Wednesdays Are for Writers: Laila El Refaie Author Profile

Laila El RefaieLaila El Refaie is an Egyptian author with an undergraduate degree in International Business, with a minor in Writing. She has worked as a freelance editor for more than five years, and has been managing editor of two university publications (AUC Times, and Avant Garde) during her time as an undergraduate student at the American University in Cairo. She has also explored interests in philosophy, anthropology, and linguistics, particularly in the areas where the three fields may intersect. An open activist for the rights of women in the Middle East, she has often spoken and written about the ways in which our cultures and societies can grow together, while still maintaining their distinct identities. With the belief that suffering begets strength, and kindness attracts kindness, she writes to warm the hearts of those around her so that they may keep their wonder alive, and their hope for a better tomorrow enriched.

Latest News

Following her recent graduation, Laila El Refaie is currently working on a compilation of previously unpublished short stories, and is brainstorming for her upcoming novel. Working as a freelance editor, she seeks to take the time she has for herself to develop her craft and grow both as a writer and as a member of society.

Story Blurb

Tea is a short story that shows the relationship between a girl and her grandmother, all told over the shared warmth of a cup of tea. In love, and in loss, it is in rituals that we may find the memories that will outlive our bodies. It is in these rituals that we may immortalise the people we love.

Interview

1. What inspired you to write your story?
In exploring the genre of creative nonfiction, I had to think of something that was dear to my heart, so that I could write it with genuine feeling. My grandmother passed away ten years ago, but she never once left my side, and in writing about my fondest memory of her, I feel as though I can keep her alive not only in my own memory, but in the memory of everyone who reads about her.

2. How does your background impact your writing?
Being born and raised in Egypt gives me a lot of experiences to write about that Western readers might not always be familiar with. I tend to insert myself into the characters I’m writing, and the scenes I’m exploring. To do this, I tend to draw upon my past experience—both pleasant and painful.

3. What was the most challenging part of writing your story? 

Remembering it all. Creative nonfiction tends to force you to look at your own experiences in a new light, whereby you have to get into all the details your mind may have pushed out to help you cope. In addressing these details for the sake of describing them, I came face to face with my own pain at losing my grandmother, especially after so many years of putting on a strong front about it all.

4. What genres do you personally like to read?
I’m very fond of philosophical fiction, but nothing gets me like a good romance. It’s funny, because I don’t write romance very much, but I love to read things that get me thinking and contemplating, even if they were written centuries ago.

5. Do you have any other writing projects in the works?
Yes. I’m working on a bunch of short stories that I’m hoping to collect into a compilation, and I’m currently brainstorming for my debut novel. I have the makings of a protagonist so far, and getting to know her from behind the scenes has been exciting.

6. Who is your target audience?
I believe that writing should be accessible to as many people as possible, and that’s why I try not to limit myself to one distinct audience. I do feel as though readers closer to my age may find it easier to connect with my writing, simply because we will probably have similar experiences, but I’ve often been pleasantly surprised by the kinds of readers who enjoy my work.

7. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
A feeling of warmth, first and foremost, but also an appreciation for the little rituals we tend to take for granted. When I made tea for my grandmother every day, I didn’t always think consciously about how much I appreciated having that ritual with her. Our relationships and our pleasant moments are always so fleeting, and it’s good to stop and think about how blessed we are to have them.

8. Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?
Many writers will often say the usual: read, or write something every day. But more than that, I want to advise writers to stick to it. When I look at the first pieces I ever wrote, I laugh at my own little mistakes, of course, but I also smile when I realise how far I’ve come. But I never would have come this far if I hadn’t let myself make those mistakes. Make the mistakes you have to make to improve, and never ever stop improving. There’s always more to learn, and more space to grow, and as long as you’re trying, you’ll only go upward.

 

 

 

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