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Meet Mustafa Abubaker of Writing in Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mustafa Abubaker.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Mustafa. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I got my start in writing before I can remember because it would be impossible without mentioning my parents and my extended family.

I believe my father’s love for literature was passed on to me without either of us really knowing the extent it would reach. To this day, his passion for historical non-fiction and Urdu poetry alike inspires me to no end. My mother’s father Dr. Mohammed Uzair is a prolific writer whose library kept in a room on the roof of his former home in Karachi, Pakistan was a treasure trove of inspiration to me and by far my favorite library on Earth. I want to thank Allah, my parents, and my family for my passion for writing.

On a conscious level, I got my start in writing when I was ten years old. I was attending Berkeley Lake Elementary School and I was in Mrs. Latoya Brumfield’s class. One sunny day, I was playing with my friends during recess, and I was called in to speak with Mrs. Brumfield. That morning, we had a free-write about a current event. My piece moved my teacher so much she called my parents at work to tell them about the story and referred me for admission in Mercer University’s Young Authors summer camp. Mercer published an anthology of stories by children entering middle school, and that was the first time I was published.

I realized I had something special. The following year, I wrote an NBA season preview which spanned 60 or so pages and e-mailed it to the sports editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His carefully worded rejection only inspired me to go harder, and I continued to write. This is when I began to hone in on fiction. I crafted a fantasy series revolved around hero Cloud Var and his quest to collect seven sacred books that were hidden on seven different planets in a universe I dubbed as Nellion.

When this fell to the wayside, I read The Kite Runner, and also fell in love for the first time. This culminated in a deeply personal work The Surrogate which my parents self-published in September 2009. By this time, I was a freshman at Woodward Academy, taking newspaper class with Mrs. Sandra Slider and creative writing class with Mrs. Lorri Hewett. Both educators were blessings in my journey as a writer. Mrs. Slider allowed me to write for the school’s newspaper The Blade, and I also began to submit to the school’s literary magazine. Mrs. Hewett pushed me to write extensively and helped me understand writing workshops and fiction techniques. Mrs. Jenny Green, Mrs. Carolyn Haldeman, and Mr. Mickey McNeill of the English department were equally instrumental in helping me realize the promise I held at such a young age.

Following my first self-published novel, I proceeded to do all my own marketing and public relations to promote the book. I found myself being interviewed on several platforms, most notably NPR, where I was interviewed by Mr. Stephen Goss. I remember missing homeroom that morning because I was in the radio station talking about my novel. In my senior year of high school, I won the YoungArts Merit Award for Novel Writing, which placed me in the top 5 percent of over 4,000 of the USA’s most talented 17 and 18-year-old people in all 9 disciplines offered.

Around this time, I started my own blog The Right Kind Of Brownies. This would not be possible without Sirish Kanukunta, Bilawal Babar, Yousef Khraibut, Lawrence Brown, Borna Amalfard, and Paley Martin. The blog went on to accumulate 30,000 views in just three months of inception and featured interviews with then-green figures or then-virtually unknowns such as Frank Ocean, Hasan Minhaj, and more. We were a music blog that gained a lot of attention. We were ultimately co-signed by Outkast’s Big Boi.

When I entered college, maintaining the blog became a lot of work. A writer I admire very much to this day Andy Barnard offered me a position to write for his then-blog Most Blunted. At the time, the blog was in the golden days, and this was an opportunity I could not pass up. I started to extensively cover music. My breakthrough interview was with Gunplay, just following his appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s “Cartoon and Cereal”. From then on, I accepted offers to write for the acclaimed blog Pigeons And Planes which is part of Complex Networks. They republished my interview with Gunplay on and on my birthday July 25th, 2012 and I went on to conduct interviews with The Internet, Mr Hudson, Flying Lotus, Freddie Gibbs, Wiz Khalifa, Action Bronson(2x), Toro y Moi, Torres, Raury, ABHI//DIJON, and more over the course of the three years I wrote for Pigeons And Planes.

In October 2013, I placed my first article in the legendary publication Rolling Stone: an interview with songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast. This would not be possible without my editor Simon-Vozick Levinson. I went on to write more pieces as assigned to me under my editor Christopher Weingarten. These pieces include writing about Raury, 6lack, and Nav in three separate lists highlighting new artists, and two separate, exclusive interviews with 6lack and Nav.

At this point, I received my next writing opportunities in the world of fiction. My short story Heresy made its way into literary magazine The Liner vol 2. This would not be possible without Gloria Kim for her fantastic editing and encouraging words. I was offered a contract by Golf Media and Whalerock Industries to write short-shorts for their iOS app Golf Media. This would not be possible without Matthew Castellanos, Jonny Black, and JP Alanis. I called the sequential collection of shorts or short novel Letting Everything Go. Each chapter was a little over 1,000 words, and the ten chapters made the word count just over 13,000. It was a story about a couple who survives the nuclear apocalypse in Los Angeles.

It was during this time my transition to majoring in English as a student at Kennesaw State University from majoring in Marketing smoothed out. In 2015 and 2016, I was able to place 3rd in the university’s annual undergraduate creative writing contest. I was also taking creative writing classes under the esteemed novelist Tony Grooms, the two-time winner of the Lillian Smith Prize for Fiction, who has become my mentor in the world of writing novels. I produced much of my best fiction in his courses, and am indebted to him and his wisdom. During this time, I also placed first in a joint fiction contest called Katha, sponsored by two Indian-American magazines India Currents and Khabar.

At this point, I was eager to start my new novel and begin publishing in new magazines. I began to find placements in publications like Khabar, Wine And Bowties, and Atlanta Magazine. Parthiv Parekh has been a phenomenal editor helping me a writer for Khabar, the most-read Indian-American periodical in the country. I have to thank Max Gibson and Will Bundy for their belief in my writing and giving me the opportunity to write for Wine and Bowties. Writing for Atlanta Magazine’s June 2018 cover story would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Christine VanDusen and Myrydd Wells. In July 2018, I was invited to attend a creative writing workshop in Bryn Athyn, PA organized and hosted by the author of Chosen (HarperCollins, 2010), Chandra Hoffman.

The latest company to publish my writing is Daily Chiefers, a music news/media network closely affiliated with Manhattan record label Alamo. My most recent fiction publication can be found in Reconstructed Magazine, Vol. 1. The publication is funded by the Harvard Religious Literacy Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions and will be an ongoing project.

When I’m not writing for print and the web, I’m studying for my MA in creative writing at Kennesaw State University under program director Tony Grooms where I am writing my 3rd novel and 1st screenplay.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been smooth, more or less. After all, it’s writing, not rocket science. Having said that, I’ve struggled with interview subjects making it obvious they would rather be doing anything else than being interviewed when I was just doing my job. I’ve also struggled with thinking every story I pitch the editor should be produced, and I’ve struggled with fully grasping the concept and theory and practice of the freelancer/contributor model as the industry shifts often. Besides those three things, I’m very fortunate to report my writing career has been smooth.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I write words that evoke emotion and provoke conversation. I am known for my poetic, rhythmic writing style that often incorporates magical realism. I am most proud of my articles in Rolling Stone. I believe what sets me apart from others is my versatility, from poems to fiction to blogs to scripts. I’ve always loved this quote from Frank Ocean and have kept it close. “If you’re a writer, you can write anything… prose, songs, raps, novels, plays, films, laws… take the governor off your gift. Note to self.”

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Allah deserves credit for giving me the ability to write. My parents deserve credit. My friends, family, editors, and readers have played a big role in my success. I would be nothing without them.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Nathaniel “Nat” Johnson IV – Main Photo, Emily Wang – Photo with 6lack, Josh Sowemimo – Photo with Chad Hugo, Fernando Decillis – Atlanta Magazine cover, JP Alanis – Golf Media cover, The Surrogate cover

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