Reem Faruqi loves to create and thrives through her chosen art mediums: photos, pencils, paints, and potting soil. After she stopped teaching to become a stay-at-home mom she started her website, Doodling Through Life, to showcase her creative work. Reem’s writing and photography developed so much that she is now a professional photographer and published author.
Her children’s book, Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story, was published in May 2015 and follows Lailah, who is starting both a new school and her first Ramadan fast, as she learns to make new friends who respect her beliefs.
Reem also has two new books projected for 2021, Amira’s Picture Day and I Can Help, and is a children, family, and lifestyle photographer at ReemFaruqi Photography. We talked to her about how starting a website helped to put her on a new path.
Why did you decide to start a website?
When I was just starting out, I reached out to a fellow author to ask how I could get published. She told me I needed to start a blog — I needed an online presence so if someone googled me, they could easily find my work. A couple of picture book editors who have offered me deals for my book sometimes compliment my work on my site.
I also think that even with the rise of Instagram and Twitter, blogging is timeless, and it’s good to have a spot where all my work and photography is featured in one place.
Did you find it easy to get your website set up?
Yes! WordPress.com was pretty easy and whenever I had questions, I contacted the Happiness Engineers for help.
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I love the search and archives features as well as the widgets that connect my Facebook page and Instagram page to the blog. I also made a customized image link where someone can click to buy my book on Amazon, and my photography business has a link to book a photography session.
Did blogging help you to gain confidence in your writing?
Yes! I find blogging an empowering way to write for yourself. I love the feeling when you get to hit “publish” on a post! It is always uplifting when someone likes your posts or it connects to them emotionally.
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You are now a published author! How did you come up with the idea for Lailah’s Lunchbox?
I wrote many stories that did not get book deals. My father always told me, “Write about your experiences that make you different.” Celebrating Ramadan made me different — and I wanted to write a book about a Muslim child fasting in the month of Ramadan.
One summer I researched and read many picture books about Ramadan and blogged about them. I realized none of them took place in school. I knew then that I wanted a book about a girl who “forgot” her lunchbox every day because she was too shy to tell her school friends she was fasting. The title Lailah’s Lunchbox popped into my head one day when I was cooking. I paused flipping over ground beef, took out a Post-it and wrote the title on it, then stuck it back in the drawer to come back to later, and I did!
You moved to the US as a child — does the book reflect your own background?
Yes! Like Lailah, I moved from Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, to Peachtree City, Georgia. Like Lailah, I would go to the library during lunch. Ms. Carman is actually the name of my AP English teacher in high school. I loved weaving in little true details into my story. Even the illustrations on the first two pages portray a kitchen that looks like mine. Lea Lyon, the illustrator, asked to see pictures of my home for inspiration!
How did you react when you first found out your book was being published?
I jumped up and down a few times and ran to call my family to celebrate. After writing many stories for years, I couldn’t believe someone actually wanted to publish my story and turn it into an actual, real book!
Your website offers guidance for new writers. Have you connected with a lot of writers through the site?
Yes. It is easy to send someone a link when I get questions and I have been told that my work is helpful and inspiring. The Writing FAQs were many questions I got over the years and compiled in a quick blog post so it was easy to share. My recent post about how I got a literary agent discusses the struggles about querying an agent and gives advice such as Don’t Give Up!
Your website also features your photography. Do you get many bookings through the site?
My Facebook photography page connects to my blog where I post my pricing portfolio, portrait style guide, photoshoot details, and samples of my favorite work. I enjoy blogging about families that I take photos of. It’s great to have a go-to place where people can check out my work in as much detail as they want and then book!
What is your advice for an aspiring writer or photographer?
To keep trying! Work evolves with time and I think when you stick at it, you can thrive. Also, writing and photography for me go hand in hand. When I have writer’s block, taking photos helps reset my mind. When I don’t feel like taking pictures, writing resets my photography mind too.
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