King’s Academy, October 6, 2016 – Sixteen-year-old Nadeen Al Qatamine ‘17 has written and published her first novel: The World Through Her Eyes. The novel, which is in Arabic, is a story about the Arab Spring told through the eyes of its protagonist, a girl named Amal, which translates to hope, as she struggles to reconcile her painful past in order to pave the way for a better future. Self-published author AlQatamine was only six years old when she wrote her first book, The Candle, a collection of her childhood musings.
What led you to write a novel about the Arab Spring?
I feel that the Arab Spring is the struggle of the younger generation trying to move towards a better future, but they didn’t plan their next step – beyond the revolution - correctly. So by writing about it, and addressing some of the causes of the Arab Spring and its struggles, I feel that I am contributing somehow.
You wrote your first book when you were only six. How did that happen?
In the beginning I was really just observing things and writing about them. I think the writing came from curiosity. I always felt older than other kids my age, I would rather sit and watch and write than play with other kids. My father is a journalist and writer, so when I published my first book – I was six going on seven - there were so many doubters and accusations that he helped me to write it. So they put me in a meeting room alone with seven adults, and each of them questioned me, and they asked me to write on the spot. I did, and proved to them that it was actually my work.
How have you developed your writing skills since then?
I think writing improves the more often you do it. I tried different styles of writing, until I finally found what fits and what I like doing most. What really helps me as a writer is that I listen. There are so many details in my book that stem from that. Being an observer and a listener helps you focus on the details in your writing. A conversation in the book might be based on an actual conversation I overheard one day.
How do you balance writing with being a student?
It takes a lot of determination. I had to set myself a plan, that I’d write two pages a day. But it didn’t quite work out like that. Some days I would write six pages at once, other days I wouldn’t be inspired to write a single line. You have to let it come naturally. I also have a specific time during which I write, between 12 am and 4 am. When I first started to write the book last year I would get complaints about still being awake at 1 am, but nobody knew that I was writing a book. I didn’t share it with anyone. It meant a lot to me but I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. Most of my writing took place over the summer, however.
What inspires you to write?
Anything happening that affects not only me but people around me. I feel I can’t be happy if others aren’t happy, so writing is a way of expressing myself and speaking up for people who maybe can’t speak up for themselves. It’s a way of showing that I really care about something.
Who have been your biggest supporters?
The very first page was read by Mr. Jazi [Al Saleh] the librarian. He was very supportive. Honestly, if he hadn’t given me positive feedback I wouldn’t have continued. So I started there and then and over the summer worked on it. My parents of course were the most supportive. When I was half way through I gave it to my father to read. He gave me the most negative feedback ever, but that’s constructive criticism! Only two of my friends at school knew about it and read it before it was published. Their encouragement was what made me go out and publish it.
Now the Arabic teachers are displaying the article written about me, and I was really surprised how supportive everyone at school is. My parents also have a lot of contacts on social media and shared it, and it got a lot of attention. I pre-sold 150 copies before it was even published!
What has writing a book taught you?
In my writing I can create my own world and I don’t have to follow any rules, except for the basic ones of course. I can give life to characters and create my own events and build an entire world. It’s literally the best experience you can have. You create your entire world in your room. It’s kind of amazing. Even though you don’t experience the events that take place in the book, when you write them you feel that you are experiencing them and you learn things about yourself, things that you never knew. You discover yourself through writing.
Do you plan on writing another book soon?
I want to write a book in English, and I have the plot all done. Now I just have to get started writing. The hardest part is getting started. You have to commit to it or you’ll never start. When I was writing my novel there were times I wanted to give up, but then I’d come back the next day stronger and things would work out.
What advice do you have for other students who are afraid to take that first step?
I was like them. I was constantly afraid that people wouldn’t like what I presented to them. But at some point I realized that, yes, I am going to be criticized, and that’s fine. Not everyone is going to like what I write. But as long as I am convinced, and I think it’s beneficial not only to me, but to those around me, then that’s enough. Go for it!