Coffee & Conversation with #StillWeRevise keynote speaker, Hena Khan!

We’re getting closer to our SCBWI MD/DE/WV 25 and Still We R(ev)ise Annual Conference! If you haven’t yet, be sure to register so you won’t miss any of the fantastic speakers and presenters we have lined up, including Hena Khan, our closing keynote speaker and today’s guest in the cyber chair. And have you missed any of our previous interviews? No worries, here’s the links:

Hena Khan

Like so many other writers, Hena Khan grew up with her nose in a book. She still thinks of the characters and stories she absorbed years ago. That’s why she loves writing for kids—in the hopes that something she wrote will help shape them. Hena explores her Pakistani American culture in her writing, along with space, spies, and adventures. Amina’s Voice is her most recent middle grade novel. She also wrote the forthcoming chapter book series, Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream, and several picture books including Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, Night of the Moon, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George.

Presentation: Closing Keynote: Writing with Love (Sunday)

And now, on with the interview!

What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen? And now, as an adult?

Little Women, Little Women, and Little Women! Okay, seriously that’s been my favorite book at every age. I also loved Ramona Quimby books as a kid, Roots as a teen, and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri as an adult. I’m currently mostly reading a lot of amazing middle grade fiction, and a few new favorites are When You Reach Me, A Long Walk to Water, and Lucky Broken Girl.

How were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?

I was largely inspired to write the Zayd Saleem: Chasing the Dream series by my husband and sons and their antics, including their passion for (read: obsession with) all things basketball. My husband told me about a ridiculous choice he made as a kid that led to him getting in trouble, which had to go in the book! I also loved drawing tidbits from other people in my life, including my parents, friends, and siblings, to create a colorful cast of characters and storylines.

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now? 

In high school I thought I would be a psychologist, working as a counselor and helping people with their problems.

You magically find a $100 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it?

Probably a split between some decadent bakery treats, books on my TBR list, and lots of fresh flowers.

What is your favorite quote?

When I was a kid, I bought a notepad with this quote on it, and I loved it:

“To be is to do – Socrates

To do is to be – Sartre

Do Be Do Be Do – Sinatra”

I’ve seen it attributed to Kurt Vonnegut but don’t know if that’s true.

What do you enjoy doing when not writing?

I really love traveling with my family when not writing. I studied international affairs, had a career in development, and always dreamt of living overseas. Instead, I’ve lived in the same five-mile radius my entire life! So now we like to get away and explore new places whenever we can, and have been fortunate to visit some amazing sites!

If you could sum up your best advice for new writers in only four words, what would they be?

Ignore your inner doubt.

YES, that is something I really struggle with! And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work? Late at night

Music to listen to while writing? None

Trick to staying motivated? Interacting with other writers or listening to interviews

Pair of shoes?  A worn in pair of sneakers

Guiltiest pleasure? Napping in the middle of the day

Line from a movie? “Have fun storming the castle” from The Princess Bride.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Hena, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

And as always, happy writing and drawing, everyone!

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About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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