30 July 2018
“If you have a passion, never give up” was the number one tip from visiting author Sufiya Ahmed upon her return to Bolton School Girls’ Division. She last visited in 2013 to launch the Bolton Children’s Fiction Award, which is organised by the School.
Her address and the ensuing writing workshop inspired the next generation of writers in Year 8, who were enjoying a range of post-exam activities. Author of the runaway success debut novel, The Secrets of the Henna Girl, Sufiya talked about her childhood dream of becoming a published author and how she never gave up on this aspiration despite numerous rejections from publishers. She talked about her upbringing on an estate in Bolton and how she spent a lot of time reading in the library and how her father made sure she understood how the world worked by making her watch the nine o’clock news every night! The Year 8 girls learnt how, in her twenties, realising she was not instantly going to become a writer, she enjoyed careers in the City of London and the Houses of Parliament before finally having her novel published.
Discussion around The Secrets of the Henna Girl, which deals with forced marriages in the UK, expanded to cover writing, politics, cultural differences and careers for girls. Girls then went away to work in groups and were given help by Sufiya on developing their own writing, inspired by the novel, before delivering them in front of their peers. The event wrapped up with a question and answer session and a book signing. Having taken a selfie with the Year 8 girls, Sufiya commented on Twitter, “Delighted to introduce Year 8s at Bolton School to Secrets of the Henna Girl. Thanks for inviting me back and we talked girls rights, girls rights and girls rights!”