Author Spotlight: Aya Khalil
Today we are pleased to feature author Aya Khalil and her debut picture book, THE ARABIC QUILT, illustrations by Anait Semirdzhyan (Tilbury House Publishers; Illustrated Edition, Feb. 2020)).
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Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I used to teach young children and was always on the lookout for good books. I also noticed that there were barely any books with Muslim and/or Arab characters. When I had my own children, again I was on the lookout for books with characters that looked like them but they were rare. So those were definitely one of the reasons I wanted to write for children. I'm also a freelance journalist and mother to three adventurous children.
Congrats on your picture book, THE ARABIC QUILT: AN IMMIGRANT STORY. Tell us about the book and what inspired you.
Thank you! THE ARABIC QUILT is based on true stories growing up as an Egyptian-American. The teacher in the book is inspired by a real teacher of mine when I was in elementary school who created that same project in the classroom. I still remember her and how she never made me feel excluded in the class as the only Arab and Muslim in the grade and encouraging me to share my culture. This was over 20 years ago! When the book was published I was able to connect with her thanks to a friend who connected us. I sent her a book and she even went to the same school and took a picture of her holding the book and sent it to me!
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
It wasn't too long. I thought it was going to be easy, but of course that wasn't the case. After many rejections, I took a step back and joined critique groups, attended conferences and asked my author friends advice along the way and I will be forever grateful for all of their support! I was able to find a wonderful agent as well along the way who continues to believe in my work and that makes a huge difference.
What projects are you working on now?
I have another book in the works that I can't talk about right now but I cannot wait to announce it - hopefully soon! I am also trying to venture into MG!
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is it the same you'd give to other aspiring authors?
Ask for advice and ask for help when needed!
What is one thing most people don't know about you? I've lived in 10 different cities over the 32 years of my life.
Where can people find you online?
Aya Khalil is a freelance journalist and educator. She’s been featured in Teen Vogue, Book Riot, Romper, Yahoo! and others. Her work has been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Toledo Area Parent, and others. She’s done sensitivity consultation for DK Publishing/Penguin Random House and The Arabic Quilt is her debut picture book. She lives in Toledo, Ohio, with her husband, Abdalrahman, and their three children.
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