1. You have created and managed so many projects. Which one did you enjoy the most and why?
I loved creating The Belonging Project, because it connected my childhood experiences of leaving Iran as a child with the experiences of children and adults in Scotland, my home now! I got to hear about so many other remarkable journeys from participants - as short as a walk to school, and as long as travelling around the world. Sharing those stories helped everyone involved in the project realise that we have a lot more in common than we realised.
2. What influenced you to create ‘Open Book’?
I started Open Book with my friend Claire because we wanted to hold reading groups that were open to everyone and didn't include homework (which is why we do all the reading aloud in the group), and because we wanted to provide community readers with the chance to attend a book festival. Now we run over 70 reading groups a month that include people who don't read, have problems with their sight, have English as a second language or just feel lonely and come along for some company! This year, we've taken over 300 of our readers to book festivals to see an author they'd been reading in their groups. And we're growing!
3. Your poems have such powerful meanings. Why do you base your writing on these topics?
Writers often say that we don't choose what we write about, and I think that's true for me too. I don't set out to write powerful poems - my poems come to me as a kind of an itch, and I can't help but scratch it by trying to write something in response. Lately, my poems have been about Iran because it's portrayed so badly in the news and my memories of it are wonderful. But mostly, it's whatever occurs to me, and are really just my way of showing how I see the world.
4. ‘The Belonging Project’ is a creative writing project. Other than poetry, are there any other forms of creative writing that you enjoy?
I love short stories too - though I've never managed to write a good one! And I'm a HUGE reader - and will read whatever I can get my hands on, including fiction, non fiction, graphic work, anything really! Reader is the most important part of being a writer; most writers need to spend more time reading than they do writing to be good at writing.
5. What is your top tip for someone who is looking to get their work published?
Don't be dismayed by rejection. The first poem I had published by a reputable publication was rejected by many others first, and the most prestigious magazine I've ever been published in took a poem that had been turned down by many others. Each editor has a vision of what they are looking for (sometimes even for that issue), and just because your work doesn't fit into that vision doesn't mean it won't fit elsewhere.