Sabrina Fatma Ahmad is a name known to the writers’ community in Bangladesh as nothing short of a trailblazer. Three years back at the start of Ramadan, she posted a microfiction as a Facebook status during Sehri hours and continued throughout the month as a series called Sehri Tales. Many followed her example and the tales collectively took on a life of its own. Fast forward to present day, Sabrina posts a prompt every night during Ramadan and a host of writers rattle their creative minds posting bite sized fictions of their own. This week, the author sat with Dhaka Tribune Showtime to talk about the ongoing fourth edition of the popular challenge
How has Sehri Tales evolved since its inception? Did you comprehend it would turn into such a phenomenon?
When I started Sehri Tales, I really wasn’t thinking beyond challenging myself. The fact that it has become an annual event with so many participants around the world, is largely to the credit of my incredible team - Tarin Fatema, Ariz Hoque and Usraat Fahmidah. They’re the ones that did everything from starting the social media platforms, to connecting me to all the various event partners. These days, I am just the prompts guy.
I’m humbled and grateful for the overwhelming response we got, particularly over the last three years. Our community of Talers is growing and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.
Do participating writers have to write everyday during Ramadan? What happens if a prompt doesn't inspire them or they somehow miss Sehri?
While missing a few won’t disqualify you, it’s encouraged to go the distance. Giving up is easy; finishing the whole run is a gift that keeps giving - from boosting your confidence to building your writing and beyond.
Who comes up with the prompts? How do you come up with new themes every night?
I still do, and it’s very spontaneous - which is at the heart of what Sehri Tales is all about, that spur of the moment inspiration. At the risk of sounding woo-woo, I just let the Universe guide me.
How is Sehri Tales taking Covid into account?
Last year, when everyone was social distancing, the Sehri Tales team expanded beyond Ramadan and done a few seasonal challenges, in the hopes of keeping everyone occupied during the stress of being homebound amidst all this bad news. We even hosted giveaways. We had mixed responses to this - understandable as people are overwhelmed. Ramadan remains the highlight of our year.
What were your biggest challenges when you published this as a book back in 2018?
Working with such a new, indie publisher, it was a struggle as they were learning the ropes themselves, so I had to deal with the bulk of the production/marketing responsibilities myself. Here, I have to express my deepest gratitude to the inimitable Elita Karim, who practically took over the early days of publicity, to my esteemed colleague Rifat Munim, who helped me hone my craft, and of course to you and the Showtime team.
Also read: ‘Sehri Tales’ launched in city
There has been talk of a "Sehri Tales 2" for some time. When can we expect it to hit the bookstores?
Haha, I have my hands full with the upcoming release of Golden: Bangladesh at 50, an anthology where I have a piece; and I’m also in talks with publishers for a novel I translated. Maybe 2022 will be my year? Let’s hope for the best.