This summer, we’re handing the blog to our mentees so they can introduce themselves and their writing. Read on and find out more about the person who could be your next favourite writer!
Hi, I’m Zareena (apparently meaning ‘more precious than gold’, so clearly no pressure there…). I was born and raised in Yorkshire to an Indian father and an English mother. My dad was the doctor in our small mining community and as the only brown kids there, my brother and I were treated like local celebs; ‘the doctor’s children’. This bubble of an upbringing brought with it bike rides on my ‘Chopper’, climbing trees, making dens, creating perfumes from rose petals (didn’t everyone in the 1970’s?) and frequent trips to the local library. Think Matilda.
It’s only really now as an adult that I’ve realised that I’ve always written. From lying on the sofa, off sick from school, watching the terrible events unfold in Northern Ireland, writing poetry (‘You will get no information from the civil population, when all we see is killing…killing…killing…). Yes, I too am relieved I didn’t pursue that media. Although, don’t be too harsh, I was only six or seven.To a gazillion navel-gazing diaries at University, but I’ve never taken myself seriously as a writer; self-protection? 100%. Even now, I flush with embarrassment when asked about it and generally say things like ‘I do a bit of writing’ or’ I faff about with writing.’ I’m really hoping that Megaphone can at least go some way to ridding me of my gargantuan imposter syndrome. I’ll let you know a year from now.
After a degree in English Literature, followed by a PGCE, I have been teaching for thirty years. I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t wanted to go to work. I think young people are brilliant and it’s for them that I write. And also, rather selfishly perhaps, for the nine-year-old me who never saw herself in any of the books she read.
I’ve always been fascinated by multiple births. From those that I’ve taught (how can they be so different and look the same?) to those that I’ve read about (the brilliant ‘One’ by Sarah Crossan) or watched documentaries about (the breathtaking ‘Three Identical Strangers’ on Netflix) and have found this interest infusing much of my writing
My Middle Grade book ‘Split’ is set in India from March-August 1947; the last few months leading up to Partition. Set against this turbulent backdrop are mixed-race twins, Aiza and Mirha who have spent all of their nine years at the Orphanage of Good Hope in Bombay, run by the kindly Miss Carter. It is imperative that children from the Good Hope are adopted by the time they turn ten or they will be transferred to a different type of Institution; a terrible place by all accounts. As their tenth birthday approaches Aiza has already laid plans for her and her sister to leave. However, salvation comes in the form of Mrs Armstrong, who adopts both girls. But, all is not as it seems and Aiza soon realises that Mrs Armstrong is playing a dangerous game. Mirha has disappeared and Aiza is being treated like a princess. Aiza makes shocking discoveries about Mrs Armstrong’s past and now, in a race against time, she must find her sister and escape. Travelling from Bombay to Simla, Aiza must navigate the treachery of Mrs Armstrong and the political unrest to save Mirha. The book is about family and the accountability that comes with being a a part of one.