Salma Wahby: A Paradox of Many Things

Interviewer: Maram Mohamed
Writer: Nada Elnady

We have previously interviewed singers who paved their way out of scratch, songwriters who challenged the social norms that were compromising their career, and even fashion designers who were able to make what started off as a dream a beautiful reality. This time though, we opted for something different, more of a writer like ourselves, but not any writer. This one’s gotta be kinda long, but we promise that if you read along, you’ll learn so much out of this particular interview.

Enter Salma Wahby: A character that we deeply admire, one that is close to our age yet is years wiser and stronger, a powerful persona that we wish to imitate when we grow older, whether that be in the strength keeping her up on her feet against all the odds, or the ideals she is living with till this very day. She complied all the actions and traits that serve as her primary ways of expression, and narrowed them down into writing, socializing, and realism. She is a writer who finds herself through the lines of her poems, a social butterfly who finds a living in engaging with social groups, and a realist who thrives on practical optimism and ambition.

“In a nutshell, I call myself a paradox of many things –humbly of course. I went from former Opera ballerina and gymnast, former golfer to currently being a writer for over a decade now and here I am; carving my way through life, hoping it will be remembered.”

Salma Wahby

Growing up in a book-infested family, she didn’t really have a choice in the writing part, yet the primary reason of her choosing writing in the first place was because she wasn’t intent on socializing. She started off by writing poems and befriended books and writing along the way, making her first book when she compiled all the poems she had ever written since the age of 10 and until that of 20.

“That’s when I knew what I wanted to give back to this world; knowledge. The power of knowing what lies ahead by simply hearing it from others seemed infinite and I wanted to have a hand in it.”

Salma Wahby

For her, writing is neither a skill, nor a talent. It’s merely a form of expression, where a writer talks to the paper they’re writing in, bleeding out every single emotion and crafting it into the most beautiful of forms.

“Skill and talent come in when we talk about how well someone’s writing is. You need skill and talent to properly convey your words to your readers. That’s what makes an author’s writing powerful than another’s.”

Salma Wahby

She is currently working on her second book, a collection of lessons she learned along the way, a book that tells all of the stories untold, those of women living in the Middle East (with a fictional twist, of course, for fiction always has to come into the play).

As much of an optimist that Salma actually is, there still is a grieving side, one that went through the loss of a mother yet still managed to grasp itself back up.

“The loss [of my mother five months ago] opened pathways to parts of my character I hadn’t been in touch with before and completely reshaped the concept of grief for me. The first thing I concluded from it was that grief doesn’t have a linear nature and nor does it ramifications. Knowing that made me come to terms with reality in the rawest of ways and still continues to craft vivid aspects of my personality today.”

Salma Wahby

Even after her passing, her mother remained her forever number one inspiration, not for the sake of it being the usual go-to answer, but for the implanted seed of passion inside of her that still waters itself to this very day, as Salma had put it. Her mother had taught her the arts of pragmatism and seeking joy, traits that she still embraces to this very day. Her parents had also been her number one support system, and after her mother’s passing, her father more so recently. She mentioned that he’s her best friend before being a parental figure, and she’s happy with how their relationship is progressing (her friends fall second right after her father in the support part, of course).

Salma considers her last two-piece poem, titled “I am done” slash “Father”, to be her favorite, whether that be in the amount of raw emotions held behind those very lines or the performance of the poem itself. She combined every concealed emotion and silenced thought she had ever felt or had since the passing of her mother all in those lines, highlighting the changes her relationship with her father had faced, regarding it as more of “an awakening from all the weight the grieving process had inflicted on [her]” than “a scream for help” and a chance to fall further into grief. It’s like the poem was the last of the chains stopping her from feeling alive, and by “spitting” the words out along with the months of enshrouded emotions during the performance she had considered to be closest to her heart, she had set herself free and learned to “demolish sensitive “taboo” issues” (since such a step is often “frowned upon” by our culture). When asked about how would she typically describe her writing style, she said that it merely evolved from emotion-based to experience-based.

“I tend to make my writing relatable; not just sentimental. To me, my writing should convey a deep sense of understanding and grasping the reality of life for what it really is.”

Salma Wahby

What I’m about to say next might give you the impression that Salma is more of an introvert, so I want you to hold your assumptions at bay and love Salma for her responses as much as I did. Salma’s forever go-to is isolation. Whether she’s facing writer’s block, whether she’s trying to progress through a particular hard time, or whether she’s just merely trying to collect her thoughts, her key word is isolation.

“Stepping back from my routine into a much quieter pace gives me some clarity. I tend to juggle many thoughts when I’m alone which leads to me picking a new one to write about. It’s all in finding some quiet to hear what’s being said in your mind. And it doesn’t have to be complete silence either; some people do yoga, some people work out, I read song lyrics and try to stumble upon non-conventional ones that will trigger a new topic for my writing.”

Salma Wahby

You can obviously see that it’s for the better, and unlike what so many believe, isolating yourself for a while can really serve to alter your perception of things and organize your messy thoughts. Speaking of perception, Salma also mentioned that when it comes to dealing with hard times, it all comes down to your perception of things, a topic she discussed in her recent TED Talk, “The Upside of Grief”, where she “tackled the deeply rooted stigma of how we perceive and deal with grief”.

“Having gone through it myself with my mother’s passing, it struck a nerve; not only for me but for everyone in the room. I shared my receptive attitude with people; which was science. Applying a scientific theory to a personal dilemma is more relieving than people think, it connects the dots for you and relives the pressure.”

Salma Wahby

You can guess by now that Salma adores reading as much as writing, so when we asked her about who her favorite author is, (we never miss a chance at receiving book suggestions), she said that, “That’s an ongoing quest and I could never pin my preferences to just one but right now, I’m deeply inspired by Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s work.”.

“Nourish your brain to nourish your writing.”

Salma Wahby

Simple, right? Yet we bet that this is the most meaningful advice you could ever receive. Expand your social circles, travel somewhere new, write, sing, draw, scream, participate in yoga classes, meditate, the list is endless, and as Salma had put it,

“I don’t recommend a fixated recipe for everyone; people should expand their existence and views during critical times to welcome change or turbulent events.”

Salma Wahby