Author Spotlight: Susannah Aziz
May 27, 2021
We are pleased to feature author Susannah Aziz and her debut picture book, HALAL HOT DOGS! illustrated by Parwinder Singh (little bee books), out now! Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I'm a writer and youth services librarian living in New York City. I am married with three children. I started writing for children, as a hobby to see if I actually liked it. I took creative writing in college, but focused more so on news writing.
As soon as I cracked opened up that door to the creative world, I realized that I loved the process, and grew to be very passionate about children's literature!
While waiting to get published, I decided to pursue my MSLIS. The publishing process is quite long, so while I waited, I managed becoming a youth services librarian, which is great because I get to be a part of the book world in a different way!
Congrats on your debut picture book, Halal Hot Dogs! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Halal Hot Dogs is about an Arab-Muslim boy named Musa. He lives in a large, diverse city with his blended family. He loves halal hot dogs, and can’t wait to share some with his family members after Jummah prayer at the local masjid. Musa is eager, and gets a little impatient, as his journey to get halal hot dogs doesn’t go as planned!
I am a mother, and a creative person overall. As I read picture books to my kids, I noticed the scarcity of books available for Arab-Muslim children. I wanted my kids to be able to identify with characters like them. There were very few available, and many of the books also lacked humor. I was inspired to write Halal Hot Dogs because I wanted to see more diversity in the publishing world.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
It wasn’t exactly easy. I’d say it was long and winding, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! The journey was a learning process that I am grateful to have experienced.
It all began when an agent named Clelia Gore, of Martin Literary Agency, responded with an Open Call for Submissions to Muslim Writers, when the Muslim Ban (Executive Order 13769) was set into effect. Soon after, I connected with my agent, Adria Goetz. Once I had representation, I began to feel like getting published was going to be a reality. I never expected to get published, so just hearing rejection was okay for me! I had thoughts like, “Well, this editor took the time out to write this rejection, and that means something, so this is great, so thank you so much!” I learned a lot. All of the editors were extremely positive in the process. Things definitely started happening when I connected with Adria. She really believed in the manuscripts, and at the end of the day, there is a reason why her clients call her the Fairy Bookmother, or Godmother of publishing!
What projects are you working on now?
I am working on a few lighthearted, humorous stories, which I hope to polish soon. I’ve also been working on an early reader series, which was fun to explore, and really easy to write. There is also a manuscript I am very passionate about. It has a serious tone, and a lovely message. The latter is deeply connected to my identity and heart.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same as you'd give to aspiring authors?
That patience and studying your craft is key to success in this industry! Absorb as much information as possible. Have a good attitude, and be open to constructive criticism.
What is something most people don't know about you?
I love road-trips, and many of my writing ideas hit me as I’m driving my car! Also, I’m obsessed with cats, so finding cats ON road trips is always great!
Where can people find you online?
Susannah Aziz is a creative/freelance writer and children's book author living in NYC. She writes stories that focus on Arab and Muslim characters and hopes to see more culturally diverse characters, as well as neuro-diverse characters represented in traditional publishing. Her debut picture book, Halal Hot Dogs, features an Arab-Muslim character named Musa that enjoys a special treat with his family after Jummah prayer at the masjid.
She is also a librarian with a MSLIS from St. John's University (NYC), and hopes to create more library programs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As an urban librarian, she loves running into patrons all around town. She is also an advocate for UNRWAUSA,* (https://www.unrwausa.org/ ). She lives in a very old, creaky, squeaky house with her husband, three kids, and two cats. Her favorite summer activity with her kids includes trying to hit every halal hot dog stand in NYC in search of the BEST hot dog! They still can't decide on just one!
* UNRWA USA National Committee (UNRWA USA) aims to promote a life of dignity and human development for Palestine refugees by informing the American public about UNRWA’s work and generating support for its programs in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
a Rafflecopter giveaway