I am so excited to share my first Author Interview with the wonderful, Sara Sadik. It was such a joy to have a half hour to talk with Sara about her latest children’s book. The Extraordinary Pause follows a young girl as she processes the emotional and social impact of the global pandemic. With candid insights and vibrant illustrations, this book shows kids that people all over the world shared in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Extraordinary Pause helps children reflect on their personal experience with Covid-19 in a way that is easy for them to comprehend. At the heart of her writing, Sadik breaks down the social and cultural barriers that might normally separate us to send a message of hope and resilience to her readers.
Brianna: Hi Sara, I am so thrilled to have this chance to speak with you today. Your book, The Extraordinary Pause, is beautiful and so poignant. I’ve read it a few times now, and I think it’s such a special story for kids. What inspired you to share this story?
Sara Sadik: The Extraordinary Pause is my first children’s book but my second book. My first book was Finding the Magic in Mommyhood. That experience was amazing. The commonality between the two books is blurring the line between me and people with different cultures and backgrounds. I live in Dubai, I’m Muslim, but I went to Catholic school. I’m Lebanese/Palestinian, and I’m married to a Syrian. There are so many different elements that makes me who I am. Another mom might be very different from me [on paper] but could still be touched by the same message. In The Extraordinary Pause, the commonality is that we all went through this pandemic, and we’re still going through it. My kids still wear masks to school, we still have to do PCR tests. I have more in common now with more people around the globe because of the pandemic.
B: Yeah, completely. It’s not very common that a current event touches the whole world like the Covid-19 pandemic has.
S: That’s what made me feel so strongly about writing [The Extraordinary Pause]. I wanted to blur the line that would separate people. Having that common thread experience can be a conversation starter. This experience brought us together and blurred our differences (blurred the skin color, blurred the location of where you live). That is essentially what this virus did. Whether you are white, black, it doesn’t matter. Just all across the globe, it’s crazy.
B: Obviously, we are still in the pandemic. Vaccines are getting distributed in some places faster than others, unfortunately. How did you and your family deal with the situation during the heat of the pandemic? How was that experience for you?
S: In the heat of the pandemic, we were living downtown. It was normally a bustling city, and there were a million cars. We suddenly had curfews in Dubai, and there were major fines if we left the house. We had to get permission to go to the grocery store. Luckily, we still had school. That was my saving grace because kids thrive with structure. I was going to lose my mind if I didn’t have that. For fun, we would just do random stuff like dance-offs. We have pictures of when we brought the camping tent inside, and we slept in the living room. The best part is if anybody asks them, “How was the lockdown? What did you do,” my kids say “It was amazing, we had doughnuts! Mommy was crazy”. We have fun memories.
B: I remember, years ago, we had a power outage at my house. My family and I played board games in my living room all day. Thinking back, I realize that we took a negative experience and made it into a positive memory. I think that’s the power of being a parent and creating that happiness for your kids.
S: I’m going to cry! It was so tough. I’m a freelance writer, and I would have deadlines. My husband has a proper 9-5 job. He was taking calls on the balcony. It was crazy, but you want to make it fun for the kids. And you can’t sweat the small stuff.
B: I love that. When you started writing The Extraordinary Pause, were you talking with the illustrator, Karine Jaber, from the beginning? How did that relationship come to be?
S: It’s so funny because we were trying to remember it just a few months ago. I’ve known Karine for around 5 years. Her kids and my kids went to the same nursery. We met and were friendly, like saying hello in passing. For my first book, I needed a cover illustration. I asked Karine to sketch one for me, and we just bounced ideas back and forth. After the first book launched, I came back to her, and I was like “let’s go for coffee,” and it was to discuss an idea for a children’s book. I told her “I wrote the text already, but I don’t know how to draw”. I knew what I wanted, but I needed help. From that, I developed this amazing relationship with her.
When the pandemic happened, I was thinking “I’m in this strange situation,” and I wanted to write about it. In my personal life, I love having letters maybe even more than photos as a keepsake. I wrote the first draft of The Extraordinary Pause with this in mind and sent it to Karine to see if it was any good. She said there was something there and agreed to work with me. We started doing Zoom calls together because we were stuck home for like 5 months. After it was written, we sent it out, and then, ultimately, we got a publisher.
B: When you were working with Karine Jaber were you playing a role in what the illustrations would look like and how the characters looked? Or, did you leave it up to her, let her take the creative liberty, to interpret your writing?
S: She’s amazing. She’s an amazing friend, and she’s an amazing talent. In my work, I’m a bit of micro-manager. I think I know when to stop and when to listen to her. And she knows me, too. This is why the relationship works. I normally email her a list saying things like “for this line, this is what I’m envisioning. This one this, that one that.” I love her because she will say “this doesn’t make sense” or “you’re focusing too much on one single girl”. She suggested “I think it should be a girl, not a boy”. I initially said the main character should be a boy.
B: Oh really?
S: Yeah, she suggested the main character should be a girl. Then I said, “okay, we’ll do a girl with curly hair” and then she said “okay, let’s make her hair orange”. It was a lot of back and forth over email. The relationship with the illustrator is so important because anything you write is your baby. Having an illustrator is like having a night nurse. She is someone who is taking care of the message and nurturing the story. The book would be nothing without the illustrations.
B: The illustrations are beautiful. I love the whole imagery of the cover page. I like that the shadow behind the grandfather and granddaughter is a pause symbol. There’s also a page in the book with an ice cream shop. The ice cream depicted on the shop is a giant cone that’s melting. There’s such a great symbolistic thing happening in that image. So much about the illustrations really bring the words to life. I think you guys have a great partnership together.
S: I’m so glad you say that. Because also she has two boys, and I have three kids. I mean, kids are your harshest critics.
B: So true. That’s funny you say that because that was actually one of my questions. With 3 young kids, were they proofreaders for you? Because they’re like the perfect audience.
S: We were writing a lot of material and reading it to our kids. I’d have moments thinking “I love this story,” but my kids would say, “no, I don’t like this”. We went through a lot of drafts and cut a lot of lines that fell flat with our kids. Even the imagery, we would ask questions like “is this too scary? Is it too dark? How do you feel about this?” It was good having them as a–
B: Like a “tiny editor”.
S: Totally, and they’re really good PR consultants, too. Between Karine’s and my kids, they were even helping with the titles. We had a long list of titles, and we would run through it. I would message Karine saying, “Okay, my kids rejected titles 1-10”. She’d respond saying, “my boys hate all of them except number 8”. Then we’d go back to the drawing board. It was a lot of that, but they are, essentially, the audience. It was important for us that our kids were responsive to it.
B: You said earlier that your first book was Finding the Magic in Mommyhood. How did you get into writing? Were you always a writer or did this career come from your experience of being a mother?
S: It’s funny because my background is with human rights law. I never thought I would be a writer, I guess to this extent. When my daughter was born, she had hip dysplasia. She had to be in a brace in a Pavlik harness for 8 months. It keeps their legs in a frog-like position, and she had to be in the harness for 23 hours of the day. She couldn’t wear pants, she couldn’t wear shoes. You know, it’s your first baby, so it was stressful. At that time, I stopped working, and that was when I started writing. I don’t even know what I was writing about, but it was like therapy. I think my purpose in my writing comes from something I’m going through in my personal life that I want to share and connect with other people.
B: I can completely relate to that. It’s that feeling of “I need a healthy way to get my stress out”. Then, by writing you’re able to process your feelings better and come to terms with the difficult circumstances.
S: Exactly. I wrote about this message in the first book. It’s not mine – I got it from Rumi and from Leonard Cohen – but the message is “cracks are what let the light through”. The whole time I was going through this experience with my daughter it was so hard. Her legs were getting marked and chafed from the Pavlik harness. I felt like people didn’t understand. The whole thing was stressful. You come out from the other side, and you’re like, “Okay, I’ve totally bonded with my daughter. And now I’ve written a book.” I realized that this could be my calling, sharing a message with anyone who is going through something similar. Not to fix it, but just to say “there’s light at the end of the tunnel”.
B: Completely, that’s really wonderful. It’s interesting that you had never really written before having kids. It makes sense that so much of the message in your stories is tied to your kids and your relationship with them.
S: It’s also about finding the silver lining. The message in both my books is always about how everyone is always going through something. After the first book, I wrote a series for the Huffington Post called “Every Mommy has a Hiccup”. I was interviewing moms who delivered at 22 weeks or whose child was born with down syndrome. Again, it all falls under that umbrella of “cracks are what let the light through”. The Extraordinary Pause is the keepsake and the memory of what we went through in the pandemic (hopefully when it’s all over because it’s not over yet).
B: That’s a beautiful message. When you’re writing and you get overwhelmed or you hit a creative rut, how are you working through that? How are you processing that? Do you have other mantras, habits, or things you do to move past writer’s block?
S: I have a white board in my bathroom. It’s like a sticker that I have on my wall. The only time ideas come to me is when I’m in the shower at the end of the day. I think it’s probably because it’s quiet, and I’m by myself. It’s always at night when I have downtime. I literally will just jot the idea down. I’ve been thankful enough that I don’t look for the ideas, they just come to me. Whether or not something stems from that idea, I don’t know. I sometimes like to just keep the notes for my kids.
B: I love that you’re always prepared to capture your ideas. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. Thank you so much for your time today. I just have one final question. What’s great about your latest book is it will be published in multiple countries and multiple languages. Who are you envisioning when you picture your audience?
S: I mean, honestly, I’ll get goosebumps. I envision it in schools, in school libraries, and in different languages. Again, blurring that line. Like I’m a writer in Dubai, and Karine is an illustrator in Dubai. My life is so different from somebody in New York or China or wherever else it is. But having this one moment we all went through. This is not a book saying “let’s wash our hands”. We’re taking a very different approach by dealing with the emotional side of it. That’s why we decided to have a grandfather character with the little girl. You know, pulling on the heartstrings a little bit more than just a cautionary story. But as for the audience, fingers crossed, I hope to have it reach all across [the world].
B: Well, I’m so excited for you! I think it’s great that Kirkus has reviewed your book. The positive reactions have been great. I think the message behind the story is beautiful and people are connecting with that. Again, thank you so much for your time, I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you.
S: Thank you so much, it was so great talking to you!
To purchase a copy of The Extraordinary Pause, check out the link here: https://www.eifrigpublishing.com/products/the-extraordinary-pause?_pos=1&_sid=76073e553&_ss=r