Writer Spotlight: Omar and Victoria
With the Writer Spotlight Series, we create a positive image for Black girls to refer to, by having conversations with different writers and illustrators. This month we have been doing Q&As with many writers, to get to know more about them and their work. Here, we are showcasing all the questions we have asked Omar and Victoria the author of When Stars Are Scattered. You can find more book reviews in our latest issue, available to buy here
Can you talk about how this project came about, and why did you decide to create this story into a graphic novel?
Victoria: In 2015, I began volunteering with a local refugee resettlement agency in my town. Through my volunteer work, I was privileged to meet many new arrivals to the US and to hear some of their stories. At the same time, I was already thinking about how I might put my background as a graphic novelist to use- what would a graphic novel about one person’s experience as a refugee look like? When my family moved to the state of Pennsylvania in 2017, I visited the offices of Church World Service, the resettlement agency where Omar worked. I feel very lucky that I met Omar that day.
Omar: I always wanted to write a book based on my personal story and had already written a 10-page draft of my story. After a short discussion with Victoria, she told me about her background writing children’s books. I suggested that Vicki take a look at my rough draft and we scheduled a meeting after that. We regularly met, emailed, called and texted to gather information or to follow up with each other.
What was the best part working together?
Omar: I was so impressed by Victoria’s skills with the illustration and details she included. I’m so happy with her work.
Victoria: It was a new experience for me to work with a co-author, and it was great. I learned so much from working with Omar. I think the most important thing I learned was how important it is to listen to others.
What do you hope readers will take away from When Stars Are Scattered?
Omar: There are a couple of messages you can take from this book. One is to never lose hope or faith. We always have plans, but God has a better plan for us. I also hope readers gain an understanding of how no one would ever want to leave their country unless circumstances forced them to leave. Never abandon the ones you love most because they are in a bad situation or you are in a bad situation. One kind action can have a huge influence in another’s life.
Victoria: I hope readers who are affected by Omar’s story will look for ways that they can get involved. One way to get involved is to check out Omar’s website and non-profit organization, Refugee Strong. You can also volunteer with local refugee resettlement agencies in your community. You can be a big help to new arrivals, right in your own town or city.
Omar and his family
What advice do you have for young aspiring writers and illustrators?
Omar: I’ve wanted to write my story for a very long time. My advice would be to work hard and never give up on your goals.
Victoria: My advice would be to write and draw the stories and pictures you love. I find great joy in sitting down at my desk every day. If you love writing and drawing, keep doing it!
Can you let us know any current projects that you're working on?
Omar: I’m currently working on a memoir for adult readers. I’m also expanding my work with Refugee Strong, and am planning a trip back to Africa in the coming months.
Victoria: My next project is still TOP SECRET! But I will say I am having lots of fun writing and drawing this story- I’m starting on the final art right now (my favorite part of making books). Oh, and the next book has a very grumpy cat named Sharon.
Can you tell us about your charity Refugee Strong?
Omar: Refugee Strong aims to empower, inspire, and embolden students living in refugee camps to continue their studies and to achieve their educational dreams. We work to emphasize the importance of women's education and the opportunities it opens not only for individual girls, but for the community as a whole.
Omar the Refugee Strong students
What are you currently reading?
Omar: I am reading Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker.
Victoria: I’m reading two great new graphic novels. One is Twins, written by Varian Johnson and illustrated by Shannon Wright. The other is Class Act, the follow-up to Jerry Craft’s award-winning book New Kid. I’m loving both of them so far!
Name one thing you can’t live without?
Omar: I can't live without… myself!
Victoria: My family. And Nutella.
When Stars Are Scattered
by Omar and Victoria
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