All Stories, a free mentorship programme for underrepresented children's book writers was launched on 30th March 2021. Here, the seventh in a series of interviews with All Stories mentees, Deputy Editor, A. M. Dassu speaks to Tasmia Tahia to find out more about her writing and experience as a mentee.


1. How long have you been writing for?


I have always found solace in words, be it in creating stories or poems (I recently discovered a notebook with my one line stories before I could form complete sentences), however I began seriously considering what I was writing when I was 15. Poetry helped me articulate my thoughts about moving into a new school, city and country. This morphed into writing for stage in 2018–19, and finally writing longer form fiction to help me make sense of 2020.


2. What made you want to write for children?


One of the most beautiful things about children’s literature is that there is a lot of hope. I love reading kidlit – everything from picture books to YA – because some of the most complex subjects are woven into simple yet effective stories. For me, writing for children helps me hold on to that hopeful part of me, even when the horizon is the darkest.


3. Can you tell us a bit about the book(s) you’re writing? (Age range, genre and anything else you’d like to tell us.)


The book I am revising as part of my All Stories mentorship is a YA thriller, pitched as Gossip Girl meets The Hate U Give, in a contemporary South-Asian setting. This manuscript is one of the Highly Commended Winners of the FAB Prize 2021. I am also one of the Poets in Residence for the Sensing Bangladesh project by Bok Bok Books. As part of this, I am writing 5 children’s poems inspired by contemporary Bangladeshi art for a British Bangladeshi audience.


4. Sounds great! What has your writing journey been like up to this point?


I have previously written for stage, including plays, spoken word and performance poetry. Then in early 2020, I attended a series of workshops with Jean Fullerton, the current Vice Chair of the Romantic Novelist Association, and subsequently became a New Writer Scheme member of the RNA. In 2021, my poetry was published in Brown Girl Magazine, and a couple of weeks ago, I received the wonderful news of becoming one of the Highly Commended Winners at the FAB Prize 2021. 2021 has been especially great for my writing journey in terms of learning – as well as receiving an All Stories mentorship and being part of the Megaphone community, I have just completed the HarperCollins Academy Writing for Children Course, and I hope to use this experience to build my craft and my confidence in writing for different age groups within children’s literature.


5. Wow, what a lot of achievements! What are your goals for the mentorship?


My main goal for the mentorship is to learn as much as I can from my amazing mentor, Nicki Marshall, and all the incredible publishing professionals who are hosting webinars for us. The world of publishing feels very opaque and complex when looking for the outside, and I am very grateful to have the support of All Stories to navigate this world and build my understanding, which will no doubt help ensure the very best for the book I have poured my heart into.


6. What’s it like to have a mentor for your writing? Is it what you expected? In one word, amazing! Having Nicki as my mentor is a phenomenal experience. Listening to her speak about my story and pick the different threads fills me with joy, and working with her has helped me delve deeper into my characters and plot, and understand my story better. Nicki is an incredible person and superb mentor, and I am grateful to be blessed with her support.


7. What are your thoughts on representation in children’s literature? Literature has shaped my childhood, and is one of my most powerful influences. Representation in children’s literature not only helps us see ourselves in the stories we read, but also opens us up to different experiences. I am inspired to see the new generation of books that are hitting the shelves now, and am hopeful that we will continue to write and produce a variety of books, so not only will every child get to see themselves and their life experiences in the books they read, but also will be able to empathise with unique experiences of others through the new worlds they explore on these pages.


8. What’s your favourite children’s book and why? Growing up, I loved Letters from Felix: A Little Rabbit on a World Tour and the Magic Tree House books. I enjoyed journeying around the world and through important moments in history, while cuddling my favourite teddy and later my younger sister. My current favourites include The Lady or the Lion by Aamna Qureshi, and the Mirage duology by Somaiya Daud. These YA fantasies are set in unique culturally-inspired worlds of forbidden love and court intrigues. They both made me laugh out loud, made my heart ache, and made me wish I was a part of these fabulous worlds, which is epic.

 *Feature image courtesy of All Stories and profile image courtesy of Tasmia Tahia


Tasmia Tahia moved to the UK aged 15 as a first-generation British Bangladeshi immigrant. Like many writers from marginalised backgrounds, she writes because she wants young readers to find stories that reflect their lived experiences, something she didn’t have as a child. Living in London, Tasmia’s writing explores untold stories from the mosaic of her intersectional identities; she’ll be working on her #ownvoices YA political thriller during the mentorship. Tasmia can be found on Twitter @Tasmia_Tahia and on Instagram @tasmiat.

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