In January 2018, the Vancouver Writers Fest is thrilled to welcome our new Education Coordinator, Nafiza Azad. Nafiza takes over for long-time Festival staffer Ilona Beiks, who held the position for more than 15 years.
In anticipation of her new role, we sat down with Nafiza to learn more about her, why she loves the Vancouver Writers Fest, and share a few of her favourite children’s books.
1) Nafiza, we’re so looking forward to working with you as the Vancouver Writers Fest’s new Education Coordinator! Tell us a little about yourself.
I am looking forward to working with everyone as well! I have to say that I am really terrible at talking about myself. I read a lot. I know lots of people say this but I really do. This year I have read 230 books though I hope to make it to 250 before the year is out. I am an agented author and dream of getting published someday. I co-administrate a website dedicated to children’s literature (thebookwars.ca) and I like mangoes.
2) What drew you to working at the Vancouver Writers Fest, in particular in this position?
I love books (which may be sort of an understatement) and I love everything VWF stands for. I was 17 when my family immigrated to Canada and it was reading that helped me cope with the feelings of displacement and homesickness. I have experienced how valuable books are for children who are dealing with all sorts of things and for whom escape sometimes is only available through books. I would like to work with VWF to, literally, spread the word.
3) What makes you passionate about children’s literacy and love of books?
I believe every child has the basic right to literacy. I grew up on a sugarcane farm on an island in the South Pacific but through reading, I was able to experience the world. Books were my magic portals to places that seemed far too unreal to be true. I feel like everyone but especially children have the right to dream and books, however briefly, make dreams come true. I would like to help others experience this as I have.
4) What was your favourite book as a child?
I read a lot of Enid Blyton, the Trixie Belden series, Margaret Mahy, and Nancy Drew. However I will never forget my wide-eyed wonder when I first read Anne of Green Gables.
5) What are some of the tasks or projects you’re most looking forward to working on in this role?
I look forward to the Reading with Writers events, the festival, of course, and the youth writing contest…which is about all of them. I’m excited about everything, honestly.
6) Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I speak English, Fiji-Hindi, Urdu, and Korean. I minored in Korean in university.
Bio: Nafiza Azad is a writer of stories and a devourer of books. She has an MA in Children’s Literature from the University of British Columbia and dreams of writing a story that will move everyone who reads it. She was born in Lautoka, Fiji Islands, and grew up climbing mango trees and playing in sugarcane fields.