Book Project Update #1

As many of you know, I am currently working on a book project about Palestinian embroidery with my mother. My mother expressed her desire that I write a book about Palestinian embroidery ever since I was a teenager. From that point on, it was always something that I knew I was eventually going to do.

For many years, I thought about it, felt guilty for not starting it, ignoring the guilt, thinking about it again, starting, feeling guilty, starting again… you get the point. I couldn’t seem to jumpstart this project, and I was experiencing some blockages that I couldn’t seem to break through.

Then came 2013. A personal failure caused me to reevaluate my life’s path. It was one of those failures that make you question yourself, if you are as smart as you thought you were, as kind as you thought you were, or as talented of a writer you thought you were. It was the first time I’d ever experience this kind of failure before, and I didn’t know how to handle it.

By the summer of 2015, I was sick of questioning myself. Just so sick and tired of caring about what others thought about me. Then, I suddenly felt a rush of determination to become a published author.

That fact was/is that I couldn’t work on issues regarding Palestine unless it was related this book — something inside me was unable to. I couldn’t focus on the work, and I didn’t enjoy it. There was something nagging me in my subconscious. I had ignored it for so many years, that it was too obvious of a cause to recognize. Has this ever happened to you?

This was the sudden revelation, that my quest for purpose had been staring at me in the face for years. It was such an easy answer to my existential question, that I almost couldn’t see it.

Maybe wisdom is not about expressing the extraordinary, it’s about seeing what is in the moment and understanding it for what it is. It is that simple — see what is in front of you.

So, I started working on the book again. And I’ve received such encouraging and positive responses from every group of friends, every group of colleagues, and every single person me or my  husband meet (thanks to the husband for always adding voices of encouragement in my life).

Last summer, I began to write again. I began writing poetry, short stories about my travels in Syria and the oral histories of my family — which eventually led to me writing content for this book project.

One day, after helping my mother update her website with a passion project she’s been working with the Oregon Folklife Network the last five years, an apprenticeship program where she individually mentors Palestinian women in the Portland, Oregon area in learning traditional embroidery,  I connected with the director Emily West Hartlerode. I had mentioned to Emily that I was working on this book with my mother, and that I was taking more of a lead on her website so that I could use it to market the project.

Emily immediately began encouraging me to apply to various grants in the Oregon area. Without Emily’s support in seeking funding for the project, I don’t think I would have reached this point in the project. From that point forward, this project had been on the fast track. Here are some accomplishments and successes we’ve experienced so far:

Organic Fundraising Efforts: I raised $1,588 (before fee’s) on an Indiegogo campaign I created. After beginning the grant application process, I realized that there was very limited funding out there for artist equipment. I set up the campaign in order to pay for a new laptop dedicated to the book project, audio recorders, memory cards, and various other items I needed to conduct my research and complete the book. The funder’s of this project will be named on our website for the book, when it is created, and all those who donated $15 or more will be named in the book for an honorable mention, and donors of $50 or more will receive a free copy of the book. With the funds, I was able to purchase a new laptop, and all the equipment needed to pursue the project.

Grants: I applied to 4 grants at 3 organizations; Regional Arts and Culture Council, Brooklyn Arts Council and Clackamas County Arts Alliance. My mother and I were fully funded by all 3 organizations. All publishing costs, studio time (for photography of the embroidery), research trip costs and reading series event costs (and more) have been fully funded.

Research Trips: During my preliminary research trip to Portland in September, before I knew whether or not I’d receive any grant funding, I was able to complete quite a bit.

  • Found and converted 12 VHS tapes into a digital format that includes over twenty hours of interviews with my mother and events that my sisters and I participated in during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. This has served as a great source of content for the book.
  • Recorded hours of interview time with my mother, regarding each embroidery design.
  • Scanned over 100 pages of documents and photographs that include; newspaper clippings of my mother’s work/interviews, events and lectures she conducted, research that was recorded on her embroidery designs, and more.

Book cover and title: Thanks to the feedback solicited of my Indiegogo funders and various other special individuals, I was able to pin down a book title. The final book title is “Tatreez and Tea”. I will need to finalize a subtitle once the book manuscript is complete. I also identified Palestinian-American artist, based in Chicago, who owns the shop Watan (check her out, you will be so happy you did) to design the book cover. Her work is amazing, and I cannot wait to share the fruit of our collaboration.

Writing Process: My writers block has been unlocked. I’ve been writing 2-5,000 words a day (despite having a full-time job). The words are just flowing, the ideas are non-stop… I am inspired most of all I think, by my family’s hope for this book to document not only the oral histories that are indigenous to many Palestinian families– but our childhood. The book draft will be complete and in editing by the end of March.

Events: I’ve secured two reading series venues; one in Oregon and one in New York. We will be conducting a three-day reading series at the Ledding Library of Milwaukie for the Ledding Cultural Forum hosted at the pond house. Beautiful venue, and very conveniently located in downtown Milwaukie. In New York, we will be hosting the reading series at Salam Arabic Lutheran Church that is the only church offering bilingual services in Arabic and English, and is a spiritual home to the exiled Christian communities of Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and more. Reverend Khader and his wife Grace have been a tremendous support to my work and to my relationship with my husband. I cannot wait to give back to the community by offering this event.

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