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Festival Favorites: Uzma Jalaluddin

Posted: 11 October 2019 Author: sikuska

With more than 180 storytellers from 30 countries, this year’s UWRF lineup is a treasure trove of discoveries. Each week in the lead-up to UWRF19, we speak to a writer whose work you may not have encountered yet, but who could well turn out to be your festival favorite. This week we hear from Uzma Jalaluddin, a parenting columnist for Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star, with her debut novel Ayesha At Last optioned for film by Pascal Pictures.

When and why did you start writing?

I’ve always been a reader, and my writing emerged from that interest. Even as a child, I would read everything – the backs of cereal boxes, children’s magazines, etc. I remember writing short picture books for school as a child, and later I kept a journal for many many years where I finessed my writing voice. I began to seriously engage on the work that would lead to my publication much later, as a married mother and teacher.

What’s the most extraordinary place your work has taken you?

In a metaphorical sense, the most extraordinary place it has taken me is to a place where I feel more confident and sure in my abilities as a writer. When I began to write for magazines, and then for the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper, I began to feel that I was in command of my writing journey in a way I never had been before. In a literal sense, being invited to the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival has definitely been a highlight of my writing career so far!

Accept critique and feedback gracefully – honest feedback will help you become a better writer.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite?

My favourite part is outlining (I know, most people hate this bit!). I enjoy putting my ideas in order, and crafting the bones of my story and character from the random thoughts and ideas I’ve been mulling over. After that, I enjoy writing the first draft, where I get to see my story and characters come to light. I am a drafter, so the many drafts that follow can get tedious, but are necessary to my process.

What issues and ideas are you hoping to explore during UWRF19?

I am looking forward to meeting the many artists and writers who will attend UWRF19! The line up looks amazing, and as a writer from North America, I am especially excited to meet writers from around the world.

Who do you hope will be in the audience?

I am excited to listen to many writers…perhaps some whose work I am not familiar with, but who will inspire me to explore new ideas and their words.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Writing can be a lonely business. It is so important to find your support system, ideally writers who are on a similar stage of the writing journey as you. Also, seek out mentors, generous people willing to guide you on your way. Accept critique and feedback gracefully – honest feedback will help you become a better writer. Finally, never stop reading, and reading widely. You never know where your next idea will come from!

For those unfamiliar with your work, what do you suggest they start with?

I’m a debut novelist, so please start with Ayesha At Last, my first novel.

What are you working on now? Where to next for your writing?

I just finished my second novel, and am mulling ideas for my third novel. I tend to write about communities, and people who live in third spaces – such as the children of immigrants in Canada.

What are you most looking forward to at UWRF19?

Being immersed in the literary experience of being surrounded by writers and artists. Exchanging ideas, learning about new books, and meeting other people engaged in the creative arts. Writing can be very isolating, so this is the part I love, being able to talk books and process and craft with other creatives!


Uzma Jalaluddin is part of the Main Program panels The Hijab Files and Rewriting the Classics. Get your 4-Day or 1-Day Pass here. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. You can also follow her writing on her website.

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