Fantasy isn’t literature.

“People who write fantasy and science fiction, like you [Brandon Sanderson], J. K. Rowling and many others… you aren’t authors; you’re writers. And these books are definitely not literature because they’re not real.”

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion discussing the merits of children’s literature and how reading and a sense of curiosity and wonder should always be nurtured. The wonderful Brandon Sanderson – author of the MistbornĀ series – Ā was there, and he spoke about his own experience with books and writing, and how – as a kid – he only became a reader when his teacher introduced him to fantasy. When all was said and done, one crusty critic blatantly told Sanderson that he doesn’t consider him or the likes of J. K. Rowling to be proper authors, just writers, and fantasy, science-fiction… that’s not literature, simply because it isn’t real.

A fantasy writer myself and a huge fan of Rowling and Sanderson’s work, I was seething.Ā How dare he?Ā But then Sanderson gave such a gratifying answer that left everyone clapping and the man looking around in defeat. He questioned this obsession with reality, what’s so wrong about things that aren’t real, what’s so wrong about imagining things? After all, there were many things that we currently have that weren’t real at some point, and would never have been if man hadn’t thought about them and imagined to be real. That power, that sense of wonder, is important to hold on to.

Of course, he didn’t answer in so few words, but that was the gist of it. Continue reading

Farewell, Sir Terry.

2015-03-13 19.39.28Yesterday Terry Pratchett, author of the brilliant Discworld series, passed away at the age of 66. To say I wasn’t shocked by the news would be a lie. Even though I knew he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and could no longer write his books without the help of his assistant, I still couldn’t accept that his death was imminent. Like… I don’t think anyone could even accept the possibility that J. K. Rowling would cease to exist one day, or even Stephen King. These authors have become so ingrained in the literary world that it would be impossible to imagine it without them. Though… I guess if you think about it, authors are forever immortal. As long as you always see their names on the shelves, they’re never really dead, are they? I’m comforted by the fact that later this year one last Discworld book will be published, one that Sir Terry finished writing a few months ago.

At times like this, I feel the best way to remember these authors is to share some of their best quotes. Here are some of my favourites.

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

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Sweet Snapshot Sunday #4

One post ago I mentioned that I was going to be moving. At the time, I didn’t really believe it. Even though I was packing and having such a difficult time deciding which books I should take with me, it still hadn’t sunk it that in a few days time I was going to find myself in an entirely different country. For some reason this made me very depressed, and I was susceptible to random bouts of crying.

Thankfully, that’s behind me now. I guess I should give a bit more information… I’ve moved to Dubai, UAE. Some of you might remember that I’ve spent the first 19 years of my life there before eventually going to Lebanon. This country is more of a home to me than my actual home country. It’s where I grew up, it’s where I feel comfortable, it’s where I feel free to be myself. It’s changed a bit in the few years I was away, it grew and developed… but I still see in it the home I once left behind.

But I’m happy now. I’m starting my independent life. I take the metro to work every day, I have morning walks by the edge of the lake on my way to the office, I’m taking charge of my work, I’m hunting for an apartment, I’m getting all my paperwork in order… and I’m also of course discovering all the new dessert spots in town. ;)

Triple Chocolate Cake

Triple Chocolate Cake

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Is my name against me?

Zeinab Alayan.Ā 

If you were browsing the shelves of a bookstore and came upon a book with thatĀ name printed across the cover, what would you do? Would you ignore it, regardless of how interesting it seemed, and move on to another book written by a clearly English native? Or would you give it your time of day because in the end it’s the story that matters?

I know that most of us would say that we’dĀ pick it up. It’s the morally right answer. A book is a book regardless of who writes it. It shouldn’t matter if the author is English or Arabic or Indian or whatever else. Yet I can’t help but think that this is the answer weĀ wantĀ to give, not the one we’re subconsciously thinking. Maybe we do discriminate against people with foreign/exotic names without even realising it. I mean… I only caught myself doing it recently… allowing my eyes to glaze over English books with Arabic authors in favour of books with English authors.

I paused. Then I felt disgusted with myself. Then I felt like a hypocrite. For so many years I’ve wondered if the fact that I was an Arab had anything to do with the fact that many agents wouldn’t even look at my manuscript, and now I end up doing the same to others. Continue reading

Don’t read my book!

Yes, you heard me. I don’t want anyone reading Ā the book I worked so hard to write. Not indefinitely, of course, but at least until I correct my horrendous writing mistakes. There are two reasons I avoid reading my books after I’ve published them: Ā 1) I don’t want to find that I’ve missed some awful typos (like writing “nut” instead of “but), and 2) I don’t want to see how bad my writing is.

Sigh.

When they tell you that a writer is their own worst critic, they are definitely not joking. Seeing the words I wrote nearly three years ago makes me cringe. Heck, seeing the words I wrote five months ago makes me cringe. On one hand, that’s a good thing because it means I’m improving and my writing is becoming better and better, but on the other, it means I don’t like anything I published in the past. I’m almost embarrassed by it. Continue reading

My Book Hangover

My eyes are bloodshot and my mind groggy after staying up until 9 a.m. today trying to meet a work deadline. Of course, that would not have happened if I’d put the book I’d been reading aside instead of making up my mind to finish it because supposedly I could not focus until it was over. Before I knew it, the clock struck midnight and I had over 10 pages to translate and 30 to edit.

This series has managed to do the impossible and made me love it as much as I love Harry Potter.

This series has managed to do the impossible and made me love it as much as I love Harry Potter.

I usually am able to curb my book hunger, but last night was just impossible. I was reading the third book in theĀ MistbornĀ trilogy by Brandon Sanderson –Ā The Hero of Ages.Ā I don’t often review books on my blog unless they’re indies, but this one series had such a profound impact on me that it really does deserve a mention. I’d never before come across a book with a political and magic system so extensive and complex, or one with so many vibrant characters, where every single person had a part to play. The story had so many twists and turns that I could never, not in a million years, see coming. After every book I sat down in awe of the sheer brilliance of the author and his ability to keep his characters alive in my head long after I’d replaced his books on the shelf. Continue reading

Sweet Snapshot Sunday #3

It’s time forĀ another one of those posts where I share drool-worthy pictures with the masses and giggle with glee as hunger starts bubbling within you and… er, I mean… what? I don’t do anything like that. I don’t.

*clears throat*

Work has been hectic as always, but I finally allowed myself to leave the house for a few hours and expose myself to some sun. I swear I am so pale you would not believe me if I said I was experiencing my hottest summer in years. Plus I was getting very crabby and was desperate for a breather. I went to one of my favourite “sweet haunts” – Magnolia Bakery. Next to my No. 1 dessert – the Snickers Icebox Pie – I had aĀ Chocolate Chunk Blondie with a layer of chocolate on top aaaand a Vanilla & ChocolateĀ Swirl Cheesecake.

They were all very delicious. =D

Vanilla & Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

Vanilla & Chocolate Swirl CheesecakeĀ 

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