Baby Steps - My journey to publication
Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the...
Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the
atmosphere and tenor of his life – Robert Louis Stevenson
I think the tenor of my life changed with the advent of the Iranian revolution, when as a
ten year old I lost the exuberance of childhood and the warmth of my loved ones.
Urma, protagonist of my first novel by the same name, was born the moment I exited
Iran – a country that was not my birthplace, and yet my home. The first sketch of Urma was etched on paper during the summer of 1989 and was lost in the vagaries of
everyday life, as I jostled studies, career, marriage and later motherhood till I picked it up again many years later.
It took five laborious years for 'Urma' to morph into a novel and finally reach the shelves of the bookstores. When I finished my manuscript, it was the most satisfying and exhilarating day of my life, well almost! My journey of my first novel had not finished but just begun! I had written the book but now how do I make sure that my story, my book reaches people. The journey of editing, re editing, querying and receiving rejections began! The road to publication is a heady concoction of daredevil mountain climbing and steep zip lines! To survive, your own inner voice patting your back needs to be lot louder than the hundred rejection letters staring at you from your laptop screen!
My manuscript during the publishing phase reached Mr. Tariq Faizi, Gen. Sec.
of Urdu Press Club, India and he got interested in translating the book into Urdu and publish it. It was done in a record time and a limited edition hard bound was released along with English in India. The book got nominated for an award by Urdu Press Club.
From the day, I started writing my book till it got published, it was a roller coaster ride. It was full of 'ups' and 'downs'! 'Down' during my writing phase, when my mind was plagued with writer's block and I couldn't write for weeks. And when I finished writing my novel, the next 'down' was the critique from my editor in California giving me a set of instructions that sounded Greek to me as I am an MBA in Marketing and not a trained writer. Writing was a need for me. So, I enrolled in London School of Journalism to make sense of my editor's feedback and learn the craft of writing. It was a great decision, I think. I wrote the five full drafts and was euphoric when my editor gave a go ahead.
Next 'down'- set of rejections pouring from agents in UK and US with various reasons… either the project was not what they were looking for or the backdrop of Iran was too sensitive for them and requested me to change it to some other non controversial area. Many Indian publishers rejected as protagonist was not an Indian and they feared that readers wouldn't empathise with the protagonist. Either way, they were rejections.
And then, I decided to publish it myself. I took this decision mainly for three reasons. First, I didn't want to change the setting of Iran to any other country. Second, I didn't want to make my protagonist Indian just to appease the Indian market and third, I didn't want to wait another two years for a top league traditional publisher to recognise my work.
I self-published on Amazon through CreateSpace. Meanwhile, I found a small publisher in India, interested in publishing my manuscript but he was not a big
publisher to be able to distribute worldwide. I gave him rights for India and I found a
distributor locally in Dubai. My book finally reached book stores and it was well received. For me, a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing turned out to be a great learning experience.
My debut novel, 'Urma' was released in 2012. Since then,
- Published 'Charcoal Blush' - coffee table poetry book in 2016.
- A few poems from Charcoal Blush translated into Nepali and published in the oldest and the most reputed literary magazine of Nepal – 'Madhuparka'
- Finished two more novels, 'Will Time Find Us?' and '355 Days' ready for publishing.
- Launch of my portal, www.TheWriteScene.com with the aim of inspiring other aspiring writers. Under its banner, launched the First International Young Author Awards with nominations from top league International publishers.
I feel blessed to have accomplished what I have, though there is a long road ahead to
where I want to be. I believe in 'today' and what fuels my drive is the fear what -'if tomorrow never comes'. I try to pack as much as I can in my 'today'.
(Deeba Salim Irfan is a writer, a poet and an entrepreneur based in Dubai. She is the founder of 'Young Author Awards' which is backed by industry experts from India, Middle East and UK. She has launched it under the banner of 'The Write Scene', a portal for aspiring writers.