LUMS Alumna Wows Parents and Children with Her Engaging Books
It’s only at a university like LUMS that a Computer Science major is able to write so well as to pursue a career in writing and communications. The LUMS ‘Learning Without Borders’ philosophy which encourages students to take courses across disciplines, produces all-rounders who are able to make a mark in diverse fields. One such multitalented individual is Ayesha Aslam, a LUMS BSc (Honours) 2002 graduate who majored in Computer Science yet switched to writing to explore her creative side.
After graduating, Aslam went on to work in the IT department at ICI Ltd. when the organisation was implementing the SAP software. “At that starting point in my career it was very useful to have a background in Computer Science. After a year though, I realised I would prefer to work in an area where I could be more creative, which for me involved writing. I then started working at LUMS as a Marketing Officer. Later I worked as a writer and editor at AboutUs, a Portland-based start-up, for a few years before joining LUMS again as an Editor. I was at LUMS for nearly 6 years before starting work as a freelance communications consultant.”
“I think my love for writing was initiated from my love of reading. Writing is something I have enjoyed doing from back when I was at primary school and we used to get topics to write on during creative writing classes. Over the years I have written mostly for myself (I used to have a blog where I would write my thoughts and the occasional limericks); and I have had articles published in The Friday Times and DAWN. I used to contribute regularly at one point some years ago to the Daily Times’ Sunday magazine as well,” shares Aslam.
Not many people choose to be authors for children’s books but Aslam decided to write a book for children. She was motivated to write her first book, Lost and Found for her son, Eisa when he was about 5 years old (he’s now 15). “I wrote the book to get Eisa to clear up after himself! I wrote it in rhyming couplets as a conversation between a little boy and his mother. The premise was that the boy had a messy room where he couldn’t find anything and then eventually saw the advantages of clearing up and organising his room. So it was entirely autobiographical and it worked!” recalls Aslam.
Aslam then thought of sending her book to a publisher and got her sister, Sara, who is an artist to do the illustrations for the book. The inspiration for the illustration of the boy’s character was Ayesha’s son at that age. That one book led to four more being published by Oxford University Press, Pakistan. The five books are now a book series called Life Lessons. Each book deals with one particular topic and each is written in rhyme as a conversation between the same little boy and his mother. “I hope kids and parents read my books, enjoy them and also hopefully take away a positive message from each one.
One of the latest books is called Going Greener and Cleaner and has a vital message about conserving the planet’s resources to benefit us all, which is something of the utmost importance now,” explains Aslam. An additional accolade for the book is that Sir David Attenborough, legendary broadcaster and natural historian, on being sent a copy of the book, replied with a hand-written note saying that he hoped the book would be a great success.
Sharing her thoughts on writing to appeal to a certain age group, Aslam said, “When writing for kids, especially younger ones who are aged between 3 and 6 years old, I believe the key point to keep in mind is that you have a short time to grab their attention and then to hold on to it. I personally felt like writing in rhyme was one way to do that. I also think the little boy’s character in my books is very relatable for kids that age who may also not like to for example, clean up their toys; or eat healthy food; or go to school; or brush their teeth. Through my books I hope kids can relate to having the same feelings but then also see why and how it would help to do all those things.”
Aslam shares that the literary space is a tough place to enter but she didn’t give up and urges aspiring authors to do the same. “Don’t self-reject or be afraid to call or email strangers for advice. The worst thing that can happen is you will be ignored. Eventually you will find someone who will help,” she advised. Sharing her experience of entering the field, she said, “You could say I cold-called or rather cold-emailed various people, including writers, and publishing companies, who I thought could give me advise on the publishing process. No one replied! One person I messaged was Ameena Saiyid who was then the managing director for Oxford University Press in Pakistan. She very kindly sent a message back almost immediately and put me in touch with someone on the OUP team to whom I then submitted the manuscript for Lost and Found.”
She added that her LUMS education helped her in training for her career path, especially through assignments and reports that had to be researched and written for the courses she took, particularly in Social Sciences. She also learned a lot from the assignments and dissertation she wrote for the Master’s in Mass Communications from the University of Leicester, which she enrolled in while she was working at LUMS in 2015.
Aslam is currently working with different clients on writing and editing related projects as a freelance communications consultant. She also intends to continue writing for kids and shared that she may try writing something for slightly older kids.