HawkStrong: HFC alumna Sara Alduais publishes first children’s book
The bedtime story HFC alumna Sara Alduais once shared with her younger brother Ibrahim became an award-winning story for a writing contest. This story later inspired the content of her first children’s book called Waiting for You.
She published the book in 2022.
“When he was very little, Ibrahim was confused about why the moon only came out at night, so I told him a bedtime story about the moon and the stars and why they come out every night,” recalled Alduais. “I forgot about the story until my cousin encouraged me to submit something to the Michigan Reading Association Kaleidoscope Contest. After having trouble thinking of what to write, I remembered this story and put it down on paper. I even drew some pictures to go along with it. I submitted it and received word that I had won the high school portion. This was in March 2020.”
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“I forgot about the book and the publishing opportunity and focused on my family and my education,” said Alduais. “At the beginning of 2022, I received my award letter and decided to self-publish. If it was good enough to win an award, it was good enough to be on my shelf. And that’s what I did. In April 2022, I published my first-ever book.”
Working with artist from the Philippines
Alduais met Kyla Mae Tayoan, an artist based in the Philippines, via social media. She followed Tayoan’s artwork on Twitter and realized she would be a good fit for her book.
“When I thought about publishing my book, my first thought was I needed help with the illustrations, and Kyla Mae fit the vibe of my story perfectly,” said Alduais. “So I spoke to her, and we decided on the images, and soon the book was done. It was an amazing experience to work with someone so talented.”
FTA reading and signing event Oct. 14 in ASCC
Alduais will speak about and sign copies of Waiting for You at the HFC Future Teachers Association (FTA) event called “Children’s Book Reading” on Friday, Oct. 14, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m.. The event will be in the Berry Auditorium on the first floor of the Andrew A. Mazzara Administrative Services & Conference Center (Building L) on the main campus.
Alduais published Waiting for You during her final semester at HFC in 2022, when she was a student in HFC Pre-Education Program Director Dr. Carolyn Casale’s Humanities and Performing Arts for Educators class.
“Dr. Casale was looking for authors in our community to highlight, and I reached out to her about my new book,” said Alduais. “She asked if I was into the idea of a book reading, and it was perfect. Everything else clicked, and now I will read my book and talk about my journey as an author on Oct. 14, which is also my birthday.”
Casale is proud of her former student.
“We are proud of Sara as an HFC alumna,” said Casale. “She is hardworking and kind. She is passionate about her education and her community.”
HFEC provided an amazing experience
HFEC is a five-year program that allows students to complete high school and up to two years of college credit. Alduais graduated from HFEC in 2021, earning her high school diploma and her associate degree in liberal arts from HFC.
“Early College was an amazing experience,” she recalled. “It was challenging and overwhelming at times, but I have never regretted the decision. I was grateful for my teachers and all the friends I made along the way.”
HFC was a guiding hand
Alduais earned a second associate degree in pre-education from HFC in 2022. She transferred to the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where she is majoring in English and secondary education.
“HFC was like a guiding hand assisting me in my educational journey,” said Alduais. “I’ve had so many career changes along the way, and each time I did, I was never worried about falling behind. My counselors always assured me that, despite what choice I made, I would graduate on my own time and pursue my dreams.”
Passionate about teaching
Her dream is to earn a doctorate in English and teach at the college level, and continue her career as an author.
“I have always loved literature, and I have a passion for teaching,” said Alduais. “I plan to start my career as a middle school or high school teacher and work on my Ph.D., then transition to the college level.”
Alduais realized she wanted to go into education during her sophomore year at HFEC. She helped with Salina Intermediate School’s A.V.I.D. tutors program for three years. A.V.I.D. is aimed at preparing students for high school and college.
“We worked in classrooms from sixth to eighth grades every Friday, tutoring students in their assignments from other classes, teaching them how to properly take notes, encouraging them to think about their future careers, and helping them set up résumés,” said Alduais. “It was an enriching, amazing experience and the reason I discovered I was passionate about teaching.”
This Is My Hijab
Alduais has always been a writer. She can’t pinpoint when she began writing.
“I remember growing up with many notebooks filled with stories I made up,” she said. “I was an avid reader as well, and there was always a book in my hands. Kids in my class would get caught on their phones, but I would get caught reading a book. I think my love of writing stemmed from my love of reading.”
Alduais is hard at work on her next book called This is My Hijab, which is about the meaning of the hijab from the perspective of a young Muslim girl. It will be released in October.
“My journey and every young Muslim girl's journey of wearing the hijab and fighting off the stereotypes that come with it inspired me to write this book,” she said. “Putting on such a symbolic part of my identity every day comes with its consequences, and I feel most of it is from the ignorance of people who don’t understand its purpose. So I do my best to explain that purpose from the perspective of a child. But this book is not just for children. There is no age limit on the ability to educate yourself. I think it helps that I simplify the book for anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, to understand.”
Taking matters into her own hands
Alduais explained why she decided to self-publish instead of going through a traditional publisher.
“The decision was made for me, to be honest. I submitted my work to many children's literature publishers but after receiving so many rejection letters, I took matters into my own hands and researched self-publishing,” she explained. “The journey was difficult. When self-publishing, you are handling the process of an entire company. And it’s all up to you.”
She continued: “This is overwhelming, but it makes the final product so much sweeter. I handle everything from editing the manuscript to scouting for illustrators, creating legal contracts with the illustrator, and editing all the important documents. I also manage publicity and marketing of my books through Instagram and Facebook. I format the book to meet all legal requirements and produce my copyright. And when I see the book on my shelf, everything is worth it.”
Her creative process
According to Alduais, she can write a complete manuscript for a children’s book in two hours, the longest being an entire day.
“It’s what comes afterward that takes more time. When writing, I seek help from my aunt and best friend to bounce off ideas and I’m always satisfied with the results,” she said. “The best part of writing anything is the infinite power you have to create anything you want, I write in my journal when I’m having a bad day. I write in it to jot down 2:00 a.m. ideas for a new book, and I write to express myself in a way that I am most comfortable with.”
Ironically, the most challenging part of writing is the grammar! Alduais said she knows that sounds crazy, coming from an English major, but it’s true. When writing, she wants to get the ideas down and isn’t worried about the grammar and tense. That’s why she is grateful for Grammarly.
“When I was a child, the idea of growing up to be an author was such a far-off dream. It was something I thought was impossible for many reasons – I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t have the proper teaching, or everyone would laugh at me,” explained Alduais. “But I know now that I am good enough – at least in my eyes. I didn't need to be taught how to write – I just did it. And no one has ever laughed at me once. Instead, my family and community are proud. They support me in ways I’ve never conceived. They share and buy my book and offer me opportunities that I am so grateful for. This book isn’t for me. It's for the family who raised me and the community that lifts me.”