Halimat of TBMT-UK had the pleasure to speak with Layinka Sanni, an editor, former writer for SISTERS magazine, the international lifestyle magazine for Muslim women, and a wonderful sister ready to push Muslim women to their highest writing potential as a writing coach.
How many of us have said we want to write a novel or a story but have never started, or gave up right at the very beginning?
What holds us back ?
Layinka Sanni has made it her personal and professional mission to find out. Working with Muslim women for several years, helping them to edit and carefully craft their writing voice, I was excited to learn more about how she got into her work and the kind of impact she would like to have as someone that champions Muslim women excellence.
Asalamu Alaikum sister thanks so much for speaking with us! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Wa alaikum salaam. My name’s LaYinka Sanni and I’m a UK-based editor and writing coach who’s dedicated to helping Muslim women realise the importance of their voice so they can emerge into the world with their writing. I was born in Nigeria, but I’ve lived in London for most of my life. I’ve got 3 little people who call me variations of ‘mum’ and I’m also a bookworm with a never-ending to-read list.
What were your motivations for becoming a writing coach for Muslim women?
Oh boy, this might be a long one!
The truth is, I’ve been working with writers for over a decade, but I didn’t actually realise I was coaching them in writing until earlier this year. I’d provide guidance and support alongside my editing services, but it was only in April 2016 that I fully embraced my role as a writing coach; so I guess I did know I was coaching, I just took a while to fully step completely step into the realm.
The motivation behind my coaching practice is simple: There are far too many Muslim women lurking in the shadows with their pens firmly cloaked by fear. They tell themselves they’re not good enough to write; they convince themselves they don’t have the time; and they berate themselves because they don’t have an English degree to validate them. Then there are the women who have the passion to write, but they’ve got procrastination as their other half. They waltz with procrastination for weeks, months, and even years on end without moving forward towards their writing dream.
The thought that these women could pass away with their stories buried within them pushes me to do what I do. Knowing that there are narratives we need to have in the written form, but the ummah isn’t benefiting from is a major motivator for me to help women unlock their pens, free themselves from the shackles of fear, and finally put their God-given gift to use.
What challenges have you faced on your journey as a writing coach?
One major obstacle is that not every woman who wants to work with me can personally afford it herself; and those who have a man in their life who could fund their dream aren’t always given the support they need. So we get stuck in a frustrating limbo. Another obstacle is reaching the right people. It’s one thing to be in contact with those who have a desire to write, but it’s been a challenge to connect with those who are also ready to do something about it. Being a trailblazer has its pros, but the downside is that there’s no one within the Muslim sphere to model.
What is the impact that you would like to have with the work that you do?
I’m a huge advocate for excellence and I really want to see Muslim women embrace and apply brilliance into every strand of their writing so we no longer have lazy and sloppy practices within the writing sphere.
I also want to hear of Muslim women fully stepping into their writing skin, standing tall against the obstacles they face, and going gung ho to fulfil their writing dreams.
Ultimately, I want to see more high-quality and well-written books by Muslim women make it onto more bookshelves and into more hands so they can tug and capture as many hearts as possible.
Do you have advice for your fellow Muslimah publishers, writers and creatives?
For the publishing massive: Don’t lock out our novel writers. There is some serious talent out there, but many settle for self-publishing because the mainstream route is so competitive. Another piece of advice would be to better equip writers with post-publication tools to ensure their books reach their intended audience. Unfortunately, most writers believe it’s the publisher’s job to push their books out, thus, they’re left without any guidance on how to market their books – no marketing, no sales. Solution: Devise a marketing strategy together so everyone benefits.
For writers: Don’t limit yourselves to Muslim publishers. Yes, the mainstream route is competitive, but we need our narrative in the wider world. Rather than having others speak on our behalf, we have to ensure we make our voices heard. It’s NOT impossible to be published by a traditional publisher and I will happily challenge anyone who holds this notion. It’s for you to recognise and step into your greatness, roll up your sleeves, and push your babies – your books – out there. They canfind a suitable home.
For creatives: Rock on and keep creating!
Where can we find you online for your writing coach services and other news?
You can connect with me via my Facebook page: facebook.com/layinkasanni and Instagram: @layinkasanni. You can find out a little more about what I do at: layinkasanni.com.