I am participating, with a Ramadan holiday short story, in the 10th Annual Holiday Contest for children’s writers. My 250 word entry ‘Leading The Way’ is below.
What is 10th Annual Holiday Contest? It is a writing contest put together by Susanna Leonard Hill. the goal is to write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Helper. Plus it will connect contest winners with established literary professionals. If selected, a generous donor will critique a work of choice.
This is very exciting as I currently have five unpublished picture book manuscripts ready to be sent to book publishers. For those that have not heard, my 2020 goal is become the first ever Libyan American children’s published author. To have a literary professional read my work and correct my path would be an immense boost in helping eliminate this despairing oversight in American publishing.
The main rule of the contest is the the focus of the story must be on helping. It can be “poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season.”
I choose to write about Ramadan and a traditional fanoos story often told. While it is not Ramadan right now, it is very possible that Ramadan could happen in the winter months. Islam is based on a lunar calendar, so the months of the year move a few days annually.
Before streets had lampposts, it was very dark to get around for evening Ramadan prayers and other gatherings at the masjid. A fanoos was often carried by little boys to lead their mother and other female relatives. This image is common when telling stories of Ramadan past. Up until this century, and equal rights, it was very customary to find drawings of only boys holding a fanoos.
I set my holiday helper story in Ghadames, Libya, where the women and children travel via the rooftops between homes while the men walk the alleyways below. I have been doing a lot of research lately about my Libyan heritage to incorporate into my first outdoor sculpture art piece.
I also wanted to write a story that had a little boy wearing his brother’s jarid, a rite of passage into manhood equivalent to an English boy transitioning from shorts to long pants. I’ve never seen a children’s story with a jarid and dream of someday having a published book that would showcase this beautifully simple piece of cloth that lives in so many of my childhood memories.
And here is my 200 word short story “Leading The Way” by Koloud Tarapolsi
Zain leaned against the carved wood doors, holding the mint tea tightly. A cold, desert breeze tickling his new arm hairs. “Is this your first-time drinking tea this late?” the old server had asked, when she noticed Zain’s oversized dragging jarid. “I’ve never seen you in the waiting room.” “Na3m, khaltie,” Zain’s voice cracked, “My older brother Fadi came but mama said I was ready.” “What an honor!” her wrinkled face turn into a toothless smile, as she added an extra sugar cube. “To know you are finally brave.” Now, the tea almost gone, Zain didn’t feel so brave anymore. He thought of the long walk home, through the rooftops from the masjid. He knew the way by heart in the daylight. But at night, noises ricocheted off the white plaster walls. Like the forgotten washed bedsheets that flip, flap, snap or cats retelling lunchtime grudges as a growl, hiss, yowl or olive tins falling from overfilled trashcans below with a bang, cling, crash or “Ready, habibi?” Zain’s mama snapped him back to the waiting room. “Na3m, mama, did you finish your Ramadan stories?” “No, habibi, we finished the mint tea. There will be more stories tomorrow and after, InshaAllah.” Zain watched the other women slipping their hennaed feet into their shoes and weaving tattooed fingers into their waiting sons’ hands. “And I will be here to lead you after.” Zain said, feeling the strength in his mama’s squeeze as he held his fanoos high with his other hand. jarid – large outer cloak na3m, khaltie – yes, auntie masjid – mosque habibi – my love InshallAllah – God Willing fanoos - lantern
Please keep me in your du’a for a chance to win and stop by A Crafty Arab on Facebook or Twitter to let me know what you think of my short story.