Young adult fantasy novel

Becoming a Writer: My Journey

First off, welcome to my blog! As you’ve probably noticed, this is my very
first blog post. So let me introduce myself before I dive right into the matter at hand. My name is Nour Zikra, and I’m the author of Dance with the Devil, the first Young Adult fantasy fiction novel in a trilogy. My novel was published in 2011, and I’ve since had other writing endeavors as you’ll learn soon.

Anyway, that’s a nice little introduction, but it’s time to discuss becoming a writer. When did I discover my talent and how did I realize that becoming an author is my goal, my ideal career? A lot of people out there always ask me these questions either because they, too, want to be writers or because they have a big dream tugging at their heart, calling out to them, and they want to be inspired to take that first step. Here’s my journey from that very first step to now:

How I Became an English Speaker

For those who don’t know, I wasn’t always an American. Aleppo, Syria, was the destination I was fated to be born at, and it was there that I learned Arabic along with some basic French, Armenian, and English. When I turned 12, my parents and I moved to Orlando, FL, where the rest of our family lived. I started school—seventh grade—like a fish out of water. I understood some of what went on around me, but I couldn’t communicate with my classmates and teachers.

That first year was the hardest, feeling like an outsider and not being able to do anything to fix it. Still, I forced myself to think thoughts in English, and that helped a bit. Then I met another Arabic girl (who I am still friends with), and for some reason, the school assigned me to be her translator even though I had only been in America for a few months. They placed her in all my classes, and from that day, I went out of my way to translate from Arabic to English and vice versa and to talk to other students. It was a struggle, but it was also a great push. Within a year, I was practically a decent English speaker.Student reading

When it came time for eighth grade, we had moved to New Jersey (where we lived for the next two years before returning to FL). I can’t tell you why, but I didn’t tell anyone that I was new to America. When asked, I said I was from Orlando, and people seemed to believe it. I didn’t have an accent (people can testify to that); this made it easier to blend in and continue learning English without people needing to use simpler words around me.

That year, I read school-assigned books, and the urge to write emerged. I kept thinking, it would be great to have an entire novel with my name on it and people could read the thoughts that constantly pop in my head and which I can’t get rid of. And so, just like that, I started my first novel.

Discovering My Passion

Keep in mind, I was still not the best English speaker or writer. When I sat down to write my first book (a novel about a princess who was being hidden by an Aladdin type-of-guy so a gang doesn’t discover her and her jewels—I know the story sounds ridiculous!) there were many misspelled words, sentence fragments, grammatically incorrect sentences, and what have you. Plus, my vocabulary was limited. So this is what I did: I continued writing.

Writing a novel

I knew my story sucked, but I enjoyed writing. It was a therapeutic experience, like meditating. As a result, I didn’t care that what I wrote would never get published or read by anyone. In fact, that freed me to continue writing. After all, no one was judging my words, and I was able to learn and advance my language at a faster rate.

That first book was no more than sixty pages long; although the story never had a chance to see the light of day, it helped me discover my passion. It was then that I realized that I wanted to be a true writer at all costs.

Transforming into a Writer

I recently read somewhere that you don’t have to publish a work to be called a writer; you simply have to write to be a writer. Therefore, I have been a writer since I was 13 years old. And I can honestly say that not giving up on my talent has helped me grow as a person and as a writer. My courage to write terrible words until those words became not-so-terrible led me to write several novels before publishing my first serious one: Dance with the Devil.

Dance with the Devil by Nour ZikraI was only 18 when that novel came out, and since then, I had gone to the University of Central Florida and graduated summa cum laude (meaning “With Highest Honor”) with a BA in Creative Writing. Not only did I graduate, but I earned several honors and awards, such as the “Outstanding Proofreader Award” from The Florida Review, a literary journal where I interned.

Today, I work at a marketing agency called TCDG Studios where I write marketing content such as business blogs and social media posts. At the same time, I am working on my second novel (title pending). Hopefully, my future book will be another testament of my improvement and success as a writer.

As you have probably figured out by now, my success is tied with my persistence and refusal to give up. Becoming a writer was as hard as deciding to take that first step and write and write and write . . .

Your Journey

Whether you want to be a writer or something else entirely, take that first step. Don’t be afraid. Besides, if you never try, you’ll never reach your goal. No matter how scared and worried you’ll fail and get rejected, you have to try. Just try and see how far you can go. Good luck!

 

You can read a preview of Dance with the Devil below:

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