As I gulp down the last foamy remains of my flatwhite, I nail down the ending of another children’s story. I sit back against the chair enjoying the soft refreshing breeze of the corniche while flipping open my scruffy scary diary to check what’s next on my agenda. Aah of course, I’ve a reading at my son’s KG class today – but that’s only an hour away. I tap a few times on the papers weighing my options and wondered if I have time to pay my condolence to an acquaintance whose aunt died. It’s the third day and so rude of me not to go. I sweep my stationary in one great movement, shoving everything into my bag/sack and take off.
To me, the most challenging thing about these gatherings is that you have to battle your way through a house swarming with unfamiliar faces, and the only way to bypass them is by paying a toll. Kisses on the cheeks while shaking hands of more than thirty unfamiliar women, right till you reach the person you are actually there for.
Here goes, as I dive among the waves and just as I thought that I was nearly there, I was suddenly jerked back by a woman who was still gripping my hands. “Your face looks familiar!” She announces with her shrill voice – a few heads turn. I try to extract my fingers that were already getting numb, nodding politely. “Of course! I taught you,” she bellows at her discovery – ten more heads jerk our way. “So what are you doing?” – which means: are you working?”. So I oblige and tell her quite loudly that I write for children. I don’t usually like to boast about my career in gatherings such as these, but I just couldn’t help it, especially with high school flashbacks of her sending me to stand at the back of the class, because I didn’t know the derivatives of the word “write” – was enough to provoke me.
“YOU! WRITE!” she guffaws turning towards the ladies who were listening intently enjoying the discussion. “But you flunked Arabic, so many times. How can you be a writer?”. Well imagine that, in front of all the ladies. That does it, I pull out my business cards, the really special ones that I keep for occasions such as these and slide them in her hands gracefully. “I’ve published five so far, and two more are coming out this year! Let me know when you get them so I can sign my autograph for you.” I wink and glide on.
Yes, I did flunk Arabic so many times, but am I to blame for that? And is that a sign that I can’t be a writer? Maybe that’s why I chose to be an Arabic Children’s writer in the first place. So I can help kids like me when I was their age, and give them the chance to love their mother tongue, even if they had the worse teachers ever. I’m not saying that all Arabic teachers are like that, for I did encounter so many whom without them I wouldn’t have even passed.
I do admit though that I have written my first book “I Love My Dad’s Long Beard” in English, but after lots of encouragement from family and friends, begged me to present it in Arabic, I plunged right in without even the basics. And like a natural swimmer, I floated! I’m still learning the moves, but I can swim in the realm of Arabic writing with relish. The key to writing is to enjoy it, and I don’t think that the language barrier should put you off! There’s no actual formula, if you’ve got an idea – just splash it out on paper!
You can also find this blog on LitFest website:https://www.emirateslitfest.com/myblog/a-writer-who-flunked-in-arabic/
Hunna Blog, a peek into the pages of our notebooks and our minds. Not a literacy area rather a jungle of thoughts.