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Nadiya Hussain is a force to be reckoned with. Best known for winning the sixth season of The Great British Bake Off (and our hearts) in 2015, the mum-of-three has gone on to star in her very own cooking shows as well as release multiple cookbooks and fiction books. And now she is adding yet another children's book to her repertoire which gave us the perfect excuse to catch up with Nadiya.
"When I was about seven I wrote a poem that won a national competition and that was it, I got really into reading and writing in a big way, and I’ve been doing it ever since: reading, writing, lots of poetry," Nadiya explains. "I expressed myself in writing quite a lot, although I’ve never had a diary as a child, it was always make-believe and stories. My favourite books were the Famous Five and Nancy Drew. Nancy Drew was one of my favourite books to read; I’ve got a collection somewhere in my parent's attic that I refuse to throw away because I really want my kids to enjoy them, but when I look back at them now, they’re not really relevant anymore - a modernised version would be really good, I think teenagers would really enjoy it."
Following on her first children's book, Nadiya has now written another picture book aimed at young children. "Today I’m Strong is a natural follow on from my previous book My Monster and Me (although of course you can read them individually)," she says. "The first one was about anxiety and this is about the next stage which is finding your inner strength. I wanted to make sure young readers are taken on a journey where they are able not only cope with their fears, but find strength in dealing with them. The emphasis on ‘today’ is because resilience isn’t something you practice once and then you’re done: you’re going to have good days and bad days, that’s part of the process."
Anxiety is something Nadiya knows a lot about and she has spoken about vocally. "I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a child. I’ve always thought of that anxiety as my monster. Some days the monster shouts in my face and no matter where I turn, he keeps shouting. Other days he’s behind me and will tap me on the shoulder throughout the day so I can’t totally ignore him. Some days he’s small enough to put into my pocket. He’s always there though," she says. "I wanted to share my story with young readers and their families so they know they are not alone and they learn the power of sharing your worries."
Nadiya is passionate that anxiety is a wider conversation for us all to have, something she does through her books. "It’s important for children to see and feel like they aren’t the only ones that may be struggling with these kinds of feelings. I also think them having access to books that approach these sorts of subjects will help them identify anxiety and similar issues in other children or even their family members."
On the subject of her own inner strength, Nadiya believes sharing is caring. "Often just talking is the first step to finding my inner strength. Sometimes when we’re scared of talking about something we give it power over us – sharing your feelings can stop that from happening," she says.
As for the future, Nadiya is already planning her next children's book. "I have another picture book that I am working on at the moment so that is something to look out for next year." And what about combining her love of baking with writing? "I think a baking picture book would be really fun, although I think picture book readers may be a little too young to actually bake, so I guess it’d have to be a fictional baking story!"
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Having written for Mother&Baby magazine for four years where she wrote news, product pages, features and interviewed celebrities such as Paloma Faith and Fearne Cotton, Emily now works as Digital Writer for Mother&Baby online where she specialises in travel and product reviews.
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