Author Spotlight: Shirin Shamsi
December 16, 2022
We are excited to feature author Shirin Shamsi and her debut picture book, THE MOON FROM DEHRADUN: A STORY OF PARTITION illustrated by Tarun Lak (Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2022)). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
When I became a mother I realized how important it was that my children see themselves represented in books. I began to write and illustrate stories for them. I laminated the pages and turned them into books.
Congrats on your debut picture book, The Moon from Dehradun! Tell us about your book and what inspired you.
Thank you so much. The Moon from Dehradun is based on my mother’s personal experience of the Partition of 1947. I heard this story many times, while growing up in the UK. Even though the Partition caused history’s largest forced migration, there were hardly any books about it.
I knew I had to write this story. I knew how important it was to share this story, but it was painful for me to research. I would begin it, then put it away for months and sometimes even years.
I knew how important it was to share it with the world, and I finally made a commitment to write it as a picture book.
This is one family’s experience of Partition. There are millions of stories like this that perhaps we have already lost. It’s so important for us to write our stories. It is so important for children to know their family history.
How did you get into writing for children?
I took a class when my son was just three years old. It was before the internet, before we owned a computer. I procrastinated a lot, because I didn’t believe in myself as a writer.
It wasn’t until I joined SCBWI, that I really became serious about actually putting in the work, and writing regularly.
I joined a critique group and met so many amazing people, many who became mentors and friends who offered great advice. I took classes and studied the craft. That was a life-changer for me. I highly recommend Children’s Book Academy classes.
What projects are you working on now?
I have my first picture book biography out on submission. I’m also revising/rewriting a middle grade novel I’ve been working on for some time. There are so many unfinished manuscripts that I need to work on, and so little time.
What advice would you give to aspiring picture book authors?
Keep writing and learning the craft. Take classes. Never give up on your dreams. Persistence, patience, and hard work are crucial to this business. There will be many rejections. View rejection as a tool to learn, grow and improve your writing. Ask yourself how you can make your work better? Don’t ever give up, for then you will certainly succeed.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I wanted to be a ballerina when I was seven. At fourteen I wanted to be an astronaut. I love being a writer- it’s the most humbling and gratifying feeling, to be writing for the most important people in the world.
Where can people find you online?
I would love to connect in person. I’m grateful that my in-person critique group is meeting again. Nothing beats that.
However, social media is also wonderful in that it has connected me to people across the globe.
My links are below:
Shirin has lived on three continents and sees herself as a global citizen. Through sharing stories from her heritage, she hopes to inspire an appreciation for all the diversity of our beautiful planet. A member of SCBWI since 2010, Shirin is represented by Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Agency.