Sunday, February 1, 2009

Getting Plot

Yay! I’ve done it.
Well, no, I haven’t finished my manuscript, but I’ve made a discovery.
It may not be anything new to many of you—but for me it ‘s big.
I have made peace with the idea of plot.
Plot is the driving force behind a novel. Otherwise it’s a series of vignettes with nothing tying them together.
I finally found the plot for my story. It took me time. For some reason, I wasn’t clear on it.
Don’t laugh at me. I have to admit I felt a little silly after it clicked. After all I am a teacher. I understand that stories have to have a problem and solution. I’m also a big reader so I know the problem is what drives the story.
But it wasn’t until I began writing my novel that the idea of a concrete thread tying all the pieces together made sense. In the novel I initially wrote, my main character, Maya, was trying to figure out her identity. I thought that was enough. She travels to the West Bank and discovers her true identity. But it was too vague. What drives Maya to discover her true identity? Something has to tie the threads of her West Bank experience together. And it has to be something concrete. It wasn’t until I came up with that something concrete that the novel began to really and truly move forward.

I have to thank Paulakaymac for listening to me and advising me. And I also want to thank another blogger , the Plot Whisperer, who’s December plotting month helped me along. Once I complete my first draft, I intend to go back to complete her December plotting month.

Have any of you ever had that kind of epiphany? About something actually so within reach but out of reach at the same time?

Writers, have you ever thought up?

Have you?
I have.
There are so many times I wanted to throw my manuscript away forever. It’s easy. Just chuck it away and let it go. I get that feeling when
1. I’m stuck.
2. I feel insecure and unsure of myself as a writer.
3. Have the ideas, but don’t like the way the plot is moving.

So what do I do when I feel that way? Do I actually walk away? Do I actually throw it out? Sometimes.
But I always come back.
Staying away helps me gain perspective.
I get busy with other things that either inspire me or things that make me feel good about me. Some ideas are: reading a good book, reading my online friend’s blogs, do something simple I know I’m good at—like playing with my children and seeing laughter light up their faces, or join a spinning class (that’s a sure way to get those feel good hormones—endorphins—working) or even go for a walk to try to enjoy some stillness and quiet.
Once I’ve created some space between myself and my manuscript, I come back feeling refreshed and energized.
The space and distance gives me back my confidence and my will to keep moving forward.
It’s easy to give up.
Give yourself some space and then come back with renewed vigor to tackle your writing. Remember perseverance goes a long way.
Have you ever wanted to give up? Share your thoughts.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spring into Winter

I usually avoid talking about the weather. But, in Dubai, at this time of year it 's hard not to appreciate it every minute of every day. We have such balmy, miserable summers, that the winters are, in contrast, heavenly. Every part of my body sighs and relaxes into this blissful state as soon as the weather cools and I can spend more time outdoors. I say winter, but it's really spring.

Everything and everyone wakes up at this time of year in Dubai. Children play outdoors-- laughter, bikes, games of catch and hide and seek. Birds coo regularly. They flit from tree to tree, showing off their bright colors. The sea beckons with its large, cool, bright blue waves swishing and swooshing to the shore. Dubai's outdoor cafes and restaurants finally begin to bloom as people fill them up with quiet evening conversations.

I love Dubai at this time of year.

A haiku attempt:

gentle Dubai breeze
dozing in the warmth of sun
sighing in my soul

Sunday, January 4, 2009


On New Years day, I was invited to my cousin’s house to celebrate the New Year—Greek style. My whole extended family—made up of about 60 adults and children—had a wonderful time eating, drinking and lounging about in her beautiful garden. With the sun shining on our faces and the cool Dubai spring breeze causing us to wrap light sweaters tightly around us, we celebrated the official beginning of 2009.

In honor of the New Year, my cousin, who is married to a Greek/Egyptian ended the lunch on a traditional, but fun note— the honoring of St. Basil, one of the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Vassilopita, also known as the St. Basil Cake, is the heart of the tradition. What is the Vassilopita? It’s a Greek type of pound cake baked with a hidden treasure: a wrapped coin. No one knows where the treasure is hidden. The only way to find it is to cut the cake into slices. One slice is cut per family or person present at the gathering. According to Greek tradition, the person who gets the coin will have good fortune for the rest of the new year. Because of this, the cutting of the cake has to follow some specific rules.

My cousin held the cake up high as she placed it at a center table. All the families gathered around the cake. Because of the sheer size of our family and the small size of the cake, slices were predetermined ahead of time and by family rather than by person. My cousin’s husband called out the names of the families before he cut each piece. We all waited eagerly to see who it would be. There was so much laughter and yelling as we all searched for the coin in our allotted slice of cake. A lot of cheering and booing later, the coin was finally found.

I’m not sure what it was about Vassilopita, but this tradition left me feeling all warm and toasty inside. I’ve decided traditions do have an important place. I think what touched me the most was the spirit in which it was done. There was so much fun and laughter as well as teasing—all in good form. And somehow, it brought our family closer as we celebrated this special Greek Orthodox tradition.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My picture Book--Raya's Globe. January 1, 2009

Raya's Globe is about a girl who doesn't know where she's from. She goes on a virtual journey using the globe in her room to help her come to a surprising discovery. Raya's Globe has been published here in Dubai by Jerboa Books (, a locally based publisher. I wrote Raya's Globe three years ago, but it was released in Dubai books stores in September. It is a book many expat children can relate to. It is actually based on my oldest son, Zayd, who came home from school one day to ask me, "Mom, where am I from? I was born in Lebanon, I have an American Passport, you are Palestinian, I live in Dubai and lived in Saudi Arabia till I was 5--where am I from?" He was truly perplexed! From that question, Raya's Globe was born.

That question continues to be one we often discuss in our family. Where are you from? Is this a question you wonder about?