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One Minute Interview - BritBangla Members

One minute interview gives you a chance to hear about your fellow members, as we share with you the array of
members from various backgrounds and professions who are part of BritBangla.

BritBangla is about its member, highlighting our outstanding individuals and displaying the talented professionals
and entrepreneurs within the network.

Through this hopefully you will get brief insight of a member’s profession be it it’s in the world of music or environmental
campaigner and will play an inspiration to you.

We are starting with members who are in the world of media… so here’s introducing you to Saj Choudhury who’s a BBC
Sports Journalist and many you may already know him from our networking events too.

Drop BritBangla line if you are keen to be featured!

Email: britbangla@britbangla.net

SAJ CHOWDHURY - BBC JOURNALIST

Q. So why a sports journalist?

Well, I studied journalism at Leeds Uni and lived with five other lads where sport was one of the major topics of
the household. Best not discuss the others!

By luck, I landed an opportunity to work for three weeks unpaid for, as it was then, the sport sub-section on the
BBC News website in 1999 - a year after I had graduated.

Even though I had trained as a journo, my main role was cropping pictures and audio for stories written by others...
my bosses eventually trusted me to write stories and made me a staff member. Bless them.

Q. Not many Bengalis writing about sport are there?

Very true. I guess I'm lucky that my mum was, and is, pretty cool about the field I went into. The fact I work for
the BBC does tick a box for those who were so hopeful that I'd become a .......well, you know which trades.

There are already a few making their way in media too, which is brilliant. I think parents are becoming more open
to the idea of letting their kids explore less traditional fields of work - long may that continue.

Q. Any career tips to making it into the world of journalism?

If anybody wants to make their way in journalism then I suggest they offer their services to the local papers.
Build a portfolio of stories. Big media institutions prefer a candidate with experience more so than one with an
Oxbridge degree. Also, make sure you're not scared of cold-calling - if you want that scoop, then be prepared to pick
up that phone.

Q. What's life like at the BBC? Is it quite snobby?

I'm into my 11th year now at the BBC so I've encountered a wide-range of people, of which about 99% were lovely.

Of course, there is snobbery at every place of work, but at Television Centre most are pretty down-to-earth - the
chattiest are usually the news presenters. Recently, I had a brief conversation about soup with Zeinab Badawi - it
can be quite a random place. In case you're interested, Badawi is a fan of pea and mint.


Q. Who have you interviewed? Any memorable moments?

In the world of sport, I've interviewed greats such as Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, Jurgen Klinsmann, Cathy Freeman,
Venus Williams, Boris Becker, Lewis Hamilton. It's been amazing, but surreal.

I've also interviewed Zara Phillips twice, at Sports Personality and Sport Relief. Because she's royalty, there were
moments where my northern accent suddenly turned very RP. It was also quite unnerving having her entourage
watch your every word.

As mentioned above, I worked on Sport Relief 2010 and had the chance to 'grill' people in the world of entertainment.
During the filming of a special A Question of Sport, I was asked to chat to comedian Frank Skinner. Unfortunately,
there was one question I asked that was grammatically incorrect (basically, conversation-speak) to which he
responded with the rhetorical, "Who are you? Dizzee Rascal?"

Q. Is there anything else you would like to do?

I guess we all have dreams. I want to write a comedy and/or a drama. I also want to write a book for kids.
Better start typing...

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DISHAD HUSAIN - DIRECTOR/CAMERAMAN

Q. What do you do?

I film and direct for television and independent films. The work varies a lot - one moment I'm working on 'Police
Camera Action!' on ITV and then a week after I could be filming a United Nations sponsored documentary on
Northern Uganda. My work generally has a comedy angle to it…although war crimes in Northern Uganda wasn't
really a laugh a minute…but I like to think there's a certain look and feel to all my films.


Q. Are there many Bengalis doing what you do?

There's not a big community of Bengali film and TV people but if you look hard enough you'll find them …can't
name any at the moment but they're out there!

Q. How do you get into it?

I did a lot of student films from the age of 15 to university winning a few awards and that got me into the National
Film and Television School. From there I worked my way with some big production companies like LWT (now ITV)
and TWI (now IMG) and just kept going.


Q. Is it easier to stick to one thing in media?

It's easier for your prospective employers in this industry to stick to one genre or discipline. But I don't do that.
I love working on serious news programmes and then directing a comedy advert. The variety actually helps in giving
my work a certain look and feel - and you constantly learn more working on different productions.


Q. What's been the highlights so far?


Making a couple of short comedy films on my own which did really well at International Film Festivals.
With comedy it's a great feeling to sit in an audience and see the audience laugh out loud to your film. I remember
one festival in Los Angeles sitting in a Cinema that Quentin Tarantino just visited called the Arclight on Sunset Boulevard.
It was the first time my film was to be played in the States. Would the Americans appreciate my humour? They did and
we won Best Short film that year!

Q. Advice for those wanting to get into the industry?

Don't do it! Okay I'm not completely joking. It's an oversubscribed competitive industry. Good pay isn't guaranteed
and it's filled with some seriously strange people! So if you want to do it - do it because you the love the journey not
the destination. That might sound like a Disney lyric but the reason why I'm in this business is because I sincerely think
my comedy work will do some good when it comes to making audiences think and feel about certain subjects. I've been
in the industry for 10 years and seen a lot of good people drop out of it because they didn't get opportunities. One of the
reasons I've survived is because I just keep going - whether it's a dangerous documentary about cops, a promo that needs
to be made impossibly fast or a wedding video I'll say yes just so they can subsidize my film projects that really motivate
me - and I also just love using a camera!


Q. What's coming up?

Building up my production company called Imotion and working on bigger and better films. My adverts and promo work is
getting more attention with bigger clients. And getting my first feature film off the ground is taking longer than expected…
but nearly there…

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SAMIUL KAMAL-UDDIN - ARCHITECT

Architect, Samiul Kamal-Uddin, graduated from Bath and Oxford Brookes University. He moved to London in 2002,
has been working full-time since mainly in the UK, also in USA and Africa. Also, he's involved in youth mentoring
and is passionate about the young to achieve their potential in life.

Q. What made you want to pursue Architecture?

I enjoy being creative...Well, I think it started with my passion for art. I would draw anything as a kid. Also, the
fact that I always had an endless supply of lego to play with probably fuelled the creative juice.

Luckily, my father was open-minded enough to fuel my interest, rather then lead me away from it. When I was
12, my father suggested I could be an Architect - he explained it was someone who had their drawings built.
I think he could see I was not particularly keen on Science or Maths - and that I was happier with a crayon in my
hand, so he cunningly put the idea in my head so that at least I would still pursue a 'profession'. I was hooked.
It fascinated me that I could help to change the environment, and literally leave my mark. I suppose that's what
still gives me a buzz.

Q. So you're handy with a pencil?

I like to think so! Even though you can use 3D programs now, and the technical info is all produced on CAD, the
first hand sketch can still provide an atmospheric aspiration and provokes an emotional response that computer
graphics cannot. Basically, I get to show-off in a fraction of the time.

Q. Is it a long training course to be an architect?

It is roughly, you need a Degree and a Diploma, and need to get qualified. The whole course is about 7 Years;
though it has a great deal of variety, as you don't just study at university. Work experience, overseas study visits,
foreign exchanges all form part of the training, so I always found it fun and challenging.

Q. Architects have big egos don't they?

Some do, especially, the ones with the big black glasses, and black roll necks. Though that generation of Architects
are phasing out….and I think the recession definitely brought all Architects down to earth!

Q. Are you building anything interesting?

Well, I'm a lead designer in a team doing a Medical HQ that has just gone on site near Reading. It's for Stryker Ltd
and they are leaders in the worldwide orthopaedic market. They mainly design and distribute human joint replacements.
Quite cool - looking at the titanium alloy joints reminds me of Terminator!
Another project I have going on is regenerating some of the shops and courtyards Windsor Town centre to make it
more modern and attractive.

I recently finished an office in Leeds for Land Securities with the company I work at ESA Architects, one of
UK's leading architectural practices - I did all these crazy orange and red walls that began at the entrance and then
wiggled its way around the space creating the reception desk, meeting pods, and ultimately becomes a servery/bar
at the end. The client and everyone who use the space really love it, and said how much they like working there.
That made me happy.

Q. So is it actually rewarding?

For me it definitely is and I do enjoy being an Architect.
Although it can be frustrating that getting a drawing to become a reality can take so long! Only a small percentage
of what we design actually makes it off the drawing board or computer screen, as is the case nowadays, so we suffer
from the 'frustrated artist' syndrome.

Q. You're quite passionate about helping the young people, how did that come about and why?

Outside my busy '9-5' job…I'm involved in setting up a Mentoring Programme that I heard about through BritBangla.
I work with a number of schools in East London to encourage students to pursue a more positive future.
I find it rewarding and recommend others to give mentoring a go. I've already done a talk to parents/ teachers,
and the next task is to set them a project so that they can get into teams and design a cool building. Maybe a games den.

I got into mentoring to make a direct positive impact on our society. This relates back to why I pursued Architecture
in the first place, except also I wanted to do something immediate as buildings take time. Youths are vulnerable to
influences, good and bad, that determine how they will turn out as adults, and what kind of impact they will have
on society as a whole eventually. I have personal experience with growing up in the UK, and questions surrounding
identity, career, etc are familiar to me as a British Bengali so kids can relate to that too.

So being involved in a Mentorship Programme allows me to bring my experience and helpfully encourage youths to
consider and realise that there's a wide variety of positive options for them. I know this can make a difference, as
having already done a talk, it was really rewarding for me to have the parents thank me afterwards which made me
realise that they also appreciate 'stepping out of the box', and assisting their children to make a better future.

Q Finally…anything you really want to build?

Build a decent space station!
No joke…I read they had Architects involved in building the current one due to be completed next year, but because
of budget constraints they did not take on board any of the comforts for the astronauts. They don't even have a hot
shower!. Also, the site visits would be amazing…

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NAZ KABIR - MARKETING & EVENTS MANAGER

Prince Faisal & Governor of Madinah

Naz Kabir, a Marketing and Events Manager who graduated from Hull University and has spent his professional career
yo-yoing between Birmingham and London. Currently working on the global educational initiative, 1001 Inventions,
promoting a thousand years of scientific achievements from the Muslim civilization.

Q. Why Marketing?

My goal was to become a gritty warts-and-all documentary producer...but after I graduated with a BA in Mass Communication
& Media, l had to carve out an alternative career.

Q. So is Marketing easy to get into?

My advice would be train up in CRM (Customer Relations Management), online and digital forms of Marketing as these are the
growth areas. Traditional marketing is in decline, but I'd like to think there could be a resurgence soon.

Q. Any memorable moments?

Yes, working for Dr. Gunther von Hagens and his BODY WORLDS Exhibition. Before you ask, yes he is the weird creepy
looking guy who did the live autopsy series for Channel 4.

Q. What are you working on now?

I've just returned from New York launching the 1001 Inventions Exhibition in USA. I'm really enjoying working on this
exhibition as it's a mammoth task trying to re-educate the world's population in the most creative ways possible about
1000 years of missing history during a period now known as 'The Golden Ages' but known as 'The Dark Ages' by the West.
It's fascinating to learn how Muslim civilization helped scholars and scientists to build the foundations of the world we
live in today.

Also, working with Sir Ben Kingsley in the creation of the 1001 inventions mini feature film, he hasn't actually
changed much since he played Gandhi in 1982.

Q. So what next for you?

A few exciting projects on the horizon. I'm working on a proposal to run an international science festival for the Abu Dhabi
government. I'm also involved in the creation of a brand new permanent museum and arts venue, dedicated to the history
of science and Muslim culture in Ankara, (Turkey) for the Mayor's office.

Q. You seem to enjoy being in the media limelight?

I don't like to pass up a good opportunity! I've a passion for passing my time with media related activities and applying for
TV shows. I starred in a music video for Apache Indian - for those who remember him! Don't laugh, he was cool at the time!
I featured in 'The Face' magazine about young Asians embracing a progressive modern lifestyle. I was a contestant on
'Bulls Eye', an extra in Coronation Street, Question Time, The Politics Roadshow etc.

I missed out at the last hurdle after a grueling audition process to be a participant in the second series of 'The Apprentice' to
Syed Ahmed, the token Asian guy who beat me to it and appeared on it.

Q. Finally, what's your ultimate goal in life?

Aah, that's easy, to win the lottery or get rich quick somehow, anyone experienced in bank heists, get in touch, find
a good wife and build an orphanage in Bangladesh. That would make my life complete!

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SAKIRA SUZIA - POLICE CONSTANBLE, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE SERVICE

Police Constable, Sakira Suzia graduated from University of Westminster in Psychology and Criminology. A trained army officer, her highlights include her role in Olympic 2012, an avid marathon runner, community volunteer and soon to recieve the Metropolitan Commissioners Award for her bravery.

 

Q. Tell us about your involvement in the Olympics this summer?

I was one of the Olympic Torch Security Escort Runners which was amazing and a lot of hard work! I was protecting the Olympic Flame and the 8,000 inspirational Torchbearers for 70 days as the Olympic Torch Relay travelled across the UK, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey.

Q. What inspired to go for it?

I come from a sporty and a close-knit family of five sisters and one brother. My sister Rukiyah was nominated by her school to be a Torchbearer in 2004 when the Athens Olympic Flame came to London but I missed out because I had my army training then so this time I made sure I applied for the Olympics 2012! It was a long process to be selected but all well worth it as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I loved how the Olympics united the whole world through sports. The focus was on 'peace, unity and friendship' for a change rather than war, riots, or other negative press.

Q. Army training?! We'll come back to that…what training did you do to be on the Olympic Torch Security team?

Alot of running, officer safety training basically how to defend if someone attacked, tactical training with a torch, rugby tackling, boxing and circuits. Since 2011, we've been meeting once a month to ensure that our fitness levels were on track and mentally and physically prepared to be alert and on our feet from pretty much 4am to midnight for those 70 days with a few short breaks here and there.

Q. Wow that's extreme…but you run marathons for breakfast don't you?

(Laughs) I love running and it's great to get paid to run for a change! I ran my first marathon when I was 21 and have done 3 full marathons since. I run a few half marathons every year, and have done a lot of army training in my time.

Q. So tell us about your time in the army - not an occupation where you will find many British Bangladeshis, least of all women?

Actually, it started as a bit of a joke when I signed up to the Territorial Army (TA) during freshers' fair at Uni! I passed the fitness test but was let down by my height (Sakira's a petite 5'1") and light weight - they told me to gain at least a stone in muscle! I struggled like hell, particularly running with a burgen bag on my back, but soon got used to it. The army was full of all the stereotypes you can imagine and I was the 'token Asian girl', or 'alien', from East London. But during the 3 years that I was in the TA at Uni, many of those barriers were broken down and I was accepted for who I was and vice versa, and now have some great friends around the world.

Q. What made you choose the police force over a career in the military?

I passed all my exams each year for the TA and gained my degree in Psychology and Criminology, but decided against Sandhurst and a military career as war went against my faith in Islam. The police force suited my academic interests and the active side of me, I can't sit still all day, and I like to help people in small ways. I come from a crime ridden part of Tower Hamlets (near Cannon Street and Shadwell) where the roads are strewn with needles and I was once threatened with a piece of glass against my throat by a boy much bigger than me and other similar challenges.

Q. You've been in the London Met for 4 years now. What would you say is one of your most memorable experiences?

Without a shadow of doubt, the riots in London in August 2011, was one of the scariest events I have ever experienced. When the troubles started in Tottenham there weren't enough riot officers, so I was called in from off duty as I'm also a trained riot officer. Even though we had protection helmets and plastic shields, it felt like judgement day, there was fire everywhere. I was the only person not to get injured as the shield is taller than me at 5'6"! This year I'll be awarded the Metropolitan Commissioners Award with about 30 of my colleagues. It's the highest bravery award in the Met and usually only one or two people receive it a year, but this year all of us who served during the riots will be recognised.

Q. Congratulations! What an honour…what do your parents have to say about all of this?

My parents have always encouraged us to follow our dreams, and in our house, between us all, there's never a dull moment!
Since my job and hobbies are high risk, my parents are often worried about me, but they also know that I'm sensible and would never do anything irresponsible or reckless.

Q. You even managed to make time to volunteer to take your professional knowledge to Bangladesh?

I'm extremely proud of my Bangladeshi heritage and religion. In 2010, my sister Rukiyah and I travelled to Bangladesh and took part in BRAC UK's Porishod ('the act of giving back') programme. It's one of the best things I'v done. I volunteered with BRAC's (the world's largest international development organisation) Gender, Justice and Diversity department where I worked on issues of domestic violence.

I ran workshops for staff on how to interview victims in a sensitive yet effective manner, this was really well received as previously the victims were asked the same questions over and over by different staff members or police etc, which left them more traumatised. Every village I went to as part of my field work, welcomed me and the women were shocked and inspired that I was a Police Constable in the UK. Some of them didn't even believe I was fully Sylheti and kept touching my hair or skin to see if I was real! They invited me to go back again, though in a typically Bangladeshi manner, they told me that next time I should bring a husband!

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ZOE RAHMAN - MUSICIAN

Pianist and composer Zoe Rahman is one of the brightest talents on the jazz scene whose recent album project "Kindred Spirits" has been nominated for a MOBO Award and whose second album "Melting Pot" was nominated in 2006 for a Mercury Music Prize. She studied classical piano at the Royal Academy of Music, music degree from Oxford and won scholarship to study jazz performance at Berklees College of Music, Boston. Zoe has toured around the world and is a featured artist on numerous TV and radio programmes.

Q: How did you fall into the music career?

My parents bought a piano when I was young and my brother and two sisters started playing it - my parents soon realised that we were quite musical! I played classical music for a few years but then discovered jazz when I was a teenager and that's when I knew that was the music I wanted to play. It took a few years to get to the point where I was playing jazz professionally - I did a classical music degree at Oxford University but after that I went to study in the USA at Berklee College of Music in Boston. In the last few years I've started delving into my Bengali musical heritage (my Dad was from Dhaka) and I made an album with my brother, who plays clarinet, called "Where Rivers
Meet", which is an album of all Bengali melodies. We worked with singers Arnob and Gaurob on the album and played music by Tagore and Hemanta Mukherjee among others.

Q: How old where you when you realised that music was a passion?

I'd played piano from a very young age and played other instrument like flute and guitar as well as singing in choirs locally so I was always interested in music. When I was a teenager and I went to my first jazz gig though I realised that was the kind of music I really wanted to play and it became an obsession for me - and still is!

Q: Who were your influences?

I like piano players like Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Joanne Brackeen as well as many other jazz artists. I love musicians who have their own style and who push their creativity to the limit. I used to try and copy my favourite piano players and just listened to all kinds of music that I liked - eventually I found my own style.

Q: You were nominated for a few awards now? How important a milestone is this for you?

The Mercury Music Prize was a great turning point in my career as I was suddenly able to reach a much wider audience through performing live on TV. My recent MOBO nomination came completely out of the blue and it's great to have been recognised for playing the music I really love. People I've told about the MOBO award have been hugely supportive so I've realised how significant it is. Id'd be great if everyone can vote for me to win, go to www.mobo.com/voting the Best Jazz Act before midnight on 30th Oct!

Q: How difficult is it to carve a career in music? Any advice?

As a jazz musician it's not easy, especially as a female instrumentalist but I run my own record label 'Manushi' and put out my own albums so I don't have to wait around for anyone, I just get on with making the music I want to make! My advice for anyone wanting to get into music is just to work hard and do what you love.

Q: Any memories of a worst gig and why? What’s the best gig you have done so far?

When I first started out I did a few ropey gigs - playing in a rainy carpark with a blues band to about two people and a couple of donkeys was a low point! but it's all part of a learning curve!

There have been lots of great gigs that I've been lucky enough to have done but a highlight has been playing in Dhaka when all my family were able to come!

Q: How did the idea of using Bengali music come to mind?

It just kind of evolved really. It first started a few years ago when my Dad was in hospital and wanted something to listen to to pass the time - his old cassette tapes had warn thin as he'd listened to them for so many years so I transferred them onto cd for him. In the process I heard a lot of his favourite tunes and they had such an emotional impact on me I wanted to play them. My latest album includes tracks from Tagore, and my previous "Where Rivers Meet" album includes Tagore as well as Abbasuddin and Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee. Bengali people who already know the melodies seem to really like what we've done with the arrangements - we were a bit scared when we first started playing Bengali tunes in this way that people might not like it but we've had the completely opposite reaction! Bengalis are alwasy telling me they're proud that we're playing music they love for jazz audiences who wouldn't ever hear these wonderful melodies otherwise. The reaction from non-Bengalis to the tunes is also great - a lot of the tunes are familiar-sounding to people here as they directly relate to Scottish, Irish or English melodies, particularly in the music of Tagore. After I was nominated for a Mercury Prize, I noticed that a lot of Bengalis became aware of my music and I hope with the MOBO award the same thing will happen. I want people to know that we're playing Bengali music in a different way but are still very much aware of the melodic tradition.

Q: You seem proud of your Bengali heritage and this reflects in your music?

I love the fact that I have Bengali heritage - I was brought up in Chichester in the UK where there really weren't many Bengali people at all other than my Dad so I really love playing for and meeting Bengali people now and I really enjoy learning Bengali music, language and working with Bengali musicians.

Q: If you were not a musician, what profession would you have chosen?

I have no idea! Athlete!!

Q: You’ve visited Bangladesh a few times, was it a memorable experience?

Bangladesh for me is such an amazing place! It's always memorable when I come to Bangladesh - it's a chance to see my family and eat amazing food and just soak up the sights and sounds of such an incredible country. From my experience the women are very strong which is inspiring! I love the way, as I see it, Bangladesh is a nation of improvisers - I say this as they seem to have the amazing ability to just get on with things and make things work despite often very difficult circumstances.

Q: Anything exciting coming up that we should keep an eye out?

The MOBO awards take place on 3rd November - it'd be great if people would vote for me but voting closes on 30th October (23.59 UK time!!) so there's not much time! I'm playing at the London Jazz Festival in November and I'm touring Japan in December with Courtney Pine's band so I'm really looking forward to that - I went to Japan for the first time earlier this month with a band called Penguin Cafe and it was a great trip!

Q: Where do you think your music will take you in 5 years time?

Hopefully there will be more tours around the world - including Bangladesh! I'm sure I'll be making a few more albums too...

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SHAHIDA RAHMAN - AUTHOR / WRITER

Shahida Rahman is an author, writer and regular contributor to Asian newspapers, published her historical novel ‘Lascar’ in 2012.

Q:What was the inspiration for you to write your book 'Lascar'?

One of my ancestors was a Lascar. I wanted to revive the history of these forgotten men.

Q:Won any awards for your writing?

I was shortlisted for 'WriteMovies International Writing Contest' and 'Circalit Short Story competition' in 2011. I also won a Channel S Awards 2013 ‘Special Acknowledgment Award’.

Q: Did you discover any lascars in your family history?

My father arrived in Cambridge in 1957. As I said, one of my paternal ancestors was a Lascar. Stories were passed on through generations.

Q:Have you written any books or anything else before?

My first book was published in 2004 'Ibrahim – Where in the spectrum does he belong?' which is the story of my son who grew up with a learning disorder and at the time I co-founded the Bangla Autism Network. I also co-wrote a screenplay called India Ink and radio play for the Lascar heritage Project.

Q: Why did you set up a publishing company?

Well, it's because I realised how difficult it is to secure a publisher so I decided to set up a publishing company and published my fist book ‘Ibrahim.’ We publish books for self-publishing authors. So I’m the co-founder and Director of Perfect Publishers Ltd which is a publishing company for authors who pay us to publish their book.

Q: Anything interesting coming up?

I’m currently writing my second historical novel…and working on a series of children's book for 5-7 year olds based on Asian themes.
Also I have a few book signing and drop-in sessions in Cambridge on 7th July and at the Leicester Belgrave Mela on Bank Holiday Monday 26th August, Leicester City Centre.

Q: Any advice for our budding writers?

Finally for all writers aspiring to get published; be prepared for lots of rejections, criticisms and tears! You need lots of patience, persistence and perseverance. It won’t happen overnight. It may take years. Find the right agent or publisher for your work and never give up. If you get a rejection, don’t despair. Keep focused. Move on and keep trying. Hopefully someone will love the story as much as you do, and your book will be published. Keep reading books.

Q: How can anyone get hold of your book?

My book is available via www.amazon.co.uk
and my website www.shahidarahman.co.uk

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