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By Mahsuda, Nov 21 2018 12:13PM

Look here, woman. Look at yourself in the mirror first thing. Suck in your stomach, slap your cheeks red. Think you are fat. Think this is a bad thing. Identify imaginary flaws in your faultless body and wish each one away.


Look here, woman. Look at your sleek collection of bottles and pots, jam-packed with promises of youth and standardised beauty. Believe youth and standardised beauty is something very important to you. This is essential.


Wash. Shave. Exfoliate. Moisturise. Blow dry. Straighten. Conceal. Contour. Pluck. Highlight. Define. Smudge. Glue. Flutter. Pout.


Look here, woman. Look at the body-shaping underwear draped across your exercise bike. The brassier that will give you fuller, pert breasts, the knickers that will give you a flat yet hour-glass figure. Be disappointed when they achieve neither. Remember to breathe as you tell yourself this is comfortable. Then remind yourself to use the exercise bike later.


Look here, woman. Look at eyes looking at you as you leave your door. Realise you are late for the bus but do not run. Know that no one wants to see your bits wobble, or witness your flushed face, or realise you are human.


Look here, woman. Look at the cinema poster on the side of the bus as it parks at your stop. See the beautiful blonde beside the ageing, charismatic lead. Step on the bus and rejoice that you caught it in time yet, when you sit down, feel unsettled without knowing why. Continue to seek the eyes looking at you. Be unsure whether they are looking at all. But do not, for one second, imagine that what they see is worthy. Be unworthy at all times.


Look here, woman. Look at your social media accounts. Flick through images of #weightloss and #fitspo. Convince yourself this is inspiring.


Look here, woman. Look at the dazzling shop displays as you walk down the high street. Stop outside the one with the white mannequins wearing fancy red knickers and lacey brassieres. Desire the stomach of the model in the background image. Read the slogan about ‘Must Have’s. Tell yourself this is fine. Ignore the fully dressed mannequins to the left; chiselled jaws, dressed to impress. Write a note on your phone to come back in your lunchbreak. Set a reminder. You must not forget.


Look here, woman.


Look in that mirror again. Trace the scar across your left brow with the tip of your finger. Witness the face that has laughed, the face that has wept, the face that has fought a thousand battles its lips have never verbalised. Feel the head on your shoulders, consider the brain inside it. Revel in the wisdom of your white hairs and wrinkles. Then grin with a devilish sparkle in your brilliant eyes.


Look here, woman. Look at the battles that are still left to fight. Shift your energy to the pay gap instead of your thigh gap. Reject the words ‘bossy’, ‘unladylike’ and ‘bitch’, unless they are said in praise. Opt-out from the glamorous sale of low-body confidence. Throw out your anti-aging/anti-living creams. #eefyourbeautystandards. Hear the women who have been silenced. Report even when others try to silence you. Be angered when they say “angry women are unattractive”. State that your ‘Must Have’ is human rights. Be outraged for the girls whose knickers are paraded in courts to indicate consent. Protest. Complain. Support.


Look here, woman. Look at the things you have achieved. Say them. Write them. Stick them to the ceiling so that instead of flaws you see strengths first thing in the morning. Understand that who you are is not measured in pounds and inches but in something far deeper than your skin.


Look here, woman. Look here.



By Mahsuda, Aug 15 2018 08:01AM

It’s 8o’clock! Time to kick off the #EastMidlandsBookTour Twitter Q&A. Thanks to everyone who’s sent me your questions. I’ll try and answer as many as I can in the next hour…


Q: What made you start writing?


A: Since I could write sentences! I remember when I was 6 I was asked at school to write about what I’d done on the weekend. I wrote that I saw a blackbird eating a worm. I hadn’t. This is was when the thin line between liar and storyteller was drawn.


Q: What tip would you give young writers?


A: Write what you want when you want. Don’t worry about ‘rules’, punctuation and spelling and whether you have the write tense (this isn’t to say this isn’t important, but you can focus on that stuff down the line). Now is the time to play. Now is the time to have FUN!


Q: What made you write #TheThingsWeThoughtWeKnew?


A: I wrote the first draft when I was 16. I’d been writing for years but this was my attempt at being a ‘proper’ novelist by writing a long (ish) piece of writing from beginning to end. I had a few characters in mind, a vague idea of a story and a thick notebook. I began writing, adding characters and storylines as I went along until, eventually, I got to the end of the notebook. The novel was a mess! I left it in a boxfile for years. Then I came back to it in my early 30’s. So much of it needed to be changed. But I still loved the characters and setting so I thought I’d write it again, but with all the knowledge I'd picked up in the gap between drafts. The rest is history.


Q: How did you get an agent?


A: It was a bumpy road! After coming runner up in the Mslexia Novel Competition one of the judges, who was an agent, asked if she could represent me (and I of course said yes!). She sent 'The Things We Thought We Knew' to editors but no one was biting. Then, unfortunately for me but brilliantly for her, she left agenting for a new job, so I was left agent-less. But I think just knowing that an agent did want my work was a great validation boost (and we all need a bit of a validation boost). I was more determined than ever to get an agent. I’d already had a few successes, winning the Bristol Prize and SI Leeds Prize (I’d just been happy to be shortlisted in both!). With these successes under my belt I approached my top 5 dream agents by email. Out of the 5 agents I approached 3 got back to me in a week! I was then in the strange position of interviewing them. I then was in the strange position of interviewing them. It was really tough, they were all lovely and enthusiastic about the book. But I particularly clicked with James Wills at Watson Little. He had an excitement and belief in 'The Things We Thought We Knew' that won me over (and was also very persuasive). What I would really say for anyone trying to find an agent is don't give up. You will find the person who loves what you do eventually (but the road doesn't end there, you still need to do edits and work, work, work!).


P.S. An agent is worth their weight in gold! Without James I wouldn't have got my two book deal with Transworld or found my lovely editor Lizzy who helped me refine 'The Things We Thought We Knew' so it was ready to go on the shelves.


Q: What keeps you motivated?


A: There’s something inside me that just can’t stop writing. I tried to do this once which I’ve written about in this month’s Psychologies magazine. In short, it didn’t work. When I ignore that something inside me I get grumpy and miserable. And nobody wants that. But in a more practical way, I give myself achievable deadlines and treats if I hit those deadlines. Hot chocolate, a pyjama and movie day, a trip to the seaside or a night on the town. Whatever floats my boat at the time. Knowing that my life is better with writing in it than not is a massive motivator.


Q: What is the #TheThingsWeThoughtWeKnew about?


A: Someone asked me this on FB earlier! The novel is about a British-Bangladeshi girl growing up on a council estate in Leicester. She has chronic pain and is stuck in her room, haunted by the past. It's also about friendship, a pushy (but loving) mum and slugs!


And that’s the end of the #EastMidlandsBookTour Twitter Q&A! Thanks for your Qs and sorry I didn't get to answer them all. Going to curl up now with a mug of hot choc before my last event in Leicester TOMORROW NIGHT! Hope to see some of you there.


By Mahsuda, Aug 3 2018 06:55PM

It's not very often I get to talk about my working class roots and even less about being an Asian, female, dyslexic writer with working class roots so it felt liberating talking to Roughcaste magazine about all things council esates and identidy (link below).


If you fancy a chance of winning a hardback copy of 'The Things We Thought We Knew' pop over to twitter and look at @roughcaste_ feed to see if you can grab a copy. (Not long before the papberback comes out now guys, I am very exctied!)


https://www.roughcaste.com/interview-with-mahsuda-snaith



By Mahsuda, Jul 16 2018 12:33PM

I love the East Midlands and the region features heavily in my novels (current novel Leicester, next novel Nottingham and the third novel Derbyshire) so I've decided, for the paperback release of 'The Things We Thought We Knew', to do an East Midlands Book Tour! I'll be visiting Nottingham, Market Harborough, Leicester and Derby Waterstones stores as well as doing a Twitter Q&A (just send me your question with @mahsudasnaith in your tweet). All events free, just ask in store for tickets. I am very excited to see you all!



By Mahsuda, Jun 11 2018 08:07PM

I often get asked at author events if my novel is auto-biographical. The story is centred around a British-Bangladeshi girl growing up on a council estate in Leicester, so I say ‘no, not autobiographical at all’. And for a long time I didn’t really think it was. I write to escape, to put myself in other people’s shoes, to revel in the fun of making stuff up. But recently when I was asked at an event if I, like the central character of 'The Things We Thought We Knew', have ever suffered from a condition like chronic pain I realised that, in my early 20’s, I had suffered with a mysterious condition that left me drained of all energy, in physical pain and isolated in my mother’s council estate house.


So no, not autobiographical at all.


I’ve written about this in more detail on The Mighty website, a fantastic online community that shares the stories of people living with disability, disease and mental illness. Find the article below and a link to the general website which is jam packed full of interesting and life affirming articles...


https://themighty.com/2018/06/achalasia-inspired-writing/


https://themighty.com/





books

Winner of the Bristol Short Story Prize,

the SI Leeds Prize and author of

'The Things We Thought We Knew'

mahsuda snaith...