Q&A: Getting personal with SMP

Two weeks ago, I put out a call for questions people might have about the blog. The responses were interesting to say the least, and they’ve given me an opportunity to give readers a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes action of blogging for SMP. Here’s a small compilation of the best questions I’ve been asked along with the most honest answers I can give.

Do you ever sleep? You post at awkward hours.
School plays a tremendous factor in what time I get to experience this luxury you call “sleep”. At the end of the day, I do sleep but not as much as I should. This isn’t a consequence of the blog though. Typically, I’ll already be up studying or finalizing an assignment and if I choose to take a break, I’ll scrap together an article or publish one that has already been prepared.

How did you become a journalist?
Some of you might not know this but I’m not a journalist. In fact, I’ve never formally studied journalism. My university doesn’t offer the major and, in case you’re interested, none of my op-ed submissions have ever seen success. But even if a journalism degree was an option for me, I’d probably avoid it unless I intended to become a reporter. As much as I love the field, it doesn’t seem to have yet made the full transition from traditional print journalism to today’s cyber journalism and that, to me, is a bit off-putting. Regardless, I’m into blood vessels and whatnot so I’m taking the pre-med route.

How do you balance school and blogging?
It can be done. I’m not a powerhouse blogger so publishing three or four things per week is acceptable by my standards. Although the posts do take time, I try to strategize when exactly I get to work on them. You might notice lulls in the blog’s activity and those are almost always because I’m studying for exams. School takes precedence, but if school is out and the guys are playing Xbox like thirteen year olds, I get to work on a new post.

How did you get into blogging in the first place?
I joined Twitter almost two years ago and @iRevolt suggested I write. It was tricky at first but I eventually got into the habit of regularly updating the site with fresh content. It’s nice to see blogs taken seriously, especially on Twitter, so the support has definitely fueled my work.

Have any bloggers inspired you or SMP’s message?
As I said, @iRevolt really motivated me to begin writing. She even offered to purchase the domain and set the site up for me! I’ve definitely employed her sharp writing style in many of my posts, specifically the scathing and more effective ones. The blog also pays homage to Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada, two websites that continue to redefine reportage on the Middle East and regularly inspire me with new ideas and fresh takes on issues I can’t always wrap my head around. Plus, their teams of writers are among the most supportive you’ll ever meet and have given me opportunities far beyond the reach of this blog.

Why are you so one-sided?
Because it makes no sense to side with injustice. But if the question is referring to my pro-Palestine stance, it’s because I believe in human rights. Israel’s discriminatory policies and illegal practices don’t make headlines anywhere near as often as they should, so I’ve joined the effort that seeks to expose the occupation of Palestine for what it is. I don’t make up statistics or facts about Israel’s policies and anyone who feels insulted by this alleged one-sidedness should probably enlighten themselves first.

How many hits do you get?
Page views are a private affair for most bloggers, including myself. But to give you an idea of where this site stands, let’s just say that SMP’s total page views amount to the number of hits Google receives in roughly six and a half seconds, according to statistics from 2009.

Does SMP have any traditions?
I wouldn’t call this a tradition just yet but I flip upside down any photos I use of people holding their thumbs up. Besides that, I have a variety of rules that could, in a way, operate as traditions. I believe in only featuring original content so I don’t crosspost articles. I also prefer to publish on Tuesdays. I’m hoping the cupcake contest becomes an annual thing.

What gave you the idea for a cupcake contest?
People enjoy making cupcakes just as much as they enjoy eating them. After being blown away by a dozen Palestine-themed cupcakes myself, I thought it would be nice to extend a challenge to anyone interested. Some questioned the purpose of the contest, saying that its rude or foolish to politicize baked goods, but I took that as a sign that these fluffy cakes might help people loosen up a bit.

What was your favorite article to write? Your least favorite?
Of the 280 or so posts published on the blog, I enjoyed writing these two the most: “StandWithUs and Captain Israel: BDS is a ‘barbaric destroyer snake’” and “A Palestinian mother, a Palestinian son, and Eid in America“. I enjoy critically analyzing things, and being detail oriented gives me the pleasure of pointing out the subtleties that bigots and racists try to slip by. Although the Captain Israel article isn’t as scathing as my other pieces, I was thoroughly amused by the sheer absurdity of the comic. The night I spent writing that piece will forever be a time to remember. As for the second piece, I like writing about the more personal side of Palestinian life. We’re too often bungled up in politics to really take advantage of the time we share with family and friends, and although it’s a sacrifice we have to make, it’s worth writing about. Mama has always been the central figure in my life so to better understand myself and my values, I look to my experiences with her.

As for my least favorite article ever written, I have plenty of those. I’m extremely critical of my writing and so the writing process can sometimes drag out for days until I feel satisfied with a paragraph or opening sentence.

Ever regret publishing something on the site?
Yes, actually, but only once. I made a silly connection one time and wrote about it. After rereading the article by accident a year later, I couldn’t believe how ridiculous and disagreeable it sounded. I won’t disclose any details about the content of the article but I will say that I’ve disappeared it. Besides that, I’m happy with everything on the blog. Although some of my reportage has gotten me into trouble and although I still face heat for my critical stance on Mona Eltahawy’s style of debate, I enjoy the work and I’m proud of the results.

What camera set-up do you use for your photographs?
I am by no means a professional photographer so don’t let the technical sounding names convince you to think otherwise. I’m fortunate enough to use a Nikon D90 (although, given the chance, I would consider swapping it for a D7000). I don’t own any fancy lenses but those aren’t always necessary. I used a stock 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 for this amazing balloon release in Chicago to commemorate the children killed during Israel’s invasion of Gaza three years ago.

What are your future plans for SMP?
I hope to host another cupcake contest and make it an annual event with bigger and better prizes. I also hope to do more groundwork in Palestine but that can only happen if I get another opportunity to travel there. I’ve got two small-scale projects in mind for right now but they’re still in the development phase. In due time, you will be the first to know.

Sami Kishawi


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