Posts Tagged ‘muslim boys’

In pursuit of a publisher…

(This post continues Victory-Boy Meets World…)

I cannot claim at the outset that I hoped or expected to get The Victory Boys published. I’d always felt that I had a chance of having something published one day if it was a good idea and if I had long enough to do justice to it. My recollection is that I didn’t begin the book with the notion that it might be published; I was just trying to say something, maybe even get it off my chest. I know quite a few people who say that the best way of venting their spleen is to write it all down. I totally empathise with that sentiment, but it didn’t do me a lot of good at school, so I try to be very careful what I write these days!

Anyway, after three chapters or so, the idea suggested itself that I was on to a good thing. By the end of it, I was confident that I’d written something worth reading and, heck, if no-one wanted to publish it, I’d jolly well publish it myself! As it was, and particularly because my manuscript was, by design, a Muslim football book, I sent off two chapters to a couple of Islamic publishers (as per the submission instructions on their websites), and busied myself with other matters whilst waiting for a response.

Out of courtesy to the first of the publishers to reply, I will not name them here. It is enough to say that they wrote me a very encouraging reply which ultimately boiled down to “Loved the script; sorry, don’t do fiction.” Oh well.

A few days later, I heard from Kube. The (then) editor, Sister Fatima – an established author herself – was also full of enthusiasm and asked me how much of the book I had written, and if she could see more. I was delighted to pass the whole thing to her, and soon after she told me that she would be referring it to a panel, who would give their collective verdict on whether the book should be published, and what (if any) changes might be required. This process was estimated to take roughly five weeks.

Sure enough, about five weeks later, I found an email from Sr. Fatima waiting in my inbox. Having felt my heart beat just a little faster as time had drawn inexorably toward this response, and knowing very well that – in terms of a verdict – this was probably it, at this point I gave a model demonstration of ‘skim’ reading, finding what I wanted to know in approximately one-zillionth of a second and disregarding all of the finer details!

The beginning of sister Fatima's email

As one may infer from the last part of this excerpt, there were some changes to be made before the book could be published, although this also opened up a period of negotiation and compromise regarding some of these stipulations and suggestions. More on that in the next instalment!

(To be continued…) (again!)

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Victory-boy meets world!

Assalamu alaikum everyone.

Fourteen months (or so) after I wrote the manuscript, the postie has delivered it back to me in book form!

The book, in hand

I thought this might be an appropriate time to outline, in part, the story of the story, if you follow me.

I’d toyed with a few ideas for a manuscript for a while, and even begun writing a couple of things, only to abort the mission in both cases. The main reason for this was that my opportunities to write were more snatches of time than sustained periods of quiet contemplation about the storyline; what would be required to get from A to B; the nature of the characters, and so on.

When the chance to write is limited to half an hour here or an hour there, and especially if these windows of opportunity are opened sporadically and do not occur soon after one another, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain any momentum or to feel like you really know your characters or your direction at all. I was constantly haunted by the inevitability of having left something glaringly incongruous somewhere in the script; quite apparent to every reader but invisible to the beleaguered writer.

So it was that, in the Easter (school) holiday last year, I went to sleep with an idea in my head and woke up in the morning still feeling good about it. I didn’t know where it would end up at that stage, and I won’t (in this post at least) go into the many influences from which the idea was conceived. In any event, I sat down at my computer and wrote the first chapter, much of which remains in its original form in the finished work (notwithstanding the invaluable contribution of a meticulous editor by the name of Yosef, who threw out a whole load of ‘t’s and found much better things to do with the ‘i’s than merely dotting them!)

Since my mother always taught me the importance of keeping the lady in your life happy, I showed the fruits of my labour to my wife, who was quite impressed. This was actually crucial in terms of what happened next, because she was just as keen for me to pursue the project as I was! Accordingly, she engineered a lot more time (than she’d probably hoped at the beginning of the holiday) for the children to be busy with things that didn’t involve their daddy, which meant that I often had two/three hour chunks of time in which to work away on the script. Add that to some sessions burning more than a little of the midnight oil, and by the end of the week we were looking at a completed manuscript…

(To be continued…)

Jumpers for goalposts? (well… chair legs and rugby posts anyway…)

Salam, one and all.

I cannot deny that, when I was a boy, I was hopelessly obsessed with football.

Among the habits I developed during this time, were:

*recreating goals I had seen in my bedroom (to clarify: the recreations took place in my room – few, if any, worthwhile goals had otherwise occurred there to my knowledge);

*drawing stick-man diagrams of goals I had witnessed, either on television or by the team for which I played. (Since I also started out as a goalkeeper (and was somewhat narcissistic) I did detail some of my finer saves as well, though I was certainly no Hasan…);

Hasan: Definitely a better goalkeeper than I.

*arranging my cuddly toys in formation to play out (often frantic) games between chair legs using one of those rubber balls with impossibly high bounceability so appealing to young children – if the placement was just right, it was possible to contrive a shot that would hit both posts a good six or seven times in total, which I assume would be a record were it ever to happen in, er, ‘real’ life…;

*tottering down to the rugby club with my friend Simon, a ball, and a sheet of fixtures he had prepared for the ultimate precursor to ‘Fantasy Football’: we would take it in turns to be goalkeeper/entire-opposing-team, and provide our own commentary as we played out the league games in the manner we felt they should unfold!

There were probably many more examples of cringeworthy, football-related deeds on my part, and one has to wonder what form these might have taken if I have already confessed to football matches with cuddly toys. Years of therapy (read: marriage) and disillusionment at the dismal performance of my own team have helped to dampen my enthusiasm to a more appropriate, balanced level, but it should not be assumed that any of these states of childishness are beyond me, and being the father of two boys is unlikely to help my rehabilitation (I also have high hopes for my daughter Insha Allah…)

Some of the agents provocateurs of my age of football fever were particular comic books, novels and TV series relating to football. I distinctly remember enjoying the sheer amount of football action in the books of Michael Hardcastle (I have no recollection whatsoever regarding plot, but I’m sure there must have been one!) and I have sought to emulate this concentration on the football itself in The Victory Boys. I was also a fan of Roy of the Rovers, especially since in those days I was enjoying a prolonged flirtation with Liverpool FC, whose then player-manager Kenny Dalglish seemed to me the real Roy Race.

My favourite comic book, however, was the Football Picture Story Monthly series. Why, oh why, is there not an equivalent series now? Even speaking as a teacher, I would love to get my hands on some of those books (and dearly wish I’d kept my own…) as it doesn’t take a skilled detective to know that the majority of boys love football, and comic books do not carry the same level of commitment as even a short novel – perfect, then, for the reluctant reader.

However, my favourite football novels of the day (and remember, this is before the day of High Fidelity-the-book, never mind the hugely disloyal film of the same name – the romance of football ruined by the romance of romance!) were definitely, without a shadooo of a dooot: Jossy’s Giants.

For those who haven’t seen it, Jossy’s (Glipton) Giants are a team of one-time losers who are transformed by the inspirational figure of Joswell “Jossy” Blair, whose own career was curtailed before it had truly begun, let alone blossomed. From the pen of the renowned darts commentator Sid Waddell, the books are written with more than a little humour and enough match action to satisfy the young football devotee.

A very tough act to follow, in my humble opinion!

Jamal

Can faith and football flourish side by side?

Assalamu alaikum (peace be upon you) and welcome to the world of The Victory Boys, from Kube Publishing.

In fact, the world of The Victory Boys is not so very different from the world in which we live (except that the characters are fictional, of course, and do not in any way resemble any of the people I have ever known, nor myself in a dark mood…)

Indeed, the inspiration behind the book was in large part my perception of the ease with which community apathy might be replaced by purpose; all-pervading futility by positivity, and how the idea of any one, or handful of individuals, could be the catalyst for dynamic, uplifting change.

Imam Munieb, with ‘black sheep’ Saleem

The main adult character, Imam Munieb (you may have had the, er, pleasure of receiving his Tweets) could only be described, were the word to exist, as a footyphobe. At the outset, he sees absolutely no benefit in playing, watching, or possessing even the most rudimentary knowledge of such base, worldly entertainment. Unfortunately for him, the boys at his madrasa (school) do not share his views on ‘The Beautiful Game’, and given that they’re nowhere near so receptive to his classes, something has got to give…

In the next few posts, with the book release’s imminence imminent,  I’ll be linking the odd excerpt and introducing a few of the characters from the book.

Get involved – let me know your thoughts on the concept, the characters, the excerpts, and – hopefully in the very near future InshaAllah – the book itself!

Jamal