Coming back with another exciting feature of the Trailblazers series, where we focus on individuals of our family who spread their wings and took off towards heights previously unthought of and uncharted. In this feature we will be writing about another graduate of the second batch of our Literary Fellowship program, Fatema Bhaiji.
Her Journey through the World of Words:
Before she joined our fellowship though, she had already made herself known and left a mark on us, by participating in and becoming one of the top finalists of The Stories Untold season two. Her story, titled “Holding her Hand”, was in perfect accordance with the theme of our story writing competition, “A War Within”. Fatema, in her book, addressed very boldly the dilemma of having feelings for an individual of the same gender, the havoc it causes on our emotions and inner stability, all the while living in a society which in no way tolerates this. Her book was put up for crowdfunding, and through the help of our community, was brought to print.
With this booming introduction, Fatema came to join the Editorial department of our fellowship program. Halfway through the program, while she was also pursuing her engineering degree in Sri Lanka, she came to the team with her idea of forming a queer lit magazine targeted towards the South Asian community that zeroed in on increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community through art, poetry and stories. In the beginning of the fellowship, the graduates were encouraged to pursue projects of their own and full support on behalf of Daastan was promised to them. When the time came, despite all the criticism and hate that was thrown at the team for powering a magazine of a community otherwise ostracized by all, Daastan stood strong. And so, the Outcast magazine ‘came out’ – its website was launched a little over a month after the idea was rolled out, and its first digital issue came out just a month later.
Acclaim and Applause:
Outcast Magazine was later on endorsed by a global platform, i.e. Commonwealth Writers, and conducted an extension of our Stories Untold Season 4 on their forum, encouraging those from the LGBTQ+ community to put to words any abuse they might have faced, directly or indirectly. Outcast went on to announce a Micro Fiction competition of their own in collaboration with Daastan and White Falcon Publishing, and released their first issue in print the very next year. Fatema was invited to many events as a speaker, one of which was “Salzburg Global Forum” held in Nepal and powered by UNDP.
It was William Shakespeare who said that, “Some are born great, while others achieve greatness”. For the young girl Lareb Soomro, we at Daastan believe it might be both. Being able to bring our author’s writings to print, and in turn their long pinned after dream to reality, is one of the most fulfilling feelings we have ever as a company witnessed. From our Founder to our Editors and Designers, we all hold our breath and stare in awe as each piece finds its way to the racks of Qissa. Every once in a while, however, there comes along an author whose story of having gotten where they are now and achieved all that we can see is so grand that the feeling of awe becomes tenfold.
Lareb’s story of greatness didn’t start when she published her book, in fact they began the day she came into this world. She was born in the small town Larkana, which is filled to the brim with history of resilience and courage, and she became another who would contribute to the legacy. She was born with a genetic defect that required her to go into surgery in the tender age of 3 months. And after she grew up, in her early teens she faced and survived a road accident that left scars on her face. She was haunted by criticisms and taunts, which followed her all the way to her passion of writing, for which she was continually discouraged. She stood strong in the face of everything, and finallypublished her book through Daastan, proving that she had everything that it took to aim for the skies.
Rising to Stardom:
The book made her a celebrity. She was interviewed by 14 news outlets for her story, and even offered the role of a news anchor at Larkano News HD. She believes in facing her demons face first, and encourages all her readers to find solutions for their problems instead of giving up.
Want to be Daastan’s next sensation? Sign up and make a profile on Qissa and upload your work right away to get the process started!
Daastan’s co-founder Sidra Amin, has been long known to be the fairy godmother of mentorship, and always has an eye out for talent that she can groom and launch forward into the world. It was through her that Laiba Sehrish Nawaz first came in contact with Daastan. The beautiful 18-year-old girl from Peshawar, who was a student of journalism, had faced many a trauma since the young age of 9, when she lost her mother to breast cancer. Since then, Laiba suffered at the hands of anxiety, depression, and abuse. Her only solace lay in one thing, putting to words all that weighed her down. Writing to both unburden herself, and also preserve each emotion that found its home in her heart. This was how at such a young age she compiled a complete book of her very own work, and was seeking a publisher to help bring her work to print and start her career as a distinguished writer.
Abduction from the Lethe:
Her book, Abduction from the Lethe, was put up for a crowdfunding campaign, and that is when she bagged the second honor of her professional journey with us – shebecame the fastest crowdfunded author, breaking all previous records and raising her required funds of 35,000 PKR in a week’s time. It was heartwarming to see our community so ready to support a girl destined for greatness.
In the May of 2017, her book went into print. She was later on interviewed by a news TV channel Mashriq, in which she talked about her upcoming book, her struggles, and how Daastan was empowering writers to seize their destiny and materialize their dreams.
The Book Launch:
In the beginning of 2018, her book launch was held in the city of Peshawar. Laiba, having moved to a different city to pursue her passion and study journalism, lacked the funding to fly back to her city for her book launch. Once again, our community came to the rescue, and we raised a fund of 20,000 PKR to cover her airfare. Her book launch was a huge success, where numerous dignitaries from the literature community were present along with creatives and poets, and was covered by Dawn News.
If you have a manuscript that you’d like to see brought to print and become the next sensation of Daastan’s literary community, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or a message on our Facebook page.
Over the years, Daastan has had the pleasant opportunity of involving with us individuals from all walks of life, to help us rework and rebrand the literary industry of Pakistan. We have had intellectuals of the highest order, those seeking Masters and PhD degrees and on the forefront of the pack who will change the world, and also those who carried a dream in their eyes and a fiery passion in their heart, but due to lack of opportunities were not able to put their ideas to work. It was people like these, who rose from the bottom and shot for the skies, that inspired us the most. And so, we decided to showcase their talent to the world.
We at Daastan coined a product by the name of “Trailblazers”, to exhibit the life, the struggle, and the consequent successes of those who we had seen grow. These were the people who we believed walked a road previously not taken, lighting a fire to help all that would follow in their wake. We wanted our community to see how these people’s efforts landed them in a place where they were socially impactful, and empowering not only themselves but also all those who were connected to them.
Upon her graduation, having found a niche for herself which she excelled, she took the step of forming a company which would help authors in digitizing their content, and making it print ready, naming it “Harf Nagar”.