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#HerStory with Aya Khalil

In conjunction with National Arab American Heritage Month

Meet Aya Khalil an award-winning author and freelance journalist. Aya and her books have been featured in Oprah Daily, Teen Vogue, Yahoo!, Book Riot, Washington Post, and USA Today. Her writing has been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Toledo Area Parent, and many others. Her debut picture book The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story, has won numerous awards and honors. She is also the author of a board book, Our World: Egypt, and The Night Before Eid: A Muslim Family Story, a picture book about three generations of Egyptian-Americans bonding over a special Eid treat. Her forthcoming book, The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale, tells the tale of a girl and her classmates finding out their school district has banned diverse books and they organize a bake sale and protest. Aya is a Muslim Highlights Foundation Storyteller and a co-founder of Kidlit in Color, a group of traditionally published BIPOC creatives who nurture one another, amplify diverse voices, and advocate for equitable representation in the industry. She lives in NW Ohio with her family.

What advice would you give to young girls and/or women that are looking to become storytellers/authors themselves?

Yes, the first piece of advice is to do your research. Spend hours at the library reading recently published books in your genre. Join groups like SCBWI, 12x12 and take classes from Highlights Foundation, The Writing Barn, Inked Voices and check out free resources like Josh Funk Books. Apply for mentorships. Here's a great list of mentorships. The publishing industry is very very competitive, but with hard work, persistence, and figuring out what's selling well in the industry, it can be done. Connecting with other aspiring authors or established authors is also great, many are active on Twitter! Don't message them though and ask them if they can read your work. Check for people who can critique your work or find critique partners (Twitter is also a great place to find them).

What was the hardest part of your journey to becoming an author?

I thought after I had gotten an agent to represent me (also very hard to get), things would be smooth sailing after that. I wrote a little about the challenges I have faced in this blog post here, especially as an Arab American Muslim author.

We'd love to hear about your experience with working with Women of Toledo.

I've met so many great people through Women of Toledo and I love the networking and all of the events WoT hosts! I attended my first event a few years ago and greatly enjoyed meeting new people!

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