Hello Ibtisam. Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Ibtisam Ahmed. I am a Bangladeshi currently studying B.A. History and Politics at the University of Nottingham.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing, outside of academic commitments, from the age of nine, though, needless to say, my earliest endeavours were not very professional!
I think everyone can agree with that! What first got you interested in writing?
My maternal grandfather wrote poetry for a living and was an integral figure in our country’s cultural movements. I grew up in the same household as him. He got me interested in Literature and writing from a very early age.
Do you attend a creative writing society?
I have been a part of the University of Nottingham’s Creative Writing Society. I signed up as a member in my first year (2010-11) and was elected its President in my second year and in my third (current) year.
Why did you join the society?
I wanted to be able to write regularly outside my coursework and I thought joining a society would give me the correct motivation.
Do you attend any other writing groups?
I write for the Film & Television section of the university’s magazine IMPACT.
What is the most valuable thing you have learnt from your writing society?
To keep practising as a way to improve.
What genre(s) do you write?
I mostly write dark fantasy. I grew up on Harry Potter and His Dark Materials so I was always a fantasy fan. However, I do write non-fiction occasionally.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I am not a particularly big fan of writing horror though not for any specific reason.
What types of things do you write?
I enjoy writing short stories and articles.
Have you ever had anything published?
I have been published in the University of Nottingham’s creative writing magazine Jabberwocky, the university’s journalistic magazine IMPACT, the newspaper in my high school as well as the children’s supplement of Bangladeshi newspaper when I was younger.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?
I have not sent my writing to any agents or publishers.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
I have not thought about getting any books published yet. However, I do intend on getting some of academic work published and I like to think of getting some stories published at some point. That being said, I have not thought about how.
I prefer reading actual books. I think it has something to do with the fact that I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house which had its own library – my grandfather’s – and I spent many afternoons curled into an armchair with a book open in my lap.
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
I have attended open mic nights as both a performer and an observer, and I really enjoyed them.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
I won the Commonwealth Writing Competition for six years. I also entered various contests in school.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
I enjoy sharing my pieces but it is not a necessity.
Who/what influences your writing?
My grandfather and my brother, who is also a published writer, influence my writing a lot.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
As silly as this might sound, I just start writing and see where it takes me. I then go back and change elements that do not fit.
Nothing sounds silly when it comes to writing. We all have our own idiosyncracies. Do you have a writing routine?
I write every weekend though I do not have a fixed time for it.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I have done both. I find it better to plan ahead for longer pieces and be spontaneous for shorter ones.
Do you have an editing process?
I usually go over my pieces at least three times before I let others read them. I like to give them to a few different people to read and then incorporate their suggestions as much as I can, as long as it does not change my original idea.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
The thing I enjoy the most is coming up with a plot and characters. I love the ability to create my own world without any real restrictions placed on me.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
From a guest lecturer in my first year: “Write plots you, your friend and a complete stranger would all read. But don’t compromise on your style.”
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Write something you would read before trying to write something for others.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
I like to read a lot and I am a massive film fan. I also enjoy playing tennis.
What types of things do you read?
I read a wide range of books. I grew up on a mix of fantasy (mostly J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman) and the classics (mostly Austen), and I always like to read something new. My writing is equally eclectic, but most of my pieces do seem to be either fantasy or period pieces.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
If you mean a specific piece of writing, I would have loved to have written the His Dark Materials trilogy.
What are you working on at the moment?
While my focus remains on my academic commitments, I have been writing a novel about Santa Claus. Though I have not gone very far with it, it is set on the 1st of December in an unspecified future year, with Santa Claus sitting in his workshop after receiving no wishes for Christmas. He reminisces about past Christmases while trying to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer needed in this world.
That sounds really interesting. I'd quite like to read that! Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you for contacting me!
You're more than welcome. Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
These are the first 280 words from the book I am currently writing, tentatively titled A Dark December. I have not edited it yet, so it is still very much a rough draft.
PROLOGUE: December 1, Present DayHe stood in front of the open door of this workshop, perfectly still, staring into its blackness. It used to be such a colourful place, so noisy, so happy, so alive; now it was just a shell, with memories haunting it in a way no vengeful ghost could. Hesitantly, he moved, ever so slightly, his foot just about to step over the threshold when he took a deep breath, shuddered and turned away. Santa Claus, jolly old Santa, he of the rotund stomach, the red-and-white outfit – with matching hat thank you very much! – and the puffy beard, instead turned to the window and stared out across the ice. It was the first day of December and it was dark, cold and dreary outside. He wished that the inside was different.The memories came back to him, as they always did. How he would open his gigantic tome of Childhood Psychology: the Naughty and the Nice this time every year and pore over its pages as if he had not memorised it by heart. How he would look into the heart of every child who wanted something from him and decide, as only an expert psychologist like him could, whether said child deserved the gift they wanted or whether they would have to settle for a token of patience instead. How his elves would help him craft those wonderful gifts and how much fun they had doing it. And, of course, how he would pile them up in his sleigh and, just before the stroke of midnight, he would fly across the world and spread pure happiness to its every corner. What a life that was!
© Ibtisam Ahmed
Thank you very much, Ibtisam.