After three successful years of sehri-time storytelling, Sehri Tales is back with their annual month-long "boot camp for creativity". The fourth iteration started off with the prompt "Mercy" on April 14, 2021.
The story of Sehri Tales seeded back in 2016 with Sabrina Fatma Ahmad, an author, academic, and journalist who completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She introduced a 30-nights-of-creativity initiative to help herself, and others, get out of a writing slump, which incidentally also improved her mental health.
In 2018 and 2019, when Sabrina partnered up with Litmosphere and made the challenge open to all the members of the group, she was taken aback with the response. Since then, Sehri Tales has become a fixture for writers in Bangladesh during Ramadan. The rules are simple: for the entire month leading up to Eid-ul-Fitr, Ahmad posts a prompt at midnight, and participants have between sehri time and 6 am (sunrise) to create and post original poetry, flash fiction, or artwork, with the hashtag #sehritales2021. Fiction and poetry can comprise up to 250 words, and each prompt can only get one artwork from each participant.
"I don't claim to be [an expert], but my personal experience with this particular challenge has taught me that the discipline of waking up with a blank mind to create something is a gift that keeps giving", Sabrina Fatma Ahmad told The Daily Star.
This year's challenge will be held at the newly created Talespeople Facebook group, where Ahmad will be posting the prompts every night. "The whole exercise is about spontaneity, so I try not to overthink it and go with my gut", she said, when asked about the inspiration behind prompts.
Participants from different corners of the world are participating. Masud Mass Hoque, a US resident, said, "It is a wonderful writing exercise. The short length of the stories allows for tighter narratives with big ideas, so I love the format. Some new authors up their game, and I start to look forward to their work. And the tales themselves, of course—on some nights [they] can really take you on a journey."
"I consider myself a writer but I don't do well unless I'm under some sort of guideline or deadline. Sehri Tales has helped me squeeze out the creative juices. It is also great for readers since we get to enjoy quality fiction written by some of our friends. It has helped ignite new friendships for me", Faeeza Humaira Meem, another participant, shared.
When asked about the nature of this year's submissions so far, Ahmad highlighted the impact left by the pandemic. "I felt the burn last year, so the work I produced was fairly insipid. But I have seen some participants that took the challenge head on and produced gems. But whether or not you're able to produce good work, there's a sense of accomplishment after having completed a challenge for 30 days that shines like a bright spot amidst all the darkness that we're experiencing right now", she said.
She also revealed a spoiler—at least one of the prompts for this month will be "kacchi", a special request from a key member of the team.
Star Youth, The Daily Star has joined Sehri Tales as a media partner this year. The best stories will be republished daily on the Star Youth Facebook page, and a weekly column published in print will highlight Sabrina Fatma Ahmad's thoughts and observations on the ongoing challenge. For the first prompt, "Mercy", the top tales were submitted by Shehtaz Huq, Samai HA, and Samia Tahsin Hoque, and the second prompt, "Save", the top three tales came from Rima Sarmin Radcliffe, Tareq Adnan, and Sabiha Younus.
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