“If you are a novice as I was, don't be afraid to attend a course.
It might be very helpful and beneficial for you to find your niche.”
Dubai writer Maryam Al Serkal was inspired by her daughter’s feelings about her curly hair. After attending a children's book workshop, she wrote her #firstpicturebook manuscript. Next month, that story will be published by Lantana Publishing. MIRA’S CURLY HAIR "does a lovely job weaving in various cultural realities with a universal theme of self-acceptance.... [and] adds depth and beauty to the growing collection of hair-themed picture books for the very young" (Kirkus Reviews).
Q. Was MIRA'S CURLY HAIR the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. In fact yes, this was the first manuscript that I ever wrote. I attended a children's book workshop at a literature festival and at the end of the workshop the participants were asked to produce a piece of writing and that was the birth of my manuscript.
Q. What inspired MIRA'S CURLY HAIR?
A. I like writing about things that are relevant to me. MIRA'S CURLY HAIR is about my daughter and how, at a very young age, she started to notice the differences in appearance she had with other people. The most significant to her was her hair.
Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. Mira is my daughter's name and I wanted the title to be straight forward as the book is.
Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. I love to write by hand but sometimes the handiest thing at my disposal would be the notes app on my phone. It's easier to continue the flow of work when I don't have to retype everything on my computer, the app is synced to my devices which gives me a seamless flow of work.
Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft? (Please send an image from the book or link to book trailer.)
My favorite part is when Mira realizes that her hair is not as different as she thought.
Q. How did you select the names for your characters?
A. The main character is Mira, after my daughter, and then her mother is referred to as Mommy.
Q. What made you decide to tell the story in third person?
A. I felt that writing this story in third person could make it more relatable to the reader and listener.
Q. Why did you write MIRA'S CURLY HAIR in the past tense?
A. There is a level of dissatisfaction that the main character has with her appearance, I wanted the reader to feel that this was in the past but eventually it was going to change which it did at the end of the story.
Q. Did you outline your story first or did you create your story while writing it?
A. I had a pretty good idea of what the ending of the story would be. I initially wrote it as a rhyme. I eventually diluted the rhyming a bit but I find that my writing flows easily when writing poetry. I love writing poetry. My favorite children's author is Dr. Seuss. I also think it's tricky to write poetry for kids because it either seems forced or not very rhythmical. Personally, it's a challenge that I enjoy.
Q. Did MIRA'S CURLY HAIR receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. I didn't receive any rejection letters for Mira's Curly Hair. I guess I was lucky!
Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on MIRA'S CURLY HAIR.
A. It really is indescribable. I was very nervous when I sent in my manuscript. I was hopeful but had resolved to manage my expectations and try to handle the rejection in a way that would push me forward. To be very honest I was at a very challenging time in my life and when I received the offer I was thrilled. It gave me a sense of achievement.
Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book?
A. Rebeca Luciani, the illustrator, was suggested by my editor and after I saw her initial drawings, I knew that she was the only one who could bring the story to life.
Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A.The first thing that jumped out at me was how well Rebeca had captured Mira with her mischievous look. It spoke to my heart. She also captures the essence of the Arabian culture without making it overbearing.
Q. How long was the publication process for MIRA'S CURLY HAIR from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. I would say it took over a year and a half.
Q. Was there a part that you really loved but had to edit out? Or did you think of something later that you wanted to add?
A. I would have liked to keep it in rhyme, but I have full faith in my editor and what she sees as fitting better in the current children's book market.
Q. What is your #1 tip for picture-book writers?
If you are a novice as I was, don't be afraid to attend a course. It might be very helpful and beneficial for you to find your niche.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I have a few more children's books manuscripts that I am working on.
Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
My Twitter and Instagram account is @themaryamwrites.