Where do you find the inspiration for your books?

Farah: It’s hard to be what you can’t see — that’s why we wrote Khadija and the Elephant Toothpaste Experiment. In particular, I wrote this book for all the little bookworms, like me, and to inspire the next generation of scientists and researchers. I hope that readers will be inspired to recreate the Elephant Toothpaste Experiment—safely!—at home, and to explore the wonderful world of science.

Hajer: I was drawn to write Khadija’s story so that young children, especially those from underrepresented groups, will be inspired to explore their scientific curiosities. Children have an innate curiosity about the world that is often stifled over time. We hope that Khadija’s story allows children to maintain that curiosity throughout their life. We also hope that Khadija’s story will inspire parents to support the curiosities of their children so they can build the confidence to explore science.

What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?

Hajer: I have enjoyed many books over the years with my earliest favourite book being Anne of Green Gables. I also loved the Junie B. Jones and Magic School Bus books growing up. When I was a young reader, I did not see myself reflected in the majority of books that I read. I hope with Khadija’s story, girls like me will always see themselves reflected in books.

Farah: Growing up, I always had my head buried in a book. It’s so hard to pick a favourite book, because I’ve loved so many, from Percy Jackson to Matilda. I didn’t see myself reflected in the books that I read as a child, but to be fair, I’ve always had a soft spot for reading books about magic, fantasy, and dystopian worlds, where there’s very little that reflects our world. In recent years, it’s been lovely to see more representation in books everywhere, from libraries to bookstores.

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned when creating your books?

Farah: I’ve never written a book before, so the entire process—from writing a first draft, securing a literary agent, to seeing the final illustrations—was a surprise. In particular, from past experience, I thought that writing and publishing a scientific manuscript was an arduous process. I stand corrected: writing a book is a longer and more winding journey!

Hajer: As a scientist, I am accustomed to writing long research articles using precise language with little room for creativity. It was a learning curve to write a children’s book that delivered an important message using simple language and creativity. What was most surprising was how enjoyable it was to use more creativity to deliver an important message. It was an important reminder that narratives and stories are important to inspire both children and adults! 

What is a challenge you have faced as a writer?

Hajer: It was initially a challenge to figure out how to deliver an important message in a playful and creative way. We were intentional about creating a story that inspired young children to explore their curiosities and helped their families to support this exploration. It took many iterations to refine the story to make it fun, playful, and inspiring.

Farah: As a writer, my greatest challenge has always been word limits. And for the sake of all the future word limits that I will undoubtedly break, I’ll wrap up my response right here.

What advice do you have for kids who are interested in writing?

Farah: Simply put, my advice is to write—start with that scary-looking blank page.

It’s very easy to procrastinate by reading another book for inspiration, buying new stationary, or taking a long walk to brainstorm new ideas. But eventually, you have to start somewhere! The first few words will be difficult to write, and they will be far from perfect. That’s alright. This happens to all of us. But those first few words will be the start of your story, which readers, like me, will eagerly devour one day.

Hajer: Read a lot! The more I read, the more I was able to explore different writing styles and the power of language to deliver a message. I would also advise to write for fun without any deadlines or expectations. This will help you find your writing style.

How do you write your books as a team? How does it work?

Hajer: Farah and I were able to find a collaborative groove that works for us both. We started this project brainstorming using Google Jam Board over Zoom, and as the story became more refined, we scheduled long co-working writing sessions. Farah and I try to make all important decisions together and accommodate for each other’s preferences when writing the story. There is trust and respect in our working relationship making the experience very positive!