"I laughed out loud as Almira struggled to fit in with her traditional family as well as the rest of the world."
-Sydney Salter, author of SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK, JUNGLE CROSSING, and MY BIG NOSE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS
BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. deftly combines humor and poignancy with an authentic teen voice set against the multicultural background of vibrant Miami and Almira's loving yet-strict Muslim family. The book's universal themes will resonate with all teens balancing family ties with coming-of-age conflicts."
-Paula Yoo, author of SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY, GOOD ENOUGH, and SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS
Please welcome author/blogger/teacher Medeia Sharif!
How long did you work on BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. before you started querying?
I worked on it for five months before I started querying. Then I revisited the manuscript after a round of rejections, made it stronger, and started querying again.
How long did it take to find your agent? Your editor?
About nine months after starting BRE I found my agent Marlene Stringer, and this was after a few months of querying. After finding her, it took approximately a year to get a book deal (but my editor was interested months earlier). I’d say for both it took approximately 3-4 months.
That's pretty fast in the publishing world. You’ve had other agents before you signed with Marlene. Did you have books that came close to publication as well?
With my first agent that didn’t happen. After her, I signed with someone else. We got one strong nibble on one of my manuscripts, which was adult fiction. But my writing wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready. So, that was my closest call before BRE. (You can read about some of her earlier novels on this fun blog post.)
BRE sounds like it does a great job of capturing the feelings of a first generation American struggling between two cultures. How much of the story reflects your own high school experience?
In high school, many times I felt out of place at home and at school because I didn’t want to conform to someone’s idea of how I should act and I didn’t confirm people’s expectations of me. I remember what I wanted didn’t always sit well with family or classmates. I felt like I was sitting on a fence between two ways of life and not fitting in.
I’ve never celebrated Ramadan. I grew up with it, but never participated.
Oh, I love the irony there :)
Even before writing BRE, I wanted to write a book centered on the holiday. My first inkling was to write a MG book with a male main character until Almira popped into my brain. I liked the idea of the purification and self-restraint associated with the holiday, and both of those elements are mentioned in the novel.
So in a way, I guess it's similar to Lent, right? What does Ramadan commemorate?
The Koran was revealed during the month of Ramadan. Also, it’s a time to rid oneself of sin and get closer to God.
As you wrote BRE, did you have a feeling that this was the one?
Yes. I wrote adult fiction prior to that, but most of it centered around teenagers!
Ha! Love it!I finished my first manuscript when I was eighteen, and practically everything after that was a coming-of-age type of story. Once I switched from adult to young adult (BRE is my first young adult piece), something clicked with me.
Are you still teaching full time?
Yes, I’m a full-time English/Reading teacher.
So how much time do you actually get to spend writing?I write a half hour to an hour a day depending on my schedule.
It doesn't sound like much but the time adds up quickly and it has obviously worked for you! What are you working on now?
I’m working on a sequel to BRE and a young adult novel unrelated to my debut.
Okay, one last question. How do you pronounce your name? meh DAY ah or meh DEE ah? Medeia’s pronounced like the Greek mythological character, meh DEE ah. Then Sha-reef.
Good to know! Thanks for stopping by. I'll be looking for BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. when it comes out in July.
Thanks for this great opportunity.
You can find Medeia around the web:Website
BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. will be available July 8 from Flux.