Monday saw the most recent event for the Beyond the Forest book tour in Barking, East London. I was honestly feeling the nerves as I walked into the room to see nearly a hundred children loudly talking and laughing. When there are adults in the room, there’s automatically a bit more calm, but an exclusive child audience can be very unnerving – particularly when said children range from 5 to 17 years old!

However, since the pre-schoolers and sixth formers alike had come, I wanted to engage them all as best I could. We talked about the book, the Awliya, the ideas behind the stories and the motivations behind the people. We talked about stories from our heritage – both religious and cultural – and how a spiritual & internal life can go hand in hand with everything else they have going on. There was some conversation about the creative process and how talents and interests can be developed, whether or not they were interesting in writing (which many of them actually weren’t!).

The Q&A was so chockful that we didn’t even have time for a reading. I was heartened (and honestly surprised) though to see that the whole audience was engaged, raising hands, nodding along, asking questions – even the giggling teenage boys at the back came out with some good stuff! The proudest moment possibly was right at the end when the teacher asked the kids who would like a book and they all surged forward in a wave of enthusiasm, even the ones who didn’t like reading!

Beyond the Forest is available at