer of complication to their relationship. Klara finds herself stuck in a dramatic situation that involves Josie, her mom, and another shady character who is working on what we’re told is a portrait of Josie.

Klara has a special relationship with the sun. She needs the sun to power her and give her energy, and also she seems to be worshiping the sun in a godly manner. Her relationship with the sun plays a significant role in the novel that I won’t get into it now, so I won’t spoil the book for you.

Overall, This was an enjoyable, fast read.

Do AI’s have feelings?

A lot of concepts to ponder.

Do AI’s have feelings?

Shall we fear that AI might take over our livelihood?

What will the future hold with the increased presence of AI and robots?

Can there be a bond between a human and an AI? One thing I would have wanted is for the book to be a bit longer, with more details. For example, I don’t know if AI’s fall asleep in this world, and if they do, how do they keep themselves occupied while the world sleeps?Do AI’s change clothes? What kind of clothes do they wear? I also wanted a more physical description of the AI.

So question to you?

Do you like science fiction books?

I’m not a huge fan, but Klara and the Sun is different.

Below is a video in which I review Klara and the Sun.


Should fiction writers air dirty laundry?

Should fiction writers air dirty laundry?

As fiction writers, sometimes we fall into the trap of everything being permissible when it comes to writing, that the sky is the limit, that we can create build as we wish. We give birth to characters and kill off others.

We can do to our heart’s desire, but is that true? That question has been haunting me for a while. When do we draw the line when it comes to fiction creation, or do we even have to?

During a recent conversation with young Jordanian-Canadian author Sara Badawieh, I asked her about the concept of “airing our dirty laundry” in fiction and if fiction authors should do that in the name of telling an accurate story?

My question came in reference to the domestic violence/honor crime plot in her most recent novel Dalia.

Are we, as authors, specifically as Arab/Jordanian authors, risk empathizing negative stereotypes of Arab men being violent and abusive by writing about these issues? Are we making it worse for the Arab image in the Western media and Western culture?

Or are we staying away from telling an important story by saving ourselves the trouble of getting into a controversial debate or stirring the beehive? What path must we, as fiction authors, take?

I asked this question to my Twitter friends, and I got this answer from communications professional Olamide Francis.

“I think it should be balanced. Say the truth. Point out the good, bad and ugly.”

That was one of the best answers I got on this dilemma.

Tell the truth, but stay balanced. You can watch the whole conversation on my Youtube Channel here.

​​    What are your thoughts? Should fiction authors air dirty laundry?

Photo credit: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Card Skills: Easy Ways to Add Extra “Oomph” to Your Characters

Card Skills: Easy Ways to Add Extra “Oomph” to Your Characters

As writers, we all want to bring dynamic and memorable characters to life. This is easier said than done, given how many barriers can hinder us from truly reaching our potential at work. Between imposter syndrome and writer’s block, language and research barriers, and so many other challenges, we writers have a lot to battle on a daily basis. Moreover, there’s also the simple struggle of running out of ideas for spicing up a character or plot!

The good news is that if you’re a stumped writer at the moment there are all sorts of useful ideas out there for how to turn things around and add some “oomph” to a stalled-out character. In this piece, we’re going to look at one somewhat surprising, but ultimately powerful literary device that can serve this purpose: playing cards.

Look for motifs and symbols

Cards have long been used in literary works as motifs or symbols. For one thing, they conveniently display four different suits: symbols that represent the four pillars of the economy in the Middle Ages. Hearts, Spades, Clubs, and Diamonds were meant to symbolize the church, military, agriculture, and the merchant class, respectively.

That in itself opens up opportunities for sociopolitical discourse within your work, which can be an important device for your plot or characters (even if it’s essentially subtext). There are also several specific cards that have meanings or stories behind them, such as the Ace of Spades (or “Death Card”), which is the most valued card in the deck, and the Queen of Hearts, which represents beauty, magnetism, and idealism.

Know the rules of the game

Card concepts can also be directly incorporated into the plot and characters. But it’s necessary to do your fair share of research to understand cards and their symbolism, meanings, and gameplay. Fortunately, even a quick look at the basic rules of poker can not only help you understand one of the oldest and most iconic card games out there, but also provide insights into card play in general –– which can fuel all sorts of fun character ideas.

Studying the rules of card games ranging from classic Texas Hold’em, to Solitaire, or even Go Fish, can also tell a lot about a certain character. For instance, James Bond’s game of choice is Baccarat — a game preferred by high rollers — which mirrors his willingness to take astoundingly great risks for even greater returns. On the other hand, you could use a grandfatherly character’s engagement with Go Fish to give him an avenue through which connect to a younger protagonist.

Use as a potential plot device

For the most part, authors make sure that their placement of card games in the story is purposeful. In Henry James’s “The Golden Bowl” for instance, the four characters play a game of bridge together. Bridge is a game of partnership and strategy, which cleverly contrasts with the book’s overarching themes of betrayal and relationships in peril. At the same time, the game motivates certain characters in the story to come to certain realizations and thereby drive the plot forward. The same can be said for Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations,” wherein scenes of card games portray the courses of love and war that the characters experience throughout the novel.

Build characters’ identities

Some personalities with unique characteristics and craftiness can also be comparable to specific in-game techniques, or cards in the deck. As mentioned above, the Queen of Hearts represents beauty, magnetism, and idealism –– attributes that are not coincidentally embodied by The Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland” (albeit in a twisted, cruel way).

The iconic comic book antagonist the Joker’s identity is also heavily tied to the card of the same name. The Joker card is often used as an informal replacement for lost or damaged cards — an unpredictable wildcard at times, just as the Joker character represents chaos, anarchy, and mischief.

In the end, all characters are essentially written to perform according to the cards dealt to them. As the author, you are literally in charge of dealing these metaphorical cards yourself. This is not to say that you need to infuse your next story with a Queen of Hearts or Joker. But as evidenced above, there are numerous ways to tap into the rich canon of card games to develop richer characters when you get stuck.