May 17, 2021
Looking to learn more about language, music, and collaborative writing from a student in one of 826 Boston’s Writers’ Room? Check out this interview with Kamila, a fantastic writer from Boston International Newcomers Academy (BINcA)!
Kamila is in the 10th grade, speaks English, Somali and French, and loves the color red. We sat down with her (over Zoom) to discuss multilingual writing, storytelling, and her creative inspirations.
What have you been working on in the Writers’ Room this year?
This year? I’ve been learning how to write better and actually learning how to write some stories. Some days we write poems and other days we listen to music and just think about what comes in your mind. We listened to K-pop, like Blackpink and BTS. And some days we just play games by randomly writing. We start writing a story and from the last word, the other person starts writing from that—a collaborative love story. Some days we come up with random titles that were dramatic names for shows we would watch, like ‘Heartbreak Academy’— can’t wait for that show!
What are your favorite things to do in the Writers’ Room?
I like when we listen to music and write it. I also like the game we did last time. It was: someone wrote something and you had to write the last word they wrote about. It was really fun. Our characters were named Dylan and Linda—that was a great moment. That’s what I like about it, how we just have fun while I write.
What do you like to write about? What inspires you to write?
I just want to write some stories in real life. A lot of interesting things happened in my life so I was just thinking, maybe I should write and people will find it interesting, you know? There are some challenges-—actually, they are just a mix, all of them are a mix—they all happen in it, so it’s basically all of them in my life. Maybe if I write it people will find it interesting. That’s what inspired me to write.
Whenever I write, I really feel comfortable and happy while writing it. But when I’m writing something that happened to me in real life, it just makes everything better knowing that this happened in real, you just hear real stories. So I just like telling stories.
What are some of your goals around writing?
In the future, I wish to work with some amazing people—amazing authors. Maybe they can use my stories to write or something. But for this year, to just get better and learn a lot of words. I don’t know a lot of words when it comes to writing, so just get better and learn some writing.
What are some challenges you have faced around writing?
I want to write something but I don’t know how to write it in English. Well actually, the problem is that I actually don’t know how to write my own language, and it’s just so frustrating when you want to write something but you can’t write it in English.
In my country, Djibouti, they basically don’t teach Somali but they teach you how to write French because that’s the second most popular language in the country. Letters and everything—it’s just the French, completely the French. In elementary, the kids start young, they don’t want the kids to forget their own language, so they speak in Somali but they write in French. They teach you basic words you need to know, but when you enter middle and high school, you are supposed to speak French.
In elementary they teach you to read and write—but not speak. I came here when I was in fifth grade and I knew a little [Somali], but only enough to speak to people. My sister, she knows, she’s maybe lucky.
What languages do you write in?
I like to write in English. Only English. When I came here [to the US], I didn’t know how to read my own language because it’s so hard. All of us, we can speak Somali but we can’t read or write. So when we came here, a lot of people from Somalia think we know how to write Somali but in reality, we don’t know. So our neighborhood taught me how to read. Now I can write and read [Somali] a little bit.
What is some advice you have for other students learning English and writing?
If someone wants to learn to English, I would tell them to watch movies. It would help more than reading books. Even if you don’t understand, put on subtitles. The more you watch the more you improve because it’s different from school. In the movies they say things like “give me the pen,” but in the school they just say, “use this word and that word.” That helped me.
If you could have one person in the whole world read your writing, who would it be?
I want my mom to read my writing because I want her to be proud of me when she reads it. I don’t expect her reaction to be good. I want her to be the first one who reads my writing.
What kind of writing do you want to try in the future?
In the future, I would like to learn the kind of writing where you write a whole book. I would like to learn more about that.
What are some of the best songs to listen to while you write?
You can listen to the songs you are feeling–what you are in the mood to listen to. Happy songs. When you are in the mood, you can listen to sad songs and write sad stories. It depends on your mood, whatever you are feeling.
You already know what you like to listen to– follow your mood!
-Written by Deanna Leung and Michelle Waslick, 826 Boston High School Program Specialists, AmeriCorps