The first sights, the long night talks, the car trips, the indifference, the heartbreak, and at last, the realization that those love letters should´ve been sent to our own mailbox. The young writer Sahara i. Mehdi defines the -as she says- scary, exciting, and overwhelming feeling of love, and turns it into her first self-published book “Love letters to myself”.
What started as a project for a creative writing class, ended up being the winning poem anthology of the “21 poems, 21 days” contest of the self-publishing BookLeaf editorial.
“ I am really glad that I get to own my own work, and my book being the way I wanted it to be”
The world is really hard for writers out there, and the “sending your manuscript” process can be hard, especially when you are young and inexperienced. But, this writer decided to jump right into publishing it herself, without having to wait for others to approve her book, taking a big step in her writing career and publishing her first book at only 20 years old.
-Would you recommend young artists to self-publish their work? What are the pros and the cons of doing so?-
SM: It's not like the dream. When I was younger, I thought big companies that published the books that I have on my bookshelf would publish me, and I would do this great signing party in the city, with all of my friends. Self-publishing's not like that. You have to develop your audience and from the editing to the marketing, you have to do it all. Even though it has its cons, I know a lot of artists work with big publishing companies, where they do not get to decide how their book is, so I am really glad that I get to own my own work, and my book being the way I wanted it to be. I did not want to sacrifice who I am to make this happen or to sell myself, I want my book to be appreciated for what it is. I sent it to local influencers that live around me, driving around my city dropping my book off in their houses. I am learning a lot and it is such a new experience.
Sahara is already taking over the writing world: within three days of the release of her debut book she already reached the Amazon top #1 book in its genre. This has made her realize how many people besides her cared about her writing, and built her confidence up, she said. While the self-publishing journey seems lonely, Sahara doesn´t stop mentioning the love and care of her family and friends, talking about them as “mentors” who lit the dark and mysterious path that will lead her to achieve her most ambitious dreams.
“I have always been in love with the idea of love”
- At the beginning of the book you mention how you never had a relationship but still wrote a book about love. How come you dedicate a whole book to it if you never experienced a romantic relationship? How would you define love?-
SM: I grew up with Disney and Bollywood movies. I have always been in love with the idea of love. They had incredible, unrealistic, and dramatic storylines. I grew up thinking I was going to find a prince charming, and then, when you get older, you realize these boys are kinda… kinda the worst - she said laughing-.
I wanted to portray that young first love, those hallway crushes. The way you see love when you are younger. I wrote most of those poems when I was 16. Love at that age is so playful, and so not serious. You feel like anyone could be the one, it is so exciting and there is so much opportunity.
In the poems, you describe yourself as a tragic lover, as someone who does not write about love, but about heartbreak. What does it mean to be a tragic lover? -
SM: A friend of mine used to say I had to write a book with a chapter titled “This would be true love if it was mutual '' because I always fell for people who didn't like me back. I think to be a tragic lover to me means someone who is in love with everyone and with the world. But sometimes the world does not love you back, and that is ok. Writing a poem about being a tragic lover is empowering, in terms of owning that “boy crazy” and “falling too deep” part of my personality.
Poetry is the one place where I can be as dramatic as I want. I am playing with what's fiction and what's not, portraying the idea of love I fell in love with.
“I thought of love as something that would complete me,(...) you need to go through multiple heartbreaks to realize that the only person you will always be stuck with is yourself.”
While reading Sahara´s work I found parallels between her poems and SOUR from Olivia Rodrigo, Thank u next from Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift songs, and other artists that led to the same conclusions as our young writer: self-love is the key. It is such a common topic between women in their twenties who turn these feelings of sadness and emptiness into different and unique forms of art, including Love letters to myself. Sadly, it seems like such a common problem: looking for self-love in others. While talking with Sahara, a smart, beautiful, and powerful woman, I think about how even women that are that successful struggle so much with these issues and I ask myself the reason why.
This is what she said:
SM: Actually, SOUR was a huge inspiration for me. When she released it I thought “this is so powerful”. I love all that teenage girl drama and what she turned it into. I also am a huge fan of Taylor Swift. I love how openly she writes about those feelings. I think it matters to talk about self-love: we live in a world with so much comparison and social media is terrible to your mental health. It is a challenge to shape our identities, to know that we are not perfect, and to accept that's okay. I thought of love as something that would complete me, and that is not how it works, you need to go through multiple heartbreaks to realize that the only person you will always be stuck with, is yourself. At the end of the day, I have to love myself first.
“No matter how confident you are, you are never going to feel good about yourself all the time. Women are held to unreachable standards and expected to be likable and perfect, and those messages can be traumatizing for life. I want to say to them that no one is going to make you feel complete until you do.”
-Do you agree with the idea that we have to love ourselves to let others love us and to love others? Is looking for love in others really love?-
SM: I do not believe in that whole “you have to fix yourself to be with someone else ''. Life is so long and you are going to have different ways of being and things that affect your self-esteem as you get older. There is not going to be a day in which I wake up and think: “I am fixed and ready to have a boyfriend!”. I do think that you have to first be comfortable with being alone, so that at the end of the day if your relationship doesn't work, you know you can count on yourself.
“I write to heal”
The journalism student at Ryerson University never stops creating. “It's all I have ever done”, she says. She won multiple contests, gave conferences, and constantly creates content for social media. She affirms she is not viral and repeats how earning money isn't her goal. Although we are on opposite sides of the world, Sahara in Canada and me in Argentina, I can tell her passion for what she does and how good she is at it. How did this amazing young girl become a great artist?
-How has the journey been? How was the path that led you to publish your first book? What does writing mean to you?-
SM: I had amazing mentors which I am extremely grateful for. I have people who have always supported me. My dad encouraged me to read my poetry on youtube so people could listen to it. Doing all of these has contributed to my lack of fear. When people ask me about what I do to put myself out there, I just answer that that´s all I´ve ever done. I am very introverted, and usually, I am anxious about social situations, and writing and making videos help me to tell the world my ideas under my control. When I am talking to people I second guess myself a lot, but while writing I do not feel pressure or judgment. When you write you do not see people reacting in real-time, so you do not care about that and you end up being less afraid of sharing your thoughts and putting yourself out there.
-What would you say in a love letter to your younger heart-broken self?-
SM: Number 1, it is not going to be ok, and that's ok.
It is not going to be the first time in which you are going to get your heart broken, you are going to keep getting your heart broken, that's just life. You are going to learn to deal with it and turn it into art. I wouldn't say that everything is going to be ok, because it is not true, but I would say that everything happens for a reason.
Number 2, Don't be afraid of being yourself.
The people who reject that are not the people you want in your life anyway. So, be yourself, and you´ll find the people who really care and appreciate you.
In a 45 pages book, Sahara expresses the emotional rollercoaster that loving others and ourselves is. A young girl, in a small town near Toronto, it's reaching big places and if she continues this path, she will remain there for ages.
To buy her book on Amazon: www.linktr.ee/saharamehdi