All Stories, a free mentorship programme for underrepresented children's book writers, was launched on 30th March 2021. Here, the eleventh in a series of interviews with All Stories mentees, Words & Pictures Advisory Board member A. M. Dassu speaks to Suad Kamardeen to find out more about her writing and experience as a mentee.


1. How long have you been writing for?


Growing up, I was the child who could spend all day entertaining herself as long as I had books, a pen and paper. I was also a huge daydreamer which proved beneficial during my six years attending boarding school in Nigeria. Living in a hostel was incredibly lonely at first because I was one of the youngest and usually picked on. I found solace in crafting stories where the protagonist was always victorious in school and there was family-related turmoil. Until this day, writing remains, first and foremost, a form of self-care.


2. I love that writing is a form of self-care and helped you through difficult times. What made you want to write for children?


A lot of the profound changes that have taken place in my life have been as a result of the knowledge gained from the library of books I possess. I am a firm believer that stories play a great role in the lives of people and can bring about positive change. I read widely as a child but didn’t see myself reflected in the books I read. And when I did, my options were limited. I have a lot of younger friends, whom I enjoy spending time with, and as I go through life, I think about ways to help them navigate life as well as to remind them that they’re not alone. Writing gives me the avenue to do this.


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.)


My novel-in-progress is a contemporary young adult novel, NEVER ENOUGH, which follows a Black Muslim girl, Sumayya, who wants to be heard, loved and accepted. It explores the themes of friendship, grief, assault and the mother-daughter relationship. After she’s sexually assaulted by a “religious” family friend, she confides in her mum who doesn’t believe her and orders her never to broach the subject again. NEVER ENOUGH takes us on her journey towards self-discovery, self-acceptance and finding the courage to speak up for herself regardless of the consequences.


4. That sounds incredibly important - I'm already hooked! What has your writing journey been like up to this point?


Although I started writing when I was younger, I took a big pause while in secondary school. I was quite good at STEM subjects, and for my parents who migrated to the UK, writing wasn’t a feasible career path, so I focused on my studies. I started writing consistently in 2016 because I had a story I was itching to tell—NEVER ENOUGH. Completing the first draft increased my confidence in writing and instilled in me the notion that writing can be learned. As the nerd that I am, I became obsessed with learning how to become a better writer. From 2016 until 2020, writing was a pretty solitary practice. Mid-2020, I stumbled on a writing workshop by Words of Colour productions, hosted by Patrice Lawrence, and that session transformed my writing life. I started a critique group with someone I met on a Facebook group – a transformative experience. I also became more active on Twitter which allowed me to connect with several writers, including you, Az Dassu, who have been instrumental in my journey so far.


5. You are an incredible writer and it's been a pleasure to have been a part of your journey! What made you apply for a mentorship? Was there anything specific you needed help with?


Although through self-directed learning and the help of critique partners, I have been able to improve my work, the more time I spend writing, the clearer it became that having guided support would benefit my work much more. Having gotten feedback on excerpts of my work, I realised such a support would transform my book in its entirety.


6. How are you finding the mentorship so far?


The All Stories mentorship has exceeded my expectations. The opportunity to work with an editor for six months has been phenomenal, and the masterclasses with publishing professionals are an added bonus. My editor, Emma Roberts, is amazing, kind and patient. Working on my novel has been taxing on my mental health, and Emma has been supportive throughout it all. I look forward to our conversations because she asks all the right questions and nudges me to think about things differently. It’s evident she cares about my story, and it makes the journey more enjoyable.


7. What are your thoughts on representation in children’s literature?


I believe so much work still needs to be done, but I also love the range of recent books out there by authors from underrepresented communities. I look forward to a future where we will be championed for our works without being pigeon-holed.


8. Me too! Who’s your favourite author and why?


I don’t have a favourite author, but I can share my current favourite children’s books: And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando, Boy, Everywhere by A. M. Dassu and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.


Thank you so much, Suad!


*Feature image courtesy of All Stories and profile image courtesy of Suad Kamardeen



Suad Kamardeen is a British-Nigerian Muslim writer. Based in Essex, she would love to use her writing to show that this world is so diverse; there are so many different ways people live their lives. Her writing is fuelled by her desire to impact people’s lives positively, especially through storytelling. She hopes to show black girls, Muslim girls and assault survivors that they are not alone in their stories. Her young adult novel-in-progress, NEVER ENOUGH, made the shortlist for FAB Prize 2021.

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