By Shirin Shamsi
I’m thrilled that my picture book, THE MOON FROM DEHRADUN, will be released on September 13th, 2022. It has been a long journey to publication, one that has taken many turns, and I am so grateful for all the support I have received for this book.
It all began when my children were young. I decided I wanted to write stories for them. I wanted them to know their family history, heritage, and faith. I wanted them to be seen and represented in books they read.
At the time, such books were few and far between, so I sat down and wrote those stories myself. This particular story is based on actual events of my grandparents’ and my mother’s personal experience. This is my family history. I knew I had to write this story but kept putting it off.
Years and decades have passed since I first decided to become a writer. Seven years ago, I reached out to a mentor. I sent a story for critique, and we met in person to discuss my writing. Since it was the first time we met in person, we chatted about our lives. I spoke of my family history and related the story of my grandparents’ harrowing journey during the Partition of 1947. She stopped me and said: That’s the story you MUST write.
I knew I had to write this story, and I wanted to write it. However, each time I approached it, my heart sank. I felt burdened by the weight of sadness it carried. Again, I put it aside, deciding to revisit it later.
A couple of years ago, I took a writing class. I then decided it was time to write this story. I wrote it and submitted a pitch- which earned a golden ticket. I then realized that this story was ready for the world.
In the spring of 2020 Twitter’s DVPit came around. This was the early days of lockdown during the pandemic. I decided I had nothing to lose, so I submitted the pitch of this story. The following day, I was stunned to find there were 7 ‘likes’ from agents and editors. I immediately sat down to send off my manuscript. Within 12 hours I had an agent request a phone conversation. I was so excited. I could hardly wait for the next day.
I spoke with the agent for almost two hours. I felt she was everything I wanted in an agent. She and I connected on our love of books, what we read as children growing up. It was absolutely wonderful. I am still so amazed when I think of all the blessings that have come through this particular story – my mother’s story.
I visited my mother in England last month. I took the proof of my book. I shall always cherish the moment my mother looked through the book, turning the pages, and landing upon the dedication to her, written in Urdu script. This is my mother’s story. She traveled by train, with her parents and siblings. The fear and terror they felt was unbearable to hear as my mother told me this story. I hugged her tight. This is such an important story to me. I hope it resonates with readers and inspires empathy.