As someone who has become more active in my own local JASNA, JASNA-NY/ Metropolitan, I am always curious when I hear how other women across the globe are becoming active participants in their own local groups.
Today on Just Jane 1813, I have Laaleen Khan here from Pakistan. Laaleen is the founder of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan and is a professional advisor at the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, founded by Ms. Austen’s fifth great-niece, as well as Chair of JALF’s Pakistan Chapter. Today she is here to tell us about her work through her country’s local JASP and her own plans for editing and co-authoring a collection of Austen-inspired stories that are set within her country and explore many of the themes and issues that are found in Austen’s books. I look forward to sharing Austenian with my readers when it’s released.
Laaleen, welcome to Just Jane 1813. I’m really excited to have you here to share your work with the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan, with my readers and your plans for publishing your own Austen-inspired book. I’d love if you could start by telling us more about yourself.
Hello, Claudine and thank you! Happy to be here. I’m a media professional and the founder of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan (JASP). I am also editor and co-contributor of Austenistan, a new Jane Austen-inspired anthology set among Pakistani society that aims for publication in time for Jane’s bicentennial. I’m also a professional advisor at the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, founded and chaired by the legendary author’s fifth great-niece, Caroline Jane Knight.
Like many people in the Commonwealth, I grew up devouring British literary classics and even performed the Sir Roger de Coverley (dance) at my girls’ school in Lahore. I dreamed of forbidden midnight feasts at Malory Towers, channeled Hercule Poirot as I cut my breakfast toast into perfect OCD squares, yearned to twirl at Almack’s in an Empire-waisted gown and chuckled over Bertie Wooster’s romantic entanglements. I also wept inconsolably over Heathcliff, Mr Rochester, Sydney Carton and the Mayor of Casterbridge.
It was only a matter of time until I was introduced to Austen and inevitably became a Janeite!
On my 12th birthday, I received a beautifully illustrated Jane Austen omnibus from my aunt Helen in Hertfordshire. It was love at first read.
On a visit to a Washington DC bookshop as a university student, I picked up Maggie Lane’s exquisite Jane Austen’s World and pored over every detail. I borrowed every book on Jane and Regency England that the Goddard Library at Clark University had to offer. By this time, I had also written a college essay juxtaposing Austen’s Regency-era marriage market with what I termed Pakistani drawing-room society – the latter replete with match-making engineered around tea trolleys bearing porcelain, cakes and finger sandwiches.
By my senior year, I was awarded high honours on my Screen Studies thesis, which combined my love of period drama and literature in the context of Jane Austen and post-modernism.
And then I entered the real world.
I spent a summer in Manhattan interning with the creators of my all-time favorite period drama, ‘A Room With A View,’ Merchant Ivory. At a film premiere party, I had the opportunity to chat with pre-Goop Gwyneth Paltrow, who seemed surprisingly pleased to be told by an intern that her accent in 1996’s ‘Emma’ was spot on and that she ought to stick to period drama (incidentally, she was to win an Academy Award as Viola less than twenty months later).
Fast forward a decade and a half spent tackling media assignments, getting married and raising children, and it appears that I’m now returning full circle to Austenland with my new anthology!
What made you set up the Jane Austen Society in Pakistan?
I realized that I needed a way to channel my avid interest in Austen, the Regency and period drama and interact with like-minded people. Thanks to social media, that’s exactly what’s happened. We’ve evolved from an online page to an enriching literary community.
Can you tell us about JASP and how it has grown?
JASP has grown organically in just two years. We have over 1,000 online members. I feel that our community is special in that we’re simultaneously global–from 45 countries–yet local. Various members have met in person several times in Islamabad and Karachi, with Lahore next on the agenda, and those interested elsewhere can participate via Skype and FaceTime.
What do you do at JASP?
We’re not a conventional book club in that we aren’t reading anything we haven’t already read—most of us read Austen in our teens after all. We do revisit and re-read novels, deconstruct key scenes and screen adaptations and explore what-if scenarios. We often have specific socio-literary topics on our agenda and, in the process, connect with one another on a synergistic level.
Are there parallels between the era Austen lived in and modern day Pakistan?
The social conventions that Jane wrote about can be found in Pakistan today, probably more so than in the western hemisphere. To name a few—making ‘a good match,’ the influence of families over individuals and couples, social decorum, a fashionable veneer, social criteria for eligibility, striving for an appearance of propriety, inherent snobbery and ladies who appear privileged yet are often bound by conventions that define them first by their fathers and then by their husbands. I could go on but I’d rather that you waited for the book!
There are many clubs devoted to her around the world, why do you think she generates so much interest?
Austen’s characters are so relatable, so universal and so fascinating. That every corner of the world has discovered this and continues to celebrate it two centuries later isn’t a surprise. Her writing at the time intrigued society and was unpretentious, witty commercial fiction. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Is there any of her stories you can relate to personally?
To quote/paraphrase my feature that appeared in ‘Jane Austen’s Regency World’ magazine and my winning entry in a short essay contest hosted by the Jane Austen Society of Europe, “I could see myself indulging in Catherine Morland’s flights of fancy and Marianne Dashwood’s impulsive behavior as a teenager. In my twenties, I identified with stubborn, lively Lizzie Bennet and sociable, well-intentioned Emma Woodhouse. As I matured, I began to sympathize with Anne Elliot and to appreciate her merits. Becoming a mother has drastically diminished the comedic value of Mrs Bennet’s anxiety for her daughters’ wellbeing—I’ll probably even relate to Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s crotchety ways later in life!”
Any Mr Darcy experiences you can recall?
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and have a lengthy chat with the extremely affable Colin Firth in London in 1999. I was too embarrassed to bring up the D word (i.e. Darcy) and we spoke about films and characters for about half an hour. He was very witty and certainly very far from being “ill-qualified to recommend” himself “to strangers!”
Can you please begin by describing to us how your idea for this publication came to fruition?
The idea happened organically. When we gather for Jane Austen Society of Pakistan (JASP) meetings, we often discuss parallels between Jane’s novels and our society and even our own lives. Several of us are seasoned media professionals who have published a great deal of non-fiction but haven’t gotten around to focusing on full-time fiction careers. The idea occurred to me when I was thinking about ways to commemorate Jane’s 200th death anniversary in 2017. How better to honor her legacy with the rest of the world and fulfill our creativity than to collaborate on an anthology?
I’ve called it Austenistan since Pakistan may be perceived as the land of Austen (‘stan’ means land). We are 21stcentury in many ways, yet quintessentially Regency in various others! It’s fascinating how much we can still relate to Lizzie Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Anne Elliott and their worlds.
Austenistan is a work in progress and various publishers around the world have shown interest in reading our manuscript. There’s been early buzz because this is such a unique project and so close to our hearts. We’ll be ready shortly and in a position to consider offers then.
Can you tell us a little about the stories themselves?
The stories are inspired by various Austen novels, characters, and settings, yet are very Pakistani, very contemporary, and very relatable to women around the world! They’ll make you cringe—for the right reasons, hopefully!—they’ll make you laugh out loud, they’ll create a lump in your throat and even a few tears to spring to your eyes. They are snippets of heart-warming fictionalized human experiences ranging from lighthearted joy to heavyhearted angst!
With Austenistan, I also hope to demystify and de-exoticise Pakistani culture and society for global readership. Depictions of Pakistanis in Hollywood and on the global news circuit is often limiting—abused, victimized women and angry bearded terrorists tend to be the first thing that comes to mind for the average international audience and we are frankly getting tired of these naïve, restrictive portrayals that devour specific slices of our nation without tasting the rest of the pie. There are nearly 100 million Pakistani women around the world—we have a lot to offer!
The short stories in Austenistan feature nuanced, relatable characters in familiar situations. These stories may be fiction but there are grains of truth in each one, placing Austenistan far beyond your average chick-lit novel, yet rendering it mainstream and commercial enough for anyone to enjoy, not just South Asians or Janeites, but readers of any gender or background or ethnicity! It will be impossible to pigeonhole us to a South Asian segment of a bookshop because we belong in multiple genres—popular fiction, women’s fiction, literary fiction, romantic fiction, fan fiction, ethnic fiction, humor, and others. I hope Austenistan becomes a classic for future generations, capturing the spirit of our era on some level.
Do you have additional plans in mind for these stories?
As a film professional, I think visually and I do believe our words would adapt beautifully on screen as well. I’ve already visualized the mise-en-scène and montage for many of the scenes and imagined scripting them as a film, TV or web series. My literary agent, Jayapriya Vasudevan, founder of Jacaranda Literary Agency in Singapore, is a Janeite herself so it’s only natural that she represents my vision.
What kinds of readers are you writing your stories for in this collection?
Austenistan isn’t just for Jane Austen fans. It’s enjoyable commercial fiction for women and men worldwide. It can be an engrossing beach read or the title you slip out of your bag on your way to work because you can’t wait to spend more time with the characters. The kind of book you read with a strong cup of chai or a cappuccino and wait to go home with so you can slip under your covers and read to your heart’s delight. JASP’s members are from countries as diverse as Brazil, Italy, Palestine, and Malaysia, and we would love to see our work in multiple languages that could potentially bring us closer to these nations and initiate literary and cultural dialogue.
Austenistan is a virtual jewelry box of rich experiences—each story is a gem to me. I’m honored to be its editor (and one of its authors) and to work with such original writers. We each have so many stories within us, it’s just a matter of expressing them with eloquence and originality.
Austenistan is a fun way to gain insight into various aspects of Pakistani society, from family values to social snobbery to superstitions to the all-encompassing wedding season, complete with vivid portrayals and whimsical details.
It also explores universalities that everyone can relate to. What happens after ‘happily ever after?’ What if she didn’t marry him after all? Or what if she did and then things changed? How can you have it all—romantic and professional fulfillment?
It reveals slices of Pakistani life and universal themes such as first love, dating after divorce, motherhood, marital issues, infidelity, and plenty of romance, laughter, and happiness too.
What makes Austenistan different from the other Austen fan fiction? Who are your potential readers?
Austenistan isn’t your typical South Asian chick-lit novel with a cover bearing Sanskrit-inspired font and a veiled woman displaying henna-stained hands. It’s unabashedly mainstream commercial fiction! Our readership is meant to be global and our readers will find it absorbing, illuminating and hopefully an enjoyable experience. Audiences already familiar with Austen will enjoy parallels with and allusions to her work. There is a universe of Austen fan fiction out there but I think this is the first of its kind in terms of style and premise. I’m very excited to share these stories with the world! Through our words, I hope to reveal an authenticity about Pakistani society that’s seldom explored in the public eye.
Can you tell us about the women who are contributing stories to this collection?
Our contributors are members of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan, from fields as diverse as media, health, law, finance and development, and writing from locations including Amman, Atlanta, Austin, Bangkok, Brussels, Cambridge, Colchester, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, London and New York.
When will Austenistan be published?
Ideally, around the time of Jane’s 200th death anniversary in 2017 to honour her legacy and the wonderment she has brought into our lives. Can you even imagine a world without Mr Darcy or even Bridget Jones?
What’s next for you?
I’m a panelist at the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA)’s Annual General Meeting on October 22nd in Washington DC. A first for Pakistan and for South Asia! I’m also speaking at a preview for Austenistan hosted by Muse District on the same day. Visit this link for more details about this event.
That sounds wonderful. I wish I could meet you there. I hope you have a great time! I look forward to sharing your book with my readers when it’s released.
To explore more about Laaleen work with JASP, JASL, and Austenistan, visit Austenistan’s website. You can find articles about the group, see pictures of each writer and learn more about the presentation Laaleen is part of at this year’s JASNA AGM in Washington, D.C.
Laaleen Khan née Sukhera is the editor and co-contributor of ‘Austenistan,’ an anthology inspired by Jane Austen and set amongst Pakistani society. She is also working on an Austen-inspired novel.
Laaleen is the founder of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan, a literary community. https://www.facebook.com/JaneitesPakistan/
She is a professional advisor at the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, founded by Austen’s fifth great-niece https://janeaustenlf.org/about-us/our-founder and Chair of the JALF’s new Pakistan Chapter.
Laaleen is a British Pakistani media professional born in Lahore and currently based in Islamabad. Her print and digital features, op-eds and blogs have been published in The Express Tribune (Pakistan), Dawn (Pakistan), HELLO! India, HELLO! Pakistan, Masala! (UAE), The Genteel (Canada), Jane Austen’s Regency World (UK) among many others. She was a series coordinator for ITV’s award-nominated documentary, ‘After The Bradford Boil,’ produced a health program at Geo News in Lahore, field produced at the Merrill Lynch Video Network in New York, worked in advertising on Fifth Avenue and interned with the late Ismail Merchant. More recently, Laaleen has worked in PR including the Queen’s 90th birthday and Spanish cultural events in Pakistan.
She graduated with an MSc in Professional Communications and a BA (high honours) in Screen Studies and Communication & Culture at Clark University in Massachusetts.
Laaleen is represented by Jayapriya Vasudevan at Jacaranda literary agency.
“One Cannot Have Too Large a Party”: Austen Appreciation Around the World , Joan Ray, Moderator, and Panelists
Saturday, October 22 “Around the world, Jane Austen Societies encourage the study and appreciation of her work, but we don’t all get excited about the same things, or express our admiration in the same ways. In a lively and lighthearted panel discussion, the officers of the Jane Austen Societies of Australia, Brazil, Pakistan, the UK, and North America will tell us about Austen’s popularity in their respective countries.”
CAROLINE JANE KNIGHT:
“The 200-year anniversary celebrations of Pride & Prejudice brought into sharp focus the extent of Great Aunt Jane’s worldwide popularity. Jane’s novels and the 70+ movies and television productions she has inspired are enjoyed by millions around the world. There is a thriving online fandom and an extensive merchandise and commercial industry offering Janeites everything from academic analysis to action figures. Jane’s work is out of copyright and no royalties are paid by anyone to use her work or image.
We are in the midst of a global literacy crisis. 775 million adults cannot read and write and 124 million children are not in school. I saw the opportunity to engage the vibrant Jane Austen community to raise funds to buy books and literacy resources to support programs in communities in literacy crisis around the world, in honour of Jane.
I am delighted to be working with Laaleen and the JASP. This enthusiastic group are keen to support the aims of the foundation, fundraising initiatives and help select the literacy partners and programs in Pakistan that will benefit from funds raised. 45% of Pakistan’s population are illiterate. Literacy enables education, empowerment and enjoyment – all kids deserve that chance, all communities deserve that future. Laaleen has been appointed as a Jane Austen Literacy Foundation Professional Advisor and will work with the JALF team on media and communications.
Jane would be thrilled to see her work enjoyed and celebrated in new territories I’m sure. The foundation raises money for literacy in honour of Jane and her achievements and I have no doubt she would approve. After all, Jane herself made charitable contributions to the local Sunday school, often the only opportunity the poor of the parish had to learn to read and write.”
Caroline Jane Knight
Founder & Chair
Jane Austen Literacy Foundation
The last Austen descendant to be raised in Chawton where Jane herself lived and wrote
“We strive to understand exactly what Jane Austen meant in her novels, but there are so many lenses through which each of us reads: our language, our understanding of the historical context, and our own life experience all influence our reading. At the Jane Austen Society of North America conference, we want to explore the similarities and differences among Austen readers around the world. Officers of the Austen societies from Australia, Brazil, and the UK, as well as Pakistan, will join us to talk about what makes Austen’s novels exciting and relevant to them, and how the members of their groups study and celebrate Austen. On the internet, Laaleen Khan has been a witty and insightful commentator, so we’re thrilled to be able to meet her in person and have her represent the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting this year.”
Co-Chair of the 2016 JASNA Annual General Meeting
“This anthology is a kind of homage to the work of Jane Austen. The editor of the anthology and I decided to speak. Conversations about Jane Austen wandered seamlessly into conversations about Georgette Heyer and Regency romances. We just had to represent this book. And so it begins.
Jacaranda works regionally from India, Singapore and The Philippines. All three of us at the agency are pretty excited about this book. I sent out a few, very gentle query letters to editors in the UK and the US and am pleasantly surprised at the interest.”
Founder of Jacaranda Literary Agency
RITA L. WATTS:
“It is not easy making friends when you change countries or even cities. Jane Austen opened up a new world of friends to me here in the US, making it possible for me to form real and deep connections with so many different people. Starting a page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AllThingsJaneAusten has 26,000 likes) connected me not only to different countries but continents. I even connected more with my own country (Brazil). Now, thanks to Jane Austen Society of Pakistan, my connections are becoming more diverse putting me in touch with people that I would never meet otherwise. The exchange is so rich and the bond so authentic – since it is based on a love of all things Austen – that global awareness is unavoidable. Sharing something with people you love is easy. People sharing love because of something they all have in common is truly remarkable.
Rita L. Watts
Founder, All Things Jane Austen https://allthingsjaneausten.net
“Here at Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine we enjoy the universality of Jane Austen and are always happy to learn of groups that share her work outside the country in which she lived. We were particularly thrilled to learn of JASP, and Laaleen’s work in bringing her writing to Pakistan and were delighted to feature JASP in our March/ April 2016 edition. Jane Austen transcends boundaries and cultures and has something to offer to everyone.”
Editor and Publisher
Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
You can check out their biographies at this Facebook page too.
Afshan is a Lahore based journalist and published poet. She studied English Literature and International Relations at The University of Buckingham and Regent’s University, London. Her debut chapbook of poems, ‘Odd Circles’ was published by Readings (Pakistan) in 2014 and ‘Quiet Women’ is forthcoming in 2017. Afshan is a poetry editor for The Missing Slate and the forthcoming Aleph Review and is an assistant editor for GoodTimes magazine. Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming in Poetry Wales, Blackbox Manifold, Flag + Void, Luna Luna, Clinic, 3am magazine, Smear, Ala Champ Magazine, Ink Sweat and Tears, Uut Poetry, Muse India, Full of Crow, Pour Vida, New Asian Writing, Black heart magazine, among others. She has also written for Libas International, Pakistan Today and The Daily Times. Afshan is currently working on a hybrid prose novella about Pakistani dilettantes.
Atika lives in New York, where she works at The Foundation Center. Previously, she has worked at the Council of Foreign Relations and has been an Editor at the Economist Group. Atika was raised in Lahore. She graduated from New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with an MA and from the College of Wooster, Ohio, with a BA in Political Science and English.
Ayesha is a home-ware entrepreneur who designs and exports limited edition collections under the label Ayesha’s Atelier. Born and bred in Karachi, she graduated summa cum laude from Williams College in Massachusetts with a degree in Economics. Ayesha has taught English, reviewed university student theses and is fond of creative writing. She has worked in the industrial and retail sectors at her family’s business firm, coordinating client relationships, sales training and administrative affairs. Ayesha volunteers at The Citizens Foundation (TCF), dedicated to getting children off the streets and enrolled at TCF’s charity schools as well as the Pakistan Chapter of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. She has edited and contributed to various publications including Newsline magazine and is currently writing a YA book.
Gayathri is a public health scientist with a background in cancer research and supporting laboratory services in developing countries. She has a PhD in Molecular Biology and Toxicology from the University of Dundee (studentship from Eurochlor, Brussels), an MSc in Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (where she received the Biomedical Initiative Award), and a BSc in Biochemistry from Imperial College London. Born in Colombo, she has also lived in the UK, Saudia Arabia, Nigeria, Guyana, Barbados and Pakistan, and is now based in Amman, Jordan. Gayathri worked as a Senior Technical Advisor for the US Centers for Disease Control Global AIDS Program in Guyana and is currently completing her MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Mahlia S Lone
Mahlia is a seasoned textile journalist. Born and partially raised in the UK along with the USA and Pakistan, she is based in Lahore. She contributes to WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) among other publications, and is currently the editor of GoodTimes magazine. Mahlia was valedictorian of her graduating class at the Lahore American School and attended university at Kinnaird College in Lahore, William Smith College in New York and Clark University in Massachusetts. She started her journalistic career as the assistant editor of the op/ed pages at The Nation and became the features editor for The Friday Times before she began writing for trade publications. Mahlia has maintained a blog for Matrix Sourcing, a textile buying-house located in Lahore. Additionally, she has strategically planned creative lines for several home décor and fashion startups, and planned society fundraisers for philanthropic causes.
Meera earned an MSc. in Environmental Economics from the University of York, UK. She has worked with various renowned NGOs on climate justice and human rights for over a decade in Brussels, including WWF. In her personal time, she assists refugees coming to Belgium. Mehr is on the Board of the Climate Action Network International and advised the Government of Pakistan on its climate policy and was a part of its delegation to the UN climate negotiations for five years. She led the Environmental Impact Assessment team for Lahore Rapid Mass Transit project in 2007 and has been published by many Pakistani newspapers including Dawn, The News, The Express Tribune, Pakistan Today and Viewpoint and writes about politics, feminism and culture. Meera has also authored many research and policy papers in her field.
Meher I Daultana
Meher is a postgraduate student at Cambridge University, where she is pursuing an MSt in Creative Writing. She graduated from the National College of Arts in Lahore with a major in Painting, followed by an Advanced Diploma in Jewellery Making at Cambridge Regional College. She taught at the Jewellery department at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore for two years. Meher then completed a Patisserie Art course at the Wilton School of Cake Making in Dubai and launched The Cake Boutique in Pakistan. After relocating to Cambridge, she worked with the Byard Art Gallery on her jewellery venture, Meher Daultana Fine Jewellery, and exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery London in 2016. She next plans to participate at Scoop London in 2017.
Mehr F Husain
Mehr is a Lahore based journalist. She was born in London and grew up in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and England. She has worked in banking in London, run a humour blog while based in Saudi and worked in different roles in the media in Pakistan including Features Editor at The Friday Times, Assistant Editor at GoodTimes magazine and columnist for India’s Mail Today, where her column ‘The Lahore Log’ also appeared in The Daily Mail/MailOnline. Her work has also appeared in Herald, Pakistan Today and Pakistan Link. Mehr is the editor for ‘Multan: A Spiritual Legacy’ which was presented to HM Queen Elizabeth by the Pakistani Ambassador to the UK in 2013. In 2014 her short story ‘A Fool’s Paradise’ was published by the Oxford University Press as part of an anthology, ‘I’ll Find My Way’ (edited by Maniza Naqvi) that launched at the Karachi Literature Festival in 2014. Mehr holds a MSc. in Asian Politics from SOAS, University of London and a BSc. in Politics with Business Management (Hons.) from Queen Mary, University of London. She was also accepted into an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies at St. Edmunds College, Cambridge University. Mehr has delivered workshops on journalism at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, appeared as a guest panelist on television in a satirical programme ‘News, Views and Confused’ and has been quoted in the Times of India and The Diplomat.
https://twitter.com/mehrfhusain (1300 followers)
Mishayl is a freelance writer who grew up in Karachi. She is a monetary economist who received her BA in Economics from Bryn Mawr College, Penssylvania (where she received the Jeanne Quistgaard Memorial Prize) and M.Sc. in International Development (concentration: Political Economy) from the University of Bath. She has worked at the State Bank of Pakistan in the Development Finance Group and Monetary Department, where she co-authored various policies, reports and studies including a study on monetary policy for SAARC (presented in July, 2012). Mishayl lives in Karachi and is the Lifestyle Editor of WomensOwnPk.com She has been published in the Express Tribune, Good Food, Yello, Beautifulyou.com and maintains a YummyMummyNetwork group on Facebook to address childcare issues for urban Pakistani mothers.
https://www.facebook.com/Womensownofficial (62,000 likes)
Nida is a college teacher, a writing coach, and a writer. She grew up between Scarsdale in New York and Lahore. She has worked in the fields of academia, non-profit film and event management. Nida previously taught Composition, Creative Writing, and Literature to college students in Lahore; she now teaches at St Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She received her Bachelors degree in Journalism & Mass Media from Rutgers University, New Jersey, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, New York. Her work has been published in Psychology Today, The Friday Times, Chowk, High Profile magazine, Paper magazine and she maintains a blog, A Storyed Sensibility.
Salima is a fashion blogger who lives in Karachi. She is the founder and chief editor of Karachista.com, considered Pakistan’s most popular lifestyle blog. A physicist with a passion for writing, Salima grew up in London. She read Physics at the University of Oxford, followed by a Masters in Shipping, Trade and Finance from City University, London. She is a social media consultant and social influencer on international projects with brands including Swarovski. Salima writes on fashion and lifestyle for Pakistan’s major newspapers and won a ‘Celebrating Connections’ blogging competition hosted by the British High Commission Pakistan. Salima was named as one of the Pond’s Miracle Women of 2016.
Saniyya is a barrister by profession and was editor of the Pakistan based business magazine, Blue Chip, for four years. A graduate of Sussex University, she received a First Class Honours in Contemporary History and later went on to do the Common Professional Examination (CPE) and was called to the Bar in 2000. Saniyya has worked in corporate law and litigation in both London and Pakistan. She is currently a freelance writer, ghostwriter and editor. She has had articles published in magazines and prominent Pakistani daily newspapers and edited and co-authored papers for prestigious international academic journals as well as written a children’s play to be performed at a private school.
Sirah Haq is a screenwriter and script consultant currently developing two films of her own as well as working on feature film projects in Australia, Britain and Pakistan. The native Londoner has also lived in Lahore and Karachi. Sirah specialized in Script Development for features from the National Film and Television School, London and holds a BA (Hons) in Film from Brunel University, London and a Masters in English Literature from Kinnaird College, Lahore. Sirah helped develop some of Pakistan’s most popular TV shows in Karachi including Pakistan’s first season to season drama series Azar ki Ayegi Baraat and its sequels; drama series Ladies Park; telefilms in The Tarang Housefull Project and reality show Kaun Banega Meera Pati. She has also taught screenwriting to film students in Karachi at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology and the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. She is also a seasoned volunteer at the London Indian Film Festival.
Soniah is an award-winning author whose debut novel, An Isolated Incident, was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, for the Karachi Literature Festival’s French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Her essays, short stories, poetry and literary criticism have been published in the The Guardian US, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Catapult, Literary Hub, The Normal School, The Missing Slate, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, ArtsATL, The Express Tribune Blog, Scroll.in, The Toast, XOJane, Akashic Thursdaze, Sugar Mule, The Atlanta Review and more. She is a Paul Bowles Fellow at Georgia State University, where she is currently pursuing an MFA degree in Creative Writing with a concentration in Postcolonial Studies. She was the recipient of the Susan B. Irene Award at St. Johns College where she graduated with a BA in Liberal Arts. Soniah has served as Writer-in-Residence for the Fulton County Library System, VP for Programming for the Atlanta Writers Club and is an AWC Conference award winner for Query writing. Soniah was a script consultant on the social-activist film ‘Half Widow’ about Kashmir. She is Fiction Assistant Editor for Five Points: A Journal of Arts and Literature and a literary critic for ArtsATL and Blog Editor for Jaggery: A Desilit Arts and Literature Journal. Soniah guested edited Sugar Mule’s special South Asian issue ‘No Place Like Home: Borders, Boundaries and Identity in South Asia’ which showcased memoir, poetry and story from 47 writers from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Soniah’s short stories and essays have appeared in numerous critically acclaimed anthologies such as ‘Madonna and Me’ (Soft Skull Press), ‘And the World Changed’ (The Feminist Press) ‘Voices of Resistance’ (Seal Press) and more. Soniah was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia and has been living in USA since college. She is currently based in Johns Creek, Georgia, where she teaches fiction, memoir and publishing across the metro-Atlanta area.
Sonya is a journalist based in Lahore with an expansive body of published work comprising over 400 articles. Her work has been featured in; TIME, The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia, Rolling Stone [Middle East], BBC [The Strand], Asia Society, Esquire [Middle East], The Hindu, The Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, The Diplomat Magazine, Forbes, The Friday Times, DAWN and The News International, amongst others. In 2010, Sonya was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her Masters degree in Print Journalism at Columbia University, New York, and was one of four students (in the same year) to receive the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Fellowship. In addition to her prolific publishing career, Sonya teaches English and journalism, runs her own postcard start-up, From Lahore With Love (established in 2012) and was selected as a speaker at an independently organized TED event, TEDxKinnaird in Lahore in 2011. Sonya has also anchored and scripted for television at HUM TV, hosted a radio show for City FM89 and conducted journalism workshops at the Lahore University of Management Sciences over the years.
Karachi-bred Sophia is based in Islamabad where she heads the Pakistan bureau for CNN International. She began her career in broadcast journalism at Dawn News where she was part of a select team that worked on The Pakistan Papers, a Wikileaks exclusive in partnership with Julian Assange. Sophia also worked as a programming manager at the radio station City FM89 where she produced documentaries. She has a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Kent and an M.A in Arts and Cultural Journalism from Columbia University, New York, where she worked with the music editor of The New York Times to write a thesis on the alternative music scene of Karachi. Sophia was a Theatre Reporting Fellow for Playbill Magazine in New York, interviewed Michael Douglas and Andrew Rannells and wrote an online column covering off-Broadway theatre. At CNN International in Pakistan, Sophia reports for the website and appears on-air in stories including the operation in North Waziristan (where she travelled on an embed with the Pakistani military), Imran Khan’s political rallies, The Karachi Airport Attack, The Peshawar School Attack of December 2014 as well as the October earthquake of 2015.
Zeenat is a solicitor who practices in the UK. She earned her BA from Kinnaird College, Lahore, where English Literature was one of her electives. Whilst in college, she acted as well as directed the class play based on The Glass Menagerie and her articles were often published in the yearly English Magazine. Thereafter Zeenat did her LLB at the University of Essex, Colchester and graduated with a 2:1 degree. During her time at the University, she participated in the Law in Action Programme and became a Semi-Finalist in the Client Interviewing and a Finalist in the Negotiation Competition. Zeenat also wrote for the legal magazine ‘Law Inter Alia’. She earned her Postgraduate Diploma in Law (‘LPC’) from Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford. Zeenat cultivates her love of classic literature with avid reading, writing, and blogging.