Archives for category: blogging

I discovered that literary journals consider things you’ve put on your blog as being in the category of PUBLISHED PREVIOUSLY. Which they then don’t accept as publishable pieces.

And since I have a few blogs I keep, my writing has been PUBLISHED PREVIOUSLY in plenty of spaces. (Who knew it was so easy to be published, huh?)

I’m hoping to merge my many blogs one day so I’ll do a link here to the brief one I kept while away from home; the first post:  Snowflakes in Doha. The blog is called Marvels & Oddities and it was an attempt to balance my positive impressions with my I-wanna-go-back-home impressions. The latter was my predominant penchant.

 

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So here’s what I’ve thought about before commencing to open up commonplacer again:

The blogosphere is essentially a carefully zoned (organically carefully zoned for the most part) virtual space of massive proportions.  When I left CP for more than 8 months, I realized it was like moving away from somewhere I’d felt at home at.  I began another blog in a new ‘hood.  The Young Adult writing zone.  I built up some followers, but I felt kind of sad.  I missed this niche over here.

I also realized, with the closing-up-shop of a handful of other blogs that I’d been faithfully following via Google Reader, that it’s important to keep up the little space on the web that we carve out for ourselves.  It just feels good to read someone familiar.

I sometimes think about how important our part is in this mega-medium that commentary via the internet has become.  It’s like the transformations that happened in literary history when people began thinking about reading in new ways via serialized content (a la Dickens) or just about any other change in previously established lit norms.

It’s just fascinating and I enjoyed blogging here so yes, dad and others, I’m back.

(Can you tell I’m excited? Two posts in one day, woah!)

Hi 2011!!!

I want to wax poetic about my absence from commonplacer but I’m just getting settled in again so later, or maybe never (about the time away).

Aaah, home.

🙂

 

Once upon a time, there was a time when there squeezed through the bustlings of my day a little bubble (pink, faintly bubble-gum smelling) of time – just enough to write something down…and, lo and behold, with some key-tapping, it would be something that could be read by readers out there somewhere. Oh whither that bubble?

I miss blogging.  But I don’t miss writing as I’ve been doing that pretty consistently since my official year off work began.  My book, well, bookS now (when one takes a snooze, I turn my mind to the otherS) is/are coming along slowly but surely – with Allah’s help.

But I miss blogging because when one is blogging, keeping up with reading bloggers and discussing things, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of what we’re about – in real-time, in actual-history.  And now, to be shut away (even if by choice), it feels rather peculiarly lonesome.

One of the bloggers whom I used to lurk at before I launched on my own, Ali Eteraz, just came out with his book, Children of Dust.  I haven’t had the chance to read it – but as he was a captivating writer, I think I will need to pick it up.  I am still holding out that he takes up writing a book he had once described called The Poverty of the Prophet.  As I remember from a brief excerpt he published, it was unique in its ability to so compellingly capture the moving simplicity of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

While I am tapping away on my story, I am constantly trying to rein my cart in before the horse…I so want this year to be fruitful in finishing a book.  Even if it does not see the light of publishing day, I feel like that song by the beatles, blackbird…I was waiting all my life for this moment to arrive… to become a writer.

Well, I like to think I became a writer in grade seven when my homeroom teacher, who had the reputation for being the strictest in the school, called me to her desk on the first day and asked in a stern voice if I really did write the “What I did this summer” essay on my own.  I quakingly said yes.  For two weeks, she watched me carefully every time we got assigned something to write and then finally, called me again to that majestic desk and handed me a paper marked with an A+ and asked me if I knew that I was a writer.   I quakingly said no.  I did not know anything definable about myself besides Muslim, girl and perhaps, brown? Muslim Brown Girl.  Now Ms. Z. made me Muslim Brown Girl Writer and it felt good.

So this moment has arrived and I try to take the pressure off by devoting all my energy to making googly-eyed breakfasts for my daughter and packing heartier, healthier lunches for my son, and growing more in gratitude to the Merciful One for the love He allowed to fall into my life through my awesome husband,  and by having so much fun with the condo:

 (and my favorite, the beginnings of a library!)

but the moment has arrived – to write, to finish and to have and hold: A BOOK.  Written by a Muslim brown girl, insha’Allah.

(But please remember, I still miss blogging.  And I’m thankful that some of you still miss me and keep googling commonplacer.wordpress only to find nothing updated…I so sorry.  Perhaps, at that point, you can say a prayer that I finish my book. 🙂  )

…I’ve been busy

1. being in love (go ahead, say/think/groan/spit out the AAAAWWWW).
2. avoiding writing report cards (that’s as of this minute)
3. reading-laughing and sharing Asmaa’s latest blog post with the hubby.  Asmaa you are very funny.
4. watching my amazingly creative and handy husband transform our shared space into a comfortable, organized dream home.
5. cooking. And learning to tone down my spices and try different things.  And learning new dishes from the husband.  Who cooks. Like really really cooks.
6. being in love.

Besides all this, I’ve been blogging a lot in my head.  And then I start talking about my writing ideas with my other half. And it all comes out and we discuss it and then it’s gone. The urge to write is gone.

Hmm, is being in love killing my blog?

I’m still a bad, bad blogger it seems. Something is seriously going down if I can’t find the time to write. All I know is that for 2 weeks now I’ve been officially starting my days at 4:30 a.m. in order to get everything squished in. And still, I can’t find the time to write. So let me share instead…

I don’t know how I missed this neat entry into that (old) Muslim film contest (onenationforall.org/LinkTV) but I did. I like it because it resonates if you’re a-pray-any/everywhere-kind-of-muslim. And ain’t the ending just the nicest thing?

And, (Asmaa), here’s a peony 🙂

peony


grown. harvested.

Ahem… this blog is just over a year old now. I first officially began it in December, 2006 but then revamped it and launched it again in January 2007. So I’m trying to think of something to say on my blog’s first anniversary…and I’m coming up empty-inked.

I could tell you why I began it: 1. I’m always writing things down all over the place anyways and here was a central, environmental way to do it. 2. By pressing the publish button, I get to say things about our world without appealing to media gatekeepers to allow me to say it. 3. A friend told me if you (Muslims) don’t tell your own stories, the empty pages will always get filled with skewed impressions and/or forged “facts” constructed by others.

I chose the name CommonPlacer because I actually had a nice old black leather book called S.K’s CommonPlace Book which was filled with all sorts of stuff I’d collected over time – info stapled in, glued in, tucked in, drawn in, scribbled in. (Did you know the Mediterranean food pyramid says to eat meat only once monthly? And that Maya Angelou said “we may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated?” and that, in Canada , it’s possible to be sentenced to over a year in jail for promoting hate through the internet? These are some of the things that I noted I had noted previously. Sounds a lot like my blog.) Plus, if I had my glasses on now, I would reach up to push them back on my nose as I told you that Klaus Baudelaire is my greatest commonplacing hero, even before Emerson or Hardy. Plus, I would also tie my hair up with a ribbon like Violet Baudelaire as I told you that wiki says “some modern writers see blogs as an analogy to commonplace books.”

When I began this blog, I just wanted a “spot to place things that came my way.” But after a while my desire to become a “prolific” writer made me try to write almost 3 or 4 times a week. I quickly discovered it’s hard to be a prolific anything when you’re working full-time as a single parent and teacher. So I settled for whenever I had a spot of time. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts with me over the course of this year. I’ve met some wonderful people through CommonPlacer – for whom I actually have 1 question: is facebook slowly killing blogs? We all need to update, friends (and rockstars)!

Wow, that’s a lot of empty ink.

Back in the day, when my communications prof spoke about the power-to-come of the “world wide web” (you had to say the whole thing back then), the entire class laughed in disbelief. He said we were going to do our shopping through it, get our daily news from it and even hook up to get married by it. No, this wasn’t in the 80’s. It was the mid-90’s. And we were all “avant-garde” Mass Comm. majors. And we still laughed at him.

Now I’m not laughing any more. I’m sadly bemused. It’s about the Brass Crescent Awards – I can’t understand the noise around it. And some of the noise is getting nasty. (Shopping. Newsreading. Marrying. Bickering. Very powerful, this power-that-came.)

To my novice-blogger understanding, the BCA was created to recognize and encourage the excellence of Muslim writers/blogs out in the “world wide web”. It’s in its 4rth year and is run through a nomination process. I’m not big on number crunching type stuff so I’ll spare you (and myself) the exact formula they decided on to choose the winners for this year (which apparently is different from other years).

I love it when Muslims think big. (Bigger than teddy bears, anyhow.) When we affirm each other (and other others) and when we see the potential/good out there. So I don’t understand some of the pointedly sharp chatter re: the BCA’s crop of nominated blogs.

Some might read this and say but she’s not digging into the deeper stuff – like whose ideology (i.e. the wrong one!) is being spotlighted through the awards etc. (I put the etc in there fast because I don’t want to list some of the other weird things people are digging up). To that, I’ll answer: I prefer to leave McCarthyism to McCarthy and the last time I checked, freely accusing others by name of disbelief was a serious crime (and reeked of a really wrong ideology itself).

I came upon the Brass Crescent Awards last year (in my pre-blogging days) and was impressed to see such a venture had actually been thought up, appeared professional and glad that it steered me towards some worthy reads.

I’m not going to deny that there could be some tweaking that could be done – like I agree that having the categories of Best Mideast/Central Asian Blog and Best South/Southeast Asian Blog makes it appear as though these blogs weren’t part of the Best Blog category – only the Western ones were. It’s not supposed to be like the (American) Academy Awards with its Best Foreign Film category – the BCA is supposed to the best of Muslim blogs on the “world wide web”.

But these are fixable things we speak of. And if they don’t get fixed and even if they do, I also see nothing wrong if detractors put together another award – with their own spectacular, professional, affirming visions; after hearing a brilliant speaker, years ago, describe the process of pulling ourselves out of this muck our ummah is stuck in, I no longer think in terms of the oft-whined mantra of “but we need to be united before we can proceed”. It’s not being disunited to have another Muslim blogger award. It’s not even re-inventing the wheel (the horror) – it’s simply diversifying. And though I’m no MBA, I’ve kind of caught on to the fact the diversifying is the way to go in this day and age.

Do I make sense here or am I sounding naive?

I have a confession to make: I have 44 unpublished posts; some on controversial topics, some unfinished, a couple of reviews that just need some tweaking and some which deserve to stay unpublished.

I’m sure that this is some sort of record – 44 posts.

I can’t figure out why I don’t want them posted – they’re not personal or diary-like; they’re actually more like articles and op-ed pieces.

I guess I’m having some sort of blog-crisis… And I’m going through a phase of questions again. The last time was back then.

Recently, I had some opportunities to see rigorous ignorance/deliberate prejudice in action. They were quite astounding – maybe because there was a stretch without much of it for a (medium) while in my life. Having grown up in a pretty activist family, I’ve learned not to have any qualms about speaking up when faced with such stuff. And while in L.A., I saw a very moving, standing-ovation earning play about the awakening of an Oklahoman-Cherokee teen’s activist conscience; upon hearing of her little brother’s shame at being “Indian”, the teen went from reserved athlete to a vocal challenger of her high school’s choice of a native mascot. The play resonated with me – it was seeing the injustice of the first American venture into Iraq which made me go from quiet hijabi in the corner to requesting a meeting with my high school principal to ascertain that the war was going to be covered with sensitivity by teachers.

But now I wonder about the fervor we feel to right injustice. Often, that fervor comes from pride or anger. Witness the bluster behind the indignation at Muslim-baiting set-ups – like idiotic cartoons. You know there’s a lot of anger driving those pumping fists.

When our intentions are based purely on the Qur’anic injunction to “stand forth in justice”, it would be natural to extend that fervor to addressing all injustices; if we are told by our Shuyukh that even a small insect killed unjustly will come before God on the day of judgment to plead its case, than it makes sense to ensure that our energies go into securing justice for all.

So during these acts of ignorance I witnessed recently, I of course spoke up. Some of the things were directed at Muslims, some at the homeless, some at African-Americans; but after articulating my views, I had to examine my intentions over and over. Was I just being indignant? How far do you stand forth without sounding like a broken record?

And I also wonder about the people who get all worked up about the tarnishing of Islam but who don’t give two hoots about Islam itself. I once asked someone quite frankly, “what is this Islam you spent so much time defending?” If you’re willing to commit crimes for it, we don’t want you to defend it. If you’re willing to blatantly flout its very essences – peace and mercy – by your actions, we don’t need your pumping fists. Those fists will just end up punching us where it hurts.

Illness fell shortly after I wrote this blurb on the 12th:

———————————————————

On the weekend I felt like I was in a comic strip.

My parents have a smallish-medium sized wild backyard. It’s a maverick backyard because it’s the only one from amongst its neighbors which has a back fence totally lined with trees. There must be at least 15 – some growing into and out of the fence. And then there are three cherry trees (oh those cherries are the best) and a huge maple tree. Huge.

So you can imagine what it looks like in the fall.

So I went out on Sunday and proceeded to fill up some leaf collection bags. After packing down three extra-large bags, I leaned my rake against the shed and looked at my handiwork. Right at that precise moment, a HUGE wind blew and I kid you not, those trees all cooperated and decided to dump their remaining leaves on the ground.

I felt like Charlie Brown. Good grief.

——————————————————-

And I did get a good grief of an illness for most of a long week. There’s nothing better than a bout of something bad to make you appreciate a ton of things a ton times more.

I knew I was finally beginning to recover when my sister made me laugh without it hurting on Thursday. I don’t think I’ll ever forget her waving the latest issue of the Muslim Girl magazine around while delivering a spiel on winter and sparkly snowflakes (MGM has this whole fashion spread on winterizing your hijab).

It was so good to laugh again. And breathe.

I always think I’m a devotee of the four season balance of Canada’s climate; I grew up tobogganing on Montreal’s hills and skating on High Park’s Grenadier Pond. I even grew-grew up to live close to Ottawa’s Rideau Canal – the longest skating rink in the world. I thought it was fun to spent -30° evenings on the Canal with the rest of the crazy Ottawans once or twice a week. When T.O. friends visited that’s where we’d take them – come freeze yourself on the Rideau Canal!

I always think I’m a devotee of the four season balance of Canada’s climate. But I really am not. Winter is harsh here. With global warming, it’s weirdly harsh. It can do a number on your respiratory system every year.

I’m in Los Angeles as I write this post. And after having already spent some time seeing the benefits of living in a climate that’s even-tempered (except for the occasional, but extremely angry, earthquake “tantrums”), I’m seeing the potential of living unfrozen. You would be out more. Taking pictures like this more:

img_0311.jpg

and this one:

img_0317.jpg

I’m really enjoying being out here, pretending to be knowledgeable about photographing nature ;).

The experience I’m out here for – a conference on diversity, tolerance, openness – is really intensive and thought-provoking. Two phrases stood out for me today:

1. “Sparking Compassion”. The simplicity of this – and its inherent assumption that everyone is spark”able” – is beautiful to me.

2. “We don’t fear the people whose stories we know.” This reminded me of something I heard Amir Sulaiman say once in a prelude to one his spoken word performances: we have to keep telling our stories because if we hide them, they don’t exist and then it becomes easy for others to make up our stories. He meant the good, the bad and the ugly. And today, while viewing a powerful historical overview of American civil rights, I saw the connection between keeping our stories alive and keeping justice alive. In saying/showing/writing/blogging the truth of your experience you are adding to a collective anthology which is organically shaping and creating a new discourse.

The time for the discourse to solely consist of Muslim civil rights groups ambulancing to “the scene” to conduct a rescue mission is slowly fading (though, unfortunately, their services are still much needed – and of course, to be lauded). But now, more than ever, it’s storytime.

In my relatively new stint as a blogger, I’ve heard of being tagged and I was inadvertently tagged once but ducked quickly – and luckily, avoided being found out. But when a writer-buddy, fellow corny-joke lover like Noha, daughter of one of my most favorite older people in the world (her mom), tags me, I have to stop, turn from running, stand as straight and tall as my 5’3” self can and graciously accept. So, here’s 8 random facts about meself. (And I’m tagging Asmaa (before you leave for Egypt), Hajera, Safiyyah, Lalla Mona, Proggiemuslima, Margari Aziza Hill (before you leave for Egypt – hey, is there a running theme here?), Precious Modesty, Debra from Little Imagination – that’s 8 but I also want to include Yasmine from Sweep the Sunshine). And I’m waiting for Hadeel‘s (who’s in Egypt [?])because I KNOW you’ve already been tagged, girl.

1. I like wooden spoons. Not to eat with of course but to stir, boil, saute, bang, and slide around a pan while I imagine my next creative pursuit – in short, use up til they get that nice, much-used, patina-ish look. Then I like to put them in a container and gaze at them – a bouquet of wooden spoons. Hmm, that could BE my next creative pursuit: painting a bouquet of wooden spoons – oh, I really like this tagging business.

2. No one in the world believes me as they watch me struggle for oh so long to figure out a tip or work out what 40 % off $30 is but I WAS IN GIFTED MATH IN HIGH SCHOOL. And I GOT THE HIGHEST MARK IN PHYSICS. But…yes, I did almost fail my requisite biology in first year university so I guess there’s a wheel unclogged in the science and math department up there (but if you tell me the velocity at which it fell off, I can calculate its force for you). But this year, I did try to even it all out by raising little caterpillars (one for each student) into butterflies and then releasing them to take off (at a speed of 10 km/h) into the sunshine. Biology + Physics. Now do you believe me?

3. Commonplacer’s law: even if I love a song and have heard it trillions of times, I will mix up the lyrics (and sometimes, just sometimes, sometimes a lot of the times, the tune). And just as every action has an opposite reaction, God gave me 2 children who can correct me every single time with the exact itty bitty vowel, verses, tune and inflection in place. Why, oh why must I be corrected while in the shower?

And just so you know, I come from a family of talented singers on my dad’s side and just this past summer when I visited her, my cousin in the Middle East told me an ancient truth – EVERY single one of my dad’s siblings has one child who is a musical prodigy; she wanted to know which of my dad’s children had this title. I told her as my siblings never dabbled in music, it could be yours truly – I used to know how to play the piano, I was chosen to play violin in a trio at an important children’s music festival (and faked the whole thing out of stage fright) and then I sang for her. She, a very beautiful person with an astonishingly beautiful voice, decided ancient truths may not always hold water. Maybe I just need voice coaching, right?

4. If I don’t catch the crossing guard’s eye to wave at her on my way to school every day, I am squashed inside. I am not a creature of habit – yes, I fit the mold of artsy, spontaneous, whimsical-let’s-stop-class-and-go-outside-to-draw-a-real-tree, but ever since I started discussing Maoon (small daily kind deeds) with my kids (and which prompted my son to spent half his day holding doors for people – he’s decided he wants to enter heaven on at least that good, small consistent deed), I NEED to wave and smile at the crossing guard to start my maoon tally up right. Just this week to boost my maoon sense, one of my grade 2’s came in beaming on seeing me and said the nicest thing on a day I was squashed inside and had other terrible things on my mind like report cards, tracking-student-growth-forms, reading assessment logs and other such dreadful things which keeps one away from living (and blogging): “Ms. K, you’re always smiling no matter what!” My dear girl, you just got an A+.

5. Just to let you know: that child will not be getting an A+ just because she said such a sweet thing. That’s another random fact about myself. I like to make sure everything’s clear as clear nail-polish. So once in a while, I’ll do a check in to see if you got what I was saying or not and if I offended you in any way. It can sometimes be annoying. But, I do have a friend who came into Islam because of this. She said she had never met anyone who called her after to make sure she was hip with our conversation so she was like, hey, let me hang around with her crowd more. And she did. Do you dig me? Or should I call you up to make sure?

6. I like ironing. Now. Ever since I discovered the secret to good ironing was using a faint misty spray while you pass the iron gently over your child’s school uniform every single morning five days a week for ten months of the year. It actually starts my day nicely. Oh. Oh. I am turning into a creature of habit.

7. I am ALWAYS game to take part in a good practical joke. A-L-W-A-Y-S. That comes from my dad’s side as well – every single one of them is a practical joker. That said, I cannot fake a good laugh for a million dollars. And while I can smile “no matter what”, only a few people in this world really make me laugh. My sister chiefly. My brothers – one who is a lawyer/comedian-at-home (who just came back from Egypt [? ?]) and the other who is a computer programmer/comedian-at-home – come close on occasion. Ok, and the brother-in-law. So if you’ve heard me really laugh (and you’ll know when it’s a fake one), then you are in a select circle – made up of mostly of my family. Hmmmm…perhaps I need to get out more.

8. I like to collect interpretations of hijab from my students. Every morning I have at least 3 drawings thrust at me. And I ooh and aah and secretly put aside the hijabi ones. Lately, I’ve been getting worried because I’ve been presented with some curious pictures showing me in hijab and a hula skirt and bikini top on a beach or as a mermaid lounging on a rock with a bright pink scarf on. Have I been letting my sense of modest dressing go or is the summer heat getting to these kids? But really, they are all quite heart-warming. Still, my all time favorite is the one I received from a special-needs student, John, in a grade 1 class when I first started teaching. I have it somewhere – it’s just one long hijab with arms sticking out and a circle for a face with two huge eyes and a long smile. Whenever I come across it, I remember his huge smile and tenderness. I love it.

Let me see – in my ever-present pursuit of sublimely short n’ sweet writing – if I can state 3 things hanging around my mind in one paragraph or less (see? why couldn’t I have just said: here are 3 things on my mind?)

1. Had a fabulous dinner date with 2 work friends and my sister last night. If I could write a lengthy profile on each of these three people, I would convince you utterly about why the dinner was so fab. Since I am currently into the shortening thing, I’ll refrain and let you simply believe me that they are fascinating souls with their common quality being authenticity. Anywhy, we ended up making individual “life lists” then and there on the back of the meal receipt. Tucking each of our list-snippets (with “insha’Allah” scribbled on top of mine and my sis’ and “God willing” on my friends) into our wallets, we promised to meet on the last Saturday of April 2008 at the same restaurant to see if at least 3 to dos were accomplished. I have a feeling, procrastinator that I am, that mine are going to be done last minute on the weekend before the fateful date. Since my attainable ones involve running (RUNNING – not run, jog, walking) a 5k race, hosting an art showing and getting published, I’m in deep trouble.

2. My father’s Khutba on Friday. In this season of re-birth and awakenings, it was about death. More specifically, about keeping death on the back of your mind as you travel through life. Far from dampening things, my father pointed out that the remembrance of death actually brings daily experiences into a sharper focus. It was a much needed reminder for me in this hectic month.

3. Blogging more. And blogging less. Basically, I want to blog each day but I want to blog less each day. For my longer pieces – especially some special interviews I have brewing – I’ve started another space which I’ll link to soon, insha’Allah.

I’m sighing in contentment over my final 2 paragraphs – so short, so wabi.

P.s. Disconnected Verses is a new blog which features the creative work of a group of Muslim-Canadian writers. If you’re partial to strong writing, you’ll be enthralled.

I’ve been blogging but not publishing.  There’s still more posts to post. I’ll timestamp them and add them later.  April is looking like my busiest month yet.   Besides all the regular home stuff such as taxes and a speeding ticket (blink, blink), there’s poetry month and environmental club at school…

Here‘s a humorous and critical essay about National Poetry Month.

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